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Iraqi Representative to U.S. Underscores Positive Evolution in Iraq

Washington -- Calling the news coverage of Iraq "extraordinarily one-sided," with its focus on dramatic, bloody events, Rend Rahim, Representative of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) to the United States, said, "the reality is nothing like what you see on television."

In a March 17 briefing at the American Enterprise Institute, Rahim said, "I think the true story in Iraq is the story of the evolution towards something which is increasingly better."

The Iraqi representative said, "You have to measure the change and not simply take a snapshot and say it is terrible because of all the things that still need to be done."

Rahim spent the period of May to November 2003 in Iraq before coming to the United States to assume her position as the IGC's representative in Washington. She said that after spending a few months in the United States and watching television coverage of events in Iraq, she felt a need to return this month for a "reality check."

She said, "I went there and realized ... that this was a country that was working, and I mean that both in the figurative and the literal sense. People lived normal lives. People had jobs in the ministries that they went to. People had jobs in offices and corporations that they went to. Students went to universities. Younger kids went to school. People went out shopping. They visited each other. They went to restaurants. They went to clubs. They stayed out late at night."

She continued, "It is very difficult to impart to you -- and I know the news doesn't help -- the sense of normalcy in day-to-day life of Iraqis."

Rahim underscored the aspirations of Iraqis in the current process of rebuilding their country.

"We are building a nation that is going to be, we hope, unique in the region, because it is going to be democratic, it is going to be pluralistic, it is going to be federated. It will have responsible government, human rights and civil liberties, and all of those things that countries in the region aspire to but haven't quite achieved. We want to do it. We want to do it first," she said.

In particular, she highlighted the flourishing of civil society groups over the past year and affirmed the importance of such groups in their role as watchdogs over government activities in a functional democratic society.

"We have hundreds of NGO's that have been set up, and they seem to be springing up every day, including hundreds of women's organizations. And that is a very big story in Iraq, because there was no such thing as civil society. This was a totalitarian regime that penetrated into the most private recesses of people's lives," she said. "Now people are free to organize and to advocate and to carry out their own programs and so on. I think this is a wonderful thing, and this is the kind of democracy we are looking for."

The IGC representative characterized the rapid growth of NGO's and interest groups and newspapers as evidence of a "pent-up demand for self-expression" after 35 years of totalitarian dictatorship.

Rahim also pointed to the process of negotiations that led to the recent adoption of the Transitional Administrative Law as an important milestone in Iraq's transition towards democracy.

"It is an extraordinary achievement that we now have an interim basic law that is the most progressive in the Arab world," she said. "If you think back a year ago, early March 2003, what were Iraqis living under? They were living under a dictatorship where political life was nonexistent, where political dialogue was punishable by death, where there was no political diversity, no political discourse. There were no politics in Iraq."

"Less than a year later, we have gone through a process of political dialogue, political negotiation in which a wide array of individuals and parties and political groups have participated. The transitional law was not the creation of one person or one political party. It was a law that was forged by committee," she said, noting that no group got 100 percent of what it wanted, and no one was left out.

Rahim appealed to the international community for its support of the developments in Iraq, saying, "Whatever difficulties we have had, and whatever conflicts we will face, ... we Iraqis have achieved an enormous amount of success so far, and we would like the world to acknowledge that success, and we want the world to support us in that success."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:



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