Occasional Paper 15: Iraq Women's Rights Under Attack
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This Occasional Paper features recent activities of one of WLUML's networking organisations based in the UK. In addition, Dr Nadje Al-Ali is an active UK networker and Sundus Abass is an active networker in Iraq. In July 2006 Act Together, Women's Action for Iraq, hosted Sundus Abass, Director of Women in Leadership Institute, Baghdad, in London for 15 days.
WLUML helped to make the visit possible, as part of various network activities in support of women in post-conflict situations particularly in Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka. This publication is a record of some of the activities that happened during those 15 hectic days. The aim of the visit was to highlight the work that Iraqi women are doing to try to amend the new Iraqi Constitution. In particular they are trying to ensure that the pre-existing Iraqi Personal Status Law, one of the more egalitarian family laws in the Middle East, is not replaced by Article 41, which states, "Iraqis are free in their commitment to their personal status according to their religions, sects, beliefs, or choices, and this shall be regulated by law." This provision will have the effect of encouraging sectarian divisions within Iraqi society.
This publication includes three talks that were given at a public meeting attended by 100 people in July 2006 at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), in London. All three speakers were talking in English, which is their second or third language. We have edited their talks slightly, but we have not changed the character of the presentations - only one of which was a written paper.
A film was made by Maysoon Pachachi, one of the members of Act Together, of a two-hour discussion in Arabic between three highly experienced Iraqi women activists - the translated transcript of the edited half hour film is also in this volume.
We hope that the other documents that we include here give an idea of the work done in that fortnight, and suggestions of actions that could be taken in the months after.
In addition to what is recorded here, Sundus had a number of meetings with British parliamentarians, the Women's National Commission, the Human Rights Committee of the Bar Association and Amnesty International hosted a meeting of NGOs. There were radio, TV and newspaper interviews in Arabic and English, and Sundus made a presentation to the Iraqi Prime Minister who was in London and later to an invited audience at the Iraqi Embassy.
As part of WLUML's on-going work on gender in post-conflict constitutions, three women networkers took part in a conference in Jordan in June 2005, 'Our Constitution Our Future: enshrining women's rights in the Iraqi constitution', organised by Women for Women International. WLUML has also supported Iraqi women's struggles through alerts for action. In 2003 WLUML worked with Afghan women on gender issues around the Afghan constitution.
As this Occasional Paper goes to press in December 2006 the consultation period for reviews and amendments of the Iraq Constitution continues. Due to a late starting date for the review, and a number of parliamentary holidays, the period extends well into 2007, although the cut-off date is still under discussion. Iraqi women are working hard to get Article 41 removed from the Constitution, and to have international human rights instruments and provisions incorporated in the Constitution. There is still time for solidarity action to be taken as suggested in Take Action Now! (see pp 35-6). So please let us act together and Take Action Now!
Staff member at WLUML ICO staff and member of Act Together - Women's Action for Iraq