CDWRME Bulletin #5

"Women in the Middle East" 

Number 5, September 2002

Bulletin of "Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East"

Editor: Azam Kamguian
Assistant Editor: Mona Basaruddin

In this issue:

Iran: According to Islamic Law of Retribution, a Woman is Sentenced to be Blinded by Throwing Acid on her face

According to official press in Iran, Azam, a 21 - year - old woman from the city of Behbahan has been sentenced to be blinded by throwing acid on her face in accordance with Islam law of retribution, Quisas.

In court Azam said that she has thrown acid on the face of a man to defend herself against his repeatedly harassing her and wanting to enter her house forcibly.

Nigeria: Amina Lawal Lost Stoning Death Appeal

An Islamic court in northern Nigeria ruled on Monday 20 August that Amina Lawal Kurami must face death by stoning according to Islamic law for having a child outside marriage. The decision, upholding a verdict by a lower court, looks set to re-ignite international outrage against Islamic law in Nigeria. The judge said the stoning would not be carried out until Amina Lawal Kurami, 31, had weaned her eight-month-old daughter Wasila.

Her lawyers said they would appeal against the decision. Court president announced the verdict followed by chants of "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greater) from the audience.

Amina was sentenced to death in March by a lower court in her state of Katsina, which like a number of others in northern Nigeria has adopted Islamic sharia law. In June, a regional appeals court in Funtua gave her a two-year reprieve to wean her child.

Nigeria & Iran: Five Women on the Death Row of Islamic Law

Iran: According to Iranian official press, Ms. Ashraf, a 30 years old woman has recently been sentenced to death by stoning. Since the beginning of this year, three other women Ms. Shahnaz, Ms. Ferdows B and Ms. Sima have been sentenced to death in the most brutal form of execution according to Islamic law in Iran.

Nigeria: Amina Lawal Kurami lost her appeal in 20 August.

Now, five women are on the death row of Islamic Law: Ashraf, Shahnaz, Ferdows, Amina, and Sima are all sentenced to death by stoning.

We call upon all women/human rights organisations to protest against this Islamic cruel and inhuman treatment of women.

Please send your protest letters to: Mohammad Khatami - Iran Khatami, khatami@president.ir iranemb@salamiran.org Fax: +98 216 464 443

Nigerian Embassy, 173 Avenue Victor Hugo 75016 Paris Fax: 00 33 1 47 04 47 54 or Email: embassy@nigerian.it

Saudi Arabia: Women & the Rule of Sexual Apartheid

In Saudi Arabia, In public life a woman is almost entirely segregated from men: excluded from the workplace, penned in special "family sections" in restaurants, taught in separate schools and colleges, and forbidden to drive. Under the rule of Islam, her husband may marry up to four times but as a woman having sex outside marriage, she faces death by stoning. Outside the home she must wear the Abaya, a black gown which enshrouds her completely, except for a slit for the eyes. As a child she is the ward of her father, as an adult the ward of her husband and as a widow the ward of her sons.

In a current case an Italian woman who divorced her Saudi husband because he wanted to take a second wife has been told she may never see her daughter again - the child will never reach independence and therefore will never have the right to choose to live with her.

Even the new ID cards for women has to be issued to their father or brother, rather than women herself. Before the cards were introduced a woman was not allowed to open a bank account without a male relative verifying her identity. Many have been swindled by husbands or brothers who pocketed their money, using another woman to pose as the account holder: an easy ruse, as one Abaya looks much like another.

Most Saudi women continue to be oppressed by centuries-old restriction legitimised by Islam. Vice police, known as the mutawwa, sweep through public places and shopping malls to prevent young men and women mixing.

According to some sources, the Saudi royal family is considering giving driving licences to professional women aged over 40. When several years ago, 45 women drove through Riyadh as protest at the start of the Gulf war, they were called whores. Meanwhile, there have been some attempts to liberalise the rules on wearing Abaya. Shops recently began selling them in blue and brown. The mutawwa objected and banned them. Now they are sold under the counter.

