Edited by Naji Al-hadithi - Translated by Khalid Kishtainy
October 11, 2008
Published by Translation & Foreign Languages Publishing House
Baghdad-Iraq, 1981 © Translation & Foreign Languages House—Baghdad
One of the main aims of the Revolution of 17 July 1968 in building the new free society is the emancipation of women.
This issue has been the focal point of many measures taken by the government of the Revolution in the whole process of liberating the society from all aspects of exploitation, backwardness and ignorance.
The ideological and political background, as well as the general social, cultural, and economic context of such measures were high-lighted in many documents.
Among the most important of these documents are a collection of speeches given on different occasions by President Saddam Hussein, deputy secretary-general of the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party, contained in this book.
1-Women — One Half of our Society
A speech delivered
by President Saddam Hussein
at the Third Conference of the General Federation
of Iraqi Women, on 17 April 1971.
Your Congress is a prominent event in the life of our people and our country .Throughout the pre-Revolution years, the women's organisation (of the Party) had various militant duties and specific forms of struggle in which women joined men in the political and social fields. There was no organizational framework capable of absorbing and expressing the aspirations of millions of Iraqi women and mobilizing their energy in the fight against imperialism and Zionism and in the struggle for freedom and a better life.
Under the aegis of the Revolution which was led by our Party, the Arab Baath Socialist Party, circumstances were created for the building up of some social organizations, which included an organisation for women - the General Federation of Iraqi Women – in addition to other associations for students, workers, peasants, members of the professions, doctors and writers.
Despite the backward conditions, which wasted most of their potential, women in our country have truly played a noble and prominent role in our people's struggle for freedom from imperialism, dictatorship and reactionary regimes and for achieving the pan-Arab aims of unity, liberty and socialism.
During the 1920 revolution in which our people gave their response to the British colonial occupation, and during the mass uprisings against the imperialist pacts and alliances, the unjust legislation and conditions and the corrupt, reactionary dictatorships, women took part and played a role which gave an example of courage and initiative and inspired bravery and enthusiasm in the hearts of the strugglers.
The women's organisation took a leading part in building up our Party and in its struggle to defeat the enemies of the people and achieve the Revolution. During the difficult period of the struggle when our strugglers were subjected to intense terror, the Women's Organisation of the Arab Baath Socialist Party undertook the active task of maintaining
Contact between the leadership and all Party organizations as well as between those comrades who had been arrested and those outside prison.
The women's organisation was also a mobilizing force among the people, channeling their protests and anger against the methods of imperialism and persecution and despotic actions practiced by the reactionary dictatorships against the Arab Baath Socialist Party strugglers and all patriotic and progressive fighters.
In every part of the homeland, the Iraqi Woman fought hard for her place in society until she achieved encouraging progress, which inspires pride and confidence.
Thousands of girls are entering schools every year and thousands of women go to work in factories, schools, hospitals and state establishments, apart from the great productive role performed by Women in the rural areas.
Education of Women is not restricted in our country to the primary stages, nor has women's employment been restricted to minor responsibilities. Iraq's five universities include a large proportion of female students and a number of women have acquired high qualifications in medicine and engineering. Some Women are now teaching in the universities. Women in Iraq have also reached high positions in the government and become ministers and directors general. Others are vigorously working in such fields as the judiciary, the arts, literature, research and journalism.
For the first time in the history of our country, Iraqi women occupied, after the Revolution, leading posts in the trade unions. The Agrarian Reform Law made no distinction between men and women in their enjoyment of all the rights granted by this Law.
The complete emancipation of women from the ties, which held them back in the past during the ages of despotism and ignorance, is a basic aim of the Party and the Revolution. Women make up one half of society. Our society will remain backward and in chains unless its women are liberated, enlightened and educated.
Freedom is based on enlightenment, science and an understanding of the national characteristics of the country as well as on respect for the interests of the masses and the responsibilities of the fight against imperialism and Zionism. It must aim at the attainment of the national and Pan-Arab objectives. Such a freedom will be able to harness the potential of women in such a way that will lead to the building up of a free and unified country that is both strong and advanced.
We are all, in the Party and the Government, and in the social organizations, expected to encourage the recruitment of more women to the schools, government departments, the organizations of production, industry, agriculture, arts, culture, information and all other kinds of institutions and services.
We are called upon to struggle tirelessly against all the material and psychological obstacles, which stand, in our way along this path.
The obstacles, which stand in the way of women in the various areas of life, are greater than those, which are facing men. This fact makes it incumbent on all the awakened elements in society to support woman in her natural and legitimate endeavour to occupy her place in society.
Those who still look on women with the mentality and ideas of the ages of darkness and backwardness do not express the aspirations and ambitions of the Revolution.
They are at variance with the principles of the Party, which are essentially based on freedom and emancipation. Indeed, they are in opposition to every true desire for progress.
