1:14 PM EDT

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL 18th

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution (H. Res. 383) encouraging the Transitional National Assembly of Iraq to adopt a constitution that grants women equal rights under the law and to work to protect such rights.

1:15 PM EDT

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL 18th

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this important resolution. It supports the full participation of Iraqi women in the political, in the economic, and in the social life of a free Iraq on the path to democratic governance.

Today Iraq stands in stark contrast to Iraq under Saddam Hussein. While Saddam Hussein's brutal regime indiscriminately slaughtered Iraqis, the women were among the most vulnerable. The notorious Fedayeen beheaded women in public, dumping their severed heads at their families' footsteps. The regime used widespread rape to extract confessions from the detainees. Saddam Hussein's legacy of terror knew no boundaries.

In assessing the progress achieved and the U.S. contributions to the empowerment of Iraqi women, I look to leaders such as Dr. Khuzai, who served as a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and the National Council on Women. After being prisoners in their own country for 35 years, Dr. Khuzai said, ``For the Iraqi women, the morale is so high that you can't even understand it unless you go and see. We will be grateful forever.''

I was fortunate, Mr. Speaker, to have the opportunity to visit Iraq as part of an historic all-female congressional delegation. We met with women from all sectors and all educational backgrounds, and the message we heard from all of these women was very clear, that they want a say, they want a role, they want to participate, and they want us to help them get there.

To achieve this end, the U.S. is helping Iraqi women reintegrate themselves into Iraqi society and to the outside world. The administration embarked on the Iraqi Women's Democracy Initiative to train Iraqi women in the skills and practices of democratic public life. It also established the U.S. Iraqi Women's Network, helping to mobilize the private sector in the United States and to link important resources here to critical needs on the ground.

The administration continues to provide assistance and sponsors programs that help Iraqi women develop in multiple areas, from literacy programs and vocational training to human rights education and election training. [Page: H6687]

Recently we saw the fruits of our efforts as countless Iraqi women went to the polls to have their voices heard.

The resolution that we are considering here today, Mr. Speaker, highlights the many advances of the status of women in Iraq since Saddam's deposition, and particularly the fact that women today lead the Iraqi Ministries of Displacement and Migration, Telecommunications, Municipalities and Public Works, Environment, Science and Technology, and Women's Affairs.

However, as with every incipient democracy, particularly in a country that does not have a history of democratic governance to pull from or a regional basis of cooperation or comparison, much more needs to be done. It is, therefore, important for the United States Congress to express support for the Iraqi constitutional process and share the wisdom of our own experience by underscoring the importance of securing equal rights for women in Iraq, in their bill of rights, and the overall constitutional


This resolution does just that, Mr. Speaker, and I thank my colleagues, the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Granger) for introducing this important measure, and all of our other colleagues who have worked on this, and I highlight the assistance of the gentleman from Illinois (Chairman Hyde), the gentleman from California (Ranking Member Lantos), and the leadership in bringing it to the floor today.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.