In July 2003, the CPA, headed by administrator L. Paul Bremer, unveiled the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council (IGC). Only three members of the IGC were women and one of them, Akila al-Hashimi, was assassinated in September 2003. She was replaced by another woman Salama al-Khufaji, who joined the other female appointees Rajaa Khuzai and Songul Chapouk. Chapouk is an ethnic Turkoman and a Sunni Muslim, while Khuzai and al-Khufaji are ethnically Arab and Shiite Muslim. Khuzai is a physician who headed a maternity hospital in the southern city of Diwaniyah. Al-Khufaji is from the Shiite city of Karbala and was a professor of dentistry at Baghdad University. Chapouk was a teacher of fine arts in the northern city of Mosul and had previously worked for women’s causes.
Some observers have argued that Iraqi women have an inadequate presence in the Iraqi ministries and in the judicial infrastructure.24 In December 2003, Khuzai and Chapouk enunciated their frustrations with the CPA, writing that “women are severely underrepresented in the leadership established for the transition”; they asserted that, “as plans for a new governing structure are developed, the Iraqi Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority should ensure women their rightful place at the decision-making table.”25 While this critique seems to represent a viewpoint among some Iraqis, on news source reports that some Iraqi women’s activists have also raised concerns that al-Khufaji, Khuzai, and Chapouk - who were appointed by U.S. officials - do not represent their interests and have little power to advance women’s causes in Iraq. One women’s activist was quoted as saying “They don’t represent us. We don’t know where they came from.” 26
This criticism, as some observers have noted, highlights one of the challenges facing U.S. officials working to include Iraqi women in the governing structure. Prior to the formation of the IGC and in response to widespread concern over the inclusion of Iraqi exiles in interim government — concern that stemmed mainly from Iraqis who had lived under the Saddam Hussein regime — administrator Bremer reportedly promised that the IGC would include a wide spectrum of Iraqis and would not be dominated by exiles.27 As a result, one of the problems in appointing local Iraqi women lay in identifying experienced women, who were not affiliated with the Baathist regime, to work within the interim government. As part of its “de- Baathification” policy,28 the CPA abolished the GFIW, which had been the only officially recognized organization for women under Baathist rule. After its collapse,
24 One op-ed indicates that currently there are only seven women judges in Iraq. See Shahin Cole and Juan Cole, “Iraq; Veil of Anxiety Over Women’s Rights,” Los Angeles Times, March 7, 2004.
25 Raja Habib Khuzai and Songul Chapouk, “Iraq’s Women are Ready to Lead Absent Voices,” December 4, 2003.
See Ashraf Khalil, “What Iraqi Women Want,” Buffalo News, February 22, 2004.
27 Rajiv Chandrasekaran, “U.S. Sidelines Exiles who were to Govern Iraq,” Washington Post, June 8, 2003.
28 “De-Baathification of Iraqi Society,” Coalition Provisional Authority Order No. 1, May 16, 2003 [http://www.cpa-iraq.org/regulations/CPAORD1.pdf].