The Revolution is a leap towards an enlightened freedom, which is placed at the service of the people and of the progress of mankind in general. It cannot be a genuine revolution if it does not aim at the liberation of woman and the development of her material and cultural conditions.
Those with a despotic and overbearing attitude who appoint themselves as guardians of woman and place artificial barriers in the way of her emancipation and full participation in society are not rendering their country and their people any service. They are in fact doing harm to their homeland and their people. They are trying, consciously or unconsciously, to dissipate their people's potential and hinder its progress.
The women of our country are the descendants of the immortal Arab women who fought valiantly side by side with their men folk, wrote the poetry of chivalry and glory and participated in the great Arab heritage of civilisation. Thanks to their conscious commitment to the Revolution and the ideals and interests of the masses, and their correct understanding of the national characteristics of our civilisation and heritage, the Arab women, together with their Kurdish sisters and all other women of Iraq, are capable of following a correct path and playing their pioneering role in the construction of the revolutionary society.
The struggle against the camp of imperialism, Zionism and reaction, with all their modern means of science and destruction, requires committed, educated and free human beings. Any segregation of women or anything less than their full participation in society deprives the homeland of half of its citizens and half of its intellectual, productive and fighting potential.
An enlightened mother who is educated and liberated can give the country a generation of conscious and committed fighters. What a crime it would be against the younger generation if women were deprived of their rights to freedom, education and full participation in the life of the community!
Sisters, a great part of the responsibility of the struggle for the emancipation of women falls upon your Federation. But woman will not attain her complete freedom in this country until the achievement of the aims of the Revolution on the regional level and the aims of the Pan-Arab Socialist revolution within the Arab homeland.
The bourgeois concepts of woman's emancipation will not bring her any genuine freedom or either moral or material progress.
The commitment to the Revolution and the defence of its ideals and gains, together with the maintenance of the interests of the toiling masses, are the only way to the liberation of women.
Sisters, I wish your Congress all success and hope that it may arrive at the best formulas to mobilize the potentialities of all progressive and patriotic women. I also hope that this
Congress may adopt practical measures to strengthen the unity of the struggle of all Arab women throughout the Arab homeland.
May this Congress become an important turning point in the work of your Federation so that its activity will cover every farm, factory, school, office and every part of this society? In this way, your Federation will be able to spread among women the principles of freedom and struggle for unity and socialism, to combat illiteracy and ignorance among women, to arouse their enthusiasm for more learning and knowledge, to instruct them in the methods of community work and to encourage them to participate extensively in the life of the community and the new revolutionary construction.
2- Avoiding Two Erroneous Tendencies
by President Saddam Hussein to 'Woman' magazine of Iraq in April 1975 on the occasion of the International Woman's Year.
From the very beginning we must emphasise that the principled revolutionary outlook must be based on the situation as a whole. That is why we don't look on women in isolation from the total situation we are considering. She is a member of our revolutionary society with all the rights and duties associated with a human being.
Our Party in its ideological attitude and fundamental premisses and in its strategic outlook regards the human being, whether man or woman, as both the good and basic instrument of the struggle. We have outstanding examples in the women who joined the ranks of our Party. In the light of all this and with the inspiration of the brilliant history of our nation in which women played prominent roles in every field — in addition to our progressive views and the need for mobilising all the potentialities on a civilised basis and in the consciousness of our responsibilities and commitments — our attitude to women is shaped by the basic tenets of the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party (ABSP) which believes in the creative role of mankind, the importance of people's mobilisation and the realisation of all the citizens' potential in achieving the comprehensive changing of society.
In this way, this attitude avoids two erroneous tendencies. The first, to define the role and importance of women in society on the basis of feudal or bourgeois ideology which assumes that the first and last role for women is in
the home and treats them as second-class citizens. Thus women are stripped of their humanity and deprived of their creative spirit and mental powers. The second, to accept certain superficial aspects of what is called modernisation in those societies and countries which are advanced in this field as if they were models for the freedom and development of women.
By rejecting both tendencies we can abandon the feudal and bourgeois mentality and retrogressive tyranny and emphasise at the same time our refusal of the false and superficial kinds of development which do not penetrate to the essence of the problem but only deal with its surface.
The genuine role of women cannot be established by haphazard action or by reliance on the effects and results of the process of time. This is a matter which calls for the interaction of a number of subjective and objective factors. In the process our Party should play a leading role to ensure that the result of the total movement of society takes a mature and revolutionary form as a qualitative change in the desired direction. By accepting this we concede that the total and radical emancipation of women as we see it cannot be achieved without the emancipation of the whole of society, politically, economically and culturally because it is the liberation of society which provides the objective condition for the emancipation of women and their liberation from the bonds of backwardness and ignorance.
Such emancipation cannot be achieved by legislation only, despite its great importance. The forward move of the revolutionary process and its continuous interaction with society provide the legislator with the necessary conviction and psychological background for achieving the desired change and transformation. In fact they create the very needs for making such legislation or decisions.
