WHAT: On Saturday, January 31, Iraq will hold its first elections since 2005, also marking the first time that provincial councils will guarantee seats for female candidates. As increasing levels of violence in Iraq have jeopardized women's lives, particularly in cities like Basra, a law that reserves 25 percent of seats for women in provincial councils may present new challenges and opportunities.
Many critics have pointed out that the imposition of quotas does not guarantee that women who fill political positions will be sufficiently empowered to impact decision-making, nor does mandating the presence of women in government ensure that those women elected will work to advance a women's human rights agenda.
WHO: Houzan Mahmoud is available for comment. She is the International Representative of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) and Editor in Chief of Equal Rights Now, a publication of OWFI. Ms. Mahmoud speaks internationally on behalf of OWFI about the impact of the US occupation and Islamic fundamentalism on women's human rights and women's daily lives. Her analysis has been published by The Guardian and The Independent, and she has been a featured commentator on BBC, CNN, NBC, and other international media outlets. Ms. Mahmoud received a death threat on February 26, 2007 from the notoriously brutal jihadist group, Ansar al-Islam. Originally from Iraqi Kurdistan, Ms. Mahmoud is based in London.
For more information about the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, click here.