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12/11/03 - PROGRESS BY IRAQIS FOR IRAQIS - 2003-12-11

Eight months after the U.S.-led coalition liberated Iraq, most Iraqis are working to establish freedom, security and prosperity in their country.

Ala Talabani is a Kurdish Iraqi who recently visited the United States to promote the role of Iraq’s women. She told the Voice of America that the situation for women in her country has greatly improved, but there are still many obstacles to overcome:

“It's a patriarchal society and religion always plays a role in our society. But it's all in the hands of women themselves. We are more than fifty-five percent of the Iraqi population. That's why there's a very strong united voice among Iraqi women that says we want fifty percent representation in all political processes in Iraq.”

The major concern for Iraqis, says Ms. Talabani, is security – in particular, the presence of foreign terrorists who are trying to undermine democratic progress:

“Iraq has become an open field for all these terrorists groups: Al-Qaida, Hezbollah, and some people who still have interests in Iraq or they don’t want to see Iraq become a democratic country because that will affect their countries as well.”

Ms. Talabani says that, while terrorism continues to pose a threat, real progress has been made in the past eight months:

“The security situation in Iraq is not as bad as the media wants to tell everybody. Yes, there’s some concern among a minority of people that as long as Saddam is alive, then the situation in Iraq will never be settled. But I think most of the Iraqi people now strongly believe that the regime is gone. That evil man is never going to come back and rule Iraq and his party as well, the Baath party.”

Ms. Talabani is optimistic about the future. She points to her fellow Kurdish Iraqis in the northern part of Iraq who have been able to build a civil society since they were liberated in the 1991 Gulf War. She says her mission now is to help bring such a society to the rest of her country.