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Cablegate: Ahad Al-Iraq Shows Promise in Building

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 004976

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM KDEM IZ
SUBJECT: AHAD AL-IRAQ SHOWS PROMISE IN BUILDING
CROSS-ETHNIC, CROSS-SECTARIAN COALITION FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS
AND HUMAN RIGHTS

1. (U) Summary. 'Ahad al-Iraq (Iraq's Promise) held a
press conference in Baghdad on December 12 to announce that
a cross-sectarian, cross-ethnic group of more than 270
politicians, political parties and NGO's had signed their
pledge to support five specific legislative reforms to
advance human rights and women's rights in the
implementation of the new Iraqi constitution. The event
was well-managed for television, which is now the principal
vehicle for political communication in Iraq -- at least for
those parties without networks of mosques. Seven
television networks covered the press conference.
Sophisticated campaign collateral was used to promote the
event and the human rights and women's rights goals the
group is trying to advance with Iraqi political leaders.
The group wants to see Iraqi politicians who campaign on
promises to promote human rights and women's rights held
accountable for delivering on those promises after the
December 15 election. End summary.

2. (U) 'Ahad al-Iraq (Iraq's Promise) held a press
conference in the Baghdad Convention Center on December 12
to announce the success of their program to attract
cross-ethnic, cross-sectarian political support for their
campaign to advane wome's rights and human rights in
Iraq. The seven women on the dais represented Iraqi
liberal, centrist and moderate Islamist views. (Three
covered their hair; four did not.) The group organized
itself in July to carry out a three-part program: to
influence Iraqi political leaders to adopt constitutional
provisions that protect and advance women's rights and
human rights, to get the constitution adopted, and to
educate the Iraqi public on and build support for women's
rights and human rights in the December 15, 2005 election
and in the implementation period afterwards.

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3. (SBU) 'Ahad al-Iraq's membership bridges the NGO and
political worlds. Among its members are civil society
leaders and a number of candidates for the Iraqi Council of
Representatives (CoR). The press conference illustrated
the maturation of Iraqi politics. Some 71 people attended,
including politicians, journalists, NGO's and their staff,
with press conference moderator Azhar al-Shaykhly, Minister
of State for Women's Affairs, announcing that an early road
closure in much of Baghdad had held up some of those
wanting to attend. The main purpose of the conference was
to get television coverage for the group's pledge and, not
coincidentally, to highlight support of Iraq's leading
politicians for the pledge. Everything was focused on
television coverage. Seven television networks sent
cameras, including al-Iraqiyya, al-Sharqiyya, Sumeriya,
Baghdadiyya, and al-Arabiya. Politicians who had signed
the pledge and attended the press conference were invited
first to join 'Ahad al-Iraq members on the dais for a
televised camera spray. Several gave short speeches that
gave them extra camera time. A select number, including
Maysoon Damaluji (on the National Iraqi List (731) for
Ninewa province), and Mithal al-Aloosi (on the eponymous
Mithal al-Aloosi for Iraqi Nation (620) list), gave
one-on-one interviews to al-Iraqiya and Baghdadiya
networks. (Note: As a sober reminder of the mood of
centrist Iraqi politics today, Damaluji quipped to PolOff
as she was being pulled aside to give an interview to one
television network "I may say something that will get me
killed." End note.)

4. (U) The core of the current phase of 'Ahad al-Iraq's
campaign has been to get leading centrist and moderate
Muslim politicians to sign a pledge to reform five
provisions of the constitution and to develop constructive
provisions in the implementing legislation in the new Iraqi
constitution. The group wants (1) human rights guaranteed
by article 16 to be enforceable by Iraq's High Commission
for Human Rights; (2) a law to ensure that article 36,
which guarantees free speech provided it is "does not
disturb public order and morality" cannot be used to
silence criticism of the government or freedom of assembly;
(3) a law that interprets article 39 to guarantee Iraqis a
choice of the civil courts, not just religious courts, to
resolve personal status issues; (4) the law determining
membership on the Federal Supreme Court to require that
judges be experts in civil law and that experts in Islamic
jurisprudence should be advisory only, (5) to ensure that
the Iraqi High Commission on Human Rights can be effective
in promoting human rights within the government. The group
also wants to see only the universally agreed tenets of
Islam be used as a referent for legislation, and for the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be used as one of
the bases of determining whether legislation is in accord
with democratic principles.

