This silence seems doubly ironic – not only are we about to mark the 5th anniversary of a UN resolution that recognises the positive role women can and do play in building peace, but we also have endless statements from senior politicians asserting that the true measure of a democratic society is in how well it respects the rights of it’s women.
So far the process in Iraq appears to be failing on both counts. Failure to recognise what a resource they have in the women of the country in helping to reconstruct their war-torn communities and failure to insist that women’s rights are human rights …after all it was human rights that we went to war for, wasn’t it?
Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times says of the Iraq constitution;…'References to human rights are emphatic, but balanced with those of the primacy of Islam’
There will be a whole spectrum of views as to what this balance might look like and what the chances are of achieving it in relation to women’s human rights. I’m sceptical but not alone in hoping it can be done. However as I attempted to emphasise in the Women’s Hour discussion - Iraqi women themselves need to have the freedom to articulate what they want. But have they had a chance to say how they want to claim their rights? If anyone knows of any polls or research done on this it would be good to hear about it.
One way forward would be to take up a suggestion made by my friend Scilla Elworthy to start an E-POLL of Iraqi women viz:
· - send an email with say 6 questions to all the Iraqi women we know on email
· - ask them to ask their friends (who dont have email) to respond to the 6 questions and email their answers back to us, in strict confidence
· - then in quite a short time we could have a very powerful survey
Scilla also suggests some possible questions:
- What is the most immediate need of Iraqi women now?
- Do you want US and UK forces to withdraw or stay?
- If you want them to stay, for how long and to do what?
- If you want them to leave, how can that best be done and over what period?
- Is your situation as women better or worse now than it was before April 2003?
- How can women from other countries support you?
Yanar and other Iraqi bloggers – would this be useful?