CDWRME Bulletin #8

"Women in the Middle East" 

Number 8, December 2002

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

Editor: Azam Kamguian
Assistant Editor: Mona Basaruddin

In this issue:

Bahrain: Women stage sit-in demanding their civil rights

More than 300 women in Manama staged a sit-in outside the justice and Islamic affairs ministry demanding the enactment of a personal status law. The protestors, including divorcees, activists, lawyers and members of political and women's associations, also demanded that family and women's disputes be settled by civil and not Islamic courts.

Activist Ghada Jamshir said that the protestors had delivered to the president of the high council of justice, Sheikh Abdurrahman bin Mohammad bin Rashid al-Khalifa, a "memorandum demanding the enactment of a law banning polygamy, except in extreme cases such as a wife's illness or paralysis, or with her written Consent before a judge."

A small group of women opposed to a personal status law demonstrated at the same time.

Afghanistan: Islamic fanatics bomb & burn girl schools

In a series of attacks on girls' schools in Afghanistan, gunmen recently forced a school in the Wardak province that served 1,300 girls to close. This attack follows the burning of two girls' schools in the northern provinces as well as three in the south-eastern province of Zabul over the past few weeks. The schools in the northern provinces were burned shortly after pamphlets were distributed around mosques in those areas warning women to continue wearing their burqas. In addition, a girls' school was bombed in the Ghazni province last month. Afghan women have indicated that security is their top priority.

Iraq: Women, the economic sanctions & the US Invasion

Iraqi women certainly suffer the consequences of the economic sanctions heavily and will bear the brunt of any US invasion. Experts predict that if the United States invades Iraq "tens of thousands" of Iraqi civilians will die, and the vast majority of them will be women and children.

The sanctions against Iraq have created enormous suffering among women and children. Traditionally most women had only one job but now many must hold down two or even three jobs so as to feed their families. Women-headed families are not uncommon in Iraq, which lost many soldiers in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s and in the Gulf War of 1991. The same schoolteacher who was once able to live relatively well on her salary must now take in sewing and perhaps bake for extra money because her salary buys so little. The government makes rations available, but these last only about 10 days, and Iraq's women must find ways to survive until the end of each month.

While many Iraqi women long for the basic rights that are denied them under Saddam, they are wary of the future as well and their rights and well being must be preserved.

Jordan: Women's Lives & "Crimes of Honour"

A 34-year-old man walked free from the Irbid Criminal Court after receiving a one-month prison term for inflicting harm to his older divorced sister that resulted in her death in August 2001. Mohammad A. was standing trial on charges of beating his 35-year-old sister Huda with a wooden stick on her head and other parts of her body on 30 July 2001 which caused her death a week later.

The defendant's father dropped charges against his son. The victim's family testified in court that the woman had medical problems with her head prior to the incident. Official sources reported last year that the woman, divorced for over 10 years, was beaten up by the defendant for matters relating to "family honour" after one of her family members accused her of developing a relationship with a man.

An official autopsy performed then on the victim indicated the woman died because of a brain contusion as a result of physical trauma to the head.

In another ruling, a 20-year-old man standing trial for attempting to kill his 12-year-old sister with poison after suspecting she engaged in sexual activities with their brother was freed after receiving a two-month prison term. The tribunal ruled in its written verdict that the defendant committed his act in a fit of fury and therefore his charge should be reduced to a misdemeanour.

Pakistan: The Islamic Alliance & the rule of Sharia & sexual apartheid

A leader of Pakistani Islamic alliance that emerged as a possible coalition partner after this month's election said that his movement would seek to ban co-education. Qazi Hussain Ahmed, vice president of the Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal, alliance of six Islamic groups, said women should not be forced to wear the all-covering burqa but should have to follow Islamic sharia laws. According to him separate universities will be set up for girls. He was speaking to women from behind a curtain.

The alliance become the third largest group in parliament's lower house in the election, winning 45 seats, up from just two in 1997. It also won a majority in the provincial assembly in Northwest Frontier Province, of which Peshawar is the capital, and has become the largest party in the provincial assembly in the south-western province of Baluchistan.

