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Deputy Secretary Praises Iraqi Women's and Human Rights Groups

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 24, 2003 – Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz urged Iraqi women's and human rights group representatives here today to continue their hard work and dedication "to make sure Iraq becomes a free country."

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Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz chats with administrators at the new Fatima al-Zahra Center for Women's Rights in Iraq. Photo by Donna Miles

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Wolfowitz visited the Fatima al-Zahra Center for Women's Rights in Hilla, in the Babil Province, south of Baghdad. The center opened Oct. 1 in a former Baathist Party building to become the first center since the liberation of Iraq to help poor and widowed women improve their lives through vocational training and other programs. Plans call for four other centers to open in the South Central region.

Wolfowitz called the center, a joint effort of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the U.S. Agency for International Development, an example of "democracy in action" that will help women reclaim their critical place in Iraqi society.

The deputy secretary told the group that "democracy means many things to people," but said every successful democracy requires the involvement of its citizens. "The key to preventing another dictator is to participate in the political process and to work to ensure that all people's rights are protected," he said.

Wolfowitz reminded the group members that each of them has the power to make a difference, and urged them to strive to make positive changes in their country. He urged them to "be committed and strong and determined to make this a free and democratic country."

It's not a process, he acknowledged, that can happen instantly. "We know that after all that Iraq has been through, that things are not going to change overnight," Wolfowitz said. "The challenge is huge, and there are people in the world who say that Arabs can't build a democracy. I think that's nonsense -- so please do it."


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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDeputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz addresses women's and human rights group at the new Fatima al-Zahra Center for Women's Rights in Iraq. Photo by Donna Miles   
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