Iraqis demand barring dual nationals from top official posts

Iraqi activists often mock officials who hold dual nationality

BAGHDAD - The Iraqi parliament in Oc­tober postponed discus­sions of a bill that bans Iraqis with dual national­ity from occupying senior government positions.
Dual nationality was banned in Iraq until the 2003 American-led invasion, when the US Occupation Authority issued a decree allowing it. Three years later, an Iraqi law replaced it, affirming the principle of multiplicity of nationalities while preventing Iraqis holding dual citi­zenship from attaining positions of “sovereign or high security”.
The Iraqi Nationality Act was published in the Iraqi Gazette No. 4019, issued in March 2006. Article 9, IV of the act says: “An Iraqi who holds another acquired nationality shall not assume a top-level sover­eign or security position, unless he/ she has renounced that national­ity.”
However, scores of top and senior officials, including high-ranking se­curity officers, diplomats and law­makers, hold dual nationality. They do not want that law to be ratified by parliament.
“It was clear that the parliament could not adopt such law as long as there are lawmakers with dual nationality and without the agree­ment of the political leaders”, said Mohsen Aziz, a lawyer, who gives legal consultations. “Such a law will either force them to quit their posi­tions or strip them from the other non-Iraqi nationality and certainly they do not want this.”
Shatha Jumaa, an activist who wants the law banning dual nation­ality passed by parliament, agreed. “There are corrupt people among the holders of dual nationality but the other citizenship protects them,” said Jumaa. “A senior offi­cial accused of corruption managed to leave Iraq using his second pass­port.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al- Abadi, reacting to anti-corruption protests, submitted a reform plan to parliament.
“The parliament on that day gave the senior officials a period of 30 days to choose between quitting their positions or the other nation­ality,” said political analyst Abdul Qadir Qaisy. “Yet, the period fin­ished and nothing happened.”
Kamil al-Zaidy, a member of par­liament’s Legal Committee, said: “The parliament does not intend to approve such law in the time being because the political blocs do not want it. This is why the bill had passed its first legislative read­ing and it was not included on any other session’s agenda.”
Hussein Abdul Hassan, a judge, said, while the Iraqi constitution al­lows dual nationality, “in Article 18, Item 4, it prevents the holders of the dual nationality from top sover­eign positions unless they abandon the non-Iraqi nationality by a law that should be adopted.”
Numan Omer, who was a regu­lar participant in the weekly anti-corruption protests, said he hoped that “public pressure prevents any attempt to circumvent the law.”
“Since the independence of Iraq in 1921, successive governments banned dual nationality,” Omer said, “but the Administrative Tran­sitional Law that was written under the American occupation allowed the dual nationality. “That law al­lowed its holders to occupy top positions as a reward to many Iraqi opposition leaders who were in the exile and cooperated with the Americans before the invasion and after it.”
When Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibra­him al-Jaafari was summoned by parliament in October, he revealed that nearly half of Iraq’s ambassa­dors — 32 of the 66 — have dual citi­zenship. He said the ambassadors were “appointed and authenticated by the parliament” from 2004-09.
Local media outlets published names of some of the holders of the dual nationalities in the top sover­eign positions. The reports state that many Iraqi ambassadors serve in the countries in which they hold nationality. Jaafari himself has dual nationality (Iraqi and British).
Iraqis activists often mock offi­cials who hold dual nationality. “If the British prime minister is going to receive the Iraqi prime minister, how would it go between them as Abadi holds British nationality?” one activist asked.
Activist Fadhil Abbas said: “We are being ruled by the foreigners. It is known that holding another na­tionality means the holders is un­der oath to be loyal to that nation­ality. How would he behave if there were a problem between Iraq and the second nationality country?”

Nermeen Mufti, based in Baghdad, has been covering Iraqi affairs for three decades.
This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.