An Iraqi law forcing children from minority faiths to become Muslims may be one step closer to amendment after protests from Christian MPs and other minority leaders.

In October, four Christian members of the Iraqi parliament called for a change in the law to preserve the religion of dependent children whose fathers convert to Islam.

On 18 November, the Iraqi Council of Representatives passed a resolution requiring modifications to the National Card Law, approved on 27 October and including a paragraph forcing non-Muslim children to become Muslims if their father converts to Islam, or if their non-Muslim mother then marries a Muslim. Non-Muslim step-children of a Muslim father would also be forced to become Muslims.

The President of the Council asked non-Muslim parliamentarians to contribute to the rewriting of the law, which specifically states that “children shall follow the religion of the converted parent to Islam”. Jibouri said the council will take the necessary steps to amend the law and work to ensure that all ethnic groups enjoy the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

The non-Muslim parliamentarians’ proposed amendment that “minors will keep their current religion until 18 years of age, then they have the right to choose their religion” was originally rejected, leading to its proponents boycotting further meetings.

Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, recently recommended that states must pay more attention to violations of the rights of children, particularly minorities and converts, in a report presented to the UN General Assembly on 22 October.