Home / News / Article


August 16 2004

A Quest for Political, Economic and Social Participation in a Democratic Iraq

On June 28, 2004, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority transferred power to Iraq?s interim government. Many now ask, what does this mean for Iraqi women? We believe that the world has a moral obligation to advance and support the full political, economic, and social participation of women in Iraq and there are many pro-democracy Iraqi women leaders who seek to do just that. Below, we profile 33 Iraqi women leaders dedicated to democracy, women?s rights, and religious freedom in Iraq.?

1. Maha Alattar

??? ???????

Maha Alattar was raised in Baghdad and left for the United States at the age of 13.?She left with her family as a result of the continuous persecution by the former Ba?athist regime targeting Shi?a in Iraq. Many of her uncles and cousins were imprisoned or deported.?After the fall of the regime, she learned five of her cousins had been executed.

Currently, Maha Alattar serves as an assistant professor of neurology at the University of North Carolina in the Neurology Department. She completed her residency at Georgetown University Hospital and her fellowship training at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.?Also, she is heavily involved in helping fellow Iraqis during this rebuilding process. Ms. Alattar is an active member of the Women?s Alliance for Democratic Iraq (WAFDI) and works with a dedicated group of American and Iraqi-American physicians who focus on rebuilding the medical infrastructure of Iraq.

2.?Affra al-Barak

????? ????????
Affra al-Barak spent seven years in an Iraqi prison. Her crime? Briefly speaking to someone who was considered "suspicious" by Saddam Hussein?s henchmen. She witnessed women being raped, tortured, abused and some hanged by their own feet during menstruation so that they became "poisoned by the infection generated by their own blood," she recalls. Her father bribed the guards monthly so they would not abuse her. Fortunately, she survived and saw freedom again last year. Since then, she has worked with her sister, Sawsan, and other local women, to open a women?s center in Hillah. The fees they charge for their services are low so that those of limited means can seek assistance. The funds generated are used for free legal advice, aid to battered women, and instruction in English and civil affairs. Additionally, they are organizing discussions about democracy and?studying women political leaders and constitution writing experiences in other countries. Ms. al-Barak is now delivering lectures about the importance of freedom and non-violent change.

3. Sawsan al-Barak

??????????
Sister of Affra al-Barak, Sawsan al-Barak, a chemical engineer in Iraq?s Ministry of Industry, co-founded the Fatima Al-Zahara Women's Center in Hillah, one of the first such organizations in post-Ba'ath Iraq. Along with computer classes, the center charges nominal fees to those who can afford it. The funds generated are used for free legal advice, aid to battered women, and English instruction. Ms. al-Barak has stated, "The women of Iraq want to progress, to participate more actively, and to have a stronger voice in the reconstruction and the democratization of Iraq."

4. Maysoon al-Damluji

????? ????????

Appointed on March 21, 2004, the Honorable Maysoon al-Damluji is Iraq?s Deputy Minister of?Cultural Affairs.? Deputy Minister al-Damluji is an architect by profession (Baghdad, 1981; London, 1985; registered UK 1997.? Both her parents were professors in medicine at Baghdad University.?Deputy Minister al-Damluji is the founder of the Iraqi Artists Association in the United Kingdom and is a member of its executive committee.?Also, she is founder and president of the Iraqi Independent Women?s Group in post-Saddam Iraq (2003), a founding member of the Studio of the Actor (London, 1994), and a member of the Association of Iraqi Democrats (2003).?Deputy Minister al-Damluji has been an anti-war activist (since 1991).

5. Rend al-Rahim

??? ???????

Rend al-Rahim is a native of Iraq and earned degrees from Cambridge University and the Sorbonne. In November 2003, she was selected by the Iraqi Governing Council to be Iraq?s senior diplomatic representative in Washington, D.C. Founder of the Iraq Foundation, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., she?was its executive director from 1991 to November 2003. The Iraq Foundation works to advance and support democracy and human rights in Iraq and foster a better international understanding of Iraq's potential as a contributor to political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.?Ambassador al-Rahim has drafted policy papers and successfully networked with government officials, international institutions, and non-government organizations.

Ambassador al-Rahim has worked extensively with Iraqis in Iraq, the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. Additionally, she has published numerous writings on Iraq, including: The Iraqi Opposition in Iraq After the Gulf War; "Iraq: Race to the Finish Line" in Middle East Insight; and "The Iraqi Opposition and the Sanctions Issue" in Middle East Report.

