CDWRME Bulletin #24

"Women in the Middle East" 

Number 24, May, 2004

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

Editor: Azam Kamguian
Assistant Editor: Mona Basaruddin

In this issue: 

  • Jordan: Women find some freedom in divorce rights
  • Afghanistan: RAWA stages demo against human rights  violations
  • Turkey: Father held for "honour killing" of raped teen daughter
  • U.K.: Solicitors 'must protect' women from forced marriages
  • U.K.: Lawyers ignore forced marriages
  • Nigeria: New Sharia law in Zamfara
  • Iraq: No freedom for women
  • Turkey: Over-zealous imam boycotted
  • Afghanistan: Women's status in third post-war year
  • Germany: Berlin bans religious symbols
  • Sudan:  Another woman sentenced to 100 lashes
  • France: Kicking out cleric who thinks beating up women is OK
  • Letters to & Requests from CDWRME    
  • Jordan: Women find some freedom in divorce rights  

Jordanian women who had had enough of their marriages but were unable to end it until a temporary law granted unhappily married Jordanian women their freedom. Under Khuloe, a woman just has to state she loathes her husband and feels she can no longer fulfil her "wifely duties".  

Khuloe is part of a Civil Status Temporary Law, which caused controversy in Jordan when it was issued in late 2001. Jordan's tribal- and Islamist-dominated parliament rejected the law, but the more liberal senate (upper house) passed it temporarily. In the coming months, parliament must review the law again and if passed, it will become permanent.  

Islamist, tribal and independent deputies say the law is contrary to Islamic Sharia law, has made divorce too easy and led to broken homes and moral degeneration.  

Some 570 women filed for divorce last year, 125 successfully. Others dropped their cases or are awaiting the outcome. Many expect parliament to insist on some changes to the Civil Status Law in order to pass it. Deputies believe Khuloe will remain active for several more months anyway, because a stack of temporary laws awaits review.    

  • Afghanistan: RAWA stages demo against human rights  violations  

Afghan refugees held a demonstration outside UN offices against what they called the continuation of Taliban's fundamentalist policies , increased terrorist acts and violation of human rights and called the UN to expand its peace process in the war-torn country.  

They condemned the government to letting loose the Northern Alliance to plunder billions of dollars foreign aid meant for country's reconstruction and the country's assets and their appointments on key positions. The demonstration, organized by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), called for disarming and removing of warlords from key posts, and setting up of genuine democracy in the country.  

Over 300 protesters, mostly women and children from refugee camps, assembled in front of a UN offices at the Constitution Avenue to mark the day when the so-called "Jihadis" took power in Kabul on April 28, 1992 and the Saur Revolution of April 27, 1978.

They criticized the Karzai government for trying to rewrite history, portraying Ahmed Shah Masoud as a hero, appointing the northern Alliance and warlords on key posts in the army, as ministers, diplomats and curving new provinces to please war lords. The protesters called for "independence, democracy and respect for human rights and power to the people of Afghanistan. Member of RAWA's Foreign Affairs Committee, Danish Hamid, said that the Northern Alliance and the Taliban were similar in their complete disregard of human rights and civil liberties, stating that both ruled through "control of gun."    

  • Turkey: Father held for "honour killing" of raped teen daughter  

Turkish police have arrested a man and a dozen of his relatives on suspicion of murdering his 14-year-old daughter, a rape victim, to salvage the family's "honour", according to newspaper reports.  

Nuran Halitogullari was taken captive and raped late last month by a man while she was going to a market in Istanbul. He kept her prisoner in his home for four days, the papers said. Police then arrested him and returned Nuran to her parents, but the family decided she must die for "soiling" their name. Her father and 17-year-old brother strangled her with a wire. They buried her body in a forest and also tried to kill her rapist but he was already in police custody.  

Experts estimate up to 70 women are murdered annually in honour killings in Turkey, mostly in the conservative, mainly ethnic Kurdish southeast region. Scores of other women take their own lives under pressure or fear of attack.  

Turkey's parliament is preparing to strike from the penal code clauses used to reduce sentences for murders committed in the name of honour. It is part of a wider drive to clean up Turkey's human rights record and promote its EU bid.  

In another recent case which drew strong Turkish media interest, a 22-year-old woman was shot dead by her two brothers as she lay in a hospital bed in Istanbul recovering from an earlier assassination bid. Guldunya Toren was killed for having a child outside wedlock after being raped by a cousin in south eastern Turkey.    

