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5/3/03 - IRAQI WOMEN HAVE ROLE TO PLAY - 2003-05-05

Women constitute over half the population of Iraq, and they deserve a voice in a post-Saddam Hussein government. As Rend Rahim Francke, executive director of the Iraq Foundation, said, “The question of women in political life in Iraq is regarded as a luxury by some,” but “they are wrong.”

For thirty-four years, Saddam Hussein silenced Iraq’s women through violence and intimidation. On the pretext of fighting prostitution, the Fedayeen Saddam, Saddam Hussein’s paramilitary organization, beheaded more than two-hundred women, dumping their severed heads at their families’ doorsteps. Many families were required to display the victim’s heads on fences for several days. The regime of Saddam Hussein also used rape of women to extract information and force confessions from other family members. Sometimes, to intimidate Iraqi opposition members, videotapes were made of the rapes. Iraqi women were also subjected to torture and imprisonment for speaking out against the regime.

The overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime has opened a door of opportunity for all Iraqis, including women. Now Iraqis have a chance to build a civil society with democratic institutions. Iraq needs all of its citizens, including women, to help rebuild the country, said U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky:

“It is clear that the women of Iraq have a critical role to play in the future revival of their society. They bring skills and knowledge that will be vital to restoring Iraq to its rightful place in the region and in the world.”

The United States-led coalition has already begun to help the Iraqi people build the foundation for a democratic society.