Iran: Condemn the violence used against Iranian women on international women's day

WLUML is deeply concerned about reports of violent attacks and arrests of women's rights activists, women's groups and human rights defenders on 8 March 2006, International Women’s Day. Those gathered were attacked and assaulted by plain-clothes militia, special anti riot forces of the Revolutionary guards, soldiers and police.
Action needed: 
In order to reinforce the concern of women activists, we request that you write your own letter to the Iranian authorities, based on the letter below. The relevant addresses are given below.

It is not always easy to send faxes and emails to Iran and we therefore urgently request that you also courier your letters to the Iranian embassy in your country (see for a country listing.


Your Excellency,

We write to express our deep concern about reports of violent attacks and arrests of women's rights activists, women's groups and human rights defenders on 8 March 2006, International Women’s Day. We are indeed astonished that women such as Ms. Simin Behbehani were treated in this way and that the women gathered at the peaceful protest were repeatedly told by the security forces, as they administered beatings, that they had orders to beat the protesters.

We understand that the Iranian constitution allows for peaceful gatherings without permit but that the government requests a permit for public gatherings. To our knowledge, women's rights groups have been repeatedly denied requests to hold public gatherings, and so they have chosen to exercise their rights of assembly in organizing peaceful gatherings without obtaining permits but this is no excuse or reason for such a violent and disproportionate response.

We are extremely worried that these actions are part of an ongoing campaign against women’s NGOs and civil society organizations in Iran. Given the current international environment, it is important that the Iranian government ensures that those who have been contributing positively by providing a more rational perspective on Iran to the international community, such as journalists, academics and civil society groups, are encouraged to continue to play their positive and constructive role for the further development of their country.

Yours sincerely,
Please send your letters to:

Leader of the Islamic Republic: His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed 'Ali Khamenei,
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Shoahada Street, Qom, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: + 98 251 7 774 2228 (mark "FAO the Office of His Excellency, Ayatollah al Udhma Khamenei")
Salutation: Your Excellency

Head of the Judiciary: His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Ministry of Justice, Park-e Shahr, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: (mark "Please forward to His Excellency Ayatollah Shahroudi") via the judiciary website:
Salutation: Your Excellency

President: His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency, Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: + 98 21 6 649 5880
Email: / via website:

Minister of the Interior: Hojjatoleslam Mustafa Purmohammadi
Ministry of the Interior, Dr Fatemi Avenue, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: (Email often problematic)
Fax: +98 21 8 896 203
+98 21 8 899 547
+98 21 6 650 203

Brig. Gen. Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam
Farmandehi Nirooye Entezami,
Kooshek-e Mesri Street, Ferdowsi, after Imam Khomeini's Square, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Please Cc: your messages to us at

Afghanistan: Don’t allow warlords to silence Malalai Joya

Malalai Joya is a member of the Afghan parliament which comprises mostly warlords and fundamentalists who are directly or indirectly involved in the gross violations of human rights in Afghanistan. They currently dominate new parliament using their guns, power, money and intimidation.
Defense Committee for Malalai Joya
Action needed: 
The Defense Committee for Malalai Joya urges you to write to the Afghan government and other concerned officials with your letters of protest and urge them to take necessary and serious steps to make sure her life is being guaranteed.

Besieged by human rights violators and dark-minded elements in the parliament, Joya is an outspoken, popular and determined representative of people; she is there to be the voice of her voiceless and oppressed people and has always bravely revealed the truth and exposed the criminal nature of the fundamentalists.

There are vicious efforts going on to silence this clamorous voice of our people forever. In her own words: They will kill me but they will not kill my voice, because it will be the voice of all Afghan women. You can cut the flower, but you cannot stop the coming of spring.

In the past few weeks she has death threats via phone calls and in a number of cases directly. Her life is in great danger - meanwhile the Afghan government is not taking any steps to ensure her security.

Defending Joya is in fact defending anti-fundamentalist struggle of our people.

