Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Iraqi women groups take to the streets

Iraqi women representing fifty five women groups and organizations from all over Iraq gathered at Fardus square this morning to sign a petition against Resolution 137, to demand equal rights, and fair unbiased representation (at least 40%) in the future Iraqi Transitional Council, governorate, and municipal councils.

The sit-in was organized by the Supreme Council of Iraqi Women, the Advisory Committee for Women Affairs, and the Iraqi Women Network. Other noted women groups were present such as the Iraqi Contemporary Women Movement, Organization for Women Freedom in Iraq, Iraqi Hope Association (Amal), Independent Women Organization, Womens Union of Kurdistan, Kurdistan Free Women Movement, Iraqi Women Revival Organization, and the Iraqi Students and Youth Union. I think AYS or Omar have a list of the groups.

Several women activists gave speeches. Yanar Mohammad, Zakiyah Khalifah, Maysun Al-Damluji, Hana Edward, and GC member Sungol Chabok also made a late appearance. Planning Minister Dr. Mahdi Al-Hafudh shyly gave a brief word of support and signed the petition.

It got interesting when a woman in a burqa showed up at the gathering with her three kids. Reporters all stormed forward trying to interview her. Her husband was imprisoned for years by the former regime for political reasons only to be executed in the end and for her to pay for the bullets. A very heartrending story. She held his death certificate as you can see in the pictures. She said "We didn't wait all these years without the most basic rights to be denied them now". An Arab reporter asked her if she was Sunni or Shi'ite. "I'm neither!" she snapped at him "I'm an Iraqi citizen first and foremost, and I refuse to be asked such a question".

AYS, and I, skulked around Fardus square and took pictures. Omar joined us later. We signed the petition against Resolution 137 and the woman offered us a rose. If you want to sign it, there is an online petition which you can find at this site, Equality in Iraq. The petitions are to be submitted to Paul Bremer, and Kofi Annan later this week. Bremer has made it known that he will veto any law that will not recognize basic civil freedoms, but Resolution 137 is yet to be vetoed.

You can find pictures of the gathering here.