Iraqi Constitution and women's rights
Overview: Women's Rights in Iraq
"Women in Iraq have for many years benefited from one of the most modern and permissive societies in the Middle East. Upper class women began to enter the country’s job market in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1963, the Ba’ath regime came to power, paving the way to Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. However, among the Ba’ath party goals was liberation of women. In 1979, the Iraqi constitution declared all women and men equal before the law. Compulsory education through age 16 enabled women in Iraq to become the most educated and professional in the region and working outside the home became the norm. Iraqi mothers received generous maternity leave and in 1980 women could vote and run for election. In the early 80s, women made up 40 percent of the nation’s work force. The Unified Labor Code called for equal pay, benefits and promotions for men and women. In 1989, 27 women were elected to Iraq’s 250-seat National Assembly, according to the Washington Report.
"After the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Gulf War, women’s progress halted. UN sanctions were painful to Iraqi women and children in particular. 1.5 million people died, including 500,000 babies – as a direct result of economic sanctions. Mere survival became increasingly difficult for women who once enjoyed relative economic stability. Simultaneously, in an effort to gain support of other Arab countries, Saddam Hussein allowed a shift toward observance of Islamic Shari’a, and he gave tribal leaders freedom to act upon traditional tribal codes. The results were lethal to women. In 1990, Saddam Hussein amended a law allowing honor killings without penalty; men who killed female relatives for suspecting their relationships with other men, for adultery, or for having been raped, were exempt from punishment. By 2002, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women reported that over 4,000 Iraqi women had been killed for hurting their family’s reputation." 
"Unlike many others in the region, the women of Iraq were allowed to work, vote, drive, and study in the 1970s and 1980s. But after the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi dictator - in an effort to appease the majority Shiite population that he had repressed so brutally - took a harder line on women, depriving them of free choice in marriage and the freedom to travel without being accompanied by a male relative. After Hussein's overthrow, hard-liners have worked to restrict women's rights." 
Iraqi Interim Constitution
Ala Talabani and Zainab Al-Suwaij, co-founders in 2003 of Women for a Free Iraq, "labored hard to write into Iraq's interim constitution that men and women are equal. Working at the grassroots level, they motivated women to gather more than 50,000 signatures calling for 40 percent of positions in national and local government to be set aside for women. They insistently lobbied members of the Governing Council and encouraged Raja Al Khuzai, a woman member of the Governing Council who had previously said she felt quite ignored by her male colleagues, to press the issue. Because of the increasing pressure - and against a lot of opposition - a 25 percent quota for women was approved. Thanks to this success, today there are six Iraqi women cabinet ministers, including one dedicated to women's affairs. The interim constitution also guarantees at least a quarter of the 275 seats in Iraq's new National Assembly to women.
"Al-Suwaij and Talabani also worked hard to gather 45,000 women's signatures on a petition to stop an attempt to restrict women's rights by religious leaders on the Governing Council who attempted to impose Sharia family law in the form of 'Resolution 137.' Al-Suwaij said Resolution 137 would not have allowed women to leave their houses without asking for permission from their husbands, while Talabani pointed out that the resolution would have allowed men to marry several women without going to a court. Therefore, she explained, the marriages would not have been registered and, as a consequence, the first wife could easily have lost custody of her children. Women would have also lost the right to receive inheritance. Talabani even met with Paul Bremer, former U.S. representative in Iraq, to ask him to use his influence against the proposal. 'We would have been in a worse situation than the women of Afghanistan before the American occupation,' Al-Suwaij said. Resolution 137 was defeated this past March .
"Such victories bring with them significant risks, for women in general and Talabani and Al-Suwaij in particular. Iraqi women are often victims of rape and harassment, and a number of women have been killed. In March , gunmen killed two of the women who helped launch the Fatima al-Zahra Center for Women's Rights. Talabani and Al-Suwaij feel the risks are worth facing." Source: Harvard Gazette, November 18, 2004.
Constitution Will Not Protect Women
Yanar Mohammed, "one of Iraq's most vociferous activists, maintains the new constitution will not protect women or ensure them individual and equal rights. What's more, she lays a good deal of the blame at the feet of the United States. America, she believes, has abdicated its responsibility to help develop a pluralistic democracy in favor of paying off political allies in the Kurdish and Shiite communities. She says the United States is willing to allow a Shiite fundamentalist takeover, backed by Iran, in exchange for an exit strategy.
"'The U.S. occupation has decided to let go of women's rights to a group that can be a strong government,' Mohammed says. 'Political Islamic groups have taken southern Iraq, are fully in power there, and are using the financial support of Iran in recruiting troops and allies. The financial and political support from Iran is why the Iraqis in the south accept this, not because the Iraqi people want Islamic law.'
