January 11, 2005  


Congressional Delegation Returning from Training Iraqi Assembly Candidates




WASHINGTON— The co-chairs of the Iraqi Women’s Caucus, Representative Kay Granger (R-TX) and Representative Ellen O. Tauscher (D-CA) led a trip to Amman, Jordan along with their colleagues Representatives John Shimkus (R-IL) and Judy Biggert (R-IL). The purpose of this trip was to observe and participate in the training of a group of Iraqi women candidates for the January 30th elections in Iraq.

The Congressional delegation spent two full days discussing the different aspects of campaigning and the skills necessary to become a successful legislator. During the discussions, it became clear that the three major concerns were security, lack of infrastructure to conduct the election, and insufficient information about parties, candidates, and election procedures. The Iraqi women all expressed the need for a national dialogue between all parties in Iraq to address the challenges surrounding the political transition in Iraq, from power-sharing to addressing the needs of each group.

The make-up of the 20 participating Iraqi women candidates was diverse. Participants from most major parties were present as well as candidates from most religious and ethnic groups. Despite the end of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime, a number of the women candidates continue to suffer under the current occupation and have been personally affected by the insurgency because of their willingness to participate in making Iraq a free democracy. Several candidates have been threatened, while some have had family members kidnapped and held hostage. In the worst cases, some candidates have had family members assassinated.

During the trip, the Congressional delegation facilitated and moderated an exercise to give the Iraqi candidates the skills to debate and achieve consensus for launching a national dialogue among all groups in Iraq. They also discussed and agreed on a set of objectives and conditions for a proposed dialogue. As the two-day meeting progressed, the discussions became frank and open exchanges on very difficult and sensitive issues.

All of the Iraqi women candidates expressed appreciation to the Congressional delegation for what was, for many of them, their first exercise in democracy. The Congressional members who traveled to Jordan will be meeting today with future National Security Advisor to the President Stephen Hadley to discuss the trip to Jordan, the upcoming elections, and future efforts to promote democracy in Iraq.

Representative Kay Granger stated: "Those of us in the U.S. Congress who participated are seasoned campaigners, but none of our experiences match the experiences of women literally risking their lives and the lives of their families to participate in this historic election. These are educated, articulate, successful women who are putting it all on the line for their countrymen and women. We went there to help and encourage them. This was an experience I will never forget, and I will never forget them and their stories."

Representative Ellen O. Tauscher stated: "There is no denying the sacrifice and bravery exhibited by these Iraqi women candidates. They are painfully aware of the dangers to themselves and their families of their participation in the effort of self-government but they are fearless and committed. I look forward to supporting their efforts and will work with my colleagues and the Bush administration to deliver better security and public diplomacy to help them achieve our common goal: Iraqi self-governance and security."

Representative John Shimkus stated: "In our Declaration of Independence, our Founding Fathers pledged…’their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.’ These brave women are doing the same. We should honor and support their sacrifices."

Representative Judy Biggert stated: "We came away from the conference with the hope and confidence that the women of Iraq will have the ability to make the first step toward democracy and will positively influence the national election for the good of the country."

The Congressional delegation is committed to continuing its dialogue with the Iraqi women leaders throughout the political transition in Iraq through meetings and possible future trips.