Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Women's Rights in Iraq

Among the various justifications for invading Iraq, many have turned out to be false: W.M.D.'s, W.M.D. programs, W.M.D. program-related activities, uranium sought from Africa, and connections of any sort to 9/11. False, false, false, false, and false. Then came the ideological options: democratization of Iraq and, by domino effect, the entire middle east. This one denied the conventional wisdom that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to peace in the region, which seems as true as ever now. Thus, that neo-con theory appears to be false. Then we also heard about women's rights. We are there to liberate women. Two reports today, however, put this into question. First, Juan Cole writes:
The . . . juvenilization of women, the rendering of them wards of men, can be seen in Bush's Iraq. Contrary to the propaganda Bush's team is so good at producing, the secular, Arab nationalist Baath Party had passed some of the more progressive laws and regulations about women in the Middle East. Iraqi women in the 1970s had unprecedented opportunities for education and entry into the professions. The Bushies like to pose as liberators of Muslim women, but they have brought to power Muslim fundamentalists who are obsessed with subjugating women.
Second, the NYTimes supports Cole's assessment in reporting that the new Iraqi Constitution (Article 14, to be exact) will curb previously held rights for Iraqi women:
A working draft of Iraq's new constitution would cede a strong role to Islamic law and could sharply curb women's rights, particularly in personal matters like divorce and family inheritance.

...Article 14 would replace a body of Iraqi law that has for decades been considered one of the most progressive in the Middle East in protecting the rights of women, giving them the freedom to choose a husband and requiring divorce cases to be decided by a judge.

...[W]omen's groups are incensed by Article 14, which would repeal a relatively liberal personal status law enacted in 1959 after the British-backed monarchy was overthrown by secular military officers. That law remained in effect through the decades of Mr. Hussein's rule.


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