CDWRME Bulletin #9

"Women in the Middle East" 

Number 9, January, 2003

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

Editor: Azam Kamguian
Assistant Editor: Mona Basaruddin

In this issue:

India, Kashmir: Islamic rebels kill women to impose Islamic veil

Islamic fanatics have killed three young women in their homes just days after posters appeared in India's Jammu and Kashmir State ordering women to wear a veil. Two of the women, both aged 21, were shot dead in their house in Rajouri district in the south of the revolt-torn Muslim-majority. The third woman, 22, was taken away and beheaded. Posters signed by a little known group, Lashkar Jabbar, appeared in Rajouri town and neighbouring villages asking women not to step out of their homes without a veil.

The Lashkar Jabbar sprayed acid on two women in Kashmir's main city, Srinagar, last year for defying Islamic dress code. The group then had threatened to shoot women if they failed to wear veils. It ordered women from the minority Hindu community to wear a traditional "bindi", the coloured dot on the forehead, and those in the Sikh community should cover their heads with saffron - coloured cloth.

More than dozen guerrilla groups are fighting Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir, which is at the heart of more than 50 years of hostility with Pakistan. A few groups in the past have ordered women in the Kashmir valley to wear a veil, but the order was largely ignored.

Afghanistan: Women suffer under Islamic rule

Women in Afghanistan are subject to many of the same abuses they suffered under the Taliban and in some area face increasing oppression. Restrictions such as the mandatory burqa - a cloak that covers the entire body including the face - are no longer law but are imposed in many areas.

Ismail Khan, governor of Herat, is one of the most flagrant abusers of women's rights. Ismail Khan, who is allied to the government, is worse than the Taliban, according to women's rights activists. He was among the warlords sponsored by the US in return for assistance in the 'war on terror.' He has networks of spies that monitor people's behaviour, a ban on women travelling by car with a male non-relative and "chastity checks" in which women are taken to hospital by police and subjected to a gynecological examination. Also a team of women under the auspices of the religious affairs ministry harasses women for un-Islamic behaviour such as wearing make-up.

Pakistan: 461 Honour killings In two provinces in 2002

According to Pakistan's main human rights body, at least 461 women were reported killed by family members in so-called "honour killings" in 2002, in Punjab and Sindh provinces, up from 372 reported the year before.

The Middle East & North Africa: Arab women are second class citizens

At present, women throughout the region are being denied their full national identities by being excluded from the rights, privileges, and security that all citizens of a country should have access to. Unjust laws, discriminatory constitutions, and biased mentalities that do not recognise women as equal citizens, violate women's rights.

A "national" - citizen - is defined as someone who is a native or naturalised member of a state. A national is entitled to the rights and a privilege allotted to a free individual, and is also entitled to protection from the state. However, in every country throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa women are not granted full-citizenship, or in other words, are second-class citizens. In many cases, the laws and codes of the state work to reinforce gender inequality and exclusion from nationality. The state is used to strengthen Islamic and familial control over women, making her even more dependant on these institutions.

In the Middle East, it is the family that is the basis of Arab states and not the individual. This means that the state is primarily concerned with protection of the family over the protection of the family's members. Within this framework, the rights of women are expressed solely in their roles as wives and mothers. State discrimination against women in the family is expressed through unjust family laws that deny women equal access to divorce and child custody.

Throughout the region, Arab women, should they choose to marry a foreigner, are denied the right to extend their citizenship to their husbands. Furthermore, only fathers, not mothers, can independently pass citizenship to their children. In many cases, where a woman has been widowed, divorced or abandoned, or if her husband is not a national in the country where they reside, her children have no access to citizenship, and are thus excluded from the rights of a citizen. These rights include access to education and healthcare, and to land ownership and inheritance. There is no reason for men to be unable to extend their nationality to their wives and children while women cannot. This inequality not only refuses women their right as citizens; it also denies children their basic rights as human beings.