Thanks in advance for your support and solidarity with Malalai Joya.
Kindly send your letters to the following addresses:

Office of the President Mr. Hamid Karzai

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)
Peace Street, Kabul
Fax: (+39-0831) 24 6069 AND (+1-212) 963 2669

ISAF (International Security Assistance Force)
Army Club, opposite Ministry of Civil Aviation, Kabul

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Malak Azghar Road, Kabul
Fax: +1-866-890-9988 and +1-801-459-2967

Ministry of Justice

Ministry of Interior

Afghanistan’s Parliament

Embassy of Afghanistan in the USA
2341 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008
Fax: 202-483-6488

Canada: Protest against the proposed decriminalization of polygamy

We have received the following call for action from friends in Canada who ask that we write letters to Dr. Martha Bailey protesting her recommendation that the Federal Government of Canada remove Section 293 from the Criminal Code of Canada, thus, decriminalizing polygamy in Canada.
Stop Polygamy in Canada
Action needed: 
The Stop Polygamy in Canada campaign urges everyone to write to the author of this paper. Letters are needed from all over the world and every walk of life. This is not just a Canadian issue. It is an issue affecting women all over the world.
Please send your letters to:

Dr. Martha Bailey
Faculty of Law, Queen’s University
Queen’s University
99 University Avenue
Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6

UPDATE: Malaysia: Family law bill unjust to Malaysian Muslim women

Sisters in Islam share the good news that, because of your overwhelming support and help in response to our previous appeal, the Malaysian government recently announced that it would put on hold the gazetting of the controversial Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) (Amendment) Bill 2005. The bad news is that this non-gazettement is only valid for the Federal Territories, and not for the remaining states in the federation of Malaysia that have adopted these unjust amendments into their respective Islamic Family Laws. Since Islam is a state matter, it means that Muslim women living in these 11 states continue to be affected by its unjust clauses. They urge you to express your concern ...
Sisters in Islam
Action needed: 
Once again, it would be extremely helpful if like-minded Muslims around the globe expressed their concern to the Malaysian government regarding this issue.

Please congratulate the Malaysian government’s decision to keep on hold the gazetting of the Islamic Family Law Bill 2005. However, please also call for the Malaysian government to:
  • Ensure non-gazettement of this Bill at the federal level,
  • Ensure and place a moratorium on the implementation of this Bill at the state level,
  • Draft a new Muslim Family Law based on the principles of justice and equality, in consultation with ordinary citizens and women’s groups all across the country, and
  • Respect universal human rights, especially of Muslim women in marriage, and to explore alternative interpretations of Islamic law that uphold gender equality and universal human rights.
Please also express your concern that dissenting voices to this Bill should not be intimidated or coerced into silence by parties in support of the Bill, whether they are state or non-state actors.

Please also bring this to the attention of like-minded networks around the world. We continue to value, and humbly thank you for, your support and concern.
Please write to:

The Right Honourable Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Prime Minister of Malaysia

The Honourable Dato' Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil
Minister of Women, Family and Development

UPDATE: Bahrain: Court clears Ghada Jamsheer of defamation

Women's rights activist Ghada Jamsheer was found not guilty of defaming a Sharia judge by the Lower Criminal Court on 28 December 2005. The court ruled that there was not enough evidence to prosecute Ms Jamsheer because the judge only had one witness who supported his claim against her.

UPDATE: Bangladesh: Continued attacks on the Ahmadiyya community

It is an indication of the worrying political trends in Bangladesh that the Bangladesh National Party-Jamaat-i-Islami alliance currently in power is one of the most right-wing elected governments in the country's history and yet even this government is unable to satisfy extremist politico-religious groups.
Action needed: 
In December 2003 we circulated an alert for action regarding attacks on the community, and subsequent updates urging action. Since that date we have urged you to write to the Bangladesh Government regarding their duty to protect minority communities. Please do so once more. Click here for more details.

Serbia: The harassment of Women in Black Belgrade continues

WLUML has received a call for action from friends in Women in Black to demand the immediate end to the continual harassment of Women in Black in Belgrade who have been under investigation in recent months.
Women in Black
Action needed: 
We, Women in Black of the San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA, are writing to urge an end to the continual harassment of Women in Black in Belgrade.

Women in Black is a world-wide movement against all forms of violence and war. It began in Jerusalem in 1988 and has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Women in Black throughout the world hold silent vigils, educational workshops and conferences in carrying out their vision for peace in the world.

It has recently come to our attention that Belgrade Women in Black are being investigated for allegations of organizing prostitution in that city. This complaint was first filed in February 2005 by a local man, well known to the police and the community for his recurrent violent behavior. Despite the apparent falsehood of the charge, the police investigation has continued until the present time. In addition, the coordinator of the Belgrade Women in Black, Stasa Zajovic (herself nominated for a Nobel Prize for Peace), has been investigated constantly for allegedly organizing a network of women in prostitution. Other Women in Black activists have also been interrogated and their office files repeatedly examined. Numerous personal threats, including death threats, have been made to members of the group.

