- Mar 6, 2005
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- Upper West Side of Manhattan (10024)
- Political Leaning
Is this story the beginning of what a lot of us are fearing will happen to democracy in Iraq? The point is that given to their own devices Iraq will turn into a fundamentalist Islamic nation. Is that what 1750+ Americans and $300 billion was "spent' on?
The rest of the piece: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/20/international/middleeast/20women.html?pagewanted=2Iraqi Constitution May Curb Women's Rights
By EDWARD WONG
Published: July 20, 2005 - NY Times
BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 19 - A working draft of Iraq's new constitution would cede a strong role to Islamic law and could sharply curb women's rights, particularly in personal matters like divorce and family inheritance.
A banner saying "Stop the violence against Iraqi women" was carried at a Baghdad rally over constitutional issues as they affect women's rights.
The document's writers are also debating whether to drop or phase out a measure enshrined in the interim constitution, co-written last year by the Americans, requiring that women make up at least a quarter of the parliament.
The draft of a chapter of the new constitution obtained by The New York Times on Tuesday guarantees equal rights for women as long as those rights do not "violate Shariah," or Koranic law.
The Americans and secular Iraqis banished such explicit references to religious law from the interim constitution adopted early last year.
The draft chapter, circulated discreetly in recent days, has ignited outrage among women's groups, which held a protest on Tuesday morning in downtown Baghdad at the square where a statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down by American marines in April 2003.
One of the critical passages is in Article 14 of the chapter, a sweeping measure that would require court cases dealing with matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance to be judged according to the law practiced by the family's sect or religion.
Under that measure, Shiite women in Iraq, no matter what their age, generally could not marry without their families' permission. Under some interpretations of Shariah, men could attain a divorce simply by stating their intention three times in their wives' presence.
Article 14 would replace a body of Iraqi law that has for decades been considered one of the most progressive in the Middle East in protecting the rights of women, giving them the freedom to choose a husband and requiring divorce cases to be decided by a judge.
If adopted, the shift away from the more secular and egalitarian provisions of the interim constitution would be a major victory for Shiite clerics and religious politicians, who chafed at the Americans' insistence that Islam be designated in the interim constitution as just "a source" of legislation. Several writers of the new constitution say they intend, at the very least, to designate Islam as "a main source" of legislation.
By rough count, nearly 200 women and men showed up in the fiery heat to hand out fliers and wave white banners in a throng of traffic. "We want to be equal to everybody - we want human rights for everybody," read one slogan. The demonstration came hours before two Sunni Arabs involved in writing the constitution were fatally shot near a Baghdad restaurant, threatening to throw the drafting process into turmoil.
"We want a guarantee of women's rights in the new constitution," said Hannah Edwar, an organizer of the protest. "We're going to meet with the constitutional committee and make our thoughts known."
A dozen women, some sheathed in full-length black robes, showed up to denounce Ms. Edwar's protest. They said they were followers of Moktada al-Sadr, the fundamentalist Shiite cleric who has led two rebellions against the Americans.
American and Iraqi officials say that several draft chapters of the constitution are floating around Baghdad and that no final language has been agreed on. Changes can still be made before Aug. 15, the deadline for the National Assembly to approve a draft. Protests by women and relatively secular blocs on the constitutional committee, like the Kurds, may force Shiite members to tone down the religious language.
"Some of the points regarding women's rights in this chapter are still to be reviewed," said Mariam Arayess, a religious Shiite on the committee.
Ms. Arayess said she believed that the draft was the most recent working version, and that it had fairly generous provisions for equal rights. She is one of fewer than 10 women on the 71-member drafting committee.
The chapter has 27 articles, most of which have relatively liberal provisions aimed at ensuring various civil rights. The first says that "all Iraqis are equal before the law" and that "equal opportunities are guaranteed for all citizens according to the law." The final article forbids censorship of the press.