The drafting of Iraq's new constitution has been taking place mainly behind closed doors, and it was only in the last few weeks that Iraqis had a glimpse into the process when unofficial drafts were leaked to the media. What they saw alarmed pro-democracy Iraqis, especially women: language designating Iraq as an Islamic Republic, a clause granting clerics a special status in society as "religious and patriotic symbols," and a statement that Islam shall constituted "the basic source for legislation," rather than "a" source, opening the way for the rights of women and non-Muslim minorities to be curtailed in the name of religion. For more detail on the current drafts in circulation, see Kurdistan News.
Women's groups have lost no time responding. On Thursday, July 19, the Iraqi Women's Network, (Iraqi al-Amal), an umbrella group of close to 50 Iraqi women's groups, organized a sit-in in Baghdad's Fardous Square that rallied an estimated 200 people, followed by a meeting with the Constitutional Drafting Committee. Hanaa Edwar, the head of the Iraqi Women's Network, described the meeting in an e-mail to the Women's Alliance for a Democratic Iraq (the successor organization to the Women for a Free Iraq):
" It was the first opportunity for us as representing active part of the civil society organizations to meet with the sub-drafting committee. We've expressed our worry about very short time behind the drafting committee to accomplish its work in a close doors. We're still demanding for prolonging the dead line of writing the constitution in order to get the chance for Iraqi people to be involved actively in this very serious process".
Today, in Baghdad, a group of 16 prominent Iraqi women activists launched a campaign for strong protections for women's rights in the new Constitution, under the banner "More than One Source." They held a press conference in Baghdad where they listed their demands for the new constitution - see today's article in the Mail & Guardian, and photographs at yahoo. The campaign includes three of the founding members of the Women for a Free Iraq campaign, Rend el-Rahim, who served as Iraq's Representative to the United States in 2004; Safia al-Souhail, Iraq's Ambassador to Egypt (who also spoke at the State of the Union Address); and Zainab al- Suwaij, Executive Director of the American Islamic Congress; other campaign participants include Azhar Al Sheikli, Iraq's Minister of Women's Affairs, and Maysoon al-Damluji, Deputy Mister of Culture.
FDD has always believed that Iraqi women are a key to democracy in Iraq- they have the most to lose, and the most to gain, in Iraq's democratic process. FDD's Democracy Programs will seek to publicize the ongoing efforts of these brave women to fight back against the attempts by religious conservatives, backed by Iran, to ignore Iraq's religious and ethnic diversity and curtail the rights of Iraqi citizens.