Thursday, January 11, 2007

One girl's response to President Bush's address

This morning, long-time New Moon reader and past contributor Natalia Thompson, 15, of Wisconsin, shared her response to President Bush's January 10th speech with us. Natalia will be posting more "Letter to Congress" updates and commentaries on the topics of foreign policy and immigration in the next few months. Girls, if YOU would like to cover a "Letter to Congress" topic for New Moon's blog, read this post for information on getting involved!

Read on to hear Natalia's opinion and read her call to action for girls.

Last night, President Bush announced his plans to send 20,000 more troops to Iraq (to “help us succeed in the fight against terror”).

Around the world, thousands of bloggers have already typed up their thoughts on what President Bush’s actions will mean for America, for the Middle East, and for “the global war on terror and our safety here at home” (President Bush’s words, not mine). But those aren’t the issues that I wanted to write about.

I am, of course, worried about what this will mean for American citizens, including soldiers and their families. I’m also worried, though, that the President’s plan ignores the basic rights of Iraqi civilians. The President stated, “For the sake of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.” But in his 20-minute speech, he said next to nothing about what our military’s actions in Iraq mean for the daily lives of Iraqis—and, after all, Iraqi civilians are the ones who most suffer in this war.

President Bush mentioned that terrorists and insurgents have “responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis.” But what about the American military’s own “acts of murder” against “innocent Iraqis”?

According to a study from John Hopkins University, violence in Iraq has left more than 650,000 civilians dead since the war began. That’s about 2.2% of Iraq’s total population. Think of what that means for Iraqi families. In comparison, 0.0000003% of the American population has died while serving in Iraq.

The President also said that we are working in Iraq “to raise up just and hopeful societies across the Middle East.” Where is the justice and hope, I wonder, in living in the dangerous war zone that Iraq has become?

The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that women and girls are losing freedoms in “the chaos of postwar Iraq.” No big surprise, right? But the stories told in one article are devastating. Here’s what 13-year old Tabarek Mahmoud told a reporter:

“We have had wars and no fun our whole lives. There is no stability.... It is so hot. There is no electricity and the light is so dim I am damaging my eyes. I am scared of being attacked, and I see guns everywhere. I just want to enjoy my childhood.”

Last month, the representative for Iraq for UNICEF (the United Nations organization that works to protect children worldwide) said that “Women should be equal partners in the future of Iraq, but their rights risk slipping away without positive action to protect them.” He added, “Women of Iraq cannot wait for more stable times to receive the support they need. We must act now to empower them towards realizing a brighter future for the nation as a whole.”

Iraq Minister for Women’s Affairs Ms. Fatin Abdul Rahman Mahmoud added, “Women must be involved in all key decisions about the future of our country and our children. This is the only route towards a fair society where all citizens can flourish.” I couldn’t agree more.

If you agree, here’s what you can do:

Call or email your representatives in Washington to tell them that foreign policy on Iraq must take into account the lives of Iraqi women and girls.

Please ask your Senators and Representatives to stand up for Iraqi women and girls, and work to:

1. Increase national resources directed to improved services for women and children.

  • Work to increase access to education for girls. Right now, 74% of Iraqi children not in school are girls. That number needs to be improved.
  • Protect girls from violence. So-called “honor killings” and “convenience marriages” (short term unions that can be dissolved within days) are still occurring inside Iraq - often without being

2. Introduce legislation to protect women’s basic legal and social rights.

3. Promote women’s full participation in local and national decision-making. Right now, among 37 newly-appointed ministers, only four are women. And only 25% of Iraq’s parliamentarians are women.

When you call or email, remember to mention that you’re a girl yourself, because congresspeople do take children’s voices into account when they make decisions. When I’ve contacted my representatives, they’ve often been surprised to hear that a 15-year-old girl wants them to take her opinions into account. But I think they do.

Afterward, email and let us know how it went. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

"Call or email your representatives in Washington to tell them that foreign policy on Iraq must take into account the lives of Iraqi women and girls."

Iraqi WOMEN & GIRLS? What about the younger BOYS? You could of said "into the lives of Iraqi children and parents" Anyone agree?

Anonymous said...

In response to an anonymous comment that stated, "Iraqi WOMEN & GIRLS? What about the younger BOYS? You could of said 'into the lives of Iraqi children and parents' Anyone agree?"--

I don't mean to shortchange Iraqi boys at all; I believe that ALL children have a right to a safe and healthy childhood. There certainly are many challenges for boys living in war-torn Iraq; however, girls and women face a special set of challenges related to their gender.

In a Muslim nation, they've been delegated a second-class status. "Honor killings" and "convenience marriages" run rampant. The fear of rape and kidnapping keeps women and girls inside. Less than 25% of Iraqi political leaders are female. And 74% of Iraqi children not in school are girls. The list goes on.

Iraqi girls and women make up 65% of the country's population, but both American and Iraqi political leaders have done very little to involve them in post-war reconstruction efforts. I believe they deserve better, and I believe that our representatives in Washington have a duty to make sure that girls and women are taken into special consideration when foreign policy on Iraq is made.

Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. I hope you realize that my comments are not sexist. I'm simply frustrated by the way that our government seems to ignore the rights of an important population.

--Natalia M. Thompson