  • U.K.: Solicitors 'must protect' women from forced marriages  

 The Law Society is to give solicitors new guidance to help them save young women from forced marriages. The move comes after concern that lawyers are not intervening because they fear being branded racist. At least 300 forced marriages, many with victims under 16, are thought to be performed each year. The guidelines say that 'failure to tackle forced marriage is a failure to protect and endorse the rights of all citizens'. Solicitors are reminded that forced marriage is not an issue confined to any particular culture. The authorities have long battled to prevent under-age girls being taken to their countries of origin to be married off by their parents. But recent investigations have found that a growing number are being married in Britain. Anne Cryer, the MP for Keighley, who led Labour's action plan on forced marriages, wants to create similar guidelines for underage marriages. Source: BBC News, 28.3.04.  

  • U.K.: Lawyers ignore forced marriages  

 Solicitors are asked to intervene by victims, siblings and teachers. Solicitors are afraid of being branded racist if they intervene to stop forced marriages, the Law Society has said. Chief executive Janet Paraskeva said confusion between arranged marriages and forced marriages stopped solicitors reporting incidents to the authorities.  

"We want solicitors to act, not shy away from these issues," she added. There are believed to be at least 300 forced marriages in Britain every year, and many solicitors encounter them through immigration applications. Others are asked to intervene by the victims, their siblings or teachers.  

Arranged marriages have a "long-standing and successful tradition" - but marriages without the "valid consent" of the bride or groom are "forced", the Law Society said.  Protecting people from forced marriages is a question of human rights and not a matter of different cultural traditions said Law Society chief executive Janet Paraskeva.  

Guidelines published by the society on Monday urge solicitors to tackle forced marriages "sensitively but robustly". "Failure to tackle forced marriage is a failure to protect and endorse the rights of all citizens to be treated equally before the law, regardless of race, culture or religious affiliation," they add.  

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children's Asian child protection helpline manager Owais Khan said the "important and much needed guidance... will help eliminate the fears of not tackling the issue".  

Ms Paraskeva said the guidelines would "help solicitors develop their knowledge of forced marriage". "Given the sensitivity and complexity of forced marriages, it is essential solicitors give expert advice," she added.    

  • Nigeria: 'New Sharia law' in Zamfara  

 Thousands died in religious clashes over Sharia The northern Nigerian state of Zamfara has introduced a new package of Islamic, or Sharia, laws. All businesses in the state will have to shut down during the five daily Muslim prayers.  

The state government also says that all "unauthorised" places of worship will be shut down under "Sharia phase two". Zamfara was the first Nigerian state to introduce strict Sharia laws in 2000 and thousands turned out to welcome the new measures on Wednesday. Most other states in the northern Nigeria followed Zamfara by introducing Sharia laws.  

Thieves have had their hands amputated and several women have been sentenced to death by stoning for having extra-marital sex. But no death sentences have yet been carried out. The new laws led to clashes between Christians and Muslims, in which thousands of people died.    

  • Iraq: No freedom for women  

The condition of Iraq’s women is a litmus test of the country’s movement towards civil rights and democratic governance.   

After last-minute disagreements, Iraq’s appointed political representatives have signed the interim Iraqi constitution which will take effect after the transfer of sovereignty by the United States-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) on 30 June 2004. The Iraqi Governing Council - an American creature - offers no hope for Iraqi women, consisting as it does of Islamic or tribal leaders and nationalists who make any reference to women's rights.  

Eleven months after the old regime fell, people in Iraq in general, and women in particular are victims of a dark scenario created by America and Islamic terrorism. Life has not only returned to “normal” but also has become more difficult for women and children. In places where kidnappings occur frequently, children must be accompanied to schools and women are escorted to the market and have taken to donning abaya (body-covering black garments) to ensure greater self-protection.  

Women in Iraq endured untold hardships and difficulties during the past three decades of the Bath regime. Although some basic rights for women, such as the right to education, employment, divorce in civil courts and custody over kids, were endorsed in the Personal Status Code, some of these legal rights were routinely violated. The Bath regime's "faithfulness campaign", an act of terrorism against women that included the summary beheading of scores of those accused of prostitution, is just one example of its brutality against women. However, it is now almost a year after the war, which was supposed to bring "liberation" to Iraqis. Rather than an improvement in the quality of women's lives, what we have seen is widespread violence, and an escalation of violence against women. From the start of the occupation, rape, abduction, "honour" killings and domestic violence have became daily occurrences.  

Iraq’s women have other campaigns to fight. Some politicians openly advocate legislative controls over women’s behaviour. No liberation without women’s liberation. The majority of these women testify to a lack of consideration of their political rights and social needs. Their demands includes abolishing laws impeding women’s employment; ensuring the appointment of qualified, well-trained women judges throughout Iraq; and hiring Iraqi women for reconstruction tasks. A commitment to stability, reconstruction and freedom, can be guaranteed if the rights of Iraqi women, more than 55% of the population, move centre-stage.  