If the state is designed to only protect women from within their role in the family, the state often fails to protect women who are in need of protection from their families. By failing to protect women adequately from violence such as domestic abuse, rape, marital rape, and honour killings, the state fails to provide the protection forthcoming to a full-citizen. In fact, by ignoring issues of gender-based violence or by granting lenient punishments to perpetrators of violence against women, the state actually reinforces women's exclusion from the rights of citizens.

Additionally, according to family laws based on the Shari'a, women are frequently denied their right to nationality by requiring a male relative's permission to access the rights and privileges that she should inherently have access to. This works to increase the dependency women have on their male family members for economic, social, and legal. For example, in many Arab countries women must attain the permission of their fathers, brothers, or husbands in order to attain a passport, travel outside of their country, start a business, receive a bank loan, open a bank account, or get married. All of the above should be available to women independently as equal citizens of their country, yet they continue to be denied.

Iran: Female students scooping up university places

After the university entrance exams in Iran, female students secured 122,000 out of 195,000 places - or 63 percent. Of the 1.5 million students sitting the exams, nearly 60 percent were women, bringing the nation-wide male-female student balance to near parity.

An Islamic newspaper demanded a gender-based quota system to tackle "this dangerous imbalance". Ya Lessarat a newspaper linked to the Ansar Hezbollah militia, a right-wing Islamic fanatic group, argues that the large number of women in the classrooms encouraged "corruption" - in other words they distract their male counterparts from the serious task of studying.

Women had traditionally outnumbered men in the social sciences, but are now getting close to doing the same in the sciences. Several officials had - without success so far - demanded male-female quotas for courses such as medicine given the disproportionate number of female doctors, who according to Islamic rule should not be allowed to treat male patients.

Furthermore, it should be pointed out that the annual exodus abroad of some 200,000 youth, mostly men who are frustrated by the Islamic republic's massive youth unemployment and suppression. A lot of girls are refusing to marry, this risked pushing up the average marrying age - currently 30 years old for men and 26 for women.

Sudan: Women's lives under Islamic oppression

According to the last census in the Sudan, women form over 69% of the Sudanese population. Right now, there are 3 million facing famine, and 4 million displaced most of them are women and children. Over 2 millions died in the civil war which is taking place for more about 20 years.

Sudanese women and children have been subjected to gross human rights violations by Islamic regime in the Sudan. Laws are changed based on Islam to guarantee the oppression as follows:

  1. Daily harassment and follow up by the military police to see that women wear the Islamic costume and they can be taken to the police station and lashed 
  2. Women are required to present certificates showing their relationship to men if they are in the same car
  3. Frequent rape sometimes in front of their family members
  4. Torture in prison
  5. Imprisonment of women and their children that results in the death of some children
  6. Confiscation of utensils from those who sell food
  7. Dismissal of thousands of qualified and experienced women in the civil society.
  8. Women are not allowed to do certain jobs i.e., hotels, petrol stations etc. Also in some professions they are not allowed to see their patients and clients in private.
  9. The family and public laws has been changed completely to oppress women and children more.
  10. Women are not allowed to travel without a guardian.

The situation in the war zones is as follows: 

  1. burns villages with women and children inside.
  2. those who remain alive are taken to what the government calls 'peace camps', where they are subjected to humiliation, starvation and degradation.
  3. Some women are distributed in what the government calls 'the hospitable Families', where they work all day eat the leftovers and raped by whomever Is interested.
  4.  they are lashed
  5. Children are taken to the local slave market and some are even exported
  6. Forced Islamisation and Arabisation
  7. Rape is a regular activity. Islamic forces are encouraged to rape women to bring children with Arabic features.
  8. Ariel bombardment and the minefields have resulted in many death or disfiguring
  9. Gross human rights violations in the oil fields, systematic forced displacement

Palestine, Gaza Strip: "Mr. Perfect" on the scene

Although its theme about the problems of the status of women in society is common to plays around the world, it is the context, which makes "Mr. Perfect" so remarkable. Written, directed and performed by Palestinians, "Mr. Perfect" is not a typical play. To begin with, there is no such thing as a typical play in Gaza because there are no plays. During difficult times going out for entertainment is considered improper; films have not been screened in the Strip since before the first Intifada. Yet, Ramallah's Qasaba Theatre continued to show films and plays until it was damaged in Operation Defensive Shield. West Bankers are less austere than people in Gaza are.

