Kurdistan: Kurdish Parliament Defies Baghdad

Associated Press
Legislators won't recognize proposed Shiite-backed family law, seen as setback for women.
The Kurdish parliament decided today not to recognize a Governing Council decision to change rules on divorce and other family issues - a move that outraged some Iraqi women who saw it as a setback for women's rights here.
In December, under the rotating presidency of Shiite cleric Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, the council voted to abolish the law regulating marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance, instead allowing different religious groups to apply their own traditions.

The Kurdish parliament said in a statement it was sticking to a family law passed in 1959 and the amendments that the Kurdish administrations have introduced to it.

The council's December decision raised strong opposition even among some of its own members. The decision has not been approved by U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer, who wields a veto.

Council member Mahmoud Othman, a Sunni Kurd, said the Governing Council decision was hasty and should have been deliberated with experts and women's organizations first. The decision passed by a slight majority instead of the necessary two-thirds, he said.

Under the secular Baath party of Saddam Hussein, Iraqi women enjoyed more rights - in education, the workplace and marital status - than those in many other Arab countries. Kurdish women, living under their own regional governments since 1991, have campaigned against the Governing Council decision.

However, some women's groups fear that the new influence of the conservative Islamic clergy since the collapse of Saddam's regime threatens the status of women in the future Iraq.