Safia Taleb al-Suhail

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Safia Taleb al-Suhail, "the shaykha or female tribal leader of the Banu Tamim tribe," was appointed as Iraq's ambassador to Egypt July 19, 2004. It was reported October 12, 2004, that Egypt had accepted her credentials. [1][2]

Al-Suhail was listed on Ayad Allawi's National Iraqi party list for the December 15, 2005, Iraqi national elections. The list also "includes some other prominent puppets including" Adnan al-Pachachi and Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer. [3]

Al-Suhail's name also appeared with the Iraq Pledge Coalition (Tahaluf Ahd Al-Iraq), which was "established by a group of leading Iraqi women" who advocate a "'constitutional, democratic, federal, and balanced Iraq that guarantees all of its sons and daughters citizenship, rights, freedom, and a better future.' ... The coalition, if elected to parliament, will work to amend the 39th article of the constitution, which refers to the personal status law." [4]

"Suhail is a prominent Shia politician and the wife of former Iraqi Minister of Human Rights Bakhtyar Amin, a Sunni Kurd." [5]

Suhail's name is also found as Safia Taleb Al-Souhail; Safia Al-Suhail; and Safiya al-Suhayl.

"In 2003, Safia organized 'The Unheard Voices of Iraqi Women,' a series of press conferences in European capitals and Washington, D.C. where Iraqi women testified about the fate of women under Saddam's regime — they spoke about arbitrary imprisonment, rape, and beheadings." [1]


"Bush brings in an Iraqi ringer"

During President George W. Bush's February 2, 2005, State of the Union address, Safia Taleb al-Suhail, then described as an "adviser to the Iraqi ministry on foreign affairs," was seated next to First Lady Laura Bush.

In his address Bush praised al-Suhail, "who had flown to the United States after voting" in Iraq. "She says of her country," he said, "'We were occupied for 35 years by Saddam Hussein. That was the real occupation. Thank you to the American people who paid the cost, but most of all to the soldiers,' Mr. Bush said." [6]

Also sitting beside Laura Bush during the president's address was Staff Sergeant Norberto Lara, who less than a year before had lost his arm "in a mortar attack in Iraq." ABC News (KFSN TV 30) Fresno, California, wrote that "It was an emotional night for [his] family members watching at home in Goshen, especially when the first lady reached over and shook Lara's hand.

"But," ABC News reported, "for Sergeant Lara, the best part was meeting the woman right next to him — Safia Al-Suhail was recognized as one of many Iraqis who voted in the election last week, 'She couldn't thank me enough for the sacrifice I made for her freedom.'"

The Iraqi Constitution and women's rights

Institute for War & Peace Reporting, August 3, 2005:

"Meanwhile, measures brought in by the government to ensure that women are represented in parliament have been a source of controversy. ... The 25 per quota mentioned earlier is seen as a double-edged sword, as Safiyah al-Suhail, a political activist, explains.
"'If we don’t adhere to it, women won’t participate,' she said. 'But if we do, then everybody joins even if they are unqualified.'
"Al-Suhail is critical of parties for appointing some women to the assembly who 'don’t care about politics' ... 'The presence of these female lawmakers looks like a decoration,' she said."

Institute for War & Peace Reporting, August 10, 2005:

"Women’s rights activists opposed to an Islamic-style government are lobbying for a postponement of the August 15 deadline for drafting a new Iraqi constitution, saying more public input is needed on the contentious question of what role religion should play in politics."
"Prominent women including Azhar al-Shaikhali, the women’s affairs minister, and Iraq’s ambassador to Egypt, Safiyah Suhail, are alarmed that some members from the Shia group which dominates the National Assembly are pushing for Islam to be cited as 'the main source of legislation' in the constitution. The women say the wording should instead say that Islam is 'a main source' of legislation, the principle currently in effect in the Transitional Administrative Law."
"Under Islamic law as commonly interpreted in Iraq, women are worth only half as much as men in matters such as marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance. For example, when family members die, women are eligible for only half the inheritance that their male relatives receive, according to this legal tradition.
"The women, who have won the support of former prime minister Ayad Allawi, plan to write to Iraq’s political leaders as well as the United States to ask for their support in ensuring that laws passed in 1959 guaranteeing civil rights be maintained."

