CDWRME Bulletin #19
"Women in the Middle East"
Number 19, December, 2003
Bulletin of "Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East"
Editor: Azam Kamguian
Assistant Editor: Mona Basaruddin
In this issue:
According to the Quds newspaper, the supreme court of the Islamic regime of Iran has sentenced four people to stoning in the city of Mashhad-Iran. In addition to the death sentence, all four were also sentenced to lashes and imprisonment. The names of the sentenced have not been announced.
As a result of massive protests both inside and outside Iran, in the late December 2002, the Islamic regime of Iran announced that the punishment by stoning is suspended. The continuous activities of the International Committee against Stoning and many more Human Rights organisations forced the Iranian government to suspend stoning. However, it is common knowledge that given the suppressive nature of the Islamic regime it would not hesitate to resort to such barbarity, the moment it felt threatened by people’s protests. The death sentence of Shahnaz, (the Iranian women) for having extra-marital relationship, in August 2003 and now sentencing four people in Mashhad to stoning have proven the continuous violation of people’s basic rights in Iran. It also demonstrates the importance of the international pressure on the Islamic regime of Iran to stop this brutality. We must continue our fight to abolish stoning all around the world.
Join our campaign.
- Write to the Iranian President Mohammad Khatami demanding:
- Immediate abolition of stoning, execution and all other forms of punishment for extra-marital relations;
- Immediate release of all those imprisoned for extra-marital relations;
- Immediate release of Shahnaz, who has been sentenced to death by execution.
Fax: 0098 21 649 5880
International Committee against Stoning 11 November 2003
Afghanistan's draft constitution is preparing for another Islamic state in this country. Mahbuba Hoquqmal, the State Minister of Women's Affairs, said the constitution should grant protection to women's property rights, ensure that women cannot be forced to marry without their consent and offer better guarantees of equal treatment by Afghanistan's courts.
"We're at a critical stage," Hoquqmal told reporters. "Women's rights are something to be taken. If the government doesn't give them, then women have to claim them themselves."
A grand council, or loya jirga, of some 500 delegates is scheduled to meet next month to consider the proposed constitution. The government of Hamid Karzai, which was installed after a U.S.-led coalition ousted theTaliban regime in late 2001, set aside 100 loya jirga seats for women.
The draft version of the constitution would set aside a number of seats in the new legislature for women. It also calls on the government to promote the education of women - a practice that was banned under the five-year Taliban regime.
Among the changes suggested by Hoquqmal's group is a sentence that would be added to the 12-point preamble specifying that Afghans have adopted the constitution with the aim of "securing equal rights for women and men and eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence against women."
The Algerian government has set up a commission to revise the North African country's family code to improve women's rights. Under the current code, based mainly on Islam's strict Sharia law and adopted in 1984, women must submit to male protection throughout their lives.
Women's groups, demanding gender equality, say women are considered minors for life under the current law. "This code said to be that of the family is in fact, a sort of code of proper conduct for a woman," a legal expert said. "It orders everything that she must and must not do. It should be repealed."
Several previous attempts to revise the code have been unsuccessful. In Algeria, women cannot get married or carry out certain everyday activities without the consent of a male family member, father, brother, uncle or cousin, who may even be younger than she is.
The code also recognises polygamy and divorce. A man can have up to four wives, and divorce any of them simply by saying "I divorce thee" three times. The only concession for women is that a man wishing to take additional wives must obtain approval from earlier wives.
A woman can win divorce on the grounds of non-payment of living allowances, lack of consortium, or the husband's extended absence or imprisonment. Several previous attempts to revise the code have been unsuccessful due to the strong influence of religion in Algerian society and opposition from Islamic fundamentalists and conservatives. The commission is expected to make recommendations in the coming months.
The head of an Algerian Islamic party rejected as un-Islamic a campaign by women's rights groups to scrap the north African country's restrictive family code. "Those who call for the pure and simple annulment of this law are in truth fighting against Islam," Abou Djerra Soltani, president of the Movement of the Society for Peace (MSP) told Algerian newspapers.
A government commission began meeting late last month to revise the code, which is based on strict Sharia, and which women's rights organizations say should be thrown out entirely. Under planned revisions, women would no longer be forced to leave home upon divorce, and the man would see his role as guardian of the family diminished. Polygamy or the specific rules regarding divorce are not mentioned at all.
The MSP has 38 seats in the current legislature, a sharp drop from the 69 it had going into general elections in May 2002, when a new, more radical Islamic party, the National Reform Movement (MRN), took 43 seats. The family code dates to the days of one-party rule under the National Liberation Front (FLN), which ran Algeria from independence in 1962 until 1991. The FLN now has 203 seats in the 389-seat National Assembly.