  • Turkey: Over-zealous imam boycotted  

Turkish villagers have boycotted an imam who accused women of indecency simply for travelling on the same buses as men. Since being appointed to the mosque in the village of Kotanduzu a year ago, Mustafa Platin has also ordered women to don full chadors and instructed their husbands to force them to remain indoors if they refused to comply.  

The imam's behaviour sparked a near-unprecedented rebellion. Villagers in the community perched high on a plateau in eastern Turkey have demanded his sacking and promised to boycott daily worship in the local mosque until a replacement imam is found.  

Leyla Karsli, a 35-year-old mother of six, makes an unlikely temptress. She is shrouded in a headscarf concealing her mouth and buried in a shapeless, ankle-length gown. She was none the less a target for the imam. "He even wanted these ones to cover their heads," said Mrs Karsli, pulling her six-year-old twin daughters close to her.  

The imam's superiors in Erzurum, the provincial capital, have ordered the cleric to undergo a series of medical examinations to shield him from prosecution.    

  • Afghanistan: Women's status in third post-war year  

Afghan women had played an active role in both political and social developments since the collapse in 2001 of the Taliban regime, which prevented women from working or studying and did not allow them to leave the house without a male escort.  

The new Afghan constitution was adopted by the 500-member grand assembly, or Loya Jirga, in early January. Under Article 22, it states that every Afghan citizen, whether male or female, has equal rights and responsibilities before the law if it does not contradict Islam.  

Economic hardship, lack of security, domestic violence, illiteracy and maternal mortality are issues still affecting women in the post-Taliban Afghanistan. Women are still sold like property and beaten to death. There are cases of women not taken to hospital just because they are women. It is believed to be shameful to have a women examined by a male doctor. Millions continue to be deprived of their right as a human being.  

One reflection of women's plight is the continuing instances of self-immolation. In western Afghanistan, government authorities have reported over 50 cases of women who have killed themselves in recent months. Officials say poverty, forced marriages and lack of access to education are the main reasons for suicide among women in the western city of Herat.  

An employee at the Afghan Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA) has told that family restriction on women's movements, physical and psychological violence, plus intimidation often caused them commit suicide.  

In addition to domestic violence and traditional practices, security remains another serious challenge and a high risk for many who try to struggle on behalf of their fellow women. A local journalist in the southern Ghazni province, who declined to be named, had to stop presenting news on local TV when she received written death threats at her home.  

In the first post-Taliban women's day, there were no women without a veil in the celebration hall in Kabul, while last year, of over 1,500 women from the provinces did not have the burqa.  

There are many issues that still needed a more coordinated national and international effort to be tackled, including ignorance, discriminatory traditions, economic hardship, forced marriage, childhood engagement and lack of security. 34 percent of over 4 million enrolled students this year were girls, while female illiteracy in Afghanistan recently estimated at 85 percent.  

The Afghan Ministry of Women's Affairs MOWA has identified four priority areas of health, education, legal protection and economic empowerment for its work in the country.    

  • Germany: Berlin bans religious symbols  

Berlin’s regional government plans to outlaw all religious symbols for public servants working in schools, prisons and the police. The law must still be approved by the Senate.  

The Berlin legislation follows the lead taken by Baden-Württemberg, which recently became the first German state to ban teachers from wearing the Hijab in the classroom. Unlike the laws recently passed in France and in Berlin, the Baden-Württemberg law does not apply to Christian symbols. Annette Schavan, the state’s Culture Minister, said that while the hijab was a religious symbol it also made an Islamic political statement denoting the subjection of women.  

The issue has been the subject of controversy since a Muslim teacher, Fereshta Ludin, was denied a job in 1998 in Baden-Württemberg because she wore a headscarf. She took legal action on the basis of the religious freedom guaranteed by the German constitution. Last September, the federal constitutional court ruled by five to three that she was entitled to wear the scarf. But the court also left the 16 states to legislate on the matter individually. Apart from Berlin four more now plan legislation.    

