CDWRME Bulletin #25

"Women in the Middle East" 

Number 25, June, 2004

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

Editor: Azam Kamguian
Assistant Editor: Mona Basaruddin

In this issue:

  • Jordan: Brother kills sister to uphold honour
  • Kuwait: The Islamists & women’s voting rights
  • Afghanistan: 18 women scarred by hidden abuse
  • UK: Muslim women will be exempted from ID cards
  • Iran: The Islamic republic & women’ Inheritance rights
  • ICAS: One-minute silence In memory of those who were stoned to death
  • A wake-up call to all women in the Middle East
  • Afghanistan: Women's rights? Little progress 
  • Iran: Women protest polygamy on TV
  • The Charter of Committee to Defend Women's Right in the Middle East
  • Letters to & Requests from CDWRME  
  • Jordan: Brother kills sister to uphold honour  

A Jordanian man stabbed to death his pregnant sister because she married an Egyptian man against the family's wishes. Investigators arriving at the scene said the suspect told them "he killed his sibling to cleanse the family's honour using a kitchen knife. The unidentified woman was eight months pregnant when she was killed with 25 stab wounds to different parts of her body. After killing his sister in the family home, the brother called the police and waited for them to come and arrest him.  

A study last year said dozens and probably hundreds of brutal "honour killings" of Palestinian women and girls – most of whom are virtually blameless – annually go unreported.    

  • Kuwait: The Islamists & women’s voting rights  

Kuwait's cabinet approved draft legislation that would amend its election law and allow women to vote and run in parliamentary elections. The amendment has been referred to the emir, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah. He will forward it to Parliament which needs to approve the draft in order for it to become law.  

Kuwaiti women serve as diplomats, run businesses and constitute up to 70 per cent of college graduates in Kuwait. Some have moved up to mid-level public ranks, but none holds a top post such as government minister. Last October, the government approved allowing women to stand for office and to vote in municipal council elections.    

Several Islamic Sunni groups and parliamentarians threatened in Kuwait yesterday to work for foiling the draft bill approved by the Kuwaiti government on Sunday provides for providing the woman her right to voting and nomination for the legislative elections. The alliance of the Islamic parliamentarians and the representatives of tribes had foiled a similar decree issued by the ruler of Kuwait Sheikh Jabber Al-Ahmad al-Sabah in May 1999.  

The Islamic parliamentarian Deif Allah Bourmeyah said "this project will be rejected from the parliament as happened before. The woman has no political right in Islam. She has taken her right as a woman and a household for bringing up the future generations."  

The officials spokesman for the Islamic constitutional movement (Muslim brothers) Muhammad al-Aleem said that "the previous position of the movement is opposed to giving the woman full political rights and the movement's office will meet to discuss this issue but the predominant view is to oppose this issue."  

The Sunni majority embarks in its rejection of the political rights of the woman on Fatwa that forbids the woman assuming of a political post linked to what is called in the jurisprudence as "al-Welaya al-Ammah " ( general authority), despite the fact that several countries and Islamic groups permitted that.    

  • Afghanistan: 18 women scarred by hidden abuse            

According to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, 235 women have tried to kill themselves there by self-immolation. Thirty-three have succeeded. Forced marriages and domestic abuse are seen as the main cause - most of the women are between 15 and 30 years old. But this is just the surface of what campaigners say is a huge but hidden problem in every town and village of Afghanistan.  

Kabul has so far not seen any incidents of self-immolation, but some experts estimate that thousands of women in the capital try to take their lives every year because of their domestic situation - often by taking drug overdoses or some kind of poison.  

As it stands Afghan law is stacked against women suffering violence at home, because only a family member can bring a case involving a domestic matter, not the authorities. And agencies that try to help women having trouble at home by providing them with shelter have run into trouble themselves - prosecutions have been brought for kidnapping.  

Although some things have improved for women in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, there are still too many ways in which they have not.    

  • UK: Muslim women will be exempted from ID cards  

The government will reportedly exempt Muslim women from showing their faces on the controversial ID cards.  

On Monday, April 26, British Home Secretary, David Blunkett unveiled plans for a national pilot of biometric testing, the technology used in ID cards, as part of a draft Bill to crack down on identity fraud.  

