Contact: Christie Hobbs
Phone: (202) 349-5889

WASHINGTON, DC — 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, Aug. 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 on Aug. 4 in the Zenger Room. (For more details, please see the NPC advisory below.) 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 touching hug with a mother who lost her son in Iraq 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.

Click here to read Basma Fakri’s speech.

For more information, or to schedule an interview, please contact:
Christie Hobbs
Independent Women’s Forum
(202) 349-5889

Tanya Gilly or Bill McCarthy
Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
(202) 207-0190

Kathryn Coughlin
American Islamic Congress
(617) 621-1511

NPC Advisory:

National Press Club “NOON NEWSMAKER” News Conference
Thursday, August 4, 2005, Noon
National Press Club (Zenger Room)

The Executive Director of the American Islamic Congress, MRS. ZAINAB AL-SUWAIJ, and The President of the Women’s Alliance for a Democratic Iraq, MRS. BASMA FAKRI will discuss oppositition to language in Iraq’s draft constitution that would make Islam the sole source for Iraqi law.

Mmes. Al-Suwaij and Fakri will speak about what Iraqi women’s groups are doing to protect women’s rights in the new constitution, how the U.S. and non-governmental organizations can help, and what Islamic law (Sharia) means for Iraqi women, who are approximately 60% of the population. Also present will be representatives of US NGOs working on democracy and women’s rights in Iraq.