As men continue to join the fighting in Iraq, women are being pushed into desperate and dangerous situations.
Iraq’s deadlocked parliament has ended its second session without making any progress towards forming a new unity government that can confront armed rebels who have seized control of a huge part of the country.
Deputies had gathered in parliament on Sunday for talks intended to agree on a prime minister, president and speaker of parliament, three months after Iraq’s parliamentary election.
But the meeting only lasted for 30 minutes before it was adjourned.
Hopes had been raised that legislators might at least vote on a speaker of parliament on Sunday after Sunni blocs announced the previous day that they had agreed on a candidate for the post, Salim al-Juburi.
But Mahdi al-Hafidh, acting parliament speaker, ended Sunday’s brief meeting “due to the absence of any agreement on the names of the nominees for the three posts”.
He scheduled the next session for Tuesday, July 15.
Parliament members from the Kurdish region also failed to attend the meeting, after they were stranded at the Erbil regional airport due to flight delays caused by a reported dust storm.
The political impasse has been given added urgency by the advancing armed fighters who swept through Sunni provinces of northern Iraq last month and have threatened Baghdad.
On Sunday, Sunni fighters led by Islamic State group attacked a town 70km north of Baghdadand seized local government buildings, killing at least six people.
The formation of a new government had already been postponed earlier this month.
Under an informal arrangement that took hold after the 2003 US-led invasion, the speaker’s chair goes to a Sunni, the presidency to a Kurd and the prime minister’s post to a Shia.
In the past, Iraq’s Shia, Sunni and Kurdish political blocs have agreed to all three posts ahead of time as a sort of a package deal.
It was unclear whether political leaders would insist on a similar arrangement this time around.
According to the constitution, parliament will have 30 days after choosing a new speaker to elect a president, who will then have 15 days to ask the leader of the majority in the 328 seat legislature to form a government.
After that, a prime minister will be picked.