The murders of Fern Holland andSalwa Ali Oumashi shocked and saddened us
all. They, and fellow Coalition Provisional Authority co-worker Bob Zangas, were killed by gunmen on March 9th as they returned from the Zainab al-Hawra'a Center for Women's Rights in Karbala. Fern and Salwa were much more than advocates for human rights and women's advancement in the new Iraq, they were our friends. Their efforts were well known in Iraq and the United States and our loss is immense.

On March 25, more than 50 of their friends and colleagues attended a memorial service hosted by the Conflict Prevention Project and Middle East Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center. Speakers included Anita Sharma, Director, Conflict Prevention Project, Woodrow Wilson Center; Ambassador Paula Dobriansky, Under-secretary of State for Global Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Chris O'Donnell, friend and colleague, Al Hillah, Iraq; Carla Koppell, Deputy Director, Washington DC Office, Hunt Alternatives; Steve Rodolf, family friend of Fern Holland; and Zainab Salbi, President, Women for Women International.

As reported by:
JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Tulsa World (Final Home Edition), Page A1 of News, WarInIraq

Slain activist's colleagues laud her vision, tenacity

WASHINGTON -- Former Tulsa attorney Fern Holland, who was gunned down in Iraq earlier this month, was remembered Thursday as a passionate heroine, an activist for democracy and a risk-taking visionary.
But the 33-year-old apparently could not carry a tune.

"What she lacked in tone, she made up in volume," Tulsa attorney Steve Rodolf said, eliciting laughter from a group of Holland's former colleagues, family members and friends at a memorial service at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in the Ronald Reagan Building.

Also honored was Salwa Ali Oumashi, a co-worker who was killed with Holland and Robert J. Zangas.

As he did in a previous memorial service in Tulsa, Rodolf wanted others to know that, despite all she had accomplished in her somewhat brief life, Holland had another side to her personality.

It was her work, however, especially her efforts on behalf of women in war-torn Iraq, that remained the focus of the memorial service.

Paula Dobriansky, the undersecretary of state for global affairs, described the "passionate heroine" she encountered as Holland shared "the latest from the ground" from Iraq.

Dobriansky credited Holland for the immediate impact she had on women's lives there.

"Fern was the catalyst for the creation of the Hila Women's Center," she said, adding that her efforts ranged from getting computers to the center and mentoring individual Iraqi women to leading the opposition to unacceptable legislation.

Chris O'Donnell, a friend and colleague from Iraq, also credited Holland's work with the moderate Shiite elements for providing a balance to the fundamentalist factions in the region.

O'Donnell said Holland no doubt left an "indelible imprint" on Iraqi women and their country.

Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi woman who serves as the president of Women for Women International, said Iraqis recognized the contributions of Holland and her co-worker by declaring a three-day mourning period following their deaths.

Given the conservative politics of the area, Salbi described such recognition for two women as remarkable, especially since it had to be approved by Iraqi men.

She said the women's centers would remain open, despite the obvious risks, and more would be added.

Holland and the two others were killed March 9 as they were driving south of Baghdad.

Several suspects have been identified, but the FBI investigation remains open.

A native of northeast Oklahoma, Holland graduated from the University of Tulsa law school in 1996.

She worked briefly for a Tulsa law firm, served in Africa with the Peace Corps and was working with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq at the time of her death.


Linked below are a few letters and articles giving us a glimpse of how profoundly Fern and Salwa touched lives.