First, the issue of Islam and Shari'ah in the constitution. To date, the constitution has been changed several times. Earlier on, there was specific reference that Islam would be THE basis of law. Approximately a week ago, that was negotiated down to "one of the sources of law" in which some were willing to allow local religious courts to participate in adjudicating certain criminal and civil issues (like divorce) as an elective choice outside of the civil process....
While the changes to the draft are an improvement, it by no means guarantees that women in rural areas or areas controlled by religious parties will not be forced to go to these courts by their family and the area instead of seeking redress in civil courts. And it does not preclude “civil courts” applying shari’ah law. This is why this is important that it is civil, secular and equitable law that is the main source of law for all citizens.
[Note: I believe a similar arrangement exists in Israel, where Jewish religious courts exist side-by-side with secular courts. Unfortunately I am not knowledgeable enough about the details and ramifications of this system to discuss it here. Readers who are "in the know" about religious courts in Israel are invited to comment. - aa]
Second, women's rights in Iraq, prior to the invasion, is an interesting history and mix of culture and modern civilization. Long before Saddam Hussein was in power, the women of Iraq, like many other countries in the ME, had a women's rights movement in the 1920's. By the 1950s women had become very much "westernized" in appearance and education and by 1958, civil laws protecting their rights were introduced and had been the law of the land long before Saddam came to power.
You may be surprised to know that a similar movement took place in such countries as Bahrain, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan and even Saudi Arabia. As another poster has pointed out, this backwards move towards Shari'ah is a very new phenomenon if you count the last two decades as "new". This is not an issue of the United States forcing it’s own concepts or cultural ideas on another culture. This is an issue of protecting existing cultural and social standards against other groups supported by extremist governments outside of Iraq and who are using their superior funding and positions to impose an idea that IS actually foreign to Iraqi society (barring traditionalists that have lived in the rural areas by these same rules)....
Third, on the Israel “discrimination” issue, the latest draft has removed any reference to Israel and has actually removed the reference of Iraq as an "Arab" state since there are so many ethnicities within it's borders. This is good because it separates them from their surrounding countries that are less amenable democracy.
What this tells me is that there are logical and reasonable people drawing up this constitution and capable of compromise.
Fourth: representation in the Iraqi government for women. The TAL (or Transitional Authority Law) gave women 25% representation in the assembly and government offices. In the January election, every third candidate on the party lists was a woman and there is slightly over 25% representation in the assembly. There are also women on the constitution committee. The committee tried to remove the representation clause, but it was put back on in the last two days. Which means women still have some rights to representation, but it does not guarantee them protection under civil laws, particularly when some of these women are members of SCIRI or DAWA or other non-secular parties....
For the full seven-point article, go read Kat at the link.
Women protest in Najaf. Omar at Iraq the Model reports (August 4):
For the 1st time in Najaf, women go out in an independent protest demanding their full rights and condemning the parts of draft of the constitution that threatens the state of women rights.
The protest which took place in front of the office of the Najaf human rights organization yesterday was reported by radio free Iraq:
The responses to the draft that was announced on Al-Sabah on July 26th varied in the Najafi street between cautious agreement and total disagreement but one group of women went to the streets in a protest that is considered the first for women in Najaf.
The report also included an interview with Ms. Intisar Al-Mayali who organized the protest.When we asked Al-Mayali about the reasons behind the protest and the demands of the participating women, she said:
"Today we have women from 17 civil society organizations was organized to show that we strongly reject the parts of the proposed constitution that are against our rights as Iraqi women and this protest is in support of the memorandum we sent to the CDC in which we clarified our demands".
Then she details the women's demands and concerns:"We want to make clear that we're against any attempt to revive the notorious 137 personal affairs law which was born during the period of Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim when he was the head of the GC.
We want a civil law to govern issues like marriage and inheritance and we also want to reactivate the related international treaties that Iraq had already signed and approved long time ago and even the existing civil law that we support needs to be modified and improved in a way that matches the needs and rights of Iraqi women and we insist that Islam must not be the only source of legislation".
Basra in the summer isn't always fun, especially when the power's out and there's no air conditioning. Iraqi-American blogger Fayrouz, herself a Basrawi, interviews a woman who's living there now. Go to the link to get a "before and after" picture in words, and some thoughts about the British troops.