As our Pan-Arab and socialist ideology provides the basis for our definition of the true role of women in our society, we believe that any mobilisation of the people or activity of the masses will remain deficient without the serious participation of the woman. Through their natural position in looking after the cohesion of the family and its development on a solid and correct foundation as a living cell in the body of society, women give expression to the unity, totality, and equilibrium of society.
The emancipation of women is accordingly a basic condition to ensure that such activities and mobilisation movements take their correct form as well as an essential criterion for judging the application of the democratic practices to the whole population. Dealing with the question of women's emancipation in an ideological and comprehensive manner is one of the basic tasks of the ABSP because it is a question which affects the strategic aims of the Party.
The ideological premiss of the ABSP and its theory of action indicate that no revolutionary change may be achieved through legislation alone. It requires persistent struggle, extensive popular action, precise knowledge of the laws which govern social change and their correct utilisation by a capable leadership which defines with precision sound formulas and the correct areas for the emancipation of women. Thus the process of emancipation may be completed to the maximum extent to which revolutionary action is capable and that society can absorb within the movement of the Revolution which aims at the forward transformation of society. Attention must be duly given to the correct revolutionary balance so that the desired movement and action may not disturb the process while overstepping the retrogressive forms, traditions and customs and bypassing the superficial bourgeois concepts of freedom.
Action to overcome the degrading view of women which is the product of the ideals of a tribal and feudal society must be kept up through a revolutionary effort against the attitude which preaches submission to the dictates of haphazard development. Although this task is a general responsibility, there is a primary need for a distinctive participation of women as a result of the circumstances of oppression, exploitation and backwardness inflicted on women with all their negative effects that must be eradicated.
The achievement of the complete emancipation of women is a revolutionary necessity for accelerating the wheels of progress. The present realities of our society and the critical challenges facing it allow no room whatsoever for excluding the woman from the Pan-Arab and national tasks. These require her participation in meeting these challenges and providing the various essentials which constitute the dynamic struggle against them. The emancipation of women is a principal basis for bringing up the new generation and the discharge of its heavy responsibilities.
Hence, the educational, economic and social backwardness of the woman is one of the toughest obstacles standing in the way of development. The endeavour to secure the rights of women and open the door for her to work, excel and liberate herself in every respect, theoretically and practically, is therefore one of the essentials in our thinking and in our determination to accomplish revolutionary changes and eradicate any source of defect.
When we are building up in Iraq the liberated base for the movement of Arab Revolution, our actions should be connected with the long-term strategic objectives.
This calls for a revolutionary action with a view to the reality related to our aspirations — that is, the revolutionary transformation of the reality in the light of the subjective and objective factors. It also calls for an ever-increasing struggle to bring the outcome closer to the
central aims of the ABSP, as laid down and outlined in the Political Report of the 8th Regional Congress.
This is an element in our outlook as revolutionaries dealing with objective facts. This requires us always to ignore the traditional thinking and to adopt a strategic mentality which takes into account the possibilities of reaching its aim through more than one stage and by more than one route.
The emancipation of women is subject to the same line of thought. Hence we insist on this objective on the basis of our appreciation of its revolutionary implications. It makes us emphasise the inclusion of females in the revolutionary work and economic production in all spheres and at all levels. This course will give us in the end the dynamic forces required for the triumph of the revolutionary march and its great aims.
Above all, we must say that restoring women to their natural place in society, especially the Arab society and many parts of the Third World, will not be achieved by holding celebrations in her honour on this or that occasion.
Despite the significance of dedicating a particular year to women and calling it the 'International Woman's Year', it is for the most part a reflection on the backward conditions of women which cry out for a struggle on every front for their improvement.
As strugglers, I believe that we all have an arduous task to perform in this field: the task of fighting to remove the division between principle and practice so as to translate our slogans and our tenets into a tangible living reality — that is, a truly advanced revolutionary society.
3-Not Fear but Careful Planning
A speech delivered By Mr. Saddam Hussein at the Third Conference of the General Federation of Iraqi Women on 17th April 1971.
Since 17-30 July 1968, the people and the revolutionary Government of this country have learnt significant lessons from their experience. Prior to this, there had been other equally significant lessons for the people, learned from the bitter setbacks which they had suffered before the Revolution of 1968 and those they witnessed or experienced in the Arab homeland and the world at large. One of these lessons is learned from producing a decision or formula at the wrong time or hesitating to produce them at the right time. According to the art of revolutionary action, the question of adopting a decision or formula at the wrong time or hesitating to adopt them at the right time is one of the most delicate problems for the leadership in any society, under any regime and during any stage of forward change of society. The most dangerous aspect of the failure to maintain this formula lies in the effects which lead to the loss of a section of the people rather than of those who would never be considered as part of the people. It is a grave matter to push a section of the people in front of our own guns as a result of mistakes, which are committed, rather than of any hostile intentions or acts on their part.
