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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Office of International Women's Issues > Remarks > 2001-2005 International Women's Issues Remarks

Founding Mothers -- Next Steps in Post-Election Afghanistan and Iraq

Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Global Affairs
Dr. Massouda Jalal, Minister of Women's Affairs, Afghanistan; Narmin Othman, Minister of Women's Affairs, Iraq
Remarks at Foreign Press Center Briefing
Washington, DC
March 8, 2005

[2:30 pm]
MR. DENIG:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center.  Welcome also to journalists assembled in our New York Foreign Press Center who are watching via digital videoconference.
We are very pleased on this important day today, March 8th, International Women's Day, to be able to present to you a very distinguished panel to talk about issues affecting women in important parts of the world.  Our first speaker in Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paul Dobriansky; our next speaker, to the right, is Dr. Massouda Jalal, the Minister of Women's Affairs from Afghanistan; and then to your far right we have, Narmin Othman, Minister of Women Affairs, from Iraq.
Each one of our panelists today will have about five minutes of introductory remarks and after that they'll be very glad to take your questions. Under Secretary Dobriansky --
Under Secretary Dobriansky at podium. To her right is Minister Jalal; to her left is Minister OthmanUNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY:  Thank you. Good afternoon. I'm honored to be here on International Women's Day with Ministers Narmin Othman (at right in photo) and Minister Massouda Jalal (at left in photo), two inspiring role models for women throughout the world. I'm also very pleased that the State Department was able to sponsor these women and their delegations to travel first to New York to attend the Commission on the Status of Women and to meet with private sector and academic leaders and then to Washington for meetings with the Administration, with Congress and non-governmental organization partners.
We kicked off a full and exciting program in Washington this week with leadership from the very top.  First Lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hosted at the State Department this morning an extremely vibrant and incredibly accomplished group of women from 15 Muslim countries. These women came together at our invitation for an open and frank discussion on the challenges and opportunities that women face in strengthening democracy in their countries and also how the United States can help.
The women represented government, civil society, business, academia and the legal profession.  They came from countries as diverse as Algeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Oman, Malaysia and others.  They are all pioneers in their fields and have all overcome discrimination and barriers to success.  We asked them to tell us how we can most effectively promote women in the political process, in business and in civil society, how women can help strengthen ties and the dialogue between government and non-governmental organizations, and how women can work together across the Muslim world to build partnerships and to foster reform.
We did this because the President and the First Lady and the Secretary realized that no society can be fully democratic and free when half its population is marginalized.  There are encouraging signs of change in the Arab world with growing numbers of women becoming ministers, elected officials, leaders in politics and in civil society.  Women have been recently elected to parliament in Iraq, Morocco, Jordan and the Palestinian territories.  Women ministers have been appointed in these countries and in Afghanistan, Yemen, Tunisia, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar, and for the first time in the United Arab Emirates.  Women now run for public office in Bahrain and universal suffrage has been declared in Oman.  There is also movement in other countries in looking at and considering giving the women the right to vote. 
However, challenges still remain in areas of citizenship, property rights, family law, education and literacy, access to the judiciary and employment. For example, in a number of countries, women receive unequal inheritance, social security and pension benefits.  Women must obtain their husband's permission to apply for a passport and travel rights are restricted. Violence against women is a pervasive problem and legal systems allow leniency for men who commit honor crimes.  Education is segregated. 
The United States Government is trying to support those who are seeking to call and respond for reform through, for example, the Middle East Partnership Initiative, MEPI as it is known, and the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative.  Our MEPI program involved internships for young Arab businesswomen, advocacy campaigns to promote women's legal rights, literacy and skills training programs, political leadership training.
The other program, BMENA, as it is called, the Broader Middle East and North Africa initiative, supports bringing women into civil society and business dialogue between public and government.  It is the forum for citizens, people, to tell leaders what they need and to suggest ways forward. 
We wanted today to hear directly from women themselves and how these and other programs are helping them and where we can do more.  We came away with a greater and more specific appreciation of the needs and the possibility. The women challenged us to think about new ways to support their work and impressed us with their very dedication and determination to succeed in their efforts.  We are very enthusiastic about working with them as we move forward together.
I can also think of no better example of energetic, dedicated, committed and brave women leaders than that of the Iraqi and Afghan women who are here with me today, the two ministers and members of their delegations here.  The world watched with admiration and respect as the women of Iraq and Afghanistan defied terrorism to run for office and to vote in their country's recent elections.  In both countries women's voter turnout was higher than that of men in some regions; in both countries it was the women who made sure that the entire families got out to vote; and in both countries women will play pivotal roles in shaping the future through constitutional and legal reform.