"Mr. Perfect" deals with the problem of divorced women who are rejected by Palestinian society as well as the women's difficulty in achieving self-fulfilment because their fathers, brothers and husbands confine them to their homes to care for their families.

According to a recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Working Women Society for Development (PWWSD) on politics and reform, more than two-thirds of the respondents, Palestinian women in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, said they strongly or somewhat agree with the statement that "a successful woman is one who looks after her husband and children rather than herself or her rights." Thirty percent either somewhat or strongly disagreed and 2.7 percent expressed no opinion.

"People here look at a divorced woman as if she is nothing," says Wissam Yassin, who plays the lead, Farcha, a young divorced woman who has left her husband and returned to her parents' home, but is perceived as a wrongdoer because she has brought shame on them by getting a divorce. She is confined to the home to save the family honour.

"Our message to both women and society in general is that divorce is not the end of the world. Women should go out, study and be able to continue with their lives. Women have a right to self-realisation," states Yassin.

This message highlights the significance of "Mr. Perfect." Not only is it taboo to discuss abuses against women, but Palestinians as a whole shun publicly discussing their internal problems during the Intifada because they feel that this detracts attention from their struggle against the Israeli occupation.

"The negative people argue that during the Intifada we must not talk about these 'small' issues because we must concentrate all our effort on our struggle to end the occupation," says Abu Zayed. "But this is a pretext, it's nonsense. You can struggle and you can live your life. The battle is long, we can't postpone our lives."

"I don't believe we should wait to discuss internal issues until after the end of the occupation. Women's issues in particular are very significant in our society," says Atef Abu Saif, the native Gazan playwright. Abu-Zaydan agrees: "We must speak out about these problems.

Another noteworthy aspect is explained by Nabil Diab, Yassin's husband: "You know, in Gaza, it's not acceptable that women act in plays. Here, all the Palestinian people say a woman acting is shameful. She should be at home, producing and taking care of children."

The women's biggest fear is of Mohamed Abu Kwaik, who plays "chauvinism" incarnate. Abu Kwaik is the husband, the father, the colonial landlord and a soldier. In the end, dressed in a grey oversized winter pyjamas, the actor is the devil representing society's stereotypes and the women's own fear. In a frightening voice, he declares, "I am the rumour, the nightmare, the broken dream. I am the unknown that you fear. I live inside every man, in his flesh, skin and clothes ... in his soul, mind, movement and laughter."

A graduate of the School of Visual Theatre in Jerusalem, Mozain makes clever use of symbolism in the props. At the start of the play a large skin-coloured piece of rubber with three holes covers the floor. Under each hole is a young woman trying to "release herself from the fears in her depths." The rear wall of the set is a circular screen, which is held up by ropes in the form of a spider's web representing the hidden things in one's psyche. The play combines song, dance and acting. The play's handbill in English and Arabic makes a comparison between Palestinian male and societal "occupation" of Palestinian women's lives and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian people. It reads: "In this play we try to find a special voice, and the challenge that [sic] our work comes in a [sic] very critical circumstances on the political level.

Abu-Zaydan and the other members of the crew and cast of "Mr. Perfect," have high hopes that the 70 performances to be given at high schools around Gaza will have an affect on the school-age viewers: "We can't change the people with one play. But these kids are young and the play get them to think about the stereotypes." Each performance will be followed by a discussion group. Fekra Arts Institute, a Palestinian organization founded and aimed at enriching the cultural life of the Palestinian community - particularly of children and women.

