CDWRME Bulletin #6

"Women in the Middle East" 

Number 6, October 2002

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

Editor: Azam Kamguian
Assistant Editor: Mona Basaruddin

In this issue:

Nigeria: More Stoning Sentences, Fatima Usman, Ahmadu Ibrahim & Ado Baranda Sentenced to Death by Stoning

A man and woman convicted by an Islamic court in central Nigeria of having an affair have become the country's first couple to be sentenced to death by stoning. Meanwhile, 50-year-old Ado Baranda may be only days away from stoning after he confessed to raping a 9-year-old girl in northern Jigawa State. The couple, Ahmadu Ibrahim and Fatima Usman, both 30, were sentenced by a court in the central town of New Gawu to be stoned to death after Fatima became pregnant with Ibrahim's child while married to another man.

The sentence came a week after an Islamic court rejected Amina Lawal's appeal against a stoning sentence for having sex outside of marriage. Lawal's case provoked an international outcry. Governments and human rights organisations around the world urge President Olusegun Obasanjo's administration to intercede. Ibrahim and Fatima had originally been sentenced to five years in prison in May after pleading guilty but protested to a higher court that the sentence was too harsh. Their appeal backfired Monday when the court ruled the sentence was too lenient. The Sharia law prescribes death as punishment.

Ibrahim is the first man to be sentenced to death for sex outside of marriage in Nigeria. Previously only women were prosecuted and their children used as evidence. "In sharia law we do not waste time," government spokesman Usman Zakari Dutse said. "That is the best way to get justice." "Maybe they will do it anytime now. It doesn't have to be too public," he said.

Nigeria is deeply divided about the application of Sharia, which calls for cutting off a hand to punish theft and death for sex outside of marriage. Lawal was the second Nigerian woman to be condemned to death under Islamic law for having sex out of wedlock. The first, Safiya Hussaini, had her sentence overturned in March on her first appeal.

Iran: Reform in Islamic Divorce Law as a Result of Women's Constant Struggle against Islamic Rule

A bill that amends Iran's Civil Code and allows women to seek divorce in court, a right previously available only to men was approved by Islamic parliament in Tehran. To become law, the bill must be approved by the Guardian Council, which reviews all laws passed by parliament and oversees elections.

Islamic law has oppressed Iranian women throughout history, particularly under the Islamic Republic of Iran in the last 23 years. Women have been protesting Islamic rule and struggling for a secular family law for years.

Under Iran's Islamic State, a woman needs her husband's permission to work or travel abroad. A man's court testimony is considered twice as important as a woman's, while men are allowed to keep four wives at once, a right not granted to women.

Afghanistan: Prostitution in Rise Among Women

Among the outcomes of more than two decades of war and destruction in Afghanistan caused by Islamic movement and the Taliban, prostitution among women is a deep social problem that is prevalent because of hunger, destitute and desperation. Bellow is the interviews conducted by RAWA -the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, rawa@rawa.org - with some of women prostitutes.

MH: She is a widow around 33 years old. She lost her husband four years ago in the war and has six children who are between 4 to 14 years of age. She was crying as she said: "Because of my children I could not even commit suicide. For the last couple of months, I have not paid rent on the house and every day the owner is threatening that he will evict us by force. I have not paid off the electricity bill yet, and make excuses every time the clerk comes for money. During the regime of the Taliban, as there was no other way to make a living, I turned to prostitution. I was in contact with a Talib whose name was Sakhi Dad; he gave me ten lack (one lack=100,000) Afghanis (US$1=42,000 Afghanis) per week. However, six months ago, Sakhi Dad left Kabul and I am in great trouble. My only hope is to find a job. I regret being a prostitute but it was the hunger of my children that hushed me to this. My older daughter is in the fourth class and I have tried hard to keep her ignorant of these facts".

FA: She is a 35-year old widow with five children. She lost her husband in the war between the Taliban and the Wahdat Party in Dara Soaf. Her eyes were full of pain and sorrow and with her eleven year old daughter by her side she said: "My husband was a farmer; while he was working in the field the Taliban attacked, killed people and destroyed the farms. They killed my husband in his field, and destroyed our houses. They killed my brother-in-law in the game spot. We came to Kabul. There was no other way to feed my five children except prostitution. My eleven-year old daughter knows about my contacts. I have arranged an engagement for her with a boy about whom I don't know much, so that she would not face what I am going through now. My husband's family is poor and can't help. I am shattered and very worried about the fate of my children.

