Bonner county daily bee – world news, tough road for iraq’s female candidates in may 12 elections bp gas prices nj

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BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi women running for parliament this month are undaunted, despite many challenges they face ahead of the May 12 elections — including unprecedented smear campaigns complete with sex videos that have forced some to withdraw.

There are concerns that women’s rights are being eroded, 15 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein with hopes of bringing democracy to a nation long staggering under wars, oppression and countless economic and social problems.

"One of the most important women’s issues in Iraq that needs to be urgently addressed is marginalization," said the mother of two and a university professor with a doctorate in biology. "Our society still allows men to dominate in all areas and fields."

Iraqi women account for 57 percent of Iraq’s population of over 37 million, according to the U.N. Development Program, and despite government efforts to address gender inequality, the situation for Iraqi women has declined steadily since 2003.

In the 1950s, Iraq had a liberal society, becoming the first Arab country to name a female minister and adopt progressive laws for women and the family. But, the situation started to decline during Saddam’s era and became further complicated after 2003, mainly due to the rise of the country’s religious institutions but also militancy and extremism.

In 2014, Islamic State militants seized human rights lawyer Samira Salih al-Nuaimi when she was at home with her husband and three children in the northern city of Mosul. The extremists tortured and then publicly killed her after their self-proclaimed religious court ruled that she had abandoned Islam.

Some depict veil-framed faces while others show candidates with make-up and without the traditional Islamic headscarf, or hijab. Both provoked a harsh response — many posters were splattered with mud, defaced with beards drawn on or completely torn up.

In Iraq’s southern Najaf province, tribal arbitration was held over a video showing a young man kissing the poster of a female candidate from another tribe. The outcome: he apologized, the apology was accepted and the female candidate‘s tribe even declined compensation for the insult.

Alarmed by the unseen level of harassment, the U.N. chief’s special representative for Iraq, Jan Kubis met last month with several women candidates over the "alarming situation" and "vulgar acts" targeting women, which he said only undermines the democratic process.

"Those behind defamation, cyber bullying and harassment are trying to scare you off," Kubis told them, adding that the perpetrators are "afraid of educated, dynamic, qualified, courageous and open-minded women candidates that rightfully claim their space and meaningful role in political life of Iraq."

She is one of 45 candidates from Iraq’s minority Yazidis — an ethnic group particularly targeted by IS in horrific attacks. Al-Najar accused Iraq’s dominant parties of being behind the harassment of women — mainly as a campaign against new faces.

The Baghdad-based lawyer is making her priority to raise the voice of Yazidis, especially Yazidi women, many of whom were enslaved by IS militants in their self-proclaimed caliphate. Sunni extremists consider non-Muslims infidels who deserve to be killed.