Andrew Buncombe wrote August 28, 2005, in the UK's The Independent:

"Back in February, with blue ink on her finger symbolising the recent Iraqi election in which she had just voted, Safia Taleb al-Souhail was invited to sit with the first lady, Laura Bush, and listen to the President claim in his state of the union address that success was being achieved in Iraq. Her picture went round the world after she turned to hug Janet Norwood, a Texas woman whose son had been killed in Iraq.
"But now it appears Ms Souhail, an anti-Saddam activist who became Iraq's ambassador to Egypt, may be having second thoughts about the 'success' she celebrated with a two-fingered victory sign.
"Having seen the negotiations for the country's constitution fall into disarray and the prospect of a secular constitution severely undermined, she expressed her concerns last week.
"'When we came back from exile, we thought we were going to improve rights and the position of women. But look what has happened: we have lost all the gains we made over the past 30 years. It's a big disappointment. Human rights should not be linked to Islamic sharia law at all. They should be listed separately in the constitution.'"

Not at all what it appears to be

The Assyrian International News Agency reported February 25, 2005, that Safia al-Suhail, in her pursuit of the presidency of Iraq, "said she would seek support from the Iraqi people and not from any foreign power." Her attendance at Bush's State of the Union address "raised speculation that she was looking at America's backing. ... While the first meeting of the elected national assembly following this month's general election is being delayed, Kurdish heavyweight Jalal Talabani is widely expected to take the post of president."

Al-Suhail's growing discontent with the direction in which the Iraqi government has been moving was further indicated from comments she made during an April 26, 2005, press briefing "held by three prominent Iraqi leaders regarding the role of women in the transitional administration."

The female "activists from Iraqi women and from women's organizations, they themselves must choose their representatives. That is why we call today on doctor [Ibrahim] al-Ja'fari and on other leaders of the political process to give us, the women in leadership positions, the opportunity to choose women that will represent us within the Iraqi cabinet. This is very important. Why have we not been provided with the opportunity to choose who will represent us in the cabinet? This is very important. Why have women in Iraq not been given key ministries? Why is there no woman as vice president or president? I said earlier that I would be the first woman to run for president of the republic because I find myself able, competent, ambitious, and disciplined. (Translated by Petr Kubalek)" [7]

Early indications for al-Suhail's reaction to the proposed Iraqi Constitution can be found in the July 16, 2004, interview with al-Suhail by Radio Free Iraq:

"We are really very happy to have six women high up in the new government, and we think this is a great achievement. We are for the participation of women in the political process.
"Anyhow, I imagine a process of convincing Iraqi society about the effectiveness of women's role by their representation within Iraqi society, in political institutions [and], God willing, in the Iraqi parliament that will come out from the general elections.
"This work will not be limited only to the women in power. This joint work basically concerns civil society and especially women's organizations, political parties, [various] organizations, federations, and others, as well as universities, colleges of Islamic law, and the [whole] society in general. So it is not limited only to them [the female politicians]. Yes, they are the competent women who can support the process. The whole process, however, is not just on their shoulders. It is on the shoulders of every person who believes that, in democratic Iraq, women must be highly represented. So I believe, again, that the process is heading towards a larger representation for women.
"We had previously demanded -- and we got -- the proportion of 25 percent as the minimum proportion for...the representation of women in any [decision-making] body or in the interim National Assembly, or in any [decision-making] body approved by the cabinet. We declared that we really will not accept less that 25 percent."
  • Juan Cole noted September 30, 2003, that "political forces [were] already attempting to place their candidate on the IGC as a successor to Aqila al-Hashimi," who had been assassinated the week before. Cole wrote that "CPA head Paul Bremer is said to want an independent professional [woman] with the sort of standing and competency enjoyed by Dr. al-Hahsimi. Many feel that she should be a strong personality committed to feminist principles. The IGC will also probably insist that she be Shiite, so as to preserver the sectarian balance on that body." Safiya al-Suhail was listed among the possibilities for the position.

