Hakima al-Shibli, member of the Diwaniya Governorate Council (screenshot; source: Goethe-Institut | Perspectives)
A grassroots problem: if support for female politicians is lacking among the population as a whole, then naturally fewer women will be elected. The number of elected female representatives in Iraq has yet to meet the 25% quota stipulated in the post-Iraq War constitution, passed in 2005

Please click the following link for the interview with Hakima al-Shibli

Filehakima-english.mp4

She adds that "despite the presence of leading feminist voices and the absence of any clause in the Iraqi constitution which precludes women from assuming governmental positions, women are marginalised and kept out of discussions, meetings and crucial political decisions by the rule of men". Al-Shibli goes on to say that "more women need to be brought into leadership positions in the Council of Representatives, especially those with political experience and expertise."

Some parties use intimidation and threats in order to prevent women from playing a supervisory role, especially in the investigation of corruption and uncovering the facts. Al-Shibli is convinced that this has had a negative impact on the image of women in politics, that is, that they are just there to make up the numbers and have no political weight.

Tokenism and acquiescence, a fatal combination

"How can we demand that women be appointed to ministerial jobs, if they donʹt ask for it, neither for themselves, nor for others?" asks Feryal al-Kaʹabi, president of Awan Organisation for Awareness and Capacity Development. "The rights of women in society cannot be protected unless there are women active in executive roles to defend these rights. So, what is the purpose of having women in the Council of Representatives? What is the purpose of the quota (of seats allocated to women)?"

Al-Kaʹabi continues by asking what should Iraqi women hope for now from their female representatives in the Council and how can they believe in them as defenders of the most basic rights, including the Constitution, when they themselves have acquiesced to their status? Some may argue that owing to the circumstances at the heart of this conflict, it was not the right time to appoint women to ministerial or leadership roles, but the truth is even bigger than that. The current goal is actually to keep men happy and to give them more ministries and privileges.

Feryal al-Kaʹabi, president of Awan Organisation for Awareness and Capacity Development (photo: Goethe-Institut | Perspectives, Manar Al-Zubaidi)
Feryal al-Kaʹabi, president of Awan Organisation for Awareness and Capacity Development: "the quota system in our new state is merely to make a token show of the female sex. It is not a reflection on the relative roles of men and women in society, with a view to change or social development. Women are no more than a luxury commodity, to be added to the seats of parliament like the spices we smell in any political kitchen"

Not only that, ministries have been handed to unqualified people. Meanwhile, for most of the women who have made it to the dizzy heights of the Council, their only aim has been to take advantage of the benefits and privileges that come with their position. Thus, they exist between the two societies, one modern and democratic, which believes in the rights of women, and the other, established and traditional, in which there is no place for the views of "the other".

Al-Kaʹabi adds: "I have become convinced that the quota system in our new state is merely to make a token show of the female sex from a biological standpoint. It is not done as a reflection on the relative roles of men and women in society, with a view to change or social development. Thus, women are no more than a luxury commodity, to be added to the seats of parliament, like the spices we smell in any political kitchen."

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