Assessing Women's Rights in Iraq

Army Reserve Magazine, January 1, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Assessing Women's Rights in Iraq


One part of the reconstruction in Iraq that has drawn relatively little attention is the issue of women's rights. However, a team of Army Reserve Soldiers is working with women leaders in Kurdistan and the surrounding areas to determine how best to elevate the standing of women in a country that historically has treated them as little more than chattels.

Recently, members from the 352nd Civil Affairs Command, an Army Reserve unit from Riverdale, Maryland, took a trip to Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Part of their mission was to touch base with political and community leaders to discuss women's rights in Iraq.

Women leaders in the community accompanied the team during the four days they spent in Sulaimania to point out instances of women's suffering and detail how they were trying to bring about change.

"We went to two women's organizations during our time in Kurdistan - the Women's Training and Social Development Center and a women's media center," said Sfc. Janis Albuquerque, a civil affairs specialist with the 352nd, who acted as a liaison between the women's organizations and the U.S. military, and is an advisor to the Ministry of Youth and Sport in Baghdad. "They always like to see a female and to hear another women's perspective. It's also important for them to see that a woman can perform the duties of a soldier, which is taboo in Iraq."

Kurdistan, which has been operating independently of the Iraqi central government since 1991, historically has been much more open-minded when it comes to women's rights than the rest of Iraq. Therefore, the Kurd women can offer valuable insights into how the position of women in Iraq as a whole can be improved.

The information Albuquerque has been collecting about Kurdish women and their progress over the last decade is going to help the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) outline a program for women's rights in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq.

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