Not at all the "average" Iraqi voter

  • "And their one 'sponaneous', gut-wrenching moment, 'the hug-felt-round-the-world' involving ink-stained Iraqi voter Safia'a Al Suhail, is anything but representative of the average Iraqi voter. As well as being the effective leader of a 1 million member tribe, she was born and raised in Lebanon (where her mother is from and where her father fled to in 1968 and where he was assassinated), may never have been in Iraq before July, and is the newly-appointed Iraqi ambassador to Egypt." [8][9]
  • On February 8, 2005, Clifford D. May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and who served as Director of Communications for the Republican National Committee (RNC) from 1997 to 2001, posted on the FDD website that "Safia al-Suhail, the Iraqi freedom fighter you may have seen at President Bush's State of the Union address" is "a long-time associate of the FDD."
  • In the August 9, 2004, edition of the Iraqi Press Monitor, Safia al-Suhail, a "preparatory committee" member of the Iraqi National Congress, told Al-Sabah, an independent daily newspaper, that the congress had "increased its members to 1,200 to provide opportunity of participation to the parties and bodies who [had] boycotted the congress. ... She added the congress would be held in the due time, August 15." [11]
  • On August 18, 2004, the Associated Press reported that "Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr [had] accepted a peace plan drafted by the Iraqi National Conference, which would include disarming his army and withdrawing from the holy shrine in the city of Najaf." Although there "was no immediate confirmation from al-Sadr's office,.. Safiya al-Suhail, an independent Shiite delegate at the conference choosing a national assembly, said she had received a letter from al-Sadr's Baghdad office saying he accepted the peace proposal."
  • The independent daily Addustour published by former journalist Basim al-Sheikh, reported November 4, 2004: "Although Egypt accepted the appointment of Safiya al-Suhail as Iraq's ambassador, sudden disagreements [had] delayed her arrival at Cairo. Baghdad announced the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cairo and demanded the appointment of an ambassador to Iraq. In an attempt to avoid a crisis, Cairo offered to raise the level of its diplomatic representation, replacing the Egyptian Interests Commission with the Egyptian Diplomatic Commission, and changing the title of the Charge d'Affaires in Baghdad to Head of the Egyptian Diplomatic Commission. Cairo [thought that] restoration of relations must be undertaken by Baghdad which, it said, was responsible for cutting them."
  • Safia Taleb al-Suhail is number 31 on the list of "65 individuals [who] were selected to be on the Follow-Up and Arrangement Committee (FUAC) of the Iraqi opposition during the London conference of 14-17 December 2002." She is listed as representing the "National Campaign to Free Iraq from Dictatorship." A partial biography for her dated December 17, 2002, is linked to the list from the Gulf News online edition. [12]
  • The Left Coaster commented February 3, 2005, "In other words, she is an Iraqi political elitist with right-wing connections to the same people who got us into this war in the first place. She is not an everyday Iraqi, but simply our tool on the ground in Iraq to ensure along with Allawi and Chalabi that American military bases are scattered throughout the country on top of the world’s second largest oil reserves."

Trial of Saddam Hussein

The London-based Asharq al-Awsat, a pro-Saudi independent daily newspaper, reported September 6, 2004, that the "trial would include Saddam and some of the leaders in the former regime. The trial would be conducted in accordance with Iraqi law. Prosecution witnesses would include Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and Safiya al-Suhail, daughter of the late Talib al-Suhail who was assassinated in Beirut under Saddam’s orders. Tarik Aziz and Mohammed Hamza al-Zubaidi reportedly have shown willingness to testify against Saddam."

