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News Flash Nov-Dec 2014

News Flash Nov-Dec 2014

Bangladesh  Iran  Iraq  Malaysia  Saudi Arabia  Syria  Turkey

Bangladesh

Transgender women are calling for changes to the law to enable them to inherit property. Although individuals were granted the right to identify as Hijra and have been recognised as a third gender in law they are still barred from inheriting or even claiming their inheritance under the laws that apply in Bangladesh. It was recommended that if the law was enacted Hijras should be allowed to choose whether or not to inherit as a male or a female, since men are entitled to more than women under Sharia law.

Iran

British Iranian Ghoncheh Ghavami 25 joined a protest in June to challenge gender segregation rules that apply to Iranian sporting events featuring male teams. She was arrested, released and rearrested, moved from prison to prison while she and her family have been kept in the dark regarding the charges against her. Ghoncheh is currently out on bail and staying with family in Tehran, while the campaign continues to have charges against her dropped altogether.

A bill was passed in the Islamic Assembly in Iran allowing paramilitary forces to enforce compulsory Islamic dress codes. The Bill coincides with efforts to introduce legislation protecting vigilantes who take it upon themselves to “correct” fellow citizens’ whose state of veiling they regard it as inadequate. The move is believed to be linked to a string of acid attacks on women which have blighted Iranian society recently, and have been the subject of huge public protests on 25th October some of which can be seen here.

After 5 years on death row, Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged by the Islamic regime of Iran on 25th October 2014, despite international appeals for a reprieve. She had acted in self-defence when Abdolali Sarbandi attempted to sexually assault her, and that her confession had been obtained under duress. She was 26 years old.

Iraq

The lives of Iraqi women and girls, many from the minority Yazidi religion, are being systematically destroyed under the advancing Islamic State (or ISIS). IS has used its online magazine to justify the practice of taking slaves saying “One should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffar — the infidels — and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah, or Islamic law”. Girls and women who have managed to escape ISIS have explained how their slave trade works.

Malaysia

The Malaysian Sharia system has traditionally banned men and transgender women from wearing clothes that are considered to be women’s clothing. That ruling has recently been overturned in the appeals court which described the law as “degrading, oppressive, and inhumane”. Three transgendered women who had been involved in the case were arrested four years ago by Islamic Officers for the crime of cross-dressing.

Saudi Arabia

The Shura Council which advises King Abdullah has recommended that the ban on women drivers be lifted, with certain provisos: only women over 30 will be allowed to drive, they must be off the roads by 8pm and, no make up is allowed behind the wheel. Also any woman wishing to avail herself of the new freedom to drive would need to secure the permission of a male relative, and once on the road she would be subject to a range of restrictions regarding any interaction with male drivers or traffic police – in fact a male driver could be prosecuted and sentenced to a month in jail for speaking to a female driver. The ban has been protested in various forms since 1990, when 50 women were arrested and faced legal sanctions including having their passports confiscated for driving. More recently female drivers have been posting footage of themselves taking the wheel on social media.

Syria

An area in the North East of Syria which has been under self rule since the outbreak of civil war has issued a 30-point decree declaring “equality between men and women in all spheres of public and private life”. The self-ruling democracy of Jazira province has stated in its decree that, among other things, women have the right to run for office, to work and be paid, to divorce and to inherit.

Turkey

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has infuriated rights activists in Turkey by claiming that gender equality is against nature. This is not the first time Erdogan has raised hackles among rights campaigners – he has commented on women’s unsuitability for some work and his views on motherhood are considered by some to constitute infringements on women’s autonomy over their own lives and bodies.

News Flash June-July 2014

News Flash June-July 2014

Afghanistan   Egypt   India   Iran   Iraq   Libya   Nigeria   Pakistan   Palestine   Somalia   Sudan   Syria  Tunisia   Turkey

 

Afghanistan

 

Taliban gunmen stopped two vehicles in central Afghanistan and shot dead 10 men, four women and one child police in Ghor province said. Most of the slain were labourers heading to Kabul. “They ordered all passengers to stand in one line, and then they shot them dead one by one”. A newly-wed couple amongst those killed. The group may have been on the way back from celebrating the marriage.

A 10 year old girl was raped in a mosque by a mullah who invoked the familiar defence that it had been consensual. The authorities said her family members openly planned to carry out an “honour killing” against the young girl. The mullah offered to marry his victim instead. The police then removed the girl from the shelter that had given her refuge and returned her to her family despite complaints from women’s activists that she was likely to be killed. The head of the Women for Afghan Women shelter where the girl took refuge, Dr. Hassina Sarwari, was at one point driven into hiding by death threats from the girl’s family and other mullahs. The doctor said she now wanted to flee Afghanistan. The head of the women’s affairs office in Kunduz, Nederah Geyah, who actively campaigned to have the young girl protected from her family and the mullah prosecuted, resigned on May 21 and moved to another part of the country.

The government of Afghanistan should adopt recommendations to abolish prosecution of women for “moral crimes.” Afghanistan rejected the recommendations in its Universal Periodic Review Outcome Report at the UN Human Rights Council. The government’s rejection of the recommendations to end prosecutions for “moral crimes” undercuts its acceptance of recommendations supporting women’s rights. The action also runs counter to directives from Afghanistan’s attorney general and Justice Ministry to decriminalize “running away” and “attempted zina,” or sex outside marriage.

 

Egypt

 

On June 29, 2014, the first session of the case of the 7 women human rights defenders was conducted, among others, known as the Ittihadia Presidential Palace Case; the judge postponed the session. The seven women human rights defenders are Yara Sallam, Sanaa Seif, Hanan Mustafa Mohamed, Salwa Mihriz, Samar Ibrahim, Nahid Sherif (known as Nahid Bebo) and Fikreya Mohamed (known as Rania El-Sheikh). The women were arrested on 21 June 2014 along with others for protesting peacefully against the Protest and Public Assembly Law.

 

India

 

When her brother was accused of sexually molesting a woman the head of the village council ordered that the brother of the victimized woman rape the 10-year-old sister of the man accused. The little girl was dragged out of her house and raped. The entire village witnessed the crime but no one intervened, and most are refusing to speak out.

 

Iran

 

A number of female employees were recently fired by the Tehran municipality for their own “well-being.” Citing long hours and possible disruptions to family life, officials at the Tehran municipality have replaced female secretarial workers with men. Farzad Khalafi, media affairs deputy for the Tehran municipality, said: “Secretarial work and office management is time consuming and lengthy, and for the comfort and well-being of women, this decision was adopted that the office manager and secretary be a gentleman”.

The ban on Iranian women entering stadiums once again caused an uproar as police forces didn’t allow women to attend the International Federation of Volleyball World League games in Tehran. Police dispersed women’s rights activists and female volleyball fans who were gathered in front of the entrance of Azadi Stadium when Iran played Italy in the first leg on June 20. According to eyewitness reports, some were beaten and detained. The ban originally came after the establishment of an Islamic regime in Iran as mixed crowds enjoying games was deemed un-Islamic. “In the current conditions, the mixing of men and women in stadiums is not in the public interest”, said Iran’s police chief, Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam. “The stance taken by religious scholars and the supreme leader remains unchanged, and as the enforcer of law, we cannot allow women to enter stadiums”.

In the latest case of Iranian authorities cracking down on fashion they deem “un-Islamic,” clothing design institute called “Khaneh Mode” or Mode House was shut down in Tehran. It caused a controversy when it held a show with models wearing coats which appeared to be made of the Iranian flag—minus its religious symbols. Nor did it help that the show had allowed men among its audience, which violates Islamic rules. The shutting down of the fashion house is just the latest instance of an endless tug of war between authorities and women in Iran, one that has been fought since an Islamic dress code was enforced since establishment of Islamic regime. This clash comes to the forefront every summer, when the latest female attire trends pick up with a tendency towards shorter and skimpier coats and ever tighter legwear, which has been epitomized this year in leggings. The authorities react every year by escalating their “Morality Patrols.” The outcome is a cat and mouse game between more fashionably dressed women and the authorities. The results can be bizarre—women sporting trendy attire will sometimes take taxis from one side to the other side of squares and junctions just to bypass the morality police. But over time the will of Iranian women has slowly but surely prevailed, with acceptable dress these days now far beyond the harsh codes of the first years of the Islamic regime, when practically no makeup was tolerated and anything less than a chador—a loose robe that covers the body from head to toe—was frowned upon. Officially there has been no relaxation, in fact the authorities have tried everything they could think of to counter it. But in practice it’s a losing battle.

 

Iraq

 

ISIS has warned women in the city of Mosul to wear full-face veils or risk severe punishment. They also listed guidelines on how veils and clothes should be worn. “The conditions imposed on her clothes and grooming was only to end the pretext of debauchery resulting from grooming and overdressing” the group said in a statement. “This is not a restriction on her freedom but to prevent her from falling into humiliation and vulgarity or to be a theatre for the eyes of those who are looking”. A cleric in Mosul said ISIS gunmen had shown up at his mosque and ordered him to read their warning on loudspeakers when worshippers gather. “Anyone who is not committed to this duty and is motivated by glamour will be subject to accountability and severe punishment to protect society from harm and to maintain the necessities of religion and protect it from debauchery” it said. The guidelines said women’s hands and feet must be covered, shapeless clothes that don’t hug the body must be worn and perfume is prohibited. Women have also been told to never walk unaccompanied by a male guardian. ISIS has even ordered shopkeepers to cover their store mannequins with full-face veils. The insurgents run vice patrols in Mosul that answer to a morality committee, which has shut the city’s college of fine arts and physical education, knocked down statues of famous poets and banned smoking and waterpipes. ISIS militants view Iraq’s majority Shias as infidels who deserve to be killed and have told Christians to either convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death. Their views have alarmed Iraqis.

Islamists killed 29 people – 20 of them women – in Baghdad. One officer said he “found bodies everywhere”. Writing left on the door of one of the buildings read: “This is the fate of any prostitution”. Locals in Zayouna have accused Shia militias of killing women thought to be prostitutes. The neighbourhood is a mixed district of Sunni and Shia Muslims.

ISIS has formed an all-female brigade called the ‘al-Khansaa’ to ensure strict adherence to Sharia law by the Iraqi and Syrian women. A local activist said that the al-Khansaa have detained and whipped women for wearing veils that are too thin, wearing hair clips under veils, walking alone and exposing too much of their face. An official in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa said that the brigade was established to raise awareness of Islam among women, and to punish women who do not abide by the law. The group came up with the new rule saying that doing so was in line with Sharia law. Members of the group assert that the human form is not to be depicted in statues or artwork. One of Iraq’s prominent Christian politicians, Yonadam Kanna, said that this was ethnic cleansing but nobody was speaking up.
Amid worsening armed violence in Iraq, the Baghdad-based Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq is working to help women who have been harmed and driven out of their homes. The group is reaching out to cities with the largest numbers of women displaced by the fighting. While men on both sides of the conflict in Iraq are being shot by militants or taken by force and sent to the front lines with the army, women are being kidnapped and raped. The group is also concerned about the situation in the northern city of Mosul, where atrocities against women have been concentrated. The city was seized on June 10 by ISIS. Women “are being kidnapped from their house by the ISIS warriors and forced into what they call into a ‘jihad marriage’” says Yanar Mohamed, the organisation’s president. Jihad marriage, also known as “sexual jihad”, is a term for women who offer sexual comfort to fighters to assist the cause of establishing Islamic rule. In the cases to which Mohammed refers, however, the women are not volunteers. They are forced. Over the past week, 18 women were taken from their houses and raped by ISIS in Mosul. Large media outlets have reported that four women who were raped have committed suicide. More than 500,000 of Mosul residents have fled since the surprise of the attack, according to U.N. agencies. Consequences of the establishment of an Islamic state by the ISIS, is associated with the restriction of movement by women, rape, abductions, forced prostitutions and increase in forced and child marriages. Reports of mass killings committed by ISIS have been emerging.

