The toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 gave the chance to build a democracy in Iraq. Yet, it was clear that such an aim would be a challenge. The Ba’athist dictatorship had destroyed all democratic elements existing before. Fear and mistrust ruled people’s conscience. In Iraqi Kurdistan, two parties with strong militias dominated the political landscape. Society had been partly destroyed by Saddam’s repression of the Kurds and the displacement of whole towns. Illiteracy stood high at 40%. In the last 20 years, the Kurdish region saw a rapid development. Illiteracy dropped to 16% in 2010. A third political party is challenging the old two-party system. Many local organisations and independent media outlets began working in the region. In these last 20 years, WADI has supported this democratic development on many fronts and continues to push for more democratic rights, respect for human rights and transparency of government activity.
In the Baathist constitution the state was not servant of its citizens, but the people were servants of the state. Rule of law and equality before the law are more than formal concepts of democracy. They guaranty everybody’s right to a fair and equal treatment by the state and its institutions. This right can be defended in court. Programs supporting a democratic development must in-cooperate this: Democratic progress is only sustainable if secured by a right and is not only an outcome of the rulersa’ mercy.
For this reason WADIs efforts don’t end with workshops and awareness raising – even if these are fundamental for development as well – but always push to secure rights in a democratic process. The campaign against female genital mutilation pursued from the beginning the goal to have a law against the practice. Hereby, WADI focused on the democratic function of the parliament instead of lobbying the government to draft a law for the more or less passive ratification by parliament.
On June 22, 2011 a law against domestic violence was passed by parliament which had been written for the most part by women’s organizations and female representatives in parliament. The law No. 8 penalizes the cutting of female genitals.
In a similar way, WADI pushes with other organizations for an amendment of the law on regulating demonstrations which was only passed 2010. The provision that demonstrations need government permission is not in accordance with universal human rights. On several demonstrations, people demanded to exchange the word “permission” for “registration”. In October 2011, parliament decided the law needed to undergo a revision.
Part of WADI’s legal work is also to fight back law revisions in contradiction with democratic and human rights development. In this sense WADI supported the Women’s Legal Assistance (WoLA!) in its campaign against the polygamy law in 2008. WoLA and WADI are together analyzing laws inherited from the dictatorship and proposing revisions if contradictions to human rights are found.