"Drafting the constitution, Mohammed says, 'is not for the interest of the Iraqi people but on what to give to certain groups. The Kurds want Kirkuk [an oil-rich city they consider the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan], and the Shiites want the Islamic Republic of Iraq, just like Iran's. The genie is out of the bottle in terms of political Islam [by Shiites] and the resistance [by Sunnis]. America will tolerate any conclusion so they can leave, even it means destroying women's rights and civil liberties. They have left us a regime like the Taliban. It's not limited to women's rights; it's a theocracy. Freedom to speak and self-expression are gone.'" 
- Akila al-Hashimi
- Ala Talabani
- Hind Makiya
- Narmin Othman
- Nesreen Mustafa Berwari
- Raja Habib Khuzai
- Rend Rahim Francke
- Safia Taleb al-Suhail
- Siham Hattab Hamdan
- Sondul Chapouk
- Yanar Mohammed
- Zainab Al-Suwaij
- Iraqi Women Rights Coalition (IWRC)
- Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI)
- Women for a Free Iraq
- Women for Women International
Bush administration on women's rights in Iraq
- Foreign Press Center Briefing: "The U.S. Commitment to Women in Iraq," Department of State, November 19, 2003. Audio link to briefing on page.
- Donna Miles, "Bremer Says Iraq Moving Forward on Women's Rights," DefenseLINK, March 8, 2004.
- Press Release: "President, Mrs. Bush Mark Progress in Global Women's Human Rights," White House (afgha.com), March 12, 2004.
- Fact Sheet: "United States Supports Women's Empowerment in Iraq. State Department fact sheet outlines U.S. programs for Iraqi women," Department of State, August 15, 2005.
Related SourceWatch Resources
- Amnesty International
- Exit Strategy from Iraq
- Human Rights Watch
- Iraqi Governing Council
- Iraqi national elections
- Iraqi sovereignty: Exit Strategy from Iraq
- Iraqi sovereignty: June 30, 2004
- Iraqi Transitional Government
- Iraqi unified resistance
- new Iraq
- Operation Iraqi Freedom: Year Three: Quagmire
- post-war Iraq
- Equality in Iraq.com
- Feminist Majority Foundation: Feminist Daily Newswire
- Independent Women's Forum.org (IWF)
- JURIST Legal News & Research: Women's Rights
- Women's eNews website.
- Women's Human Rights net
- Women's Rights Center, USAID website.
Articles & Commentary
- "Iraqi Women Condemn Atrocities Committed by Saddam Hussein Regime," Iraqi-American Council, October 8, 2002.
- Lindsey Brooks, "Iraq Women Speak Out About Life Under Saddam's Dictatorship," The Washington File (U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria), October 10, 2002.
- Daniel Williams and Peter Slevin, "Saddam's foes share a history of tragedy," Gulf News Online, December 17, 2002.
- Shazia Malik, "Iraqis want democracy to shape future," Gulf News Online, March 14, 2003.
- "Iraq's Voices of Freedom," Voice of America (Global Security), March 21, 2003.
- "Iraq's Voices of Freedom," Voice of America, March 24, 2003.
- Anna Badkhen and Danielle Haas, "Women losing freedoms in chaos of postwar Iraq. Shiite clerics move into power vacuum," SF Gate, May 24, 2003.
- Marie-Laure Colson, "Iraqi Women Have Lost the Post-War. Rapes, Sequestrations, and a Return to the Veil Develop," La Liberation (Truthout.org), September 2, 2003.
- Juan Cole, "Jostling for the Vacant IGC seat of Aqila al-Hashimi," Informed Comment, September 30, 2003.
- "Fear smothers women's rights," Aljazeera, October 6, 2003.
- "Iraqi Women Say Life in Iraq Has Improved since Saddam's Ouster. Speak to journalists at Washington's Foreign Press Center Nov 19," International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State, November 21, 2003.
- Nicholas Blanford, "A Shiite challenge divides Iraqis. US backs elections by March 2005; a key Shiite wants them by July 2004," Christian Science Monitor, December 3, 2003.
- Swanee Hunt, "Iraqi Women Step Out," Scripps Howard News Service, December 17, 2003.
- M.E. Sprengelmeyer, "Women struggle for rights in new Iraq," Scripps Howard News Service (Capitol Hill Blue), December 28, 2003.
- "Iraqi Women Council Members and Officers Face Discrimination," Feminist Daily News / Feminist Majority Foundation, January 8, 2004.
- Carol Norris, "Women’s Rights In Iraq and at Home Going Backwards," CODEPINK: Women for Peace, January 22, 2004.
- Jim Lobe, "Women's Rights in Iraq under the IGC. A Crisis is Brewing," ZNet, February 5, 2004; "Iraqi Governing Council Plans Latest Assault on Women's Rights in Iraq," Dissident Voice, February 7, 2004.
- Ashraf Khalil, "Women Call for Equal Representation in Iraq," WeNews, February 6, 2004.
- Ashraf Khalil, "Iraq's Women See Victory in Constitution," WeNews, March 4, 2004.
