Monday, August 08, 2005

Baghdad demonstration: equal rights for women :: Mother Jones

Women from across the country held a demonstration in the capital recently, handing out fliers to passersby and wading into traffic to give pamphlets to drivers, to demand that Iraq's constitution contain an article ensuring equality for women. The most recent draft of the document lacks such an article, and would potentially place a number of matters of personal status under sharia, or Islamic law, thus putting women at a legal disadvantage in matters such as inheritance, divorce, and child custody.

The women held their demonstration in Firdos Square, less than a kilometer away from where Mijbil Issa, one of the constitutional committee members, was assassinated the same day. The demonstration was one of the few places in Iraq that Naghem Khadim, a women's right's activist from the conservative Shiite holy city of Najaf, two hours south of the capital, could find herself in the minority while wearing a hijab.

"We are not against sharia. But it should not be the only basis for writing the constitution. The liberals should be allowed to go ahead with their own ethics," Khadim said.

She also said that January's elections, for which the law stipulated that a third of the candidates should be women, were marred by the fact that many of the candidates remained anonymous because of security concerns, and that women had, as a result, elected women that did not represent them.

"We are under pressure from religious extremists and tribal influences," Khadim said. "We would like to get away from those and to have our human rights and to be treated like women anywhere else in the world."

The committee to draft the constitution now consists of nine women and 61 men. Four of the women on the council represent conservative Islamic political parties, which have been at the head of the push for sharia to play a major part in the document.


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