 

Lybia

 

Libyan lawyer, politician and human rights activist Salwa Bugaighis was assassinated at her home on June 25, 2014. Salwa Bugaighis played an active part in Libya’s 2011 revolution, which overthrew the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. She was appointed a member of the National Transitional Council but soon resigned because of the lack of progress in women’s rights. Thereafter she was the vice-president of a preparatory committee for national dialogue in Libya. Salwa Bugaighis was one of the driving forces behind the political transition in the post-Gaddafi era and continued with passion and courage to fight for the role of women in this transition.

 

Nigeria

 

Nearly a dozen parents of the more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls will never see their daughters again. Since the mass abduction of the schoolgirls by Boko Haram three months ago, at least 11 of their parents have died and their hometown, Chibok, is under siege from the Islamists. Seven fathers of kidnapped girls were among 51 bodies brought to Chibok hospital after an attack on the nearby village of Kautakari this month, said a health worker who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals by the extremists. At least four more parents have died of heart failure, high blood pressure and other illnesses that the community blames on trauma due to the mass abduction 100 days ago. A presidential committee investigating the kidnappings said 219 girls still are missing. Boko Haram filmed a video in which they threatened to sell the students into slavery and as child brides. It also showed a couple of the girls describing their “conversion” from Christianity to Islam. At least two have died of snake bites, a mediator who was liaising with Boko Haram told AP. At that time he said at least 20 of the girls were ill — not surprising given that they are probably being held in an area infested with malarial mosquitoes, poisonous snakes and spiders, and relying on unclean water from rivers.

 

Pakistan

 

Four women were critically injured in an acid attack in southwest Pakistan. The women were shopping at a popular retail centre in Quetta when two men approached on motorcycle and threw the acid at the women’s faces. The women are being treated in the burn unit of the Bolan Medical Complex.

A pregnant 25-year-old was stoned to death by her own family in a so-called “honour” killing for marrying the man she loved in Pakistan, police said. Farzana Iqbal was attacked outside the Lahore High Court building. She had been engaged to her cousin but married Mohammad Iqbal instead.

 

Palestine

 

The Israeli state offensive has killed 663 Palestinians, of whom 541 are civilians, including 161 children and 91 women, and 3,457 others wounded, mostly civilians, including 991 children and 703 women. 491 houses have been targeted and destroyed and hundreds of others extensively damaged with thousands of Palestinian civilians forcibly displaced.

See Maryam Namazie’s statement in defence of the children and people of Israel and Palestine on Bread and Roses TV.

 

Somalia

 

Popular Somali musician and member of parliament Saado Ali Warsame has been shot dead along with a civil servant in a drive-by shooting in Mogadishu by the Islamist group, al-Shabab . She is the fourth MP to be killed this year. Ms Warsame rose to fame during the time of former President Siad Barre, who was overthrown in 1991, with her songs which were critical of his rule. She was one of the few Somali female musicians to go on stage without covering her head and she sometimes wore trousers. The singer song-writer continued to perform even after taking up her position in parliament.

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Sudan

 

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, a Sudanese woman reached Italy with her family after being spared a death sentence for apostasy after more than a month in the US embassy in Khartoum. Mrs Ibrahim’s father is Muslim so according to Sudan’s Islamic law she is also Muslim and cannot convert. She was raised by her Christian mother and says she has never been Muslim. Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, also a Christian, is from South Sudan and has US nationality. Their daughter Maya was born in prison in May, shortly after Mrs Ibrahim was sentenced to hang for apostasy. Under intense international pressure, her conviction was quashed and she was freed in June. She was given South Sudanese travel documents but was arrested at Khartoum airport, with Sudanese officials saying the travel documents were fake. These new charges meant she was not allowed to leave the country but she was released into the custody of the US embassy in Khartoum. Last week, her father’s family filed a lawsuit trying to have her marriage annulled, on the basis that a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim.

 

Syria

 

Militants with black masks stand by as 15-year-old Mohammed watches a video of fighters cutting off a man’s head. “This is jihad for the sake of God” the men with rifles say. Mohammed begins to feel lost, confused. “Does God want me to do jihad?” he wonders.

This is Mohammed’s eyewitness account told to CNN. He was one of the more than 140 Kurdish schoolboys kidnapped in Syria last month by ISIS and forced to take daily lessons in Islamist theology. Armed fighters in pickup trucks on May 29 stopped buses driving children back to their hometown of Ayn al-Arab from their junior high final exams in Aleppo. “How can you sit with the girls? It is forbidden!” the men, many with foreign accents, yelled as they separated the female students and took only the boys. The convoy of fighters then forcibly escorted the all-male group to the ISIS-controlled city of Manbij in northern Syria, Mohammed told CNN. Nearly a month later, all the boys, ranging in age from 14 to 16, remain hostages, except for Mohammed and three others who made a harrowing escape.

From the initial uprisings against the government of Bashar al-Assad in spring 2011, women in Syria have organised and participated in peaceful demonstrations and provided vital humanitarian assistance to those in need. Like their male counterparts, Syrian women who take part in protests or provide aid are targets of abuse, harassment, detention, and even torture by government forces and some armed groups opposed to the government. At the same time, general insecurity and discriminatory restrictions imposed by some armed groups opposed to the government have curtailed women’s dress and freedom of movement. Many women have become de facto household heads, both inside Syria and in refugee settings, when male family members have been killed, detained, forcibly disappeared, injured, disabled, or unable to find steady employment.

 

Tunisia

 

On the first anniversary of Mohamed Brahmi’s assassination, his widow denounces fundamentalism and terrorism in Tunisia. In memory of her husband, a left-wing politician, Mbarka Brahmi urges Tunisians not to support the Ennahdha party in the autumn elections, and appeals for peace. Mbarka Brahmi, 47, mother of five, has become a key spokesperson for the fight against fundamentalism and terror in Tunisia since the assassination of her husband Mohamed Brahmi a year ago at their Tunis home on 25 July 2013.

 

Turkey

On a single day — July 2 — three women were murdered by their husbands in Turkey. The following day, a young woman was killed by her 16-year-old brother. Since then, there have been several murders of women by their husband or a close male relative. The Turkish government continuously fails to tackle the issue, and instead tries to defend itself from any responsibility or blame.

News Flash May 2014

News Flash May 2014

Afghanistan  Egypt  India  Indonesia  Iran
Nigeria   Saudi Arabia  Sudan  Syria  Yemen

Afghanistan

Nearly 100 women, accompanied by children, staged a protest rally in northern Faryab province, accusing a local commander of sexually abusing and murdering young girls and children during a bloody clash with civilians. They said the local warlord, Qader Rahmani, had subjected women and children to sexual harassment during the clash, asking the government to punish him and his armed supporters.

 Egypt

13-year-old Soheir al-Batea from a village in Egypt’s Nile Delta died last June whilst being mutilated by Dr. Raslan Fadl, an imam and employee of the local government hospital who performed the illegal procedure as he had done on dozens of other girls. This little girl’s case, like many before her, would normally have been buried and forgotten. Since FGM was criminalized in Egypt in 2008, both parents and practitioners fearful of arrest have kept quiet when there are complications. But now, for the first time in Egyptian history, both Soheir’s father and Dr. Fadl are to stand trial charged with illegally mutilating the child’s genitals and with manslaughter. Egypt has one of the highest rates of FGM in the world: a staggering 91 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been cut, according to a 2013 report released by UNICEF. In recent years there have been at least five documented fatalities related to female genital mutilation in Egypt, some of which made international headlines. In 2007, it was the deaths of two other teenage girls that forced the Egyptian government to review the law and ban the practice. In 2010, Nermine El-Hadded, also 13, bled to death in a hospital after she was operated on. Yet until this year no case has ever made it to court.

India

Joining the ranks of ‘self-appointed’ guardians of public morality, BJP’s Rajya Sabha member and Madhya Pradesh party vice-president Raghunandan Sharma said girls shouldn’t be allowed to use mobile phones before marriage and women shouldn’t wear jeans.

Abu Azmi, the state Samajwadi Party chief, who deposed before the State Women’s Commission to clarify his remarks said “as per the teaching of Islam, women having illicit sex must be hanged, as sex is allowed only after marriage”. On invoking Islam, Azmi cited constitutional right of freedom of speech that “allows citizens of Indian to propagate the teachings of their faith and religion”. The commission chairperson said: “The India constitution provides equal rights to all women irrespective of their religion. The domestic violence Act protects all women, including those in a live-in relationship. Islamic rules can’t be invoked to propagate one’s opinion”.

 Indonesia

A 25 year-old woman faces up to nine lashes with a wooden cane as punishment for “adultery” in the Langsa district of Aceh, Indonesia. The woman has been gang-raped by eight men as punishment for her “offence” under local laws. On 1 May 2014, the group of men stormed the woman’s home where she was allegedly having an affair with a married man. They tied up the couple and repeatedly raped the woman and beat the man. News reports indicate the couple was then doused in raw sewage. Three of the attackers are now being held in custody. The others are still on the run.

 Iran

Islamists reacted strongly to actress Leila Hatami kissing the director of the Cannes Film Festival, Gilles Jacob, whilst greeting him. She is the first Iranian woman to sit on the jury of the Cannes Film Festival. A group of female Iranian students with links to Iranian Revolutionary Guards wrote to Tehran’s minister of culture and media, Ali Jannati, asking that “Hatami be sentenced to one to 10 years imprisonment and flogging”. The group, Student Sisters of Hezbollah, cited article 638 of the Islamic Penal Code seeking punishment for Hatami kissing a non-Muslim man. The media branded the greeting as “an affront to the chastity of women in Iran”. Iran’s deputy culture minister, Hossein Noushabadi, expressed his disapproval saying, “Iranian woman is the symbol of chastity and innocence. Hatami’s inappropriate presence at the festival was not in line with our religious beliefs”.

The uproar forced Hatami to seek to apologise to Iran’s cinema organisation.

Tasnim, a state-run news agency in Iran controlled and operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp, interviewed Hadi Sharifi, a “media activist” who said that if women feel it is their right to show off their beauty, or appear any which way they desire in society, or reveal their beauty to men, then they should also consider the right of men to enjoy women. He attempted to explain that because it is natural and instinctual for a man to be drawn to the beauty of a woman and seek sex with her, it is a man’s right to benefit from what he loves. Sharifi said that when a man forces himself onto a woman because she is “showing off her beauty”, this [should not] be considered rape. Sharifi said since men have not granted women permission to show off their beauty, then men who become aroused by the “nakedness” of women do not need the permission of women to pursue their sexual urges.

A senior Iranian cleric, Mohammad Emami Kashani, Tehran’s Friday prayer leader, called divorce parties a “satanic” Western import and a “poison”. Kashani told worshippers that marriage is a sacred bond and that Western practices like divorce parties undermine family values. “Unfortunately, divorce parties are being organised as of recently… This is very dangerous. It’s a poison for the Islamic civilization and society”. “Men and women who hold divorce parties are definitely satanic,” he added. Kashani urged young people to avoid adopting Western practices and to protect their local cultural achievements and traditions. “Disintegration of family and lechery are related to the disgraceful Western civiliation … Western-style freedoms are wrong”.

After international outrage at the arrest of six young Iranians for dancing to Pharrell Williams’s song “Happy” in an Internet video, the Iranian government has released them on bail. The video’s director, Sassan Soleimani, is still being detained. Police called the video “obscene” and accused the youth of committing acts that would “hurt public chastity”.