Along with other internationals, we believe that the constant police pressure on the Belgrade Women in Black is an attempt to criminalize those sectors of civil society that are confronting the past and condemning war crimes committed during the 1990s by the Serbian regime. We interpret these harassment charges, threats and police comportment towards Belgrade Women in Black as a way of obscuring and avoiding the condemnation of those crimes and preventing processes of democratization.

In essence, the police and Ministry of Interior have been discrediting and criminalizing a group whose sole purpose is the promotion of non-violence and democratic process in the achievement of peace in the world.

Therefore, we join Belgrade Women in Black in asking that the investigation against them be dropped immediately, that action be taken to prosecute the originator of these false accusations, and that the local police put an end to the continual phone harassment and threats to which these peace activists have been subjected.

We further ask that police and Ministry of Interior resources be used in the investigation, arrest and prosecution of the harassers and attackers of Women in Black pro-democracy and human rights activists, journalists and members of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities in Belgrade.


Bay Area Women in Black, USA
Send your letters/messages to:

President of Serbia / Kabinet predsednika dr Vojislava Kostunice
Beograd, Nemanjina 11
Faks: 3617-609

Ministry for Interior Affairs / Ministarstvo unutrasnjih poslova
Beograd, Kneza Milosa 101
Faks: 3617-814

Ministry of Justice / Ministarstvo pravde
Beograd, Nemanjina 22-26
Faks: 3616-419; 685-672


His Excellency Dr Ivan Vujacic
Ambassador of Serbia and Montenegro in the United States
Embassy of Serbia and Montenegro
2134 Kalorama Rd., NW
Washington, DC 20008

His Excellency Michael C. Polt
Ambassador of the United States of America in Serbia and Montenegro
United States Embassy
Kneza Milosa 50
11000 Belgrade
Serbia and Montenegro

Representative Dan Burton
Co-chair, Congressional Serbian Caucus
2185 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-1405
Phone: (202) 225-2276
Fax: (202) 225-0016

Representative Rahm Emanuel
Co-chair, Congressional Serbian Caucus
1319 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-1305
Phone: (202) 225-4061
Fax: (202) 225-5603

Zene u crnom / Women in Black
Jug Bogdanova 18/5
11000 Beograd
Serbia and Montenegro
381 11 262 3225

Holly Cartner
Executive Director
Europe and Central Asia Division
Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor
New York, NY 10118-3299
Tel: 1-(212) 290-4700
Fax: 1-(212) 736-1300

UPDATE: Bahrain: Continue to take action in support of Ghada Jamsheer and defenders of human and women’s rights

In June 2005 WLUML circulated an alert for action to support women’s rights campaigner Ms. Ghada Jamsheer who faced three trials for publicly criticizing family court judges and, if convicted, faced up to 15 years in prison.
Action needed: 
Send urgent letters to the Bahraini authorities demanding that:
  1. They drop all charges against Ms. Jamsheer.
  2. The government stops putting pressure on all of those who call for the protection of women’s rights and human rights. Such pressure must not be used as an excuse to silence progressive voices and those who seek to reveal the realities of women’s status in Bahrain.
  3. The government addresses the concerns of CWP in relation to family laws in Bahrain, and responds to CWP demands for the codification of family laws and the reform of Shari’a Family Courts.
  4. The government should amend the laws which criminalize and suppress public criticism and opinion.
A sample letter and addresses of officials to be contacted follow below.

Sample letter

Your Excellency/ Your Majesty/ Sir…

We are writing to express our deep concern about the criminal charges made against women's rights campaigner Ms. Ghada Yusuf Jamsheer, the head of the Committee of Women's Petition Committee (WPC), accusing her of foul language, abusing a shari'a family court and a former shari'a judge.

We have learned that two of the cases against Ghada Jamsheer have been dropped but that the Public Prosecution has appealed against the court decision to drop one of the cases against Ms. Jamsheer. That appeal hearing is scheduled to take place on the 13th of September 2005 and another hearing of a previous case against Ms. Jamsheer is scheduled for the 5th of October 2005.

We believe that the concerns voiced by Ms. Jamsheer and by the CWP regarding family laws in Bahrain should be debated within the community and addressed by the Bahraini government. We are confident that any opinions expressed were in the spirit of constructive dialogue with the aim of enhancing the principles of democracy, equality and justice in Bahrain.

The legal action against Ms. Jamsheer is a reversal of the positive political and constitutional reforms currently taking place in Bahrain, and is an attempt to prevent the establishment of political, social and civil rights for Bahraini women.

