News Release

Democracy on the March * Egyptian Election * Vermont War Vote * Iraq Labor Rights

NAWAL EL SAADAWI
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has recently indicated that he would allow some sort of challenger in Egypt’s presidential elections this year. Nawal El Saadawi is founder and president of the Arab Women Solidarity Association and a writer and medical doctor. She has stated her intention to seek the Egyptian presidency. She said today: “What do we mean by democracy? Is it just to go and vote — or is it all people participating in governing themselves? Egyptian law prohibits people from organizing. The Arab Women Solidarity Association, which I founded, has been banned by Egyptian government decree since 1991. … This notion that George Bush has fostered democracy around the world is ridiculous. He is in fact acting like a global dictator. We have been struggling for democracy in Egypt and will continue to do so. You cannot have real elections under foreign occupation as the Iraqis and Palestinians have tried to do recently. In fact, Iraqi elections were a step back in some ways because at least under Saddam the family code was secular; what we are seeing in Iraq is a backlash against that and a real setback for Iraqi women.” Among her books are The Hidden Face of Eve, Women at Point Zero and The Fall of the Imam. Her most recent book, The Novel, was recently banned by Al Azhar, the Islamic University in Cairo.
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NANCY BROWN
In town hall meetings across Vermont on Tuesday, assembled citizens voted on resolutions calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Of the 57 towns where such resolutions were introduced, they were passed in 49. Brown, who lives in Rochester, Vt., was one of the organizers of the resolution effort. Her son recently returned from Iraq after nearly a year there serving with the Vermont National Guard; she is a member of Military Families Speak Out. Brown said today: “This was democracy the way it should be — neighbors really talking to neighbors. This was really the first popular referendum to occur on the Iraq war. I was very proud to be a Vermonter and participate in that conversation; I was tremendously moved to hear people talk about their views. There was analysis of issues that should have been analyzed and brought to the people a long time ago. What some thought would be divisive actually brought people together. … In the immediate, this sends a strong message to the Vermont legislature and our congressional delegation. We want a commission to study the deployment of the National Guard.”
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COLLEEN McLAUGHLIN
From Burlington, Vt., McLaughlin’s son also recently returned from Iraq after nearly a year there serving with the Vermont National Guard. She said today: “The use of the National Guard is unjust and a misuse of our military. What’s happening in Iraq cannot be solved militarily, it needs real diplomacy. This misuse of the National Guard has had a huge impact on states and communities and we hope other states will pass similar resolutions.” McLaughlin has also become active in Military Families Speak Out.
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DAVID BACON
A labor photojournalist, Bacon investigated labor rights in Baghdad a year ago, and recently interviewed Iraqi union leaders in London. His articles on the suppression of Iraqi labor rights won the Max Steinbock award and were listed by Project Censored last year. Bacon said today: “The State Department’s recent report on human rights, instead of looking honestly at the suppression of union rights in Iraq, covers up the way in which the occupation has consistently undermined them. While citing imaginary ‘progress,’ the occupation authorities, and the Allawi government they put in power, have banned unions and collective bargaining for most workers, arrested union leaders, and failed to provide security for union activists who are now being systematically assassinated. Unemployment has skyrocketed to 70 percent, while not a dime has been spent to alleviate the suffering of Iraq’s unemployed. And the wage orders issued by Paul Bremer, still in force today, actually lowered the base wage rate to $35 a month, which no worker can live on. The occupation has been a disaster for Iraqi unions and workers.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167