Pledge for Iraq to Guarantee Human Rights, Freedom

WASHINGTON – Iraqis, weary of violence and killings, are looking towards a more peaceful life as they enter the parliamentary election next week.

The vote on Dec. 15 will establish the government for the next four years and constitutional amendments will begin to be made once the new parliament is installed by Dec. 31. Of the 275 people to be seated on the Council of Representatives, 230 will be directly elected on behalf of Iraq's 18 provinces and another 46 will be given to political parties or coalitions that mustered a certain percentage of the national vote, according to World Peace Herald.

As voters hope to bring an end to the years of insurgency and bombings, a group of Iraqi women have taken the next step to guarantee human rights and freedom. Members from the Women's Alliance for Democratic Iraq and the Iraq Foundation started up a campaign - Pledge for Iraq - gathering the support of political leaders as well as individuals and organizations from all regions, religions and ethnicities to clearly secure the rights and freedoms that the constitution had vaguely identified.

"The pledge is a contract between the Iraqi people and the people who are going to be elected officials," Raya Barazanji, chief operating officer of the Iraq Foundation told reporters on Friday.

Freedom House in Washington, D.C., had expressed concerns during the constitution vote in October that while the Iraq constitution was a mark of progress towards democracy and religious freedom, much room was left for dissidence and opposition as it did not assuredly guarantee the protection of these rights.

Explaining the pledge, Barazanji, one of the four Iraqi women who launched the pledge on Nov. 1, said it holds the parliamentary candidates accountable for democracy, equality, political participation and tolerance.

"The goal is really to get the highest number of people who are running for elections," she continued, reporting that 116 political figures running in the elections have signed on to the pledge as of Thursday night along with the support of 86 organizations. "All these candidates are required to sign on to pledge to the Iraqi people that they will be responsible, that they will be accountable once they become elected officials."

The points stated in the pledge take articles from the approved Iraq constitution and create more specifically defined rights and freedom to allow "no room for ambiguity or confusion," as Barazanji mentioned.

Basma Fakri, president and co-founder of Women's Alliance for a Democratic Iraq, called the campaign "historic" as all Iraqis were being brought together to build democracy from the grassroots level up.

Although the people behind the launch of the pledge are all women, Barazanji made clear that they not only represent women's rights, but that they are "representative of all the rights of Iraqis in different religions and ethnicities, ... the minorities of Iraq and all the legions of Iraq."