Iran: Female bus driver & the rule of sexual apartheid

According to official news agency of the Islamic Republic of Iran, IRNA, first female bus driver started work in the city of Karaj in Teheran province. In Iran sexual apartheid rules in every area of public life including transport. Now, on this particular bus, female passengers will sit in the front section while men will sit in the rear. Nothing has really changed. Sexual apartheid rules in Iran.

Iran's female population stands at more than 32 million but only one million of them are working, despite their struggle to enter the labour market.

Turkey: Islamic party in power & the issue of Islamic veil

The headscarf is debated again in Turkey after the election victory of the Islamic Justice and Development Party. The party, which now has majority in the parliament, is trying hard to convince the establishment that it does not threat country's system.

Wearing the Islamic-style head covering is banned in Turkish government offices, schools and universities. The Justice and Development Party has always avoided confrontation over the headscarf issue and decided not to put forward any female candidates wearing an Islamic head covering. Party leaders whose wives and daughters wear veil say they will not ignore this issue but try to solve it during their term by achieving a public consensus. They may try to lift the ban on university students first.

Iran: Woman re-arrested, after escape from stoning

Nosrat Abouii, a woman who was stoned in Yazd prison managed to escape while she was being stoned but was arrested immediately by the government and put in jail.

According to Islamic Sharia, women are buried up to their armpits for stoning, while men are buried up to their waist. Earlier, on September 25, Goli Nik-Khou was stoned to death after serving her 15 -year sentence in the town of Naqadeh, western Iran.

At the moment there are four women - Ferdows, Ashraf, Sima and Shahnaz - in prison waiting to be stoned to death.

Pakistan: A woman's chilling testimony against her gang rapists

Mukhtaran Bibi a woman sentenced to gang rape by a the Islamic & tribal leaders of a village council in southern Pakistan has testified at a court in Punjab's Dera Ghazi Khan town about her ordeal. She described how the four men on trial dragged her into a hut and raped her. Face-to-face with the men, who are on trial for raping her, Mukhtaran Bibi described how she was asked to appear before the informal village council to apologise for the alleged misdemeanour of her 12-year old brother. He had been accused of having an affair with an older woman. He says the story was concocted to cover up the fact that he had been sodomised by three men earlier in the day and threatened to report the incident.

She testified that when she apologised to the council, made up of village elders in Punjab's Muzaffargarh area, one man said she should be pardoned. But another man suddenly said she should be raped. She described begging the council to save her, but they took no notice and four men raped her while hundreds of villagers did nothing to stop the assault. Afterwards, Mukhtaran Bibi said she was forced to walk home half-naked in full public view, covered only with a piece of cloth.

The case has shocked Pakistani society, but a human rights organisation recently reported that 150 rapes have taken place in the same area of southern Punjab in the last six months.

Sudan: Criticising Islam & death threat over a woman

On September 26th members of Islamic government of Sudan issued a fatwa on best-selling author Kola Boof, a Sudanese woman's writer who lives in California. The details of the fatwa: Kola Boof has been found guilty of "Blasphemy and Treason" Ms. Boof is to be beheaded. The matter was ratified by the following: Hassan Turabi (National Islamic Front), Ali Muhammad Taha (NIF), Sharif al-Tuhami (NIF) Tanzim Wasti (London's Sudan Committee), Saad Faqih and Mohammed Sobieh.

Kola Boof points out that she has not been Muslim since around 10 and that the men issuing the fatwa are not qualified to do so. Ms. Boof states that she has been receiving "death messages" and warnings to "shut up" from Sudanese government officials by telephone since February 2002. Leader of the NIF, Hassan Turabi, under house arrest by Khartoum Regime has been especially threatening Boof.

A diplomat from Sudan's government, Gamal Ibrahaim, wrote a scathing article about Kola Boof in London's largest daily Arabic newspaper, "Al-Sharq al- Awsat in which he basically called Kola Boof, "a blasphemer of Islam" "mentally unstable"..."a prostitute" and "a liar".

