Women running in Iraqi elections

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Mural depicting the historic Iraqi elections in Baghdad, Iraq. (Image: Army.mil, flickr)

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Iraqis vote this weekend in provincial elections. Three candidates in those elections have been shot dead by gunmen in separate incidents. It's a reminder that engaging in Iraqi politics can be deadly.

Many of the candidates for this weekend's elections are women. Under Iraqi law, each party that wins seats must give every fourth seat to a woman.

"The World" anchor Marco Werman speaks with reporter Sahar Issa in Baghdad, who's covering the elections for McClatchey newspapers. She says these female candidates are taking big risks to participate in the polls.

Posters and other campaign publicity for female candidates are not visible in Iraq -- Issa explains: "The first reason is a general reluctance for a woman to put her face out there in the street ... it's a social thing. The other thing is ... because of the violence, females feel that they will be more targeted for a reason. Those people who are targeting them are extremists. Extremists of course are people who would rather the women stay home, cook and look after the children."

As for whether Iraqi women think the balloting will increase their power and rights, Issa says: "To tell you the truth, I think it is a foothold. Women in ... Iraqi society have been very active for decades. Our women in Iraq have been in the labor force -- they have been teachers, they have been administrators, they have been engineers, doctors ... for a long time. Those who are nominating for the election say it is a starting point -- 25 percent -- we have more than 60 percent females in our society, but 25 percent is a start."

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston.

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