CDWRME Bulletin #1

Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East - CDWRME- has been formed to promote women's rights and equality in the Middle East. We believe that secularism and the separation of religion from the state are the basic pre-conditions for women's liberation in the Middle East. We believe in the universality of women's rights and combat the idea of cultural relativism that justifies women's oppression under the rule of Islamic law and Islamic governments.

We try to create a network of women's rights activists in the Middle Eastern countries, we campaign around women's civil rights and individual freedom, and support the just struggle of women in the Middle East.


Women in the Middle East -1 - May 2002 Bulletin of "Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East"

Editor: Azam Kamguian 
Assistant Editor: Mona Basaraddin

In this issue: 

More Women on the Death Row of Islamic Law: 
Ferdows, Zafaran, Amina, and Sima are all sentenced to death by stoning:

Iran: According to Entekhab; an Iranian daily, on April 24, Ferdows B another Iranian woman was sentenced to death by stoning by an Islamic court in Tehran. Sima; another woman is awaiting to be stoned since Jan. 2002

Pakistan: On 17 April, Zafaran Bibi was sentence to death by stoning under section 8 of Zina Ordinance and in accordance with Islamic Shari'a in Kohat in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan for willful extra - marital sex. Zafaran's Lawyer filed an appeal on 24 April. Since 1981, human and women's rights activists and organisations have been struggling to repeal this law.

Nigeria: Amina Lawal Kurami is awaiting death by stoning after Safiya Hussaini's sentence was overturned Safiya Hussaini was the first woman who could be sentenced to death for sex out of marriage in that country according to the Shari'a in modern times. The Islamic leaders that have fought vigorously to reintroduce the Islamic law, did not want outside pressure deprive them of this symbolic sentence. After overturning Safiya's case, on March 22, they put another woman; Amina Lawal Kurami on the death row of Islamic Shari'a.

Meanwhile, Amina finds herself on death row; she lives with her family and her baby in their village of Bakori in Kastina State in North Nigeria. The Judge ordered that the death sentence should be delayed for 8 months to allow Amina to breast-feed her baby. She was given 30 days to decide whether to challenge the sentence. Her baby the evidence in her case is unconscious of the flurry her birth has caused, she might very well grow up as an orphan and be seen as the cause of her mother's brutal and savage murder by political Islam and Islamic Shari'a in Nigeria.

Also, on February 10, this year, following the international pressure, Sudan's Supreme Court overturned the Islamic Shari'a execution of Abok Akok a Sudanese women for sex outside marriage.

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

Please send your protest letters to: 
Mohammad Khatami - Iran Khatami,  
Fax: +98 216 464 443

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

General Pervez Musharraf
Chief Executive 
Islamic Republic of Pakistan 
Fax: + 92519203938 

Mecca-Saudi Arabia: 15 girls were burnt to death because they were unveiled In Friday March 11, 15 pupils burnt to death in a girl's school in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Members of Mutawwia'n, the religious police appeared at the main gate of the school and prevented 15 girls escaping the blazing school building without the Islamic dress; black clocks (Abaya) and head coverings that are mandatory for Saudi girls and women. They intentionally obstructed the efforts to evacuate the girls because they were unveiled. The religious police even hindered the firemen and other people to save the victims. This horrifying act is the natural outcome of the misogynist ruling Islamic system in Saudi Arabia. This is the fruit of the rule of sexual apartheid under Islamic law and the Islamic governments.

The Unified Arab Emirates: Divorce by a Text on Mobile Phone A court in the Unified Arab Emirates endorsed a divorce that resulted from a husband's text message to his wife that read, "why are you late? You are divorced". Islamic Shari'a law allows men to divorce their wives by either speaking or writing these words: "I am divorcing you", three times, as long as certain conditions are met.

Syria: Unveiling Issues of Sexuality and Sex Taboos in Syria: Ammar Abdoulhamid's novel, which discusses issues of sexuality and taboos, has been banned in Syria. His novel provocative name is "menstruation"; in which he explores in depth various aspects of Islamic moral and religious suppression of sex and sexuality under the ruling Islamic law and the dominant traditional tribal culture. The novel has been published in English by British house Saqi Books last year. It has been translated into six languages including Japanese. Critics State that "Menstruation" is in many ways a portrayal of how Ammar came to realize his doubt about and frustration with religion and traditional Syrian life.

As the book cannot be published in Arabic due to strict censorship laws in Syria, Ammar intends to release it in Arabic on the Internet in the near future. Due to its frank talking about Islamic taboos, the English Publisher has removed the Last chapter of the book.

