Akila al-Hashemi dies

One of the members of the Iraqi Governing Council, Akila al-Hashemi, died of wounds suffered in an broad-daylight ambush five days ago:

Iraqi and American leaders said Ms. Hashemi, one of only three women on the Governing Council, had been a force for peace and tolerance and vowed to continue her work.
This morning a bomb outside a hotel used by NBC News killed one man and wounded two others. The attack was the third fatal blast in as many days.

Because of its relationship with Mr. Bremer's administration, the Council is a particularly obvious target for attacks, and some members of the Governing Council have harshly criticized the occupation administration in Iraq for failing to properly guard them.

Ms. Hashemi's brother Zaid has said that his sister had received threats in recent weeks, warning that she would be punished for collaborating with the occupation authorities.

At a news conference today, Lieut. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said the coalition had helped council members improve their security. "We have been working with the Governing Council in enabling them to stand up their security detachments," he said. "That work continues on a daily basis."

In response to another question, he declined to say whether he believed Baghdad and Iraq were generally becoming safer or more dangerous.

"There isn't a security crisis in the country at this point," General Sanchez said.

That the Governing Council is a target is obvious. However, it's doubly obvious that women serving on the council, especially women such as Al-Hashemi who publicly rejected the fundamentalist interpretation of women's roles, are at corresponding greater risk. The fact that the Council members can not be protected from daylight assaults by thugs is outrageous and just another example of how under-manned and strecthed thin we are. It also speaks to an ignorance of priorities.

Riverbend, the female Iraqi blogger, posted a damning indictment shortly after Al-Hashemi was attacked:

It's depressing because she was actually one of the decent members on the council. She was living in Iraq and worked extensively in foreign affairs in the past. It's also depressing because of what it signifies- that no female is safe, no matter how high up she is...

Everyone has their own conjectures on who it could have been. Ahmad Al-Chalabi, of course, right off, before they even started investigations said, "It was Saddam and his loyalists!"- he's beginning to sound like a broken record... but no one listens to him anyway. The FBI in Iraq who examined the site said they had no idea yet who it could be. Why would it be Ba'athists if Akila herself was once a Ba'athist and handled relations with international organizations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before the occupation? Choosing her was one of the smartest thing the CPA did since they got here. It was through her contacts and extensive knowledge of current Iraqi foreign affairs that Al-Chalabi and Al-Pachichi were received at the UN as 'representatives' of the Iraqi people. She was recently chosen as one of three from the Governing Council, along with Al-Pachichi, to work as a sort of political buffer between the Governing Council and the new cabinet of ministers.

But there has been bitterness towards her by some of the more extreme members of the Governing Council- not only is she female, wears no hijab and was the first actual 'foreign representative' of the new government, but she was also a prominent part of the former government. The technique used sounds like the same used with those school principals who were killed and the same used with that brilliant female electrician who was assassinated... I wonder if Akila got a 'warning letter'. She should have had better protection. If they are not going to protect one of only 3 female members of the Governing Council, then who are they going to protect? Who is deemed worthy of protection?

Yeah, Baghdad is real safe when armed men can ride around in SUVs and pick-ups throwing grenades and opening fire on the Governing Council, of all people.

However, there certainly do seem to be resources galore for pointless and humiliating raids of the local populace.

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