“As many as 10,000 volunteers will be recruited to have iris and facial scans taken, as well as fingerprints, at the UK Passport Service headquarters in London and at three further centres be announced at a later date.”  

As Blunkett came under severe attacks for not allowing enough debate over the ID cards introduction, British officials made it clear that if Muslim women do not want to reveal their faces in public, that would be respected, reported the Observer Sunday. “Instead of a photograph, there would be an exemption for certain people, who would only have to give fingerprint and iris-recognition data.  

A source close to Blunkett was quoted by the Observer as saying, “We have had constructive discussions with the Muslim community and want to assure them we are sensitive to their points of view”.  

The Home Secretary moved after representations from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). Officials on the council told The Observer that although they support the idea of identity cards they are concerned that they could be used to persecute ethnic minorities.    

  • Iran: The Islamic republic & women’s Inheritance rights  

While there is no hope for the Islamic Republic in the future of Iran, its Majlis has recently approved a bill which would grant women the same inheritance rights as men. Under inheritance Islamic law, a woman with children inherits just one eighth of her husband's money, belongings and buildings when he dies. She is not entitled to a share of land owned by her husband.  

If the couple are childless the amount inherited by the wife rises to one quarter. The rest of the husband's estate goes to his children, grandparents, parents or siblings. If none of those relatives is alive the remainder goes to the state.  

Men by contrast inherit half of all their wife's money and assets if the couple are childless and a quarter if they have children. The bill must also be backed by Guardian Council a vetting body which has vetoed equal rights legislation in the past.    

  • ICAS: One-minute silence In memory of those who were stoned to death  

 The International Committee against Stoning (ICAS) has been actively working towards abolishment of stoning in all countries such as Iran, Pakistan and Nigeria where stoning takes place.  ICAS was one of the main forces to stop the stoning sentences of Amina Lawal in Nigeria and Zafaran Bibi in Pakistan and to pressurize the Islamic regime of Iran to suspend stoning sentences.   

 In order to expose the brutal act of stoning internationally and also to strength the fight for elimination of this law, we have proposed to declare July 11, (the day on which in 2001 Maryam Ayoubi, an Iranian woman and mother of three children was stoned to death), as the International Day against Stoning.    This year on July 11, 2004 we call upon all women’s rights and human rights organizations and individuals all around the world to observe one minute silence at 11:00 am GMT.  

Where ever you are on this day, take one minute silence to remember those who were cruelly tortured and stoned to death, those who were deprived of life just because they wanted to live a life worthy of human beings.  

Shiva Mahbobi
Public Relations
International Committee agianst Stoning
Email: shiva_mabobi@yahoo.com
Tel: +44984445278    

  • A wake-up call to all women in the Middle East  

The news about the brutal beating of Saudi Arabian television host Rania Al Baz by her husband last month, serves as another wake-up call to all Arab and Muslim women in the Middle East and the west.  

Rania was married for six years to an abusive husband. In her husband's last violent tirade, she says that he told her he'd kill her, and forced her to recite the last rites. After days in the hospital and multiple operations, Rania has recovered enough to tell her story and denounce violence against women in her country. Her case is significant because open debate about such issues is rare in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia.  

In the region, women are second-class citizens. In Kuwait, a 1963 law prohibits women from voting or running for office. Recent attempts to change this law have all failed. In remote areas of Jordan, honour killings (women murdered by family members for perceived sexual indiscretions) still take place.  

Women must be empowered economically, politically, and legally to organise battered women's shelters, emergency hot lines, and free legal representation for those confronted with an abusive spouse. Change needs the whole of society, not just half of it, and women must reach out to all sectors to extinguish negative stereotypes and improve the laws governing them within each country.  

Rania Al Baz courageously broke the taboo against discussing such issues in Saudi Arabia. Her call for help is a call for all abused women in the Middle East. Arab and Muslim women, in the Middle East and the west, must answer that call and spread her message against violence.    

