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Women 'Disappointed' By Nearly All-Male Iraqi Cabinet

Iraq's new government stands for an oath at the house of parliament in Baghdad on December 21.

Iraq's new government stands for an oath at the house of parliament in Baghdad on December 21.

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi women legislators and rights activists have expressed disappointment that there is only one woman in the country's new government, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

The government headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was approved by parliament on December 21.

Only one of the 38 ministers, Minister Without Portfolio Bushra Hussain Salih, is a woman.

Safia al-Suhail, a member of the Shi'ite National Alliance parliamentary bloc, tells RFE/RL that 106 lawmakers of both sexes have signed a petition submitted to the president, prime minister, and speaker of parliament demanding that 25 percent of the new cabinet members should be women, as well as a vice president and a deputy prime minister.

The Iraqi Constitution mandates that 25 percent of seats in parliament be allocated to women. But this rule applies only to the legislature.

Suhail says that a campaign is being launched involving lawmakers, other public figures, NGOs, and the media to put pressure on the leaders of political factions to urgently remedy the virtual exclusion of women from the new government.

Alia Nusayif Jassim, a member of the Sunni-backed Al-Iraqiyah bloc led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, says that by picking a practically all-male cabinet, Iraqi leaders have denied representation to more than half the population of Iraq.

Jassim says that as head of the executive branch, Maliki should override all factions, including his own, and take the matter of appointing women ministers into his own hands.

After all, Jassim says, it was the factions' failure to nominate women that led to an almost exclusively male government.

Hana Edward, a longtime women's rights activist who now runs an NGO in Baghdad, says that the exclusion of women, whether in the negotiations that preceded the government formation or in the cabinet, runs counter to the principle of partnership laid down in the constitution.

She adds that the marginalization of women in decision making will adversely affect efforts to consolidate security gains and further promote democracy in Iraq.

Presenting his incomplete cabinet to parliament on December 21, Maliki vowed that he would not come back without women nominees on his list to fill the remaining ministerial posts.