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On February 7, 2010 Gita Sahgal, head of Amnesty International’s Gender Unit, was suspended from her job. This was hours after the publication of an article in The Sunday Times, UK, where she made public her concerns about Amnesty International’s legitimisation of Moazzam Begg, a former Guantلnamo Bay detainee, as a human rights defender. This is not the first time that Amnesty International’s policies towards fundamentalists have been confronted from within and this is not the first time that AI has taken action, drastic action, against those who dare to voice their dissent, even if internally, about such policies.

The intersectionality of freedom of religion or belief and women’s rights is one of the most complex human rights issues faced by the world today. Down through the centuries, religious extremism and interpretation of holy books have shaped traditions and cultural stereotypes in a number of patriarchal societies. Some of these traditions and stereotypes have been detrimental to women, and have survived until the 3rd millennium. By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers.

A landmark U.N. treaty on women’s rights, which will be 30 years old next week, is in danger of being politically undermined by a slew of reservations by 22 countries seeking exemptions from some of the convention’s legal obligations. “A reservation must not defeat the object and purpose of a treaty,” Ambassador Palitha Kohona, a former chief of the U.N. Treaty Section, told IPS.

Comme organisations et comme personnes qui défendons et soutenons l’universalité des droits humains, nous avons constaté avec inquiétude la suspension de Gita Sahgal, qui est à la tête de l’unité genre au Secrétariat international d’Amnistie internationale à Londres, pour avoir remis en question le partenariat d’Amnistie internationale avec des personnalités dont l’attitude politique envers les Talibans est ambiguë.

مثلما هو الحال مع المنظمات و الأفراد المدافعين عن حقوق الإنسان و المساندين لها، سجلنا بقلق تعليق نشاط "جيتا سهغال"، رئيسة وحدة النوع لدى السكرتارية الدولية لمنظمة العفو الدولية"، في لندن، بعد إثارة مسألة شراكة منظمة العفو الدولية مع أفراد ذوي موقف سياسي مبهم إزاء الطالبان

Global Petition to Amnesty International: Restoring the Integrity of Human Rights

As organisations and individuals who stand for and support the universality of human rights, we have noted with concern the suspension of Gita Sahgal, Head of the Gender Unit at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London, for questioning Amnesty International’s partnership with individuals whose politics towards the Taliban are ambiguous.

Respect Universality in Principle and Practice: Defend Women’s Human Rights: As women human rights defenders and members of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC), we note with grave concern the circumstances under which Gita Sahgal, a member of the WHRD IC Executive Committee and head of the Gender Unit of the International Secretariat of Amnesty International (AI), was suspended on the same day that she publicly questioned the specific alliances entered into by AI in its advocacy to defend victims of torture in Guantanamo Bay.

The Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) international solidarity network expresses its solidarity with Gita Sahgal, a longstanding ally of the network who is active in various organisations, collectives, and movements committed to upholding universal human rights. As a feminist, anti-racist activist, filmmaker and researcher, Sahgal has devoted her career to exposing systematic discrimination and rights violations by state and non-state actors in Britain, South Asia and internationally. Much of this work has included rigorous research into transnational fundamentalist movements, and their intersections with human rights, especially those of women. In addition, Gita Sahgal is the Head of the Gender Unit at Amnesty International (AI).

To some it is a symbol of female subjugation. But these women believe that their Islamic headwear is a versatile, liberating way of expressing their identities. Jilbab. Niqab. Al Amira. Dupatta. Burqa. Chador. Even the language used to describe the various kinds of clothing worn by Muslim women can seem as complicated and muddied as the issue itself. Rarely has an item of cloth caused so much consternation, controversy and misunderstanding as with the Islamic headscarf or veil.

Today a Kurdish family hit the headlines after the father of a 15-year-old schoolgirl who disappeared without trace 10 years ago was jailed for a minimum of 22 years after being found guilty of murdering her in a so-called "honour killing". Tulay Goren was killed on 7 January 1999 after falling in love with Halil Unal, a fellow Turkish Kurd twice her age, and running away from home to live with him. Her family disapproved because he was a Sunni Muslim while they were Alevis, a different branch of Islam. Police believe Tulay's body was buried temporarily in the back garden of the family home, but her remains have never been recovered. According to media reports, the family, originally from Elbistan, in south-eastern Turkey, adhered to the code of namus, or honour, practised in many rural communities there.

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