More than 300,000 people have supported the Facebook page “Stealthy Freedoms of Women in Iran” in which women posing bare-headed in various Iranian cities has posted their photos on the page. “This is me committing a crime”, wrote a girl who posted an image of herself sitting in the middle of a secluded road in Nour Forest in northern Iran, with her headscarf resting on her shoulder. Another photo shows a grandmother, a mother and her daughter together on a pavement. “In one frame, three generations secure freedom at a corner of this street”, read the caption. Last week, thousands of conservatives held a protest in Tehran, urging the government to confront what they say is the increasing flouting of the Islamic dress code.

After more than quarter of a century of struggle to raise awareness about the secret execution of their loved ones, mothers of Khavaran, a grassroots network of thousands of survivors in Iran, received the 2014 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.
Nigeria

The more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped from their school in Nigeria by Boko Haram have been sighted for the first time and tracked to three camps in the north of Nigeria, near Lake Chad, 200 miles from where they were abducted. Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, has threatened he will sell the girls into the sex trade or as wives unless the government frees Islamists that have been jailed. Boko Haram released a video two weeks ago showing some of the abducted girls in veils and reciting from the Qu’ran, and claimed they had converted to Islam.

 Saudi Arabia

A 23-year-old Filipino domestic servant in Saudi Arabia suffered horrible burns recently when her boss tossed a scalding pot of water on her. The mother of the woman’s employer was angry at her because she thought she was taking too long to make coffee. A Facebook post by the woman’s cousin showed pictures of the burns and described what happened. The post says the woman, identified publicly as Fatma, waited for over six hours before being taken the hospital following the incident. She is now in the custody of the Philippine Embassy, and says she wants file a case against her abusive employer.

A 17-year-old Yemeni wife committed suicide by hanging herself at her home in Saudi Arabia because of persistent abuses by her ageing Saudi husband. The woman was found hanging by a rope tied around her neck and to the ceiling fan at her house in the southern Saudi Abha town. Relatives said the women ended her life because of persistent abuses by her husband.

Sources at the ministry of Education said that health education is not PE for girls, which has been opposed by conservatives. Female officials in the education sector have said that the book on health and female health education for girls is not related to sports per se, but addresses the importance of taking up sports to maintain public health. Staff will soon be trained on how to teach the new subject, which includes information on weight maintenance. “Physical education has not been completely approved” said Khaled Hammad, official spokesman of the Education Directorate in the Eastern Province. “The subject has, however, been approved for boys within the new semester-based system”.

Five Saudi men have been sentenced to various jail terms and ordered to be lashed in public for drinking and partying on Valentine’s Day. Two defendants were sentenced to ten years in prison and 2,000 lashes to be given in 20 parts in front of Al Nafoora market. Two other defendants were handed seven years in prison and 1,500 public lashes each over 15 parts. The fifth defendant was given five years in jail and 1,000 public lashes. The men were arrested alongside six women in a house they had rented for recreational purposes in the city of Burayda, the capital of Al Qassim region in north central Saudi Arabia. The men admitted to charges of dancing, illicit relations with unrelated women and celebrating Valentine’s Day. The five men will be barred from leaving the country for five years after serving their sentences in prison. The charges against the six women arrested during the raid will be reviewed by a different judge amid expectation that the verdict will be announced soon.

Sudan

A Sudanese lawyer filed an appeal for a pregnant woman sentenced to death for apostasy for refusing to renounce her Christianity. The filing asks the appeals court to reverse the verdict by the lower court and free Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, 27. Ibrahim, who is eight months pregnant, is in prison with her 20-month-old son. Ibrahim says her father was a Sudanese Muslim and her mother was Ethiopian Orthodox. Her father left when she was 6, and she was raised as a Christian. The court had warned her to renounce her Christianity by May 15, but she held firm to her beliefs. Sudanese Parliament speaker Fatih Izz Al-Deen said claims she was raised as non-Muslim are untrue. She was raised in an Islamic environment, and her brother, a Muslim, filed the complaint against her, according to Al-Deen. The complaint alleges that she went missing for several years, and her family was shocked to find out she married a Christian, according to her lawyer. However, because her father was Muslim, the courts considered her one too, which would mean her marriage to a non-Muslim man is void. In addition to the death sentence, the court convicted her of adultery and sentenced her to 100 lashes.

 Syria

 

A few thousand Euros are enough to buy Syrian women, including minors, who have fled their war-torn country and are living in refugee camps, Arab human rights groups have denounced. The groups are sounding the alarm on the plight of women who are on sale as “Syrians up for marriage” on Facebook. This phenomenon is not new. Last year, reports alleged that Syrian women living in refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey and Iraq had been sold to men from Arab countries, in particular from the Gulf area. Rights groups also denounced cases of violence and sexual harassment in which victims were as young as 12 and 13 years of age. The Facebook page publicizing Syrian refugees who could be bought as wives was closed after hundreds of activists and human rights’ lawyers protested. But it had thousands of followers between May 17-21 including prospective clients interested in the women who were portrayed with little on. Some posts showed the picture of women “looking for a husband” with a brief profile on their chastity and their ability in domestic work. According to Arab NGO Kafa, which has repeatedly denounced the phenomenon, clients mostly hail from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, as well as Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen and Bahrain. Among the announcements was one publicizing “refugee girls of all ages and religious confessions” to satisfy all applications from Sunnis, Shiites and Christians in a climate of growing religious polarization. “You can marry legally or secretly”, read the Facebook page.

Yemen

The Yemeni government must expedite passage of a draft Child Rights Law establishing 18 as Yemen’s minimum marriage age. On April 27, 2014, Legal Affairs Minister Mohammad Makhlafi submitted the proposed law to Prime Minister Mohammad Basindawa, who should ensure a cabinet review and submit it to parliament for prompt passage. Some 52 percent of Yemeni girls are married – often to much older men – before age 18, and 14 percent before age 15, according to United Nations and Yemeni government data from 2006. Girls who marry young often drop out of school, are more likely to die in childbirth, and face a higher risk of physical and sexual abuse than women who marry at 18 or later. Girls who do not want to marry are often forced to do so by their families. Yemen is one of the few countries in the region now without any legal minimum age for marriage.

News Flash March 2014

News Flash March 2014

 

Afghanistan   Iran   Iraq   Nigeria   Saudi Arabia   Tunisia

Afghanistan

Mariam Koofi, a woman Afghan Member of Parliament was shot and wounded in the capital Kabul after an argument with a member of the security forces, who was later arrested. Her injury was reportedly not life-threatening.

 

Iran

A convicted prisoner in Iran has been saved from public execution at the last possible moment, after the family of the victim decided to spare his life. Balal Abdullah, now in his 20s, was found guilty of murdering Abdollah Hosseinzadeh during a fight in the street seven years ago when they were both 17. According to the “eye for an eye” ruling of qisas, the sharia law of retribution, the victim’s family were to take an active role in the punishment of their son’s killer – it was expected that they would push away the chair on which he stood. Screaming for his life, Balal was dragged out to the gallows by officials and had his head placed in the noose. Yet instead of sealing his fate, Abdollah’s mother slapped Balal’s face and then signalled her forgiveness. The victim’s father then removed the noose. This has stoked campaign against executions in Iran.

According to an article in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, the daily use of Facebook has been associated with the desire to go without wearing the Hijab, noting a higher willingness to display pictures of themselves without a veil. “The Influence of Social Networking Technologies on Female Religious Veil-Wearing Behavior in Iran,” was composed from the results of a small survey of Iranian women. The data was taken from a random sampling of nongovernmental participants. Controlling for age and education, the researchers found a significant relationship between the amounts of time spent on Facebook to how likely the women surveyed were to cover themselves with a veil and whether they would post unveiled photos.

Medical schools in Iran will restrict admission to women in the coming academic year. The number of women in the medical field has risen from 42 percent of total admissions in 1992 to 68 percent in the last year. The minister of health was quoted saying the declining number of men graduating from medical and nursing schools is creating a shortage of medical personnel prepared to be sent to remote areas and that it was necessary to move toward admitting a greater number of men into this field.

A British-Iranian woman has been locked up in Iran for five months after posting derogatory comments about the country’s government on Facebook and fears she will be executed, her husband has said. Concerns are growing for the welfare of Roya Saberi Negad Nobakht, 47, from Stockport, who has been charged with “insulting Islamic sanctities”, a crime which can be punishable by death. She has been charged with “gathering and participation with intent to commit crime against national security” and “insulting Islamic sanctities”. Her husband states that his wife’s arrest was over comments she had made on a Facebook group about the government being “too Islamic”, and that she had only been charged after a confession was extracted from her “under duress”.

 

Iraq

On April 30, the Iraqi parliament is expected to pass new marital rules for its majority Shia community with a law criticised by human rights activists as “legalised inequality”. Under the new legislation, children in Iraq could be legally married before the age of nine. The new law would also prevent women from leaving the house without their husband’s consent, automatically grant custody of children older than two to their father in divorce cases, and prevent Muslim men from marrying non-Muslims. Marital rape is also condoned by a clause that states women must comply with their husband’s sexual demands. Men are given guardianship rights over women, and the law establishes rules governing polygamous relationships. Current Iraqi law sets the legal age for marriage at 18 without parental approval and states girls as young as 15 can be married only with a guardian’s approval.

 

Nigeria

 

The fate of 115 female students abducted by Islamists was thrown into uncertainty when their school principal denied the Nigerian military’s report that almost all the pupils had been freed. She said only 14 of the 129 girls and young women kidnapped by gunmen have returned to Chibok town — four who jumped from the back of a truck and 10 who escaped into the bush when their abductors asked them to cook a meal. Kwambura said the students were kidnapped because of a terrible mistake. She said the insurgents arrived after midnight at her Government Girls’ Secondary School wearing military fatigues and posing as soldiers — a common tactic used by the insurgents. She said she believed them when they told her that they needed to move the girls for their own safety. So she allowed the extremists posing as soldiers to load the students on to the back of a truck. It was only as the armed men were leaving, and started shooting, that she realized her mistake. The militants killed a soldier and a police officer guarding the school.

 

Saudi Arabia

 

Saudi Arabian conservatives have staged a rare protest outside the Royal Court in Riyadh against “Westernising” reforms including moves to allow physical education for schoolgirls. Last week the consultative Shoura Council decided to urge the government to look into allowing sports classes for girls in state schools. Some powerful clerics, conservatives and their supporters fear the kingdom is losing its Islamic values in favour of Western ideas. In Saudi Arabia, women are banned from driving and must gain the approval of a male “guardian” to work, open a bank account, travel abroad or even to undergo some forms of voluntary surgery.
Restaurants and coffee shops in Jeddah have put up signs saying women should have “mahrams” (male guardians) to order shisha, and anyone who orders a shisha should be above 18 as per the order from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia). The move has elicited sharp reactions from Saudi women.

Tunisia

 

After more than two years of arguments and concessions between Islamic and secular parties, on January 26, the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly ratified the country’s new Constitution that includes a commitment to gender equality. Article 45 of the Tunisian Constitution guarantees “equality of opportunities between women and men to have access to all levels of responsibility and in all domains” and Article 46 seeks parity “between men and women in elected assemblies”. In an interview for UN Women, Sana Ben Achour, women’s rights activist, explained that the Tunisian Constitution is the first one in the Arab world to ensure equal access to the presidency. Additionally, Article 20 states: “All male and female citizens have the same rights and duties. They are equal before the law without discrimination”. In August 2012, the Islamist party Ennahda—which won the country’s elections in October 2011—proposed a Constitution that would have granted women a “complementary role inside the family.” Shortly after the draft was made public, protests shook the capital. Women’s rights supporters marched down Habib Bourguiba boulevard in Tunis chanting, “We rebelled together, we will build Tunisia together.” The Islamist party took a step back explaining that they had no intention of stripping women of their rights.

