Friday, August 05, 2005

Back In The Fight: Defending Freedom and Women's Rights

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!


PatCA said...

Well said, Kat, and I am writing to my senators.

Women's rights is the bellwether for the new democratic state of Iraq. If Iraq fails to recognize that, the whole enterprise is in serious trouble.

Anonymous said...

Remember how many years it took our nation to overcome our problems. It wasn't a long time until women were allowed to vote, slaves freed, etc... We're still working on perfecting this freedom thing.

The important thing is that with the advent of democracy, women's suffrage, etc, was inevitable. It was only a matter of time before women would realize they shouldn't be considered inferior to men and begin to exercise their civil liberties.

I don't think we should push Iraqis into adopting women's rights and all the dressings of a free society from the get-go. These things come with time and experience, as the people who hold the power realize it is better to be shared (and those who don't lose it). The most important thing we can do right now is establish a culture of equality among citizens, voting rights, free speech, and the force of public will over government.

I guarantee you that in time, if democracy is allowed to take root, the Iraqis will come around and join us in trying to establish a free-er society by granting women's suffrage and tolerance for other races and religions.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous...I could not let your ridiculous comments pass. Arab states have had hundreds and hundreds of years to grant greater rights to women. The U.S. granted women the right to vote less than 200 years after inception. And before that women had many more rights than most arab women have now. I'm not saying we should force them to accept women in the same capacity as we do. But expecting basic human rights for women is not an unreasonable expectation.

How ridiculous to say that we should not encourage and support democratic freedoms for women in Iraq. Absurd, ignorant, and disgusting.

Allowing Sharia law to take hold would be disasterous in Iraq. I think we should do everything possible to make sure that their constitution embraces all religions, genders, tribes, etc.

Kat said...

I have to disagree with you anonymous. First, this is not the United States forcing anything on the Iraqi people. These are Iraqi women who are asking for our assistance to support their movement. Not the other way around. And when they are asking we can certainly give.

Secondly, if you knew the history of Iraq you would know that the implementation of Shari'ah and the disintegration of women's rights is several steps backwards for Iraq. They have had civil laws protecting many of these rights since 1958 and even before that they had their own women's rights movements in the 1920's and had long since won the ability to not have to dress in hijab and have certain rights before the law.

This is not the United States forcing them to accept anything, but we should be supporting these women morally, physically and financially so that they can protect their own rights. Rights they had before we invaded (of course, some rights had little meaning such as voting, but they still could hold any job, join the government, own businesses and had protected rights to custody of children and in cases of divorce)

They are simply asking for the funds and the verbal support from free nations and organizations that are supposed to do just that thing. We make those kinds of statements everyday to many countries and some of them are stronger than others.

In Iraq, we are providing their security and reconstruction. It just so happens that are voice has more resonance there and we should not be so hesitant to use it in the name of freedom and protection of rights.

thank you for stopping by.

Kat said...

Pat and Megan. Thank you for supporting this project. It only takes a few minutes to help and every voice in one step closer.

Megan is quite right that we should not hesitate to support freedom and democracy for all. This is after all why we remain there today and why we are paying such a high price in blood and treasure. it is not for them men of Iraq alone, but for every citizen, man, woman, child.

leap_frog said...

Hey Kat, was here earlier so when I just came across this article about the first Saudi female pilot I thought you'd like to see it if you hadn't already.

Concerning anon's comment of wait and see.
Why wait?
What is the difference between freedom for all BUT not Iraqi women and dictatorship? Democracy is one PERSON one vote, at least that's what it means to me.

Wait indeed, we did enough of that already thank you very much, and so have the women of Iraq and the ME of that I'm sure.
/rant off

Thanks Kat :)

Richard said...

Hi Kat,

The men of the Middle East have been doing a wonderful job of ruining their counties without the women. Maybe with more women involved in running the countries, they just might join us in the 21st century.

Dan Kauffman said...

Very pleased to find your site, just last night I had a post on Women in Iran and Submission the film that cost Theo Van Gogh's Life and has caused a member of the Dutch Parliment Ayaan Hirsi Ali to have to go into protected hiding. I also include links to the Revolutionary Afghan Women's Association and the Sister's in Islam on their struggle to prevent Strict Shar'ai from being imposed upon them.

Don't have time to finish it but I plan to cap it off with the Canadian Plan to implement Civil Shar'ai in Canada and the oppostion to it by Muslim women, but NOT oddly enough by the Canadians Feminsit Movement?

Dan Kauffman said...

Finished it, I would welcome comments.

PS Pardon me, but where do I find the trackback URL for this post?

Kat said...

Dan...I'm not currently using halo scan because of the character limit for comments so there is no "track back" per se. But, if you are looking to get the direct link for this post, when you look at the bottom of the post there is a "time" stamp. this is the direct link to the post.

José said...

I agree with your efort to avoid sharia law anywhere, but I want to tell you that in your own country, USA, girls and boys are kidnapped and sold to powerful people in Saudi Arabia, with the complicity of State Department, likely for oil and business, and the silence of main stream media. I liked americans, but the knowledge of this disgusting and satanic issue has changed my view.
To support what I have stated I give for anyone interested the source:

There are many more examples if you want to check.

Kat said...

jmaria...thank you for bringing this to my attention. I will take this information under advisement and review for a future post.

Please do not think that I would condone any such thing for an ally or an enemy.

However, that does not keep me from believing that we should use whatever power we can grasp to insure freedom and women's rights whenever and where ever we can. This is not an issue of cultural differences. In reality, Iraq has been very secular for over 50 years and even had a women's rights movement in the 1920's. It is only now with the rise of fundamentalism in the ME in the last 25 years that women's rights in these nations (aside from this sex slave issue) have been slowly eroded.

Thank you for bringing the sex slave issue to our attention. I was aware of issues surrounding models sometime in the late 80's and early 90's but not as slaves so much as transporting women for prostitution or other "escort" duties.

Again, thank you, and I hope that you would understand that it does not mean that I will not pursue the issue of Iraq women's rights.

I hope to see you again in the future as I continue to address these issues.

newc said...

Sharia law has lost the authority to govern. The Taliban was the worst government in HUMAN history. Not only did Sharia law destroy the entire country of Afghanistan, but it also launched a premtive attack on foreign soil. That is a pretty dangerous prelude to world destruction.

What bothers me the most is the fact that Womens rights have to be discussed at all.

There is nothing in the Koran that says a woman is less equal to a man. But there are subjucative tendencies.

It is time to permit secular rule and allow discussion to live under law.

Candace April said...

Thank you for your post and your further comments. Excellent points and brilliant job expressing them.

Baltic Waves said...

newc - You stated that there is nothing in the coran that says a woman is less equal then a man. Have you actually picked up a copy and read it?

Lets take a look at some quotes from the coran and hadith:

2:228 And Woman shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them.

2:282 , and get two witneses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two woman, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of then errs, the other can remind her.

4:11-12 allah (thus) directs you as regards your Children's (Inheritance) :to the male, a portion equal to that of two females.

For other wonderful tidbits to live by go to the hadith.....

Volume 1, Book 6, Number 301: Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri

some useful websites to researth are :

Anonymous said...

Sharia in Canada will never happend.
It's more just annoying noise than a real threat.

Great work in your blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi .nice blog.I need to find jobs .can anybody send links of that job websites....
Thank you.....

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