Patriarchy and governance
Iraq's token females

Since 2003, Iraq has achieved little in the way of gender equality within the political establishment. Not one woman has held an important executive or leadership position and to date all three presidential administrations and their representatives have comprised men. By Manar Alzubaidi

Despite the presence of a number of female deputies in the Iraqi Council of Representatives, there are no achievements they can claim, or at least none for which they are allowed to take credit. The party leaders take most of the decisions and control their movements so blatantly that these entities have prevented the formation of coalitions of active and influential women. This has led to the failure of a feminist movement within the Council, despite repeated attempts to declare an independent womenʹs coalition.

In addition, it is men who have assumed the task of managing the autonomous authorities, with women assigned secondary behind-the-scenes jobs. And in the governorates, men have been appointed to the top slots as governors, deputies and executive assistants.

Yet the patriarchy does not end there; its shadow extends over the management of central and local government enterprises and institutions. The political parties and alliances assert control over local administrations and they entrust men with management, implementation and advisory posts. Significantly, women have consistently been excluded from political negotiations over forming a government or other crucial national issues.

Towing the party line and the subordination of women

According to Maysoon al-Saaʹidi, a member of the current Council, the selection of political figures to assume responsibilities within the government is agreed by the leaders of political blocs and parties that donʹt have any women in their ranks. These choices are made with the clear purpose of excluding women.

Despite al-Saaʹidiʹs efforts – along with her colleagues in the Council – to form a parliamentary womenʹs coalition with 83 deputies, she got nowhere. Most female deputies quickly withdrew and fell into line with the orders from their parties.

Maysoon al-Saaʹidi, member of the current Iraqi Council (screenshot; source: Goethe-Institut | Perspectives)
Attempts to form a parliamentary women's coalition got nowhere: with the support of a handful of colleagues, Maysoon al-Saaʹidi, a member of the current Iraqi Council, sought to bring together 83 female deputies in solidarity. Despite showing initial interest, however, most of the women approached withdrew from the group, preferring instead to go along with party politics

Please click the following link for the interview with Maysoon al-Saa'idi

File mayson-english.mp4

Although there are many women with particular capabilities in economics and personal and political leadership, they are completely excluded from executive positions, assserts al-Saaʹidi. She points to the popular perception of women as weak and emotional, as well as to a society in which customs and traditions are among the pivotal reasons why women are excluded from the leadership of key parliamentary committees and crucial ministries.

Partisan agenda and a patriarchal mentality

In the opinion of Hakima al-Shibli, a member of the Diwaniya Governorate Council, the most important reason for the limited participation of women in politics and in executive positions is the lack of community support for women candidates in the elections. Thus, the number of women in politics is less than the quota of 25%.

 Al-Shibli holds deputies in the Council of Representatives responsible for the lack of female representation and accuses them of obeying the orders of their political and party leaders at the expense of the national interest and human justice.

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