Dr. Cynthia Enloe, research professor at Clark University, gave students a very personal look at violence women face across the globe through the story of one woman—a beauty shop owner in Iraq—as part of Women’s Studies’ Month Without Violence last week. Her remarks were part of the Candace Allen Scola Memorial Lecture, which was established in 2003 to honor and remember WSC student Candace Allen Scola, a well-liked classmate and vice president of Gamma Theta Upsilon, the Geography Honor Society, who was murdered by an assailant in her home.
Dr. Enloe’s research into violence in the Iraq war focused on one woman in particular, “Nimo,” a beauty shop owner. “I try to understand one woman because it is not as abstract,” said Enloe.
Nimo owned a beauty shop in what had been a vibrant commercial section of Bagdad according to Enloe. As the war progressed, it became increasingly difficult for women to keep their jobs. The culture was more allowing of women like Nimo, who worked with other women, than women who were working with both genders. Enloe said New York Times journalist Sabrina Tavernise discovered during her coverage of the war that beauty parlors were places where important information was traded. Women would talk about what parts of town were safe to shop in, and what parts were not safe. They also would talk about the rise of private armed militias which were becoming increasingly violent toward women.
But as Tavernise’s coverage continued, social acceptance of beauty parlors waned. More conservative political factions and militias began to see the beauty parlors as a sign of social indulgence and beauty parlors became targets and were victimized by bombings. “By early 2007 scores of beauty parlors were being bombed,” said Enloe. Enloe lost track of Nimo shortly after and said she has no idea where she is now, although hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are now in Syria. She said women face violence there too. “As refugees, these women have lost everything and are frequently traveling with children to care for and no means to support them.” Many of these women turn to prostitution as a means to try to support their families, and as a result become victims of violence.
She also urged them to exercise the right to vote here in the U.S. “Don’t take your vote lightly. It was fought for.”
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