6.Muna Al-Saffar

???? ????

Muna Al-Saffar is a medical doctor (MBChB) with a great interest in research and academic involvement. She fled Iraq when the Iraqi-Iranian war started and was not able to return until 24 years later.

Muna Al-Saffar is a medical doctor (MBChB) with a great interest in research and academic involvement. She fled Iraq when the Iraqi-Iranian war started and was not able to return until 24 years later.

In January 2004, Muna Al-Saffar joined the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council and returned to Iraq to serve with the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) members. Simultaneously, she worked closely with Iraqi women from the Womens Alliance for Democratic Iraq (WAFDI) on different projects relating to education and professional and political training for women.

Over the last two years, Ms. Al-Saffar has worked in the field of Hereditary Cancer Genetics at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).? In 2000, she earned her masters degree in genetic counseling from McGill University and received her board certification by the Canadian Association of Genetic Counselors immediately thereafter. Ms. Al-Saffar has extensive experience in clinical and laboratory rotations in the fields of imunology (tissue typing), molecular genetics, cytogenetics, prenatal genetic counseling, biochemical genetics, and pediatric genetic counseling. However, her main interest is in the field of Applied Clinical Genetics and Genetic Counseling. Furthermore, she is also involved in the dissemination of health information among Arab Canadian Women in Montreal particularly in Breast Cancer and has experience as a volunteer in telephone Crisis Centres (Tel Aid), sexual assault support group at McGill University and bereavement counseling.

7. Dr. Azhar Abdul Karim Al Sheikhly

? .???????? ?????? ???????

Dr. Azhar Abdul Karim Al Shakly, Minister of Women's Affairs,?is a PhD holder in constitutional law and graduated from Law College Baghdad University. She served as the assistant professor in the Law and Legal Sciences College in Arbil.?She is also head of the Women's Leadership Institute in Baghdad.

8. Zainab al-Suwaij

???????????
Zainab al-Suwaij fled Iraq in 1991 after the uprising against Saddam Hussein. Thereafter,? she worked as a refugee case manager for the Interfaith Refugee Ministry and later became a founder and executive director of the American Islamic Congress (AIC). Based in Cambridge, Mass., and Baghdad, Iraq, AIC is registered in both countries as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan educational institution dedicated to building interfaith and interethnic understanding.

AIC believes American Muslims must take the lead in building tolerance and fostering a respect for human rights to counter Muslim extremism, and that American Muslims must reassert their devotion to moderation by promoting the ideals of freedom, democracy and tolerance throughout the Islamic world.?AIC has worked to rehabilitate Iraq?s education system and empower Iraqi women. As a member of the Revitalization of Iraqi Schools & Stabilization of Education (RISE) Program, AIC surveyed schools, distributed back-to-school student kits, enlisted communities to repair damaged schools and trained teachers in child-centered pedagogy. Additionally, AIC has organized and ran conferences and seminars instructing women in democratic principles, leadership training and NGO establishment. AIC?s successful lobbying of the Iraqi Governing Council contributed to establishing a goal of 25 percent?of women in Iraq?s future National Assembly.

Ms. al-Suwaij?s work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and the Houston Chronicle. She has made public media appearances on National Public Radio, CNN and Fox News. In a February 10, 2003, article in The New Republic, Ms.?al-Suwaij stated, "As war with Iraq draws closer, commentators, journalists, and policymakers frequently question whether the Iraqi people would really support the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. But that question has already been answered. Although Americans remember the Gulf War, many do not realize that, for a few momentous days immediately after it, much of Iraq rose up in open rebellion against Saddam's regime. In fact, 15 out of 18 Iraqi provinces rebelled. I was one of the rebels."

9. Zina Amin

?????????
During the 1990s, Zina Amin worked in Iraq's Ministry of Oil as its mechanical engineer. She immigrated to the United States in 1992. Presently, she is as an engineering manager and part-time university associate professor at the University of the Pacific and New Mexico State University. Zina serves on the Board of Directors for the Women's Alliance for a Democratic Iraq.

10. Raya Barazanji

??

??? ????????


Born in Baghdad, Iraqi-American Raya Barazanji now acts as the Chief Operating Officer of the Iraq Foundation, a non-profit, non-governmental organization working to advance and support democracy and human rights in Iraq and foster a better international understanding of Iraq's potential as a contributor to political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.

