Ross Clark wonders whether Iraqis would prefer clean water and electricity or Britain’s taxpayer-funded ‘gender advisers’
Following the successful liberation of their country from the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein, ordinary Iraqis are once more beginning to experience some of those things which we in the West take for granted: electricity, telephones, fresh running water and the likes of Deirdre Spart from the Haringey Women’s Collective. If there is still a lot of work to be done in establishing security in the country, one thing which isn’t being ignored is the agenda of Western feminists. Never mind that many women’s pressure groups were vociferous in their opposition to war in Iraq, and by implication would presumably prefer it were Saddam still in power, it hasn’t stopped them flying in to demand a place in the new Iraq.
In October, when Saddam had yet to be captured and attacks on American troops were growing by the day, the Department for International Development (DFID) spent £152,000 on two ‘gender advisers’ to go to Iraq on a six-month contract ‘to promote gender equality and diversity’. The department has withheld the identity of one of them ‘for security reasons’. The other is Mandana Hendessi, an Iranian-born women’s rights campaigner who cut her feminist teeth as a member of the Southall Black Sisters in the early 1980s. One of her proudest achievements was in joining the organisation’s efforts to disrupt a beauty pageant, an event in which a smokebomb was thrown. ‘This is one of the most important ways women are oppressed,’ she later wrote. ‘It is like having a cattle show and it must be stopped now.’
To be fair to Ms Hendessi, she has moderated her views since her youthful exploits. When I managed to make contact with her at her desk at the fledgling ministry of labour and social affairs in Baghdad, she was happy to explain how the money is being spent.