CDWRME Bulletin #18

"Women in the Middle East" 

Number 18, November, 2003

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

Editor: Azam Kamguian
Assistant Editor: Mona Basaruddin

In this issue:

Afghanistan: Proposed Constitution & Women's Rights

The writers of Afghanistan's new constitution say they want to revolutionize the way women are treated in this country by banning forced marriages, bridal dowries and other forms of discrimination. Proponents say the constitution will be a turning point in a land where most women are still cloistered at home, wear all-encompassing Burqas in public and were barred from working and school under the Taliban. 

"No other Islamic country has a constitution that is so liberating for women," said Fatima Gailani, a member of the Constitutional Review Commission. "Men and women are equal. In Afghanistan's history, this is totally new." 

The draft constitution guarantees women at least one seat from each of the 32 provinces on the wholesi jirga, the national parliament, and a minimum of 25 seats in the mushran jirga, the senate, Gailani said. The total number of seats in each assembly has not yet been decided. 

The draft document says the government must provide women with education and health care equal to men. It also will mandate additional care for pregnant women and extra education for widows whose husbands were killed during the last two decades of war. 

 Hamid Karzai is expected to make public the draft constitution. A 10-day meeting of a 500-member loya jirga, or grand council, is to convene in December to debate and ratify the document. 

The draft constitution also declares Afghanistan a Muslim state but stops short of imposing Islamic Sharia law. Under Sharia, the Taliban ordered men to grow their beards long and pray five times a day, and carried out public executions and amputations for a range of crimes. Many Afghans continue to adhere to the backward views practiced by the Taliban. 

"This is a first step forward for women's rights," Gailani said. But "there won't be any immediate change in the countryside for women. It will take time. But perhaps in the cities things will change if the government takes it seriously." Gailani said it was sometimes intimidating explaining the importance of women's rights to villagers. "We'd sit in mosques and have cold-eyed young Taliban (students) demanding answers about things. But they calmed down when we explained how women's rights are part of Islam," she said. 

Women's rights and the role of Sharia, or Islamic law, have been the most hotly debated on the constitutional commission, those involved have said. Women have long faced discrimination in this country. Education levels and health care for women are often less than those for men. Fathers ask for payment from other families in exchange for allowing their daughters to marry. 

Source: AP

Kuwait: Drafting Law to give Women Voting Rights 

Kuwait has finalised a draft law, which grants women, for the first time, the right to vote and run office in polls for a new Municipal Council, says a senior municipal official, the Kuwaiti English-daily Arab Times reported.

"The government has prepared the Kuwaiti Municipality draft law, which will be referred to the National Assembly for approval," said Abdul Rahman Al Duaij, Chairman of the Municipal Affairs Committee.

Al Duaij said the committee, which is performing the duties of the Municipal Council until one is elected, has documented some remarks and recommendations on 12 articles of the proposed Municipality Law. He added that the committee will convene next Sunday to discuss the remaining articles of the draft law, which comprises 43 articles.

The draft law, in its third article, stipulates "women have the right to vote and run for office as members of the Municipal Council". The article also calls for electing two council members from each governorate and grants the government the right to appoint half the number of elected members through a decree.

Council members should elect a chairman and a deputy chairman of the council to serve throughout the term.

UK: Hesho another Victim of Honour Killing

Abdalla Yones a Kurdish man murdered his 16-year-old daughter because he disapproved of her western way of life and her having a boyfriend.

Abdalla Yones, 48, cut his daughter Heshu's throat and left her to bleed to death. He had subjected her to months of beatings before killing her in a frenzied knife attack. Yones, who first denied murdering Heshu, asked the court to impose the death sentence but was told that was not possible under English law. He was jailed for life.

Scotland Yard described Heshu's death as an "honour killing" brought about by a "clash of cultures" between Yones - a refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan, where such murders are common - and his westernised daughter.

