The draft of the Syrian personal status law remains on the table at the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and the government center responsible for overseeing and issuing fatwas, in the absence of the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs, which played it safe after its wings were clipped and it “learned the lesson.”

Most of Syrian civil society is drowning in delusions over the draft, claiming that it no longer exists (while it does exist), and staying silent, far from carrying out the least of its responsibilities on an issue of this importance.

However, the initiative of the Ismaili Council of Damascus held a special symposium to discuss two copies of the draft personal status law on the evening of December 19, 2009. Young men and women filled the hall to participate and deal with this issue, which is undoubtedly one of the most important issues facing contemporary Syrian society as this law affects the lives of everyone in Syria, from cradle to grave.

Mr. Bassam Al Kadi, the director of the Syrian Women Observatory, which formed the backbone of the campaign that got the first copy of the draft law dropped, presented a paper on how this campaign highlighted the complete contradictions between the law and Syrian society. This Taliban like first draft, which aimed at dragging society back centuries, was rife with some of the ugliest forms of hatred toward women, sectarian and religious discrimination, and the marginalization of children.

Mr. Al Kadi said that the second copy [of the draft law] is fundamentally different from the first. However, that does not make it acceptable, especially since it almost identically duplicates the current law. Accepting this draft means blind acceptance of the problems that the current law caused over the past few decades, even though we found the current law outdated. The law was passed in 1953 for a society completely different from today’s society and was built on the premise of the narrow vision presented in Kadri Basha’s works, which formed the Personal Status Law for the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. How can we apply what was created for 19th century society as a legal guide for individuals and families in the 21st century?

Mr. Al Kadi said that working to adopt a national family law based on the notion of citizenship is the guiding principle for the work of the Syrian Women Observatory in this arena.

Participants in the symposium posed a number of questions focused on the two drafts and the devastating effects of a law that does not rely on citizenship, as well as the crisis in the relationship among organizations working on women’s issues and its implications for the collective work.

SWO, 28/1/2010, (Symposium in Damascus on Draft Personal Status Law )

Translated by Sheila Weaver & Elizabeth Broadwin

source in Arabic