A recent Newsweek article written by Sarah Childress describes a young woman, Shahla, who has always wanted to enter the Iraqi army, however, under Saddam Hussein’s regime, was never able to do so. When Saddam was overthrown in 2003, Shahla registered with the army and is now a first lieutenant.
Excerpts from Childress’s interview with Shahla:
Childress: Why did you decide to join the Army?
Shahla: I like the army, and I like my country. I've been through many dangerous situations, but everybody must make sacrifices. It's hard, because in our community, it's very difficult for women to prove themselves in the army. You hear that the army's only for men. Before, during Saddam's time, women in the army could only be doctors. They didn't recognize their rank. Now, we see the difference. Now, they respect us. Now they call us by our ranks.
How does your family feel about your enlistment?
I've never been in the army without family support. It's often difficult to convince families in this situation.
Is sectarianism a problem in the army?
At the beginning, no. But it's increasing. I've seen conflicts. Things happen, and you're supposed to act out against a mosque or husseiniya [another name for a Shiite mosque]. You have to, because bad people use these places for kidnapping and torture. But [a few soldiers may] refuse. We talk with them, and tell them that it's not the end of the world. It's for Iraq, for security and freedom.
What do you like about being in the army?
We're chasing the terrorists. It makes me proud of myself. [My commanders] trust me. They trust my judgment.
To read more of the interview click here