News Flash February 2014

News Flash February 2014

Afghanistan  Bahrain  Brunei  Egypt  Iran  Iraqi Kurdistan  Malaysia  Nigeria  Pakistan  Saudi Arabia  Somalia  Sudan  Tunisia

An Afghan law that protects perpetrators of domestic violence, new Sharia criminal laws in Brunei that allow stoning, sexual assaults in Arab Spring countries, and virginity tests in Indonesia are just a few examples of a rollback of women’s rights in recent years. Libya’s Supreme Court has effectively lifted restrictions on polygamy requiring a first wife’s consent, and the country’s religious leadership has called for a ban on women marrying foreigners and for greater use of the hijab, or head scarf. According to Indonesia’s official Commission on Violence Against Women, as of August 2013 Indonesian national and local governments had passed 60 new discriminatory regulations so far that year. These included dozens of local bylaws requiring women to wear the hijab, and others permitting female genital mutilation or banning women from straddling motorcycles. Mandatory virginity tests have been proposed in several parts of the country. Brunei will see new criminal Sharia laws going into effect this spring that, among other things, allow the stoning of adulterers. Historic gains in women’s rights have been made in some countries, such as Tunisia—the birthplace of the Arab Spring—with new rights for women enshrined in their constitutions.

 

Afghanistan

Hundreds of women’s rights campaigners marched calling for an end to violence against women and for women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has postponed the signing of the new criminal procedure code, passed by both houses of the Afghan parliament. Article 26 of the code would have effectively denied women protection from domestic violence and forced or child marriage, and would have given immunity to many perpetrators given its ban on relatives testifying against one another. This development would not have been possible without the perseverance of Afghan civil society groups, most especially women’s rights advocates, and their allies at home and abroad. For now, it remains unclear how the law will go on to be altered. How decisive Karzai would be in this, considering the imminent end of his term after the April presidential elections, is also uncertain. Furthermore, Karzai’s commitment to women’s rights has been in serious question over the past years, as he has presided over the strengthening of forces opposed to gender equality.

Bahrain

Bahrain’s top legal authority has recommended that husbands who force their wives to have sex should not be prosecuted. It has also suggested husbands and guardians who “reasonably” discipline their wives and daughters should be above the law. The Supreme Judicial Council made the recommendations to ensure new legislation on domestic disputes does not contradict Sharia (Islamic) principles.

Brunei

Brunei’s Sultan has ordered citizens to stop criticizing his plan to institute a harsh version of Sharia law, telling them they’ll be sorry once the law is implemented. He announced last October that Brunei would gradually institute Sharia law punishments such as flogging, severing limbs and death by stoning beginning April 1. Criticizing the sultan is forbidden, but the citizens of Brunei have still expressed their displeasure with Sharia law over social media.

 

Egypt

The Egyptian army promised to ban virginity tests after it emerged that more than a dozen women arrested during the 2011 protests in Tahrir Square had been forced to submit to them. It hasn’t, and the doctors arrested for performing the tests were acquitted when they brought to trial a year later. Now, the tests are back. After more than a year in which activists say that police refrained from carrying out virginity tests, or employing the types of harsh interrogation methods regularly associated with the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak, reports have resurfaced of police brutality against both men and women. It’s the final sign, activists say, that the police state is fully back. “I thought the tests were history. I thought we had left them behind in the days of Mubarak,” said another woman, who spent nearly a month in detention in December 2013. She asked not to be identified by name. “I cannot believe Egypt has returned to this. I cannot believe that this was done to me.” Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian general who publicly defended virginity tests, argued in April 2012 that virginity tests had been carried out “to protect the girls from rape, and the soldiers and officers from accusations of rape.” Forced virginity tests fall into a larger pattern of security service abuse.

 

Iran

Iranian mother of two, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who had been sentenced to death by stoning for adultery and later given a 10-year jail term instead due to public outrage has been allowed to leave prison for “good behaviour”, a judiciary spokesman said. He said that the decision was a sign of “our religion’s leniency towards women”. There was no immediate word on whether the release was permanent or whether it was subject to some form of probation.

A new report entitled Iran: “Thirty-five Years of Hijab” has been published by Justice for Iran which states that Hijab laws amount to widespread and systematic violation of women’s rights. The report points out that over the past ten years more than 30,000 women have faced arrest throughout Iran due to hijab laws. Iran is the first country where the state forces all girls and women to observe uniform hijab laws. Without a clear definition of hijab, Islamic Republic laws consider women who lack “Islamic veil” in “public” as criminal and punishable by imprisonment and fines. The call for enforced hijab was first raised 35 years ago by Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, just 24 days after the revolution was declared victorious, on 7 March 1979. However, given the resistance of a considerable percentage of Iranian women, it took three years of tension and violence to enforce this law. Although Islamic Sharia laws deem hijab compulsory at age 9, Islamic Republic requires all girls to begin observing hijab laws at the outset of primary education at age 7. It also imposes hijab laws on women of all faiths regardless of their sacred teachings on the issue of hijab. Furthermore, it is used as a tool for segregation and imposition of a wide range of limitations on women including violations of fundamental rights, including the right to education, work and movement. The report documents over past 35 years many women have been deprived of education, employment, driving, travelling by air, access to public medical services as well as cultural and recreational facilities because of their hijab.

The report goes on to point out how a high number of women are not only exposed to insult, harassment and physical abuse at the hands of the authorities, but that they also face detention and various forms of torture, including lashing. The report describes the process of arrest and prosecution of women based on the charge of improper Islamic hijab and unjust sentences. It also presents an overview of the psychological abuse where in some cases women have faced death or suicide. However, it also highlights an important historical fact that despite 35 years of violent enforcement measures, Iranian women continue to resist hijab laws and through their daily struggles provide an example for women in other Muslim majority countries, in particular those in transition, to demand their rights and freedom. In addition, based on official statistics, reports by human rights organisations and victim statements instances involving harassment, such as expulsion of women from governmental offices, refusal to grant promotion on the grounds of lacking proper Islamic hijab, banning access to education, summoning female students to disciplinary bodies and expulsion from dormitories continue unabated. Furthermore, despite many promises there has been no tangible improvement since Rouhani took office.

Iranian Airport Authority instructed staff to apply the Islamic Amre be Maroof (moral guidance code), and ensure that all female passengers observe hijab. “Women on flights that cross Iranian airspace must also follow the code”. The policy appears to be a reaction to the long-held practice of most Iranian women flying out of Iran of taking off their headscarf and hijab as soon as they board the plane, doing the reverse on their return.

Farzaneh Moradi, a 26-year-old woman charged with the murder of her husband was hanged in Isfahan, Iran without the knowledge of her lawyer. Farzaneh Moradi was forced to marry a paternal relative at the age of 15 and gave birth to her first child at 16. She fell in love with a man named Saeed at 19 and a year later was charged and arrested for the murder of her husband. At Saeed’s incitement she initially took responsibility for the murder of her husband hoping his parents would forgive her because of her child, and Saeed who had committed the murder would then be in a position to marry her. When transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for her hanging this week, Farzaneh was denied her sole wish to see her daughter one last time. The parents of the man who married Farzaneh as a child bride and have insisted on Farzaneh’s execution are now in charge of her daughter’s care. The prospect of her daughter becoming another child bride is now a possibility.

A number of Iranian trade union leaders have written an open letter to the Minister of Works, complaining that they and their families are living below the poverty line. In their letter the union leaders reminded the minister that almost 90% percent of the country’s working-class families live below the poverty line, with medical expenses absorbing a large proportion of their earnings.

 

Iraqi Kurdistan

Two sisters, Shler and Halima, (aged 16 and 18), who disappeared on February 11, were found murdered in Said Sadiq two weeks later. The sisters had previously stayed at a government shelter in Suleimania. After a legal decision, the sisters were returned to their family only to be found murdered some time thereafter. Lanja Abdulla, chairwoman of Warvin foundation for women issues, reports about another young girl who was killed earlier this year after she had been in the shelter in Erbil. Lanja Abdulla and other women activists protested and demanded the government protect women and girls from being killed by family members. The state shelters in Kurdistan are failing to protect women and girls at risk of gender-based violence.

 

Malaysia

 

A Malaysian court evoked Sharia law to allow a man to divorce his wife by text message. The decision was condemned by women’s rights groups in Malaysia, who say this highlights the way it is inherently biased towards men and leaves women with the short end of the stick. Under Sharia law, a man can divorce a woman simply by announcing his intentions. This is followed by a three month “cooling off” period before the divorce can be finalized, to create an opportunity for resolution. However, if a woman wants a divorce, she must go before a court to seek a divorce, and she must prove her husband has an inadequacy – usually impotency or extended absence. If not, she has no right to divorce him.

 

Nigeria

 

Even for a country which has seen much violence by the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, its February 25 attack on sleeping schoolchildren in Buni Yadi was shocking. The attackers set alight the administration block and then locked the pupils in before firebombing the hostels. Up to 59 children were killed; a teacher said they died either in the blaze or at the hands of the attackers, who shot them as they tried to climb out of the windows or caught them and cut their throats. Boko Haram means “western education is sinful” in Hausa, and since the school murders, the federal government has closed five federal secondary schools in three northern states; the pupils have been offered alternatives. The violence continues, with at least 650 already killed this year; northeastern Nigeria is in a state of civil war.

 

Pakistan

 

The Council of Islamic Ideology ruled that Pakistani laws related to the minimum age of marriage were ‘un-Islamic’; that non-pubescent children (including babies) could be entered into the contract of marriage by their parents and/or guardians; and that said marriages could be consummated upon reaching puberty by said children according to Islam.
A couple were stoned to death for adultery in a remote area of Pakistan’s western Baluchistan province, leading to six men being held on suspicion of murder. The couple, both married to other people, were believed to be in their 30s. The woman’s father and brother, and the man’s uncle and father have been arrested, along with a cleric believed to have issued the order to kill them. Another man linked to the cleric is also being held. In many rural areas of Pakistan, gatherings of tribal elders, often referred to as jirgas, issue death sentences for couples or women deemed to have offended the conservative culture. Such killings are illegal in Pakistan, but the police force is weak and often ignores them. Even if the cases are brought to court, they can take years to be heard and the national conviction rate hovers between 5 to 10 percent. If convicted, the victim’s family can forgive the killers – a major loophole, since the killers often are the victim’s family. Women’s rights group The Aurat Foundation says it tracks around 1000 cases of honor killings per year just from media reports. The true figure is probably much higher. In one high profile case that captivated the country, five women were allegedly killed in 2012 in remote Kohistan after they were videotaped singing and clapping softly to music with two men present.

 

Saudi Arabia

 

A group of Saudi women have petitioned the Shura Council to back a demand to curb the “absolute authority” of male guardians over women in the country. Saudi Arabia forbids women to work or travel without the authorisation of their male guardians. It is also the only country that bans women from driving, and a woman cannot obtain an identification card without the consent of her guardian. A recent case in which a pregnant student had to give birth on campus after a women-only university in Riyadh denied access to paramedics was cited. And a university student died last month after paramedics were prevented from entering her campus because they were not accompanied by a male guardian, a must according to the segregation rules in the kingdom. This year, Saudi Arabia suspended a notification programme that had been running since 2012, which alerted male guardians once women under their custody left the country, even if they were travelling together. Three female members of the Shura Council presented a recommendation that women be given the right to drive in October, but the male-dominated 150-member assembly blocked the proposal.

 

Somalia

 

Sexual and gender-based violence is a major issue in Somalia, especially for internally displaced persons living in south and central Somalia. A Mogadishu-based NGO working to protect women and children has recorded more than 2,000 survivors of sexual violence in Mogadishu since it was set up in July 2012.

 

Sudan

 

An Ethiopian woman in Khartoum, Sudan, who was gang raped by seven men, has been denied by the Attorney General the ability to make a formal complaint of rape and thus instigate a full investigation. She has instead been charged with adultery which carries the potential sentence of death by stoning.

