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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05BAGHDAD3105
2005-07-27 08:33:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

TNA AND CONSTITUTION COMMITTEE WOMEN GIVE CODEL

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  KWMN  IZ 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 003105 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/27/2025
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KWMN IZ
SUBJECT: TNA AND CONSTITUTION COMMITTEE WOMEN GIVE CODEL
SHAYS ONE VIEW ON WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND THE CONSTITUTION

REF: BAGHDAD 3014

Classified By: Political Counselor Robert Ford.
Reasons 1.4 (B) AND (D).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 003105

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/27/2025
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KWMN IZ
SUBJECT: TNA AND CONSTITUTION COMMITTEE WOMEN GIVE CODEL
SHAYS ONE VIEW ON WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND THE CONSTITUTION

REF: BAGHDAD 3014

Classified By: Political Counselor Robert Ford.
Reasons 1.4 (B) AND (D).


1. (C) SUMMARY. Women from the Transitional National
Assembly, including from the Constitution Committee,
told CODEL Shays and Ambassador on June 25 that
women's rights would be protected in the draft
constitution. They contended that it is a lack of
understanding of the precepts of Islam that drives the
fear Shari'a's potential role in the constitution, not
shari'a itself. The women insisted that, under
Shari'a, men and women are equal before the law. It
is only with respect to personal status that equality
could be compromised. Participants conceded that,
overall, women are not unified on the issue of whether
religion should be addressed in the constitution.
However, they claimed, there is consensus that
personal status should be regulated by sect. They
also indicated they want laws that do not contradict
with Shari'a but do not want to impose Shari'a on
anyone. The Embassy is fully engaged on this issue
and urging women across the spectrum in Iraq to
develop a consensus viewpoint about how best to defend
their rights so that we can weigh in with them. END
SUMMARY.


2. (C) Female Transitional National Assembly (TNA)
and Constitution Committee members told CODEL Shays
and Ambassador on July 25 that women's rights would be
protected in the draft constitution. In addition to
Shia Coalition members Asma'a al-Shaboot and Amal
Hussein al-Jabiri, Constitution Committee members
Munira Abdul Muhammad (Kurdish Alliance), Nerkaz Majid
Ammeen (Kurdish Alliance), and Ala'a al-Sa'adoun
(Sunni negotiating team) agreed that the draft
constitution should include a provision mandating that
no legislation should contradict Shari'a. They
expressed confidence that, regardless of how large a
role Islamic law will ultimately play in the
constitution, there would be no resultant degradation
of women's rights.


3. (C) Both al-Shaboot and al-Jabiri contended that
fear of a greater role for Shari'a in the constitution
comes from a lack of understanding of the precepts of

Islam. Further, said al-Jabiri, men have
traditionally interpreted Shari'a to meet their own
ends, which has negatively impacted the rights of
women. Under Shari'a, she insisted, men and women are
equal before the law. It is only with respect to
personal status that equality could be compromised.
The real concern, said al-Jabiri, is that Shari'a will
not "allow a secular woman to rise and better
herself."


4. (C) "We want laws that do not contradict with
Shari'a," said al-Shaboot, "but we do not want to
impose Shari'a on anyone." Added al-Sa'adoun, "We
want progressive laws that promote women's rights."
Using the hotly debated issue of polygamy as an
example, al-Shaboot explained that, while Shari'a
allows for polygamy, it does not say a man "must" have
more than one wife. Thus, she argued, it is possible
to draft legislation that would protect women who do
not believe in this concept -- i.e., the first wife's
permission would be required before her husband could
take another wife -- yet not contradict Shari'a.


5. (C) The Ambassador expressed concern that the
constitution texts not harm women's equal rights on
issues like inheritance, marriage and divorce. Al-
Shaboot acknowledged that some women have interpreted
language proposed for inclusion in the draft
constitution as limiting the rights they currently
enjoy under the Personal Status Law No. 188 of 1959.
A specific point of contention, noted al-Shaboot, was
the article regulating an individual's personal status
(No. 14), which mandated the regulation of an
individual's personal status in accordance with
his/her religion. Although she interpreted this
language as giving an individual the opportunity to
choose the code by which he/she would be regulated,
she said many secular, non-Muslim women fear that it
would bind them to Islamic law. (NOTE: This article
has been included in only one of the draft versions --
the July 17 draft -- that we have seen thus far. That
article read "The Law shall regulate civil affairs of
Muslims and others in accordance with their religion
and personal sect." The July 21 draft did not have
it. END NOTE.)

6. (C) However, said al-Shaboot, in a meeting with
Constitution Committee members following a July 19
protest (ref A) organized by these women, Committee
members allayed many of those fears, including
concerns that Law No. 188 would be obviated by
language such as in once-proposed Article 14.
(COMMENT: International interlocutors who attended
the same meeting told PolOff on July 23 that some
women felt the Committee turned a deaf ear towards
their concerns and used the meeting as a forum to
defend the Committee's draft. This divergence of
opinions underscores the lack of a unified
understanding on the impact of Shari'a law in the
constitution. END COMMENT.) Al-Sa'adoun added it is
imperative that the right for a person to choose the
personal status law applicable to him or her be
written into the law.


