Iraqi feminists condemn draft constitution
The following statement is from the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq, which defends women's rights through organizing and demonstrations, while under attack from the occupation government and male supremacist religious leaders.
Women had an extensive public life in Iraq before the U.S. occupation, including participation in the government, congress, the professions, college, and the military, under a 1959 law. Since that law was passed, Iraq was recognized as the most advanced state in the region for women's rights. Contrary to U.S. media stereotypes, there was no law requiring women to wear veils or segregate themselves, as there is in Saudi Arabia and other gulf states allied with the U.S.
U.S. government officials defended the anti-woman provisions of the proposed constitution by saying that it took hundreds of years for women to get the vote under the U.S. constitution. They failed to note that women in Iraq already had won the vote, and many other important rights, since they kicked out their British colonial occupiers.
July 23, 2005--An era of post-occupation atrocities unfolded to disclose the final chapter of human rights abuse in Iraq: A constitution of legalizing women's discrimination.
The constitution draft which was circulated secretly eliminated the minimal rights women had under the previous 1959 "Personal Status Law." Although this law was partly based on Islamic Shariaa, it included much reform that secured minimal standards of human rights for women, such as preventing marriage for female children and making polygamy more difficult for men--a practice that is allowed under Shariaa in addition to beatings, stoning, flogging and forced veiling.
The draft constitution indicates in its article 14 the elimination of the current law and refers family laws completely to Islamic Shariaa and to other religions in Iraq. In other words, it leaves women vulnerable to all inequalities and social hostility in addition to designating females as second rate citizens or semi-humans.
Since the beginning of the occupation, the US administration has recognized Iraqis according to their ethnic/nationalist and religious identities. This predetermined polarization of the society around its most reactionary forces has resulted with a most lethal weapon which is a government of division and inequality--a potential timed bomb for a civil war that has already started. Furthermore, the only mutual agenda for the parties in power is one of oppression, bigotry and misogyny in addition to representing the US occupation interests.
The enemies of the people seated in the panel of writing the constitution have decided to give life to resolution 137. This resolution isolates Iraqis from the modern world and turns Iraq into an Afghanistan under Taliban where oppression and discrimination of women is institutionalized under Shariaa.
We have witnessed stages and kinds of atrocities under this occupation. The time comes for the US occupation to leave an unprecedented hallmark of abusing human rights by forcing a constitution that turns 13 million women into semi-humans.
We need your support in rejecting a constitution that gives way to decades of silent massacres against women.
Let the freedom loving people of the US know what is being committed in their name and in the name of democracy.
Write open letters to the US administration, to its allies, and especially to the UN. Remind them that women's rights cannot be the price for a hideous democracy of racism, ethnicity, religiosity, sectarianism and misogyny.
Help us find a way out of the never ending attack on our freedoms and lives.
For more on U.S. media distortions of Iraqi women, visit the web exhibit created by Redstockings, "Illusion, Confusion, and Coverup: Women in Iraq" at http://www.redstockings.org.
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