News Flash March 2014

News Flash March 2014


Afghanistan   Iran   Iraq   Nigeria   Saudi Arabia   Tunisia


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.



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”.



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.




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.



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.

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