7. (C) The women conceded that, overall, women are
not unified on the issue of whether religion should be
addressed in the constitution. However, they claimed,
there is consensus that personal status should be
regulated by sect and individuals should have the
right to choose a progressive civil code as an
alternative -- even though this has yet to be formally
decided in the context of the constitution. Al-
Sa'adoun said the current personal status code, which
many consider to be the most progressive in the
region, is a composite of the best aspects of the
personal codes of all sects. She insisted, and her
colleagues agreed, that Law No. 188 should not be
replaced unless it can be improved.


8. (C) When asked whether they saw Shari'a as
limiting their rights, each woman answered that it
does not -- despite the fact there is a widely held
perception that this is the case. Al-Jibiri pointed
out that Iraqi women engage without restriction in
normal, everyday activities like everyone else --
driving, working, and participating in the Government
-- none of which contradicts with the precepts of
Islam.


9. (C) Muhammed made the final comments, predicting
that the draft constitution would include a quota
requirement of not less than 25 percent (women
currently comprise 32 percent of the TNA).
Additionally, she noted that there would be a two-term
(eight year) limit to the quota. (NOTE: Acting
Minister of Human Rights Narmin Othman told PolOff on
July 26 that information she had received from the
Committee earlier in the day indicated that the term
limit had been removed from the latest version of the
draft, and that Shari'a would be 'a' source, not 'the'
source or even a 'main' source. A well-connected
Western journalist told us July 27 that her women
sources also are telling her that the amendments
coming forward to the July 21 draft are improving the
protections for women. We are far from the end of
negotiations, however. END NOTE.)

--------------
COMMENT
--------------


10. (C) It must be noted that these women present a
somewhat one-sided view regarding the debate on
women's rights in the context of the constitution
drafting process. There are Iraqi women who are more
vocal in their worries about Islamic Shari'a and
women's rights. Interestingly, the two Kurdish women
generally agreed in principle with their more
conservative counterparts; some of our other Kurdish
women contacts are quite vocal about keeping
references to Shari'a out of the text. This meeting
serves to remind that there is a large bloc of Iraqi
women who are more comfortable about references to
Shari'a. This divergence of viewpoints, even among
Iraqi women, makes determining what would be the
optimal text to protect women's rights a deeper, more
complex discussion. Were Iraqi women themselves to
develop a consensus viewpoint on how women's rights
and Shari'a should be handled in the final draft text,
they would be better able to lobby for it. The
Embassy is fully engaged on this issue and urging
women across the spectrum in Iraq to develop a
consensus viewpoint about how best to defend their
rights so that we can weigh in with them. We see
hints that a consensus may develop for general
language in the draft constitution that leaves open
choice for using either sectarian courts or a Law 188-
like code. END COMMENT.


11. (C) BIODATA:

Nerkaz Majid Ameen, a Sunni Kurd from Irbil, was
elected to the TNA on the Kurdish List and is a member
of the PUK. She is a member of the Constitution
Committee. Nerkaz holds a law degree and is a judge
in Sulamaniyah.

Munira Abdul Muhammad, a Sunni Kurd from Sulamaniyah,
was elected to the TNA on the Kurdish List and is a
member of the PUK. She is a member of the
Constitution Committee and on the Shape of the Ruling
System Sub-Committee. Muhammad, who earned a degree
in Chemical Science at Baghdad University, is a member
of the Kurdistan Women's Union and was a member of the
Interim National Assembly.

Amal Musa Hussein al-Jabiri, a Shi'a Islamist from
Karkh, Baghdad, was elected to the TNA on the 169 List
and is a member of the Da'wa Party. Al-Jabiri, who is
fluent in English and French, was trained as a medical
doctor, serving Al Amarah, Sulamaniyah, and Baghdad.
She was also a member of the Interim National Council.

Asma'a al-Shaboot, a Shi'a Islamist from Kut, Wasit,
was elected to the TNA as the number three candidate
on the 169 List and is a member of the Iraqi Future
Gathering Party. She is a professor at the Marine
College in Baghdad and a member of the Shi'a Political
Council.

Ala'a Abd Allah Hamoud al-Sa'adoun, a Sunni Arab from
Basrah, was selected by the Sunni Conference to
participate on the Constitution Committee. She is
also a member of the Rights, Duties, and General
Freedoms Sub-Committee. She is the Vice-President of
the Islamic League for Iraqi Women and a student of
Islamic science. END BIODATA.


12. (U) REOs Hillah, Basrah, Kirkuk, Mosul minimize
considered.


Khalilzad