Biography


Personal Biography

 “I happened to be at the right place at the right time.” I am sure you’ve heard this phrase many times, and, yet, it summarizes my experience almost perfectly. However, the “right place” in my experience happened to be war zones.


When I was a child fleeing the civil war in Lebanon with my family, I learned a lot about ethnic and sectarian conflicts. At an early age, I was exposed to complex concepts, such as ethnic cleansings, sectarian war, and the ugly face of civil war.  

These concepts grew with me since I am half Lebanese. Family members and relatives shared their stories with me and talked about them in my presence. I grew curious and I read books and newspapers while I was in elementary school. 

Since no-one was able to answer my questions, I resorted to books. My father had a large library consisting of more than a 5,000 book. I think I read the Social Contract by Rousseau, I was eight years old 

Learning by Example

I also learned by example. My mother had a strong personality. She was a believer in peace.   However, she was living in the Middle East, a region of continuous violence. I remember her going to my elementary school complaining because a teacher hit me. I was writing with my left hand (I am a lefty). In Iraq, writing with your left hand is a bad omen. My mother told the teacher, “Don’t you dare hit my child again.” I was left alone to write with my left hand.

Living Under Saddam's Regime

Moving to Iraq and living under Saddam’s regime from 1979 to 2003 (which is considered one of the most brutal regimes in the 20th Century) was a life-changing experience. I was able to examine, how the regime retaliated and most importantly, why.

In this phase of my life, I saw a different layer of security. In Iraq, most of the threats were coming from the state (i.e. the regime), as opposed to what I saw in Lebanon; armed groups threatening innocent civilians for sectarian reasons.  

Different Types of Conflicts 

During this time, I also examined a new type of conflict: interstate conflict. I experienced the longest war in the 20th Century, the Iraq-Iran war, from 1980 to 1988. I saw disputes, chemical weapons, political rhetoric, and the role of culture and religion on both sides; Iraq and Iran.

I also examined the role of women who occupied men’s jobs during the war, very few made it to the top, and then, of course, I saw these women stepping down when men returned from the war front. 

Water, electricity, and trash pickup were always pressing issues after each war. And while witnessing these problems first hand, I was able to analyze the ways in which lacking these services poses a major security threat. 
  
Not long after the Iran-Iraq war, I witnessed the first Gulf War (1990-1991), and I saw that the dynamics of this war were a combination of the civil war and interstate war. The Coalition Forces carried out air raids to bomb military facilities that Saddam’s regime had built among residential neighborhoods.

The same factors, security, the environment, and women, were again intertwined. (Please see blog posts about the first Gulf War.)

I saw yet another dimension of security, women, and the environment during the Operation Iraqi Freedom. Women have become suicide bomb attackers, insurgents are coming from areas lacking services, and we see more and more sectarian conflicts. (Please check posts like Just Add Water, Female Suicide Bomber)

Graduation


In 1991, I graduated from the Baghdad University School of Law. I prepared for final tests using a kerosene lamp. I was lucky to have it. In 1991, only 12 out of 500 students graduated from the Law School. 
I worked as an Attorney representing women for seven years. I was able to experience, first hand, the suffering of women in a male society—their inner feelings, thoughts, and opinions. 

I used that time to study for my master’s and Ph.D. in international law. In 2001, I joined the Baghdad University School of Law as an Assistant Professor, teaching general topics such as constitutional law and international law. 

The Women Movement
After the fall of Saddam’s regime in 2003, I joined the women’s movement to demand more rights, including the right to run for an office and participate in public life.  I attended meetings to organize the movement all over Iraq. I talked to the media, met policymakers, wrote op-eds, organized workshops to empower women and train them, and suggested policy change and reform.  I must say, I learned a lot from the wonderful women I worked with. I also learned from the average Iraqi woman, believe me, she is brave.

The Interim Iraqi Government

When the Interim Iraqi Government was put together by the UN Envoy, to my surprise my name was on the table, I was selected as the Minister of the Environment. In this capacity, I experienced, first hand again, the connections linking women, security, and the environment. Can you believe I was Al-Qaeda’s most wanted person! (Just Add Water. Water and Security)

I guess you can know a lot about me from reading my posts.