The Revolution and the Historical Role of Women

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The Revolution and the Historical Role of Women  (1977) 
by Saddam Hussein
A speech given by H.E. President Saddam Hussein at the Seminar held on 27 January 1977 for discussions on the working paper of the General Federation of Iraqi Women on women's economic productivity.

The study submitted today by the General Federation of Iraqi women on women of Iraq and their role in building the new society, and particularly that part of it which included frank and courageous self-criticism of women's negative aspects, is a serious attempt to participate in the construction of the revolutionary society .One of the important positive elements here is that the men who participated in the discussions objected to the injustice' done to women in that criticism. The approach was successful psychologically and socially as well as in other respects. We can imagine the contrary attitude and strong opposition of some men if the working paper had not dealt critically with women's own responsibility, although personal shortcomings are related to objective factors.

The criticism raised by the working paper does not diminish the importance of the historical role of women in building up our society. It is no more than one of the essential means of treating those symptoms, which threaten the correct role of women in society and in the process of production.

When we want to talk about women and their historical role in the construction of society and about their equality of rights with men, how do we deal with the subject?

The ideological aspect of this matter has its recognized considerations. In discussing the practical aspects, we are assumed to agree on the ideological premises, which take it for granted that equality between men and women in rights and in the joint efforts of building up society is one of the basic principles of our attitude towards the society for which we are struggling.

Can we, however, immerse ourselves continually during our day to day detailed work in discussions on woman's capacity in order to prove with evidence and examples that she is capable, like man, of taking up any career and fulfilling any duty? Is this justified? I think this is the wrong approach.

Instead of dealing with the problems in this manner, we should resort to other formula, not simply to evade the ideological approach, but to apply objective formula in the correct application of our approach. Therefore, we ought to stress the equality and the balance of rights. We must emphasize our rejection of the views, which give women a secondary status. We cannot accept the feudalist and tribal outlook and mentalities. We cannot accept the views, which make women socially dependent beings. We reject all attitudes and conceptions, which consider the historical role of women as secondary or auxiliary. But such a standpoint is better than saying that every activity or task performed by man can be equally performed by woman, because you will find someone answering you by saying: 'All right, let us then apply military conscription to women as one of the conditions of equality and as a means of ascertaining the equal abilities of men and women and so on.

The participation of women in some armies in the world is in reality only symbolic. The talk about the role of Zionist women in fighting with the combat units of the enemy in the war of 5 June 1967 was intended more as propaganda than anything real or substantial. I t was calculated to intensify and compound the adverse psychological effects of the war by exploiting the backward outlook of large sections of Arab society toward women and their role in the community .The intention was to achieve adverse psychological effects by saying to the Arabs that they were defeated, in June 1967, by women.

The equality of rights, which we call for will not be affected by women's inability to serve in the armed forces on a large scale and on a permanent basis, because what we are demanding is confirmation of equality between man and woman in their respective roles in the building up of the new society with all its obvious consequences for her legal, social, political and economic status. Whilst women are incapable of performing permanent service on a wide scale in the armed forces, especially in the combat units, men are likewise incapable of looking after children as women do in general. Therefore, if men are better suited than women in the army, women are better suited than men in childcare. Both are essential tasks in society.

My advice to all Iraqi women is to concentrate on the correct approach for tackling this matter, the approach, which puts men in a practical and psychological position that is more inclined to be sympathetic than hostile towards women on this issue. This correct approach lies in the points, which I have mentioned and not in occupying ourselves with citing evidence and examples to show that any job or task performed by a man can be as readily performed by a woman. The capabilities of women in present society are the result of the prevailing objective circumstances. Society as a whole, and not only women, bear the responsibility for the main features of the shortcomings.

We must stress this point and say that when the objective circumstances are changed for the better, the capabilities of the woman will similarly change. In this way, our judgment will be sound, our argument compelling and our losses will be reduced. We should concentrate on our work and education in changing the objective circumstances through a clear programme closely related to our strategic aims and based on the ideological foundations of the Arab Baath Socialist Party, the leading party of the Revolution and society.

We must pay great and careful attention to the subject of the historical role of women and their practical activity in the correct framework during the subsequent stages which depends on the objective circumstances as transformed by human will according to a clear programme. Now how do we do that?

The discussions about the historical role of women, their equal rights with men and the roles played by man and woman often take the wrong road with the adoption of two opposing positions. Sometimes we find ourselves driven by the enthusiasm of our ideas to the point of overlooking the objective requirements for accomplishing the emancipation of woman and her equality with man; at other times we yield to the temporary objective circumstances and restrict our action and progress accordingly.

As our analysis indicates that woman's present status and capacity are governed by the objective circumstances now prevailing, we should understand these circumstances carefully and correctly. Our understanding must not be based on any deviated line lest we should allow these circumstances to rule us and become a barrier against development. We must understand them with a view to changing them for the better in accordance with a revolutionary programme through which the whole position of women in our society and their historical role in building it may be changed.

