The women of Iraq need you!
The Iraq Constitution is in the process of being written. Several drafts have been sent to the public for input in preparation for the referendum on August 15, 2005. As the negotiations continue, questions about the base of law and the role of Islam and Shari'ah continue to be points of contention. Many women in Iraq will be affected if Shari'ah is adopted as the sole source of law or if it is adopted as a major source of law and its implementation is left up to the different regions of Iraq.
Some regions are effectively controlled by major religious parties, both Sunni and Shia, which advocate traditional and restricted roles for women. The laws that would be enacted under Shari'ah would impact women negatively including such issues as custody of children (usually given to the men regardless of the reason for divorce or separation), divorce (which gives women limited if no rights in divorce, regardless of the condition of their union and allow men free reign to divorce at will for little if any reason and can impact her and her children's financial situation), inheritence (depending on whose version of Shari'ah, widows could be left with less than 50% of their husbands property and wealth, regardless of the number of children she has to support while the remaining inheritence would be given to his brothers, father, uncles and cousins; for women already living in poverty, this could be devestating), and voting rights and representation within the government.
These are but a few of the issues facing women in the new Iraq. Other issues include laws to protect women from abuse, honor killings and unfair and inhumane punishment for the crime of "adultery" which includes pre-marital sex and rape. While these last do not occur in all areas of Iraq, they are still an issue should Shari'ah in any form be the main source of law, interpreted by regional courts controlled by religious organizations. (read more about it here
The TAL, established after the fall of Saddam, set standards that insure women as 25% of the elected governing body and appointments to government offices to insure the participation of women in the new Iraq government. In the January elections, the Iraq Elections Committee set rules to insure that this law was adhered to by all political parties who had to have every third candidate on their list as a woman. The elections were successful and so was the election of women to this representative body.
During the constitutional drafting process, aside from the question of Shari'ah, the issue of voting and representation began to turn negative as members of the constitutional committee removed the law requiring 25%. Only after long negotiations, this law was re-instituted. Without this law, women's rights and protections could be unfairly hampered if not destroying their ability to participate fully in Iraq Democracy.
Democracy requires equality before the law regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, color or creed.
What can we do about it?
We can help. The Iraqi Women's Educational Institute in conjunction with Foundation in Defense of Democracy, American Islamic Congress, Independent Women's Foundation, Women's Alliance For a Democratic Iraq, and Women For a Free Iraq were in Washington DC August 4th to petition the United States Congress to provide additional funds and support to Women's Rights organizations in Iraq.
Basma Fakri from Women's Alliance for a Democratic Iraq made an excellent point during this recorded CSPAN event with the National Press Club on August 4th. The religious political parties are well funded by outside organizations and countries and have had the advantage of long time organization both within and without of Iraq prior to Saddam Hussein's fall. These organizations are pressing for the implementation of Shari'ah. These women are simply asking for more assistance, both financially and politically, in order to spearhead their media campaign in Iraq and assist other women's organizations.
We can help by:
1) Write your senator and representative asking them to support these organizations with additional funds or statements of support for women's rights. (If you are not in the United States, please feel free to write your parliament member or other government representatives to give support to these organizations.)
2) Donate funds directly to any of the women's organization's:
Women's Alliance For a Democratic Iraq
American Islamic Congress
Foundation in Defense of Democracy
Independent Women's Foundation
Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (hat tip: Ampersand
3) If you work for a company or are a member of an organization, particularly any organizations for women within your country or region, ask them to provide assistance, either financially, materially (ie, donating time, media assistance, printing, supplies, etc) or politically.
4) Donate to Spirit of America: Iraq Democracy Project which supports "grass roots pro-democracy projects created by women" and provides other support like computers, paper and the "Arabic Blogging Tool" to these groups so that they have a voice in Iraqi politics and spread the word about democracy.
Some may be concerned that this assistance will come too late. It is never too late. Changes to the constitution are being made as you read this and will be made up to the last moment before the referendum. Even after the constitution is written and the referendum passed, women's rights in Iraq will still be an issue and these women will need our support.
Womens' rights in Iraq should concern all people who believe in freedom and democracy, equality and the rule of civil law. It is up to us in living in free societies to support these movements.
And, there is no better way to fight extremist Islamic terrorism than to help support one of the things that they fear most: free women participating in a democratic government, equal and protected by law.
We can put a purple finger in the eye of terrorism.
Help get the word out. We still have time to turn the tide. Link to this post on your blog or write your own post. Email your friends and ask them to do the same.
Help defend freedom, democracy and women's rights.
Other links to information about women's rights in Iraq and the constitution process:
Women's Rights Protest in Najaf (Najaf's major party in charge of the government is SCIRI, a Shia religious party that supports limited women's roles in government and law)
Iraq the Model on the Changes to the Constitution (important information regarding the quickly changing constitutional draft including discussions about the inclusion of Islam and Shari'ah)
ITM: Emergency Meeting on the Constitution
ITM: Translation of Parts of the original draft
ITM: Women Discuss the Constitution
Stay tuned for an update with copies of my own letters to my senator and representative.
In honor of Steven Vincent, author, freelance journalist, and fierce advocate for freedom, democracy and women's rights. Killed in Basra, Iraq August 3, 2005 by extremist Islamist. Make a donation in Steven's name to Spirit of America.
Answering Questions On Iraq Women's Rights
Iraq Women's Rights: Answering the WSJ
Women's Rights Protest in Baghdad Aug 9
Ibn Al Rifidian gives more info on women's issues in Iraq
Now, let me speak about some other features of dealing with Iraqi women as an inferior creature. It is the Bedouin tribal legacy which represents the frame governing men's attitude toward women. One of these features is awarding women as compensation when killings happen between tribes. It is called "Fasli'ya". The compensated side tries to humiliate the woman which is awarded as "Fasli'ya" by marrying her to a very old man, since she represents the foe.
Read the rest of his post for other interesting aspects of Iraq culture that impacts women's rights.
Read Basma Fakri Speech at National Press Association confrence Aug 7 (televised on CSPAN)
Biographies of Women in Iraq government
Read LA Times: Fighting to Preserve Women's Rights in Iraq
BAGHDAD — The yellowing photo shows a woman in a knee-length, sleeveless dress. Her short hair blows in the breeze. She wears glamorous dark glasses against the summer glare.
The time is the early 1960s. She could be in John F. Kennedy's America, but she's in Iraq, at a time when it was ruled by one in a string of military strongmen.
Today, few Iraqi women would dare to wear such an outfit. Most cover their arms to the wrist. Only wisps of hair stray from their head scarves. Skirts are often nearly ankle-length.
Jinan Mubarak looked down at the photograph and shook her head.
"I can't wear what my mother was wearing at that time. It's really sad," she said. "Women had better conditions then. Now, they are challenged every day."
Thank you to everyone who linked. If I miss you in the links below, my apologies, but you still have my sincere gratitude.
Roger L. Simon
Little Green Footballs
The Castle Arrggh!