Iraqi female candidates face death threats (FT-FINANCIAL TIMES) By Steve Negus in Baghdad, IRAQ 01/27/05 22:00)
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Salama al-Khafaji, a candidate for the pan-Shia United Iraqi
Alliance, says she will go disguised when she votes in Sunday´s
“You know the niqab?” she said, waving her hand over her face to
indicate the all-concealing veil favoured by ultra-conservative
Sunni. “That´s what I will do.”
Like many candidates running in January 30´s parliamentary elections,
Ms Khafaji fears the threat of assassination from insurgents who have
vowed to disrupt the vote.
However, while most candidates have chosen to keep their names
secret, Ms Khafaji, as one of the few prominent women on the
Alliance´s list and in Iraqi politics in general, has broadcast her
In addition to her sectarian cross-dressing, Ms Khafaji intends to
vote in an undisclosed location away from her home and take along
some of her bodyguards.
Already, her prominent political role, first as a member of the US-
appointed Governing Council, as a member of the country´s interim
parliament, then as a candidate in elections, has exposed her to
several assassination attempts at the hands of insurgents. One of
those, in May, cost the life of her 17-year-old son, who came to
guard her on a mediation mission with Shia rebels.
At least one other female candidate, as well as at least eight
election officials and an uncounted number of campaign activists,
have been killed since the election season began. Ms Khafaji, who
tops several opinion polls as Iraq´s most popular politician, says
she wishes to campaign for the rights of women and children in the
next parliament. Her views on Islam in the constitution, that no law
should contradict Islamic sharia, place her in the mainstream of
Iraq´s Shia Islamist movement.
So does her insistence that such a provision not be forced on an
unwilling public undemocratically. Although Iraq´s transitional
constitution dictates that a quarter of parliamentary members be
women, few of the forthcoming female faces in the country´s
government will have Ms Khafaji´s stature. While some female
candidates are up-and- coming activists, others are the previously
obscure wives and sisters of male powerbrokers.
Despite the male-dominated world of Iraqi politics, Ms Khafaji has
one advantage: she has been able to campaign where her male
With the streets increasingly dangerous for candidates, Ms Khafaji
has turned to a tradition known as the mulla gatherings where women
come together in each other´s homes to recite poems in praise of
Muslim figures and discuss Islam as a campaign platform.
“You speak about religious things,” she said. “I use them for
Insurgents waging a bloody campaign to sabotage the election killed
15 Iraqis and a US marine on Thursday and bombed polling stations
north of Baghdad, Reuters reports from Baghdad.
Three schools to be used as polling stations were attacked with blast
bombs in the southern Iraqi city of Basra last night, interrupting
what has been a comparatively quiet run up to the elections in the
Shia-dominated south, William Wallis writes from Basra.
British military officials said there were no casualties and no major
damage inflicted in the attacks. (© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd
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