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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/21/13

An Open Letter to President Obama Inspired by Queen Vashti of the Ancient Kurds

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Message Hamma Mirwaisi
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With respect, Mr. President, I ask you, as the son of a single mother  who is now regarded the world's most powerful man, to be more aware of the suffering of women around the world. I refer especially to the suffering imposed upon women by Islamic leaders under a belief system associated with your father's. If you are already aware of this suffering, it behooves you as a self-made man of strong positive self-regard to act in a way that will move male Islamic national leaders to set aside their unreasonable, self-limiting predilection to dominate women in their families and nations.

Recently, the women of Tunisia, yet another Islamic country where men have traditionally held illicit, exploitative and violent power over women, have protested their demand for equality with men throughout the Islamic world (1). These women are so exposed to shameful treatment that they have been prepared to display half their naked bodies as objects of the derision they must endure (2). Yet you continue to maintain friendships with male leaders in the Islamic world who are of a similar persuasion to those in Tunisia, such as the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan, who wants to limit women's rights progressively (3); and his ally Massoud Barzani of Kurdistan, who does not allow his wife to be seen in public. In case you do not know, thousands of Kurdish women have been killed under Barzani's rule (4) and that of his ally, Jalal Talabani. Regrettably, the US has had varying levels of input into these cruelly dysfunctional and merciless governments, whose measures have abused the Kurdish population for over twenty years (5).

The Kurdish women are descendents of Queen Vashti of the Medes (ancient Kurds), who was one of the first women in the ancient world to stand up for the principal that women have a God-given equal status and value to men in every society(6). Recently, Massoud Barzani, who claims to be a Kurd, closed the border between Iraq and Syria to punish women and children for political events in Syria (6). Even in the 1961-1975 war, when Iraqi Kurds fled to Iran every time the Iraqi army attacked Kurdish civilians, the Iranians, whom the Kurds called their enemies, did not defy human rights and international laws protecting women and children to the degree Barzani does under the protection of the US and Israel. Not much has changed in Kurdistan since Queen Vashti was ordered by her husband to demean herself by attending his drunken party and paid a heavy price for her defiance. Barzani's intoxication with power is still wreaking havoc on Kurdish women.

Now, after two-and-a-half-thousand years of oppression, the Kurdish people, including their women fighters, are refusing to tolerate persecution by Islamic religious leaders any longer. They are arming themselves to fight both for Kurdish women's rights and the liberation of all the Kurdish people from those who are robbing them of their culture and human rights, including freedom of conscience under the law and the economic benefits that flow from the natural resources of their land. 

As President of the US, you can put a stop to further bloodshed in the ancestral lands of Queen Vashti. It is a shame that you have not done more before, especially given the expertise available from women such as Hilary Clinton in your earlier administration. If Hilary had been as strong on women's rights in the Middle East as she is on the rights of women in the West, many lives could have been saved and changed. Your own wife is a a gracious, intelligent, beautiful woman, who has contributed mightily to her country because it constitutionally entitles her to the freedom and respect necessary to do so, and which, in any case, she deserves. Clearly, your daughters are following in her footsteps. However, the only way Kurdish women can achieve freedom and respect now is with a gun. Such is their desperation that they are prepared to give up their lives, including opportunities to marry and have a family and to develop their personal gifts and talents in careers outside the home.

So, Sir, it is now your responsibility to ask other rulers, such as the King of Saudi Arabia and the President of Kurdistan, with whom the United States is dealing, why they are treating their women like second-class citizens. (7) You have the power, as leader of the world's strongest country, to indicate that you expect better of them. Sanctions have been imposed by the US before on countries like these. Their leaders need to be informed that this will happen to them, unless they give their women the freedom that is their human right. These women too must be allowed to live in a political environment in which they can become the mothers of peaceful, fulfilled, fear-free children who can grow into nation-building adults.

The world knows that you go to a Christian church. Remember that Jesus Christ himself mixed compassionately with women who had been sexually and economically exploited by the rulers of their day, and condemned to death. They were women who, in seeking spiritual and emotional rest and safety, had been marginalized for racial, ethnic, religious and national reasons, and were suffering from sickness, disability, or threats to their children's welfare. Jesus offered all of them healing, hope, and the power to change.

Please follow the example of the greatest figure in human history and lead the men of the world to a righteous masculinity by which they would be willing to sacrifice their own lives for their women, instead of robbing them of their dignity and well-being. And lead them too to a fearless reinstatement of women in their divinely bestowed estate of equal honor and opportunity with men.

Queen Vashti and her descendants await your support.




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Hamma Mirwaisi was exposed to the oppression of Kurds while still a youth, as his education was frequently interrupted by Iraqi government harassment. Forbidden from entering university in 1968, he had little choice but to join the peshmerga (more...)

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