Heshu used a mobile phone, preferred to spend time out with her friends rather than at home and wore make-up - always applying it at college or a friend's house. She began a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old boy, a fellow pupil at William Morris Academy, Fulham, west London, who was from a Lebanese background. Her schoolwork was suffering and she had a poor attendance record. Three days before the murder, in October last year, her father received an anonymous letter written in Kurdish saying Heshu was behaving like a prostitute.

The letter was sent to the south London offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan where Yones was a volunteer worker. Police believe that Yones had been physically abusing Heshu for months beforehand. She had not reported the attacks but referred to them in a two-page "runaway" letter found after her death.

She wrote: "Bye Dad, sorry I was so much trouble. Me and you will probably never understand each other. But I'm sorry I wasn't what you wanted but there's some things you can't change. "Hay [sic] for an older man you have a good strong punch & kick. I hope you enjoyed testing your strength on me, it was fun being on the receiving end. WELL DONE."

Later in the letter, which detectives think was written weeks before her death, Heshu added: "One day when I have a proper job every penny I owe you will be repaid in full ... I will find a way to independently look after myself.

"I will go to social security to get myself a flat or hostel. I will be ok. Don't look for me because I don't know where I'm going yet. I just want to be alone." In summer 2002 the family visited Kurdistan and Heshu thought her father wanted to arrange a marriage for her.

Police believe that some friends of Yones helped "cover up" the murder and intend to pursue an investigation into attempts to pervert the course of justice.

UK:  Debating Honour Killing as Bride’s Killer is on Trial 

A bride-to-be Sahjda Bibi was fatally stabbed 22 times, at her home in Birmingham just minutes before she was due to marry, allegedly by her cousin Rafaqat Hussain, because he felt that she chose an unsuitable husband, a divorcee eight years older to her. 

The trial of Hussain at Birmingham Crown court has now re-ignited a national debate on how to stop such callous murders. In the last one year, at least 12 such cases have been identified by the police. The court was told that as the 21-year-old Bibi was dressing for the ceremony, her cousin stabbed her with a kitchen knife and then fled scuffling with the bridegroom. He jumped into a waiting car and driven to Heathrow from where he flew to Pakistan within hours of the murder. He had already bought the air ticket.    

Bibi was killed, like in other honour killings, because her marriage was controversial and could have caused problems within the Muslim community. In London, according to police figures, six murders in the last one year, are suspected to be honour killings. All of them involved brutal attacks and callously carried out. The police have found it very difficult to gather information or evidence, since both relatives and community members refuse to cooperate or come forward to give details.

UK: Remember Heshu! Campaign to Stop Honour Killings

Heshu, a 16-year-old Kurdish girl from London was stabbed to death by her father on 12th October 2002, for having a boyfriend. She was one of many victims of honour killings. A victim of a culture which sees women as the property of men in the family, and not as human beings with equal rights. In this culture, women who do not comply with the backward religious and traditional norms of the community are doomed to suffer torture, abuse, humiliation and death.

Young Heshu grew up in Europe but was not spared the indignation, anti-woman values and attitudes of her father’s world. She suffered violence in her own home and was beaten up by her father for many years. Her writings are a clear manifestation of the pain and hardship imposed on her by her father and his traditional culture.

Undoubtedly, murdering women and denying them the right to life is one of the most horrendous crimes which seem to find their justification in religion, tradition and tribalism. However, this is only one aspect of the whole tragedy of violence against women and their systematic lack of rights which is imposed on the “Heshu”s of the world. “Honour killing” is nothing but the most flagrant and organised terrorist action against women and must be uprooted by the decisive will and action of the civilised world. Thousands of women are beaten up, humiliated and driven to depression and psychological despair on a daily basis. Putting an end to this systematic violence against women requires a massive political and legal struggle.

On this first anniversary of Heshu’s death, we announce the launching of the campaign Remember Heshu! To:

  • stop violence against women and girls carried out and justified in the name of culture or religion;
  • fight for universal, equal rights for women everywhere, against any ethnic or religious justifications to deny women their rights;
  • fight against all forms of misogynist, backward and inhuman cultural norms and traditions;
  • stop violence against women by their family members;
  • Put an end to honour killings.

