Standing our Ground: For Secularism & Universal Women’s Rights in the Middle East!

Dear Friends,

The year that passed was yet another year of inequality and oppression for women throughout the world. It was another year of practicing misogyny, violence and religious oppression against women in Islam - ridden countries. At the same time, it was another year of women's constant struggle and fighting for their human dignity, equality and emancipation. Today and here, in the commemoration of the International Women's Day, I would like to take this opportunity to focus on the plight of women living under the rule of Islamic governments and Islamic law.

In the final decades of the 20th century, women's basic human rights in the Middle Eastern countries has been and is increasingly attacked by Islamic states and Islamic movement. They use terror to intimidate and suppress women. Women have been and still are the first - hand victims of Islamic movement and Islamic states in the Middle East. Islamic states and groups have practiced a complete system of misogyny to oppress women: Sexual apartheid, stoning, mandatory veiling, and striping women of most basic human rights are the fruits of this reactionary governments and movement in the region.

Women's emancipation movement has suffered serious setbacks in the past twenty plus years. The very fact that today we stress and emphasize on women's basic human's rights and the universality of women's rights, shows that what we took for granted two decades ago, is not only under question, but under a constant attack. Sadly, and unfortunately, in the West, the deprivation and oppression of women in Islam - ridden countries is justified by a false argument that 'their' religion or culture dictates this, so it is all right! Can we excuse brutality and barbarity against women under the guise of respecting 'their' culture and religion in the Middle East? Are women from two different races? Do they have two different sets of rights according to 'their' culture or religion? 

The events following September 11 atrocity exposed some of what Islamic states have unleashed upon women. It exposed the tragedy of women's lives in the region, and demonstrated the urgency of a strong international effort in the defense of women's rights and secularism in the Middle East.

As freedom - lovers and advocates of women's universal rights, alongside the women's equal rights movement in the region: 

We demand prohibition of imposing the Islamic veil on women; we consider dress freedom a basic right of people. 

We demand a secular, egalitarian family law. 

We demand putting an end to segregation of men and women in public places. 

We demand women's equal rights to work, travel, and choosing the place of residence at will. 

We are for equal political rights for women. 

We demand women's individual freedom and civil liberties.

We demand the universal rights for women living in the Middle Eastern countries

Savagery and barbarism of Islam towards women should not be tolerated or excused under the false argument of 'their' culture and religion, anymore. 

We believe that women's rights are universal and women's liberation can only be achieved under an egalitarian, progressive and secular government.

We believe that humanity all around the world should rise up against Islamic barbarism and terrorism. We should combat political Islam and fight for secularism and the universal rights of women in the region.

Long Live Secularism, Equality and Freedom!

Long Live Women's Universal Rights

Azam Kamguian's speech given on 9 March 2002 at a mass march & rally organised by the International Women's Day Committee - IWD Committee- in Vancouver - BC, Canada.