Afghanistan: Women suffering Taliban oppression

Women in the western Afghan City of Herat are often arrested, taken to hospital and subject to abusive gynecological examinations just for walking in the street with a man or riding in a taxi without another passenger. In Herat, every woman has to wear the burqa while TV stations substitute pictures of flowers during foreign programs when women appear with any hair uncovered.

In the capital, Kabul, the Taliban's Vice and Virtue squad has been configured under the name "Islamic Teaching" and harasses women for wearing make-up. Elsewhere, the troops of rival warlords with close military ties with other foreign forces and US have committed gang rapes. The abuses are not confined to Pashtun areas where the Taliban was strong. Ismail Khan is a Tajik who opposed the Taliban. Troops loyal to General Mohammed Fahim, a senior Northern Alliance commander and the central government's defence minister, have been enforcing Taliban-era 'moral' restrictions such as forbidding families from playing music at weddings and dancing, and in some cases arresting and beating musicians.

Ismail Khan in Herat has pressured women not to work for foreign non-governmental organisations, has urged them to stick to teaching in girls' schools, and has ordered them not to drive. Women and girls are afraid to go out except on essential business because of tight restrictions enforced not only by the police but by adolescent boys trained to spy on them. Police bring in about 10 girls and women a day for "chastity" tests. In one case in October, police arrested a girl and her cousin in the bazaar. The girl was taken to the maternity ward with such a commotion that at least 100 people saw her. Two doctors examined her and determined she was "perfectly healthy and untouched".

Saudi Arabia: Islamic rule brutally oppresses women

Women in Saudi Arabia face extreme forms of discrimination and restriction on their basic human rights. Discrimination touches virtually all aspects of their lives including family life, decision making, employment, education and the justice system.

The lives of women in Saudi Arabia are regulated by a web of mores, Islamic rules and fatwa. It is the will of the state that controls almost every aspect of women's daily life, from their right of movement to the right to redress. Women can not walk alone even in their own neighbourhood without the fear of being stopped, beaten or detained particularly by the religious police as suspected moral offenders. They are not allowed to go anywhere, or leave the country without a male guardian (mahram) or his written consent.

Women in Saudi Arabia, like men, face torture, corporal judicial punishment such as flogging and execution after summary trials, which do not meet the basic standards of fair trial. However, it is harsher for women due to the discrimination, which they are subjected to in society. When they come into contact with the criminal justice system, women are invariably interrogated by men. Having no previous contact with unrelated men, they are consequently vulnerable to being intimidated into giving confessions, which are used as a sole evidence for conviction and punishment.

Discrimination in law against women is not only limited to laws regulating the system of government and decision-making. For example, the Labour Code in Saudi Arabia contains direct and indirect discriminatory clauses against women. They must be represented by a male relative or an attorney. Gender segregation often means that women are limited to unequal facilities and opportunities.

Jordan: More honour killings of women

A 17-year-old girl was shot and killed in her home by her father in Sahab shortly after being released from administrative detention. The victim, Amani Ala Edin, sustained multiple bullet wounds by her father, who cited family honour as his motive. The victim's father then hung a white sheet in front of his house "to inform everyone he had cleansed his family's honour and was waiting for police to arrest him."

The victim was missing from her family's home for several days on three different occasions. Each time the teenager would turn herself in to police after the disappearance. She last went missing and was ordered to be placed in a correctional centre for her 'protection'.

On many occasions when a female is found missing from her family's home and later found by police, she is held in prison. The father visited the magistrate, signing a guarantee he would not harm her. Subsequently, Ala Edin was released into her father's custody. A few hours later, the father shot her to death. It seems the victim was suffering from some form of abuse at her family's home. She was running away to find a better place.

Iran: Women line up for free motor-biking course

Deprived of the pleasure of buzzing along on two wheels since 1979, Iranian women are lining up for a free course on motor biking. "The Prophet Mohammad, may peace be upon him, recommended that Muslims learn shooting, swimming and horse riding," asserts Mohammad Reza Farhad-Sheikhahmad, head of sales for a major Iranian motorcycle manufacturer. "If we bring this up to date, horse riding can be replaced with motorbikes."!!

