Funny how attempts to impose sharia (by force or legal attrition) never elevate the status of women except in an apologist’s imagination (and anecdotes about how bad things were in 7th-century pre-Islamic Arabia don’t apply to modern standards of human rights). But, the argument goes, those parties are somehow never doing it “right.” It’s all a misunderstanding of the true principles of sharia law. So, let’s try it in your country, and this time things will be different. Really.
“Iraqi women fear going public as candidates,” by Kim Gamel for the Associated Press, October 6:
BAGHDAD – The 38-year-old teacher wanted to participate in Iraq’s first provincial elections in four years “” until she realized that a new law would require the ballot to list her name, not just her party.
Even as violence has declined, lingering fear bred by rampant crime and a small but die-hard insurgency has left many Iraqi women afraid to run in the elections, to be held by Jan. 31.
“I feel that I am unprotected,” said the teacher, speaking by telephone on condition of anonymity because of her fears. “I am not going to run in the elections because I fear for the safety of members of my family who might be targeted.”
The teacher, a Sunni who considers herself a political independent, hails from Baqouba, a former stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq some 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. Al-Qaida and other Sunni extremists have frequently attacked more moderate Sunnis who cooperate with the Iraqi government or U.S.-led forces.
The election jitters are part of a larger concern about violence and traditional values or prejudice sidelining women from important jobs. The constitution provides that men and women have basic legal rights such as voting and owning property and suing in court. But deep differences exist within Iraqi society over the role of women and of Islam.
Under heavy U.S. pressure to promote gender equality, the Iraqis agreed to a 25 percent quota for women in the last elections for parliament and provincial councils, both held in 2005. A law paving the way for the new vote to be held by Jan. 31 maintains that requirement, opening the door for women to make up at least a quarter of the provincial councils.
But there’s a crucial difference this time.
In the past elections, names did not appear on the ballot “” only numbers and symbols identified with political parties. That system helped empower well-organized religious parties and left many Iraqis feeling little connection with elected officials who were supposed to represent them.
In the new vote, the names of candidates must be presented to voters.
The change to a so-called open list has scared some qualified Iraqis from running, particularly women. Activists are worried there won’t be enough women to meet the 25 percent threshold, or that the parties will just find women to act as figureheads to fill the quota.
Said Arikat, a spokesman for the U.N. mission in Iraq, noted that “some statistics show that when countries move from closed to open lists, women don’t fare as well.” […]
The problem is more acute for women who have come under attack simply for wearing makeup or refusing to don head scarves and head-to-toe black robes “” behavior deemed un-Islamic by extremists.
Women also have come under scrutiny for defying traditional norms that discourage them from mixing with men or occupying a public role.
“The women are afraid because their names will be published … because of al-Qaida, because of terror groups and extremists,” said Nirmeen Othman, a former minister for women’s affairs.