CDWRME Bulletin #27


"Women in the Middle East" 

Number 27, September, 2004

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

Editor: Azam Kamguian
Assistant Editor: Mona Basaruddin

In this issue:

  • Algeria: Islamic parties oppose women’s right reforms

  • Saudi Arabia: Women heard, not seen, at a forum on rights

  • Dubai: Web magazine urges Arab women to fight

  • Turkey: Women fight adultery ban

  • Iran: Girl, 16, hanged in public

  • Iran: Woman's death sentence quashed

  • Germany: Law banning headscarves constitutional says court 

  • Saudi Arabia: Women won't get right to vote

  • Ireland: Irish polygamy law 'racist'

  • Kuwait: Parliament to discuss women's rights bill

  • Sudan: Rape a terror weapon in Sudan's embattled Darfur region

  • Letters to & Requests from CDWRME    

Algeria: Islamic parties oppose women’s rights reforms  

Islamic parties they would oppose a government plan to improve Algerian women’s rights in marriage and divorce in a country emerging from more than a decade of civil war.  “We will mobilize all society to stop this reform,” said Abdelmajid Menasra, deputy chairman of the MSP, a member of the government that has called for a national referendum.  

Analysts fear Bouteflika may stall or water down the reform, which would show Islamic parties still carry weight after a long-running militant uprising that claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people, according to human rights groups. The jihad was sparked by the cancellation of elections the now-banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was set to win in 1992.  

The reform bans men from divorcing their wives for no reason and gives women the right to financial support from their ex-husbands. Men would need their wives’ permission to take more wives, up to the four permitted by Islam. The Islamic Sharia law-inspired code would scrap the need for women to ask permission from a male family member to marry.  

“These amendments are unconstitutional as they go against the constitution, which says Sharia Islamic law is the state religion,” said Lakhdar Benkhalef of El-Islah opposition party. The reform was expected to be put to a vote in Parliament this month but rising opposition and no approval yet by Bouteflika means its future is unclear, analysts said. The president promised in his first term to reform the law.  

The left-wing Workers’ Party, which put forward a woman presidential candidate in April, warned that in a country where most of the population is under 30 radical change was needed. While women have few rights on paper, they do flex their muscles in daily life. In main cities most women dress freely and often in Western clothes and are increasingly seeking jobs.

Source: Reuter, 9 September 2004  

Saudi Arabia: Women heard, not seen, at a forum on rights  

One woman criticized rules that keep Saudi women from teaching boys. Another said working women should be allowed to do more than teach. Others called for more rights for divorced women.  

Saudi women were allowed to be heard -- but not seen -- at a three-day forum on their status in this Islamic kingdom.  

Men sat in one room, women in another. They shared their views through video conferencing, although the men faced a blank screen in deference to bans on women showing their faces in public.  

The forum ended with vague calls for women to be given more opportunities to work and to participate in public life, and a pointed reminder that their role as wives and mothers was "an essential job."  

The complaints aired this week ranged from criticism of rules that keep Saudi women from teaching boys to calls for more rights for divorced women. University professor Fatima al-Harbi called for opening up opportunities for women beyond teaching. Most women who work are involved in education. "We are living in a modern world, but we are far behind," she said.  

Amal al-Shaman, another professor at a women's university, said it was discriminatory not to allow women to teach male students or hold posts other than on female campuses. Participants also criticized laws banning women from travelling without a male relative as a chaperone. Others called for laws to be amended so divorced women don't have to seek their former husbands' permission to, for example, register their child in school.  

From the conservative camp, Mohammed al-Arifi, a theologian, ridiculed calls for women to be allowed to drive or appear in public without "covering their heads properly."  

At least one man spoke out for women. Writer Yeha al-Amir brandished a copy of a high school textbook that he said included a passage describing women as "weak creatures. If they are left alone without guidance they will be corrupt and corrupt others."  

"How can we teach our children that women are a source of corruption?" he demanded.  

Under the plan, the Labour Ministry has been given a year to develop a blueprint for a female work force. The plan also says only women will be able to work in shops catering to women, such as lingerie and makeup stores.  

"The people will resist having satanic values imposed on them," Abdul Rahman said. "How can we let our women drive or lift their veils or mix with men? What is next? Shall we see them one day sitting in a cafe and drinking tea together?" Source: Associated Press  

Dubai: Web magazine urges Arab women to fight  

An Islamist women's group has launched an Internet magazine aimed at recruiting Arab women to fight holy wars against non-Muslims.  