"So far 11,000 women have already signed up." He says each course could train 7,600 women. Of Iran's 35 million women, he said that five million are potential clients for his company's 18 factories.

The problem here and again is the mandatory Islamic clothing. Farhad-Sheikhahmad says he has found a solution for that!! "Several clothing manufacturers have contacted us to tell us that they have designed a special coat" !!

Palestine: Poll on politics from women's perspective

A poll was recently conducted by the Palestinian Working Women Society for Development PWWSD on politics and reformations from women's perspective. (71.1%) of Palestinian women believe that achieving equality between men and women is the task of the entire society. (50.0%) will not boycott legislative elections even if the opposition calls for that. (55.9%) will vote for President Arafat if he runs for presidency again. (53.2%) believe it is about time to make reformation in the Palestinian Authority (PA). (52.8%) support the introduction of a unified electoral women slate (45.6%) believe that designation of ministers without the approval of the Palestinian legislative council (PLC) is a negligence of Palestinian legislative institutions (46.0%) are in favour of changing the elections law that was promulgated in 1996 (50.1%) believe that the PLC elections law should include a women quota (37.1%) believe that the best thing that makes a woman a good candidate for a public position is potentials and qualifications (39.9%) support the holding of local and village council elections (38.8%) believe that the people's refraining from voting for a woman for a public position is due to their lack of confidence in women for leadership (66.6%) believe to varying degrees that woman must have equal opportunities as men when running for political elections (35.3%) prefer an Islamic regime in Palestine

Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) elections: When asked, "will you or not participate in legislative elections?" Almost half (51.2%) of women give a positive answer, while (39.2%) give a negative answer, and 9.6% are noncommittal. A majority (39.0%) support holding legislative elections in the Palestinian territories soon, while (40.7%) opposes, and (20.3%) express no opinion. In addition, (34.8%) support the holding of presidential elections in the Palestinian territories, while (43.8%) prefer them to be held at a later stage, and (21.4%) are noncommittal. When asked: "If elections were being held in the last few months, do you believe they would or not be impartial? 39.1% says somewhat impartial, impartial (14.2%), partial (29.4%), and (17.3%) express no opinion.

Local / village council elections: More than one-third (39.9%) of Palestinian women support the holding of local and village council elections after legislative elections, while (38.0%) prefer local and village council elections to be held before legislative elections, and (22.1%) are uncertain about this issue. Running for elections and representation A substantial majority (52.8%) of Palestinian women support an introduction of a unified women slate for elections, while 23.6% oppose, and 23.6% express no opinion. More than one-third (37.1%) of them say that the best quality a woman candidate should have to run for a public position is personal qualifications and potentials, while 25.7% believe it is religious affiliation, then (13.1%) say it is for her to be able to take into account women's interest and to represent them, 12.0% loyalty to her family, 5.9% political affiliation, and 6.2% are noncommittal. When asked on the significance of a woman's involvement in the political life, 45.6% of Palestinian women say that their involvement is important because they form part of the society and must resume a role in it, while 20.5% say it is important to acquire and defend their rights, 17.9% to raise the status and voice of women, 6.7% because women better understand people's needs, and 9.3% refrain from answering this question.

When asked "Do you prefer, or it makes no difference for you, that a man or a woman represent you in different political institutions?" more than one-third (39.9%) of them have no preference towards any gender, while 30.0% prefer men, 23.2% prefer women, and 6.9% say "do not know". However, 48.3% of the Palestinian women state would vote for a woman candidate if she had certain qualifications, while (25.7%) state they would vote for a woman candidate just because she was a woman even if she did not have such qualifications, (17.7%) would not vote for any woman candidate, and 8.3% are noncommittal. The poll reveals that the prime reason for not voting for women candidates is that the Palestinian public believe that women are not qualified for leadership (38.8%), followed by the factor that women themselves do not run for elections (24.6%), political parties do not promote slates with women (25.2%), and 11.4% express no opinion. When asked "do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree that unfair women's representation in all national institutions has undermined democracy in the Palestinian territories"? 36.3% of the respondents say they somewhat agree, while (20.0%) say they strongly agree, (10.5%) somewhat disagree, 15.6% strongly disagree, and (17.6%) express no opinion. An overwhelming majority (71.1%) of women respondents believe that achieving equality between men and women is the task of the entire society, while only 17.0% believe it is primarily a women's task, and (11.9%) say "do not know".