We are concerned that the legal action against Ms. Jamsheer will silence women’s voices and discourage their participation in the debate around family laws in Bahrain. This will weaken the women’s reform movement and also put psychological and legal pressure on all people who call for the protection of women’s rights, human rights and freedom of expression. The legal actions against Ms. Jamsheer are violations of the freedom of expression and will prevent much needed debates in Bahraini society. They are also obstacles to the contribution of women towards the building of a better society.

We are confident that you will use your authority to recognize and support women’s participation in a public debate about issues which affect all Bahraini citizens. We therefore urge you to use your authority to have the case against her withdrawn immediately. We also urge you to amend laws which criminalize and suppress public criticism and opinions.

We further urge you to address the concerns of CWP in relation to family laws in Bahrain, and accept demands for the reform of Shari’a Family Courts and the codification of one family law based on principles of equality and justice for all Bahraini citizens.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Yours sincerely,

The Embassy of Bahrain in your country

The Royal Council
His Majesty the King, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain
Fax: +973-17664587

Crown Prince Council
Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain
Fax: +973-17664587

Vice-President of the Supreme Council for Justice
Sheikh Khalifa Rashed Al-Khalifa
Fax: +973-17535852

Minister of Justice
Mr. Mohammed Ali Al Sitri
Fax: +973-17531284

The Head of the Council of Ministers
His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa
Fax: +973-17211363

Please send copies of your letters/messages to

UPDATE: Canada: McGuinty rejects Ontario's use of Shariah law

Many thanks to all of you who responded to this call for action and made your voices heard.

UPDATE: Iraq: Protect Iraqi women's rights in the new Iraq Constitution

WLUML urges you to continue writing to the Iraqi authorities, insisting they listen to Iraqi women's demands for a constitution that secures the rights and liberties of all Iraqi people and especially of Iraqi women.
Action needed: 
A copy of the message sent by WLUML to the Iraqi Authorities follows below.

For the Chair of the Constitutional Drafting Committee
For Mr. Hamam Hamoudi
Chair of the Constitutional Drafting Committee

We are writing to express our deepest concern regarding the drafts of the Iraqi future constitution released by the Constitutional Committee and its implication for women’s right in Iraq. We strongly urge you to address the concerns raised by Iraqi women's groups and to use your authority to protect Iraqi women’s rights and to oppose the passing of any proposal that ignores or diminishes women’s rights.

Iraqi women’s groups have expressed particular concern regarding the draft chapter on Duties & Rights, in which the ‘principles of Shariah’ have been stated as the main source of legislation. Drafts also acknowledge the equal rights of women with men in all fields, but on condition that this does not contradict with the ‘principles of Shariah’.

Another major concern is the article that requires court cases dealing with personal status matters (such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc..) to be judged according to the law practiced by the person’s sect or religion.

Women’s groups in Iraq are worried that this decision threatens the 1959 Iraqi Law of Personal Status, which has long been considered one of the most progressive family laws in the Middle East.

We strongly agree with the analysis of Iraqi women’s group that the concerned articles will have negative effects on Iraqi society and will mean withdrawing rights that have been guaranteed to Iraqi women for many decades. Inequality in the family obstructs national development.

Furthermore, in WLUML’s experience, conditioning equal rights for women on such sweeping and undefined grounds will create huge problems for women, particularly obstructing their rights within the family.

It is also WLUML’s experience that making religious principles the main source of law only leads to endless conflicts around which form or interpretation of Muslim laws should apply.

Any proposal to replace Iraq's Personal Status Law for Muslims with ‘Shariah as interpreted by each sect’ will threaten the fabric of Iraqi society. It will establish sectarianism as an organizing principle of social and political life in Iraq, and will deeply damage the cause of national integration. Moreover, it will introduce legal chaos, as there are differences even within the various sects regarding interpretations of Muslim laws.

We share Iraqi women’s concerns that the draft suggests to drop or phase out a measure enshrined in the interim constitution requiring that women make up at least a quarter of parliament.

The proposed constitution is a major retreat from the gains achieved by Iraqi women in past decades, this includes a threatened regression from international treaties already signed or ratified by Iraq.

We urge you to use your authority as the chairman of the Constitutional Drafting Committee to protect Iraqi women’s rights and to oppose the passing of any proposal that ignores or diminishes women’s rights.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Yours sincerely...
Please send your letters to:

Mr. Hamam Hamoudi
Chairman of the Constitutional Drafting Committee, Iraq

Mr. Jalal Talabani
President, Iraq

Mr. Ibrahim al-Jaafari
Prime Minister, Iraq

Mr. Hajim al-Hassani
Head of the National Assembly, Iraq

Please send a copy of your letters to:

Women’s Leadership Institute:
Iraqi Women’s Network:
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML):
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