The Al-Khansaa magazine, launched and expected to appear monthly, also provides fitness tips for female "jihadis," or holy warriors, information on treating injuries and advice on raising children to fight non-believers. The magazine, appearing on several extremist Islamic Web sites, claims to have been started "at the initiative" of two slain al-Qaida militants in Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz al-Moqrin and Issa Saad Mohammed bin Oushan.  

The magazine said it was produced by the "women's media centre" in Saudi Arabia, an Islamic nation where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was born and Islam's two holiest shrines are located.  

"Al-Khansaa, the periodical's title, was the name of a revered Arab poet who converted to Islam during the time of the 7th century Prophet Muhammad.  

 "We will stand covered in our veils and abayas (ankle-length cloaks), with our weapons in our hands and our children in our arms," it added. "The blood of our husbands and the limbs of our children are an offering to God." Women raising children, it says, must understand their "main mission is to present lions to the battlefield."  

Saudi journalist Saeed al-Sereihy condemned the magazine in an article published in the daily Okaz, saying its "rhetoric takes a very dangerous turn when it addresses women in light of their educational role and capacity to influence children's upbringing."  

Its first issue includes tales of famous women fighters and criticism of calls for improved women's rights in Saudi Arabia.

Source: The Associated Press.  

Turkey: Women fight adultery ban  

Turkish women are up in arms about a proposal to criminalize adultery. The ruling Justice and Development Party, which has its roots in an Islamic movement, is proposing to make adultery a crime punishable by up to three years in jail.  

"The State Is Entering Our Bedroom," read a headline in last Friday’s issue of the daily newspaper Radikal.  

Adultery was illegal in Turkey until 1996, when the nation's highest court ruled that the ban was unconstitutional because it discriminated against women. Under the original law, men were deemed adulterers only if it was proved that they had been involved in a prolonged affair, whereas women could be charged even if they had been unfaithful just once. Under the proposed law, men and women would be prosecuted on equal terms.  

Women’s rights advocates in Turkey fear the proposal will encourage "honour killings" in which women are killed by family members because they are suspected of "dishonourable" behaviour with men.

LA Times, Sept. 4  

Iran: Girl, 16, hanged in public  

On Sunday, August 15, a 16-year-old girl in the town of Neka, northern Iran, was executed. Ateqeh Sahaleh was hanged in public on Simetry Street off Rah Ahan Street in the city centre. The sentence was issued by the head of Neka’s Justice Department and subsequently upheld by the mullahs’ Supreme Court and carried out with the approval of Judiciary Chief Mahmoud Shahroudi.  

In her summary trial, the teenage victim did not have any lawyer and efforts by her family to recruit a lawyer was to no avail. Ateqeh personally defended herself. She told the religious judge, Haji Rezaii, that he should punish the main perpetrators of moral corruption not the victims.  

The judge personally pursued Ateqeh’s death sentence, beyond all normal procedures and finally gained the approval of the Supreme Court. After her execution Rezai said her punishment was not execution but he had her executed for her “sharp tongue”.  

Iran: Woman's deaths sentence quashed  

Iran's Supreme Court has quashed the death sentence of Afsaneh Norouzi, a woman convicted of the murder of a senior police official, who she alleged had tried to rape her. According to her lawyer, quoting from the verdict, the Supreme Court "found deficiencies in her case". International pressure helped to secure this decision. Since this Urgent Action began, the case has received wide media coverage and national attention, and was taken up by Iranian NGOs. The case will now be sent to a local court in Kish, in southern Iran, for further consideration. The court will have the power to concur with the original verdict and therefore re-sentence Afsaneh Norouzi to death (although the sentence would have to be upheld by the Supreme Court), impose a reduced sentence, or release her. Further pressure now is vital to ensure that the Supreme Court's ruling is respected.  

Afsaneh Norouzi was arrested in 1997 for the murder of the Head of Police Intelligence in Kish. She asserted that she had killed him in self-defence to protect herself from being raped. The death sentence was reportedly upheld by the Supreme Court in August 2003. Following national and international pressure, the head of the Judiciary Ayatollah Shahroudi ordered a stay of execution, and in November sent the case back to the Supreme Court for review, stating that he had "doubts" about the original ruling. This review led to the death sentence being overturned.  

Germany: Law banning headscarves "Constitutional" says court    

 A law banning female teachers from wearing Muslim headscarves in school is constitutional.  

 The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig said all religions were equally affected by the law in the southern state of Baden- Württemberg that forbids any political or religious "outward expressions'' that may "disturb the peace at school,'' the newspaper said. The latest decision follows the ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court last September that female Muslim teachers could not be banned from wearing headscarves as long as there was no law expressly forbidding them. Three of 16 states have since passed such laws, the paper said.  