The Palestinian electoral system: A good majority (51.0%) of Palestinian women prefer that the PA's president be elected directly, while 26.8% prefer indirect elections, 21.9% prefer otherwise, and (0.3%) express no opinion. A majority (47.3%) prefers that election of PLC members take place according to constituencies, while 32.2% prefers elections to be nation-wide, 6.1% prefer otherwise, and 14.4% express no opinion. One-third 33.3% of Palestinian women believe that a voter should have the right to vote for candidates of different slates for PLC elections, while 17.5% believe that ballot should be confined to only one slate, and 28.7% prefer the one man-one vote system, and 20.5% express no opinion. When asked, " What type of governance do you prefer"? 32.6% of the respondents say that they prefer a democratic republican (pluralism) type of governance, whereas 35.3% prefer it to be Islamic, 9.9% prefer a one-party regime, 8.3% are for arrow pluralism, 2.8% prefer none of the above, and 11.0% express no opinion. A good majority (46.0%) supports an amendment of the general elections law of 1996 since it was meant for an interim period, while 28.8% oppose, and 25.2% are noncommittal. A substantial majority (50.1%) of women support allocating a "quota" for women in the next legislative elections, while 33.6% oppose, and 16.3% express reservation as to this question.

The Current PLC: When asked "Do you or not consider that the PLC members of your constituency represent you"? 14.6% say they absolutely do not represent them, while 22.8% say they do not represent them, 24.0% do represent, 19.0% somewhat represent, 10.5% highly represent, 9.1% are uncertain. When asked, "If legislative elections were being held today, will you or not vote for current representatives of your own constituency?" 54.9% of the respondents give a negative answer, while 27.2% give a positive answer, and 17.9% refrain from answering. When asked "To what degree do you believe that the executive authority influence decisions of the PLC?" 20.2% say it does influence to a high degree, while 41.9% say fairly, 19.2% slightly, and 18.7% express no opinion.

Palestinian Political Parties: When asked "If political elections were being held in the Palestinian territories today, which political party would you vote for?" 34.1% say they would vote for Fatah, while 19.1% say they would vote for Hamas, 6.0% for Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), 4.1% for Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), 2.8% for the People's party, 6.0% for the Islamic Jihad, 1.7% for FIDA, 7.2% for independents, 1.1% other parties, and 17.9% would vote for none of the above.

Change in the Cabinet: A substantial majority (49.0%) of Palestinian women believe that the recent change in the Palestinian cabinet is not an indication of genuine intention for reformation, while 25.4% believe the opposite, and 25.6% refrain from answering this question. However, 45.6% of them believe that designating new ministers without obtaining the approval and confidence of the PLC will undermine Palestinian legislative institutions, and sustain individualistic approach of the Palestinian leadership, while 27.8% believe the opposite, and 26.6% are uncertain about this matter.

Involvement in the political life: When asked questions related to women's involvement in the political life, the poll reveals the following results:

1. In general, men are better political leaders than women are; (41.4%) say they strongly agree, (28.0%) somewhat agree, (14.4%) somewhat disagree, (13.0%) strongly disagree, and (3.2%) have no opinion.

2. A woman would vote for a candidate that her family would vote for; (16.9%) say they strongly agree, (26.5%) somewhat agree, (26.5%) somewhat disagree, (25.9%) strongly disagree, and (4.2%) express no opinion.

3. Getting involved in politics is the right of men and women equally; (36.2%) say they strongly agree, (33.4%) somewhat agree, 16.1%) somewhat disagree, (9.9%) strongly disagree, and (4.4%) express no opinion.

