Irak: Susan Ahmed-Böhme

The rationale of my life is best expressed in what Goethe once said: 'All theory, dear friend, is gray, but the golden tree of actual life springs ever green'.

— Susan Ahmed-Böhme

Born in 1953 in Baghdad, Susan Ahmed is a biologist and a member of the Iraqi Women’s League. Due to her covert work on issues of ethnic and religious diversity and her opposition to the former Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, Susan and her family faced severe persecution in Iraq. Her father was tortured and her sister was murdered. In 1982 she fled to East Germany, where between 1991 and 2003, she campaigned courageously against Saddam Hussein’s despotic regime as well as US imperialism. Her campaigns continue to this day. Susan emphasizes, “There is always an alternative to war.”

Susan Ahmed is an Iraqi woman who could be dead, just like her sister. On the wall of her apartment in Berlin hangs a picture of her sister, Shatha. The two sisters were members of the Iraqi Women’s League, and in the 1970s they fought together covertly against the dictatorial regime of the former Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein. The League, already banned in 1975, was and continues to be one of the few organizations in Iraq that has worked with people of all ethnicities and religious settings. Women from Shiite, Sunni and Christian backgrounds; Arabic, Kurdish, and Turkmen, all teamed up and campaigned for women’s rights. In 1980, Shatha was arrested, and her family never heard from her again. Her father was also arrested, tortured and luckily set free after three months. After watching in silence the terrible fate of her sister, no better than that of many Iraqi families, Susan quitted Iraq in 1980 and managed to reach former East Germany in 1982. She found a job with the International Democratic Women’s Federation, and then began campaigning for the release of the members of the Iraqi Women’s League who were being tortured in Iraqi prisons. The opposition in Iraq was chiefly ignored in the East and the West settings. Susan says bitterly, “Saddam’s military power was built up by the West, and then, from 1991 to 2003, it was destroyed with weapons from the West.” Susan strongly opposed the US invasion of Iraq. “There have always been political alternatives to war,” she emphasizes. “I cried every day after the Americans invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003,” Susan admits. “To me, the occupation was like rape,” she exclaimed. Yet, as Saddam’s regime was toppled on April 9th, she says she was “indescribably” happy. When the former dictator was arrested, “I sat for hours in front of my TV and laughed and cried; my whole body was shaking,” said Susan.

Iraqi Women’s League (IWL)