  • Sudan:  Another woman sentenced to 100 lashes  

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Sudanese Organisation against Torture (SOAT), a member of the OMCT network, that a 22 year old woman has been sentenced to 100 lashes of the whip on charges of adultery in Sudan. Ms. Razaz Abaker, 22 years old, was sentenced to 100 lashes of the whip for committing Zina, illegal sexual intercourse. The sentence was handed down by the Nyala Criminal Court on 13 March. The 27 year old man who was charged with having had sex with Ms. Razaz was acquitted by the same court on the basis of insufficient evidence against him. This case was brought based on claims that Ms. Razaz gave birth to a child three years ago outside of marriage, after having had sex with a 22 year old man. A policeman brought the case to the attention of the Attorney General. On the same day, the Attorney General interrogated Ms. Razaz and she confessed to having had sex with the man in question. She claimed that he raped her and had promised to marry her. On the same day, Ms. Razaz was convicted by the court and sentenced to 100 lashes of the whip, which was carried out immediately, with no possibility of legal assistance or appeal. In Sudan, the Penal Code provides that a person can be convicted of Zina if (1) four witnesses testify to the act, (2) a person confesses to the act, or (3) for women, if they are pregnant and unmarried.  

OMCT expresses its grave concern for the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Razaz and unreservedly condemns the use of corporal punishment, which clearly violates international human rights standards that prohibit the use of torture. OMCT is also gravely concerned about the immediate infliction of punishment with no opportunity for appeal or legal consultation. OMCT would like to recall that the government of Sudan is a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture. Sudan has failed to sign the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, a signal of the government's failure to adequately protect women's rights. www.omct.org    

  • France: Kicking out cleric who thinks beating up women is OK  

An Algerian imam living in France, whose comments condoning wife-beating sparked an uproar in the country was deported.  

Chirane Abdelkader Bouziane’s expulsion to Algeria came a day after his remarks, which were made in a magazine interview, were widely reported by French media and drew swift reaction from authorities and Muslim leaders. Dalil Boubakeur, president of the mainstream French council of the Muslim religion, said the remarks were “scandalous and revolting.”  

“You don’t say things of such gravity without suffering very serious consequences,” Boubakeur, whose council serves as a link to the government, told Europe-1 radio.  

Bouziane, 52, imam of a mosque in the Lyon suburb of Venissieux, told the April edition of Lyon Mag that a man could beat his wife “under certain conditions, notably if the woman cheats on her husband.” He claimed that the Koran authorises such punishment. Asked if he was in favour of stoning, he replied, “yes.”  

Justice Minister Dominique Perben said that he was personally scandalised by the remarks. The Interior Ministry said in a statement: “The government cannot tolerate remarks in public that are contrary to human rights, detrimental to human dignity and in particular to the dignity of women.” Bouziane reiterated the comments to reporters but specifying that blows to a woman’s face and upper body should be avoided. “Don’t aim at the face, don’t aim at the eyes, the ears, the nose,” he said on LCI television. “Hit low, that is, on the bottom.”  

 His expulsion came less than a week after another imam was forced to leave the country. Last Thursday, France expelled an imam who called for jihad, or holy war, from his mosque in Brest, in western France.    

·        Letters to & Requests from CDWRME  

Iraq

Hi - I work for the U S Department of State in Mosul Iraq, working with a group of women who are interested in setting up a Centre for Iraqi Women. This centre will have two distinct elements: it will set up work for women, and it will set up committees to liaison with local government regarding women's health, rights, education and business policies. Iraq - and even more so this Northern Province - is torn about by ethnic and religious deep-rooted mutual suspicion. They need this centre that will be open to all women - and will teach them about their rights. Does your organization fund projects like this? I am seeking about $20,000 to give them start-up funding. CPA leaves in July and we would like to give them a toehold on their future before we go. If you do accept proposals/requests for funding, would you please let me know the process?

Thank you, Cindy Gregg   

Switzerland

Hello I am working for a women's rights organization called terre des femmes Switzerland and I am right now compiling a report about honour killings in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. I wonder if you could help me with a few questions. These concern four main areas: 1. laws: is it possible to obtain legal texts from Iraq and Afghanistan? (I am working with an Iranian lawyer who provides me with Iranian legal expertise). I am interested in all aspects of family law and in those >parts of criminal law that deal with "honour killers". This interest applies not only to the current laws, but also to former legal codes (i.e. the Saddam era in Iraq and the pre-soviet, Soviet, Mujaheddin and Taliban eras for Afghanistan). 2. customs/public opinion: can public opinion on the subject of honour killings be gouged in the three countries mentioned? 3. Statistical information: are exact figures available? Are there persons or organizations who collect these cases, or do we only hear from individual stories? 4. The fight against honour killings: who is fighting against this phenomenon, and how? I would be very happy if you could help me with one, several or all of these questions! Of course they are difficult to answer, but I think even a little information will do much to make this subject public here in Switzerland. So I thank you very much for your help!  

