Syria: Personal Status Draft Law cancelled

The draft would have incited religious and sectarian tensions and violated all the rights of woman and children in Syria, as well as the rights of the man, writes Bassam El-Kadi.
This is what has been reiterated in the statement issued by the press office of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and published by the Syrian Arab News Agency – SANA: "The press office of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers clarified that some of the media outlets circulated information about Personal Status Draft Law, that is both baseless and not accurate. In order to provide the public with the accurate information and correct the misconception about this issue and show the procedures that will be followed, we feel the urge to clarify the following:" the press release added.
"the government started in 2000 to make a comprehensive evaluation to the regulations in place now in order to amend and modernize them so they match this period and the process of social and economic development, and specially in regard to those regulations that have been in place from a long period of time. This issue has been stressed by the People's Assembly in numerous its sessions."

"To achieve that aim, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers called for the Justice Ministry to amend some laws… including the Personal Status law that has been in place since 1953."

"The Ministry of Justice submitted a number of drafts, including the Personal Status Draft Law. Upon studying this draft, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers disagreed with what has been coined altogether and returned the draft to the Ministry of Justice for it to study again this issue in coordination with all the authorized and concerned factions."

Upon returning the issue from the Ministry of Justice to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, it will be studied according to the usual procedures, i.e. it will be submitted to the specialized ministerial committees and then to the Council of Ministers after being ratified by the specialized higher sides and then it will be submitted to the People's Assembly and presented to the specialized committees in the Assembly and discussed in the same way like any other legislation. This whole process will be enough to grasp all the viewpoints and suggestions about this law." (end of quotation).

There are many points in this important press release that has to be tackled indeed. We will, however, focus on the point that canceling this draft is in itself a very important and decisive decision. There are two points that has to be shed light on. The first is using the word "issue" instead of "draft" when referring to what has been retuned to the Ministry of Justice. The second is making that conditional to be "in coordination with specialized higher sides" although the press release failed to name these sides. We will assume and call for the Presidency of the Council of Ministers to assign to this mission the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs and the General Federation of Syrian Women and other active factions to prepare a new draft.

It has to be mentioned that the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs has already a nearly-completed draft of a "modern family" that matches the requirements of social developments in Syria. Many senior and well-known figures took part in the process of drafting this law and this took many years to be accomplished.

37 days were needed to reveal the reality of this infamous black draft. This decision to discard this draft should have been taken the minutes it was revealed on 5th of June 2009.

There was no need for the Prime Minister to defend the draft twice and deny being submitted to him twice and confirming that it is still valid twice and ask all the Syrian media to shut up and of course this does not encompass the statements of the President of People's Assembly nor those of the Prime Minister himself who once spoke about it, all those who kept silence hastily reported what he has said in their headlines as if they are in a battle with those who defended the modern Syria. they instead of ignoring the orders to shut up and stay hand in hand defending Syria against this obscurant draft.

The draft has been cancelled now. However, the ideology that has coined it is still alive. This necessitates to study carefully and deeply those void article to clarify to the public how much dangerous this draft is especially if such thinking sneaks again and pops up in any legislations that tackles woman's or children's issues.

For this matter, we will launch a new observatory called "the observatory of extremism" that aims at exposing, documenting, and responding to the radical and extremist thinking, whether that to be in mosques, churches, radios, TVs, newspapers, educational institutions or recorded, CD ROMs, or in any other place.

We call for anybody who can document any case to contact us. We will deal confidentially and seriously with any well-documented case.

This infamous draft helped us grasp well the concept that keeping silent about those daily violations by extremists and marketing the violence and radicalism is something that is gravely dangerous and could not be tolerated anymore.

Meanwhile, we consider all the Syrian governmental and non-governmental organizations, parties, institutions and the religious establishment are fully responsible of the issues of woman and children in Syria. it is no longer being accepted to keep silent under pretexts of "traditions and customs", "social struggle", "sensitive political atmosphere" or "the priority now is for another issues"… etc.

We feel the urge to say, Thanks from the bottom of out hearts to every single Syrian who helped in exposing the real face of this draft law. Thanks to anyone who helped in keeping our country immune and saving our homeland, our citizenship, our lives and our future. Thanks to everyone who blocked the road toward a real sectarian inciting.

Shapeau bas to the youth, to the women and men who showed during this stressful month how much they love their country. Those people took many initiatives to face off this black draft and its obscurant ideology and succeeded in making their voice heard out of the media blockade erected by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Those are the people who can make a difference.

Whatever the obstacles we face, we will keep working for the benefit of our Syria, for a better life we deserve and for the elimination of all form if violence and discrimination.

The future is ours, not theirs.

4 July 2009

By By Bassam El-Kadi

Syrian Women Observatory (SWO)