 

Tunisia

 

In the face of strong pressure from the more extreme factions, Tunisia approved a constitution that guaranteed equality between men and women, secured a constitutional mandate for environmental protection, only the third country in the world to do so, made a declaration that health care is a human right, with preventative care and treatment for every citizen, that it is a democracy with civil laws that respects freedom of religion and an  established right to due process and protection from torture.

News Flash January 2014

News Flash January 2014

 

Afghanistan   Egypt   India   Indonesia   Iran   Iraq   Malaysia   Morocco   Saudi Arabia   Syria   Tunisia   Turkey

General

A new social-attitudes survey of men and women in Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq and Pakistan has found small levels of support for the wearing of a full-face veil in much of the Middle East. On whether women should be able to choose their own clothing, 14 per cent agreed with this in Egypt, with 22 per cent in Pakistan and 27 per cent in Iraq. The idea won support from 47 per cent in Saudi Arabia, 49 per cent in Lebanon, 52 per cent in Turkey and 56 per cent in Tunisia. Professor Mansoor Moaddel, principal investigator in the report by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, said attitudes to women’s dress were closely related to wider views on gender equality and social values. “All of the countries except Egypt are showing trends towards increased equality for women and a move towards political secularism”, he said. “People from these countries have seen the extremism of Islamic governments or witnessed terrorism and political violence, and are taking the position that it’s not something valuable for their countries”.

Afghanistan

Violent crime against women in Afghanistan hit record levels and became increasingly brutal in 2013, the head of the country’s human rights commission said. The United Nations in December reported a 28 percent increase in cases of brutality against women for October 2012 through September 2013. Sima Samar, chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, told Reuters that the severity of attacks on women had greatly intensified last year. “The brutality of the cases is really bad. Cutting the nose, lips and ears. Committing public rape”. “Killing women in Afghanistan is an easy thing. There’s no punishment” said Suraya Pakzad, who runs women’s shelters in several provinces. She cited recent cases in which women had been publicly stoned as Afghan troops looked on. “Laws are improved, but implementation of those laws are in the hands of warlords… I think we are going backwards”. Another sign that rights for women have been rolled back in recent years is a rise in cases of self-immolation, a desperate last resort for women in abusive situations. The burns unit of Herat hospital, one of two in Afghanistan, admitted a record number of women who had attempted to set themselves on fire in 2012.

Egypt

Egyptian voters have approved a new constitution which grants women equal rights and extends protections for the persecuted Coptic Christian community. The Muslim Brotherhood had called for a boycott of the referendum; turnout was variously estimated at 40%-55%.

A human rights defender Magda Adly said that as far as the situation of women is concerned, she has seen “no change. We still do not have a law that criminalizes violence against women in the family. And sexual violence is increasing”. For example, some “186 cases of sexual assault and rape were documented in Tahrir Square” during the protests between June 28 and July 7, 2013, she noted. “All evidence points to their having been politically motivated.” Though the new constitution does include an article explicitly obliging the State to ensure that women are not discriminated against, Adly expressed doubt as to whether there would be “the political will to implement this in the near future”. “Of course it was worse during Morsi’s time, in terms of violence towards women,” she said. “The Muslim Brotherhood were very, very aggressive when speaking about women’s rights. When we spoke about harassment, they wanted girls to be punished. You were, as a woman, responsible for any crime that happened to you.” During its time in power, the Brotherhood expressed its support for a raft of regressive, repressive policies towards women – lowering of the legal age at which women can be married, stricter laws governing divorce, and a lifting of the ban on female genital mutilation. However, Adly said that “I am not comfortable about the level of violence against the Muslim Brotherhood. In ideological terms they are against me and I am against them. But violence is violence and terrorist groups will probably begin taking revenge.” “And after attacking, killing, kidnapping, and putting Muslim Brotherhood supporters in jail, now the regime are going after the human rights organizations and the youth groups”, she said. “Mahienour and Hassan Mustafa, Alaa Abdul Fattah, Ahmed Douma – they were the ‘flags’ of the revolution two years back. Now they are in jail.” Mahienour Al-Massry, an Alexandria-based lawyer known for her work for the rights of detainees, in labour movements and on behalf of Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Egypt, was sentenced in absentia in early January to two years in jail for violating a recent law against unauthorized protests. Alaa Abdel Fattah, well-known blogger and political activist and son of the founder of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, is in prison for allegedly organizing a political protest. Ahmed Douma, another prominent blogger and activist, was sentenced on December 22 to three years in prison with hard labour and a fine for taking part in protests.

India

Police in India say a young woman has been gang raped on the orders of a village council because she fell in love with a man from a different religion. 13 men have been arrested in West Bengal state. The woman told police that the village council in Subalpur village ordered her to pay a fine for having an affair with the man. When her family said they were too poor to pay, the council ordered the gang rape. The woman told police she lost count of how many men raped her during the night-long ordeal. She is in hospital in the state’s Birbhum district where doctors said her condition is serious.

Indonesia

A city on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island is about to force female students to pass a virginity test before they can go to high school. 51,000 people have already signed a petition calling for its end here.

Iran

According to Shargh paper, more than 71% of households have satellite dishes though satellite dishes are banned by the Islamic Republic of Iran; in 1995, this was around 1%.

More than 650 Iranian citizens and civil activists have issued a statement objecting to the “Comprehensive Population and Family Excellence Plan” currently on the Iranian Parliament’s agenda, arguing that the plan would place undue restrictions on women’s employment and educational opportunities. The statement refers to the plan’s “regrettable articles” about the conditions of women, specifically in the parts pertaining to new restrictions on the use of contraceptives. It also refers to the plan as a measure that intends to further restrict women, particularly single women, from accessing employment and educational opportunities. “Much like the other laws and resolutions passed over recent years, women are again deprived of their rights in this plan and are only seen in their reproductive position. Is there no other way to promote excellence than to deprive women of jobs, income, and education, and to limit women to the role of a procreation instrument and not as half of the population with rights?” says the statement. The statement cautions the Members of the Parliament that approving the plan will increase gender discrimination in Iran and will be “a huge regression for women” in the laws. The “Comprehensive Population and Family Excellence Plan” aims to encourage population growth in a departure from the current population control policies, which have been in effect for the past two decades.

After years of promoting a curb on population growth, Iran’s supreme leader has begun encouraging people to produce more children and adding that the Iranian population should move toward at least 150 million people (almost double that of today). Recently billboards with the slogan “A single blossom is not spring” has began to pop up along major highways along with others encouraging families to have more children. Other billboards saying, “More children, better lives” depicted a large family bicycling happily on a single bicycle, with a father and son not so happily trailing behind. There was one notable exception on both bicycles. The mother was missing. In an interview with Fars, the director of the media production company behind the billboards said “Out of concern for appearing to promote cycling for women, we decided to exclude the family’s mother from the picture”. While cycling is not illegal for Iranian women, it has been discouraged and frowned upon for more than 30 years. Cycling on the streets has been described as “shameless and lust-provoking” by officials. In another billboard promoting the same subject, the modern family is shown on a rowboat, with the father sitting at one end of the boat and the mother at the other. The boys sitting in between have life jackets on, while the little girl does not.

Culture Minister Ali Jannati has been questioned in the Iranian parliament over some of his comments regarding the closure of newspapers and the solo singing of women. He said solo signing which has been banned may be permissible if it did not lead to “corruption”.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a religious edict banning online chatting between unrelated men and women. The ruling came days after Iranian authorities blocked WeChat. The authorities in Tehran are sensitive to social media and have blocked access to many social networking websites, including Facebook and Twitter. But many Iranian internet users are relying on proxies to circumvent the government censorship. Ironically, many Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rowhani, have active Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Iraq

A report from Baghdad said that gunmen killed 12 people including seven women at a brothel in the city.

Security and medical officials said the attack took place at an apartment in the Zayouna area of east Baghdad on Jan 7. Police sources also said that a similar attack had taken place last year too. On May 22, gunmen attacked a house in Zayouna that was used as a brothel, killing 12 people. The week before, gunmen restrained police at a checkpoint in the area, and then shot dead 12 people at a row of adjoining alcohol shops nearby. Violence in Iraq has reached a level not seen since 2008, when the country was just emerging from a brutal period of sectarian killings. It took just five days for this month’s death toll to surpass that for all of January last year.

Malaysia

In what is seen as a sign of increasing Islamisation in Malaysia, the northern state of Pahang has introduced heavier penalties on “cross-dressers” under an amended Sharia law. Those arrested could face a maximum of a year’s jail or be fined or both if convicted. The amended law, which came into effect on Dec 1, 2013, will only apply to Muslim men or women found to be wearing clothes of the opposite gender.

Morocco

The parliament of Morocco has unanimously amended an article of the penal code that allowed rapists of underage girls to avoid prosecution by marrying their victims. Article 475 of the penal code generated unprecedented public criticism. It was first proposed by Morocco’s Islamist-led government a year ago. But the issue came to public prominence in 2012 when 16-year-old Amina Filali killed herself after being forced to marry her rapist. The case shocked many people in Morocco, received extensive media coverage and sparked protests in the capital Rabat and other cities.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabian authorities have suspended a monitoring system that text alerts Saudi women’s male ‘guardians’ every time they cross the border to make amendments to the system; following review by officials, the new service will be optional.

A picture showing two men from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice warning women against using the swings went viral. “Some viewers of the picture supported the move by the Commission members on the grounds women using the swing could encourage men to “harass or molest them” though “others said they believe the act is not acceptable as it amounted to an unjustified interference and repression of women by the Commission”. Saudi Arabia’s religious police also shut a restaurant for violations including allowing gender-mixing, “operating obscene TV channels and serving shisha in closed places”.

Most women in Saudi Arabia out in public are shrouded from head to toe but just the sight of their made-up faces is apparently enough to incite men to molest them, according to a new survey of 992 Saudi men and women, conducted by the King Abdul Aziz Centre for National Dialogue in Riyadh. The survey found that 86.5 percent of the men believed that women’s elaborate make-up is to blame for a rise in molestation cases in the kingdom. No specific figures on current molestation rates or how molestation specifically is defined are available, but the Saudi authorities reported 2,797 cases of sexual harassment involving women and children in the first 10 months of 2013, with Riyadh leading the list with 650 cases. About 80 percent of those polled blamed lack of specific anti-molestation laws and lack of deterrent penalties as contributing to the problem. “Poor religious sentiment” was cited by 91 percent of those surveyed as another factor and 75 percent also blamed lack of awareness campaigns and warning notices in public places.

Syria

Women have been banned from sitting on chairs and seeing male gynaecologists by the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Levant’s recent occupation of Raqqah, a city in northern Syria. Also, women are obligated to wear the niqab and burqa; sweaters, jeans, and makeup of any kind are strictly banned. Female clothing is not to be displayed in shop windows, and only women are allowed to work there; if a man is found on the grounds the shop faces closure. Smoking—cigarettes, water pipes, etc.—is banned. Violators could face the death penalty; shops found selling cigarettes are to be burned to the ground. All barbershops are to be closed down and men forbidden from having short hair, wearing modern hairstyles or using hair products; men are also forbidden from wearing low-waist jeans. Anyone who uses the word “Daash” (an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in Arabic) will receive 70 whippings; the organisation is to be referred to by its proper name.

Tunisia

Tunisia voted to enshrine gender equality in its draft constitution, a key step towards safeguarding its relatively progressive laws on women’s rights, with the ruling Islamists under pressure to compromise. “All male and female citizens have the same rights and duties. They are equal before the law without discrimination”, states article 20. The formula was agreed between the ruling Islamist party Ennahda and the secular opposition during negotiations to end months of political crisis that followed the assassination of a leftwing opposition politician by Islamists last year. Ennahda sparked a storm of controversy in 2012 when it tried to introduce gender “complementarity” rather than equality into the post-uprising constitution. Since the 1950s, when it gained independence from France, Tunisia has had the Arab world’s most progressive laws on women’s rights — although men remain privileged notably over inheritance — and Ennahda was suspected of wanting to roll back those rights. The Islamists also agreed in recent months to drop their insistence on Islam being the main source of legislation, or criminalising “attacks on the sacred”. Instead, Islam is recognised as the state religion and freedom of conscience is guaranteed. The assembly also forced a successful revote on a proposed amendment that would make it unlawful to accuse someone of apostasy, after a deputy claimed he had received death threats because a colleague accused him of being an “enemy of Islam”.

