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The future of Iraq -- allow women to vote?
Tom Grey comments: "The suggestions below of the United States Institute of Peace are not very impressive in terms of detail or insight. However, they may provide focus for a very significant issue: should Iraqi women vote? The 1789 US Constitution did not allow US women that right. It's not allowed in most Arab states, though Bahrain allows it (first time, Oct 2002): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/2356895.stm. I suggest that the Iraqi interim government have "official" opinion polls, not exactly votes but with the same kind of form of voting; the questions of which are controlled by the US, but the answers are really from the Iraqis. And, in such advisories, allow the women to voice opinions. But imposing women-voting democracy is, as a first step, possibly too much democratic imperialism. I'm surprised this issue hasn't gotten more explict attention. I also hope the question is solved more locally, by Iraqis, so that in some areas it is allowed, and in other areas not -- so that it can become one of the focal points for organizations."
The US Institute of Peace plan to which Tom refers is: " Make a sustained political and financial commitment to the reconstruction effort in Iraq. Make the restoration of public security an immediate priority. Augment the current coalition force structure by rapidly introducing military police, recruiting constabulary forces from our coalition partners, and recalling the Iraqi police. Avoid polarization of Iraqi society around exclusive identities (Sunni/Shia, Kurd/Arab, Christian/Muslim), develop the notion of citizens with multiple identities living in a secular state, and encourage political activity by women. Allow UN weapons inspectors to resume work in Iraq, or alternatively, transfer suspected weapons material to the United Nations or to neutral countries for independent verification and analysis. Several members of the Security Council contend that UN inspectors will have to certify the disarmament of Iraq before economic sanctions can be lifted, opening the way for loans from bilateral donors, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Develop a comprehensive regional security strategy so a new Iraqi government will not feel the need to arm itself with WMD".
RH: The status of women is indeed a very sensitive issue in Arab countries, since the "honor" of men is involved. However, in some countries, notably Syria, women have made good progress.
Ronald Hilton - 5/5/03