Kola says that after nearly a year of constant intimidation tricks, death threats and an attempt on her life, they should not only drop the fatwa but do it publicly, so that she could believe it.

Afghanistan: Judge fired for not wearing Islamic veil

The Afghan Supreme Court has dismissed a female judge for not wearing an Islamic veil during a meeting with US President George W Bush and his wife last month. Marzeya Basil was among a group of 14 female government officials who attended computer and management course in Washington at the invitation of the US government.

Basil was sacked days after her return to Kabul for not wearing her scarf during the meeting. It has been said that the decision for her removal was made by top authorities of the Supreme Court. Deputy Chief Justice and vice-president urged Afghan women to observe the dress code at home and abroad.

Denmark: Imam demands girls from Muslim families be genitally mutilated

An Islamic cleric in Denmark has demanded that all girls from Muslim families be circumcised. Mustafa Abdullahi Aden said: "It is good for girls to be circumcised. It is a sign that they are true Muslims." He recommended a method that involves the removal of both the clitoris and the labia. The imam said that Islamic tradition must take precedence over Danish law.

His remarks provoked a backlash among the mainstream leaders of Denmark's political parties. Main party leaders demanded that doctors inspect the girls at school, and if it is found that they have been mutilated, their parents must be prosecuted.

FGM is against the law in Denmark, although there is little that the authorities can do to stop parents sending their daughters on "holiday" to countries that where the barbarism is legal.

The Right-wing nationalist Danish People's Party demanded that girls who are found to have been genitally mutilated should be taken away from their parents, placed in foster homes, and the parents expelled from the country. But school doctors resisted the call, saying that enforced examination would simply keep the children away from school.

Danish health authorities estimate that about 3,000 girls up to the age of ten are at risk.

(Source: Newsline 15 November 2002, the National Secular Society- UK)

Nigeria & Iran: Six women and two men on the death row of Islamic law

Iran: According to Iranian official press, since the beginning of this year, four women Ms. Shahnaz, Ms. Ferdows B and Ms. Sima and Ms. Ashraf have been sentenced to death in the most brutal form of execution according to Islamic law in Iran.

Nigeria: Amina Lawal Kurami, Fatima Usman, Ahmadu Ibrahim and Ado Baranda are now on the death Row of Islamic Sharia

We call upon all women/human rights organisations to protest against this Islamic cruel and inhuman treatment of women.

Please send your protest letters to:

Mohammad Khatami - Iran 
 Fax: +98 216 464 443

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

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

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

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

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

Join the Organisation for Women's Liberation

"In Iran, we face an oppressive and Islamic reaction against women. The ruling system in Iran is a system of total sexual apartheid. Compulsory veiling, the complete segregation of men and women in every aspect of society, and the treatment of women as disenfranchised and second class citizens are the official laws of the country. Misogyny is the defining characteristic and identity of the ruling order and the share of women from this life is nothing but humiliation, oppression and daily exclusion. Reviving antiquated traditions such as stoning reveals the depth of the naked violence exerted against women.

Despite all the suppression, the struggle of women in Iran to break out of this prison and against disenfranchisement and humiliation has not ceased for a moment. By achieving liberation, it will not only do away with the patriarchy and misogyny in Iranian society, but will also have a significant and profound impact on the condition of women in the region and Islam-ridden societies. The Organisation of Women's Liberation is formed with this purpose.

The OWL's aim is the unconditional liberation of women and complete equality between women and men in Iran. The OWL, therefore, must fight for the following demands:

  1. Complete equal rights for women and men; abolition of discriminatory laws, particularly laws in relation to family, marriage, divorce, and parental responsibility for children; 
  2. Abolition of compulsory veiling and freedom of dress;
  3. Complete abolition of segregation;
  4. Access to equal resources in education, employment, sports and cultural activities;
  5. Separation of religion from the state and education."

Azar Majedi 
20 November 02

Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East 
Co-ordinator: Azam Kamguian

Tel: +44(0) 788 4040 835 
Fax: +44(0) 870 831 0204