5. (U) More than 270 political personalities, parties and
NGO's had signed their pledge, including most prominent
members of the Iraqi liberal, centrist and moderate Muslim
democratic parts of the spectrum. Signatories to the
pledge included former President Ghazi al-Yawer; former
Prime Minister Ayad Allawi; three Deputy Prime Ministers --
Ahmad Chalabi 'Abd Mutlak al-Jabury, and Rosch Shaways,
former Deputy Prime Minister and current Planning Minister
Barham Salih; former Human Rights minister Bakhtiar Amin;
former Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Layla 'Abd
al-Latif; President of the Transitional National Assembly
(TNA) Hajim al-Hassani, Deputy President of the National
Assembly Arif Tayfoor Arif; former Iraqi Governing Council
(IGC) member Adnan Pachachi, TNA member and sometime UIA
spokesman 'Ali al-Dabbagh; TNA member Mithal al-Aloosi; TNA
member and Iraqi Interim National Conference president
Fu'ad Ma'sum; Minister of the Environment Nermain Othman
Hassan; TNA member Shaykh Husayn 'Ali al-Sha'lan; National
Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubay'e; TNA member and former
IGC member Yonadan Kanna, PM Ja'fari's spokesman Laith
Kubba; Iraqi Communist Party leader Hamid Majid Musa,
former IGC member Raja'a al-Khuza'i, former IGC member
Ahmad al-Barak; TNA member Amal Kashif al-Ghita of the
United Iraqi Alliance (UIA); politicians Adnan al-Duleimy;
'Aziz al-Yassiri; and Hatem Mukhlis.

6. (U) Sadrist politician Sami al-Askari also signed, as
did former IGC member Songul Chapouk; TNA member Izzat
al-Shabandar; and KDP's Dilshad Muran. Other parties that
signed or had members who signed include Faily Kurds, Iraqi
Turkomen, the Kurdish parties, the National Iraqi List, the
Iraqi Islamic Party, Sunni parties, Assyrian Christian
parties, tribal parties, the Royal Constitutional Movement,
the Ummah Party, various NGO's. The name that provoked the
most positive response from the audience was that of Judge
Rizgar Hama Amin, presiding judge in the Saddam Hussein
trial, who also signed the pledge. All politicians had
their names read aloud for the television cameras, which
served to give them free publicity that they may hope will
benefit them in the election, but will also serve to
register their public commitment for after the election.

7. (U) 'Ahad al-Iraq members Safiya Suhayl al-Tamimi,
Maysoon Damaluji, and Ahlam al-Jabary gave speeches to the
group. Of the politicians given the floor to make brief
remarks, Mithal al-Alusi gave a fiery speech in which he
promoted 'Ahad al-Iraq's vision of human rights and women's
rights, then openly and pointedly criticized "religious
fanaticism" in Iraq today. Perhaps as a counterweight,
organizers then had two religious shaykhs set out moderate
visions of Islam, including a moderate Islamist version of
women's rights, and the many ways in which Islam supported
and protected human rights.

8. (U) Campaign collateral was plentiful and evident, with
banners both behind and in front of the dais, posters
around the room, and giveaways for attendees -- blue
scarves with "Ahad al-Iraq" in gold, small books with the
pledge printed inside, notepads, calendar/diaries for 2006
with "Ahad al-Iraq" logos, campaign buttons, and free
magazines on women's issues.

9. (SBU) Comment. 'Ahad al-Iraq organized this event not
only to publicize their own activities, but also in a more
sophisticated way to give Iraqi politicians who share their
views a small boost in publicity. They also used the event
to try to nail those same politicians' feet to the floor
for after the election -- saying that if the politicians
want to say they support human rights -- as virtually all
politicians in Iraq today say they do -- and if they want
to say they support women's rights, they will be held
politically accountable by these women and their support
networks, at least, on their pledges. (It is not yet
clear how much support these networks have beyond
an upper-class crust in Baghdad.) The women of 'Ahad
al-Iraq indicated they want to continue their work to hold
the Iraqi political leaders to be elected December 15 to
their commitments to promote a centrist, cross-ethnic,
cross-sectarian vision of human rights and women's rights
in Iraq. It is also apparent from who was not at the press
conference that harder line Islamist parties like Da'wa and
SCIRI were not willing to sign on, though it is noteworthy
that a number of politicians with indisputable democratic
Islamist credentials, like Sami al-Askari and 'Amal Kashif
al-Ghita, were willing to sign the 'Ahad al-Iraq pledge.
End comment.
KHALILZAD

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