Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Fighting Iraq’s new Taliban

One of the casualties of the inter-ethnic and tribal conflict in Iraq has unquestionably been women's rights. In openDemocracy, Rosemary Bechler talks to Hanaa Edwar Busha of the Iraqi Women's Network who accuses both the UN and the US of appeasing tribal and religious groups in relation to the position of women in Iraqi society:
"The conflict between women's human rights and political participation and appeasing the religious and tribal groups in a violent conflict is a familiar excuse. Appeasement continues in the new government and has been institutionalised under the US- and UN-led governance structure. Last year, even the UN Representative in Iraq cited reluctance to interfere in the "internal problems" of tribal and religious communities when the constitution was being drafted. "We had to put him right on this. We said: 'In Iraqi society, women have always played a very active role and this has been recognised and valued. How can we talk about equality in public life, if at home women find their rights subsumed by those of their husbands and fathers, or the children and the brother?' Now we are reviewing the constitution and argue that it should accord with international treaties on human rights and other treaties signed by Iraq. In the most recent draft, they have omitted this." Women's rights are being used as political currency."
She argues this is incredibly short-sighted:
"Hanaa sees women's political involvement as crucial to the reintegration of the men who have been fighting. "We want to emphasise how important it is that women sit there in the political leadership in these reconciliation initiatives. Otherwise all the talk about [UN Resolution] 1325 is just empty words. Women make up more than fifty percent of the population, more than fifty percent of public servants in Iraq. We have a long list of qualified women who are far better at resisting corruption than their male counterparts. But where are they at this critical point?" She hopes that the participants in the Wilton Park conference will put pressure on leaders to act, with concrete projects and programmes, so that their "fine words of sympathy" don't melt into thin air."
If you're in London, there's a vigil on 23 June for Iraqi Widows on International Widows' Day, at 3pm, at St Martins in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, London (from Gender Action for Peace and Security).

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