11/09/2017, 14.23
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Baghdad, the new law on civil status is 'similar to that of Daesh'

Approval of some amendments that risk submitting the country to Sharia. It will be possible to lower the marriage age for girls to 12. Imbalance in rights of women and non-Muslims (especially for Christians and Sabean). Member of parliament for Mosul: New law drags the country back 100 years.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - Political personalities and local human rights organizations strongly criticize some amendments to the civil status law, which risks submitting the country to Sharia. These are the amendments to the law of 1959 approved after the Revolution of 14 July 1958 under the government of Abdel Karim Kassem and considered at that time one of the most advanced laws on the rights of women and children.

The draft amendments were approved "in principle" a week ago by the Iraqi Parliament, while public opinion was distracted by the crisis with Kurdistan. According to some personalities, Iraq appears to have been released from Daesh, but the Islamist mentality is spreading to legislation violating the rights of women, children and non-Muslims (Christians and Sabean in particular).

At the time of the vote, fifteen opposition deputies abandoned the parliament in a vain attempt  to prevent the session reaching quorum.

The 1959 law had functioned well or badly for decades. It was first challenged in 2003 by the "Governing Council" set up by the American liberator / occupant with Decree no. 137 approved on December 29, 2003. On that day, the Council chaired by Abdelaziz Al Hakim issued the decree 137 which in the first paragraph sanctions "the need to apply Islamic sharia for marriage, dowry, marriage contracts, inheritance , divorces, child custody ... ". The second paragraph states "the annulment of any law contrary to the contents of the first paragraph". At that time the decree raised so much criticism in Iraq and abroad that in the end Paul Bremer had to erase it. 14 years on, Iraqi Islamists (Sunni and Shiite) are still trying to push it through.

At first glance the text is seemingly innocent and liberal, but the first and last amendments include the same paragraphs 1 and 2 of the 2003 decree. It states: "Persons subject to these judgments are permitted to request that the competent Civil Status Court to apply the dictates of sharia inherent in the civil status according to the confession of belonging" while the last article no. 9 (No 10 applies only to the entry into force of the law) states that "no other law in contravention of the present law is applicable".

This is despite article 41 of the Iraqi Constitution which states that "Iraqis are free to comply with the civil status according to their religion, confession, belief or choice, and this is regulated by law."

In reality it is an attempt to pass matters pertaining to civil status to Awkaf - as it was at the time of the Ottoman Empire, rendering non-Muslims second class citizens- or to religious tribunals in a country where the second article of the Constitution reads that "Islam is the official religion of the state and a fundamental source of legislation".

Rizan Sheikh Dler (pictured), Iraqi deputy and member of the "Women, Family and Childhood" committee, said: "This is a disaster for women." And she adds: "Applying this law recalls Daesh's treatment of girls, when it forced minors to marry with its militants while they were in Mosul and in Syria."

The law does not explicitly say it, but inspired by sharia, it is legal to set the minimum age for the marriage of girls to 12 years of age (which is the same both for the Shiite Jafarist and Sunni Salafi confessions). Some defenders of the law say that "marriages of minors often occur in daily life but are not officially registered until they reach legal age". Others emphasize that one cannot "forbid marriage with a minor in a society of believers".

Another concern regarding the introduction of Islamic law emerges from the statement by Farah El Siraj of Mosul (see photo), who claims that the new law "drags the country back 100 years",  to the time of the 'Ottoman Empire. "The new law, El Siraj says, permits a divorced woman custody of her male children [only] to two years of age," and "the girls are allowed to marry at the age of 12." For her, insisting on the application of this law "is contrary to international law and human rights ... and aims to appease religious fanatics and earn their votes." El Siraj maintains that this law is similar to the "effects of the law applied by Daesh in newly liberated areas".

Democratic activist Majida Al Jburi sees not only a violation of the rights of women and minors, but also and above all a discrimination against non-Muslim men and women, such as "the ban on non-Muslims to inherit from a Muslim; to allow Muslims to inherit from non-Muslims; children considered Muslims by law, if they have only one Muslim parent; the ban on non-Muslims to have the custody of the Muslim male children; the ban on Muslims to marry non-Muslims ". Then there is the question of testifying, "the rejection of the testimony of non-Muslims" and the "non-validity of testimonies made by non-Muslims in comparison to Muslims' testimonies", while Muslim women "are forbidden to testify except in rare cases ".

Iraqi Christian MP Josef Salyoa has asked Parliament to listen to the "voice of the people on the streets" and condemned the blitz carried out by Parliament to approve the amendments despite the lack of a quorum.

Iraqi philosopher Abdel Khalek Hussein describes the new law as "a crime against the rights of the child" and appealed to all the democratic and secular forces in the country to sign a petition and appeal to the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court to ask for an " annulment of the new law because it is unconstitutional. (PB)

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