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Iraqi Delegation Examines Democracy in the United States

Washington -- One year after the liberation of Iraq, a delegation of Iraqi citizens is visiting the United States to learn about American democracy and report on efforts to establish democracy in Iraq.

The delegation is led by Sayyed Farqat Al Qizwini, president of the University for Humanitarian, Scientific and Religious Studies in southern Iraq and founder of the Regional Democracy Center, which opened March 8 in Hilla to promote democracy among the nearly 10 million people of south central Iraq.

The eight-member group also includes a university dean, a small business owner and a farmer who are tribal leaders, and two men who work with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) regional office in Hilla. There are two women in the group: a newspaper editor from Baghdad and a pediatrician who manages a women's rights center in Diwaniyah.

Sponsored by the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, International Visitor Program, the ten-day visit began March 12.

Welcoming the delegation to Washington, DC, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Patricia S. Harrison said she was "so moved by the courage demonstrated by these very brave people as they work on behalf of all people of goodwill in Iraq."

During their visit, the Iraqis met with government officials, think tanks, and university and religious leaders in Washington, and toured Monticello, the Virginia home of Thomas Jefferson, the third U.S. president and one of the founders of American democracy. The delegation also met with Members of Congress who recently formed the Congressional Iraqi Women's Caucus to support an active role for Iraqi women as their country makes the transition to a democratic society.

Because so many men died at the hands of the former regime and in wars, women now make up 60 percent of the Iraqi population. As part of the growing democracy movement, women's rights centers are helping women to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq. Qizwini regularly organizes "democracy gatherings" that include women, and he has encouraged women to attend his university.

Speaking at a press conference March 17 in the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Washington), co-chair of the Iraqi Women's Caucus said, "The Iraqi people -- the men and the women -- finally have an opportunity to build a country based on democratic principles with respect for all religions, with respect for all people."

Several members of the Iraqi delegation recounted the horrors perpetrated by Saddam and thanked the American people and the U.S. government for liberating their country. "We are brothers in humanity," Qizwini said.

Mouhaned Jawad Witwit, who works with the CPA in Hilla, Iraq, recalled how the former regime killed many of his family members. "We will be building a new Iraq and will help to dismantle terrorist activities all over the world," he pledged.

Sheikh Ahmad Aboud Ayada, a Sunni tribal leader from Ramadi, objected to media references to the Sunni Triangle. "I would like to tell you there is no such place," he declared. "We are all one people, and we stand for democracy."

The democracy delegation visit is part of an ongoing series of exchanges with Iraq sponsored by the State Department. Other recent visitors have included the Iraq National Symphony Orchestra, the first Iraqi Fulbright students and scholars to come to the United States in 14 years, and a group of Iraqi museum specialists currently participating in a five-week training institute at U.S. museums and historic sites.

By Phyllis McIntosh
Washington File Special Correspondent

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


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