In referring to Middle Eastern
cultures, writers and speakers often allude to the Arab, Persian, Turkish etc.
Cultures. What do these terms mean? What do they imply? Are these the true
cultural boundaries in the Middle East?
Human Rights Watch's
Women's Rights Project and Middle East division today deplored the assassination
by suspected Islamist militants of Algerian women's rights activist Nabila
Djahnine. Ms. Djahnine, a thirty-year-old architect who led an organization
called the Cry of Women, was killed on February 15 in Tizi Ouzou, the capital
city of the Kabyle region. According to a February 16 El-Watan report, she was
gunned down by two men in a car as she walked to work.
We are a group of Afghan women and their supporters who live in Pakistan and
Afghanistan. In a country where over 90% of the women and girls are illiterate,
we are a group of women who were encouraged by their families to become
educated. Many of us have university degrees. Many of us previously worked in
Afghanistan as lawyers, engineers, professors and doctors. Now we are working
with NGOs (non governmental organizations), UN agencies and schools. Some of us
are widows. Many of us are the sole support of our families.
Senegal has eight million
inhabitants, 95% of whom are Muslim, with the remainder predominantly Christian.
There are very few animists who formally practice traditional religions. I say
formally because in fact traditional practices are present in the daily life of
all Senegalese, be they Muslim or Christian, because these practices are
profoundly rooted in their cultures.
Soon after the introduction
of Islam to Senegal, Muslims organized into Confreries*. This meant that the
first religious leaders taught Islam according to the tradition of their
Editors note:The work of Prof. Nasr
Abu-Zeid has been subject of concerted attack by fundamentalist groups in Egypt.
He is currently in exile following charges of apostasy brought against him and
the ruling of the Apex court in Egypt ordering his divorce from his wife Dr.
The following extracts from the book "Women in the
Discourse of Crisis" by Prof. Nasr Abu-Zeid have been translated from Arabic by
The discourse over women in
the Arab world is generally discriminatory.
At the beginning of the
women’s emancipation struggle among the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent
access to education and the campaign against Purdah were the main points.
The late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries were
characterized by considerable debate on these issues in the Muslim community,
throughout India. The reform effort by men on behalf of women was sparked by the
considerable progress made by other communities in India and was inspired by
changes taking place in Muslim countries of the Middle East.
The innumerable bans imposed by
Taliban renders everyday life a veritable punishment.
The latest orders for
regulating the life of Afghans came into force yesterday. Their severity reveals
the determination of the Taliban, out to capture the parts of the country that
have so far evaded them.
In Kabul, life has become a
never-ending punishment. Since the enforcement of law on "the commandment of the
good and interdiction of the evil", whose latest measures are applicable as of
yesterday, everything is forbidden. For the Taliban government, gaiety is
We seek to have a large international response
to stress to the Secretary- General the outrage that women feel. We also want to
show our solidarity with our sisters in Afghanistan, who have been asking what
we in the international community are doing to assist them. Therefore, it is
important to have NGOs from as many countries as possible sign-on to this
Today, in Algeria, the execution
and murder of women, foreigners and intellectuals by Muslim extremists have
become systematic. Such typically fascist acts have given rise to feelings of
outrage. Logically, therefore, one would expect that the most lucid would rally
around a struggle against such a political vision or, at the very least, in
defense of the memory of the victims.