If sectarian flames in Iraq were fanned before, they've now been doused with gasoline. Today came the second allegation this week of members of the largely Shiite iraqi security forces raping a Sunni woman.
This time, the accused have admitted to raping the woman roughly two weeks ago and, regardless, it seems there will be plenty of evidence to convict: They captured the whole attack with a cellphone. Which is good, considering the accusation made earlier this week was briskly discredited by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office as propaganda; the accuser was deemed a criminal and liar. Maliki also dismissed a Sunni official who called for an investigation of the earlier woman's claims.
Some, like Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, are rightly calling for the courts to handle these cases. But there's also a significant push for an alternative to judicial action: 300 insurgents have volunteered themselves for suicide missions as revenge for the first accuser's alleged attack, says the Sunni group Islamic State of Iraq. (Twenty men also solicitously offered to marry the woman, since she is now considered defiled.)
It could be argued that there is one potentially good thing to be teased out of this disaster: Rape is actually being seriously talked about in public. "In this country, [rape] is more serious than any other crime," Wamid Nadhme, a political scientist at Baghdad University, told the Washington Post. "The religious values and the honor values say that one should not violate a woman. This will have very serious implications in coming days if neither side is able to prove that they are right and the other side is wrong."
It's great that these rape claims are getting public -- and global -- attention. But, of course, the hitch is that this media and political attention could increase the likelihood of similar attacks. (And if it encourages false, politically motivated rape claims, that would only bolster what seems an existing skepticism toward rape accusations.) After all, rape as a political tactic during war is as old as war itself.