Saudi Arabia: Women won't get right to vote  

Women would not be allowed to contest or vote in the upcoming elections to half of the seats in the municipal bodies of the 13 provinces of Saudi Arabia, the daily Watan said citing an executive ordinance for the elections to be promulgated soon.  

According to the paper the elections will be held in February 2005 and rules will be announced in a few days. Men aged 26 and above will be allowed to contest in the elections and only males above 21 years of age would be eligible to vote, the paper said. Women and military personnel are barred from voting and contesting, the report clarified.  

Ireland: Irish polygamy law 'racist'  

A new government regulation that requires Muslim men seeking Irish residency to reject polygamy is racist and possibly illegal, Ireland's main civil liberties group said today.  

The government introduced the written oath this month after rejecting an application from a Lebanese man for both of his wives and all 13 children to be granted residency.  

A married Muslim man seeking residency must now declare he has "one spouse only" and "has no intention of entering into a simultaneous marriage". The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said the rule amounted to religious discrimination and appeared to contravene the European Convention on Human Rights.  

Aisling Reidy, the council's director, stressed that she wasn't condoning polygamy, but insisted the practice was already outlawed in Ireland and so required no "religious-specific affidavit" to back it up. She said the new rule "assumes that Muslims, irrespective of whether they come from secular societies or states that do not recognise polygamy, do not understand or would not respect the normal law of the land because they are 'different'."  

Kuwait: Parliament to discuss women's rights bill  

Kuwaiti Parliament is expected to again debate the Women Rights Bill in the forthcoming session following its rejection in 1999, according to a report published by Al –Shargh Al- Awsat. The report quoted a lawmaker, Mohammad Al Saqr, as saying that the government was capable of giving women voting rights under political reforms.  

He said: "The government has a strong presence in parliament and has the means to get the approval on any project."  

Another lawmaker, Ali Al Rashid, called for a "collective political and media movement to implement the project and remove all constitutional doubts regarding the election process."  

The report also highlighted the opinion of the conservative lawmakers, who stand firmly against the bill. For instance, a lawmaker Abdullah Akkash said, "The Kuwaiti society is conservative and Islamic, and deems women far above political complications and parliamentary work."  

He claimed: "Most of the women don't support obtaining a Parliamentary right. The proof is a petition submitted by women who refused the right to elect and vote." Another lawmaker, Mohammad Khalifa said: "I'm against allowing women to elect and vote as they are not independent in their opinions."  

Sudan: Rape a terror weapon in Sudan's embattled Darfur region  

Sudanese Arab militiamen rape women and young girls in a violent campaign intended to hurt, humiliate and drive black Sudanese from the troubled western region of Darfur, according to a human rights organisation.  

The Janjaweed militiamen sometimes torture women and break their limbs to prevent them from escaping rape, abduction and sexual slavery, Amnesty International said in a report: “Sudan, Rape as a weapon of war in Darfur.”  

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than a million of Darfur’s 6.7 million have fled their homes in the face of attacks by the Janjaweed – or “men on horseback” in the local dialect – who allegedly are backed by Sudan’s government.  

The Janjaweed “are happy when they rape. They sing when they rape and they tell that we are just slaves and that they can do with us how they wish,” a 37-year-old victim, identified as A, said in the report.  

At the weekend, Sudan ordered that committees of women judges, policemen and legal consultants investigate rape accusations and help victims through criminal cases in Darfur, a region the size of Iraq.  

UN officials, rebels and refugees have accused Sudan’s government of backing the Janjaweed with aircraft, helicopter gunships and vehicles in a campaign equated with ethnic cleansing. The government denies any involvement in the attacks.  

While the Arab militiamen have routinely killed black African men and torched hundreds of villages, they have also systematically targeted women and girls for sexual violence, some as young as eight, the Amnesty report says, citing hundreds of interviews in camps in neighbouring Chad sheltering 200,000 refugees from Darfur.  

“Women and girls are being attacked, not only to dehumanise the women themselves but also to humiliate, punish, control, inflict fear and displace women and to persecute the community to which they belong,” the London-based rights group said.  

“In many cases the Janjaweed have raped women in public, in the open air, in front of their husbands, relatives or the wider community,” the group said. “The suffering and abuse endured by these women goes far beyond the actual rape ... survivors now face a lifetime of stigma and marginalisation from their own families and communities.”  

Darfur’s troubles stem from long-standing tensions between nomadic Arab tribes and their African farming neighbours over dwindling water and agricultural land. Those tensions exploded into violence in February 2003, when two African rebel groups took up arms over what they regard as unjust treatment by the government in their struggle with Arab countrymen.  

The United Nations estimates up to 30,000 people have been killed in Darfur, but some analysts put the figure much higher. The death toll could surge to more than 350,000 if aid does not reach more than two million people soon, the US Agency for International Development has warned.  

