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Close to 100 American and Iraqi professional women — including “peshmerga,” or Kurdish fighters — shared their views about common issues at a women’s conference in Kirkuk last week.

U.S. Army and Air Force personnel stationed at Forward Operating Base Warrior spoke about juggling career and family, domestic violence and other topics relevant to both cultures, according to a news release issued Sunday by Multi-National Corps–Iraq.

“It is important to start a dialogue about women’s issues affecting women in Iraq with our American counterparts,” said Maj. Naheda Ahmed, 42, commander of a peshmerga women’s regiment in Sulaymaniyah. “We all face the same problems and issues ... only another woman can understand.”

Kirkuk province has a mixed population, including Arab, Kurd, Turkmen and Christian.

American soldiers seem to be aware of Islamic customs and treat them with respect, especially when it concerns women, said Kirkuk provincial council member Ramla Hamid.

Hamid said she wanted Americans to realize the women of Iraq are educated. “We are doctors, lawyers, professionals,” she said.

There was friendly debate over how to spur change, participants said.

One council member thought a women’s committee would be effective, but another thought doing so would marginalize women’s issues in Kirkuk province, according to Maj. Rose Bennett, staff judge advocate with the 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division.

But the participants also spent much of the time getting to know each other, bringing photo albums and sharing pictures of families and friends.

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