Unlike American women, Iraqi women do know oppression. Janice Shaw Crouse reports on the current risk to their rights. What should the U.S.A. do?

Perhaps nothing illustrates the hard-won liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq more than the freedom of their women — symbolized by, for instance, the removal of burkas, sending girls back to school, and bringing women back into public life.

But nothing threatens that liberation more than a naiíve understanding of Islamic factions — specifically how some Muslims interpret Islamic law as dominant over individual liberty, human rights, and freedom, especially for women and girl children.

I used to teach parliamentary procedure, which is based on the premise that rules of order for conducting a meeting must ensure that the majority prevails while seeing that the minority’s rights are respected and their views freely and completely expressed. Likewise, freedom means that all have the right to be respected and to express their views freely and completely. That freedom is the essence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — that everyone has the right to “freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” Those same individual freedoms are essential in the broader community or national context; democracy means that the majority prevails, though minority rights are fully protected.