Morocco: Reforms in Women's Civil Rights For many women living in the Middle Eastern countries, Islamic Shari'a that stripes them from their very basic human rights and subordinates them to the authority of their male relatives represent a final frontier. To alter them, they face not only an entrenched Islamic establishment but also a battle with political Islamic groups. In Kuwait, representatives of these groups in the parliament rejected the efforts to grant voting rights to women and pushed through a law to segregate Kuwait University. In Jordan, Political Islamic groups campaigned successfully against attempts to stiffen penalties for honour killings. Nowhere in the Middle East or North Africa does the conflict over women's rights came into sharp relief than in Morocco, where society has split in two over a government proposal to eliminate inequalities in the laws, particularly regarding women's civil rights- moudawana. The debate has become as much a political battle as discussion of women's rights.

The plan would raise the legal age for marriage to 18 from 15 for women (as it already has been for men), outlaw polygamy in most cases and allow divorcee women for the first time custody of their children if the remarry. Women would also be granted equal rights to ask for divorce and equal claims to assets acquired during the marriage, rather than just their personal property. A political Islamic group; "Justice and Spiritually", has organized the campaign against the plan. Their leader accuses "Westernized elite" of destroying the Muslim world and its culture. This group has cast itself as the only line of defense against and invasion of foreign ideas.

Under Moroccan law, a man can divorce his wife by simply declaring it in front of a judge. A woman is entitled for divorce only if she can prove her husband abuses her or fails to support her. Otherwise, she must buy her way out of a marriage by paying husband any amount of money he demands. Supporters of political Islamic groups have denounced the reform as a threat to Islam and family. Among them, the leader of a legal Islamic party, "Justice and Development" says: "If a woman can take half of what her husband has in a divorce, why would she stay with him?"

Palestine: Appeal Women under Fire SOS call (Save our Souls)

The right to life of Palestinian women continues to be threatened since the launch of the most recent brutal Israeli invasion of the Palestinian Territories on Friday March 29,2002. The Israeli Military Occupation Forces have been physically preventing pregnant women from reaching hospitals and clinics. Women are dying at checkpoints, new - born babies are dying at checkpoints, and the unborn are dying in their mother's wombs. Under present conditions of occupation, siege and the horror of continuous shelling and bombardment, women are forced to deliver at home without medical support or specialist care. The women of Palestine call upon the people of the world, in particular the human and women's rights organization, to take action against this unchallenged attack against Palestinian women and their babies.

HELP SAVE US AND OUR BABIES For Further information please contact Dr. Salwa Najjab at Juzoor " Foundation for Health and Social Development Telephone ++ 970-2-2344677 - 2344678 Fax: ++970-2-2344676 Email: 

- Juzoor " Foundation for Social and Health Development" - Women Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling - Women Studies' Centre - The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy ( Miftah) -Women's Affairs Technical Committee - Birziet Women Society

Palestinian and Israeli Women Demand Immediate End to Occupation Bat Shalom & Jerusalem Centre for Women - Joint Declaration

Israel has launched a war against defenseless Palestinian communities. The terrorization of innocent civilians and killings and arrest, the siege imposed upon president Arafat, and the destruction of property, infrastructures and institutions, can only lead to further escalation, prolonging the sufferings of both nations and destroying any prospect for peace.

It is our role; women on both sides, to speak out loudly against the humanitarian crimes committed in order to permanently subjugate the entire nation. We jointly ask the international community of states to accept its duty and mandate by international humanitarian law to prevent abuses of an occupying power, by officially intervening to protect the Palestinian people.

Beyond the immediate crisis, we know that there is one future for us both. The deliberate harming of innocent civilians, Palestinian or Israeli must not be condoned. By working together we improve our chances for a better future.

A just peace is a peace between equals. When we call for a Palestinian state (on the territories occupied on 4th of June 1967) alongside the state of Israel, we envision true sovereignty for each state, including control over land and natural resources. We envision a settlement based on international law, which would endorse sharing the whole city of Jerusalem, the dismantling of the settlements, and a just solution to the question of refugees according to relevant UN resolutions. In continuing our joint work together, we want not only to achieve and end to the occupation; but want to help create the conditions for a life of security and dignity for both peoples.

We call upon all women and men, young and old, to join us in our sincere quest to preserve life, human dignity and freedom in our region. Dehumanization, hatred, revenge, and oppression contribute nothing to the resolution of a century of conflict. Mutual recognition and respect of each other's individual and collective rights will pave the way for peace making. April 2002

Palestinian women's Coalition against Occupation Palestinian Women against Occupation, a coalition of Palestinian women and many Palestinian Women's Organizations against the Israeli Occupation of 1967 Palestinian territories, has issued a statement, condemning the Israeli government's atrocities in the occupied territories, calling for an independent Palestinian state. It demands the international community to break its silence and support the Palestinian people.

