Latest US policy in Iraq can lead to human rights abuses says Hebrew University researcher

December 12, 2007

Jerusalem, Dec. 12, 2007 - U.S. policy in Iraq courting tribal leaders may be yielding positive results in combating al-Qaida and stabilizing the country, but may also be repeating British policy of the previous century which led to severe human rights abuses, particularly against women, says a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In an article being released in conjunction with Human Rights Week, now being marked around the world, Dr. Noga Efrati, head of the Iraq research group at the Hebrew University's Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, reviews British tribal policy in Iraq from 1914-1932, during which Britain first occupied the country and then (from 1920) ruled it under mandate authority. Her article on the subject appears in a new book, Britain and the Middle East, to be published later this month

The British, who came to Iraq during the First World War in order to defend their interests in the region, sought to revive a disintegrating tribal system in order to control the vast rural areas of the country. To accomplish this, they appointed sheikhs as tribal leaders, granting them wide discretionary powers, including the settling of disputes via "tribal law." This had an adverse effect particularly on women.

"Under the British mandate, rural women - the majority of women in Iraq - were not constructed as citizens of a modern state whose rights and liberties should be protected, but as tribal possessions, abandoned and left outside state jurisdiction," Dr. Efrati writes in her article. Among other things, this meant that women could be offered in marriage to settle disputes or be forced to marry within their family. Even more serious was that the state had essentially legitimized "honor" murders.

The British maintained a "blind eye" toward these customs even though they were incompatible with both Islamic and Iraqi criminal law. "Tribal justice" could not be undermined lest it weaken the powers of the sheikhs who were serving British interests. Only in 1958, with the overthrow of the "old regime," was the tribal justice system annulled. Even so, these practices did not disappear entirely and even achieved renewed recognition under Saddam Hussein, notes Dr. Efrati.

Like the British of yesterday, the Americans today are increasingly depending on local leaders to restore order. However, in its effort to break the Sunni insurgency, stabilize the country and bring about political progress, the Bush Administration should learn from the mistakes of its predecessors, says Dr. Efrati, and be aware of the severe consequences that will arise by leaving the administration of "tribal" affairs in the hands of local leaders. If women are again to become "tribal property" this will be yet another strike against their human rights; the very rights the U.S. set out to defend when it went to war.
-end-


The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Related Human Rights Articles from Brightsurf:

When reproductive rights are less restrictive, babies are born healthier
American women living in states with less restrictive reproductive rights policies are less likely to give birth to low-birth weight babies, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier.

Amid pandemic and protests, Americans know much more about their rights
In a period defined by an impeachment inquiry, a pandemic, nationwide protests over racial injustice, and a contentious presidential campaign, Americans' knowledge of their First Amendment rights and their ability to name all three branches of the federal government have markedly increased, according to the 2020 Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey.

COVID-19 and the threat to American voting rights
The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated three main pathologies of American voting rights.

Indigenous property rights protect the Amazon rainforest
One way to cut back on deforestation in the Amazon rainforest - and help in the global fight against climate change - is to grant more of Brazil's indigenous communities full property rights to tribal lands.

'Blind over-reliance' on AI technology to manage international migration could lead to serious breaches of human rights
Over-reliance by countries on artificial intelligence to tackle international migration and manage future migration crisis could lead to serious breaches of human rights, a new study warns.

Exclusions in family planning programs and health statistics contravene human rights
Infertility impinges on the human right to have a child, according to new research published today, which also calls for greater healthcare equity and more inclusive reproductive health surveillance.

'Climate change is a disability rights issue'
In a high-profile Letter in Science, University of Konstanz climate scientist and ecologist Dr Aleksandra Kosanic, an Associate Fellow of the University of Konstanz's Zukunftskolleg, draws attention to the fact that disabled populations have, until now, been absent from international conversations about climate change and its impact.

Research brief: Human rights in a changing sociopolitical climate
In a new study to understand the current sociopolitical climate, particularly as it relates to Syrians, researchers from the University of Minnesota conducted a comprehensive needs and readiness assessment of the United States Refugee Resettlement Program.

Care home admissions risk breaching human rights of older people
Thousands of older people in low and middle-income countries are at risk of abuse and human rights violations when being admitted to care homes, according to new research led by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Mexico well ahead of US in LGBT rights
Caroline Beer has spent her career researching comparative data between Latin American countries and the United States that often debunks false stereotypes.

Read More: Human Rights News and Human Rights Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.