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Draft Constitution May Strip Iraqi Women of Basic Human Rights

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Iraq’s parliament received a draft of the country’s constitution but delayed a vote for three days on the highly contested document to win support from Sunni leaders. The document stipulates Islam is the official religion of Iraq, and is a fundamental source for legislation. We go to Baghdad to speak with Iraqi feminist Yanar Mohammed. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We go directly to Baghdad right now to speak with feminist Yanar Mohammed. She and other women protested on Sunday in Central Baghdad saying that they feared lawmakers would approve a, quote, “fascist, nationalist and Islamist constitution that would strip women of many of their rights.” Welcome to Democracy Now!, Yanar Mohammed. Can you hear us?

YANAR MOHAMMED: Hi, Amy. How are you?

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. I’m glad we have this connection. Can you talk about the draft constitution, as you understand it, and why you’re so concerned?

YANAR MOHAMMED: We are looking at it right now, and all our fears have been realized. It is decided that Islam will be the main source of legislation. In other words, women have turned into second-rate citizens. And they had agreed on turning Iraq into a federalite, where the north will be a nationalist, a Kurdish nationalist part of Iraq where everybody from other nationalist nationalisms will be of less and less citizens. And in the south, they also want to create a Shiite federalite where all people of other religions will be less citizens. So they have agreed into dividing Iraq upon ethnic and religious lines, and they have decided to make women second-rate citizens.

The only thing that they have not agreed upon is how to share the wealth. That is the warlords — I think they have — they have qualified for the name the warlords. Each of them wants a bigger share of the oil in their pockets so as to rule that part of Iraq strongly against the others. They are federalized. They have agreed upon but were unable to impose it on some parts of the committee of writing the constitution, and they have asked for three days delay. Everybody knows that now.

They have set us now a blueprint that has started day one from a civil war inside Iraq upon ethnic and upon religious lines. And women have been turned second rate. And the day that we were fearing is here now. We have to face it. And it seems that they have agreed upon everything that is inhumane. The only thing they have not agreed upon is that every single warlord wants a bigger share of the oil. That is the only disagreement that they have in the parliament now.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Yanar Mohammed. In what way, or have there been any women giving input here?

YANAR MOHAMMED: The women that they have in the committee for writing the constitution are there just for decoration. Most of them, 48% of them, have voted yes for an Islamic constitution. They do not care about women’s interests. They are following the political party that they are from, which are mostly Islamist political parties. And the secular people in the government, and those are very minimum, have chosen to follow the majority and not to push for a human rights agenda and not to ask for it at all.

I have in front of me the chapter one from the constitution that determines very clearly that no article in below can go against the rulings of Islam. This is the priority. The second point is that no article in the law can go against the rules of democracy. In other words, if Islam says one man is equal to four women, that will be the basis, because following the rules of Islam is the priority. The second point, which says democracy and every citizen is equal to the other, this will be thrown in the garbage can, because it comes as a second priority. This is the draft that they have prepared for us, and this is the new Iraq that will be ruled, where the beginning of the civil war has just been legislated, and they call it a constitution.

AMY GOODMAN: Yanar Mohammed, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Feminist, Yanar Mohammed, speaking to us from Baghdad.

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