Afghanistan: UN Commission Approves Resolution on Women and Girls Rights Under the intense international pressure, the UN commission on the status of Women, approved by consensus a revised resolution on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan that outlines recommendations to the interim government and UN agencies, which aim to improve their quality of life. This urges Afghanistan to fully respect the equal human rights and freedom for women and girls in accordance with international standards, give priority to the ratification of the UN convention and repeal all laws that discriminate against women and girls, respect women's rights to work and to security, ensure equal access to education for afghan women and girls and ensure equal and full participation of women and girls in civil, cultural, economic, political and social life in Afghanistan,

According to the resolution, the transitional government would also be asked to bring to justice those responsible for violence against women and girls, protect their rights to freedom and movement and respect their equal access to physical and mental health services. (UN release on March 25)

Jordan: Reforms in Women's Civil Rights In December 2001, the Jordanian Cabinet approved several amendments to the Civil Status law. The legal age for marriage was raised from 15 for women and 16 for men to 18 for both sexes, and Jordanian w omen now have legal resource to divorce, subject to certain monetary compensations. Moreover, new restrictions on polygamy require a man to inform his first wife of plans to marry again and submit evidence of his financial ability to support more than one wife.

As a result of a legislative amendment to Article 340 of the Penal Code, perpetrators of honour crimes are not exempt from the death penalty, although judges are still allowed to commute the sentences of the convicted. Article 97 and 98, which reduce the sentence of crimes committed in a fit of fury and are frequently referenced in honour crimes cases, were unaffected by the amendments.

Saudi Arabia: Women get I.D. Cards for the First Time Since the beginning of last December, Saudi Arabia has started issuing identity cards to women for the first time. Prince Nief; the interior minister said the cards make women's lives easier and would stop people claiming false identities when banking, checking into hotels, paying for medical treatment or sitting university exams.

Women in Saudi Arabia are generally barred from public life. They do not drive, and schools and universities are segregated. Women are issued with passports but are not allowed to travel unless accompanied by a male legal guardian or with written permission from a male relative.

Saudi Arabia joined the UN Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women last year, but said it was not committed to any clauses that contradict Islamic Shari'a law. Saudi government has consistently said Islam is the best guarantor of women's rights.

The Charter of Committee to Defend Women's Right in the Middle East

"Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East" - CDWRME is founded and struggles for women's human rights, individual freedom and civil rights.

We believe that secularism and the separation of religion from the state are the basic pre-conditions for women's liberation in the Middle East.

We believe in the universality of women's rights and consider cultural relativism as a cover to create a comprehensive social, legal, intellectual, emotional, geographical and civil apartheid based on distinctions of race, ethnicity, religion and gender. This complete system of apartheid attacks women's basic rights and freedom and justifies savagery and barbarism inflicted on women by Islamic movements and Islamic governments in the region.

The major laws and measures that we demand and struggle for are as follows: 

1- Abolition of the current Personal Status Code, replacing it by a secular and egalitarian family law. Laying down equal rights and obligations for women and men regarding the care and upbringing of children, control and running of family's finance, inheritance, choice of residence, housework, divorce and in case of separation custody of children.

2- Abolition of honour killing laws. Recognition of honour killing as a grave crime.

3- Putting an end to forced marriages

4- Prohibition of imposing the Islamic dress code and veil. Freedom of clothing

5- Prohibition of interference of authorities and family members in the private lives of women

6- Prohibition of any form of segregation of women and men in public places.

7- Abolition of any restriction on the right of women to work, travel and choose the place of residence at will.

8- Equal political rights for women, rights to vote and to be elected women's rights to hold any position and office - political, administrative and judicial. Women's rights to form women organization and affiliation to political parties without any restriction. Supporting and encouraging non-governmental women's rights groups.

9- secure equality of rights of women and men in employment wages insurance, education and family affairs.

10 -Imposition of severe penalties on abuse, intimidation and violent treatment of women and girls in the family.

11- Prohibition of polygamy

We try to create a network of women's rights activists in the Middle Eastern countries; we campaign around women's civil rights and individual freedom, and support the just struggle of women in the Middle East.

Women's rights activists from Iran, Jordan and Lebanon have founded CDWRME in July 2001, and Azam Kamguian is the co-ordinator and the spokesperson of the committee.

Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East September 2001
Tel: 0044(0) 788 4040 835

To: Women's Rights, Civil Rights and Secular Organisations and Activists

Dear Friends, I am pleased to announce the new URL of our web site at: 

Please visit our web site, link it to your sites and invite colleagues to visit it.

All best wishes, Azam Kamguian
Coordinator, Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East