  • Afghanistan: Women's rights? Little progress   

Afghan human rights advocates, pointing to slow progress and a number of self-immolations by Afghan women over the past year, begged to differ. Zieba Shorish-Shamley who directs the Women's Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan said that the national figure of women voters in Afghanistan is closer to 10% since women are regularly harassed in the provinces when they seek to assert their rights. "A great deal is better for the Afghan woman. She can go outside without the Taliban in tow, but she's harassed by a lot of armed men. She can go if she wants a job, but there are not jobs available for her to do. She wants to be healthy, but there's not a health care system there. The worst part is that she does not have the right to choose who she wants to marry," Shorish-Shamley said.  

"There are still forced marriages and women are burning themselves,” Shorish-Shamley says. “In Herat, at least 40 women burned themselves alive, and 4 more just last week. This is widespread and it is not reported most of the time." Similarly, Sima Wali, head of Refugee Women in Development, is troubled by the slow pace of improvement in the lives of all Afghans, by accommodation deals made with provincial warlords, by continuing poor security and by financial pledges to the country reneged on by the international community. "We, sadly, are losing momentum to build on the initial goodwill of the Afghan people toward the United States. And in my discourse and dialogues with scores of Afghan women, it is evident that there is a heightened frustration over a lack of what I deem as the trickle-down of peace and democracy to the common Afghan person -- this is not happening," Wali said.

Source: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  web@rferl.org    

  • Iran: Women protest polygamy on TV  

Around 250 people, mostly women, protested against state-run Islamic TV for airing a series that promoted polygamy, saying it was evidence that the Islamic state was trampling women's rights. The women gathered at a building in central Tehran to denounce policies by hard-liners that seek to restrict women to roles such as obedient housewives.  

Women activists launched a protest campaign last month after state television, aired a series titled "Another Lady," on which a woman introduces her friend to her husband for marriage.  

Under the Islamic law applied in Iran, men can keep up to four wives at the same time, a right not granted to women. Also, a woman needs her husband's permission to work or travel abroad, while a man's court testimony is considered twice as important as a woman's.  

Protesting women said state TV rarely promotes the idea of women working in high public posts or as professionals. Rather, it seeks to depict woman as people restricted to kitchen, she said. There are no official statistics available on polygamy in Iran, but it is prevalent in many small cities and rural regions in Iran.    

·        Letters to & Requests from CDWRME  

USA

Dear Ms. Kamguian,

I am a third-year student at Yale Law School and am currently writing a paper on suicide bombing (my supervisor, coincidentally, is Khaled Abou El Fadl). My thesis is that suicide bombing is a form of status-seeking behaviour. I have found your papers on ISIS to be particularly enlightening and moving, and I am writing in the hopes that you will entertain some of my layman's questions. Part of my analysis rests on the assumption that Islamic cultures are honour and shame-based, and that individuals seek to increase their status within these cultures by proving their piety and avoiding shame sanctions. My first question is whether you know of any good resources on shame and honour in Islam, or whether you have any personal thoughts as to the validity of my assumption.  

An additional point I am trying to make is that Islamic societies are resistant to adaptation and change. Part of this resistance stems from the belief in the perfection and immutability of Sharia. The interpretive monopoly of the Ulama is another source of resistance to change. Do you have any thoughts about the resistance of Islamic cultures to change, or can you think of any good sources on the topic?  

I appreciate any help you can provide me on the subject. I would also like to send you a draft of my paper when I am finished, if you would be amenable to reading it.  

Best wishes,

Ethan  


UK

Ms. Kamguian,

My name is Krystal Allicock and I am an A-level student living in the West Indies. For my French oral topic i wish to bring to light the subject of honour-killings in Middle Eastern countries. However it is imperative that I relate this subject back to France in some way. Your article, "Girls' Nightmare in Muslim Families: Forced Marriages in Europe" has been very helpful. I wish to know if you have more specific information on how Muslim girls in France are treated, compared to their male siblings. If you would be so kind as to send me such information as soon as possible I will be much obliged. Thank you in advance for your kind consideration.

Yours Faithfully,

Krystal Allicock    


USA

 My name is Tom Goldstone and I am a producer for ABC news - 20/20.  We are currently embarking on a documentary about Saudi Arabia.  One of the things we are currently researching is women's right in the country.  It appears that you are not in the United States.  Are there any women in the US that you would recommend I talk to about this issue? Please let me know...  I am reachable via return email.