One main focus of the play is on unjust laws on adultery Mullahs deface posters depicting women; zealots burn videotapes; female students are ordered to wear shawls and women prisoners suffer discrimination under medieval laws in the name of religion. These were the themes of a 20-minute play staged recently in Lahore by a group of amateur artists.
The aim was to highlight the struggle for women's rights in a country facing civil liberty questions following the rise to power of the mullahs in North-West Frontier Province. The play focuses on several of the provincial government's policy goals.
They include imposing a ban on male doctors treating women, introducing compulsory veils for female students and authorising officers of Islamic parties to break into homes to see if people are following the mullahs' edicts. More important still is the focus on the 20,000 women languishing in jails across the country under the medieval Sharia laws on adultery.
The laws, introduced in the 1970s by the dictator General Zia ul-Haq, are still in force. Producers say theatre can be effective in a country of low literacy. The women, many of whom have been raped and then accused of adultery, cannot be freed unless they find four Muslim male witnesses to testify on their behalf.
A national women's commission, set up by President Pervez Musharraf, has declared the laws on rape - known as the Hudood laws - to be unjust and against the spirit of Islam. A few weeks ago, Sherry Rehman, a National Assembly member from the opposition Pakistan People's Party, tabled a bill to repeal this law and pass others to raise the status of women.
The Lahore play, shown at the Human Rights Commission, is part of a campaign by a number of rights organisations trying to resist the Islamic parties that have formed the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance.
Mohammed Waseem, the producer of the play, says theatre is an effective medium to convey the message to the general public in a country where literacy levels are low. He has staged several such plays, documentaries and street theatre within his organisation, the Interactive Resource Centre.
In one video docudrama, women living in the victims' shelter, Dastak, portray how they were beaten by their husbands, forced to marry young or charged with adultery to deprive them of their property. Islamic lawmakers oppose laws raising the status of women.
These true tales are to show how laws and the family fail to support them or protect them from violence. Traditional values mean women suffering brutality can often find no refuge with parents or in state institutions.
A lucky few do find places in specialist refuges - with women coming from all classes and backgrounds. One of the women in the docudrama, Salma, is the daughter of a session judge who faced murder threats when she sought divorce from her abusive husband. She found a place in a Lahore refuge - although refuge is not always guaranteed. A few years earlier, another woman, Samia, the daughter of a big businessman, was murdered by her relatives in the shelter. Such "honour" killings, says Mehboob Khan of the Human Rights Commission, are encouraged by Sharia because the attackers can escape punishment by paying compensation under the Qisas and Diyat laws.
Showing films and performing plays to highlight the issues may not bring immediate relief to the victims, but at least it provides some platform from which they can register their protest.
Israeli parliament has passed a measure that would force Palestinians who marry Israelis to live separate lives or move out of Israel. The government said the law was necessary to prevent terror attacks, but critics called it racist. The law, to be in effect for one year, would prevent Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who marry Israeli Arabs from obtaining residency permits in Israel.
In pushing the measure, Israel's government cited instances in which Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza have exploited their residency permits - which grant them freedom of movement in Israel - to carry out terror attacks. "This law comes to address a security issue," Cabinet Minister Gideon Ezra told Israel Radio. "Since September 2000 we have seen a significant connection, in terror attacks, between Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza and Israeli Arabs." The vote was 53 in favour, 25 against and one abstention.
Israeli Arabs were outraged. "We see this law as the implementation of the 'transfer' policy by the state of Israel," said Jafar Savah from Mossawa, an advocacy center for Israeli Arabs. He was referring to a plan by ultranationalist Jewish groups to persuade or force Israeli Arabs and Palestinians to leave for Arab countries. Savah said the law was an attempt to legalize unofficial policy that has been in effect since September 2000, when Israeli-Palestinian violence broke out. He warned that the law would damage relations between Israel and its Arab minority.
Local and international human rights groups have condemned the law as racist.
"This is a racist law that decides who can live here according to racist criteria," said Yael Stein from the Israeli rights group B'tselem. Two New York-based rights groups, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, sent letters to the parliament protesting the law and urging lawmakers not to pass it, a statement from Human Rights Watch said.
Israel and the Palestinians have been locked in a bloody conflict for 33 months, though a limited cease-fire declared by the Palestinians on June 29 has significantly reduced attacks against Israelis. Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel's population of 6 million. About 3 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many families were divided by cease-fire lines after Mid-east wars, and over the years, marriage between the two groups has been common.