NH: She looks about 53 years old. She is from Paghman Province. She is the mother of six children; her older daughter is eleven years old. She is saying: "I studied in school till the eighth class, but when I got married my husband did not allow me to study further. Two years after we got married my husband became addicted to drugs. He beat me daily and made life bitter for me. He wanted me to work and earn money to feed the children. When I was seven months pregnant he divorced me. I begged and washed clothes but that was not enough to fulfil our necessities. Nine months ago I turned to prostitution. I know that my life and my children's lives will be affected; if any one wants to help, I will leave this disgraced occupation without any hesitation.

FH: She says: "I am from Shamali. When the Taliban attacked our village, they destroyed everything. Everyone escaped to somewhere. The Taliban killed my father while he was working in the field. I moved to Kabul with my three children who are from three to seven years old. From that day my brother and husband are missing; perhaps they might be among the dead. In Kabul I was working as a servant in one of the houses from where I started prostituting. Nowadays I am in touch with a jeweller who gives me money when I visit him. I am suffering from stomach pain and do not like to have sexual relations with too many people.

RA: She is the mother of three children, the oldest one five years old. When I asked her age, she smiled and said: "I have forgotten my name and you are asking about my age; perhaps 21". She is also from Shamali and has almost the same story as "FH". "I lost touch with my husband in Shamali. We escaped to Kabul, but on the way there, the Taliban separated men from women. My husband belonged to Panjsher and my guess is he might have been killed there. I was two months pregnant when we left our ruined village. I have been a prostitute for the last five months; there is a woman who guides me in this field. I have contact with a number of men who give me five to six lack Afghanis each week. My mother is a widow, too, but she doesn't know about what I am doing. I regret what I am doing but there is no other way out.

SH: I am from Panjsher valley but lived most of the time in Kabul. I had three children; two girls and one boy. I had a good life with my husband. But after seven years of togetherness my life took a new turn. Recently my two daughters died due to chickenpox. My husband blamed me for their deaths and used this as a pretext to leave me. He didn't take his son from me. I started this dirty business in the last three months. I was living with my mother for some months but at last started begging. One day a shopkeeper made an offer and I accepted. Each week he gives me one and a half lack Afghanis. I don't know where he is from and whether he has a wife and children. I don't take any kind of pleasure in sexual relations with him, but it is forced on me. I used condoms to prevent getting pregnant, but in spite of that, I am four months pregnant now. My mother doesn't know any thing about my relationship with that man.

WH: I have been doing this for the last two years; I am widowed and must feed my children. I started with cooking and washing clothes but our condition was very bad. At last I got in touch with a woman who was a prostitute for a long time. She encouraged me to leave that hard job and do this business, which is full of money. My first reaction was to refuse, but later on, when our condition worsened, I accepted. When I did it for the first time, I felt very bad and cried for many days. I am in contact with a number of men who give me money. I have been forced to do this and feel no joy while doing it. I am taking pills to keep myself from becoming pregnant. I always fear letting anyone, including my children and neighbours, know about my relations. If the neighbours find out they will throw me out of this area. I am very afraid of getting AIDS or any other sexual disease; that is why I do this only in time of need. I am in touch with many women who are doing this dirty business and all of them are widows. I know Jamila who was killed by one of the Taliban's commanders. She had a relationship with the commander but when he found out that she had relations with other men, he killed her.

AH: My husband divorced me five years ago. I gave birth to two daughters but he wanted a son. With two daughters I faced a lot of problems. I started with washing clothes but at the end fell into this net. I have been doing this for more than two years. I am in contact with a man who has a showroom and he gives me money in return for sexual relations. He has a family, wife and children. I am using pills to avoid conception and I am a heart patient as well. My older daughter is 14. In order to keep her safe from these things, I arranged her marriage. But because of bad luck, her life is bitterer than mine is. Her husband is young and inexperienced and he and his mother do very cruel things to her. My daughter usually comes to share her pain with me. She is now a teacher in a RAWA literacy course.