We have been proud to support the women of Iraq and Afghanistan through such initiatives and efforts like the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council and the Iraqi Women's Democracy Initiative.  Under these programs we have provided assistance in those areas identified by the respective ministries, in education, in health, job skills, political leadership, elections and communications training.
We know that significant challenges lie ahead but I can promise you that the United States will continue to stand strong and firm with the women of Iraq and Afghanistan. 
Thank you.
MR. DENIG:  Thank you very much, Secretary Dobriansky.  Now I'd like to ask Dr. Jalal, the Minister of Women's Affairs from Afghanistan, to make some remarks.
MINISTER JALAL:  Dear ladies and gentlemen, this is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to pass the message of expression of solidarity, commitment and friendship and the warm greetings of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, our government, and our people -- men, women and youth -- to all of you. Taking the privilege of this opportunity, I want to congratulate the International Women's Day, the International Solidarity Day of Women of the World, to all women of the world.
Three years ago on this day, on 8th of March, the world celebrated the unyielding spirit, strength and endurance of Afghan women and showed us solidarity that we had much longed for.  I am pleased to report that this is the third International Women's Day since the fall of Taliban, that Afghan women could celebrate in peace and with bright hope for the future.
Indeed, in Kabul today Afghan women are marking this day by discussing national agenda for action to increase women's political participation.  As everybody knows, three years back Afghan community -- men, women, each and every citizen -- was suffering due to money problems they had.  Life was difficult for them.  But after the international community intervention, positive changes have been taking place.
Women are taking part right now in formation of civil society foundations, in formation of political parties, the equality of their rights as women have been incorporated, researched and guaranteed in the new constitution of Afghanistan.  The tradition that led to these practices discriminating against women have been stopped in the new constitution of Afghanistan.  In the forthcoming parliament the 25 percent of women in parliament, has been guaranteed.  Also, women took part in general presidential elections.  More than 40 percent of registered voters were women.  We had female presidential candidates.  In the emergency Loya Jirga, Afghan women took active part.  We had many women delegates in the Loya Jirga. 
Afghan women are working now in governmental organizations, in nongovernmental organizations.  They can move around freely within the secured area without being made to have a male member of the family accompanying them.  They are back to school.  They are engaged to educational system.  They are teachers and they are students.  Afghan women right now (inaudible) percentage are present in the cabinet.  They were present in the interim administration cabinet, in the transitional government cabinet and to today's -- to the current elected government cabinet.  There are publications and radio raising the women voices trying to enhance the awareness of the public in terms of human rights, citizens' rights, women's rights, and increasing the legal understanding, the legal knowledge of women about their rights.
Afghan women right now are socially participating very actively.  They are appearing in public demonstrations, in public gatherings, in meetings.  So politically, economically, socially and culturally they are involved.  They are participating.  While we are celebrating the achievements that have been taking place in terms of Afghan women's lives during the past three years, we have to mention that there is still a long way to go, there are still challenges to face. 
Since the Afghan women's problems have been current historical problems, the problems of Afghan women have been internalized, it has become part of their day to day lives that some of them or many of them may not know as a problem and still they need to go a long way to reach a real equality in political, social, economic and cultural life of the country.  And still we need to push women to take part in designing national policies and countrywide strategies.  And still we need to support women so they take part in implementation of the foreign policy of the country. 
Although we have about five million students, boys and girls, in the primary school, we shouldn't forget that one-third of this figure are girls and it's still 60 percent of the girls within the school age are outside the educational system.  So we need to build more schools for the girls, equip them.  More female teachers need to be trained and paid, and we need to create awareness among the parents to know the importance of the children's education, particularly the girls. 
The maternal mortality rate in Afghanistan is 1,600 for 100,000 live births, which is the second highest in the world.  In some parts of Afghanistan, we have 6,500, the maternal mortality rate for 100,000 live births, which is the highest figure in the world.  Each and every day we lose 50 women because of the complication of pregnancy and childbirth, and 87 percent of women losing their lives are studied and (this) is believed to be preventable. 
Economically, in the country, 70 percent of the population are facing extreme poverty.  And who is facing the most?  They are women because of lack of education, skills, restricted mobility, high fertility rate, lack of capital and so many other problems.  So we need to empower them.  I think, meanwhile, that we are going to empower women politically and socially.  We have to do it economically, too, if you want to give them independence. 
