Iraq election increases women in parliament – regardless of vote count
Iraq election results are due this week, but parliamentary seats held by women will automatically increase because of a new quota that says men can hold no more than three-quarters of all seats.
(Page 2 of 2)
The stunning performance of a militant Islamist movement's female candidates irks other women. Women with rival blocs complained that their male running mates refused to campaign with them, brushing the women off as a waste of time because they'd slide in under the quota, anyway. In some cases, female candidates' campaign posters were defaced, their lives threatened and their agendas dismissed. Most women had to fend for themselves.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"I risked my life and my family's well-being," said Salma al Fatlawi, a schoolteacher from the southern province of Amarah who garnered just 80 votes despite campaigning in dangerous marshlands where smugglers operate. Her only chance of making it is under the quota.
Her political coalition offered her security, but she refused, preferring to trust her constituents rather than show up with bodyguards: "I've been a teacher in this area for more than 25 years, and my pupils remember me with love and respect, as do their parents."
Abidi, a Ph.D. chemistry professor, continued campaigning even through the death of her mother, visiting hundreds of homes in a place where tribal custom keeps women shrouded from society, and militia violence makes residents suspicious of strangers at the door.
Abidi recounted how she once entered a reed hut known as a madhif, where 50 or more tribesmen had gathered. As she made her campaign pitch, her cousin whispered in her ear not to drink the tea, because women in this part of the country can't be seen sipping from a glass without covering their faces. She ignored the advice.
"I was drinking my tea with great joy," Abidi said with a grin. "I was a strange creature."
For all her campaigning, Abidi ended up with about 2,600 votes, far more than most female candidates, but not enough to win her seat outright. She has a distant chance of qualifying for a seat under the quota, but the politics have grown so ugly that her own children tell her they hope she doesn't make it to parliament.
Abidi said her rivals from the Sadr bloc "swallowed" all the votes, even though she never once ran into them on the campaign trail. She said it's hard not to feel bitter when she's learned that one word from a cleric or one big bribe to an influential tribe can undo weeks of honest, shoe-leather campaigning. Sometimes Abidi swears she'll never run again, and at others she wonders aloud how to maintain the popular base she cultivated in her province. Either way, Abidi said, she isn't giving up on Iraqi democracy.
"From my field, chemistry, I know that every new experiment will find obstacles and hindrances," she said. "It does not mean that one stops. There is always a second experiment."
(McClatchy special correspondent Sahar Issa contributed to this article.)
More Iraq coverage from McClatchy
Read what McClatchy's Iraqi staff has to say at Inside Iraq