In honour of the determination of people like Algerian TV producer, Aziz Smati, who was shot exactly twenty years ago today, we must support all those who wield song against suicide belt, and wage art against fundamentalism, writes Karima Bennoune
>Using case studies from Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia, China, Bangladesh, Israel and India, Sexuality in Muslim Contexts argues that Muslim religious traditions do not necessarily lead to conservative agendas but can promote emancipatory standpoints. This book is one that should be read by all those interested in sexuality, religion, Islam, or gender, writes Olivia Mason. The wide range of case studies make it suitable for both an academic and general audience while the examples make it a stimulating and accessible read.
Public Statement by the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA)
22nd January 2014
In August 2013, soon after Eid Al Fatah, a young Ethiopian woman was lured to an empty property where she was pinned down and brutally gang raped by a group of seven men. The rape was filmed by one of the participants and then circulated through online social media months later. Since the film became publically available, six of the perpetrators have been arrested by police (on the 15th Jan) as well as the young woman in question (on the 17th Jan). One of the perpetrators, notably the individual that lured the victim, is still unaccounted for despite attempts by police to find him.
Helping women worldwide share their stories and work for change
On the 19th of November 2012 Konda Delphine (Cameroon), Rose Wachuka (Kenya), and WLUML networker Aya Chebbi (Tunisia) started the Voice of Women Initiative (VOW). The main and core essence of VOW was to collect stories from women and about women all around the globe in a bid to inspire and change lives. They then expanded and invested in a website that carried more stories and hosted more contributors.
A short story by Rawa Jelizada, WLUML networker and women's rights activist from Iraqi Kurdistan who participated in WLUML’s training on Political and Public participation in Cairo, December 2013 (where she was introduced to the Stop Stoning Women Campaign)
She was 15, from a zone called Monsterstan, the land of beasts... Eyes chocolate brown and hair night black.
She was in love with the moon. She holds best childhood memories with the moon... As she was swinging under the full silver moon 3 years ago, she swayed back and forth so high that she thought she'd catch the moon. That night she turned 12. Early signs of her chest, the length of her hair and her height forbid her to step outside the door. But the moon, the moon remained her best friend. The swing and the full moon were her last memories in the road ahead her home.
I've always felt that I have an inside voice which guides me and opens my eyes to the kind of things that many other women feel nothing towards and just cope with. I was born in a country which suffers from a hierarchical authority. What makes this worse is that the women inside it are often part of that; they remain neutral or, even worse, support this authority. As women are an integral part in the dilemma, their negativity towards being subjected by men is perhaps the worst part of the equation.
In 2002, a woman by the name of Amina Lawal was sentenced to be stoned to death in Katsina state in Northern Nigeria. The local Nigerian women’s groupBAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights filed an appeal and launched a domestic campaign against the ruling while reaching out to international networks for specific requests. After some high-profile Western women’s rights groups raised the stoning issue internationally, a wave of support for Amina was orchestrated by various groups across the globe, including a flurry of petitions and letter writing campaigns, many of which presented inaccurate informationabout the case. Some protest letters represented negative stereotypes of Muslims, inflaming anti-Muslim sentiments that were already on the rise following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Rather than guiding appropriate action, these negative and inaccurate portrayals about the plight of women, Islam, and Nigerian culture damaged the credibility of local activists and encouraged the threatening, hostile, and violent behaviour of vigilantes. Local Nigerian activists were accused of working with foreign governments and groups to embarrass the country of Nigeria, and some officialsbecame even more committed towards carrying out Amina’s death sentence after receiving various protest letters with Western postage. Although Amina Lawal was eventually released, the local women’s rights activists fighting on the frontlines in the battle to keep her alive were faced with ongoing harassment and repression by State and non-State forces, who continued to accuse them of being Western pawns or puppets, even spies working actively to destroy Islam from within.
She was 34. Born the year that I was. I knew what it meant to be that age, for a woman living in a city and pursuing a career and vibrant social life. One juggled deadlines at work and invitations to wine and cheese soirees, the struggle with self doubts and body image was giving way to a strange but unsettling peace and irreverence, making me wonder if it was the signs of menopause. But I couldn't possible imagine or know what Manorama's life was like. And yet, the news of her passing and the manner in which she was brutally murdered by security forces set me thinking and reading into the life and times of women caught in the web of militarism and violence.
The year was 2004. Thangjam Manorama had been found dead in a field, her body ridden with six bullets including one in the genitals. The forensic report found semen stains on her skirt, suggesting that she may have been raped before she died. She was pronounced a separatist leader who specialised in improvised explosive devices and security forces claimed that she was responsible for several bomb blasts by the People's Liberation Army of Manipur, a revolutionary group that was trained by some of India's neighbours and was fighting for an independent socialist state of Manipur. Her family claimed that she was a peaceful activist, though many journalists privately agreed that she did belong to an underground outfit. She was picked up from her home, without an arrest warrant and was tortured and brutalised before being killed in cold blood. Even if Manorama was guilty, she deserved a process of interrogation, court proceedings and then a jail term. Not a brutal death at the hands of uncouth men in uniform. Her death remains shrouded in controversy even today, with security forces refusing to adhere to norms, refusing to attend court hearings and taking cover under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which insulates them from the mandate of ordinary law.
Reading the stories of women’s rights activists across the world in the 16 Days blog series has been an empowering experience. The experiences of violence, extra-judicial punishments and honour-based abuse taking place in countries such as Yemen, Iraq and Pakistan are humbling and give us an extra appreciation of the relative security and peace we have here in the United Kingdom. However, we hear echoes of the climate of fear described in these blogs in the calls to our helpline from women and men living in towns and cities in this country. Most of our callers are female, but a growing number are from men and boys. Some callers are too scared to say their names, using pseudonyms for weeks until they begin to trust us enough to tell us who and where they really are. Some speak in a whisper, calling from under their bedcovers or behind a locked bathroom door from a secret mobile phone they keep hidden from their family.