The following is an archived copy of a message sent to the CASI Analysis List run by Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq (CASI).

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [CASI Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [casi-analysis] Iraqi GC Law 137 and its potential effect onIraqi women's status

[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ]

Thanks for this Cathy. The law has been covered in a few places in the
western media, but, as you say, it's been ignored to a surprising extent.
I've pasted below 4 information sources which may help clarify. The first
is the text of the law (a BBC translation of the arabic at Second, an article from the Herald, 21.1.04, which
doesn't display any particularly new information or expertise. Finally,
two TV transcripts/translations (via BBC monitoring, again): an intriguing
interview with Pachachi on Kurdish television, and a piece on Abu Dhabi

From this, it seems that the law isn't really be law. According to
Pachachi, "I think the decision will not be implemented. It is a decision
that is full of legislative loopholes. It was not even approved by the IGC
in a normal way." [3]
This implies that the IGC doesn't expect its laws to be implemented (you
may already have suspected this, but it's interesting to hear it from one
of the IGC's leading members). This concurs with the WaPO article, which
says that "The council's decisions must be approved by L. Paul Bremer, the
chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, and aides said unofficially that his
imprimatur for this change was unlikely."

Pachachi's allegation about IGC procedure ("it was not even approved by
the IGC in a normal way") is also odd in light of the WaPo's claim that
137 was "narrowly approved by the 25-member council in a closed-door
session Dec. 29". If it was so vigorously debated at the time, why did
nobody complain about whatever shennanigans were going on and prevent the
decree being promulgated?

Anyone know what the non-normal approval process was (apart from a
convenient way for IGC members to disclaim responsibility)? My first
thought was that perhaps only a few members were present - I don't know of
any quoracy requirement. The other possibility is that it's beyond the
GC's remit. [4] quotes a judge: "This decision is not as valid as law No
188 issued in 1959 which was issued in accordance with the constitution
and a legal force that is superior to decisions", and a statement from
protesters "the IGC does not have the right to issue such a decision
without issuing a new constitution and forming a new Iraqi government".

So this "law" will probably just be a worrying blip. However, it does make
me wonder what is in the other 136 (or more) IGC decrees, and why don't we
hear more about them?

Bremer, it seems, has to sign off on IGC decrees before they become law. A
couple of the CPA's orders (e.g. #50) mention that they are confirming GC
resolutions, and it's possible a few others do without mentioning this,
but where have the rest got to?

The first possibility is that Bremer has rejected them. The UN and CPA
regulations see the GC as the "principle body of the Iraqi interim
administration", and require a consultative process of government between
GC and CPA, so Bremer rejecting a GC resolution should be big news.
Alternatively, he has passed them and the media hasn't picked up on this.
I can believe the western press overlooking a few laws, but find it harder
to imagine the Iraqi press doing so. Has anyone noticed coverage?
The final possibility is that Bremer's just not dealing with them. This
seems most likely, given the CPA's attitude to timing (order 50 was passed
by the GC in August, but by the CPA only a couple of weeks ago), but is a
pretty terrible way to treat your designated representatives of the Iraqi


[in Arabic at, this translation via BBC monitoring,

"In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate: At its session held
on 29 December 2003, the Iraqi Interim Governing Council [IGC] passed the
following law:
1. The provisions of the Islamic Shari'ah shall be implemented with
respect to cases concerning marriage, engagement, marriage contract, legal
competence, testimonial proof of marriage, muharramat [marriages
prohibited according to Islam], marriage to Christian and Jewish women,
marital rights - including dowry [sum of money a husband pays to his wife
upon marriage], alimony, divorce, legal separation, divorce [in return for
monetary compensation to be paid by the wife to the husband], uddah
[period during which a widow may not remarry], relationships by marriage,
wills, bequeathals, waqf [religious endowment], and inheritance. This law
shall be implemented in all religious courts (personal status) in line
with the provisions of the schools of Islamic thought.
2. All laws, decisions, instructions, statements, and clauses of articles
that contradict Clause 1 of this law shall be abolished.
3. This law will go into effect as of its date of issue.
[Signed] IGC President Abd-al-Aziz al-Hakim
[Dated] 29 December 2003."

2) Democracy? Not if you are Iraqi women, Jackie Kemp, Herald, 21/1/04, by
January 21, 2004. I don't think this is available online, so I've pasted
it below.

haria law, the Islamic code that explicitly discriminates against women,
has been approved by the Governing Council of Iraq. Strangely, although

of Iraqi women demonstrated against the move last week, there was little
coverage. The Financial Times and the Washington Post reported the story,
but that was about all.

The US-led Governing Council appears to have drafted a proposal to allow
Iraqis to use tribal Sharia courts to settle family matters on a voluntary
basis in December, but news of it only leaked out last week.

The decree has not yet been signed by administrator Paul Bremer, but will
probably take effect in June, after the handover of power is complete.

Sharia includes the penalty of stoning to death or flogging for sex
outwith marriage, but even if this part is not implemented

it specifically discriminates against women in family and divorce law,
stating, for instance, that a daughter must inherit half as much as a son.

How "voluntary" will adherence to it be for women living in religious
areas? Iraqi women's groups are outraged, saying this will move women's
rights backwards in Iraq, where there has been a secular, civil system of
family law until now.