Turkey

One out of every four brides is a child as families are increasingly applying to the court to change the date of birth of their daughters so that they can legally marry, warned an association of Turkish female lawyers. “There is an increase of 94 percent in application to courts by families to show their daughters age older, in order to get marriage permit”, said Gülten Kaya, head of the female lawyers’ commission of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations. The legal age for marriage in Turkey has been raised to 17 from 15, however the commission members said that the limit should be increased to the majority age of 18.

News Flash December 2013

News Flash December 2013

Iran  India  Morocco  Nigeria  Saudi Arabia  Tanzania  Turkey  Tunisia

General

 

A UN General Assembly committee has agreed a landmark first resolution on women’s rights defenders, despite a hard fought campaign by an alliance including the Vatican, Iran, Russia, China and others to weaken the measure. A Norwegian-led coalition, which has prepared the resolution for months, had to delete language that condemned “all forms of violence against women” to get the text passed by consensus.

 

 

Iran

 

The Department of Women and Family affairs in President Rouhani’s government has been given the task of determining policies aimed at increasing the Iranian population. A work-group had been set up to provide the government with recommendations and advice. In recent weeks Iranian officials and politicians have expressed their concern about the low rate of population growth in the country and called for a solution. One major factor is that many of those born after the 1979 revolution are postponing marriage until too old to have many children.

 

The new president Hassan Rouhani pledged during election campaign speeches that he ‘would not allow any agent to question anyone in the street’ and that ‘girls should feel secure’. But only four months later, the Headquarters for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has announced improperly dressed women will be issued with official warnings. Cleric Hayder Zahraei, who is in charge of the nationwide plan, said: ‘This grand plan will be implemented in some 200 cities across the country. The plan will be expanded and fully implemented in society.’ Brig. Genral Ahmadi Moghadam, commander of the State Security Forces, also said on August 12: “With Rouhani there will be no changes with regards to the veil.” On September 8 an order was issued to ‘intensify dealing with women who are not properly dressed’.

 

India

 

Women in India will never be safe until society changes its attitudes, the father of the Delhi gang-rape victim said on the anniversary of the assault which killed her.

But one year after the incident, the victim’s family is still deep in grief and fearful for India’s women who they say remain in danger.

“As long as the mindset of the society will not change, women can never be safe out on the roads… every other day cases of rape and sexual harassment are getting reported, where is the change?”

 

Morocco

 

Women’s rights activists in Morocco have criticised the Islamist-led government for excluding them from drafting proposed legislation to combat violence against women and for seeking to dilute the bill through changes. The long-awaited bill is currently under study in Morocco. It comes after the adoption of a new constitution in 2011 that enshrines gender equality and urges the state to promote it.

 

Nigeria

About 100 women rallied outside Enugu State government offices on 10 December, demanding an end to “the killing of women through fetish activities of chief priests and deities”. Such activities are believed to have cost 11 women their lives in just two weeks. Wearing black dresses and holding palm leaves, the protesters also demanded a ban on “forced marriages” to traditional gods as this violates several articles of the Nigerian constitution. Among the reported incidents is the chief priest of the deity Iyakpala Ugbaike allegedly forcing the daughter of a deceased man to marry him after claiming the same deity killed her father.

 

Saudi Arabia

 

Within their female-only campuses, women at Saudi Arabia’s universities let loose. In their bags, the textbooks vary, but one item is mandatory: a floor-length black abaya robe that each must

cover herself with when she steps through the university gates back to the outside world.

Within the campus grounds — a world of strictly female students, teachers and staff — women have some greater freedoms. But outside, women remain bound by a web of customs and religious strictures. Women are kept segregated from men, are barred from simple rights like driving and required to adhere to strict dress codes that often require them to cover their hair and face with a black veil. They are ruled by the whim of male relatives whose permission is required for a woman to work, get an education, or travel under “guardianship laws”.

 

Abdullah Mohammad Al Dawood, a Saudi Arabian writer, through his Twitter account has asked all his followers to sexually molest women who work as cashiers in stores. This campaign has been launched on social networking websites in order to attack the practice of including more and more Saudi women into the country’s private sector.

 

Tanzania

 

While Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is on the decline in Tanzania, the practice remains widespread in some rural areas,

and in Maasai communities like Lingate in the northern Arusha region, dozens of women are being turned away in marriage because they have refused to be cut, according to an NGO working in the region. In another report, 33 women have been arrested for mutilating girls aged 3-15.

 

Turkey

 

The number of women in Turkey who sought the support of the Family and Social Policies Ministry due to domestic violence totalled more than 5,000 last year, according to Minister Fatma Şahin.

 

Tunisia

 

First, it was the schools that were reserved for Salafists and fundamentalists. Then, Islamic banks appeared for those who want their money to be handled in accordance with Islamic law. Now, Salafists and “true Muslims” have their own restaurants with a space dedicated to women wearing the niqab, where they can eat separately while enjoying the privacy provided by wooden screens.

News Flash November 2013

News Flash November 2013

Afghanistan   Egypt   India   Iran   Iraq   Israel   Libya   Morocco  Pakistan  Palestine  Saudi Arabia  Sudan  Syria  Yeman

Afghanistan

Twelve years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan’s government is considering bringing back stoning as a punishment for sex outside marriage. The sentence for married adulterers, along with flogging for unmarried offenders, appears in a draft revision of the country’s penal code being drawn up by the ministry of justice. It is the latest in a string of encroachments on hard-won rights for women, after parliament quietly cut the number of seats set aside for women on provincial councils, and drew up a criminal code whose provisions will make it almost impossible to convict anyone for domestic violence.  

Locals shot dead a girl and her boyfriend in northern Baghlan province after they eloped. Javed Basharat, the provincial police spokesman, said police tried to mediate and rescue the pair, but tribal elders promised to surrender both victims yet failed to do so.

Egypt

A survey of 22 Arab states by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found Egypt lowest in the women’s rights listing and with the highest rates of violence against women – including sexual harassment and female genital mutilation (FGM). Egypt was followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.

India

Aboobacker Musaliya, one of Kerala’s most influential Sunni leaders and general secretary of the All India Sunni Jam-Iyyathul Ulema said “…Islam has not changed its decrees regarding the life of women. Muslim women should not work in a place where only a woman and a man are present. They should work only in a place where there are enough number of women and trustworthy men. Ninety per cent of jobs do not require men and women to mingle. These rules cannot be changed.” The cleric also said that women should travel only if it was unavoidable. Even then, these journeys must be for purposes ratified by Islam.

Iran

A document adopted by the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council with president Rouhani’s signature has been forwarded to the education and health ministries to “reduce the unnecessary mixing of males and females.” The section on gender segregation included the expansion of the culture of chastity and the veil.

Majlis (parliamentary) social affairs committee head Abdulreza Azizi said: “Almost 20% of marriages in Iran end in divorce, as a result of promiscuity, sexual license, perversion, and a tendency to favour Western values.” Azizi quoted from the Koran, claiming that the holy book stipulates that women have no right to seek divorce. If they did, it would mean they could ask for a separation on any pretext, whenever they chose to. Azizi also blamed drug addiction, unemployment, economic hardship and foreign satellite television for the high divorce rate.

Following mounting criticism of the Iranian police’s harassment of women who refuse to abide by compulsory veiling rules, the ‘modesty project’ has been transferred to the Interior Ministry. Police commander Brigadier Ismail Ahmadi-Moghadam said: “The government has decided to hand the project over to a social council, which is in the process of organising staff and procedures. We will still be available to play a role if required. We are optimistic about this move, and hope the modesty project will be conducted more efficiently in future.” Over 26 government agencies have been involved in imposing hijab, spending millions of dollars over several decades in the process. However both sociologists and politicians now admit that harsh campaigns have failed to force Iranian women to submit to the guidelines. In the past, Iranian officials have accused women who defy hijab of making a political statement in an attempt to ridicule the regime.

Ghulam Ali Hadad, a close advisor and confidante to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his son’s father-in-law who was a candidate in last June’s presidential election has said Iranians and many other people around the world tend to adopt the cultural values of  the West. Addressing students at Payam Noor University in Mashad, he said: “Women who observe Islamic hijab are currently under considerable pressure to change their appearance. This is a consequence of the harmful influence of Western culture on our society. Western values have even influenced architecture and interior decoration. Some people’s dreams and aspirations are inspired by the West.”

Over 15% of homeless in Tehran are women addicted to drugs or alcohol. Most fled their families in the smaller Iranian towns and villages and went to the Iranian capital in search of better social and economic conditions.

Iranian women are banned from attending football matches. Some disguise themselves as men to attend facing arrest and imprisonment if found out. On social media, women football lovers asked FIFA’s head to raise the issue on his visit with Iranian authorities, which he did.

Iraq

The Iraqi Justice Ministry announced that it had sent a copy of a draft law on Shiite jurisprudence and personal status to the cabinet for approval. The draft law stipulates that Iraqi Shiites would refer to Islamic Sharia, and specifically principles of Jaafari jurisprudence, for personal status issues — which include marriage and divorce, as well as issues of inheritance and adoption. The pending legislation threatens to further divide Iraqi society on the basis of sectarianism and ethnicity and violate women’s and children’s rights, including potentially making the latter susceptible to sexual abuse through child marriage.

Israel

Seventy-two percent of Jewish Israelis do not trust the police in protecting women victims of domestic violence and their children, according to a survey. According to the data, half of Israelis know at least one woman who experiences violence of some kind from her husband. Among them, about a third indicated that the woman they know suffers from physical violence, while the rest said the violence was verbal and emotional.

Libya

Hundreds of women turned out in Algeria Square in Libya to protest against the presence of armed militias in Tripoli streets and across the country. They called for a complete end to the country’s militias.

Morocco

Forced to marry the man who had raped her, a 16-year-old Moroccan girl committed suicide last month. As Abdel Ali El-Allawi, director of the local chapter of an international NGO, the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, said, the rapist was first put into prison but that his family “entered negotiations with the family of the victim” and proposed that their son marry the teenager; her family assented.

Pakistan

A human rights activist stated that fifty-six women have been killed in Pakistan this year for giving birth to a girl rather than a boy.

Palestine

The Palestinian Authority banned the Islamist Hizb ut Tahrir from holding a seminar in Bethlehem under the title: “Women’s groups and societies seek to corrupt women.” The group recently launched a campaign against women’s organisations and societies, accusing them of corrupting Palestinian women. The campaign is being held under the motto “Women’s honour must be protected and the infidels and their tools are conspiring against women.” The campaign by Hizb ut Tahrir drew strong condemnations from women’s rights groups in the West Bank. The groups accused the party of inciting against women and appealed to the Palestinian Authority to take action to stop the fundamentalists from pursuing their campaign.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi religious police arrested two young men offering a “free hug” to passers-by in the capital. Free Hugs Campaign is a movement for individuals to offer hugs to strangers in public places,

especially in big cities, “to brighten up their lives.”