??? ????????


Born in Baghdad, Iraqi-American Raya Barazanji now acts as the Chief Operating Officer of the Iraq Foundation, a non-profit, non-governmental organization working to advance and support democracy and human rights in Iraq and foster a better international understanding of Iraq's potential as a contributor to political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.

In that role, Ms. Barazanji advocates the establishment of a strong system of education in Iraq. She has showcased demonstration programs for selected schools in both urban and rural areas that cover topics such as tolerance, conflict reduction and resolution, trauma reduction, nutrition and basic health skills. In June 2003, she began working with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to help Iraq?s Ministry of Education. The USAID programs employ a dual strategy that focuses on emergency actions to support the resumption of schools while laying the foundations for critical reforms to ensure that the Iraqi education system and schools can play a constructive role in rebuilding social cohesion and progress in Iraq.

11. Nasreen Berwari

????? ???????
Nasreen Berwari is the only female among her eight siblings. Prior to the U.S. transfer of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government, Ms. Berwari served as the Minister of Municipalities and Public Works in Iraq. After completing undergraduate studies at Baghdad University in architectural engineering and urban planning, she attended Harvard University?s Kennedy School of Government where she focused on public policy and management. Additionally, Minister Berwari fulfilled requirements for an executive program at the Kennedy School for senior managers in government, a negotiation program conducted by Harvard Law School, and a leadership course at Tufts University?s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Today, Ms. Berwari?s challenge is to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq at the provincial and municipal levels. The Iraqi Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works is charged with the oversight of 100,000 properties in Iraq, including parks, gardens, and commercial and public buildings.??

Before accepting the position as Minister of Public Works, Ms. Berwari worked with United Nations organizations in Iraq. Specifically, she headed an office of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). She also served the UN Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (UNOHCI) and the Iraq Relief Coordination Unit (IRCU) through the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs. Additionally, after the 1991 war in Kuwait, she worked extensively with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), helping Iraqis return to their homeland. She retained this position after the transfer of power.

12. Hind Rassam Culhane

??????? ?????
Hind Rassam Culhane, an associate professor of social and behavioral sciences at Mercy College in New York, grew up in Baghdad. She is the daughter of Iraqi-Lebanese parents. In 2001, she received a Fulbright Scholarship to study the cultural identities of Syrian adolescents at Damascus University. Ms. Culhane has returned to Baghdad to help rebuild Iraq?s education sector.

13. Susan Dakak

????????
Susan M. Dakak is a senior engineer and?vice president?of Intuitive Technologies, Inc., a consulting firm located in Knoxville, Tennessee, providing consulting services to federal and local governments. She holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Tennessee Tech and has worked for the Department of the Navy and Cobb County, Georgia Utility Board.
?
A native of Iraq, Mrs. Dakak has resided in the United States since 1978. In April 2003, she volunteered to travel to Iraq to assist the U.S. Department of Defense in the reconstruction effort in Iraq. She traveled to Iraq in January 2004 and served as a consultant, lending her expertise in the rehabilitation of water and sewer systems throughout Iraq to the Coalition Provisional Authority. Mrs. Dakak also has been providing assistance to the newly appointed Iraqi government in the areas of democracy, process management, and projects management. In addition, she is a member of the Women's Alliance for Democratic Iraq. Recently, Mrs. Dakak played a primary role in hosting 13 Iraqi women delegates who visited the United States for democracy and civil society training.

Over the last year, Mrs. Dakak has been interviewed by over 50 radio and television programs about her experiences in Iraq. She was a finalist for the YWCA woman of the year award in Knoxville, Tennessee, and was one of two Iraqi-American women invited to the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. At the 2004 Republican Convention, Mrs. Dakak was a panelist on a forum regarding safeguarding women around the world.

14. Basma Fakri

????? ????

Basma Fakri holds undergraduate and master?s degrees in civil engineering. Her undergraduate degree was earned at Baghdad University?s College of Engineering. She received her master?s degree at Tennessee State University. Ms. Fakri worked in Iraq?s Ministry of Industry from 1975-1982 and then immigrated to the United States. Presently, she is working with a private consulting firm as a bridge group leader and project manager. Ms. Fakri is a co-founder and President of the Women?s Alliance for a Democratic Iraq. Also, she is a member of the Women for a Free Iraq campaign. Since November 2003, Ms. Fakri has attended numerous meetings at the White House, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of State as part of various Iraqi women's delegations. She has participated in several peaceful demonstrations and events supporting a free and democratic Iraq.