Jordan: Two Recent cases of Honour Killings

A 27-year-old man is under interrogation by authorities in Amman after murdering his younger sister to redeem his family's honour.

Siham Amad, 22, received five fatal bullets to her head and back in the town of Jofeh reportedly by her enraged brother who was identified only as F. The suspect turned himself into police immediately after the murder was committed, citing family honour as his motive. The victim left her family's home on June 19 and was later found by police. She was referred to the pathology unit for a medical examination, which showed that she had not been involved in any sexual activity. In cases where women go missing or are found alone with a man, they must undergo a virginity test before being released.

In Amad's case, she was ordered detained administratively until Aug. 8, when one of her family members signed a JD10, 000 guarantee that she would not be harmed after her release. The victim was released the same day. A few hours after her release, her brother reportedly escorted her to an open area in a village and shot her to death. Amad, became the eighth woman murdered in Jordan since the beginning of the year.

**********************

Following a Court order to decrease the seven-and-a-half-year sentence against a man convicted of killing his sister, the Criminal Court in Amman reduced the sentence to 30 months.

Mohammad Rashid, 23, had previously been sentenced to 15 years in April 2002 for hitting and killing his sister, Marasem, 19, with a water hose in November 2000 for what he claimed were reasons of family honour. During the initial trial, the court immediately reduced his sentence by half because his family dropped charges against him. However, the Court which examined Rashid's case over the last five months, overturned that verdict and asked the Criminal Court to hand him a lighter sentence. "The water hose used by the defendant is not a deadly weapon. He did not intend to kill her when he beat her with it," the higher court ruled. Therefore, the manslaughter charge should be reduced to a beating-to-death charge, which carries a lesser sentence, the court said.

Then the Criminal Court changed its previous verdict, handing Rashid a two-and-a-half-year prison term. Court documents indicated Rashid attacked his sister because he saw her talking to a strange man during a wedding party. Then he placed his sister's body in a truck and buried her in a cemetery. After questioning Rashid, the court said, he confessed to the murder, citing family honour as his motive.

Every year tens of women is murdered because of this Islamic and tribal custom. In December 2002, as a result of a legislative amendment to Article 340 of the Penal Code, perpetrators of honour crimes are not exempt from the death penalty, although judges are still allowed to commute the sentences of the convicted. Article 97 and 98, which reduce the sentence of crimes committed in a fit of fury and are frequently referenced in honour crimes cases, were unaffected by the amendments.

Palestine: Increase in Violence against Women

A poll conducted by the Palestinian Working Women Society for Development PWWSD indicates that violence against women is in rise.

According to this poll, 86.0% believe to varying degrees that the political, economic, and social conditions have led to an increased violence against women. 52.5% believe that customs and traditions comprise a stumbling block to the advancement of women. 42.0% believe that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has not helped establish enough institutions to combat violence against women. 39.6% believe that women institutions have not exerted enough efforts to address violence against women. 68.5% believe that the PA is ought to formulate a strict law to punish individuals who exercise violence against women. 39.1% believe that violence against women has shown some progression. 72.4% believe that it is necessary to upgrade the status of women on the economic, political, and social levels. 67.4% believe that women can be liberated through education.

The poll that was supervised by the President of the PCPO, Dr. Nabil Kukali, and included a random sample of 1133 adults from Gaza Strip, and the West Bank including East Jerusalem, reveals that 49.8% of the Palestinians strongly believe that the political, economic, and social conditions in he Palestinian territories have increased violence against women, while 36.2% somewhat believe that have increased violence, 8.7% decreased, and 5.3% express no opinion.

When asked, " Do you know of a woman that was assaulted by her husband?" a plurality 56.7% of the respondents give a positive answer, while 43.3% give a negative answer. When the answer for this question is compared to that of a poll conducted last year, one can notice an increase by 22.0% with a positive answer, where only 34.7% gave a positive answer, while 65.3% gave a negative answer.