Arab Women's General Status

A blunt new report by Arab intellectuals commissioned by the United Nations warns that Arab societies are being crippled by a lack of political freedom, the repression of women and an isolation from the world of ideas that stifles creativity. Arab women, the report found, are almost universally denied advancement. Half of them still cannot read or write. The maternal mortality rate is double that of Latin America and four times that of East Asia. The report notes that while oil income has transformed the landscapes of some Arab countries, the region remains "richer than it is developed." Per capita income growth has shrunk in the last 20 years to a level just above that of sub-Saharan Africa. Productivity is declining. Research and development are weak or non- - existent. Science and technology are dormant.

Iran: "Chastity Houses", Islamic Style Prostitution

Young women line the main streets of Iranian cities looking out for customers. Such scenes, taking place with ever-greater frequency. Based on official figures, about 300,000 women are engaged in the sex trade in Iran and the numbers is steadily rising. Newspapers routinely report of a crackdown on "corrupt networks" preying upon naive runaway girls from small towns. Until several years ago, Iran's ruling Islamic State either denied that they faced a prostitution problem or blamed it on the Western culture.

The latest idea is the so-called "chastity houses," regarded by some Islamic leaders as a more acceptable version of brothels. The idea has been widely publicised in the Iranian media. At least one senior cleric, Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Bojnurdi, has come out strongly in defence of the plan.

"We face a real challenge with all these women on the streets. Our society is in an emergency situation, so the formation of the chastity houses can be an immediate solution to the problem," the ayatollah told a newspaper. "This plan is both realistic and conforms to the Sharia (Islamic) law." Under the scheme, couples would register for a temporary, Islamicly correct marriage. The license would legitimise their relationship and make them immune from harassment by the vice police, who prowl the streets looking to arrest young couples who are out together but are not related. After the 1979 Revolution, the Islamic State closed all Iran's brothels, burned some and executed prostitutes by stoning.

Afghanistan: Women Suicide in Rise

There is a rise in suicides by Afghan women. - They are tired of being treated like a "servant." Dozens of Afghan women, since the Taliban's fall, have attempted self-immolation to escape family dilemmas or unwanted marriages. In Herat, four women have killed themselves this year, according to hospital records - none died this way last year. And out of 26 female burn victims, nine were attempted suicides. In a country that traditionally views suicide with grave censure, many citizens and even officials are baffled by the surge in self-immolation.

While the vast majority of marriages in Afghanistan are arranged and most girls go along with the tradition, parents occasionally force their daughters to marry. Some parents will even demand dowries up to $15,000 for their daughters and sell them to the highest bidder.

More often than not, experts say, self-immolation is a cry for help. They don't want to die. They're just calling for attention," says Asifa Aimaq, a psychologist and head of the Pedagogical Institute in Herat. Self-immolation has long been the preferred method of suicide for desperate women in the region.

Kuwait: Sexual Apartheid Rules in Kuwait University

In the 1970s, women at Kuwait University wore miniskirts, mixed easily with the male students, and joined them for picnics in the desert. These days, on the six campuses of Kuwait's only university, hundreds of young women are covered in black head-to-toe cloaks. Even those who wear Western dress tend to avoid speaking to men unless necessary. In most faculties of the 18,000-student university, men and women still attend the same classes, but that too is about to change.

Six years ago, Islamic legislators pushed through a law banning the mixing of the sexes in classes, libraries, cafeterias, labs and extracurricular activities at Kuwait University. Compliance was lax until the Islamic lawmakers put pressure on Education Minister Misaed al- Haroun and he committed to full segregation by the end of the next school year.

The action did not go without protest. Students collected 9,000 signatures on a petition opposing segregation by gender. "It is very sad to make students feel that mixing with the opposite sex is immoral and that they cannot be trusted to be with one another," she said in an interview. When Kuwait University opened for men and women in 1966, classes were separate. But as the number of students grew, and more facilities were needed, coeducation was allowed.