On July 2, 2004, Fakri was awarded the 2004 America's Freedom Festival Award in Provo, Utah with six other recipients.? Among others, award recipients included Farouk Darweesh, a member of Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council, and former U.S. President Ronald Wilson Reagan.

15. Tanya Gilly

?

? ????????
Tanya Gilly, a Kurd from Kirkuk in Northern Iraq, comes from a family of political activists who fled Saddam Hussein?s regime in the 1970s. She was an active member of the Iraqi opposition to Saddam Hussein?s Ba?ath regime for 12 years. After moving to Washington, D.C.,?as an adult, Ms. Gilly began working for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two political parties that govern the Kurdish region of Iraq as advisor for public diplomacy and Congressional affairs. She has organized and supervised various conferences and seminars on Kurdish and Iraqi issues and on the role of women in the Iraqi opposition. Most recently, she was co-organizer of the Hillah Women?s Conference held in October 2003. Ms. Gilly is the executive director of the Iraq-America Freedom Alliance and is an active member of the Women?s Alliance for a Democratic Iraq.

16. Hind Haider

??? ????
Hind Haider is the national coordinator for the Iraqi-American National Network, an organization that seeks to support, nurture, and build the capacity of emerging Iraqi communities across the United States.

17. Zakia Hakki

? ????????
Zakia Hakki is a Faylee Kurd from Baghdad. She worked as an attorney in Northern Virginia and is the vice president of the Iraqi-American Council. In 1959, she was the first female judge in Iraq and was the Ministry of Agriculture?s expert legal counsel. She earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration from the International Labor Union in Switzerland and a doctor of law degree from the University of Baghdad.

Judge Hakki is the founder of the Kurdish Women?s Federation and served as its president from 1958 to 1975. As the only woman elected to the leadership of the Kurdistan Democratic Party during the general assembly meeting in 1970, she did not hesitate to voice her opinions on behalf of the Kurdish people. It has been reported that her outspoken nature led Saddam Hussein?s government to place her under probationary arrest for 20 years. She emigrated to the United States in 1996. Since then, she has been involved in a variety of working group sessions on Iraq at the U.S. Department of State. It has been reported that when the Iraqi Governing Council voted affirmatively to place family law under the jurisdiction of Islamic (sharia) law, Judge Hakki stated, "This new law will send Iraqi families back to the Middle Ages. It will allow men to have four or five wives or six wives. It will take away children from their mothers. It will allow anyone who calls himself a cleric to open an Islamic court in his house and decide who can marry and divorce and have rights."

Reportedly, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, the former administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, stated that he would block any attempt to make Islam the main source of law in Iraq's constitution. In a statement delivered on March 8, 2004, Ambassador Bremmer stated that the Coalition countries which exercised authority over Iraq until June 28, 2004 would not "permit any law or regulation which diminishes individual rights, including women?s rights.?The Transitional Administrative Law...contains strong guarantees of women?s rights?-- rights that cannot be abrogated."

18. Siham Hattab Hamdan

???????? ????????
Siham Hattab Hamdan studied for her master?s degree at Mustansiriya University in Baghdad.?Currently, she lectures there in English literature. She is a member of the Baghdad City Advisory Council and served as the vice chair representing the Sadr city district. Currently, Ms. Hamdan works on the committees for legal affairs and human rights, public relations, and women and children. She aims to promote justice and peaceful resolution of conflict between Iraqis and is working to establish women?s centers in Sadr.

19. Shifa Hadi Hussain

???????? ????
Dr. Shifa Hadi Hussain teaches English at Mosul University in Iraq and is a member of the Nineveh District Council. She advocates the cooperation?among?Iraqis of all ethnic groups with the international community. When she attended the annual meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in March 2004, Hussain stated: "A year ago I would never have dreamed of being in New York. The vision I have for my country for the next year is tantalizing?-- and better than that, it is even possible."

20. Pary Karadaghi

???? ???????

