Monday, July 25, 2005

Positives/Negatives - Iraq Constitution

The Iraqis are closer to having a final revision of the proposed constitution ready for the National Assembly to set the final wording and then for countrywide voting on August 15. The Sunnis have ended their boycott. And important measures are being emplaced.
In other areas, the chapter obtained by AP would make the judiciary independent, require public trials, ban torture and require a judicial order to detain anyone. Child labor, which flourished in the 1990s after the United Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq, would be banned.AP News
All the above are very positive and the Iraqis should be commended for including these safeguards for civil rights.
While not specifically addressing militias, the draft chapter would permit Iraqis to form only political parties and would ban individuals from possessing weapons.
Ensuring that Iraqis can form political parties is very progressive. Banning gun ownership will be problematic. It will be very difficult to enforce and I doubt if the Kurds will give up their arms willingly.
Also, the draft would prevent tens of thousands of Iraqi Jews who emigrated to Israel in the 1950s from getting back their Iraqi citizenship. It says only Iraqis who lost their citizenship after Saddam's Baath Party came to power in 1963 "will be allowed to get it back."
This is troubling. It seems to aim only at those Jews who immigrated to Israel. If Iraq is going to become a full-fledge democracy, it cannot start out by seeming to be discriminatory to Jews and must be willing to recognize Israel.
In the copy obtained by AP, Article 19 of the second chapter says "the followers of any religion or sect are free to choose their civil status according to their religious or sectarian beliefs."

Shiite Muslim leaders have pushed for a stronger role for Islam in civil law but women's groups argue that could base legal interpretations on stricter religious lines that are less favorable toward women.
This is the most troubling to me. Just a glance at demographics shows that countries that do not allow women equal rights are at the low end of the economic spectrum. The article goes on to explain that each person can choose which sect they want to join and that Shites offer full inheritance rights to women. While that maybe the case, women should not be denied the right to work, the right to choose who to marry, and to initiate divorce. Nor should a woman's vote count only as half a man's. Islamic law is unfairly balanced against women and the National Assembly should work very hard to ensure that it doesn't become the law of the land.

While this is not the final version, the National Assembly should ensure that women do not lose equal rights. Secular law should be given precedence over Islamic law. Greater effort must be made to ensure that all citizens of Iraq are treated as equals: Christians, Jews, Shites, Sunnis, Kurds, and any other group. I can only hope that the final version will be secular.