Contact: Louise Filkins
Phone: (202) 419-1820

WASHINGTON, DC– The Independent Women’s Forum today commends the women of Iraq for their courage in going to the polls in large numbers and thereby helping to ensure an unprecedented turnout for that country’s first free election since 1953.

Preliminary returns suggest that participation was as high as 60 percent. There is no breakdown according to sex yet, but it is clear that there was heavy participation by women voters.

“This is a moment of undeniable importance for all Iraqis, particularly Iraqi women. Thousands of Iraqi women defied threats of violence, insurgent attacks on polling stations, suicide bombers and calls to boycott the election in order to cast their votes. The seeds of democracy have been firmly planted and the voices of Iraqi women will be heard,” said Michelle D. Bernard, senior vice president of the Independent Women’s Forum. “The scenes of women throughout Iraq proudly holding up ink stained thumbs demonstrating they voted shows an unwavering commitment to freedom and democracy. All Iraqis now have a chance to become full participants in the economic, political and social fabric of a free and democratic Iraq,” said Bernard.

This historic election was to select 275 members of a Transitional National Assembly that will formulate a constitution and set up a permanent government by August 15, 2005. The Transitional National Assembly also will select a president and two deputies to succeed the interim administration. “As Iraq takes its next step towards liberal democracy, the international community must support Iraq’s government in advancing individual rights for all Iraqis. The fundamental rights of Iraqi women, religious and ethnic minorities must be protected,” said Bernard.