We must stop here at this juncture to say that any measure, which may be taken against the conduct of some people, must be adopted with care or we may lose them. This applies even to those who oppose the Revolution in one of its stages as long as they remain objectively within the historical framework of the Revolution and the people.
Such leniency and tact must, nevertheless, be in keeping with the general framework of policy, which ensures the continuation, and progress of the movement of the Revolution and not at the expense of the security of the Revolution and the necessary building of defenses against any danger threatening it.
Here, the correct balance must also be struck in time and place, in harmony with the result of the social, political, economic, psychological and other factors. To avoid losing a section of the people who are with us now or who may be with us in the future is vital in the treatment of any legal or social issue or any other matter in general. We want to see society united rather than divided, but when we say 'rather than divided' we do not mean to take a Utopian view and ignore the contradictions, which must exist within the strata of society and in life itself. Nor do we mean to halt the march of the Revolution for the sake of avoiding some losses, which are objectively and scientifically necessary for its forward march. What we mean is that we ought to avoid conflicts being imposed on matters in which flexibility can be applied in such a way as to reduce our losses or prevent any losses charged against the Revolution by the people or any section whose allegiance is important to us.
Now, under what covers are the counter-revolutionaries acting in this area? There are many covers, some of which take the shape of a narrow and distorted interpretation of religion, to oppose the social progress on the path of revolution. There are also those disputes about the position of women in society. There are numerous guises and forms. We are not afraid, but we must make calculations. We are not afraid, but we must not be arrogant. We fear nobody, but we have to be watchful lest we should lose a section of our people.
The question of modifying the position of the woman in our society within the correct and all other frameworks is a matter, which allows no hesitation. It is a matter, which we shall pursue in harmony with the development of society, the increase of its capacity for understanding and the continuity of its forward movement within the framework of the Revolutionary principles. However, if we decree the legal reforms incorporated in the present working paper, we shall need three years to implement them. Some of the other legislation in the working paper which we want to promulgate, including that which affects the position of women in our society, will need three years to materialize, and that will open an opportunity for challenging our measures three years before they are implemented, something which must be avoided.
We must continue our work in enlightening the people and educating them in the matter of the elementary rights of women and the necessary measures and means for supporting them. There should be no halt in the balanced forward movement of our society as a whole and our dynamic role in shedding the backward past. There is, however, no justification for putting forward hasty measures which would place a section of our people -who so far have been with us -in a hostile attitude to the Revolution. When no one is urging us to make haste to provide evidence of the progressive nature and socialist programme of the Revolution, it is not necessary to hurry in initiating matters and raising issues which may conceivably cause us substantial losses and alienate a section of our people, however small it may be. If such losses had been necessary, we would have taken those steps for the sake of our forward march.
During our deliberations, we have reached the conclusion that it is necessary to correct the position of women by force of law, but without the premature promulgation of laws, which may divide public opinion and give the rightist reactionaries a cover under which to attract some people who belong in reality to the Revolution and not to their camp.
A short while ago when I was talking to one of our brothers, I asked him about the American base in Cuba and whether the Cubans were planning to get rid of it in the near future.
This is a subject which illustrates for us the importance and care attributed by the Cuban Government to flexibility .We have absolutely no doubt about the revolutionary nature of the Cuban Government.
Such an attitude adopted by that Government, as we find, must be based on a special assessment calculated to serve the cause of the Revolution. There is no doubt whatever about the importance and correctness of the policy of revolutionary flexibility followed by the Cuban Government. This evaluation of the Cuban system does not denigrate my Baathist or Iraqi identity.
We want to make our own experiment in this part of the world, which is not that of Cuba or copied from any other country, but we may learn from the Cuban experiment or any revolutionary and socialist experiment. At the same time, we try to make our own experiment available to the world so that other people may also learn from it. We keep our minds open and do not hesitate to benefit from the experiences of others as long as we find them necessary and expedient.
This is how we assess the Cuban system notwithstanding the existence of a US base on the soil of Cuba. If such a base existed here in Iraq, we could not expect our Party and our people to appreciate the flexibility with which the Cuban Government has acted and is still acting in keeping, for example, the US base on Cuban soil, even if we assume that similar circumstances prevail in both countries. Our Party and our people would have found it impossible to take into consideration the importance given to flexibility in revolutionary action, in objective calculations and all that is written in the textbooks of political action and revolutionary literature. They would have turned to us and said: ' As long as there is a foreign base on our soil, we don't consider ourselves free in the matter of sovereignty or the economy or in any of the other fields.
There were acts of legislation included in the working paper for reforming the position of women in society, but we have removed them because of the considerations I have just mentioned. We have not removed them because of any vacillation or lack of understanding of the correct role of the woman in society .We have removed them while maintaining our full belief in her balanced and equal status vis-a-vis the man within the new society
4-The Planned Progress of the Revolution
A speech by H.E. President Saddam Hussein at the Seventh Congress of the General Federation of Iraqi Women August 8, 1976
Comrades and Sisters,
I hope that this Congress will play its role in developing the principal ideas which will have their bearing not only on your work within the General Federation of Iraqi Women but also on the whole progress of this society and its triumphant Revolution. This is because the effective revolutionary movement in any sector of our society is reflected in all other sectors as long as it remains within the general trend of the basic plans and ideas conceived for the development of the society.