When asked on how a man assaults his wife answers were as follows: 38.4% by hand, 15.1% by stick, 7.9% by a sharp tool, 32.0% by swearing and cursing, and 6.6% by other means. However, 39.1% of the respondents believe that violence against women has increased, while 5.8% believe the opposite, 18.3% has shown detainment, and 16.8% express no opinion. In addition 52.5% of the respondents believe that Palestinian customs and traditions constitute a stumbling block to the progression of women, whereas 43.7% oppose this notion, and 3.8% abstain. Also, a majority (72.4%) believes that boosting the political, social, and economical status of women is essential, whereas 24.0% disagree, and 3.6% are noncommittal.

When asked about a women working outside the house, 59.1% believe it is the right of a man to decide for his wife whether or not to work outside the house, whereas 38.3% believe the opposite, and 2.6% abstain. However, 38.7% of men and women respondents believe that Palestinian women should not be treated democratically for they will not appreciate, whereas 55.8% believe the opposite, and 5.5% express no opinion.

The poll also reveals that 51.8% support a man's abusing his wife physically if she does not obey him, whereas 44.1% oppose, and 4.1% express no opinion. In addition, 51.7% of the respondents recommend beating up a wife if she does not respect her parents, sisters, and brothers' in-law, whereas 44.4% oppose, and 3.9% abstain.

A plurality (73.9%) prefers women to concentrate on their becoming good wives and mothers rather than get preoccupied with their rights, whereas 24.6% oppose this opinion, and 1.5% are noncommittal. Consequently, 67.8% believe that women should be more devoted to household obligations rather than social and political liberty, whereas 29.8% oppose, and 2.4% abstain. In addition, 48.6% of the respondents believe that a man has the right to abuse his wife physically when she reminds him of his weaknesses, whereas 47.9% oppose, and 3.5% express no opinion. In addition, 46.4% of the respondents give the right to a man to abuse his wife physically if she lies to him, whereas 49.9% believe the opposite, and 3.7% express no opinion. Yet 56.9% believe that a man has the right to beat up his wife if she underestimates his manhood, whereas 40.1% oppose, and 3.0% express no opinion. However, 47.8% of the respondents believe that a pushy, grouchy, and gossipy wife inspires her husband to beat her up, whereas 47.5% disagree, and 4.7% are noncommittal.

However, 56.2% of the respondents support the physical abuse of a wife if she insults her husband in front of his friends, whereas 19.7% oppose, and 4.1% express no opinion. Also, 44.0% believe that a man's abuse of his wife physical can be for her interest sometimes, whereas 49.3% oppose, and 6.7% are noncommittal.

A plurality (55.4%) of the respondents disagree with the position that "a Palestinian man's treatment to his wife is inherent by violence, whereas 31.0% agree, and 13.6% express no opinion. In addition, 46.3% of the respondents disagree with the notion, which says, "The Palestinian women exaggerate in claiming that they are violently treated by their husbands, whereas 40.0% agree, and 13.7% are noncommittal. On the other hand, 27.8% of the respondents believe that e PNA institutions pay extra attention to the issue of violence against women, whereas 45.8% believe otherwise, and 26.4% express no opinion. As to a police-related question, 56.5% of the respondents believe that the intervention of the police will complicate any dispute between a husband and his wife, whereas 29.7% believe the contrary, and 13.8% refrain from answering.

A plurality (47.1%) of the respondents do not recommend the intervention of the social organisations when a woman is abused by her husband physically, for this is a private family matter, whereas 41.4% recommend the opposite, and 11.5% abstain. However, 26.8% of the respondents believe that the PNA has established A sufficient number of institutions for combating violence against women, whereas 42.0% believe the opposite, and 31.2% express no opinion. When asked whether or not the police should intervene when women are assaulted by their husbands, 53.7% of the respondents disagree out of the token that it is a private family matter, whereas 36.0% support this intervention, and 10.3% refrain from answering this question. However, 33.7% of the respondents believe that Palestinian women institutions have lately exaggerated in advocating women's rights, whereas 39.6% believe the opposite, and 26.7% abstain. When asked about establishing special shelters for women, who are abused physically, 49.3% oppose the idea for they believe that those women can often be supported by their extended families. Yet, 35.8% support the idea, and 14.9% are noncommittal.

