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Talabani fights for Iraqi women

Jeannine Privat | Monday, November 8, 2004

Addressing issues ranging from her personal life to the United States’ involvement in the Iraq reconstruction process to the role of women in Iraqi society, Ala Talabani of the Iraqi Women’s High Council and Women for a Free Iraq spoke at Notre Dame Friday.

Talabani, on campus by invitation from the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies in conjunction with Women Waging Peace, stressed the need for women to be involved in the reconstruction process and ultimately the new Iraqi state. In a society where women have traditionally been oppressed, she emphasized the need for both genders to realize the importance of women.

“Women need to believe they have a role to play in the society,” she said.

Talabani and other women decided “a real women’s movement in the country” was needed, she said. They began the slow process of opening women’s centers, applying for grants from USAID and nongovernmental organizations and forming their own groups, like the Iraqi Women’s High Council and Women for a Free Iraq. Talabani has also been involved with the hosting of women’s conferences throughout Iraq, and in promoting the women’s movement in Iraq across religious, ethnic and geographic lines.

“Violence against women is the same in Baghdad, Basra and Fallujah,” she said.

And with women making up a 60-percent majority of the population, their role in society is something that female activists think should be taken seriously, Talabani said.

Talabani was critical of two areas concerning the election process in Iraq. First, she expressed concern that Iraqis would vote for parties based on ethnic and religious factors, rather than political issues. She also was apprehensive of the process itself, stating that a successful election depended greatly on the United Nations, and that while 600 U.N. workers were needed, only 30 were currently in Iraq.

Talabani cited the law as an area that needed to incorporate women’s rights. She said the country’s new constitution and legal framework needed to incorporate laws protecting and incorporating women into Iraqi society.

She also defended her religion against stereotypical Western views.

“Islam is not as bad as we think for women,” she said.

However, she did offer some criticisms of Iraqi society.

“We don’t believe in dialogue, we believe in violence,” she said, adding that the culture of peace needs to be taught to younger generations to create a truly peaceful Iraq.

Talabani currently lives in Iraq with her husband and children.