The title of 'struggler' dear Sisters, is not a small matter. It is not anyone in any society, not anyone in any stage of social development who can arrogate to himself the title of 'struggler'. Therefore, if the title of 'struggler' has a moral value with a distinctive and crucial weight in the evaluation of human beings and the political movements and parties to which they belong, it has to be earned. A 'struggler' is not a facile or ordinary title; it involves extraordinary obligations in return.
Two years ago I visited Yugoslavia and saw the monument of the Unknown Warrior on top of a hill overlooking Belgrade. The choice of that location, as I thought, was not simply a matter of chance, but was made deliberately, to put the graves of martyrs on top of that hill above the graves of other people who died an ordinary death. Those martyrs who gave all they had, deserved to be treated with distinction, even in their graves, from the rest of the people who led an ordinary life and had or would have an ordinary death.
I repeat and say that the tasks lying ahead of the General Federation of Iraqi Women include the building up of a strong, coherent family as a living cell in the body of our society. This, however, should be set against the responsibilities of the struggle is shouldered by women in every phase of our society's development. If everything we struggle for or seek as essential for our struggle can be easily obtained, it will not be possible to call ourselves 'strugglers'. The present generation of the Soviet Union may not be called a generation of strugglers. It was the previous generation who could be called strugglers, because they made sacrifices for the sake of the present generation. Of course, this generation is in its turn making some sacrifices for future generations, but these sacrifices form part of the general and ordinary trend of the development originally laid down through the firm willpower of the previous generation.
The strugglers of our society, men or women, Baathists or non-Baathists, the sons and daughters of this generation, are called upon to sacrifice so that the main stages of the future development of society may be covered according to the principal aims of the Revolution led by the Arab Baath Socialist Party. Wherever it may prove possible to help women in their efforts to give more to work and social construction, we should do so, and whenever we may find the resources do not exist for everything required, we should seek to work only within the available possibilities. We must also try to develop such possibilities into the most favorable form required. One of the rules of a correct balance is not to expect the provision of everything we regard as necessary to achieve the best. At the same time we must not hesitate in demanding what we consider necessary and possible to help women discharge their responsibilities for the struggle.
A serious question may occur to any of the delegates or any woman in Iraq outside this Congress, one that may arise during her work and lead occasionally to discussions, being concerned with the principles of the Revolution and having faith in their foundation and capacity to build up the new society. The question is: how could the Revolution strike and overcome the positions and interests of the oil monopolies and feudalism and wrest the exploiting ownership from their grip, how could it conquer the positions of the bourgeoisie in other fields as represented by their capitalist investments, and how could it challenge and overcome the deviationist attitudes and concepts related to the Pan-Arab struggle for the liberation of the usurped Arab lands, and again how could it defeat the strongest of imperialist interests by nationalizing the oil industry -how could the Revolution do all that and yet falter in attacking and dealing with some aspects of the legal position of women? This is a question, which must undoubtedly arise in the minds of some of you. We hear it in your discussions.
The Revolution has tackled those problems and positions with striking means and methods because in doing so it could lose only the exploiters while winning in return the whole people. But when the Revolution tackles some legal matters related to women without taking a balance of attitudes to the question of equality and its historical perspective, it will certainly lose a large segment of the people. On the strength of this explanation, another question surfaces- does that mean that the Revolution in building the new society will remain confined to the present limits of tackling the legal and judicial problems and the historical position of women because of the opposing mentality of those socially backward elements, or will the Revolution advance those limits in a revolutionary manner?
Avoiding the striking methods used by the Revolution in attacking the positions of the monopolies and feudalism does not mean relying on the retrogressive method of liberal evolution in transforming the status of women. The Revolution employs the other method of radical transformation synchronized and balanced with that of the whole of society.
When we say that women's emancipation will be balanced with the emancipation of society, we don't mean that women will remain in their bonds until the whole of society is liberated from all superstitions and backward thinking and traditions. When we call for balance, we don't overlook the importance of emphasis and the need for exceptional treatment in the matter of the emancipation of women and their equality with men. There is a difference between balance and equality .We don't mean that women should be anticipated with equivalent methods to those used in the emancipation of the whole of society. Our meaning is this: in women's emancipation the principle of balance must be maintained -that is, when the Revolution sets women free, it must take into consideration the degree and stage of development in our society.
