In Iraq, female candidates still held back by old paradigms

A female Iraqi parliament candidate decided to publish her campaign photos across the country. However in Muslim areas, she published her photos wearing a hijab while in Christian areas, she published them without a hijab.

Though it's funny, it's one of the many trickery dynamics on Iraqi reality. This is not a first time this has happened. A female Iraqi candidate did the same during the 2010 elections.

Days leading up to the elections, Iraq is one big propaganda carnival. This carnival resembles a pattern we've witnessed at many Arab elections: talking about candidates is almost limited to photos and slogans scattered heavily across the country's streets and roads.

It's a pattern of communication that only further confuses the voters, especially when candidates go as far as publishing their photos on potato chips' bags.

Projected personas of female candidates

Iraqi female candidates, who have displayed more enthusiasm in this election than before, are clearly judged on how they present themselves on their posters.

Experience from recent years have shown this as female parliamentarians did not display any sort of independence and did not succeed at passing a single law in favor of Iraqi women's interests.

Diana Moukalled

One thing that varies among women candidates is the phenomenon of women's "awrah,” or nakedness. Some female candidates use photos of male relatives instead their own. Many photos of the women showed them veiled and some not. Some candidates' photos were bold compared with conservative Iraqi standards.

However, reactions to these signs were blown out of proportion on social media.

For example, there were photos of young men standing in the street and kissing the female candidates' photos or tearing them apart. Even an Iraqi policeman dressed in his official uniform did not hesitate to take a photo of himself leaning over the photo of a female candidate to kiss her.

Marginal progress

What's frustrating about this election is that there will be no substantial changes from the previous elections in which only four females won and the 25% of quota for women was filled by assigning women from the winning parties.

Such a scenario is expected during these elections as well. Unless Iraqi voters take a significant turn, the female winning parliamentarians will only be an extension of the authority of conservative, religious and sectarian parties in the country.

Experience from recent years have shown this as female parliamentarians did not display any sort of independence and did not succeed at passing a single law in favor of Iraqi women's interests.

On the contrary, they were false witnesses over laws unjust to women. The latest of these laws was the Jaafari personal status law that passed a law allowing the marriage of young female children.

On the surface, the electoral process appears to have a democratic touch and a desire to perhaps exit religious and sectarian parties' control. Despite optimism, fears that Iraqi parliamentarian females will remain an echo of sectarian religious parties are serious fears.

But who knows, maybe Iraqi women will surprise us with bigger civil choices.


This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 28, 2014.


Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.


Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:42 - GMT 06:42
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