Thanks,

Tom Goldstone    


USA

Hello - I am a producer for ABC NEWS in New York - we are considering doing a story about the challenges women face living under harshly interpreted Islamic regimes and the status of their rights -- I would be interested in hearing about specific stories of individual women that you think should be highlighted if we were to try to help people understand the difficulties and challenges women face in these societies. If you could be of help in suggesting and assisting us in contacting   specific women or organizations, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Regards,

Catherine Upin
Producer, ABC NEWS Primetime  


UK

Whilst I have serious problems with the concept of prostitution, and also accept that this email is out of date, beheading in any society is both disgusting and inhumane. Despite the difficulties in Iraq at the moment, what Saddam did to those poor girls and what those people did to that American is frankly disgusting. We hope that one day the overwhelming power of human decency, regardless of religion or creed, will prevail.   

Gordon Leatherdale  


UK

 I read without great optimism your aims, these would be difficult to enforce in England, much less in states controlled by Islam. Do you see your ultimate goal as an Islam that relinquishes passionately held sexual apartheid? Is this realistic?  

History shows us that the only time that moderation holds sway is when the religion is so small that pragmatism is the only viable option. I fear that the ONLY real hope is the collapse of religion and that will require that the message goes out to enough people of the absurdity of following a creed based upon a bronze age myth and culture. I will do my best to distribute your message to as many people as I can and I continue to wish you well.  

Vaughan    


USA

Dear Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East,       

My name is Autum Dierking and I am currently completing a final project for my Social Studies class on women’s rights in the Middle East. I recently discovered your organization’s site on the net and became interested in your cause.  

If at all possible, could you send me more information about your efforts in the Middle East? Pamphlets and other forms of information would be greatly appreciated in helping me to complete my project. I would love to know more about what your organization is doing to support women in the Middle East in these hard times.  

Thank you so much for your time and your efforts to help women everywhere! Again, I would greatly appreciate any information you could provide me via email or letter in my quest to complete my project.  

Sincerely,

Autum Dierking    


Sweden 

Hello,

There were some errors in your web page. The following statement is written incorrectly: The Bible says: "men are superior to women, Jesus is superior to men and God is above all. Women should worship all of them". (14: 34 &35, Corinthian) There is a miss-understanding here:  

1. Women are never encouraged to worship men, in fact the bible forbids worship to anyone but God himself. Even angles refused worship stating that they were fellow servants of God as men and women are.  

2. The verse actually says: "3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984. As Christians Christ was with God at creation, and was God (according to John 1:1). Being the head of something does not show that one is better than the other (For God is not better than Jesus), but has greater authority (i.e. makes decisions, when needed) The Christian view is that:  

1. Husbands are to love their wives: "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect.." The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984. "19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. (Colossians 3:19)." The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.  

2. Women are equal to men in all areas on natural life, i.e. they may perform any task, job, etc that a man does (Proverbs chapter 31).  

3. Women are equal to men both spiritually and naturally as Christians. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.  

4. In church life God allows women to lead but the preference is that men have the spiritual leadership. In the Old Testament Deborah (a woman) was the spiritual leader of all of Israel and even commanded the whole of the army of that time.  

5. In marriage women and men are to be subject to one another. But men have the role of leadership in the family (As Christ leads the church in love, so husbands should lead their wives in love). "21 Submit to ONE ANOTHER out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savoir.  24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...” The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.  


Canada

I am 15 and a freshmen in high school, and I am taking a class about the middle east, this class has really opened my eyes to the world outside of the U.S. and the issues women face in the middle east. For my class we get to pick a subject in about something that has been happening or recently happened in the middle east and I picked Women's rights. I have been looking for information on it but haven't really had all that much time to look. I was wondering if you could enlighten me on some of the issues involving the women's rights in the middle east. It would be greatly appreciated.  

Thank you very much.

Sincerely, Drew Fuller.    

  • 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 formed 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 organizations 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  

CDWRME- is formed to promote women's rights and equality in the Middle East. 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 coordinator and the spokesperson of the committee.


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