A native of Sulaimanya, Dr. Pary Karadaghi works for Kurdish human rights, providing assistance to Kurds internally displaced in Iraq as well as those abroad through her position as executive director of Kurdish Human Rights Watch. Karadaghi attended medical school in Bucharest until the threat of deportation forced her to flee to France, and eventually to the United States. She has conducted extensive research on the impact of war and violence on refugees.

21. Sawsan Abdul Majid

??????? ??????
Born and raised in Basra, Iraq, Sawsan Abdul Majid is now an Iraqi-Canadian university professor. She studied engineering studies at Basra University and later received her doctorate in engineering and fiber optics communication systems. She left Iraq in 1979 and moved around Europe, North Africa, and Canada for more than 25 years. In 2003, Ms. Abdul Majid joined the Women?s Alliance for Democratic Iraq. She has served as a member of the board of directors and chair of Engineering and Technology since that time. She also serves on the bard of directors for the Society of Iraqi Higher Education Abroad, a U.S.-based Iraqi organization which works closely with Iraq?s Ministry of Higher Education. As one of the first Iraqi professors to return to Iraq in December 2004 and a strong advocate of women?s rights, Ms. Abdul Majid encourages fellow Iraqi professors to do the same.

22. Nadia Mirza

?

?????????
Nadia Mirza left Bagdad at the age of 9, as a result of threats made against her family by Saddam Hussein?s ruling Ba?ath party. In a recent interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, in describing her experiences as an Assyrian Christian in Iraq under Saddam?s regime, she stated, "There was continual harassment."

23. Esra Naama

?

????? ????
Esra Naama fled Iraq after the Gulf War. She was 10 years old. Her father, General Abbas Kareem Naama, was one of the instigators of the 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein in southern Iraq. When the uprising failed, Ms. Naama, her mother, and siblings fled to Saudi Arabia, crossing the desert by foot. They were granted asylum in the United States in 1992. Now an American citizen, Ms. Naama lives in San Diego and works as an activist with Women for a Free Iraq.

????? ????
Esra Naama fled Iraq after the Gulf War. She was 10 years old. Her father, General Abbas Kareem Naama, was one of the instigators of the 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein in southern Iraq. When the uprising failed, Ms. Naama, her mother, and siblings fled to Saudi Arabia, crossing the desert by foot. They were granted asylum in the United States in 1992. Now an American citizen, Ms. Naama lives in San Diego and works as an activist with Women for a Free Iraq.

24. Lina Omar

????????

Lina Omar is the Second Secretary at the Embassy of Iraq in Washington, DC. Previously, she served as the Special Assistant for Public Diplomacy and Congressional Affairs for Iraqi representative to the United States, Rend al-Rahim and for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) before the United States government, Congress and other US-based public and private organizations on diplomatic, political, economic, and educational issues.

?
Ms. Omar is an active member of Women for a Free Iraq and Women?s Alliance for a Democratic Iraq. She has been working hard to promote the critical role of women in the new era of peace and democracy in Iraq and the Middle East and has been presenting nationally and internationally on this topic. She was quoted by the Washington Post, the Washington Times and participated in TV discussions on the future of Iraq.

25. Nermin Othman

??????????
The Honorable Nermin Othman is Iraq?s Minister of Environment.? Minister Othman is Iraq?s former Minister of Education for Sulaymania, former advisor to the Ministry of Justice, and a former Minister of Social Affairs in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.? She was a member of the conference Advisory Steering Committee for the Voice of Women of Iraq Conference held on July 9, 2003. Prior to joining government service, Minister Othman was an educator and a member of the Peshmerga. She?also became the manager of the Save the Children office in Irbil and served as manger of the Youth Activity Center in Sulaymania.

26. Nesreen Haydir Qader

????????? ????
Nesreen Haydir Qader is a member of the Baghdad Advisory Council and a microbiologist, specializing in virology. It has been reported that she would like to expand the infant vaccination program in Iraq.

27. Tamara Quinn

?????????
Tamara Quinn is a Chaldean Christian. Born in Baghdad, she moved to the United States in 1973 to pursue her education and escape Saddam Hussein?s regime. She has remained involved in Iraqi affairs through a variety of organizations including Women for a Free Iraq and Women Waging Peace. She is one of five directors of the Women?s Alliance for a Democratic Iraq and chairs its Humanitarian Committee. Through this organization, she has been a leader in humanitarian efforts to improve the living conditions and rights of women and children in Iraq.

