Monday, August 29, 2005

Democracy in Action in Iraq

The Iraqi Constitutional Committee passed the draft constitution,(Reuters story) which will now be voted on by the Iraqi people on October 15th. Many Sunni Arabs are calling it an "illegitimate" document. Presumably their main complaint is that there was not enough Sunni representation in the Constitutional Committee. This lack of representation is the direct result of a boycott of the election by Sunni Arabs. They only have themselves to blame.

Hajim al-Hassany, a Sunni parliament spokesperson, said:
"I believe that any conscious person will reject this document due to its incompleteness and lack of rights for women and because Islamisation in a diverse country of ethnicities will not make us united."
Apparently democracy is alive an well for officials claiming that they are not protected enough by the proposed constitution even though it clearly outlines a "Bill of Rights" so to speak. Translated from the Constitution:
CHAPTER TWO: Rights and Freedoms

Part One: Rights

Article (14): Iraqis are equal before the law without discrimination because of gender, ethnicity, nationality, origin, color, religion, sect, belief, opinion or social or economic status.

Article (15): Every individual has the right to life and security and freedom and cannot be deprived of these rights or have them restricted except in accordance to the law and based on a ruling by the appropriate judicial body.

Article (16): Equal opportunity is a right guaranteed to all Iraqis, and the state shall take the necessary steps to achieve this.

Article (17):

1st — Each person has the right to personal privacy as long as it does not violate the rights of others or general morality.

2nd — The sanctity of homes is protected. They cannot be entered or searched or violated except by judicial decision and in accordance with the law.
Quite a bit is being made of just one portion of the text:
Article (2): First, Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation:

a) No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.

b) No law can be passed that contradicts the principles of democracy.

c) No law can be passed that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms outlined in this constitution.
This section is being exploited by those who wish democracy to fail as meaning that women will be stoned and beaten, and a theocracy, such as we see in Iran, will be the future government of Iraq. This is faulty thinking. To repeat the very first section under "Rights" it states, "Iraqis are equal before the law without discrimination because of gender..." It doesn't sound like an endorsement of having women in the society be viewed as slaves and property.

Also, the idea that having Islam as a component of the foundation for the new Iraqi government, equates it with the Islamic regime in Iran is just plain stupid. Iran is a theocratic dictatorship. The recent election was a mockery and a sham. The Shia people of Iran do NOT want to live like that. To suggest that the Iraqis would want to live that way is equally preposterous!

Talldave of Semi-Random Ramblings had a very well written article last week on the Iraqi constitution, where he looked at a few possible outcomes of the attempt to forge a constitution. One thing he said, that most people probably are not thinking, was that even if the Constitution is defeated, it is, in fact, a victory for democracy in Iraq. The will of the Iraqi people will have been heard, and a new parliament will be elected to try again. So long as Iraq doesn't break down into civil war, ANY diplomatic, electoral, or legislative process is a victory for progress in Iraq.

I'd have to say I agree with that.