[empower] women’s activism

Dear Kenneth Roth,

In your Introduction to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2012, “Time to Abandon the Autocrats and Embrace Rights,” you urge support for the newly elected governments that have brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Tunisia and Egypt. In your desire to “constructively engage” with the new governments, you ask states to stop supporting autocrats. But you are not a state; you are the head of an international human rights organization whose role is to report on human rights violations, an honorable and necessary task which your essay largely neglects.

When the topic of “taboos” surfaces in our region, what immediately comes to mind are all issues related to sexu- ality. Then the question becomes, “whose responsibility is it to address such taboos?” My answer: all of us, yours and mine together.

Alieh Eghdam Doust, women’s rights activist was released from prison today on January 8, 2011 after serving a three year prison term. Alieh was sentenced to serve three years in prison after she was arrested on June 12, 2006 along with nearly 70 other protesters in Haft-e Tir Square, during a protest demanding equal rights for women. Alieh was subsequently tried in Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Courts, on charges of acting against national security and sentenced to 3 years and four months in prison and 20 lashes.

Le 11 avril 2011, le gouvernement tunisien de transition a voté une loi révolutionnaire qui institue la parité totale et l’alternance obligatoire des candidats masculins et féminins sur toutes les listes lors de la prochaine élection de l’Assemblée constituante. L’AWID s’est entretenu avec Radhia Bel Haj Zekri, Présidente de l’AFTURD (Association des Femmes Tunisiennes pour la Recherche et le Développement) sur la signification de cette loi pour les femmes et leurs droits en Tunisie.

On April 11, 2011 the Tunisian transitional authorities ruled on a gender parity law, requiring equal numbers of women and men as candidates in the upcoming Constituent Assembly election. AWID interviewed Radhia Bel Hak Zekri, President of the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development (AFTURD), on the significance of this law for women and women’s rights in Tunisia.

مضى أكثر من ست سنوات ولم نشهد من حينها بحثاً أو مراجعة للموقف الشرعي من قضية قيادة المرأة السيارة! على رغم الضرورة والحاجة الملحة في مراجعة وإيضاح الموقف الشرعي والتي كان من المفترض أيضاً أن تكون سابقة لذلك الوقت، ولعلي أشير هنا إلى ما ذكره مدير إدارة البحوث والدراسات في مجلس الشورى الدكتور حمد العسعوس حين قال: كنا في زيارة لبلجيكا بمعية وفد من مجلس الشورى برئاسة رئيس مجلس الشورى آنذاك وعضو هيئة كبار العلماء الشيخ محمد بن جبير - رحمه الله – وأثيرت قضية قيادة المرأة السعودية السيارة، وحينها اندفع أحد أعضاء المجلس ضد مبدأ قيادة المرأة، وبرر موقفه بأن هناك فتوى صادرة من هيئة كبار العلماء بتحريم قيادة المرأة السيارة، فرد عليه الشيخ ابن جبير قائلاً: فتوى التحريم لم تصدر عن هيئة كبار العلماء. وإنما أصدرها عالم واحد، وكانت عبارة عن ردة فعل للمظاهرة التي حدثت في الرياض وأضاف قائلاً بأن ركوب المرأة بمفردها مع السائق الأجنبي أخطر عليها من قيادتها السيارة بنفسها».

In high heels and head scarves, a small band of Afghan women took to the streets of the country's capital, Kabul, on Thursday to protest harassment by men in public places. Carrying signs, that read "This street also belongs to me" and "We won't stand insults anymore" the 20 or so women -- and some men marching in solidarity -- protested being abused, groped and followed on the city's streets. Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative country, with heavy cultural and social restrictions on women's freedoms, even though the ouster of the hardline Taliban nearly a decade ago brought huge improvements in their legal rights.

Between June 14 and June 23, 2011, a delegation of 11 scholars, activists, and artists visited occupied Palestine. As indigenous and women of color feminists involved in multiple social justice struggles, we sought to affirm our association with the growing international movement for a free Palestine. We wanted to see for ourselves the conditions under which Palestinian people live and struggle against what we can now confidently name as the Israeli project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Each and every one of us—including those members of our delegation who grew up in the Jim Crow South, in apartheid South Africa, and on Indian reservations in the U.S.—was shocked by what we saw. In this statement we describe some of our experiences and issue an urgent call to others who share our commitment to racial justice, equality, and freedom.

The enormous role of women in the uprisings in the MENA region is undisputed. They faced verbal and physical abuse, violence, arrest and death just as their male counterparts. The transformation of these countries has been groundbreaking, and their participation is as important as ever. After the dust of the battle settles, will Arab societies remember to include women in the rebuilding of their countries?

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