Women for a Free Iraq

  • It is reported that the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies "asked Safia if she would be interested in [its] support to amplify the voices of Iraqi women in the United States, and give Americans an Iraqi perspective on why we should liberate Iraq. Thanks to the hard work of Safia and dozens of other Iraqi women, the 'Women for a Free Iraq' campaign was launched with support from FDD and a dozen Iraqi-American groups in January 2003 with a meeting at the White House with Vice President Dick Cheney." -- Eleana Gordon, senior vice president, FDD, February 2005.
  • According to the SourceWatch article on the Foundation, "When examining the biographies of individuals associated with FDD the idealogical makeup of the individuals ranges from neo-conservatives (William Kristol, Richard Perle, and Newt Gingrich) and conservatives (Steve Forbes and Gary Bauer) to, at best, moderate (Donna Brazile), with a large percentage of those listed normally considered to be (neo-)conservative. For example, the Board of Directors is comprised of Steve Forbes, Jack Kemp, and Dr. Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, all known to be conservative (as well as Republican)."

Profiles

Ambassador to Egypt

"Ambassador Safia'a Al Suhail. Daughter of Sheikh Talib al Suhail al Tamimi; born and lived in Lebanon, where her mother comes from; became politically active after her father was assassinated in Beirut in [1994] by Saddam's secret service; married Bakhtyar Amin, Kurdish political activist and founder of Iraqi Democracy Institute in the US, who is now Minister for Human Rights." --Kurdistan Development Corporation.

Note: This and other sources cite 1996 as the year of the death of Sheikh Talib al Suhail al Tamimi. No information has been located about the Iraqi Democracy Institute, which does not appear to be the same as the Iraq Institute for Democracy. [13]

December 2003

Nora al Tamimi, the "daughter of a prominent Iraqi opposition leader [Taleb al Suhail al Tamimi], who was assassinated in Beirut by Saddam Hussein's secret service in 1994 said she would sue the ousted Iraqi president before three international courts, charging that the U.S. was a virtual accomplice in her father's murder."

Nora al Tamimi "said from Beirut in a newspaper interview ... that her father had planned a coup d'etat to overthrow Saddam in 1993, operating from Beirut and Amman. ...

"Sheik Taleb Al Tamimi, who led a million-member Central Iraqi tribe called the Bani Tamim, was shot dead April 12, 1994 at his apartment in Beirut's Ein El Tineh district in an assassination officially blamed by the Lebanese authorities on four Iraqi embassy diplomats, who were detained and then released on the grounds they enjoyed diplomatic immunity, Nora recalled."

"Nora said she plans to sue Saddam at the United Nations, before the International Court of Justice at The Hague and before the world organization of human rights.

"Nora said her sister Saffia, 38, a human rights activist, has already returned to Iraq and is currently making the needed arrangements in Baghdad to recover the family's bank accounts and property, which were confiscated by Saddam in 1968, when her father fled Iraq. ... [Nora] said the family would return to Iraq soon with the remains of her father for reburial in his native country."

November 2003

"Al-Souhail, a figurehead of a million-strong Shiite Arab tribe from central Iraq, is married to an Iraqi Sunni Kurd Bakhtiar Amin who is active in Iraq's Governing Council." [14]

"Al-Souhail is well travelled out of necessity. She spent her childhood in Iraq but after Baath party of Saddam Hussein took power and her family was forced into exile. She lived in Beirut, Amman, Washington and Paris." [15]

"She provided arms for opposition groups in Iraq, edited an underground newspaper and became the advocacy director for the International Alliance for Justice, a Paris-based human rights organisation.

"Now she travels the world to plead the case of her people in Iraq.

"After the Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled earlier this year in the US-led war on Iraq she was tipped to lead the women's affairs ministry." [16]

January 2003

"Safia Taleb Al Souhail is Advocacy Director for the Middle East and Islamic World at the International Alliance for Justice (www.i-a-j.org) [link inactive], and the publisher of the independent newspaper Al Manar Al Arabi [published in Sulaimaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan][17]. Al Souhail participated in a delegation of nine Iraqi women who briefed British Prime Minister Tony Blair on December 2nd 2002 on the persecution of their families and communities in Iraq." [18]


Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Eleana Gordon, "Our Friend in the Gallery," National Review, February 4, 2004.

Profiles

Writings by Safia al-Suhail

Publications about Safia al-Suhail

  • Johanna Awad-Geissler, Safia - La hija de un jeque lucha por el futuro de Irak (Safia - A Sheikh's daughter fighting for Iraq's future), published 2004 in Spain by Ediciones Maeva. [19]

External articles