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.
Despite the fact that there have been national guidelines introduced by the CPS in preventing violence against women, and also training for those who handle such cases, women are still being failed and the issue of victim credibility questioned.