One should not consider dealing with the question of women's rights in the same way as one considers in general dealing with the question of agrarian reform or nationalization of banks. One should not view the question of giving the emancipation of women a special importance in the same way as that of union activity in the teaching sector. Our views on women's emancipation and our concern for it ought to be distinct from and take priority over such matters but at the same time must remain related to them. The development of sections of society must be examined so that we may have an idea of the amount of pressure, which can be accommodated or absorbed by each of them. By doing so we can avoid the unnecessary loss of a section of our people and its conversion to an anti-revolutionary position because of its lack of knowledge and realization of the significance and justice of our measures. If we find, considering the legal questions pertaining to women or the historical position of women in building society, that some formulas are losing us a significant section of our society, we must not adopt them. Nevertheless, we must at the same time devise ways and means of reducing, after two or three years, the amount of loss and thus enabling the transformation process to go ahead. New conventions should replace the old and make the subsequent legislation easier.
Strengthening the economic status of women through both legal rights and social conventions is part of the liberation process. Strengthening and expanding the conditions which prohibit polygamy is also part of that process. The same can be said about limiting divorce with additional restrictions and wider and stricter conditions. The expansion of education and the provision of equal opportunities for men and women is another move in that direction. More important than anything is the liberation of women through active work and sincere participation in the reconstruction of society .We ought to bear in mind that the experiment in this country does not concern Iraq only but belongs also to the entire Arab nation. Indeed, we hope that it may have repercussions and relevance beyond the Arab homeland. Even if our people within Iraq fully understand our measures, we must not overlook the Arab nation beyond our borders in calculating the effects of any decision or programme, which we may adopt. In examining the experiences of other countries in this field, two points must be kept in mind. Firstly, our doctrine and theory of action have their own distinct character, which makes it impossible to copy the experiences of other peoples and their methods of treating such questions or social problems.
Secondly, we must not follow any example without observing the length of existence of the regime concerned and its circumstances and components. In considering the development process, there is a real difference between an eight-year-old government like our own and other governments of many years.
For instance, when considering women's present rights and status, we ought to ask ourselves what the rights of Bulgarian women were immediately after their Revolution. We should likewise examine the precise position and role of Iraqi women before the Revolution so that we may recognize what progress the Revolution has made according to its principles and their relationship with their application in practice. This will enable us to determine precisely the qualitative difference between what existed before the Revolution and what we have now. We must find out what stage of development has been reached by Bulgaria and others since the birth of their revolution. It must be also remembered when thinking about the Revolution in Iraq that it is for the entire Arab nation and one of the revolutions of the Third World, for we hope that its light may transcend the borders of the Arab homeland.
Such an appreciation does not imply that the bulk of our measures, which will establish the true historical position of women, depend on the entire Arab nation throughout the Arab homeland, or the people of the Third World, being convinced of the need for the emancipation of women.
The attitude of our Revolution towards the historical role of women and the formalization of this role within legal frameworks and accepted conventions is part of the strength of the Revolution and its impact on the Arab homeland and the countries of the Third World. The Political Report of the 8th Regional Congress of the Party deals with the development of new conventions in opposition to those now prevailing among certain elements and segments of our society. Basic education on this point will lead to a new convention which will make the majority of the people condemn the very acts that you condemn. Anti-feminist acts and ideas should be extensively condemned by men as well as by women in every section of our people. Unjustified divorce ought to be condemned everywhere. Polygamy ought to be condemned in every corner of our society. The political and philosophical framework for the correct approach was defined by the tenets of the Party and the Political Report of the 8th Regional Congress of the Party in Iraq.
Some 59 years have passed since the Revolution of the Soviet Union. If you examine the composition of the Politburo of the Communist Party, you will not find one woman among its members. If you do the same with the Central Committee of that Party and the vital organizations of the State, you will also find that the practical application of principles in this field as well as others is still far behind the ideological teachings and fundamentals.
When I speak of any experiment other than our own, I do not mean that it should be an example for us to follow or that we should wait 59 years before we can reach the level of the Soviet Union, because the Soviet peoples have their theories and we have our own.
They have their own approach and we have ours. Yet, we have at the same time to study the practical measures adopted in revolutionary experiences in the world so that we may form an opinion about them and about the importance of the correct use of flexibility in their application. In a previous talk to the representatives of workers and Party bureaus of labor I said that the injustices inflicted on Iraqi society, including the workers, resulted in a massive accumulation in which all the various unjust regimes of the past participated. Don't expect the injustice to be removed in one step. But the records of the revolutionary decisions and measures should indicate continuously, forcefully and courageously the reduction of the positions of injustice day after day with a stream of measures and regulations. The primary criterion is to evaluate any advances made by the revolutionary march and judge whether such advances are in balance with the principles advocated and with the development of our society's potential, its enlightenment and resilience. If the march shows a steady advance in keeping with the principles and with the ability of the people to endure and adjust, our march will then be the right one.
Rights are granted in such measure as may be compatible with the ability of the citizens concerned to make a proper use of them. It is necessary to highlight the role of the more conscious segments of the people in giving the lead to other citizens in implementing these rights carefully.
