Women With Guns
While most Iraqi women live in fear of terrorists and criminals, one small band of women has taken up arms and is prepared to fight back.
Employed by a private security company, the women ride in the front passenger seat posing as ordinary housewives when the company's drivers transport customers around the city in nondescript vehicles.
But their firearms are always close at hand, and they are trained to respond with force if they come under attack.
"Before I got into this, I was like a normal female; when I heard bullets, I would hide," said Muna, a stocky young woman in a black T-shirt and black pants.
"Now, I feel like a man. When I hear a bullet, I want to know where it came from," she said, sitting comfortably with an AK-47 assault rifle across her legs, red toenails poking out from a pair of stacked sandals. "Now I feel equal to my husband."
If the work provides personal fulfillment for Muna, her colleague Assal -- a divorced mother -- sees it as a cause. "I have seen a lot of innocent people die," she said, staring out with intense black eyes. "We are trying to defend ourselves and defend each other. I am doing this for my country."
As insurgent and terrorist groups become more proficient in the use of roadside bombs and ambushes, security companies increasingly are finding armored vehicles bristling with automatic weapons are less effective for protecting passengers than low-profile convoys disguised to blend into regular traffic.Progress?
That impression, the companies find, is enhanced by the presence of a modestly dressed woman in the front seat next to the driver, appearing to be a housewife out for a drive with her husband.