In a country ravaged by a war that has still not drawn to a close, the erosion of women’s rights has received little international publicity. But although in 1959 the law in Iraq was considered to be the most protective of women’s rights in the Arab countries, in 2014, the Iraqi council of ministers approved a new personal status law called Ja’afari, named after the sixth Shi’ite imam Ja’afar al-Sadiq. Many of the new Bill’s articles, including marriage at age nine, the legalisation of marital rape, and unconditional polygamy, are in breach of existing Iraqi laws, international agreements, and UN conventions on human rights, in particular those relating to women and children. If enacted, the bill will have disastrous consequences for the women of Iraq who are already suffering the devastating consequences of years of conflict, resulting in serious education, health and displacement problems.
Haifa Zangana, an Iraqi novelist, author, artist, and political activist, will discuss all these issues with us. Haifa grew up in Baghdad where she graduated at the School of pharmacy in 1974. She was imprisoned by the Baath regime, and on her release remained in Iraq to continue her studies. As a member of the PLO, she was the manager of the pharmaceutical unit, moving between Syria and Lebanon. She has written numerous books, the best known being Women on a Journey: Between Baghdad and London, and City of Widows and is also a contributor to European and Arabic publications such as The Guardian, Red pepper, Al Ahram weekly and Al Quds (weekly comment). She was a founding member of the International Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies and a member of the advisory board of the Brussel’s Tribunal on Iraq.