A Conversation with Songul Chapouk, Member of the Iraqi Governing Council
Songul Chapouk, is the only Turkmen and one of just three women on the Iraqi Governing Council. [Note: Subsequently, one of the three women, Aqila al-Hashemi, died from injuries sustained in an attack in Baghdad.] She commented that the Governing Council aims to help establish democracy for all Iraqis.
Regarding the security situation in Iraq, Chapouk stated that the situation has improved by 75% since the formation of the Governing Council. She explained the source of the problem in Iraq is of a financial nature – unemployment is rising and sabotage acts are due to a shortage of money that leads to outside funding of such acts. Creating jobs would solve these problems, she said.
The Iraqi army and police forces are making progress but need time for appropriate training. Coalition forces are doing a good job providing security, but need assistance. Mechanisms to protect Iraq's borders need to be put in place, as they are open and not all guarded, but this will also require additional funding. She speculated that Iraqis would be supportive of the U.S. if there was a mandate from the United Nations for joint coalition forces under the leadership of the U.S.
During the Question/Answer session, Ms. Chapouk said that women are working diligently within the Iraqi government and are especially focused on computer literacy and English language training. She noted that children are increasingly going to school; there is a committee studying new curriculum development with the help of UNESCO. In terms of neighboring states' cooperation, Iraq has bought electricity from Turkey, Syria and Kuwait. Iran has taken the initiative to provide some as well.
In conclusion, she said that Governing Council and Coalition forces are working side by side and there is no dominant side. She said that it will be up to the U.S. to convince Congress to provide assistance to help rebuild Iraq.