ABSTRACT This article explores the role of Iraqi women in reconstruction processes by contextualising the current situation with respect to changing gender ideologies and relations over the past three decades. Before discussing the Iraqi case specifically, I provide a brief theoretical background about the significance of gender in reconstruction as well as nation-building processes. A historical background aims to shed light on the changing gender ideologies and relations during the regime of Saddam Hussein. The article focuses particularly on the impacts of the early developmental –modernist discourses of the state and the impacts of war (Iran – Iraq war 1980 – 88, Gulf wars 1991, 2003) as well as on the comprehensive economic sanctions regime (1990 – 2003). The latter involved wider social changes affecting women and gender relations but also society at large because of the impoverishment of the well educated middleclass, wide-scale unemployment, an economic crisis and a shift towards more conservative values and morals. It is against this historical background that contemporary developments related to ongoing conflict, occupation and political transition affect women and gender relations.