4. A woman has the right to be an active member of a Palestinian political party; (37.1%) say they strongly agree, (28.5%) somewhat agree, (18.0%) somewhat disagree, (11.2%) strongly disagree, and (5.2%) express no opinion.

5. A woman has potentials and skills that make her qualified to take top-level decisions i.e. if she became a Minister or a Prime Minister; (30.6%) say they strongly agree, (32.3%) somewhat agree, (19.3%) somewhat disagree, (13.2%) strongly disagree, and (4.6%) express no opinion.

6. A successful women is that one who looks after her husband and children rather than herself or her rights; (37.3%) say they strongly agree, (29.7%) somewhat agree, (18.9%) somewhat disagree, (11.0%) strongly disagree, and (2.7%) express no opinion.

7. A woman should be given as equal chance as a man to run for political elections; (34.3%) say they strongly agree, (32.3%) somewhat agree, (17.7%) somewhat disagree, (11.1%) strongly disagree, and (4.6%) express no opinion.

8. Women's participation in political parties may help achieve women's goals; (32.6%) say they strongly agree, (35.5%) somewhat agree, (16.0%) somewhat disagree, (10.4%) strongly disagree, and (5.5%) express no opinion.

The Director of the PWWSD, Mrs. Amal Khreisheh, stated that the average age of the women respondents was 30.20 years. She also mentioned that the percentage of married respondents was 60.0%, while that of single ones was 30.6%, divorced 4.6%, and widowed was 4.2%. Mrs. Khreisheh added that the composition of the sample according to location of residence was as follows: 52.5% are city dwellers, 28.5% from the village, and 19.0% from refugee camps.

 Iran: The Islamic regime forced to stop stoning

In the last days of December 2002, the head of the Islamic republic's judiciary in Iran, issued a directive to judges not to carry out current stoning sentences and disregard issuing sentences in the future. This is a retreat in the face of an international public protest, resistance and the resilient struggle of the activists of the women's liberation movement. It is also the result of pressures brought to bear by international public opinion through the recent negotiations with the European Union. The European Union had no option but to convey this pressure to the Islamic Republic of Iran and the regime had no option but to retreat. This is a victory for all freedom-lovers, women's rights activists; particularly for the "International Committee against Stoning" and Mina Ahadi, its co-ordinator.

Sweden: A three-day conference on "Honour Killing, Violence against Women, Culture, Politics or Cultural Politics?"

In the memory of Fadima Sahindal

Themes of the conference: Women's universal rights, secularism and political Islam, honour killings, cultural relativism, women's integration policies, the rights of refugee and immigrant women and girls

Speakers are among well known women's rights activists, writers, campaigners, lawyers, politicians, journalists and Swedish government authorities, and asylum right activists. Speakers are invited from the Middle East, Sweden and other European countries.

Speakers include:

Azar Majedi, Taslima Nasrin, Azam Kamguian, Aida Touma Soleyman, Manal Massalha, Nasik Ahmed, Gunilla sturner, Azar Modarresi, Leila Viesanen, Nazand Bagikhani, Gustav Ferodlin, Asad Nodinian, Parvin Kaboly, Maryam Namazie, Sara Mohammad, Halale Taheri, Halale Rafe, Nazanin Rashid, Christofer Gustavsson, Nazanin Saleh, Maria Rashidi, representatives of Green party, representative of the Kurdish government in Solaymanieh- Iraqi Kurdistan, representative of the immigration authority in Sweden

When: 17, 18 & 19 January 2003 
Where: Z salen, ABF, Svea vagen 41, Stockholm

Organisers: Sara Mohammad - Chair "Never Forget Pila and Fadima" Halale Taheri - Chair "Centre to Defend Women's Rights in Kurdistan" Asad Nodinian - Chair "The Kurdish Cultural Centre"

Contact Numbers: 0046704411075, 0046736535567, 0046736162211

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