August 3, 2005 | Press Release

Iraqi Women Fighting to Save Rights in Draft Constitution


Groups will discuss campaign at National Press Club event 8/4


WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 3, 2005) — Representatives of two women's groups fighting to preserve women's rights in Iraq's new constitution will be in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, August 4, to rally support for their cause.


Zainab al-Suwaij, executive director of the American Islamic Congress, and Basma Fakri, president of the Women's Alliance for a Democratic Iraq, will appear at a “Newsmaker” event at the National Press Club, at noon, 8/4 in the Zenger Room.  They are the U.S. representatives for the Iraq-based More Than One Source campaign and the Iraqi Women's Network (Amal), respectively.  They will also meet with government officials and NGOs.


Women in Iraq are protesting language in the draft constitution that makes Islam the sole source for Iraqi law, opening the way for the imposition of Islamic family law, or Shari'a.  Since the 1950's, family issues have been subject to civil law, but the new constitution, as currently drafted, would make it subject to clerical courts — a big step backwards for Iraqi women.  Under Shari'a, women can be denied custody rights of their children; they can be subjected to their families approval to pursue academic studies or work; a woman can forced by her family to wear a headscarf or other clothing, and, most perilous for Iraq's future democracy, women can be prohibited from holding positions of power.


The deadline for approving the constitution is Aug. 15.  Leaders of the campaign in Iraq include Rend al-Rahim, the former Iraqi representative to the U.S., and Safia al-Suhail, Iraq's ambassador to Egypt and known to American audiences for her appearance at the last State of the Union address.


The Iraqi Women's Educational Institute (IWEI), a joint project of the American Islamic Congress, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and the Independent Women's Forum, supports efforts by Iraqi women leaders to establish equal rights for women in the new constitution, and will participate in the Press Club event.


For more information, please see this Agence France Presse article, “Iraqi Women Demand Rights in Country's New Constitution.”