Through this campaign, we wish to remember dear Heshu and all those women who fell victim to honour killings. We want to ensure that this crime is never again repeated. We call on all women’s and progressive organisations and all those concerned to join us in our efforts to put an end to the imposition of backward cultures, to violence committed by families and to honour killings. Women’s rights are universal and no culture or religion should be allowed to undermine this universal right. 

Diana Nammi – 


E-mail: Info: 07816107447

Save lives!

Iraq: Honour Killings Increase Sharply 

A 17-year old walked into Jazaar police station in north Baghdad to give himself up after shooting his mother, his half-brother and his four-year-old sister with an AK 47. The boy, Akhmed, whose full name has been withheld by the police, was responsible for Iraq’s latest ‘honour killings’. 

Honour killings have increased sharply amid the breakdown in security that has blighted Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Akhmed said that more than 3 years ago, he discovered that his mother was having an affair with Ali, his father’s son from a previous marriage. He had once seen them having sex and had been so shocked that he had not told anyone. Last year his father died and the lovers moved to another house where they lived together in secret with Akhmed and his sister Jenan. He said that ever since he saw them sleeping together, he always wanted to kill them, but was too scared to take revenge under Saddam’s regime.  Buying a gun was difficult and he feared arrest, whereas under the Americans, buying guns is now easy. One day, when his mother came home, he killed her first, then his half-brother and then Jenan, because he feared his mother had Jenan with another man than his father. 

According to the Organisation of Women’s Freedom, dozens of young Iraq women have died at the hands of male relatives since Bush declared war on Iraq. Last month the group wrote to Paul Bremner, the US administrator in Iraq, denouncing the wave of crime against Iraqi women including rape, abductions and honour killings. The group has yet to receive an answer. The explosion in crime is also partly attributable to Saddam’s release of 100,000 prisoners last October. Source: BBC World Service, 28.9.03

Malaysia: Islamists: stop wearing lipstick to lower the risk of being raped

Women's groups and the government criticized a leader of Malaysia's Islamic opposition for saying women should stop wearing lipstick and perfume to lower the risk of being raped. 

Nik Abdul Aziz, the spiritual leader of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, was quoted by the Malay-language Mingguan Malaysia newspaper as saying that even women who wear headscarves can arouse men if they wear makeup and perfume too. The end result could be rape or molestation, the newspaper cited Nik Aziz as saying. Anwar Bakri, a senior adviser to Nik Aziz, confirmed he made the comments, but said they were reported out of context. 

Many women from Malaysia's Malay Muslim majority wear a form of Islamic dress, such as a headscarf covering the hair but leaving the face exposed, and long sleeves. Younger women in Malaysia often wear the headscarf with modern clothes such as jeans as well as makeup and jewelry. 

The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party is the country's largest opposition group, controlling two of the 13 states, where it has restricted alcohol sales and segregated men and women at supermarket counters. It has tried to introduce criminal laws including punishments such as amputation.

Ivy Josiah, a leader of the Women's Aid Organization, said Nik Aziz's comments indicated he believed - wrongly - that the victims of rape were responsible for provoking it. 

Source: AP

Worldwide: Honour Killings take Lives of 13 Women A Day

Thousands of women die every year in so-called “honour killings”. In 2000 it was estimated that 5,000 women a year – more than 13 a day – died worldwide because they were deemed to have brought shame on their families or communities. According to UK Metropolitan Police the practice was believed to have been the reason behind 12 murders in Britain last year, including six in London.

In some communities killing the women involved restores honour in the Eyes of others. The most frequent honour killers are husbands, brothers and fathers, although in some extreme cases entire families can be involved.

Morocco: Reforms to  the Family Law

The changes to the personal status code would give women greater rights on matters covering marriage and divorce. Women's groups have been campaigning for changes to the moudouana for years.

