Saturday, March 12, 2005


Iraqi Women: Hear Them Roar

Dan Senor, writing in "Meanwhile, Back in Baghdad," in Weekly Standard online, includes a couple of paragraphs on the important role played by Iraqi women in the birth of Iraqi Democracy:

* Women--One of the Iraqi interim constitution's mandates resulted in every fourth position on each political party list being held by a woman. This produced female representation in the National Assembly at a higher rate than in the U.S. Congress.

Such newfound political rights are not as easily reversible as Western skeptics claim. A political constituency is being created, which was exactly the intent of the Iraqi Governing Council and the Coalition when they made this constitutional stipulation. Once women get comfortable with political power, it's not easy for Islamists to take it away without risk of revolt.

The example being set by Iraqis on women's rights goes beyond politics to myriad new women's rights organizations and to women's visibility in the press corps. Indeed, there is nothing more revolutionary than an Islamist politician being grilled by an abayah-clad female Iraqi reporter under the bright lights of pan-Arab television cameras broadcasting to the entire region.

And it isn't just Iraqi women. In the days following the protests in Lebanon, all of the images flooding the Internet and mainstream media included young, western-dressed women in the forefront of protests. This may have exaggerated their role in leading protests -- no doubt based on anticipated audience appeal and their photogenic qualities -- but we shouldn't underestimate the power of these images to resonate in the Middle East and beyond.

The suffering of muslim women worldwide is evidence that the cause of women's rights is not well advanced in those societies. Based on the reports of Arab women and their suffering in Western European societies, and the persistent occurrence of sexual slavery in Africa and Asia, it is astounding that International and U.S. organizations dedicated to the advancement of women's issues so thoroughly neglect these societies.

But there are those who watch, and speak out. And they aren't waiting for western feminists to tell them how (they'd wait a long time). They are speaking in Iraq, and there are ears in the Middle East who hear them roar.

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