As some Democrats continue to criticize the Bush administration’s approach to war with Iraq, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) bolstered the GOP argument Thursday by inviting four Iraqi women to share their tales of life under Saddam Hussein.
During the briefing, Tanya Gilly, Esra Naama, Sabria Mahdi Naama and Raz Rasool, all members of Women for a Free Iraq, shared their experiences of fleeing the Persian Gulf nation. Reps. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) were also in attendance.
“I’m a representative of the voiceless Iraqi in this war. I’m the daughter of Iraq,” said Mahdi Naama, a participant in the 1991 uprising against Hussein and a refugee in the United States since 1992.
Earlier in the day, the Iraqi women met with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney at the White House to discuss a letter of support they sent to President Bush.
The letter outlined the torture inflicted by Hussein on the people of Iraq and pledged their support to the United States if war breaks out.
At the Capitol briefing, each told her own tale of loss of family, property and privacy.
Mahdi Naama and her five children were forced to flee under the cover of night because her husband, a general in the Iraqi army, went into hiding and she feared for the safety of her family. After three days of trekking across the desert, the family found refuge in a camp in Saudi Arabia. After two years there, they were granted asylum in the United States.
“Here we are able to breathe without terror,” said Esra Naama, daughter of Mahdi Naama.
Rasool, a former resident of the Kurdish safehaven and a member of the Iraqi National Congress, fled to the United States in 1996 when Hussein entered northern Iraq to attack opposition members.
“I see us here — this group — as survivors,” said Rasool. “Help us to rescue our people.”
All four women recounted their experiences with tears in their voices and sent out a plea to the American people to understand that they would support and welcome American troops whenever they came into Iraq.
The women addressed concerns expressed by some Americans that women of the Muslim faith would be too oppressed to help support a democracy in Iraq. They said that Iraqi women are more educated than women in other Muslim countries, and Rasool pointed out that Muslim women hold positions of leadership in Iraqi Kurdistan.
“We are very, very well-informed about our rights,” said Gilly, a Kurd from Northern Iraq. “Iraqi women fight for basic human rights alongside men.”
All of the women said that, given the opportunity, they would go back to Iraq to help with its rebuilding.
“Most of the people are willing to go back and rebuild a democratic federal Iraq,” said Rasool. “Just being here is a great risk for us because we still have family back there. Saddam’s agents are everywhere.”