Iraqi Women 'Move History Forward'
Jordanian Warrant Officer Emad instructs trainees from the second class of female Iraqi Army soldiers on proper breathing techniques while firing an AK-47, part of their basic training at the Jordanian Royal Military College in Jordan.

CAMP TAJI, Iraq, March 26, 2007 - The 615th "Cold Steel" Aviation Support Battalion hosted a Women's History Month celebration here March 19.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Holly Cook, 1st Cavalry Division staff judge advocate, and "Suzan," an Iraqi woman and lawyer whose full identity was withheld for security reasons, served as guest speakers for the celebration in support of the "Generations of Women Moving History Forward" theme.

The celebration observed American women who struggled for equality throughout history and their accomplishments, which were compared to the same struggles today's Iraqi women face.

"Although circumstances may be getting better, there is still a battle raging, pushing through hundreds of years of tradition," said Suzan.

"No one in the military accomplishes anything because we are women or men, black or white or Hispanic," Cook said. "We make things happen because we are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines."

Today, many women are serving next to men who are all fighting for democracy in Iraq.

There are more than 350,000 women serving in the U.S. military which is 15 percent of active duty personnel. One in


every seven troops serving in Iraq is a woman, said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mark Hirschinger, commander of 615th ASB. Suzan's speech, the highlight of the celebration, talked about hardships the Iraqi women face each day.

"Traditions and customs have the essential role of controlling the Iraqi woman's personality and have caused the loss of her identity," she said. "She was torn between accepting those traditions and customs or rejecting them."

While the current way of life has kept Iraqi women out of sight, a new hope of equality was slowly rising.

Under the Coalition Provincial Authority, the new Iraqi military hired the first squad of 20 female soldiers in July 2003.

"This is the reality; we need female (Iraqi) soldiers," said Iraqi Army Brig. Gen. Jaleel Khalaf, an early commander of Iraqi Army 1st Brigade. "If I had the power of hiring, I'd have a female battalion."

According to Suzan, the top reason Iraqi women were losing freedoms was because of terrorism and its ideals which limit the role of women in Iraqi society.

While progress to bring freedom to Iraq continues, the mission is not over, said Suzan. There should not be any rest until it is completed.

Page last updated Tue March 27th, 2007 at 09:32