However, a majority (55.5%) believes that women abused physically should not confide to any person other than their parents, whereas 36.0% oppose, and 8.5% refrain from answering this question. When asked about leaving marginal issues like violence aside as opposed to more current complicated problems like occupation, unemployment, and poverty, a majority 44.7% supports this notion, whereas 45.1% oppose, and 10.2% express no opinion. A majority (69.2%) supports the idea that a wife has the light to care about herself after taking care of her husband and children, whereas 27.8% state the opposite, and 3.0% are noncommittal.

A plurality (66.4%) states that a successful wife is that woman who cares about her husband and children more than herself and her rights, whereas 30.3% state the opposite, and 3.3% abstain. However, 66.4% of the respondents believe it is even worse for a woman to swear, curse, or use bad words than for a man, whereas 30.2% believe it makes no difference, and 3.4% express no opinion. However, 56.7% of the respondents support the physical abuse of a wife if she insults her husband in front of his friends, whereas 39.6% oppose, and 3.7% express no opinion. Also a majority (82.3%) believes that it is a wife's obligation to obey her husband, whereas 15.3% believe otherwise, and 2.4% express no opinion. However, 52.9% believe that in case of contention the husband's opinion should outweigh that of his wife, whereas 43.5% believe otherwise, and 3.6% are noncommittal.

President of the PCPO, Dr. Nabil Kukali stated that the survey was carried out in the period 23 August - 2 September 2002, and that the margin of error was ±2.91percent points and the average years of schooling for respondents was 11.64 years. The co-ordinator of counselling and consultation program of the PWWSD in Ramallah, Mrs. I'tidal Jariri, mentioned that the percentage of married respondents was 61.6% while that of single ones was 32.4%, separated and divorced 2.1%, and widowed was 3.9%. She also added that the percentage of Muslims respondents was as high as 92.7%, and that of Christian ones was 7.3%. She stated that the average age of the respondents was 31.51 years.

Mrs. Jariri mentioned that executing this poll for the second time stems from its importance and its impact on the economic and social conditions. It will also highlight this issue in order to seek appropriate solutions. This would be considered as an important and genuine step towards educating Palestinians and drawing people's attention to the consequences of this issue. It is necessary to recognise family violence in order for us to be able to change biased social education. We hope that women organisations benefit from this study so that they would provide protection and support to victims of family violence. Mrs. Jariri emphasised the importance of approving laws to protect women exposed to family violence, and to work on formulating laws punish perpetrators. She added that it is unreasonable to talk about reformation without a social context based on equality and human rights. Mrs. Jariri emphasised the fact that violence against women will hamper our capabilities to confront enormous social and political challenge.

Nigeria & Iran: Six Women and Two Men on the Death Row of Islamic Law

Iran: According to Iranian official press, since the beginning of this year, four 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, Fatima Usman, Ahmadu Ibrahim and Ado Baranda are now on the death Row of Islamic Sharia

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

Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Republic, The Presidency, Federal Secretariat Phase II, Shehu Shagari Way, Abuja; Nigeria Fax: 234 9 523 21 36 (press office), Email: president.obasanjo@nigeriagov.org 

Alhaji Sule Lamido, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maputo Street, Zone 3 Wuse District, Abuja, Nigeria; Fax: 234 9 523 02 08.

Kanu Godwin Agabi, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, New Federal Secretariat complex Shehu Shagari Way, Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria; Fax: 234 9 523 52 08.

Alhaji Uman Musa Yar'adua, Governor, Office of the Military Administrator, Katsina, Katsina State, Nigeria.

Nigerian Embassy, 173 Avenue Victor Hugo 75016 Paris Fax: 00 33 1 47 04 47 54 or

Events: "Islamic Law should be opposed"; a panel discussion & debate organised by the Philosophical Society of Trinity College - Dublin, Ireland.

Speakers: Senator Mary Henry, Azam Kamguian women's rights activist, Ivana Basic civil rights activist, the Imam of Dublin, Saib Blair of the UK Islamic party, a representative of Nation of Islam.

When: 7.30, Thursday 10 October 02 Where: Philosophical Society Trinity College - Dublin

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