Still women of Afghanistan are suffering from legal problems.  The constitution of Afghanistan needs to be translated into action.  It needs to come to the reality of the life.  The equality is guaranteed in the constitution, but not in real life.  The implementation of the new constitution of Afghanistan is facing challenges.  We need more improved security and resources to get the constitution translated into action. 
In 2004, we had 184 women in one province setting themselves on fire because of the domestic violence and forced marriages.  We have the tradition of negative practices ...stopped in the new constitution of Afghanistan, but in reality, the forced marriages, the early marriages, child marriages, paid marriages, exchange marriages, selling marriages -- they're going ahead.  So that's why we are looking at the good side of the coin.  We have to see the other side of the coin -- the challenges and the problems that we are still having with Afghan women.
So I want the international community's attention.  I want the international community's support regarding that.  I think the Government of Afghanistan is newly established, it is two years old, and if we compare that to a child of three years, the three-year-old child needs support, needs attention, needs to be taken care of, needs to be looked after; otherwise, the three-year-old child will be alone and forgotten and will face a very risky life of falling back to the first place.
So that's why we need to pay attention.  We need to support the Government of Afghanistan until it gets and strengthens and is able to walk on its feet.  So that's why the Government of Afghanistan, particularly the Ministry of Women Affairs, which is a newly established ministry after 5,000 years in the history of Afghanistan, needs special attention from the international community.  We have a committed team.  The Afghan leadership are committed for rebuilding of Afghanistan, for rebuilding their home.
But that is not easy.  Afghanistan's past challenging life and got its stripe and made itself sacrifice to others.  Now it is the right of Afghanistan to be paid attention and to be supported.  The situation of Afghan women had once engaged the conscience and the consciousness of the world; however, I am afraid that world solidarity and commitments to reassert Afghan's women's plight seems to be fast fading.  We need to have continued expressions of solidarity from you, and most of all, we need continued and concrete help to realize our potentials to play an active role at all levels of society for meaningful change.
Thank you for your attention and wish you success.
MR. DENIG:  Thank you very much, Dr. Jalal.  (Applause.)  And now I would like to ask Ms. Othman, Minister from Iraq, to speak.
MINISTER OTHMAN:  Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.  Today, we are celebrating International Women's Day.  I want to congratulate all the women in all the world. At the same time, Iraqi women are also celebrating their success.  Not only was the election historic, but women gained 87 seats in the Transitional National Assembly, which Iraqi women, never we had any kind, any number in Assembly in Iraq and this is the first time we have such kind of election.
We had election before but always there was one list, one man, and we could -- we should vote to him, and at the same time, which means that women will hold 31 percent of this Assembly; equally historic, 2,352 women were candidates out of 7,212.  This is remarkable.  And a first in Iraqi history, despite the threat of bombs, Iraqi's voted.  Maybe you heard, it was a wonderful and unique and incredible history in our election.
Woman without having any chance to reach the polls, she went in there and her son on her husband's shoulder to go to there to vote.  A pregnant woman had a baby at the polling place and she get the name for her daughter, Al Intekhabat, it means election.  I was in that poll that a man, an old man, he died directly when he voted.  It means that people in Iraq was -- they needed such kind of election.  They needed to elect their future.  They need to elect to build a democracy.
Now is the first time.  The next step in the historic process will be writing a constitution.  This will be huge challenge.  We need to guarantee women's right in our constitution.  And to be honest with you, I'm aware there are some in Iraq who would like to limit women's rights.  Why?  Or in the election and Assembly, National Assembly, we have more than 150 Islamists, Shia, maybe they are believing that Sharia is the biggest or one of the biggest resources for the constitution that means limiting women's rights.
Iraq's present and future is rich with possibilities and potential and we need to ensure democracy and freedom are secure; therefore, we need help from all the world to help Iraq, and from our friends we need help to reach our mission, to reach a new world, which Iraqi people always dreamed about. We dreamed that we have a democracy, we can speak, we can write in a newspaper what we will, what we want.  Never could we say (anything) against the previous regime.  Never could we say that he used a wrong policy.  Never could we use, why you are killed me?  Why you put me in a prison?  For he have rights and he had rights for everything. 
But I can tell you that we will succeed.  All those pictures we could see in the election make our belief stronger and stronger and we believe our -- on our people that we will succeed.  I see a bright future for my country.  We have -- I cannot say that we have no problems.  There are many conflicts. There is terror.  There are threats.  There is fear.  But we can succeed through human power and believing in democracy is much stronger than all kind of threats.  We have a problem about electricity.  We have a problem in education, health care.
