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Published:September 27th, 2005 19:13 EST
Reconstruction, or Terrorizing the Rights of Iraqi Women?

Reconstruction, or Terrorizing the Rights of Iraqi Women?

By Melissa Austria

On the CBS News program “Face The Nation,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean stated on August 14, “It looks like today, and this could change, as of today it looks like women will be worse off in Iraq than they were when Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq”.


Dean’s statement has brought different views and controversial issues about the war, military and Iraqi women. Bush’s decision to send U.S. troops to Iraq has left the American people, including Dean, with questions and a demand for answers.

“I do agree, however, with Dean’s statement in the sense that both men and women are worse off than they were before Saddam,” said Hesham Sallam, a member of the Middle East Institute.        


Before the American intervention, Iraqi women were considered the most liberated in the Middle East, but U.S. since troops entered Iraq women’s rights have transformed. Although Iraqi women were ruled under strict dictatorship during Saddam’s leadership, they were still able to work in private and public sectors and earn their own living.


“Today, many women fear the new constitution would give too much power to religious leaders to dictate important legal issues dealing with family and property rights, inheritance and other social issues concerning children,” said Laurie Kassman, a former foreign correspondent for Voice of America and the communications director for the Middle East Institute.


Kassman also explained that more women are covering up to avoid being harassed since conservative religious factions are gaining more power.


The former Vermont governor also stated on CBS News, “We need to have a plan to leave,” which is exactly the opposite of Bush’s agenda to reconstruct the government and people of Iraq.


Rebuilding Iraq includes creating a democracy and a constitution that will advance women’s rights. But will the new constitution help or take away the rights Iraqi women enjoyed before the American invasion?


David Newton, a former ambassador of Iraq, explained that we can’t expect the same rules to continue. He states that the new constitution should be balanced and should also focus on personal laws such as religion, divorce and birth.


Although the female political participation in Iraq has changed, women in Iraq have been appointed to six of the 30 Cabinet posts. This number is an increase from the past, which was three seats on the governing council, but it does not reach the 25 percent goal. But is democracy a priority, or is survival?

Iraqi women are facing occupational struggles, which have restricted them to stay at home.


“The real struggle the women of Iraq will face over the coming decade is staying in the labor force under high unemployment rates, and possibly further economic liberalization initiatives,” said Sallam.


Women are ignored and are highly affected more than men in some cases, such as high employment. Sallam also stated private sector enterprises find it more convenient to hire men than women.


Women in Iraq are also facing struggle, a struggle to acquire the essentials for their daily life, which includes medication, food and water. They are living in fear, wondering if they will make it home without being killed, attacked or kidnapped.


“Will they be enlightened women fighting for their rights or women put there by conservative tribal and religious leaders as ‘tokens’ to basically echo what the men behind them tell them to say?,” asks Kassman.


As times passes, the country’s future is becoming a serious concern, and the future status of Iraqi women continues to be a mystery.


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