Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Juan Cole

The Baghdad/London daily az-Zaman reports that there were widespread demonstrations on Tuesday by women against the order decreeing abolition of Iraq's uniform civil codes in favor of religious law, which they say "repeals women's rights" in Iraq. This story appears to have been completely missed so far by the Western news media, which is a great shame. Women are important, too, guys.
Women activists representing 80 women's organizations (including the female Interim Minister of Public Works!) gathered at Firdaws Square in downtown Baghdad to protest the IGC decree, issued three days ago. Minister of Public Works Nasreen Barwari complained to az-Zaman about the lack of "transparency" and of "democratic consultation" in the promulgation of the decree by the IGC. Protesters carried placards with phrases like "No to discrimination, No to differentiating women and men in our New Iraq." and "We reject Decree 137, which sanctifies religious communalism." Activist Zakiyah Khalifah complained that the law would weaken Iraqi families.

The last two paragraphs:
Since the Interim Governing Council was appointed directly by the United States, it is in effect an organ of the Occupation Authority. As such, it is a contravention of the 1907 Hague Regulations for it to change civil law in an occupied territory. The US appointed a number of clerics and leaders of religious parties to the IGC, almost ensuring that this sort of thing would happen.
The US is now in the position of imposing on the Iraqi public, including the 50% who are women, a theocratic code of personal status. The question is whether this step is just the first in the road to an Iraqi theocracy.

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