We have a problem.  We cannot say we have none heaven, no.  But we can make our country be a heaven for our children and for our future on believing on democracy, and believing in our people.  We can reach that.  And thank you very much.  (Applause.)
MR. DENIG:  Thank you, Minister Othman.
I'd like to ask the two ministers if you'd come up to the lectern here, to the microphone, we're ready to take your questions.  If I could ask you to please use the microphone and identify yourself and your news organization, we'll start with the gentleman on the left there by the pillar. 
QUESTION:  My question --
MR. DENIG:  Could you introduce yourself?
QUESTION:  I'm (inaudible).  I'm from VOA.
My question from the Minister of --
QUESTION:  -- Othman, is what is the prospect of women's rights in the new constitution in Iraq when it's dominated by conservative Shiites?
MINISTER OTHMAN:  Yes, maybe in the past always we had women in Iraq, we had the rights.  Iraq announced international agreement and international declaration.  We had rights for our education and health service and a good law, but we had a problem with honor killings and harassments and some kind of property and we had problems with polygamy.  Those are Sharia.  It's coming from Sharia.  And in the times when some of those Islamic -- in the council, governing council was the -- it was in power, they brought a law. It's called 137.  That law was on Sharia; therefore, now we have a fear that they, if they are coming, they will try to limit our rights in the constitution. 
MR. DENIG:  Just a quick follow-up.
QUESTION:  I have a question for the Minister of Afghanistan.  Now you have passed that stage, you have gotten past the stage, in other words, you have ruled that the constitution has been written.  What is the obstacle of implementing the women's rights in Afghanistan?
MINISTER JALAL:  Security and resources.  Do you want it brief? 
MINISTER JALAL:  Okay.  Security and resources.  There are no other obstacles. 
MR. DENIG:  Okay.  Let's go to the lady in the front, please. 
QUESTION:  Good afternoon.  I am Nazira Raimi with Voice of America, Afghanistan Service.  I have a question.  My question is actually for Ms. Dobriansky, if she doesn't mind.  Okay.
Now, the budget of Afghanistan's Ministry of Women Affairs is about $1,300,000, which is barely enough for its employees' salary, which means the Ministry of Women's Affairs is not able to help the women of Afghanistan with their immediate needs.  Now, with you, what do you think?  I mean, of course, entrepreneurship is fine.  I mean, it will work in the future, but it's in the long run.  But what do you think, or have you thought of any help like to help them with their immediate needs, Afghanistan women?
The budget is addressing a number of areas.  First, let me start when the Ministry of Women's Affairs was constructed, we worked very closely with the UNDP, the United Nations Development Program, in which resources went directly to the ministry in support of the building, in terms of securing a vehicle, in terms of securing very necessary items in order to operate.
Secondly, there's also an operating budget of which we've had discussions, in fact, about this matter.
Thirdly, there are a wide variety of programs which USAID and other parts of the U.S. Government have devoted resources to help Afghanistan and of which women are direct and combined recipients of.  For example, I'll give you -- well, let me give you several examples.  There is what is known as the Afghan Conservation Corps, part of the Women's Conservation Corps.  These are some of the women who are the most destitute women in Afghanistan, who are either refugees, who are either the head of a household and don't have jobs. This particular initiative provides employment for them; for example, in environmental areas, planting trees, building ditches, irrigation systems, and it provides them with income.
There is also the widow's bakery, which actually has been in existence for some time.  It was and it continues to remain an importance source. Microenterprise program, there is significant support that comes both from the U.S. Government, and by the way, from the private sector.  Through the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, not only have governmental monies that have been put forward in terms of assisting specifically women in empowering them economically and supporting specifically their creation of businesses and operating businesses, but also the private sector.
In this case, for example, Daimler-Chrysler stepped forward and put forward private money to combine with public money to help in that area.  Health care is another area in which we have a program known as REACH.  REACH operates in Afghanistan, it's a midwifery program, which helps train midwives who are dispatched out to rural areas.  Monies are devoted specifically to that.  In addition to the hospital, there are a number of hospitals, not only in Kabul, but in clinics in outlying areas.
Let me give a few more because I want to indicate the scale and the scope. Education, the minister mentioned education.  Education is crucial.  We have devoted resources especially to primary education and she very impassionedly yesterday, at the Afghan Embassy, talked about how you have many young boys and girls returning to school, a significant number.