Morocco's family law - or moudouana - has been one of the most hotly debated and divisive issues in the country in recent years. How can a society advance while the rights of women are squandered and they are subjected to injustice, violence and marginalisation. The law, based on Islamic Sharia, has left women in a vulnerable position within the family. Husbands have been able to divorce their wives easily, and turn them out of the home, while it has been very difficult for women to get out of abusive relationships. Now part of that law is going to change. 

Women will get property rights within marriage, and both spouses will have equal authority in the family. 

Divorce will be made easier for women, and the age of marriage for girls will be raised from 15 to 18. 

Polygamy will not be outlawed but will be made more difficult - a man will need to get consent from his existing wife before marrying another. 

Main proposals:

  • Minimum age for women to marry raised to 18 
  • Judge's authorisation required for polygamy 
  • Women given right to divorce their husbands 
  • Women given new rights to assets acquired during marriage 
  • Children's rights reinforced  

But when the government attempted to reform the law three years ago, Islamist leaders organised a massive protest rally in Casablanca, attended by hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. The government got cold feet, and abandoned the reforms. 

USA: Marketing of Islamic Barbie started!

At first glance, this new girl on the block doesn't give Barbie much of a run for her money. After all, Barbie is everything Razanne is not -- curvaceous, flashy and loaded with sex appeal. But that's exactly why many Muslim Americans prefer Razanne, with her long-sleeved dresses, head scarf and, by her creator Ammar Saadeh's own admission, a not-so-buxom bustline. 

The Livonia-based company, founded about seven years ago, sells the Razanne doll and a number of other toys geared toward children of Muslim parents. 

Razanne has the body of a preteen. The doll comes in three types: fair-skinned blonde, olive-skinned with black hair, or black skin and black hair. Her aspirations are those of a modern Muslim woman. On the drawing board for future dolls are Dr. Razanne and possibly even Astronaut Razanne. There's also Muslim Girl Scout Razanne, complete with a cassette recording of the Muslim Scout's oath. 

In the United States, Mattel, which makes Barbie, markets a Moroccan Barbie and sells a collector's doll named Leyla. Leyla's elaborate costume and tale of being taken as a slave in the court of a Turkish sultan are intended to convey the tribulations of one Muslim girl in the 1720s. 

Laila, the Arab League's answer to Barbie, offered girls of the league's 22-member states a culturally acceptable alternative to Barbie's flashy lifestyle. But she never made it to store shelves. Sara and Dara were launched a couple of years ago -- Iran's version of Barbie and her beau, Ken. The two were offshoots of a children's cartoon in Iran. 

Razanne will soon be marketed in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and make greater inroads in southeast Asia. The doll is sold throughout the United States, Canada, Singapore and Germany. Prices range from $9.99 for a single doll to $24.99 for a set like Teacher Razanne that includes a briefcase and other accessories. 

Lest people think that she's all about praying, there's In-Out Razanne, whose wardrobe also includes a short, flowery dress she can wear inside the home, in view only of men in her family. 

 Source: AP

UK: International Conference: Empowering Women

15 and 16 November 2003

Conway Hall


Empowering Women is the theme for an International conference organised by the International Humanist & Ethical Union that will be held on 15 & 16 November in London –UK. Women and civil and political rights, women and reproductive rights, sex and gender discrimination, women, religious states and secularism.  

Azam Kamguian will be speaking at this conference. Other speakers will include: 

Roy Brown, IHEU President, sangeeta Mall, Managing Editor, Radical Humanist

 Geetha Nargund , Dinaana Brown, Indu Grewal , Kaj Foelster, Siri Simonsen

Joan Gibson, Houzan Mahmoud, Athanasius Nweke & Gloria Iheme, Mayadevi Subedi (Katuwal), Agnieszka Wołk-Łaniewska, Viera Falgunova, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Robbi Robson

Letters to & Requests from CDWRME

USA: Please Advice Me

I coach a soccer team in Chicago.  A player of ours has come to me in total fear of her Father, who is from Jordan.  He has told her that she is to be married and will move to Jordan.  She wants no part of it and fears her Father terribly. 

She is 16.  What are her options?  How do I help her?  They want to send her there to meet this man in December.  I think if she should go she will never come back.  What do I do? 


