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I have been thinking for years why women in Iraq don't get what they deserve, considering all their sacrifices and unlimited giving. Why, when a woman is needed, she does not hesitate, but takes the initiative to do all that is required of her, and nobody doubts that she will respond?

An Iraqi woman is always responding, answering and giving of herself. The odd thing is that she doesn't think of asking for what she is entitled to, for the extra burdens she carries. She asks for nothing more than support, for respect for her freedom, and for the elimination of discrimination and violation of her rights. This is what weighs on my mind as I witness the women in my country during the wars and economic crises which are a part of the history of Iraq.

My dream was, and remains, that I will one day be able to advance this issue and draw attention to it. Before 2003, it was virtually impossible, given the nature of the previous regime and the lack of civil freedom. This is why I did not hesitate to take on this issue once freedom was achieved. However, challenges are now renewed, as are regressive trends regarding women's rights in Iraq

When I began my work, my first step was to remain independent and to not take one side at the expense of another. I always try to be honest when dealing with women's issues in my country. This may be due to the fact that I am one of those who did not leave Iraq; as a middle class woman I have witnessed all the difficult conditions that Iraqi families have endured. From the beginning, my activities and work were not aimed at obtaining a certain political position. My goal was clear and specific: to define women's rights in Iraq and to contribute to stopping the appearance of violence and discrimination that women oppose.

I have worked with Kurdish women since the beginning of 2004. It wasn't easy and I faced rejection, but I persevered because I believe that women's rights in my country is one issue, and one struggle. I soon formed excellent relationships with women's organizations and began implementing activities inside the Kurdistan region. I have faced many difficulties. However, the main problem doesn't relate to me personally. It focuses on the belief that to demand woman's rights goes against religion and Islam's Shari'a, and that those who demand their rights and freedom are only those without religious commitment. This is a tremendous challenge because we have to prove that we are not atheists, that we are not against religion and that we do respect it.

This is why I went to the holy city of Najaf, which of all cities most rejects talk of women's rights, to work directly with the women there. I put on the black Abaya to meet with them and to canvass their way of thinking. By doing this, I tried to communicate with all women. I was also trying to face the decision makers in Iraq, those who are trying to destroy the legislative achievements that women gained through long decades of struggle. This is why there were some who believe I am against them and I that am demanding something socially unacceptable.

The worst was when violence in Iraq started targeting women, and we faced it directly. In mid 2006 I received a death threat because of my work in this field. I tried to keep on, but the threat intensified and became more specific. It was then that I knew what it was to be a person with a cause, but without any kind of protection and all alone.

I work without a single body guard to protect me, and when I received the death threat no one supported me - not the government or anybody else. The most critical issue was my family and what could be happen to them because of me, what could happen to my parents and colleagues. I could have withdrawn, and left the region, and no one would have blamed me for protecting my life. As I thought about it, however, I found that the meaning of life is through work. I might lose my life at any second. So I will live, for whatever time is left to me, serving women in my country in any way that might contribute to building Iraq. In doing this, I would not regret losing my life.


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