Friday, January 28


King George will undoubtedly be patting himself on the back after Sunday's "democratic elections" in Iraq no matter the outcome: to these guys it's a triumph that elections have even taken place, never mind the results and the fact that Iraqis don't even know who or what they're voting for. But before he starts trying to export his own brand of "freedom" to other countries, let's consider just what will really be taking place this Sunday:

Iraqi Democrats can't win in this desperate election:

The Americans will undoubtedly urge the new government to include Sunni politicans, even though the main Sunni parties are boycotting the poll. Diplomats talk of a "corrective mechanism" by which Sunnis can be appointed to the constitution-drafting commission which the newly elected assembly will oversee.

While this may be laudable as a technique to lessen the risk of civil war, it serves to undermine the validity of the poll if unelected people are appointed to key institutions afterwards.

It also begs the question of whether American policies - excessive use of force in Sunni areas, and the use of Shia militias in the new Iraqi army in the campaign against Sunni insurgents - are not a bigger factor in exacerbating sectarian tensions than this election's regional imbalance.

The urban middle class is spooked by the violence. The fears that the few foreign civilians in Iraq have for their own safety is nothing to what Iraqis feel for themselves and their families. There is no "green zone" for them. Even the most anti-occupation nationalists are torn between wanting a rapid departure of foreign troops and worries about surviving until nightfall.

Add to that the fear, almost certainly exaggerated, that religious extremists will come to power, and you begin to understand the worries of secular progressives. Although insecurity has increased under prime minister Iyad Allawi, some will vote for him in the hope that he will become the strong hand which he has not yet been. In this desperate process many secular democrats discredit their own values.

"Women are the new victims of Islamic groups intent on restoring a medieval barbarity."

I am an Iraqi woman, and I am boycotting Sunday's elections. Women who do vote will be voting for an enslaved future. Surely, say those who support these elections, after decades of tyranny, here at last is a form of democracy, imperfect, but democracy nevertheless?

In reality, these elections are, for Iraq's women, little more than a cruel joke. Amid the suicide attacks, kidnappings and US-led military assaults of the 20-odd months since Saddam's fall, the little-reported phenomenon is the sharp increase in the persecution of Iraqi women. Women are the new victims of Islamic groups intent on restoring a medieval barbarity and of a political establishment that cares little for women's empowerment.

Having for years enjoyed greater rights than other women in the Middle East, women in Iraq are now losing even their basic freedoms. The right to choose their clothes, the right to love or marry whom they want. Of course women suffered under Saddam. I fled his cruel regime. I personally witnessed much brutality, but the subjugation of women was never a goal of the Baath party. What we are seeing now is deeply worrying: a reviled occupation and an openly reactionary Islamic armed insurrection combining to take Iraq into a new dark age.

UPDATE: "Why insurgents may be the winners."

UPDATE: Mother Jones reports:

The popular wisdom in town is that the 275 assembly members have already been chosen, making the vote a Saddam-style farce, and seeing the IECI offices, barricaded somewhere in the Green Zone, it did seem rather hard to believe that they could really pull off a proper election. The offices also seemed strangely quiet (the man who was kicked out of his office didn't seem particularly busy) with only four days before the election. [Emphasis mine]


Post a Comment

<< Home