USA: I Want to Take Action for Women’s Rights in the Middle East

Ok first, let me say hello. My name is Tawnie Escareno. I am a 14 year old Californian. I am a firm believer in women’s rights and I really want to take action against this enormous problem. I am trying to start a fundraiser something anything to get money to organizations such as yours. The first amount of money would go to RAWA which I have promised them and that is a promise I intend on keeping. Their site has gone down and I cannot  reach it. I don’t know how to start my "action taking" because I don’t even know 

 where to begin I could se some advice and I hope one day to go there to be a part of your organisation. If you could please respond and help me help you and so many others like yourselves. I would deeply appreciate it.

Tank you very much. 


Twnie escareno 
1 32 saranac dr,whittier ,ca,usa,90604

Belgium: I Admire You

Hi, I would like to show my great admire for the courageous efforts this organisation is doing. The struggle of women in the middle-east is one against a medi-evil barbaric religion. 

Kind regards. 

Mstapha Cihabi" <>  

France: I Admire Iranian Women Fighting For Secularism & Freedom


I would like to tell you that I admire you a lot and all Iranian women who believe
in freedom and secularism. Just like you I think that religion is the big evil on
earth. I left Islam when I was a 15 years old girl. My origin is from Algeria.

Kind regards 

UK: To Question the Double Standards Exercised by Our Governments with Regard to Equality and Human Rights 

I was directed to your article by an unsolicited email from 5th column.  I am deeply moved by what I have read. 

Living in a community which is trying to embrace cultural diversity and personally valuing Islamic art and culture very highly, I am torn by the demands of humanist, liberal, intellectual aspirations and the medireview reality of the culture which lays claim to having created so much in mathematics, art, music and literature. I realise that what is triumphant in the magnificence of Islamic culture, as with the other great religions, is that which challenges orthodoxy.  That which creates a new pathway through which human values of truth and beauty can be expressed. What I also see in all religious traditions is a determined effort, a conservatism, attempting to maintain the status quo at any price, against any form of diversity. In the modern world one feature of the Islamic struggle is to preserve its misogynistic laws against a liberal tide from the west which seeks to emancipate woman's role in society. It is indeed shocking that in western societies such criminal acts as you describe are able to proliferate and I would never sympathise with those who conspire to them but I can see parallels in poor societies which espouse Christianity and am willing to accept with anger that post-modern humanity has yet to emerge from the dark ages. 

That contemporary Islam is illustrative of public acceptance of brutal outdated customs is a dichotomy, a matter created by journalistic practice and as much associated with the manipulations of political propaganda as a representative of cultural /religious belief. 

Long may you continue to question the double standards exercised by our governments with regard to equality and human rights. Though our legal systems are derived from codes of socio-moralistic order derived from religious theocratic (invariable patriarchal) doctrines, we can recognise the role of social control inherent in such doctrines and question their value in contemporary, democratic cultures. 

Thank you for your efforts and commitment 

 Warmest regards

Andy Cordy

USA: I am Very Interested in Your Organization

I am managing editor of Arabic Women’s E-News – a new website dedicated to covering issues of importance to Arab and Muslim women. I am very interested in your organization and would like to receive emails on your latest news. Would you please include me on your mailing list?

Thank you

Mona Eltahawy
Managing Editor
Arabic Women’s eNews 

USA: We are Greatly Impressed by the Pioneering Work You Have Done to Advance the Cause of Women 

Committee to Defend Women’s Rights in the Middle East

 As members of the Middle Tennessee State University debate team, we are currently in the process of researching the topic of women’s social, political and economic development in third world countries, particularly in the Middle East.  Over the course of our research, we came across your organization, and we are greatly impressed by the pioneering work you have done to advance the cause of women in the third world. 

We would greatly appreciate any information you could provide us on this issue. We are researching specifically into the areas of women’s rights, health care, micro-businesses, property ownership, political leadership, and economic involvement. We are very eager to learn more about these areas, and  hope that you will be able to help us in some way. Thank you so much for your time, and for your willingness to serve humanity. 

