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Five women lead Iraqi election lists in Kurdistan

By Nawzad Mahmoud 20/2/2018
Campaign poster blanket a city in the Kurdistan Region. File photo: Rudaw
Campaign poster blanket a city in the Kurdistan Region. File photo: Rudaw
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region — Women in Kurdistan are heading several parties’ voting lists, and some don’t want Iraq’s 25-percent quota system to be seen as the reason for their candidacies in this year’s elections. 

Shiler Abdulmajid, head of the list for the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party, said her party’s politburo decided to choose only women candidates because “we wanted to increase the number of women in Iraqi parliament.”

The women are fighting stereotypes that they have no voice or are afraid to participate in Iraqi politics.

“Taking part in them is itself a win,” said Abdulmajid.

Heads of lists of the KDP, PUK, Socialist Party, and Communist Party, are women in some provinces — a change from past elections.

The Communist Party has a voting list only in Sulaimani, where the head and the rest of the list’s candidates are women. 

According to the election law and establishment guidelines, women should comprise at least 25 percent of voting lists in Iraq. 

The women interviewed disagreed with the quota system being their qualification to run. They argued that the participation of women in local politics and governance will normalize with time.

“If we had men on our list, the women quota would have applied to us. But because we are all women, the quota system doesn’t apply on us. We should get enough votes to succeed,” said Abdulmajid of the Communist Party.

Duhok province historically is a KDP stronghold. The KDP list in Duhok has 22 candidates, 8 of whom are women.

The KDP has selected Vian Sabri to head its list in the province. She holds doctorate in female and childhood diseases and is a member of the Board of Social Health. Sabri is also a part of KDP leadership.

“The KDP pays particular attention to women. In light of my past services, I can serve the people of Duhok even better,” she said.

In Kirkuk province, the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) has selected a woman, Jwan Hasan Arif, to head its list. She is currently member of the Kirkuk provincial council.

“My projects and activities show I have confidence in my abilities. I expect to come first or second,” she said.

Since 2009, PUK has fought for votes in its powerbase of Sulaimani after the late Nawshirwan Mustafa founded the Change Movement (Gorran). Competition has become even stiffer since longtime PUK member Barham Salih established the Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ) last year. PUK leader Jalal Talabani also passed away last year and his position is yet to be filled.

The PUK has selected a woman to head its lists in the province, Jwan Ihsan, who also holds a doctorate and is a professor at the University of Sulaimani.

Kurdistan’s Socialist Party has been trying for years to send an MP to Baghdad, but failed to collect the votes. The party is betting on a list headed by Tanya Tahir.

“This time, we have a list consisting of seven candidates, of whom two are women. We have full confidence in ourselves. The fact that women are participating in this election is a win itself,” she said.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for May 12. Iraq’s legislature is the unicameral Council of Representatives with 328 seats. According to the constitution, each MP represents 100,000 people.

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