Some Israelis see this as a security threat. Since 1993, more than 100,000 Palestinians have obtained Israeli permits in this manner.
On the eve of the general election for a new National Assembly, the Ministry of Education published the results of the current academic year's school examinations: Some 77% of those who successfully passed the final secondary-school examinations were girls. The girls also won all the top places in all the subjects. The following day, however, the girls, along with their mothers, had to stand by and watch while their brothers and fathers went to the polls to choose a new parliament. It is not only at school that the girls are doing well. They also form a majority of university students in practically all subjects. In some disciplines, almost 80% of the undergraduates are girls. And yet only one out of six girls emerging from the crucible of Kuwaiti education has any chance of getting a proper job that reflects her academic achievements. The exclusion of women from active life costs the exchequer dearly.
At a seminar on the election, held at the school of social sciences a day before the election, only one of the professors, a bearded young man, argued that letting women take part in the political process is contrary to "Islamic values and rules." He immediately ran into a barrage of boos by other professors, including many women, who insisted that the issue was political and not theological.
The issue of enfranchisement, however, diverts attention from the broader reality of women's position. In a country where 94% of all jobs are in the public sector, only 6% of state employees are women. In some areas women are allowed in only as tokens. The Foreign Service, for example, includes only two women diplomats, while the police and the armed forces have taken a few dozen women, all of them in routine jobs. Where possible, as in the small private sector, women have made some headway and are present in such sectors as the media, private education and finance. But even there, their presence is often symbolic as they are denied key jobs.
Forty-five young women have been murdered in 'honour killings' in Iran's majority ethnic Arab province of Khuzestan in a two-month period this year. An aide to the province's governor said the killings were recorded from the beginning of March to May. Based on reports 45 girls under the age of 20 from just one tribe were murdered in 'honour killings' carried out by their fathers, uncles, brothers or cousins. The girls have been killed and their identification cards have been burnt. And the murderers usually walk free, or otherwise nothing is reported in the first place. Honour killings' are carried out for a variety of reasons, including a girl's refusal to agree to an arranged marriage, not abiding by the strict Islamic dress code, or having contacts with males who are not family members. Another problem was rape within families. There is a report that the governor's office had recently received 18 complaints of rape by girls aged between 12 and 14, but gave no time period for the complaints. It has been said the province had also seen a return to pre-Islamic traditions, including the practice of 'Hediyeh', literally 'gift', whereby a girl is given as a consolation present to the head of a tribe if his parents die. Another tradition making a comeback is 'Nahveh' meaning 'method' - in which a girl is obliged to marry her paternal cousin. If she refuses, she is threatened until she accepts. If she is stubborn in her refusal or the cousin rejects her, she has no right to marry for the rest of her life.
Following an intense national and international pressure coming from women and human rights organisations, the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, has reportedly ordered that the execution of Afsaneh Norouzi should not be carried out "for the moment."
Afsaneh Norouzi's lawyer has reportedly appealed to the National Security Commission in connection with her case, and Afsaneh Norouzi has written to the judiciary about her fate.
Afsaneh Norouzi was reportedly arrested in 1997 after killing the Head of Police Intelligence in Kish, southern Iran. She acted in self-defence in order to protect herself from being raped. Her death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in August 2003.
The IHEU International Conference “Empowering Women”, meeting on 15th and 16th November 2003 at Conway Hall, London, at which participants from 16 countries (Slovakia, Poland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Iraq, Syria, Iran, India, Nepal, the United Kingdom and the United States) are assembled, unanimously passed the following resolution:
This conference expresses its grave disquiet that despite the claims of the government of the United States that the invasions and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq were carried out, at least in part, to liberate the people of those countries, the draft Constitution for Afghanistan reintroduces Islamic law in a form that falls far short of internationally accepted standards of human rights, and that in Iraq, the American Administration is reported as being prepared to accept Islam as the state religion.
The conference deplores the reintroduction of an Islamic Constitution in Afghanistan while the memory of the brutality of the Taliban is still fresh, and expresses its dismay that the Administration would countenance the introduction of a state religion in Iraq where none existed before the occupation by coalition forces. The principle of the separation of religion and state, a defining characteristic of the Constitution of the United States of America, is a necessary condition to guarantee freedom of conscience for all citizens, and to safeguard the welfare of women in any state.
The conference urgently requests the government of the United States to ensure that the new Constitutions for Afghanistan and Iraq conform to the standards set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In defence of children’s security and welfare
“Children First” is the voice of street children, the voice of struggle to end child poverty, the voice of protecting children from abuse by religion!