The Revolution led by your Party is seriously determined to liberate women. I don't say that in the way of propaganda. Nor is it my intention to give you psychological comfort only. It is no more than what we believe in harmony with our doctrines.
The stage which I have just mentioned, and which requires flexibility in our steps toward the desired goals, will not be long. It is not going to take a long time before women enjoy their full legal rights and occupies their historical place as planned in the construction of the new society of unity, liberty and socialism under the leadership of the Arab Baath Socialist Party.
5-The Revolution and the Historical Role of Women
A speech given by H.E. President Saddam Hussein at the Seminar held on 27 January 1977 for discussions on the working paper of the General Federation of Iraqi Women on women's economic productivity.
The study submitted today by the General Federation of Iraqi women on women of Iraq and their role in building the new society, and particularly that part of it which included frank and courageous self-criticism of women's negative aspects, is a serious attempt to participate in the construction of the revolutionary society .One of the important positive elements here is that the men who participated in the discussions objected to the injustice' done to women in that criticism. The approach was successful psychologically and socially as well as in other respects. We can imagine the contrary attitude and strong opposition of some men if the working paper had not dealt critically with women's own responsibility, although personal shortcomings are related to objective factors.
The criticism raised by the working paper does not diminish the importance of the historical role of women in building up our society. It is no more than one of the essential means of treating those symptoms, which threaten the correct role of women in society and in the process of production.
When we want to talk about women and their historical role in the construction of society and about their equality of rights with men, how do we deal with the subject?
The ideological aspect of this matter has its recognized considerations. In discussing the practical aspects, we are assumed to agree on the ideological premises, which take it for granted that equality between men and women in rights and in the joint efforts of building up society is one of the basic principles of our attitude towards the society for which we are struggling.
Can we, however, immerse ourselves continually during our day to day detailed work in discussions on woman's capacity in order to prove with evidence and examples that she is capable, like man, of taking up any career and fulfilling any duty? Is this justified? I think this is the wrong approach.
Instead of dealing with the problems in this manner, we should resort to other formula, not simply to evade the ideological approach, but to apply objective formula in the correct application of our approach. Therefore, we ought to stress the equality and the balance of rights. We must emphasize our rejection of the views, which give women a secondary status. We cannot accept the feudalist and tribal outlook and mentalities. We cannot accept the views, which make women socially dependent beings. We reject all attitudes and conceptions, which consider the historical role of women as secondary or auxiliary. But such a standpoint is better than saying that every activity or task performed by man can be equally performed by woman, because you will find someone answering you by saying: 'All right, let us then apply military conscription to women as one of the conditions of equality and as a means of ascertaining the equal abilities of men and women and so on.
The participation of women in some armies in the world is in reality only symbolic. The talk about the role of Zionist women in fighting with the combat units of the enemy in the war of 5 June 1967 was intended more as propaganda than anything real or substantial. I t was calculated to intensify and compound the adverse psychological effects of the war by exploiting the backward outlook of large sections of Arab society toward women and their role in the community .The intention was to achieve adverse psychological effects by saying to the Arabs that they were defeated, in June 1967, by women.
The equality of rights, which we call for will not be affected by women's inability to serve in the armed forces on a large scale and on a permanent basis, because what we are demanding is confirmation of equality between man and woman in their respective roles in the building up of the new society with all its obvious consequences for her legal, social, political and economic status. Whilst women are incapable of performing permanent service on a wide scale in the armed forces, especially in the combat units, men are likewise incapable of looking after children as women do in general. Therefore, if men are better suited than women in the army, women are better suited than men in childcare. Both are essential tasks in society.
My advice to all Iraqi women is to concentrate on the correct approach for tackling this matter, the approach, which puts men in a practical and psychological position that is more inclined to be sympathetic than hostile towards women on this issue. This correct approach lies in the points, which I have mentioned and not in occupying ourselves with citing evidence and examples to show that any job or task performed by a man can be as readily performed by a woman. The capabilities of women in present society are the result of the prevailing objective circumstances. Society as a whole, and not only women, bear the responsibility for the main features of the shortcomings.
We must stress this point and say that when the objective circumstances are changed for the better, the capabilities of the woman will similarly change. In this way, our judgment will be sound, our argument compelling and our losses will be reduced. We should concentrate on our work and education in changing the objective circumstances through a clear programme closely related to our strategic aims and based on the ideological foundations of the Arab Baath Socialist Party, the leading party of the Revolution and society.
We must pay great and careful attention to the subject of the historical role of women and their practical activity in the correct framework during the subsequent stages which depends on the objective circumstances as transformed by human will according to a clear programme. Now how do we do that?
The discussions about the historical role of women, their equal rights with men and the roles played by man and woman often take the wrong road with the adoption of two opposing positions. Sometimes we find ourselves driven by the enthusiasm of our ideas to the point of overlooking the objective requirements for accomplishing the emancipation of woman and her equality with man; at other times we yield to the temporary objective circumstances and restrict our action and progress accordingly.
