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Iraqi Christians May Seek Legislation To Regulate Family Matters

About one-third of Iraq's 1 million Christians are believed to have fled Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi Christians may seek a new family law so they don't have to follow the current code written largely for Muslims, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

William Ward, the chairman of the Iraqi human rights organization Hammurabi, told RFE/RL that the Christian groups in Iraq are considering a campaign for separate legislation that would establish standards more in line with Christianity in such matters as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody.

But Warda said a separate family code for Christians could create more problems than it solves, by setting a precedent that other religious communities -- including denominations within the Christian community itself -- could use to seek special laws to settle their family matters.

Warda suggested that a more practical solution would be to amend the existing law to allow for the teachings and values of other religions.

But Iraqi legal expert Tariq Harb told RFE/RL that the constitution already states that Iraqis are free to settle their family affairs according to their religious faith or personal beliefs. He said that means Christians are exempted from the existing family code, much of which is based on Islamic Shari'a law.

Harb added that the family code has been in existence since 1959.

Before the first Gulf War in 1991 there were some 1 million Christians in Iraq. About one-third are believed to have fled Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003.

There are currently 14 official Christian denominations registered by Iraq's Religious Affairs Department.