Iraq: Iraqi women reject decision Number 137 passed by the Iraqi Governing Council on 29/12/2003

Act Together
We would like to express our horror at the Iraqi Governing Council’s Act 137 dated 29/12/2003 that replaces Iraqi civil law concerning family law with Sharia law.
The Iraqi family law (otherwise known as the Personal Status Law) is the achievement of the struggle of the Iraqi people for much of the past century not a law written by Saddam Hussein.
Such a vital issue should be publicly debated and subjected to the scrutiny of experts on a range of social and legal issues. It should be consistent with Iraq’s international legal obligations such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Iraqi ratification 1986), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Iraqi ratification 1994).

We wish to make the following points concerning the IGC’s Act 137:

1) The IGC is an interim body and should deal with immediate and urgent issues like restoring services (water, electricity, fuel), tackling unemployment, providing food rations, establishing security, and protecting human rights of all Iraqis.

2) Decision 137 not only attempts to destroy women’s achievements for the last fifty or so years, but threatens the fabric of Iraqi civil society. This was largely of a secular nature until the onset of the economic siege imposed by the UN in 1991.

The decision establishes sectarianism as an organizing principle of social and political life in Iraq, thereby elevating this objectionable practice to a principle well beyond its de facto practice under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.

3) Members of all ethnic and religious groups in Iraq must have a stake in society and feel that it is their homeland. Inclusiveness is what is needed in order for Iraq to become truly democratic.

4) Iraqi women need financial and physical security for themselves, for their children, and for their breadwinners. Widows and orphans need emergency measures of support. Children need the protection of the state in the wake of the explosion in child labour.

5) We condemn the attempt to misuse the Islamic religion as a tool of suppression and political gains. Justice and equality are the core values of Islam.

6) One of the most important requirements of a democratic society is the independence of the judiciary, and the separation of legislative and executive bodies. The IGC decision respects no such separation. Decision 137 establishes sectarianism and gives formal power to informal, unaccountable and self appointed religious “leaders”.

The IGC’s lack of a popular mandate is compounded by its failure to tackle the urgent needs of the Iraqi people. Hence any decision made by the Council, remains without true legitimacy. The only way out of this deadlock is to hold general elections so that the people inside Iraq can select their own legitimate government.

Finally we would like to make it absolutely clear that Iraqi women can never be free unless their society is free from continuing war and occupation.

Democracy involves the enabling of the Iraqi people to make their own decisions on the control and use of their resources, not least with regard to reconstruction and economic policy.

We call for the following:

1) The cancellation of all Saddam Hussein’s debts.

2) Immediate preparations for general elections.

3) The replacement of the occupying military forces with an international peace-keeping force under the leadership of the United Nations and enjoying the support of the international community.

Souad Al Jazairy, Iraqi Women League – London, UK. Email:
Nadje Al Ali, Act Together – Women’s Action for Iraq. Email:
Nada Shabout, Art Historian, Texas, USA
Loubna Jazouli, System Accountant, London, UK
Tahrir Abdul Samad Numan, Teacher, Kent, UK