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WikiLeaks: 2008-09-18: 08BAGHDAD3006: Unprecedented Bill Aims to Address Christian Personal Status Issues; 2009 Budget Increase for Non-Muslim Endowments Office

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD3006: September 18, 2008.

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2013 at 07:35 PM UT


Viewing cable 08BAGHDAD3006, UNPRECEDENTED BILL AIMS TO ADDRESS CHRISTIAN

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD3006 2008-09-18 10:01 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO5676
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #3006/01 2621001
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 181001Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9472
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 003006 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/16/2018 
TAGS: KIRF PGOV PREL IZ
SUBJECT: UNPRECEDENTED BILL AIMS TO ADDRESS CHRISTIAN 
PERSONAL STATUS ISSUES; 2009 BUDGET INCREASE FOR NON-MUSLIM 
ENDOWMENTS OFFICE 
 
REF: A. BAGHDAD 2175 
     B. BAGHDAD 1962 
     C. BAGHDAD 2829 
 
Classified By: By PolMinCons Robert S. Ford for reasons 1.4(b) and (d). 
 
------ 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C)  Non-Muslim Endowments Office Director Abdullah 
Al-Naufali and associates are drafting a new law that will 
aim to protect the personal status rights of Christians. 
According to one of the drafting committee lawyers, the 
nearly completed draft will be submitted to the Shura 
Council by the end of September.  The law, if passed by the 
Council of Representatives (CoR), would be the first Iraqi 
law to legally recognize Christian practices and traditions 
in matters related to marriage, divorce and inheritance. 
Also, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) has approved a large 
increase for the Non-Muslim Endowment's 2009 personnel 
budget, which will allow hiring of new staff to 
undertake a backlog of restoration projects of Iraq's 
non-Muslim places of worship.  Al-Naufali participates in 
interfaith dialogue meetings arranged by MNF-I, but he thinks 
Muslims still have far to go in accepting Christians.  We 
don't know if the draft law will eventually gain passage, and we 
will monitor its progress closely, weighing in as needed.  End 
Summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
New Law to Protect Christian Personal Status Rights 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
2. (C)  Non-Muslim Endowments Office Director Abdullah 
Al-Naufali told Poloff on September 5 that associates of 
the Endowments Office have drafted a new law which aims to 
protect the personal status of Christians.  Al-Naufali 
emphasized that its sole focus will be the rights of 
Christians in marriage, divorce, child custody and 
inheritance matters.  In a separate September 10 meeting, 
one of the drafting committee lawyers, Azad Hermiz Nissan, 
told Poloff that the draft is nearly complete and will be 
submitted to the Shura Council by the end of September. He 
was confident that the proposed law will be sent to the 
Council of Ministers, and eventually be put to a vote in 
the CoR, although he could not predict when this might 
happen.  Nissan noted that senior leadership of all Iraqi 
Christian sects had collaborated and agreed on the text. 
 
3. (C)  According to Nissan, this is the first Iraqi law 
that will take Christian traditions and practice into 
consideration in matters related to marriage, divorce, 
child custody and inheritance.  For example, all 
inheritance rulings are now based on the Hanafi school of 
Sharia law.  However, non-Muslims deal with inheritance quite 
differently from accepted Islamic practice, which also can 
differ among different sects.  Nissan acknowledged that 
although Christians publicly accept Iraqi law as it is, 
they may privately arrange their inheritance matters 
according to their own preferences. 
 
4.  (C)  On the other hand, it has not been possible for 
non-Muslims to circumvent a 1972 law which stipulates that 
all minor children born of a marriage between two 
non-Muslims automatically become Muslim if one of the 
parents converts to Islam.  Article 29 of the new draft law 
would effectively abrogate the 1972 law by stipulating that 
children retain their birth  religion; i.e., Christianity, 
regardless of whether a parent converts to another 
religion.  (Note:  Such a situation would occur when a 
Catholic man converts to Islam in order to divorce his 
wife.  Chaldean Patriarch Cardinal Delly claimed in July 
2008 that there are 1800 such cases in Iraq (ref A). End 
note.)  Nissan  noted that Catholic authorities often 
circumvent the divorce prohibition by facilitating marriage 
annulments. 
 
------------------------- 
Flush 2009 Budget Outlook 
------------------------- 
 
5. (C)  Al-Naufali mentioned that the MoF had approved a 
216 percent personnel hiring budget increase for 2009.  In a 
June 25 meeting (ref B), Al-Naufali had complained that the MoF 
would not release his 2008 investment budget due to delay 
in passing of a Christian Sects law in the CoR.  In our more 
recent meeting, Al Naufali was optimistic that this new 
 
BAGHDAD 00003006  002 OF 002 
 
 
allocation for 2009 will materialize and enable him to hire 
150 expert staff, including engineers, lawyers, and 
accountants, who could contribute to the urgently needed restoration and protection of Iraq's churches and other non-Muslim religious sites. 
 
---------------------------------------- 
Interfaith Dialogue:  A Futile Exercise? 
---------------------------------------- 
 
6.  (C)  Al-Naufali, a Christian, participates in 
occasional interfaith gatherings organized by MNF-I.  The 
meetings include Sheikh Fatih Kashif Al-Gitta, the Shia 
co-chair of the Iraq Inter-Religious Congress, and Mandaean 
and Yezidi representatives from the Non-Muslim Endowments. 
Al-Naufali characterized the gatherings as "nice meetings", 
but noted the "nothing will change, until their (Muslims') 
mentality changes". 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
7. (C)  While neither Al-Naufali nor Nissan could say they 
had high-level official assurances that bringing the law to 
a CoR vote was a sure thing, both were upbeat and gave the 
impression the prospects were good.  The law would be a 
significant step forward for minority rights, since it would 
address some of the issues that outspoken minority leaders 
often mention as barriers to their achieving equal status 
with Muslims.  Al-Naufali has, in the past, been pessimistic 
about the future of Christians in Iraq.  The effort he and 
his associates have put into drafting the new law, however, 
suggest he is hopeful that the legal rights of minorities, 
and especially Christians, will finally be given legal 
recognition, thus paving the way for their fuller integration 
into Iraqi society.  Al-Naufali was pleased about his 
office's budget increase, in a "better late than never" sort of way, but did not attribute the windfall to any particular effort on the part of supporters in the GOI.  We note, however, 
recent signs indicating increased GOI attention to Christian matters, including PM Maliki's July meeting with Pope Benedict XIV and the GOI's intention to hold a conference about Christian concerns later this year (ref C). We will follow up closely with Al-Naufali and Nissan the draft Christian personal status law's progress toward ratification, weighing in with parliamentarians and opinion shapers when it is useful. 
CROCKER

 



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