Pressure has mounted on Sudan to end the slaughter. The latest peace talks ended prematurely Saturday with rebels walking out, saying the Sudanese government must first disarm the Janjaweed.  

Letters to & Requests from CDWRME  

Canada

I did read your article. Thank you thousand times.

Thank you from the young girl in Iran who has been forced to wear Burqa.

Thank you from the teen age girl in Nigeria who is escaping the circumcision rite.

Thank you from the brothel in Morocco, who has been forced to that following the death of his husband.

Thank you from the beaten woman in Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, ...

Thank you from the raped (and impregnated by IRI Pasdar ) woman who now lives in Los Angeles, and been raising that half souled child, and unable to explain to her child, who is real father.

Many thanks to you, from the oppressed women who can not speak out.

Many thanks from the illiterate woman, that still can not read and write, and the numbers are immense.

May the Loving power of nature, grant you longer life.

May the arch angelical power of the nature give the wisdom and understanding to fight for the abused, because simply they are born XX.  

Israel

Hello, My name is Yudit Ilany. I am a representative of the Israeli Anti Trafficking Coalition and the manager of Tair Rape Crisis Centre.

We received a cry for help from a Russian woman who was trafficked to Turkey and is held forcefully and kept in prostitution against her will and under very bad conditions. It appears she is exposed to extreme violence on a daily basis We are trying to locate a Turkish Woman's Organization who may be able to provide help. Can you perhaps refer me to such an organization?

Thanking you in advance,

Yudit Ilany  

USA

Dear Mr. 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 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  

U.K.

Azam,

I hope you can help- I'm working on a documentary about Forced Marriage in particular focusing on young girls- I'm trying to find recent statistics. Can you Help? Do you know of any worldwide or UK research that has been done.

Thank you for your help.

Many Thanks

Ushma  

USA

My co-author (an artist) and I (a writer) have just published a book entitled A Deadly Fog, about the agony of war, such as we witness in Iraq and around the world. It represents a collection of stories, essays, poems and art that trains the hand of the poet and the eye of the artist on how war brings whole societies to its knees, killing, maiming and displacing thousands of people, both civilian and combatant. In A Deadly Fog we have combined surrealism, realism, satire and irony set into a backdrop of unimaginable sacrifice, cruelty, and hubris, not as a paean to honour war, but to argue against its glorification. We hope that the work inspires others to raise their voices in protest against the preference of war as solution to problems in integration, poverty (starvation, sickness), natural resources (water, oil and land) and political ideology. If your organization has an interest in an article relating to the subject of our book, please let us know. We request that your website post an invitation to its readership to review the work.

Sincerely

Joseph Carvalko  

U.K.

Hello, I read your article, "Girls' Nightmare in Muslim Families: Forced Marriages in Europe," on the ISIS webpage.  Could you inform me of the sources you used to write the article for my own further reading? Thanks so much, I enjoyed the article!

Natalie  

Germany

Hello!

I am a German girl who would like to know if you mind me translating some of our article from www.middleastwomen.com. l’d like to post them on a German webpage which informs about Islam and of course it does include the bad treatment of women. Of course I will give a link to the original source.

Thanks for an answer. And keep on working!

Bye, Katrin  

USA   

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

I found your information on the web and am writing to ask if any of your students would be interested in studying with us in the fall? We are building a foreign exchange program in Islamic Gender Studies with Professor Fatima Sadiqi at the University of Fes in Morocco. There, Professor Sadiqi directs the graduate program in Islamic Gender Studies at the University of Fes. This is the first graduate program in Islamic Gender Studies in the country of Morocco. Her program is officially supported by the Moroccan Government and His Majesty Mohammed V.

Professor Sadiqi is also known for her work as a linguist, and has authored several books on linguistics and gender in Morocco.

We would like to extend a special invitation to your students to come to the rich and culturally diverse society of Fes for a unique opportunity to study Islamic Gender Studies in a Muslim country. Our website is located at http://www.jimmel.com?r=s&u=4698

            Thank you, Sincerely,

With Respect,

John Immal ,
Director, International Programs,
Centre for Islamic Gender Studies
Cambridge, MA.
P: 617-596-2898    

USA

Dear Azam,

I read your article on-line. I'm researching a novel on honour killing. I wonder if you have any idea when and why families in areas that commit honour killings started punishing/killing their women for adultery/rape instead of their lovers/rapists? I am thinking it might have started when they realized they could avoid a blood feud if they didn't go after the man, but I haven't found any hard evidence of this yet. Any ideas?

Best wishes,

Amy Logan


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