A 25-member “governing council” made up of Iraqis that will share power with US occupation leaders was announced this weekend. The members of the council, of which only three are women, are from diverse ethnic, political, and religious backgrounds – including Muslim clerics, social activists, former exiles, tribal leaders, lawyers and physicians. The council will work on issues such as the operation of ministries, the appointment of diplomats, the constitution, and the budget. However, all final decision will be under L. Paul Bremer, the US civilian administrator in Iraq.
The women in the council include a diplomat, an engineer and teacher, and Rajaa Habib Khukzai, the director of a maternity hospital in Diwaniyah. Khukzai told the Post that she “helped deliver thousands of Iraqi babies, and now I am taking part in the birth of a new country and a new rule based on women’s rights, humanity, unity, and freedom,” reports the Washington Post. Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress who has been convicted in a banking scandal, is also a member of the council. Chalabi also has close ties to the Pentagon, according to the Post. In addition Chalabi was the only member to publicly thank the United States and Britain for getting rid of Saddam Hussein’s government.
Women in Iraq have thus far not only been excluded from the reconstruction process, but looting, violence and threats of extremism have kept them in their homes. They are also facing restrictions on their rights by religious fundamentalist groups. In an effort to ensure women’s rights in Iraq, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Harry Reid (D-NV) have called upon the Bush administration to include women in leadership roles in the reconstruction of Iraq and to ensure that women are full participants in the new Iraqi government.