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The drafting process of the Iraqi constitution attracted a great deal of international interest. In particular, the status of women was a matter of concern. As a review of the relevant passage shows, the document that ultimately emerged appears to meet international current standards on most counts. In comparison with other Islamic countries, it even contains some relatively forward-leaning passages, such as the article that in theory allows citizenship to pass through the mother as well as the father. However, these and other positive passages in the constitution are flawed by formulations that explicitly refer their interpretation by yet-to-be-instituted codes of law. This raises the concern that a parliament, dominated by conservative Shi'as, or crippled by sectarian divisions, could naturalize or even reverse the relatively progressive notion contained in the constitution. A second matter of concern relates to the process by which the constitution was crafted. During the final phases, contentious articles were subjected to heavy backroom negotiations and deal making that took place under complete exclusion of any women. Even the Minister of Women's Affairs was dependent on rumors to learn whether or not the articles, most important to the rights and well-being of female citizens, were being retained, changed, or dropped from the draft constitution. Advocacy groups and international observers will need to maintain their attention and focus on human rights and women's rights, as the emerging code of law and the manner and form of its implementation will be at least as important as the text of the constitution in determining the kind of society that emerges in Iraq.

Originally published in: EMMA, June 2005, pp. 62-68.

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