But an area we need to really work harder in are those women who had abandoned their education, who may need vocational training, who need higher education or basic literacy.  This morning, the First Lady talked about the women's teacher's training institute, which opened in October. It seeks specifically to train teachers to be dispatched out to rural areas.  There's a dire need in reaching out particularly to those not in urban areas, but in rural areas in order to enhance the level of literacy.  These are a variety of ways, so we have covered a number of areas and on the occasion of the minister's visit here, she has also identified for us other ways that we can help the ministry specifically. 
Thank you.
MR. DENIG:  Thank you.  Let's take the next question from New York, please.
Sir, from New York.
  Yeah, good afternoon.  My name is Eduardo Herrero, from TV Galicia Spain.
I have the same question for both ministers.  One thing is the legal situation and another thing, of course, is the social situation.  So, as you both said, social and cultural changes are always slower than political ones.  Do you actually feel supported by women in your countries?  I mean, is your way of thinking, which I think is the right one, of course, the common one among women from Afghanistan and Iraq?
Thank you.
MINISTER JALAL:  Yes, well, thank you for the question.  To answer this question, I have to say that you are right, politically, Afghan women have gone forward and they have many achievements.  They've made far more progress in the new constitution of Afghanistan.  Their political achievements are (greater) than some other countries.
Well, as he said, that socially and legally the process is slow.  He's right because the Judicial Reform Commission are working slowly, and to the extent possible that I know, they need more resources so that's why the process of legal reform is going ahead very slowly.  We need our legal system, our judicial system to be revived and to be strengthened.  We need more female judges to be trained and come into the judicial system.
To address the women, the Afghan woman legal problem, we need to have the family called up to district level; we need to pay more attention to women prisoners' cases.  We need to pay additional attention to disadvantaged women who have escaped or passed the family boundaries or social boundaries. We need to have shelters for them until their problems are solved.  And socially, we need to encourage women's and girls' sports.  We need to be able to do that.  In so many other social activities, we have to take women forward.
The equality of rights and equal participation of Afghan women in political areas of life, social, culture and economic has been guaranteed.  But to reach to equality, to reach to the certain stage of equal participation and having the equal opportunities, we have a long way to go.  We Afghan women want this long way to be short and, of course, to reach that, we need more improved security and we need further resources. 
MR. DENIG:  Minister Othman.
MINISTER OTHMAN:  Still we have problem with (inaudible).  So we are aware of our rights in our constitution, Iraqi constitution, but still we don't know what's going on and how it will be.  And for our support for women, we have a good support.  We have more than 500 women's organizations in the field.  They are working very hard.  Even under (inaudible) they are working very hard. 
But we need to change the culture.  Changing the culture is not easy. Changing the culture, it must be done through the education system, through the mullah system, through the mosque system.  We must change the culture point by point.  It's not easy.  If I change, like, the polygamy and I say that you must marry in court, but there is another kind that can marry themselves with mullah outside the court, if I cannot make aware a woman to use her rights to understand, to be aware of her rights, how can I change the law -- it's will not work?
And it's not only the society and culture.  We need to have support from all the political parties, through the political party, through the local NGOs, through all kind of organizations we need support from.  And we have support, really, but still we don't know and we are aware of our future on (inaudible).
MR. DENIG:  We only have a few more minutes left.  I ask that both questions and answers be brief.  Let's take the gentleman back there, please. 
QUESTION:  Khaled from Al Hurra TV, the Free One.
My question for both of your countries:  Do you have enough support from the Islamic and Arabic world? 
MINISTER JALAL:  To the extent that I know, we have the support of international community and many countries are helping Afghanistan.  But we look at the result.  So how much achievements have been taking place?  Have we been able to implement the Bonn agreement fully, and the commitment of the government to people of Afghanistan is fulfilled, the reconstruction process has been taking place?
These are the questions that we can measure the assistance of Islamic countries and non-Islamic countries.  The reconstruction of Afghanistan has not been taken place fully.  It's going very, very slowly.  So it means that the assistance from Islamic countries and non-Islamic countries is not adequate.  We need the international community, the Islamic world and non-Islamic world, to have a joint effort in terms of reconstruction of Afghanistan. 
MINISTER OTHMAN:  We could get some support from NGOs inside Islamic countries, not government, still you could not get any kind of support from the government.  Thanks those international donors, they could help us.  We could never get, still we could never get any kind of support, where only NGOs in the Islamic (countries) they could help us for something.