This conference highlights the voice of war-stricken children in Iraq! It is a gathering of activists who are fighting to defend children’s rights and bring happiness, security and a better life for all children of the world.
Come to our conference and join us in the effort to defend children’s rights!
Programme of the conference:
Speeches, photo exhibition, film, slide show, play, music and a solidarity evening with children in Iraq
The conference is held in 5 languages; English, Swedish, Farsi, Kurdish and Arabic
Azam kamguian will be speaking at this conference on faith schools and children’s development;
Other speakers will include:
Soraya Shahabi, haead of Children first and one of its founders; Sara Sepid-dam; Soleyman Ghasemian; Eva Arvidsson; Inger Stark; Ulf Schyld; A representative from Amnesty International, Sweden Office.
Gun Zacharias; Vidar Vetterfalk; Arman farakish; Halale Taheri; Zhila Samandarpoor; Asad Nodinian; Siavash Modaresi; Karim Shamohammadi; Akbar Sepid-dam; Kavosh Mehran; Esmail Moloudi; Kimia Pazooki; Fares Mahmood; Shirzad Fateh; Fariba Mirza-ali; “Help Society” in Sweden.
Hami Etemad; presenting his art, paintings reflecting children’s welfare and security.
Gisou Shakeri; presenting her musical contribution.
Solidarity Evening with Children in Iraq
People in Iraq and children in particular have suffered the devastating consequences of more than 2 decades of war and violence. Children in Iraq need our support. They, like millions of children elsewhere deserve a happy and healthy life.
Your contributions can save children in Iraq. Help us to provide them with safe shelters. Take part in this evening of fund raising and support. You can get to know the activists of children’s rights from Iraq and share their first hand experience of the movement in defence of children’s rights in Iraq.
Stockholm 29th and 30th November 2003
Place: Kista Träff-Centrum, Metro – Kista Centrum
Conference’ time: 10.00 – 17.00
Solidarity Evening’s time: 19.00 – 23.00
“Faith Schools, Veiling Children and Children’s Rights”
A seminar organised by International Campaign in the Defence of Women’s Rights in Iran – Norway branch
Speakers: Azam kamguian, Parvin Kaboli and Kjersti Boersum
December 4th 2003, 4.30 - 8.00
IKM Sentret In Grunnland Oslo, Norway
UK: Help Me! My parents plan to forcibly marry me in Pakistan
I am a 17 yr old female living in London. My parents (my dad) has arranged for me to go on holiday to Pakistan this year to see my family. I have overheard that they would like me to get married to someone from there, a cousin of mine. I do not wish this to happen. My family is form a very narrow minded place and do not agree for daughters to have permission in marriage as parents always know best. Can u please give me an idea on what I should do and what help I could be offered in Pakistan or by the British Embassy. Let me know as soon as possible.
Holland: Permission to re-print items of your bulletins and provide us with contacts in Egypt
I would hereby like to ask permission to reprint the article Egypt: Arab Women's Civil Rights in Marrying Foreigner, published in your Bulletin, June 2003. Would it also be possible to be provided with a contact in Egypt, so I could write them and ask for recent developments/update on their struggle? The reprint, mentioning full source, is meant for our non-commercial magazine called Newsletter, which is sent to 1150 women's organisations in English, 450 in Spanish and 70 in French. Unfortunately we are not in the financial position to pay for such a reprint. The Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights is an autonomous network of groups and individuals in every continent who aim to achieve and support reproductive rights for women. The Network strives for women's right to self-determination in keeping with their freedom, dignity and personally held values. Trans-forming social, political and economic conditions are part of the reproductive rights agenda so that all women are able to fully enforce reproductive rights. The Network has been inexistence and growing since 1978. Hoping to be hearing from you soon,
With kind greetings,
WGNRR Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights
1092 TJ Amsterdam
phone (31-20) 620 96 72
fax (31-20) 622 24 50
e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
UK: Your expert advice is urgently needed
Reading your work, your knowledge and experience of Islam and women's rights stand out prominently, as does your courage in speaking the truth. I am writing to seek your expertise on Turkish culture and institutions. Would you be able to provide expert advice on a case involving a divorced woman who brought up her children as Christian - to the peril of her ex-husband and the Turkish state? Your assistance would be much appreciated for the sake of this family. Looking forward to hearing from you - there is some urgency. I live in Bristol, UK and you can contact me on:
Canada: I am shocked about the truth of Forced Marriages
I read your article and was shocked that these things happen. I was wondering if would recommend to me any books written by girls, women, families, or survivors that talk of this terrible experience of forced marriages.