Sudan

Two activists in Sudan are due to stand trial for ‘indecent behaviour.’ They are at risk of imprisonment or flogging. Najlaa Mohammed Ali, a lawyer and human rights activist, and Amin Senada, also an activist, were arrested on 21 October in Port Sudan after they were found to be travelling in the same car together. Initially, members of Sudan’s police and security forces took the pair into custody after accusing Senada of placing his hand on Ali’s shoulder. The arresting officers later claimed they had found them kissing in the car, charging both with ‘indecent behaviour’ under Article 152 of Sudan’s 1991 Criminal Code.  It is believed that the charge is a response to Ali’s political activism, including her participation in countrywide demonstrations that took place in September.

Under the guise of protecting morality and preventing the co-mingling of the sexes, which is deemed “prostitution,” government officials have deployed the public order regime against unmarried men and women alike who dare to share office space and taxi rides or attend parties together.

Syria

A new report estimates 6,000 women have been raped since March 2011 however during the Syrian conflict; the actual number is likely to be much higher given most cases go undocumented.

 

Yeman

A Yemeni court ordered the release of an eloping Saudi woman and her boyfriend and gave 22 year old Huda Abdullah three months to rectify her legal status in the country. Huda had fled her family home in Saudi Arabia and headed to Yemen to meet her beloved. She was arrested in Yemen for illegal entry and placed on trial, amid mounting pressure from her family and Saudi authorities for her to return home. But she stuck her ground, pleading in court to be able to stay and marry her boyfriebd, and applied for asylum through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

News Flash October 2013

News Flash

October 2013

 

Afghanistan    Brunei   Egypt  India   Iran   Iraqi Kurdistan  Israel   Kuwait  Malaysia  Morocco   Nigeria  Pakistan   Saudi Arabia   Sudan    Turkey   Tunisia

Afghanistan

Even though several million Afghan girls are attending school, more than half are married before the age of 18 and about one-quarter are wed by their mid-teens, often because their families afghan_oct13cannot afford to support them. Many are virtually sold as teenage brides, and if they run away, they are branded as ‘bad women.’ The number of women and girls fleeing intolerable domestic conditions has skyrocketed, keeping the handful of urban shelters constantly full. In addition, according to rights organisations, the number of girls and women charged with moral crimes (usually some variation of zina, or sex outside marriage) has increased 50 percent in the past several years.

Brunei

The Sultan of Brunei is to introduce a new code of Sharia law which could see stonings for adultery, amputations for thefts and public flogging for drinking alcohol.

Egypt

A recent United Nations study suggested that nine out of 10 Egyptian women had experienced some form of sexual harassment. Human rights campaigners describe currentegypt_oct13 levels of sexual violence as ‘horrifying.’ Most of the worst attacks have taken place during protests in Tahrir Square. Sexual violence is a tool to silence women demonstrators. The wave of attacks has been fuelled by a culture of impunity. Those who carry out sexual assaults may feel encouraged by Islamist clerics like Saad Arafat who maintains that women who complain about harassment are bringing it on themselves.

India

Women’s groups in Kerala slammed India’s decision not to co-sponsor the first ever global resolution against child marriages floated by the UN Human Rights Council. A Times of India-Ipsos Survey showed that most Muslims in Kerala are categorically against underage marriage. As many as 83% of the respondents opposed the proposition that attaining puberty made a girl ready for marriage, with a gender-based break up showing that 84% women and 81% men are against it. Significantly, the mixed gender percentage which opposes underage marriage is around 90% in Muslim-majority Malappuram.

Iran

Iran’s revolutionary guards announced the arrest of ‘a network of homosexuals and satanists’ at a birthday party in the western city of Kermanshah, prompting fresh alarm over the treatment of gay people. At least 17 people who had tattoos, make-up, or were wearing rainbow bracelets were blindfolded and taken to an unknown location.

Military Commander Sirous Sajadian declared: ‘those who do not follow the Islamic dress code will be penalised; their cars will be detained by police officers.’ He also announced the establishment of a new patrol, exclusively for policing female drivers’ hijab and accordingly fining them.

Iranian president Rouhani said that police should keep a lower profile in the enforcement of compulsory veiling in Iran. He added: ‘in our society women follow moral codes of conduct and any hejab-oct13supervision necessary on the issue of hijab is first the responsibility of schools, universities, and other educational institutions; the police should be the last organisation to step in.’

Member of the Majlis (Islamic Assembly) Mofid Kiayi-Nejad has said: ‘Each day the authorities pay less attention to the problem of hijab. It is true that economic problems head the list of government priorities, but they are being complacent about hijab. The trousers and coats women wear nowadays demonstrate the extent to which they are ignoring the issue. If we tackled the manufacture of these un-Islamic dresses at source, we would not need to send the morality police and vigilantes onto our streets.’

Zohre Sadat Lajevardi, who is head of women’s affairs in President Rouhani’s office, said that the morality police’s operations should not vary according to the time of year. ‘Those who defy the hijab rules know very well that after the end of the season public dress codes will be relaxed, and they can wear what they like. So laws need to be passed on the wearing of hijab, just as we have laws about how people should drive. Those who defy them would be penalised. A woman who dresses improperly must pay for her actions.’ Lajevardi went out of her way to suggest that all Iranian women should police themselves with regard to the hijab issue.

Young Iranian women looking for work face new restrictions as the Majlis (Islamic Assembly) debates a bill prohibiting government departments from recruiting both single and childless married women. One advocate of the bill – the General Population and Family Promotion Plan – is female conservative MP Fateme Aliya, who has already supported other laws restricting female participation in society. Senior university lecturer Elahe Koulayi condemned the bill, calling it yet one more government attempt to keep Iranian women at home.

Whereas ten years ago most hashish smokers in Iran were men, recent police statistics indicate that its use among women is growing steadily. Abbas Rastegar, a police officer in the province of Khuzestan, said: ‘Cannabis is classified as a narcotic. Once it is in the bloodstream its effects continue for up to 24 hours. More and more young women are using this dangerous drug, as well as others such as opium, ecstasy and crack cocaine.’ A recent official survey revealed that 76% of female Iranian drug users were married and 3% widowed or divorced. 46% had been educated to primary school level and 10% had higher diplomas. The remainder had no education.

Dariush Pir-Niakan, the spokesman for Iran’s House of Music has ‘resigned’ for calling for an end to the 34-year ban on women singing. He said: ‘The main demand of the House of Music is for women’s voices to be broadcast. For 34 years now, this has been missing from the musical arena. Music is still considered taboo here.’ Following his comments, Hassan Rouhani cabinet’s Minister of Guidance Ali Jannati said: ‘If the voice of solo women singers does not lead to vice, it is ok. But there is problem with women’s voice on certain occasions.’

Justice for Iran has released a report titled ‘Stolen Lives, Empty Classrooms: Child Brides in Iran’ and states that this year alone in Iran, 1,537 girls below the age of 10 and 29,827 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were registered for marriage. In other words, one every 15 minutes. Moreover, statistics in Iran from the past five years show a significant drop in the number of students enrolled in (all-girl) schools. At 1,411 cases, Ardebil, a province in northwest Iran, has the highest rate of marriages for girls below the age of 10; a number 67 times more than the next highest province. The rate of girl marriages in Ardebil directly implies that in this particular province, judges routinely allow legal guardians to force their girls into marriage. The report notes the Islamic Republic’s recent legalisation of marriages between parents and adopted children. Despite much debate and opposition, the authorities have referred to Sharia law to legitimise relations between males and females in adopted families before and after the age of maturity.

The Guardian Council has now approved the bill passed by the Islamic regime of Iran’s Majlis or parliament for the ‘protection’ of children and young people, which includes a clause allowing men to marry their adopted daughters with the permission of a court. The bill had previously been denied and sent back for review because it had originally banned the marriage of step-fathers and their adopted daughters; the Guardian Council found this to be in contradiction with Islamic Sharia law. The law legalising paedophilia and child rape has sparked outrage in Iran and across the globe though it is touted as an attempt to solve problems related to the hijab or veil in the family. An adopted daughter is expected to wear the veil in the presence of her father and a mother is expected to do so in the presence of her adopted son if he is old enough.

Iraqi Kurdistan

Shara Amin and Nabaz Ahmed spent 10 years speaking to women and men about the impact of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on their lives, their children and their marriages. The film ‘A Handful of Ash’ has culminated in the outlawing of FGM there; also the numbers of girls being genitally mutilated in the villages and towns of Iraqi Kurdistan has fallen by more than half in the last five years. Here’s a report on the film that is changing Kurdistan.

Israel

A group of female ultra-Orthodox ‘modesty policewomen’ recently sent a letter to clothing shops in Beitar Illit, imploring them to maintain high standards of modesty when selling female undergarments and forbidding them from including colourful underwear or bras among their wares.israil-new-law

The Ministerial Law Committee approved for a Knesset vote legislation that would increase the penalties imposed for those who attempt to deny women their rights in public spaces. The legislation was prompted by recent incidents in which women were forced to sit in the back of buses when they were riding in orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods. In several instances, women said that they were accosted, cursed, and even attacked when they sat at the front of buses. The Knesset passed laws against the practice, but the new legislation will beef up those laws, sharply increasing the penalties for offenders.

Kuwait

Islamists are denouncing shisha cafes as a ‘moral menace’ because they allow young men and women to mix freely. They have also demanded death sentences for anyone convicted of insulting kuwitIslam, opposed women’s participation in sports and forced art galleries to cancel shows. Earlier this month, conservative Members of Parliament lauded a government proposal to screen applicants for entry visas and bar gay or transgender workers. ‘It’s a blatant invasion of privacy,’ said Shafiq Ghabra, a Kuwait-based political science professor. ‘People who don’t want to be at mixed coffee shops don’t have to go to them.’ Rights groups have denounced the proposal to require unspecified medical tests to identify and ban gay or transsexual applicants for labour visas. Kuwaiti officials have backed off the proposal, but it could be raised for discussion at a meeting of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. Also, a Kuwaiti children’s centre called off a Halloween event after it came under an onslaught of criticism on social media as blasphemous.

Malaysia

Suriani Kempe of Sisters in Islam was incensed with the Malaysian Islamic Development Department, which denied any discrimination against women under Islamic laws, claiming that any allegations were unfounded. ‘It’s a blatant fallacy because in Malaysia Muslim women do not have equal rights to their children. Muslim women experience delay in initiating divorce,’ she said, quoting a study by the Malaysian Syariah Judiciary Department. ‘Muslim women don’t inherit the same as their male counterparts. Muslim girls can be married off at younger age than Muslim boys.’

Morocco

Moroccans staged a symbolic ‘kiss-in’ outside parliament in support of three teenagers arrested for posting pictures on Facebook of two of them kissing. A boy and a girl aged 15 and 14, morocco_kissand their 15-year-old male friend who took the photos outside their school in the northern town of Nador, were arrested last week, charged with ‘violating public decency’ and held in a juvenile centre. Amid mounting pressure, the judge ordered that the teens be released on bail and their trial Friday was adjourned until November 22 to allow ‘an inquiry into the social circumstances of the teenagers.’

Nigeria

In Nigeria’s northern Kano state, 10,000 officers have been deployed to ensure Sharia laws are enforced, including ‘a law in the state which prohibits gender mix in commercial vehicles’ and ‘indecent dress.’

Pakistan

More than 25 women have been stabbed by an assailant in a small town in Pakistan.

A man punished his wife for giving birth to a baby girl by forcing her to drink acid. She is in critical condition at hospital.

Saudi Arabia

At least 16 women have been fined for driving on 26 October, a day set to protest the driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia. A spoof by Heesham Fagheeh, a social activist and artist, called ‘No Woman, No Drive’ opposing the ban has gone viral.

On 24 September 2013, an appeal court in the city of Dammam confirmed the 15 June conviction of Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni, two prominent Saudi Arabian women’s rights saudi_arabia_no_woman_driveactivists, by the criminal court in the city of al-Khobar and upheld their sentences of 10 months in prison followed by a two-year travel ban. The activists were convicted of the Sharia offence of takhbib (inciting a woman to defy her husband’s authority), specifically ‘inciting’ a Canadian woman to separate from her Saudi Arabian husband. They were first arrested in June 2011 when attempting to come to the aid of the Canadian woman, after they received a text message from her telling them that her husband had left her and her children locked in the house with no food whilst he travelled for five days.