As our analysis indicates that woman's present status and capacity are governed by the objective circumstances now prevailing, we should understand these circumstances carefully and correctly. Our understanding must not be based on any deviated line lest we should allow these circumstances to rule us and become a barrier against development. We must understand them with a view to changing them for the better in accordance with a revolutionary programme through which the whole position of women in our society and their historical role in building it may be changed.
To ignore the objective circumstances is a deviation and an erroneous view. Accepting the objective circumstances as a justification for refraining from action and progress is also a deviation. Both views are wrong and should be avoided because if we allow ourselves to adopt either of them in trying to treat social problems, including those related to women, we run the same risk of postponing socialism on the grounds of inadequate circumstances.
Some non-socialists project the objective circumstances in certain ways, which are designed to reinforce their arguments for suspending the socialist march on the pretext that conditions are inadequate. We can discover who is a socialist and who is not by various indicators and features. The best indication is to differentiate between those, on the one hand, who define the objective circumstances and propose a revolutionary programme to change them and replace them with new requirements and circumstances, which can provide the right conditions for the application of socialism in the time and place required, and on the other, those who frighten the people and the planners from taking that step by misleading reference to the existing circumstances which they consider unalterable and exaggerating them for purposes of obstruction. Thus the departments responsible for the change become hesitant.
In talking about the objective circumstances, this category of people rejects the revolutionary programme, which is meant to alter the conditions standing in the way of socialism.
Yes, we have to understand the social conditions but we must deal with them in a revolutionary manner. That is we must have the will, intention, and faith and plans to change the existing circumstances for the better in order to achieve the desired goals.
To overlook objective circumstances is a deviation and an erroneous view. At the same time, to consider the existing circumstances and conditions as a justification for holding up progress is also a deviation. Our talk about women and their social role should be balanced. Our views on the subject should also be balanced.
Here, at this place, as much as in other places, various opinions have been expressed. Sometimes some of you called for the abolition of the guardianship over women on the ground that they have reached sufficient maturity and ability to act independently. Others demanded that it should be maintained in deference to the conditions with which woman is surrounded. In the matter of providing equal opportunities for work, we sometimes find ourselves talking about her as a weak creature at other times we speak of her as a leader of society .At one time we dwell on the lack of special conditions (as we call them) for her to tackle the tasks of rural and industrial labor or the building of bridges and roads. On another occasion we reject the mentality, which places man and woman in separate categories in matters of employment, education and training. Our discussions and views on women and their role in society should be balanced.
Don't imagine that the question of training of women in the use of weapons, for example, will be passed over lightly by the leadership without extensive deliberation. We have indeed spent a considerable time in discussing the enrolment of Iraqi women in the People's Army before adopting the proposal on certain principles. Why did we then approve the wide-scale training of women in the People's Army in 1976 and not in 1970? We did not hesitate or falter in discharging our revolutionary and ideological duty in the transformation of society, but we decided to defer the measure and give ourselves time to prepare the grounds for implementation with the minimum loss. Otherwise, we could have adopted this in 1970. Had we done so in 1970 or in 1969 the losses would have been considerable to the Revolution, to the Party and the society at large.
Imperialism should not be allowed its technical opportunity.
As the imperialists found they could no longer directly seize a strategic opportunity from the Revolution to use in their counteraction, they started, in cooperation with their agents, to look for a 'technical ' opportunity. They hope to achieve this through our lack of vigilance or through mistakes resulting from hasty actions and ill-prepared conditions for proper implementation, as well as wasted opportunities for progress and action or hesitation in taking up such opportunities. They and their agents are looking for a technical opportunity, a technical error or a mistaken tactical action to expand it into an opportunity at a strategic level for the sake of counter-revolution. We must not give them this chance. We must take every step with consideration that the Revolution must go on advancing, but these steps must be carefully planned.
Now as regards some of the features, which you refer to in the administration. We have said time and time again that this sector is still suffering from some backward right wing mentalities and some views, which have not absorbed the spirit and premises of the Revolution. People with these attitudes cannot. feel enthusiastic about the Revolution as policies to be implemented whilst not absorbing its ideological conceptions, premises and spirit. We are trying to transform such people by engulfing them, that is by using the continuous movement of society and the embracing of the Revolution by the majority as a motivating force to inspire such people to change their negative attitudes and refrain from their irksome behavior. Wherever this method proves ineffective with some individuals who insist on maintaining their backward attitudes, it will then become vital to transfer them from their posts and put them outside the scope of the march.
Emphasis on the subjective element in one's shortcomings is a vital exercise. When we concentrate on women's shortcomings - a task which was performed by the General
Federation of Iraqi Women as evidenced in its Report we don't mean to belittle the historical role of women in building up society.
That is how the Revolution looks on the woman and her historical role. That is how it views women in its political plans which are based on its ideological premises and expressed in certain forms throughout its successive stages.