MR. DENIG:  Just to be clear, Minister Othman, so right now, NGOs from Islamic countries are helping you, but the governments are not?
MR. DENIG:  Okay.  All right.  Let's take a quick question from New York, please.
Hello sir, New York.
QUESTION:  Yes, hi.  Yeah, Abderrahim Foukara, from Al Jazeera.
Just a quick point that the Minister from Iraq, Ms. Othman, has already talked about, if you could elaborate a little bit more.  If the plight of women in Iraq under the previous regime, as you talked about it, do you attribute that to the political regime or do you attribute it more directly to Islam?
And some women NGOs meeting here at the United Nations in New York are relaying reports that women in Iraq, especially at universities, are being mistreated by the security forces to actually blackmail them into cooperating with them.  What do you say that some need talk about?
Thank you.
MINISTER OTHMAN:  Thank you, Al Jazeera.  Always Al Jazeera, looking at the negative side.  Yeah.  Thank you very much.
But what we are saying that -- I wrote some news about some kind of news, but I tried even to contact them to show me the way, where they are.  So they are - women's issue must we know, before we can do something.  We can, together, with Al Jazeera, with any place make it bigger and bigger, but they could not come to me.  I don't know why.  But in previous regime, I'm always saying that the law has much meaning and even if we sign, if we announce any kind of agreement, there's no meaning if we are not working very hard in this society and if we cannot changing the culture. 
QUESTION:  Thank you so much.  Under Secretary Dobriansky, my name is Rula Dajani with Al Jazeera TV, too -- (laughter) -- and to the Minister of Iraq in Iraq, I wish we could cooperate with you but our offices are shut down.
But back to Under Secretary Dobriansky, in Iraq, as we've heard now, I mean, women before -- they already have their rights in terms of, you know, the equal rights as much as they can when it comes to voting and all that, whenever it was available.  The first judge in the Middle East was an Iraqi woman.  In Syria, we have women that are ministers, in Jordan, too, like twenty years ago. 
So really, in the Middle East, when you talk about empowering women in the Middle East, what do you mean by that?  Which countries in the Middle East because in Saudi Arabia, definitely women's rights are much less than they are and there are parts of Middle East that we all know.
Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY:  I think very importantly today we heard from the -- a number of women from the broader Middle East and North Africa, and let me tell you what they said in response to your question, which I think we should be guided by, and that is that they said that there is not a monolithic Islamic society.  In fact, when you looked and you heard from each and every person who was represented around the table, each women leader had a different story to tell about reform, about the state, the scale, the scope, the pace of reform, about what is working in her particular country and those areas that still need to be developed further.
 So I think the very important message, first to begin with, was that there is a vital need, in fact, for many of these women to network, to work together, to be able to benefit from information and each other's experiences.  Some in the room expressed that they were more advanced in the pace of their goals and objectives for political reforms, for economic reforms, for democratic change.  Some others expressed and itemized -- I gave some examples of some broad areas in my remarks -- some of the areas that have been problematic.  So it varies. 
And I think really the message here is that one needs to, on one hand, look at each country individually and work with the leaders, the men and women leaders, the nongovernmental organizations of those countries; but at the same time, it was very apparent from the discussion this morning that some are more progressive and they have an experience to share, and being Islamic-based societies and countries they have an experience to share in certain areas where they have moved forward and they have an experience to share with those in which it has not moved.
So we want to be supportive and we were listening to many of their ideas and suggestions and ways that we can be guided by many of the areas that they identified in terms of education, in terms of leadership training, in terms of providing information, in particular about civil laws, and how that will also have ramifications in terms of the implementation of a constitution, for example.  It was a very rich discussion. 
MR. DENIG:  Okay, thank you very much. 
MINISTER OTHMAN:  Always Iraqi women, we had right to vote, but we always voted for one list --
QUESTION:  I know, but (inaudible) -- (off mike).
MINISTER OTHMAN:  Yeah, yeah.  It was not an issue.  The whole thing was we could vote only for one list.  So it was not meaning if we had right or not. And also the constitution and law, sometimes it had not meaning.  Previous regimes came with money, decision and another law.  Like 111 is one of the law that allowing -- without women going to the court and executed if they have been prostitutes.  So one of -- what's the meaning of violence?  What's the meaning of the law if every day is coming with another kind of -- yeah.
MR. DENIG:  I'm afraid we have to break off at this point.  Thank you very much, Minister Othman, Minister Jalal, Under Secretary Dobriansky.  

Released on March 9, 2005

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