A Saudi woman is filmed lashing out against Saudi religious police and saying: ‘Don’t provoke me!’ after he asks her to cover up her entire face, even though she is already wearing a traditional niqab, with only her eyes and the top of her nose visible.

Islamist cleric Fayhan al-Ghamdi who had originally been absolved and asked to provide blood money (half of what he would have had to pay if he had killed a boy) for beating his daughter Lama with canes, burning her with electrical cables, crushing her skull, tearing off her nails and raping her repeatedly was finally convicted to 8 years in prison and 800 lashes due to public outcry. He was also told to pay Lama’s mother blood money. In Saudi Arabia, much less serious crimes often receive heavier punishment. Earlier this week, a Saudi court gave four young men sentences of between three to 10 years prison and 500 to 2,000 lashes for dancing naked in public in the city of Buraydah, north of Riyadh. Lama’s mother told broadcaster Al-Arabiya that al-Ghamdi took their daughter from her for a two-week visit in 2011 to his home with his second wife and other children. Months went by and he refused to allow the mother to see her daughter. Lama was then taken to a hospital, where she died in intensive care in late 2012.

Sudan

Sudanese women’s rights activist Amira Osman Hamed could face 40 lashes for refusing to wear a headscarf. She is charged with ‘indecent or immoral dress’ by the Public Order Police. Amira’s trial starts 4 November.

Turkey

Turkey lifted a ban on women wearing the Islamic head scarf in state institutions ending a decades-old restriction. The new rules, which will not apply to the judiciary, police or the military, took immediate effect. Secularists say the abolition is aimed at further Islamicising the secular country.

Tunisia

Tunisian authorities arrested several young women who allegedly left their homes to perform sexual jihad in Syria.

Activist Amel Grami says: “There is tension vis-à-vis women in terms of their clothes, their life-style, etc. For example, swimming in Ramadan causes problems now for some women. It is a new phenomenon in Tunisia – this new relationship with the body and the feeling that in the public sphere you are not free. There are others who are using violence in order to ‘correct’ the behaviour of women. It is not possible any more for women activists to travel around the country on their own at night or to go to rural areas, especially to some areas where fundamentalists …impose their rule. Tunisia is not the same as it was two years ago. We do not have the same freedom of movement.”

News Flash August-September 2013

News Flash

August-September 2013

Iran Saudi Arabia Malaysia Afghanistan Tunisia Sudan Palestine Yemen Indonesia Pakistan

Iran

There has been a marked increase in CCTV cameras being installed in girls’ schools, particularly private ones causing concern for girls and their parents. The Islamic Assembly or Majlis in Iran passed a bill allowing a male guardian to marry his adopted child upon court approval. Children’s rights advocates denounced the bill saying it would endanger the welfare of the child, violate her rights, and is nothing more than legalised paedophilia. According to Children First, one Majlis representative said that sexual relations with adoptediran_legalised_pchildren is permissible under Sharia under marriage as they are not considered real children. According to one report, officials in Iran have tried to play down the sexual part of such marriages, saying it is in the bill to solve the issue of hijab [head scarf] complications when a child is adopted. An adopted daughter is expected to wear the hijab in front of her father, and a mother should wear it in front of her adopted son if he is old enough. As many as 42,000 children aged between 10 and 14 were married in 2010, according to the Iranian news website Tabnak. At least 75 children under the age of 10 were wed in Tehran alone.

 

Iran stoning case, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, wrote an open letter asking the media and public to ask Rouhani why he doesn’t release her. She says: “I want to hold my children in my arms. Please help me! For three years I have been consumed by longing for liberty and the chance to breathe freely. They told me that if I collaborated on a film for Press TV, I would be released. Press TV made its film and went on its way and there was no more talk of my freedom. They say that my case is in Tehran and must be decided there. I entreat you to ask President Rouhani, a resident of Tehran, whether he has any news of my case. Doesn’t he want to free me so that I might finally travel with my son and embrace freedom once more?”iran_unvield1

According to the International Committee Against Execution, since the election of Hassan Rouhani, at least 213 prisoners have been executed, including a number of women.

Per official figures, there are 600 women judges in Iran, most of who work in family courts. They are however not allowed to sign their decisions; a male judge must do so on their behalves.

 

Ali Jannati, a senior cleric in Iran urged tougher restrictions on women in streets, universities and state institutions. He said the hijab of female students should be checked at university gates and students graded based on their covering. He said: “why is it that female students who want to study take off their Islamic dress after they enter the university and taint themselves? Student wants a good grade and will do anything for it.” “If her veiling is bad, don’t let her into the university and let her feel it in her grade. This is not troublesome. Start here! If you put someone at the university gate and tells students that if they don’t observe proper veiling it would affect their grades, they would certainly pay heed.”

According to one iran_news_sepreport, over seventy Allameh Tabatabaei University students who had been thrown out of their faculties or suspended from their departments gathered outside the dean’s office and demanded that he allow them to return to their courses. Also, a group of women’s rights activists and student activists filed an official complaint with the Iranian Supreme Court of Justice. They were objecting to a new plan which regards women as ‘unfit’ for certain courses, and prohibits some of the major universities from enrolling them. The protestors made three demands to the Science Ministry and the Department of Higher Educational Assessment, namely the withdrawal of the scheme, the restoration of rights to students affected by it, and a ban on similar schemes in the future.

A recent study found school books to be predominately male-oriented with very few female photos, characters and writers. Also the males were shown to be smarter, stronger, more worthy than the females in the texts.

In a new law on families, temporary marriages do not need to be registered any longer. Temporary marriage is a fixed or short term marriage permissible in Shia Islam for which the duration and compensation is decided in advance.

During the election campaign, Rouhani said that he would strive to ensure that women feel secure on the streets from patrol harassing women who they deem to be improperly or badly veiled. He said: “Girls must maintain their own chastity and hijab.” He also said the youth “should obey religious norms.” After the election, harassment of women and youth has been stepped up.

Mohammad Shahroudi Hosseini, the Kurdistan representative of the supreme leader Khamenei has said: “The best way for women to achieve happiness is to see less of men and for men to see less of women.”

Women wearing leggings called “supports” are being put under pressure. Some officials have said leggings lead to a “violation of the mental and physiological peace” of Iran’s youth and are urging their arrest. Niloofar, a student in Tehran says: “If more than ten women do something in this country, it suddenly becomes an offence and they start looking for ways to stop it.”

The Iranian regime has freed 11 political prisoners, including human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and 7 other women. Many political prisoners remain in jail.

A bill being debated in Iran’s Majlis aims to limit employment opportunities for single girls and childless married women. Many see it is as yet one more state ploy to keep women in the home.

Gholam Reza Hassanpour Ashkezari who is in charge of the National Merchants Guild has called on merchants to refuse to sell to badly veiled women and to post religious teachings in shops to advise badly veiled women to properly veil.

There has been an increase in Iran’s morality police detaining women who they deem are improperly veiled. Mehr news agency quoted the Iranian Police Chief Brigadier General Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam as saying that the moral security plan has not been halted and a new phase has begun.

Elham Asghari was denied a swimming record because her Islamic bathing suit was deemed too revealing and showed her feminine features. “I’m not going to submit to bullying, and I ask you not to submit either,” she said. “I ask you to give your utmost effort to achieve your goals. I won’t give up! I beg you not to give up in the face of their lies. Swimming is not exclusively for men. We ladies can do well, too!

During Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration, women journalists sat on the floor whilst men were seated.

Official organs of the Islamic regime, including an organisation representing the Supreme Leader in Iranian Universities, have refuted claims of rape prior to execution for the first time. In a recently published book and documentary, Justice for Iran demonstrate once more the rape of virgin girls who were executed for their political activities during the 1980s through the means of temporary marriage in at least a few cities as part of an organised process carried out with the knowledge of senior officials.

Other News Updates

Saudi Arabia

A new campaign urging Saudi Arabian women to hold a “day of defiance” against the country’s driving ban is underway. An online petition entitled “Oct 26th, driving for women”, saudi_drivinghad, at time of press, amassed more than 11,000 signatures in just two days. A Saudi sheikh has recently said women’s driving will affect the pelvis and ovaries resulting in children born with “clinical disorders.” In the past the highest religious council said women driving would mean no more virgins and an increase in homosexuality.

When attorney for a raped Saudi Arabian woman appealed a Sharia Court decision of 90-lashes for being raped and beaten by 7 men, the court doubled the punishment. The court also said that the “charges were proven” against the woman for having been in a car with a strange male, and repeated criticism of her lawyer for talking “defiantly” about the judicial system, saying “it has shown ignorance.”

Malaysia

KA Malaysian Municipal Council ordered hair salon operators to take down posters of women with uncovered hair or risk having their operation licences revoked.

Afghanistan

Afghan experts and advocates say the number of women and girls fleeing intolerable domestic conditions has skyrocketed, keeping the handful of urban shelters constantly full. In addition, according to Afghan human rights groups, the number of girls and women charged with moral crimes (usually some variation of zina, or sex outside marriage) has increased 50 percent in the past several years. Nearly 400 are imprisoned for moral crimes.

Sushmita Banerjee, an Indian woman, who wrote a popular memoir about her escape from the Taliban, has been shot dead in Afghanistan by Islamists. She was working as a health worker and had been filming the lives of local women as part of her work. Police said Taliban militants arrived at her home in the provincial capital, Kharana, tied up her husband and other members of the family, took Ms Banerjee out and shot her. They dumped her body near a religious school.

Tunisia

The Tunisian interior minister has called for a stop to young Tunisian women leaving for Syria on “sexual jihad.” The Arabic term (jihad al-nikah) describes a phenomenon of women traveling to the battlefield to provide comfort—and sexual favors—which Islamists consider the practice a legitimate complement to Holy War. “After the sexual liaisons they have there in the name of ‘jihad al-nikah,’ they come home pregnant.”The minister did not say how many women have traveled to Syria, though local media reports have suggested hundreds of women have done so. He added that the government has prevented some 6,000 Tunisians from traveling to Syria.

Sudan

Amira Osman Hamed says: faces trial in the Sudan for refusing to wear the hijab and will be flogged if convicted. She says she’s prepared to be flogged to defend the rightsodan_unvield1 to leave her hair uncovered in defiance of a “Taliban”-like law. She says: I’m Sudanese. I’m Muslim, and I’m not going to cover my head.

Palestine

The Supreme Religious Court in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip is considering legal amendments allowing women to divorce their husbands when they can show proof that their married life cannot go on.

Yemen

An eight year old child bride died in Yemen on her wedding night after suffering interyemen_unvield1nal injuries due to sexual trauma. Human rights organisations are calling for the arrest of her husband who was five times her age.

A 15-year-old girl who was sentenced to 100 lashes after being raped by her step-father has had her punishment overturned by a Maldives court after international outrage.

Indonesia

A plan to make female high school students undergo mandatory virginity tests has been met with outrage from activists, who argue that it discriminates against women andindosia-unvield1 violates their human rights. Education chief Muhammad Rasyid, of Prabumulih district in south Sumatra put forward the idea, describing it as “an accurate way to protect children from prostitution and free sex”. “This is for their own good,” Rasyid said. “Every woman has the right to virginity … we expect students not to commit negative acts.” The test would require female senior school students aged 16 to 19 to have their hymen examined every year until graduation. Boys, however, would undergo no investigation into whether they had had sex.

Pakistan

Two months ago, Arifa Bibi, a young mother of two, was stoned to death by her relatives on the order of a tribal court in Pakistan for having a mobile phone. She was buried in a desert far from her village.

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