L. Paul Bremer's Statement on International Women's DayReleased by the Office of International Women's Issues
March 8, 2004
For the past 30 years, the women of Iraq were subjected to some of the most cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Television images cannot begin to capture the horror of Saddam’s torture and rape-rooms, or the mass graves which symbolize the misery and poverty inflicted on women through the regime’s systematic killing of innocents.
Women have also been largely excluded from the political process in Iraq. They have been denied some of the most fundamental opportunities, such as access to education, where estimates of female illiteracy run as high as 78 percent.
With the world’s attention focused on Iraq’s historic transition to a self-standing democracy, the rights and status of women in society and governance have been an important issue in the constitutional debate. Leaders from around the world have emphasized that the role of women in Iraq must not be neglected in the context of the country’s emerging political structure. The Coalition and the Iraqi Governing Council are working to ensure full and fair representation and equal rights for the women of Iraq.
In the short term, the countries of the Coalition, which exercises sovereign authority here until June 30, will not permit any law or regulation which diminishes individual rights, including women’s rights. The Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), signed today, contains strong guarantees of women’s rights – rights that cannot be abrogated. The Law provides that the electoral system should aim to achieve the goal of having women constitute not less than 25 percent of the Transitional National Assembly. This interim constitution is unprecedented in the region for its forward-thinking and progressive support of fundamental rights for all Iraqis, especially women.
International Women’s Day recognizes the achievements and rights of women around the world. Today, we commemorate International Women’s Day by honoring the resilience, the achievements and the promise of the women of Iraq. This day also reminds us how much further we need to go in the pursuit of women’s rights.
Iraq is now headed on the right path, and women are helping lead the way.