 Debate Team 

Box 43 

Middle Tennessee State University 

Murfreesboro, TN  37132 


USA: Request to Co- operation

Dear Ms. Kamguian,

My name is Felicity Amos, and I work in Washington, D.C. at Freedom House, which is a nongovernmental organization that works to promote democracy, freedom, and human rights worldwide.  We are currently developing a new survey that will assess the status of political and civil rights, rule of law, anticorruption and transparency, and public voice and accountability in 30 "countries at a crossroads."  Jordan will be one of the countries included in the survey.

Additionally, we will be starting a project on honor killings in Jordan. If you have any suggestions for people with whom we could meet while in Jordan - perhaps people who have worked with you on different advocacy campaigns or organizations/individuals who have asked you to consult and advise, I would be most grateful for your ideas.

Also, if you have any questions about Freedom House or the survey, please do not hesitate to ask. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you.  

Felicity Amos

RIGHTS Program

Freedom House

1319 18th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20036

Tel:  (202) 296-5101, ext. 122

Fax:  (202) 296-5078

Pakistan: Request to Co- operation

Dear Colleague,

I am Waheed Ahmad from Pakistan and I am Advocate in Lahore, I have been involving in organising young workers and working for their development in Pakistan. I have a real interest in workers problems, particularly young workers, not only in Pakistan but also in other parts of Asia.  

I have been participating in healthy and constructive activities like organizing young workers and working for their development in Pakistan, campaigning for pro Human Rights activities, Child Labour, Women Rights and Prisoners Rights. I have been performing these Jobs for the last 5 years.

I would like to inform you after attending the HIV/AIDS conference in Chaing Mai (2001), and Diplomacy Training Program held in Colombo (2002) I learned from that Program to treat HIV/AIDS people with patience as a Normal Human Being.  I want to do some more efficient work for the betterment and welfare of the Persons those who are living with HIV for this mission I need your Help and Guidance that how and what can I do for these peoples. I have been selected as a member Human Rights Committee of Lahore Bar Association and Member Jails Reforms Committee Punjab Bar Council.

 I want that the people of our community should come closer to gather as the World is rushing towards Globalization. I want you to put step forward for close communication with each other so that we may share our feelings and experiences with each other, which may be beneficial for poor, and the needy ones. 

I shall be most grateful if you could kindly include my name in to your mailing list and inform me about your latest happenings and developments so that i may do something beneficial along with you and your team. Hoping for best cooperation 

With best regards

Yours truly,

Waheed Ahmad Advocate

Address 2/136-A Aman Park Baghbanpura

Lahore, Pakistan

Ph. # 92-42-6856984

MObil: 0092-300-4254329

Fax # 92-42-6844293


USA: Just Looking for a Direct Quote/Thought from You on Women's Rights in the Middle East

Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East

 Hello, my name is Mandy. I'm a 13 year old girl living in America. I'm doing an essay for my English class on women's rights in the Middle East. I came across your site ''Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East'' I read through it and I must say, I am very impressed. What your Committee stands for and what its trying to do, I think, is really brave. I completely agree with your thoughts and ideas about equal rights. 

According to my English teacher, my essay's theme is supposed to be about ''interpretation of peace, diversity, justice, and/or human rights as reflected in a quote or principle." I would like my essay to be based on your views of women's rights. I read through the site and it really helped me out for my essay.  I was wondering though, if you could email me your Committee's and/or personal thoughts on equal rights for women in the Middle East. You can give me as much or as little as you want. I'm just looking for a direct quote/thought from you on Women's Rights in the Middle East.

Thanks for taking the time to read my email. I hope I get a response from you, but if you don't respond, ‘

Tanks again,


Philippines: Thanks for the Regular Publication

Dear Azam

Thanks for the regular publication. We'll print some of the issues in the ASEAN Women Network of Education International. 

 Keep in touch. 

 Flora C. Arellano 

 National President, Alliance of Concerned Teachers 


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

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