More on the Rights of Women

Riverbend over at _Baghdad Burning_ has more on the proposed changes to Iraqi civil law regarding marriage and family, which I “touched on”: yesterday. Because she’s an Iraqi woman in Baghdad, she’s got a pretty persuasive voice. Check it out.
Also, the _Financial Times_ does a nice job with this story on the subject, calling the proposed law a “sop” to the clerics. Now it seems obvious why it happened.

Opponents, mainly Iraqi women’s groups, say the measure is a sop to Islamic clerics, who are holding up agreement on the national political process.
Hamid Kifa’i, Governing Council spokesman, denied the text, which was approved with no announcement, was part of a political deal with clerics. “It is not a concession to fundamentalists, we don’t have fundamentalists in Iraq,” he said.

I’m not going to argue over who is or isn’t a fundamentalist, but when someone says “this is not a political deal,” it usually means it is. There are a number of conservative clerics in Iraq who would like to see the secular civil code replaced with laws more in keeping with Islamic law, _shari’a._ One of them is Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most senior Shi’a leader in Iraq. He’s been adamant in opposing the U.S. plans for the hand-over of sovereignty on June 30, and since November has been in sensitive negotiations with the Iraqi Governing Council over how the new Government of Iraq (GoI) will be selected.
Sistani wants direct elections to a national assembly that will form a transitional government. The Coalition Provisional Authority wants provincial caucuses. The reason for the impasse is that Shi’ites make up approximately 60 percent of the population of Iraq and direct elections would put them in the catbird seat. The CPA wants the provencial caucuses, because it says a national election is practical in so short a time. (But it _really_ doesn’t want direct elections because it fears the influence of Iran on a Shi’ite dominated Iraq.) On Jan. 19, the representatives from the CPA will meet with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in an attempt to get him to intercede with Sistani and persuade the cleric to go with the CPA plan.
Bubbling under the surface is the threat of unrest in the Shi’ite dominated south. In a peaceful march, tens of thousands of Shi’ites marched in Basra, chanting “No, no to America! Yes, yes to Sistani!” The message should be clear: The south is mostly pacified because Sistani and his allies wish it. They could equally wish it otherwise.
So that’s the background, and by now it should be obvious why the the IGC proposed changing the marriage and family laws. With the Shi’ites on board, the CPA plan for provincial caucuses can move forward and the U.S. troops can move out — whether there’s a burgeoning democracy or a theocracy in Iraq. The IGC and the CPA are selling out the Iraqi women in exchange for Sistani’s support.
Talk about faith-based policy making.

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