Mikulski Says Iraqi Women Cannot Be Left Behind

Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) has joined several women Senators to express concern to President Bush regarding the role of women as laid out in the new Iraqi constitution. In particular, the Senators urged the President to insist that the new constitution does not weaken efforts to allow for a significant representation of Iraqi women in the parliament.

"Iraqi women make up 65% of Iraq's population and will play a vital role in its reconstruction," said Senator Mikulski. "We cannot allow them to be left behind as Iraq begins to rebuild and transition to democracy."

Joining Senator Mikulski in this effort are Senator Hillary R. Clinton (D-NY), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Senator Blanche L. Lincoln (D-AR), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

The text of the letter follows:

August 3, 2005

The Honorable George W. Bush President of the United States Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are deeply concerned that provisions being considered for inclusion in the Iraqi draft constitution may jeopardize the rights of Iraqi women. We are pleased at the comments of Zalmay Khalilzad, United States Ambassador to Iraq, stating that the United States will work to guarantee the principle of "equality before the law for men and women," and we urge you to continue to express our support for a constitution that would maintain rights for women and equality for all Iraqis.

As you know, the National Assembly is scheduled to approve a draft constitution by August 15, 2005, with a national vote on this document by October 15, 2005. This constitution will replace the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), which provides for equality of all Iraqis regardless of gender and sets the goal of providing Iraqi women with 25% of the seats in the transitional assembly. We strongly believe that Iraqi women must have every opportunity to participate in all levels of government so that they can ensure that any laws passed by the Iraqi government will not take away their rights or relegate them to second-tier status.

It is our understanding that the current draft of the constitution contains provisions that would weaken the language contained in the TAL. Additionally, we understand that the draft would not include language ensuring the significant representation of women in the parliament. To dilute or delete any language that establishes the principle of equality before the law, regardless of gender, would greatly hurt the women in Iraq, especially those who are helping to rebuild this country in the post-Saddam era. These women should not be denied their rightful place in society by those who do not believe women's rights are human rights.

At a time when our troops are fighting to support freedom and equality in Iraq, we should support their work by expressing our strong belief in equal rights for all Iraqi citizens. We would urge you to continue to demonstrate our country's support of equality for all Iraqis before the law, regardless of gender, and help the Iraqi people as they continue to establish a new, democratic government. The women of Iraq deserve our full support as they seek to achieve equal rights in their new society.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

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