We, members of the Senegalese Feminist Forum, would like to express our full support for the Malian people and especially to the women who are woefully underrepresented in these critical moments of the country’s political life.
We also wish to express our concern about the situation of people living in the occupied territories (Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao). International NGOs have withdrawn from the North and the schools are closed. The little information we have about the living conditions of people living in this zone is of multiple violations of human rights and individual freedoms.
Flagrant Violations of Human Rights and Individual Freedoms
We were indignant and alarmed to find that the first act of Ansar Dine (one of the rebel movements, linked to al-Qaeda, which control the north of Mali) was to impose their interpretation of ‘sharia’; (banning watching or playing football, shaving, smoking, watching television, hiring motor-cycles carrying a man and a woman at the same time) – denouncing all these as forbidden by religion. Militias patrolling the various districts of Timbuktu have launched operations against the markets and seized cartons of cigarettes which they burned in front of customers.
The measures taken by Ansar Dine prompted clashes with local people, particularly young people, on the very day they were imposed. On June 5, in Kidal, around 500 women and young men marched while smoking cigarettes in protest against the imposition of ‘Sharia’. While they encountered no resistance from members of Ansar Dine or AQIM, when they arrived in the city centre, the women were attacked. The demonstrations were brutally suppressed and resulted in deaths and many injured.
These measures have also paralyzed all sectors of the economy, because the bulk of occupations were built around tourism and recreation in general (sewing, hospitality, sports, etc.). Women are even more threatened as they come up against the actions of Islamist groups in Mali against the Family Code. Islamist pressure led to the recent cancellation of a Code that respects women’s rights which was adopted by an almost unanimous vote in the National Assembly, and its replacement by a Code too many items of which violate the rights and dignity of women.
We call on women’s organizations and progressive forces in the world, to be alert to attempts to misuse religious texts to serve the political ambitions of a handful of gunmen. In the name of religion, these groups want to impose patriarchal values on people who have already a rich history and culture.
We urge the government of Mali to mobilize the country to recover occupied national territory and to combat fundamentalism and lack of respect for the rule of law and the rights and fundamental freedoms of all women and men (equal rights, right to equal protection of the law, right to life, right to dignity, right to freedom of expression, conscience, opinion, religion …)
Destruction of Cultural Heritage
The Islamists who control Timbuktu have destroyed the city’s “monument of martyrs” which pays tribute to victims of the struggle against the dictatorship of General Moussa Traoré in 1991. They have also desecrated a shrine and continue to attack the priceless cultural heritage of the region, which dates for the most part to the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. Non-religious books were removed from libraries because “Muslims do not need them”. These invaluable books deal with theology, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, music.
Integration of Women in the Peace Process
It is imperative that women be fully involved in the peace process and in decision making, in order to contribute to conflict prevention and management.
The Senegalese Feminist Forum fully supports the actions of women’s groups and civil society in Mali to demand the return to democratic rules.
We would like to recall the commitments made by our State through several international instruments including: the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Solemn Declaration of Heads of State of the African Union on Gender Equality, Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, and 1889 of the Peace and Security Council of the UN, the ECOWAS Charter on Governance, and the Maputo Protocol on Women’s Rights in Africa.
Urgent Measures Needed:
- Give help and assistance to women and girls who are victims of abuse in the occupied areas.
- Ensure the safety of displaced persons (paying specific attention to women and girls)
- Assist by all means at our disposal the resistance movements against fundamentalism in Mali
- Ensure that people’s freedom, severely threatened by the fundamentalist yoke, is respected.
- Maintain a peaceful climate and strengthen the dialogue between all actors
Dakar June 4, 2012
Senegalese Feminist Forum