Bush Abandons Iraqi Women


Alexandra Walker

August 26, 2005

In Salon's War Room (subscription only), Tim Grieve reminds just how big a deal the president made out of his commitment to liberating the women of Iraq: "Remember Safia Taleb al-Suhail? She was the Iraqi woman George W. Bush trotted out for his State of the Union address earlier this year, the daughter of a man murdered by Saddam Hussein who provided the feel-good moment of the president's performance when, sitting up there in the balcony with Laura Bush, she embraced the mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq."

Grieve continues:

We wonder if she'll be invited back for next year's speech.

Bush says he knows that Iraq's still unfinished constitution will be a victory for women because Condoleezza Rice told him so. But if the president were to check in with Suhail, he might come away with a different story. According to a Reuters report, Suhail, who is now Iraq's ambassador to Egypt, believes that the draft Iraqi constitution represents a major setback for the women of her country.

"When we came back from exile, we thought we were going to improve rights and the position of women," she said. "But look what has happened -- we have lost all the gains we made over the last 30 years. It's a big disappointment."

She is concerned -- as many Iraqis are -- that the draft constitution allows religious sects to run Iraq's family courts, likely leaving decisions about divorce, inheritance and other issues important to women in the hands of Islamic clerics. "This will lead to creating religious courts," she said. "But we should be giving priority to the law."

Suhail said the United States has sold out Iraq's women in the drive to get a constitution -- any constitution -- approved by Iraq's National Assembly. "We have received news that we were not backed by our friends, including the Americans," she said. "They left the Islamists to come to an agreement with the Kurds."

Just to be clear: I find not the tiniest shred of satisfaction in having been right about Bush's (un)willingness to defend Iraqi women's rights. Yifat Susskind of MADRE wrote for recently about how Bush's war has left Iraqi women "worse off today...then they were under the notoriously repressive regime of Saddam Hussein." Some noble cause.