May 2nd, 2007Women Worldwide Speak is an outgrowth of The Afghan Women’s Project which I created in 2002 to dispel the view, so prevalent in the media of that time, of Afghan women as helpless victims. After traveling to Afghanistan in 2003 and interviewing 40 women in and from different parts of the country, I created an exhibit and series of slide presentations which I show around the US. (www.kelseys.net) Now, four years later, I was again drawn to document the stories of women, this time of Iraqi refugee women living in Jordan. So, now I’m here in Amman visiting agencies and conducting interviews. And of course photographing, but none of the faces will be included here. The majority of the Iraqi refugees living here are illegal. Zahra, my translator, is a delightful woman, a one-woman social work agency. Her family life growing up was difficult. Although she was by far the best student, and voluntarily spent hours cleaning the house, her mother and siblings treated her badly, perhaps jealous of her academic prowess and her drive to improve her surroundings. Her father was her only ally, but he was taken away (They came to her house and arrested him) by Saddam’s henchmen when she was 11. Her brother, a pilot who lived the “high life”, was also taken away a few years later. After two years of torture and 10 years of confinement, he has become a strict fundamentalist Muslim. One day when she was 19, she came home to find that her mother had made an agreement to marry her off. It didn’t work out and now she lives with and supports her two teenage daughters. When Zahra came to Jordan 6 years ago, she was given a 6-month visa, which she had to leave the country to renew and did several times. Since she speaks English, she was able to get work with an NGO (an international non-profit) and this opened up the path of social work for her. The NGO eventually went out of business, but Zahra has kept up her work connecting poor Iraqis with agencies who could help them. She supports herself by doing translation work as well as contract wedding photography. May 13th, she will begin a 3-month trip to the United States, taking training in Vermont and speaking in Philadelphia, the Seattle area and Texas. I will keep you posted on her itinerary as it develops. ******** May 3rd, 2007, the Iraqi parliament will vote on oil legislation that would give 70% of the oil profit the to the oil companies and 12% to Iraq. Currently, of course, when it's all running, Iraq gets 100%. The parliament is expected to vote against this, of course, but everyone thinks that Malaki will overrule them. The fellow we talked with thinks that the Malaki gov't. (executive branch) won't last through the summer. We’ll see.