Founding Mothers?

Many Iraqi women are defying cultural conservatives and danger outside their doors to participate in Iraq's incipient government and civil society. Here are some who are taking the risk.

Songul Chapouk represents the Turkoman population on the Iraqi Governing Council. An engineer by training, Chapouk founded the Kirkuk-based Iraqi Women’s Organization, which trains women in computer skills, agriculture, and literacy.

Dr. Raja Habib Khuzai was one of three women appointed to the Iraqi Governing Council, which governed Iraq prior to June 30, 2004. Khuzai previously directed a hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Diwaniah while teaching at the local medical college. Her current project is a national women’s health initiative for cancer prevention. Khuzai is also president of the Women’s Organization in Diwaniah and founder of the Women’s Health Center in Baghdad.

Nesreen Berwari was minister of public works in the provisional Iraqi government and minister of reconstruction and development for the Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq. She was also a member of the economy and infrastructure working group at the U.S. State Department’s Future of Iraq project. Berwari previously worked with the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs.

Hind Makiya is founding director of the Baghdad Women’s Foundation and the Iraqi Women’s Foundation, a U.K.-based nongovernmental organization that supports women’s participation in a democratic Iraq. One of only five women appointed to the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council, she has also worked with various administrative bodies to plan a national strategy for Iraq’s post-conflict education system.

Siham Hattab Hamdan serves on several committees of the Baghdad City Advisory Council, including the public affairs committee and the legal affairs and human rights committee. A lecturer in English literature at Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, she previously served as the council’s vice chairperson, representing the Sadr City district. She is currently working to establish women’s centers in Sadr City.

Ala Talabani, a former vice president of the Kurdistan Women’s Union, fled Iraq in 1991 for the United Kingdom after she was fired from engineering and teaching positions for her Kurdish ethnicity and for not being a member of the ruling Baath Party. In 2003, Talabani co-founded Women for a Free Iraq and the Iraqi Women’s High Council, which drafted policies on the role of women in Iraq’s post-conflict reconstruction.

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