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Friday, March 19, 2010     GET REAL

Iraqi women soldiers dissed by male counterparts

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi military has been struggling with resistance to women personnel.   

Military sources said male soldiers were often refusing to cooperate with new women recruits. They said the men, angered by rumors that the newcomers were receiving higher pay, have ignored women officers.

"There is a rumor that women are paid more money, and because of that men do not salute us," Brig. Gen. Suad Issa Omran, one of the highest ranking women in the military, said. "We are not paid any additional money. Men want to believe this so that they have a reason not to salute."

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Women have been serving in the Iraqi military for at least 30 years. The women, long denied numerous benefits, have usually occupied administrative posts.

Officials said the Defense Ministry has encouraged the recruitment of women in the military. They said women would play a key role in the modernization of the Iraq Army.

"Females are the hub of the community," Iraqi Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammed Hussein said. "Now we are looking for women to prove their roles in the Iraq army."

Officers have been offered courses on how to treat women in the military. On Feb. 21, the military conducted a two-day seminar to discuss women as well as human rights issues in the military.

"It is important for us to professionalize women in the army," Ms. Omran, who deals with health affairs at the Defense Ministry, said. "Women must accept the important responsibilities given to them. [Your] duty is looking for better ways to do your job."

The U.S. military has encouraged women in the Iraq Army. During the February seminar, female U.S. officers urged their Iraqi counterparts to stay in the army despite societal pressure. At one point, the men in the audience were asked to leave so the Iraqi women soldiers could speak freely.

"Your service in the army is historic," U.S. Army Col. Peggy Combs told the Iraqi women.

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