Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Women Marginalized In New Iraqi Government

On March 10, 2011, Aswat al-Iraq reported that parliamentarian Safiya al-Suhail had decided to leave Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list. Suhail said that the party was acting undemocratically, that she was shut out and marginalized within the list, and that was due to autocrats amongst the leadership. She stated that she would now be an independent lawmaker. Other female members of Iraq’s new legislature share Suhail’s experience.

There are 86 women lawmakers in parliament, but only five won enough votes to gain their seats. The rest were named by their parties to meet a constitutional quota that 25% of parliamentarians be women. There is also only one woman minister in Maliki’s new government, compared to five in his previous administration, and six in Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s. Women have also been kept out of the leadership of the lists, and were not included in any of the negotiations to form a ruling coalition as power resides firmly in the hands of men. One member of State of Law said that the women appointees were simply window dressing to meet the constitutional requirement. This is despite the fact that the Election Commission estimated that 55-62% of the voters in the March 2010 voting were women.

Women’s power within the government seems to be going in the wrong direction. In the first two post-Saddam administrations, there was an attempt to embrace women as a large number were given ministries. After the latest election however, the political parties showed no desire to repeat that precedent, and only gave one woman a cabinet position as Minister of Women’s Affairs. That was perceived correctly as tokenism, and the lawmaker refused the post. Eventually another woman was named to the position, but it didn’t change the fact that females have taken a step back in Iraqi politics. Until more women are actually elected to office, and those women come up with a unified plan for what they want to achieve, this situation is likely to continue.


Aswat al-Iraq, “Suhail says quit Maliki’s bloc,” 3/10/11

Schmidt, Michael and Ghazi, Yasir, “Iraqi Women Feel Shunted Despite Election Quota,” New York Times, 3/12/11

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