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Witness History: A Woman in Basra


Things Unseen

TX Date

19th Apr 2022

Presenter and producer:

Mike Lanchin


"Thank you for making our voice heard."


Soon after the US led invasion in 2003, the British had taken control of Basra. But when Iraq descended into a brutal sectarian war, the southern port city became the battleground of mainly Shia militias vying for control. Each had their own strict interpretation of Islamic law, which they sought to impose on the city’s inhabitants.

By 2007 British forces had withdrawn to Basra airport, leaving behind a political and security vacuum.

In this edition of Witness History, a woman we’ve called Deema – still a child in the mid-2000s – remembers what it was like when the Shia militias tried to impose their understanding of Islam on the entire population. “If you came to class without a hijab,” she says, “you were punished, and made to stand in front of the blackboard on one foot.” Music and foreign films were forbidden, and girls were not allowed to go anywhere without a male escort – a situation which had a profound effect on the personality of young Deema.