To ignore the objective circumstances is a deviation and an erroneous view. Accepting the objective circumstances as a justification for refraining from action and progress is also a deviation. Both views are wrong and should be avoided because if we allow ourselves to adopt either of them in trying to treat social problems, including those related to women, we run the same risk of postponing socialism on the grounds of inadequate circumstances.

Some non-socialists project the objective circumstances in certain ways, which are designed to reinforce their arguments for suspending the socialist march on the pretext that conditions are inadequate. We can discover who is a socialist and who is not by various indicators and features. The best indication is to differentiate between those, on the one hand, who define the objective circumstances and propose a revolutionary programme to change them and replace them with new requirements and circumstances, which can provide the right conditions for the application of socialism in the time and place required, and on the other, those who frighten the people and the planners from taking that step by misleading reference to the existing circumstances which they consider unalterable and exaggerating them for purposes of obstruction. Thus the departments responsible for the change become hesitant.

In talking about the objective circumstances, this category of people rejects the revolutionary programme, which is meant to alter the conditions standing in the way of socialism.

Yes, we have to understand the social conditions but we must deal with them in a revolutionary manner. That is we must have the will, intention, and faith and plans to change the existing circumstances for the better in order to achieve the desired goals.

To overlook objective circumstances is a deviation and an erroneous view. At the same time, to consider the existing circumstances and conditions as a justification for holding up progress is also a deviation. Our talk about women and their social role should be balanced. Our views on the subject should also be balanced.

Here, at this place, as much as in other places, various opinions have been expressed. Sometimes some of you called for the abolition of the guardianship over women on the ground that they have reached sufficient maturity and ability to act independently. Others demanded that it should be maintained in deference to the conditions with which woman is surrounded. In the matter of providing equal opportunities for work, we sometimes find ourselves talking about her as a weak creature at other times we speak of her as a leader of society .At one time we dwell on the lack of special conditions (as we call them) for her to tackle the tasks of rural and industrial labor or the building of bridges and roads. On another occasion we reject the mentality, which places man and woman in separate categories in matters of employment, education and training. Our discussions and views on women and their role in society should be balanced.

Don't imagine that the question of training of women in the use of weapons, for example, will be passed over lightly by the leadership without extensive deliberation. We have indeed spent a considerable time in discussing the enrolment of Iraqi women in the People's Army before adopting the proposal on certain principles. Why did we then approve the wide-scale training of women in the People's Army in 1976 and not in 1970? We did not hesitate or falter in discharging our revolutionary and ideological duty in the transformation of society, but we decided to defer the measure and give ourselves time to prepare the grounds for implementation with the minimum loss. Otherwise, we could have adopted this in 1970. Had we done so in 1970 or in 1969 the losses would have been considerable to the Revolution, to the Party and the society at large.

Imperialism should not be allowed its technical opportunity.

As the imperialists found they could no longer directly seize a strategic opportunity from the Revolution to use in their counteraction, they started, in cooperation with their agents, to look for a 'technical ' opportunity. They hope to achieve this through our lack of vigilance or through mistakes resulting from hasty actions and ill-prepared conditions for proper implementation, as well as wasted opportunities for progress and action or hesitation in taking up such opportunities. They and their agents are looking for a technical opportunity, a technical error or a mistaken tactical action to expand it into an opportunity at a strategic level for the sake of counter-revolution. We must not give them this chance. We must take every step with consideration that the Revolution must go on advancing, but these steps must be carefully planned.

Now as regards some of the features, which you refer to in the administration. We have said time and time again that this sector is still suffering from some backward right wing mentalities and some views, which have not absorbed the spirit and premises of the Revolution. People with these attitudes cannot. feel enthusiastic about the Revolution as policies to be implemented whilst not absorbing its ideological conceptions, premises and spirit. We are trying to transform such people by engulfing them, that is by using the continuous movement of society and the embracing of the Revolution by the majority as a motivating force to inspire such people to change their negative attitudes and refrain from their irksome behavior. Wherever this method proves ineffective with some individuals who insist on maintaining their backward attitudes, it will then become vital to transfer them from their posts and put them outside the scope of the march.

Emphasis on the subjective element in one's shortcomings is a vital exercise. When we concentrate on women's shortcomings - a task which was performed by the General

Federation of Iraqi Women as evidenced in its Report we don't mean to belittle the historical role of women in building up society.

That is how the Revolution looks on the woman and her historical role. That is how it views women in its political plans which are based on its ideological premises and expressed in certain forms throughout its successive stages.

This work is presumed to be the public domain in the United States because it was first published in Iraq before Iraq signed a copyright treaty with the United States.
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