Lebanese American University


Fight for your rights!

IWSAW hosts a regional roundtable on the challenges facing Iraqi women seeking legal rights.

Organizers and participants gather for a group picture.

Panelist, IWSAW Director Dr. Dima Dabbous addresses the audience.

Click on any photo above for larger version.

On February 27-28, LAU’s Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW), Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Amman and the Women Empowerment Organization (WEO) hosted a joint regional roundtable on the challenges facing Iraqi women seeking legal rights.

The dynamic two-day discussion centered on the main body of Iraqi law and examined how it is affecting women’s lives. Participants included judges, lawyers, and activists in the region who looked at key laws that govern the elections, non-governmental organizations, citizenship, as well as the social security, personal status and family laws.

“What is noteworthy is that Iraq used to be the front runner of gender equality and now there is a significant difference in the Kurdish and Arab areas,” said Dr. Otmar Oehring, head of the KAS office in Amman.

Indeed, the Kurdish region has been able to make relative progress in the field of women’s rights in the last decade and the roundtable distilled the socioeconomic factors that have contributed to the sharp divergence between the Kurdish and Arab parts of Iraq.

According to human rights activist Dr. Bayan Azizi, one of the main reasons for the divergence is a result of Article 41 of the Iraqi constitution which gives every Iraqi the right to decide over his/her personal status freely and according to their religion - which leaves room for perilous consequences. “Since Kurdistan is fully autonomous, this article is not implemented,” explained Azizi.

Prominent Baghdadi lawyer Taamin Al-Azawi discussed the importance of committing to international agreements. She conceded that though Iraq is signatory to the UN’s Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, there “still remains reservations to certain provisions that limit the efficacy of the commitments that have been made.”

The reservations are placed on stipulations in the convention that safeguard equal rights in marriage and demand changes in national law to be in compliance with the obligations of the convention. “These reservations are not taken lightly since they really embody the very spirit of the convention,” warned Al-Azawi.

Susan Aref, director of WEO, said that the event was not organized simply to discuss the legal obstacles facing Iraqi women but also to define a methodology to conduct research to pinpoint them. “We need tangible proof of the challenges being faced on the ground so that we may effectively create change,” she explained.

Accordingly, the workshop will be followed by several meetings to present a carefully crafted research paper which will outline the discrimination faced by Iraqi women and will determine policy recommendations without contradiction to religion and state sovereignty.

A great success, the event was in step with IWSAW’s mission of empowering women and cultivating ties with international organizations and universities concerned with gender issues.

“This was an exceptionally constructive workshop because it included individuals who are in positions to make real change on the ground,” said Anita Nasser, assistant director of IWSAW.

Dr. Dima Dabbous, director of IWSAW concurred: “It is rare to participate in a workshop with so much enthusiasm, this event left me feeling with a great sense of optimism.”



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