In 2003, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (U.S. Department of Defense) asked Ms. Quinn to be part of the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council, which would advise the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority during the reconstruction period. She went to Iraq in October 2003 and spent three months working with the Council in addressing women?s issues and civil rights during the reconstruction process. The Council established the Cross-Cultural Program, which links American and Canadian schools with corresponding schools in Iraq. Ms. Quinn has stated that "The purpose of the program is to help Iraqi children understand freedom and democracy. In order to democratize the region, we must start with the new generation and teach them what it means to be free."

28. Amal Rassam

???????
Amal Rassam was raised in Mosul, Iraq, and later in Baghdad. She traveled to the United States for graduate studies and received a Ph.D. in anthropology. She has taught at a number of universities in the United States, including the University of California at Berkeley and the City University of New York. She often takes time out from teaching to work as a consultant for development projects and in the Middle East, Africa and central Asia. Currently, Ms. Rassam is working with the research Triangle Institute to establish civil society structures in Iraq.

29. Zainab Salbi

?????????
Zainab Salbi is the founder and president of Women for Women International, an organization that provides indigent women in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Kosovo, Pakistan, Columbia, Nigeria -- and now in Iraq -- with the skills and financial resources to move from crisis and poverty to self-sufficiency. A native of Baghdad, Ms. Salbi grew up during the Iran-Iraq War. Her humanitarian efforts have been honored at the White House.

30. Sarbagh Salih

????????????
Sarbagh Salih is a member of Women for a Free Iraq and the Women?s Alliance for Democratic Iraq.

31. Bushra Samarai

???? ???????
Born in Baghdad, Iraqi-Canadian Bushra Samarai now works as the gender advisor of UNIFEM Arab States? Regional Programme Office in Amman, Jordan. There, she works to implement initiatives that support gender mainstreaming and the social, economic, and political advancement of women. Also, she is working to empower promote women?s rights and democracy in Iraq. Last year she returned to Iraq to assist in the reconstruction efforts in the country.? In June 2003, she worked as a master trainer with the U.S. Agency for International Development to help Iraq's Ministry of Education. Also, Ms. Samarai joined the Iraq Reconstruction and Development Council and worked with Baghdad Central as the deputy reform management officer, responsible for the civil society and women organizations.


Born in Baghdad, Iraqi-Canadian Bushra Samarai now works as the gender advisor of UNIFEM Arab States? Regional Programme Office in Amman, Jordan. There, she works to implement initiatives that support gender mainstreaming and the social, economic, and political advancement of women. Also, she is working to empower promote women?s rights and democracy in Iraq. Last year she returned to Iraq to assist in the reconstruction efforts in the country.? In June 2003, she worked as a master trainer with the U.S. Agency for International Development to help Iraq's Ministry of Education. Also, Ms. Samarai joined the Iraq Reconstruction and Development Council and worked with Baghdad Central as the deputy reform management officer, responsible for the civil society and women organizations.

32. Ban Saraf

???????
Ban Saraf, who left Iraq as a child, co-founded a software solutions company with her sister Neeran based in Falls Church, Virginia. Recently, she returned to Iraq with the Research Triangle Institute to teach democracy building techniques to neighborhood councils.

33. Ala Talabani

??????????
As a civil engineer, Ala Talabani faced dismissal from jobs because of her refusal to join the Ba?ath party during Saddam Hussein?s regime. After joining the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, she was detained and interrogated by the Iraqi security service. In 1996, she went into exile in England and helped to organize the Kurdistan Women's Union. Ms. Talabani eventually returned to work in Kurdistan, opening training centers and visiting both rural areas and urban neighborhoods to encourage women to develop their potential.

Ms. Talabani is co-founder of Women for a Free Iraq and the Iraqi Women's High Council which drafts policies that ensure that women are fairly represented in the new Iraq. Among other things, the Council is trying to form a women?s committee with representatives of the now disbanded Iraqi Governing Council, the U.S., Britain, leaders of women?s organizations and some liberal men.? The Council?s agenda proposed that at least 40 percent?of the members of the Constitutional Committee be women and asked for a quota of women candidates in local and national elections.?Additionally, Ms. Talabani plans to monitor gender issues in the new Iraqi government.? Ms. Talabani has been quoted as saying, "We, the women, are building bridges among cultural, ethnic and religious divides."

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
Follow us