The move smacks of the Bush administration's increasingly panic-stricken,
election-driven desire to get shot of Iraq. This looks like an attempt to
win over powerful clerics who are opposed to the current US plan of
holding indirect elections in a few months and handing over the rebuilding
of the country to an interim administration.

The clerics are demanding full, general elections. But moderate Iraqis
have hardly begun to organise, and direct elections would undoubtedly
consolidate the power of the religious right and extremists.

There is more to democracy than majority rule: the rights of minorities
must be protected. Hitler was elected but he was far from a democratic

Making concessions over Sharia illustrates just how desperate the
coalition must be for an exit strategy. After all, what did "we" fight the
war for? The gunboat liberals increasingly assert that we sent our troops
to a foreign land in order to impose democracy and a respect for human

...[some generalized ranting about Blair, etc. The author seems to think
US/UK were behind GC resolution 137, something I find pretty hard to

The biggest threat to the women of Iraq now is the spread of this kind of
religious extremism which seeks to take away their choices and force them
to obey oppressive, misogynistic rules.

It will be ironic if the involvement of Britain and America creates a
situation in which the secular laws of Iraqi civil society are undermined
by Sharia.

17/01/2004 Iraq: Coalition official says bill on women's status will not
be endorsed
The Iraqi women and women's rights activists held a conference yesterday
in the Al-Sayd Club in the capital Baghdad. The chairman of the Iraqi
Governing Council, [IGC], Adnan al-Pachachi, a number of the IGC members,
Iraqi ministers, a representative from the Coalition Provisional Authority
[CPA] and representatives from women organizations and associations
attended the conference to express the rejection of the Iraqi woman of the
IGC Decision 137.
[Reporter - recording] The women's rights activists held a conference in
the Iraqi Al-Sayd Club in the presence of the chairman of the Iraqi
Governing Council, Adnan al-Pachachi, and a number of the IGC members and
ministers to express support for the rejection of the Decision 137 of 29
December 2004, which abolished the Personal Status Law in Iraq. The
Personal Status Law was issued in the aftermath of 14 July 1958 Revolution
in order to give the Iraqi women a real role and to grant them some of
their legitimate rights.
The announcement of Decision 137 generated wide spread resentment among
the Iraqi political and social forces. Some sides criticized the decision,
described by the Iraqi parties and groups as reactionary. Hundreds of
Iraqi women organized a sit-in in the capital Baghdad to express their
denunciation and condemnation of the bill. The Iraqi women activists
stressed the need to open up opportunities for women to practise their
role in the building of Iraq.
[Passage omitted: A democratic Iraq cannot be rebuild without active
participation of women]
[Adnan al-Pachachi - recording in Arabic] I am very pleased to attend this
women's conference and hope that conferences and protests continue so that
women can play their role in social life. I think that this decision has
created a good start because this is the first time women vigorously
protest against an unjust decision that suppresses the rights,
responsibilities and the role of women in the Iraqi society. [End of
[Reporter] Are you going to annul the decision?
[Al-Pachachi] I think the decision will not be implemented. It is a
decision that is full of legislative loopholes. It was not even approved
by the IGC in a normal way. [End of recording]
The CPA representative said the CPA did not support the decision, and it
had CPA rejected it because it deprived women of their rights.
The representatives from Iraqi women's organizations and associations have
expressed their rejection the decision.
[Passage omitted: unidentified women attendees express their views about
the bill]
Source: KurdSat TV, Al-Sulaymaniyah, in Sorani Kurdish 1200 gmt 17 Jan 04

4) 23/01/2004 Iraqi women protest decision to introduce Shar'iah into
family law
Iraqi women have staged mass demonstrations in all Iraqi governorates,
from the north to the south, in protest against decision No 137 issued by
the interim [Iraqi] Governing Council [IGC], which stipulates the
implementation of Islamic law in civil status affairs, contrary to the
previous law. This decision abolishes decision 188 of 1959 regarding civil
status affairs. The demonstrators considered the decision as unfair to
women, claiming that it consecrates sectarianism and division inside Iraqi
[Judge Zakiyah Haqqi - recording] This decision abolishes all laws,
decisions and regulations. This decision is not as valid as law No 188
issued in 1959 which was issued in accordance with the constitution and a
legal force that is superior to decisions. [End of recording]
The demonstrators submitted a memorandum of protest to the IGC in which
they expressed their rejection of the decision. They noted that the IGC
does not have the right to issue such a decision without issuing a new
constitution and forming a new Iraqi government. They also stressed the
importance of activating the role of women in the future political
[Iraqi Hope Society member Hana al-Wirr - recording] We would like to
express our stand with respect to activating the political role of women.
Our position reflects the feelings of women's organizations in Baghdad and
other governorates and not individuals. [End of recording]
The protesters criticized the mechanism of issuing the law without
consideration to transparency and democratic channels and without allowing
people to discuss it. They said that this decision was more sensitive to
the Iraqi society's sects. To ensure the active participation of women in
the political process and decision-making, the protesters demanded that
women receive at least 40 per cent of the seats on the interim council and
governorate councils.
It seems that Iraqi women have started to demand the removal of all forms
of discrimination against them, taking into consideration the historical
role of Iraqi women in the political and social fields. [video shows
demonstrations and IGC session]
Source: Abu Dhabi TV, in Arabic 1100 gmt 23 Jan 04

Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list
To unsubscribe, visit
All postings are archived on CASI's website at

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]