Kuwaiti society was more open then. Dancing was still allowed in restaurants, Women used to sit beside men without thinking anything of it. Although Kuwaiti women drive, and work, segregation is in rise. Wedding parties are held separately for men and women - sometimes in different hotels. There are separate waiting areas in clinics. Public schools have always been segregated after kindergarten. Women can't vote or run for office. Men and women still work together in government offices, banks, and hospitals. Islamic groups have not yet tried to change that, but the Kuwait Finance House, an Islamic bank, has special branches for women.

"There is nothing we can do to change the situation", say some students. If they aren't stopped, "50 years from now, society will be totally separated. We will have malls for men and malls for women, and women will not be able to drive." Among Kuwait's neighbours, state universities are co-ed in Bahrain and Oman, but segregated in Saudi Arabia -- where women are banned from driving -- and in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. There are no private universities in Kuwait. Any founded in the future will fall under the segregation law. University is free in Kuwait, and the cost of segregating classes is estimated at more than $180 million.

Events: Sweden- Seminar on "Islam, Secularism & Women's Rights in the Middle East"

"Women's emancipation movement in the Middle East?" What is the impact of Islam on Women's status? Is Islam compatible with women's rights? Does women's emancipation movement exist in the Middle East? How would this movement impact & influence the social order in the region? Azam Kamguian will treat these questions and explores future perspectives.

Speaker: Azam Kamguian, Chair and Spokesperson for "Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East".

Organiser: FrittForum. This seminar is a part of the 4 - day annual festival of "Freedom of Expression", held from 29 August - 1 September in Sweden. Arranged by: Campaign in the Defence of Women's Rights in Iran

When: At 12.00 & 17.00 PM, on Saturday 31st August 02 Where: Tallet, Heden - Gothenburg

The Charter of Committee to Defend Women's Right in the Middle East

"Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East" - CDWRME is founded and struggles for women's human rights, individual freedom and civil rights.

We believe that secularism and the separation of religion from the state are the basic pre-conditions for women’s liberation in the Middle East. 

We believe in the universality of women’s rights and consider cultural relativism as a cover to create a comprehensive social, legal, intellectual, emotional, geographical and civil apartheid based on distinctions of race, ethnicity, religion and gender. This complete system of apartheid attacks women’s basic rights and freedom and justifies savagery and barbarism inflicted on women by Islamic movements and Islamic governments in the region.

The major laws and measures that we demand and struggle for are as follows: 

1- Abolition of the current Personal Status Code, replacing it by a secular and egalitarian family law. Laying down equal rights and obligations for women and men regarding the care and upbringing of children, control and running of family's finance, inheritance, choice of residence, housework, divorce and in case of separation custody of children.

2- Abolition of honour killing laws. Recognition of honour killing as a grave crime. 

3- Putting an end to forced marriages

4-     Prohibition of imposing the Islamic dress code and veil. Freedom of clothing

5-     Prohibition of interference of authorities and family members in the private lives of women 

6-     Prohibition of any form of segregation of women and men in public places. 

7-     Abolition of any restriction on the right of women to work, travel and choose the place of residence at will. 

8-     Equal political rights for women, rights to vote and to be elected women's rights to hold any position and office - political, administrative and judicial. Women's rights to form women organization and affiliation to political parties without any restriction. Supporting and encouraging non-governmental women’s rights groups. 

9- secure equality of rights of women and men in employment wages insurance, education and family affairs. 

10   -Imposition of severe penalties on abuse, intimidation and violent treatment of women and girls in the family.

11- Prohibition of polygamy

We try to create a network of women's rights activists in the Middle Eastern countries; we campaign around women's civil rights and individual freedom, and support the just struggle of women in the Middle East.

Women's rights activists from Iran, Jordan and Lebanon have founded CDWRME in July 2001, and Azam Kamguian is the co-ordinator and the spokesperson of the committee. 

Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East
September 2001

azam_kamguian@yahoo.com
cdwrme@yahoo.co.uk 
Tel: 0044(0) 788 4040 835
Fax: + 44(0) 870 831 0204
www.eclipse.co.uk/women