July 9, 2010

THEY'LL BE FINE WITHOUT US:

Sister Maha's Sadr City salvation (Ali Kareem, 7/10/10, Asia Times)

Her critics see Douri's prominent role in the Sadrist movement as a public relations ploy, as window dressing for the hardline Shi'ite movement, and herself as an apologist for the controversial Muqtada, whose Mahdi Army fanned sectarian violence in 2006-2007.

"If my links to Muqtada al-Sadr and my rejection of the occupation are considered radical, then I have to admit that I am a radical. I believe in my country and that it will continue to suffer as long as the occupier is on our land," Douri said.

"My beliefs don't contradict with my advocacy work. Muqtada [al-Sadr] was one of the first leaders in Iraq to start programs for widows and orphans, as well to demand better schools. We are politicians working for our people, so I don't thing we can be branded radicals just because we are against the occupation." [...]

"Dr Maha al-Douri is very popular in Sadr City because she helps people, especially widows and the poor," said Awatef Hussein, 30, a factory worker. "She opens her house twice a week to receive people and helps through her charity - gifts and money. She attends Friday prayers every week, and I heard that Muqtada personally asked her to participate in the election because of her popularity."

In the 2005 election, Douri was elected as a parliamentarian representing Sadr City. Iraq's quota system, mandating that 25% of lawmakers be women, may have been a factor five years ago but not in the most recent election. This year, Douri won enough votes to be elected without the quota system and outperformed many more recognizable figures in the same Iraqi National Alliance to which she and the Sadrists belong, including former oil minister Ahmad Chalabi.

As a parliamentarian, Douri called for women to play a bigger political role in Iraq, and she helped draft a still-pending law on violence against women and children. She served on parliament's community complaints committee, where she pushed for improved public services
, including electricity, sanitation and clean water. Douri described her role in government as "a bridge between people and officials".

Safiyah al-Suhail, a member of parliament from the predominantly Sunni State of Law coalition who has worked with Douri over the past five years, described her as a champion of Iraq's women and children. [...]

"Her arguments in parliament have made her famous with Muqtada's followers and poor citizens. They see her as a woman who will not be silenced, unlike even a number of men in parliament. They see her as a hero," [Ibrahim al-Sumaidei, a Baghdad political analysts and newspaper columnist] added.

With her strong support from Baghdad 's women and urban poor, Douri is focused on the future and the role of women in the next Iraqi government, and beyond.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 9, 2010 1:34 PM
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