Canada: Don’t believe in lies!
I just read your article the Silent Holocaust of political Islam. And I just wanted to shout to Canadians whom I live among. Wake up you fools. Read and wake up before it is too late. Unfortunately last week I went to a Mall in Mississauga, Ontario Canada where I live and saw a booth that was giving away books about how Islam elevates the Status of women and westerners are taking these books homes. I wanted to shout in public Lies. These are lies. The Americans did wake up some how. The Canadians didn't yet. I hope they do without the need of another 9.11.
Nashaat, Grew up in Egypt and lived 5 years in Saudi clearly understand
Canada: Help me to produce TV films on the truth!
My name is Tim Scott and I am a TV producer in Alberta. I was shocked to see your web page and as a TV producer, feel this is something that could have a profound effect if given TV coverage with the correct story behind it. I would certainly be interested in knowing more. Perhaps you can help me on a similar issue:
I am looking for an extended Iraqi family story. I would like to produce a one hour documentary about a family that left Iraq and settled in Canada. "An Iraqi Family in Canada" If you can help me please contact me at the above email.
The USA: Help us to write on women’s rights in the Middle East
Dear Ms. Kamguian,
We are students at James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia. For our Combating Intolerance Class we are going to write a paper on Women's Rights in the Middle East. This paper will be published in a journal in a couple of months and we were wondering if you would help us with the topic. We found out your information from your website www.eclipse.co.uk/women. We picked Women's Rights in the Middle East as the topic for our paper because we were assigned to write about intolerances that are found in our world. We feel that not many people know to what extent women are discriminated against or what is going on in the Middle East.
We were wondering if you might be able to help us by giving us some information about what you know so that we have an expert on the subject that we are in contact with. We would also like it if you would be able to write a two to three page paper on the topic so that we can use it as a source of information. I hope that you will be able to help us with our project. We look forward to hearing back from you.
Thank you for your time,
The USA: Help me on my work on Iraqi women’s status
Hi, I'm a student at New York University and I'm writing an article about the status of women in Iraq now. I'm having trouble finding groups that deal either exclusively or frequently with women's rights in Iraq. I was wondering if your organization does, or if you could tell me why you think there are so few groups that do. Is it because women in Iraq generally enjoyed social equality before the 1990s?
Any comments you could give me would be very useful. Thanks
Sweden: You wrote the truth about granting the Nobel peace prize to Ebadi
Your commentary article on the Nobel prize to "a Muslim woman" was great! I appreciate your standpoint and wish you gain success in your struggle for liberation of human beings. the so called Nobel Peace Prize is absolutely political motivated. It is in the service of the oppressors, not the oppressed. If there existed any Peace Prize at all, it should have one to the real freedom fighter NASER ZARAFSHAN, who has dedicated his life to the case, and still bringing the time in the Islamic jails in Iran.
Mahmoud Soltani; Sweden
Invitation to attend the alternative press conference in Oslo
On Tuesday 9th December a press conference will be held in Oslo with Shirin Ebadi – the recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Simultaneously, outside the conference hall, we will also be holding a press conference. Two conferences with two different aims.
In their conference, they will portray the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Shirin Ebadi as honouring women’s rights and human rights in Iran. In our conference, we will talk about the Nobel Committee’s branding of people with such marks as ‘Muslim women’ and ‘Muslim world’, and the destructive consequences of this for millions of people in countries afflicted with Islam.
In their conference, they will talk about the compatibility of Islam and human rights. In our conference, we will talk about Islam’s open hostility towards human rights and women’s rights.
In their conference, they will offer a more delicate and tolerable image of Islamic government and political Islam. In our conference, the reactionary movement of political Islam and its countless crimes, especially in the last quarter century, in Iran and the world will be exposed.
In their conference, they will talk about appeasing and coming to terms with the Islamic regime in Iran and the possibility of reforming it. In our conference, we will talk about the Islamic regime’s hostility towards any form of human rights, the need to overthrow it and the revolution that is on the way.
The message of their conference will be appeasement of the Islamic regime and its embellishment. Our conference will carry the message of millions of people who abhor the Islamic regime; the message of the anti-religious and secularist movement in Iran and the Middle East; the message of workers, women and youth in Iran who are protesting against the Islamic Republic.
Come to our press conference and hear the truth!
Organisation for Women’s Liberation – Iran
Organisation of Women’s Freedom – Iraq
Campaign in Defence of Women’s Rights in Iran
Middle East Centre for Women’s Rights
The campaign Don’t Forget Pila and Fadima!
International Committee against Stoning