In the run up to the constitutional vote in Iraq, two distinct groups have emerged. The question remains: do the citizens of Iraq understand what is at stake or are have they only taken notice of the headlines?
In my estimation, the majority of Iraqis will vote to accept or reject the constitution with minimal if no awareness of the differences that exist because of the lack of a healthy dialogue between the two sides and the constant bickering. One camp accuses the other of extremism and terrorism and the other believes the latter is trying to deprive it of its rights. Yet, we ought to remember this debate is a rare occurrence as seldom do Arab citizens have the opportunity to give their opinion on matters of state.
The Shia”a majority supports the constitution in its final draft and so do the Kurds while the Sunnis, a number of secular Shia”a groups and other minorities, oppose it. Despite the outcry, the difference concerns a small number of articles as all parties agree on most of the document.
The government and the coalition authority have mistakenly organized provinces in such a manner as to make them tinged with sectarianism, a situation that does not serve the majority as much as it frightens the minority. In a voting system where every vote counts, the majority is sure to benefit, without the need to tinker with the shape of provinces. Universal suffrage also means that the majority is guaranteed to come to power; constitutional guarantees are a necessity to ensure the rights of minorities and citizens will benefit all of society.
As for those representing the minority, they have wrongly adopted negative and argumentative stances and refused to reason. This reveals a lack of sound leadership and a state of turmoil. In fact, it is in the community’s interest to establish good relations with the majority. Its leaders have caused much harm by calling for a boycott and using faulty arguments to object to the constitution.
The debate on adding the word “Arab” to the official name of Iraq, as previously suggested, does not affect the Arab identity of Iraq’s citizens. 15 Arab countries only use the term Arab in their internal documents and only five countries include the word in their official name, Saudi Arabia, Syria , the United Arab Emirates , Libya , and Egypt . As for whether to impose Arabic as the official language, the matter should be settled by national accord and not imposed constitutionally.
Strangely enough, the Sunni minority has rejected an article giving citizenship to the children of Iraqi women, a fact that reflects their racism and suggests they fear that the sons and daughters of many Iraqi women who married Iranians whilst in exile will tip the demographic balance, echoing Lebanese Christian groups.
Any civilized person should never adopt this unfortunate position, as the constitutions of most modern countries give the same citizen rights to the children of mothers and sons. Fathers are more likely to marry several women, of different nationalities and have more children. Despite these marginal objections, the new Iraqi constitution appears to be, in essence, fair and adequate.