- Wayne Washington, "Bush touts support for women's rights," Boston Globe, March 13, 2004.
- "Iraqis Speak Out," On Point Radio.org NPR, March 19, 2004.
- Michael Rubin, "The Wrong Elections For Iraq," Washington Post, June 19, 2004.
- Swanee Hunt and Cristina Posa, "Where are the women in the new Iraq?" Boston Globe, June 22, 2004.
- Yanar Mohammed, "War of Starvation and Misery for Women in Iraq," Equality in Iraq.com, July 2004.
- Swanee Hunt and Cristina Posa, "Iraq's Excluded Women," Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC), July 1, 2004.
- Lucinda Marshall, "Betraying Iraqi Women," Tom Paine.Common Sense, July 16, 2004.
- Juan Cole, "Women's Issues in Iraq," Informed Comment, October 12, 2004.
- "Iraqi Women March Toward Elections," United States Department of State International Women's Issues Newsletter, Winter 2004.
- Maria Cristina Caballero, "Raising Their Voices. Iraqi women are fighting prejudice to regain the rights lost under Saddam--and to win themselves a say in rebuilding their country," Newsweek, 2005.
- "Fast Facts: Guests of the White House," Associated Press (Fox News), February 2, 2005.
- Swanee Hunt and Isobel Coleman, "Women's Rights: Iran's Bitter Lessons for Iraq,"
- "Manufacturing 'democracy'," Socialist Worker, February 11, 2005.
- Beth Potter, "Politicians see a bright future for Iraq," UPI (Washington Times), February 14, 2005.
- "Shiites miss majority but win biggest share. The interim prime minister's slate, backed by the United States, fared poorly," Chicago Tribune (vindy.com), February 14, 2005.
- Anne Barnard, "Shi'ite Muslims, Kurds big winners in Iraq vote. Religious coalition short on seats; Sunnis lose out," Boston Globe, February 14, 2005.
- Beth Potter, "For new lawmakers, emphasis is on basics," UPI (Washington Times), February 16, 2005.
- Borzou Daragahi, "Postelection parliament full of uncertainty," Washington Times, March 16, 2005.
- Hala Jaber, "Rebels kill Iraqi women as 'betrayers' of Islam," Times Online (UK), March 20, 2005.
- "RFI (Radio Free Iraq) Reports on Iraqi Women,", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 2, 2005. re Radio Free Iraq
- "Radio Almahaba, Reaching Iraq's Women," NPR, July 31, 2005.
- "Iraqi women demand rights in country's new constitution," Agence France Presse, August 1, 2005.
- "Women Losing Out in Parliament," Institute for War & Peace Reporting (PeaceWomen.org), August 3, 2005.
- Alissa J. Rubin and Asmaa Waguih, "Fighting to Preserve Women's Rights in Iraq," Los Angeles Times, August 7, 2005.
- "What Iraqi Women Want," On Point Radio.org NPR, August 8, 2005. WMP and Real Audio links.
- "Iraq Women Press for Rights," Assyrian International News Agency, August 9, 2005.
- "Women’s Groups Seek Constitution Delay. Iraqi women urge lawmakers to ensure their rights are protected," IWPR, August 10, 2005.
- "Iraqi Women Need Support and Solidarity. Women Appeal Against Curtailing of Rights," UNIFEM (peacewomen.org), August 10, 2005.
- Vivian Stromberg, "Protecting women's rights in Iraq. New constitution stands to usher in a deterioration of females' freedoms," Detroit Free Press, August 10, 2005.
- Mitchell Prothero, "Under the clerics' thumbs. Women's rights groups in the Middle East fear that Iraqi women will be the biggest losers in the country's new Constitution," Salon, August 13, 2005.
- Yanar Mohammed, "Yanar Mohammed speaks on Iraq's pending constitution," ww4report.com, August 16, 2005.
- Dexter Filkins, "Secular Iraqis Say New Charter May Curb Rights," New York Times, August 24, 2005.
- Andrew Hammond, "Iraq secularists denounce 'Islamist' constitution," Reuters, August 24, 2005.
- Amy Goodman, Yanar Mohammed: "Draft Constitution May Strip Iraqi Women of Basic Human Rights," Democracy Now! (aliraqi.org), August 25, 2005. Includes rush transcript.
- Jerry McGlothlin, "New Iraq constitution may throw women's rights into Stone Age," WorldNetDaily, August 26, 2005.
- "Iraq Constitution 'Big Disappointment' for Women," Feminist Daily News Wire, August 29, 2005.
- Sameer N. Yacoub, "U.S. deems Iraq women's rights paramount," Associated Press (SacBee.com), August 30, 2005.
- Alexandra Walker, "Bush Abandons Iraqi Women," Tom Paine.Common Sense, August 31, 2005.
- "Why women matter," Salon (peacewomen.org), August 31, 2005.