With many thanks! Antonia Bertschinger from Switzerland

If you are interested in our organisation, please see www.fraenechte.de. This is the web-site of our "mother organisation" in Germany. Sorry it's in German only!     

USA

Hi, my name is Becky and I'm 15. I am doing a project for a history class of mine. I am researching about women's rights in the Middle East. I was wondering if you could send me an average daily schedule of a woman's day and a girl's day. For example, my mom's day would be: first she would wake up and go to work. On her way home she would pick me up at school. On the way home from school she drops me off at work (I choose to have an after school job). Then she will go home and relax, clean, and cook diner. My schedule would be: Wake up, go to school, have my mom take me to work, go home and do my homework, eat dinner, and on weekends I might go shopping or to a movie. So I would be very grateful if you could send me any information at all. I also would want to get a schedule from you. If you could send me information as soon as possible that would be great. Thank you so much! smile

P.S any info would help   

Australia

Dear Azam! I have read your many article and books and I was please by reading them. I am a Kurdish young woman and currently I am working with many women organizations in Australia. At the moment we are doing project on Middle Eastern women education and their chance of getting job or working, for example- how much right do they have to work? How much do they get pay if they work? Their right of education etc. I have read your few articles and books, they are really helping us with the project. But is that be possible if you give us some information on rate of women working at Middle east- I mean what is the percentage of women working out side the house comparing to men and how much less do they get pay comparing to men. Same with the education- what is the percentage of women having education comparing to men. Thank you very much for help and sharing your ideas with us. I will be pleased if I get any feed back from you. Maria   

Norway

Hello. My name is Mr. Peder Jensen. I come from Norway, and I have been reading your articles about women’s rights in the Middle East. I admire your work. I have contacts with some journalists in my country. Is it ok if I direct them to you and your website, as a point of reference when discussing the rights of young immigrant girls? Issues such as the veil, for instance, which are hotly debated. We face the same "multicultural" ideology here as elsewhere in the West these days. What can I personally do to help your work? Except for money, which I don't have too much of?  

Yours sincerely,

 Peder Jensen.   

Canada

Hi, My name is Lisa Waltes and I am in grade 10. I am doing a research paper and I decided to do it on Women's Rights in the Middle East. I have collected some information to help me write this paper but I was wondering if you could help me? Seeing that you know a lot more about this topic than I do, and I am very interested and would like to learn more about the horrible things that are happening in the Middle East, I wanted to know if you could give me some information about the rules that they must live by, or certain punishments that these women must face. Anything at all would be very helpful! Thank you for your time.  

 Sincerely, Lisa Walters   

Germany

Hi. I was wondering about your opinion of the state of women in post Taliban Afghanistan and post Saddam Iraq. Do you think these two wars have been a step forward for the freedom of women or a setback? Thank you for your time. -Dain   

USA

Dear Ms. Azam Kamguian

I was very interested in reading you article concerning honour killing in Middle Eastern countries. You have explained cultural practices but yet attempted to use Islam as a prevalent reason of honour killings. If we are to actually look at the rights Islam gave to women 14 hundred years ago compared to any other culture or religion. Islam was the first to allow women to vote, work, educate, own property as well as choose her own spouse. Other religions at that time were debating whether a woman had a soul or not. Honour killings is not a an Islamic practice but a disgusting cultural one. Forgive me but you don't seem to have researched Islam well. In the case of fornication ,Yes Islam has stated flogging and stoning only if the two male and female individual are caught by four pious people at the same time and if penetration has been seen altogether by the four individuals and also if they are disturbing the peace ie doing it outside in front of everyone. Punishment is the same for both >individuals independent of gender. May I take this opportunity to thank you for highlighting the issue on honour killing, and look forward to your reply. K.B. Majeed   

Canada

Your articles are products of a fearful mind. What is it about the spread of Islam that frightens you so much? I get a distinct feeling that you are afraid of consequences and punishment. It's inevitable: If you make a mistake, you will be punished. Deal with it. And while you're at it, get a life too.  

USA

Hello I am a University student struggling to find any literature on the subject of forced marriages. I have ample Internet based information but am seeking more conventional sources and hopped you may be able to give me some titles of useful material. Thank you for any help you can give. Sabrina Aries  

USA

Dear Azam, Thanks for your very informative newsletter and your web sites. I have an article coming up in Human Rights Quarterly on Human Rights of ME women.

With very best wishes, Janet Afary 


Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East Coordinator & Spokesperson: Azam Kamguian

Email: azam_kamguian@yahoo.com
Cdwrme@yahoo.com 
Tel: + 44(0) 788 4040 835
Fax: + 44 (0) 870 831 0204
Web site: www.middleastwomen.org