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WLUML Newsletter 11

WLUML Newsletter 11

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Published by: ellykilroy on Feb 09, 2011
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 WLUML /NEWSLETTER
 WINTER 2011
Solidarity for women’s rights in Pakistan during the 16 Days of Activism – see p4 for more.
 WLUML /
Asia Bibi, a Christian woman and
mother of ve, was sentenced to deathin November 2010 for blasphemy inPakistan, the rst conviction of its kindfor a woman. Ms Bibi was accused by agroup of female Muslim labourers whocomplained that she had made derogatorycomments about the Prophet Mohammed.The Governor of Punjab, SalmaanTaseer, supported Ms Bibi and askedfor a presidential pardon for her. He wasmurdered on 3 January 2011 by his ownbodyguard for what is thought to be hispublic support for Ms Bibi. His murderer was hailed as a hero, not only by religiousfundamentalist elements of society butmany others including lawyers whogarlanded him when he appeared in court.Sherry Rehman, aPakistan People’s Party(PPP) parliamentarian, who submitted abill in December 2010 seeking to repealor at least review blasphemy laws,with proposed amendments includingconsideration of the intent of the accused,must now fear for her life.Blasphemy laws in their current draconianform are very different from their originalform in the Indian Penal Code, under whichdamaging or deling a place of worship or a sacred object was deemeda criminal act. Pakistan’s Criminal Codeextended the ambit of the law by addingsections that dealt with enraging religiousfeelings in the people and deling theQur’an.However, it was under the Islamisation of Pakistani society and the military dictator,Zia ul Haq, that a section was inserted inthe Criminal Code to criminalise defamationof the Prophet Mohammad, and makeit punishable by life imprisonment. Ziaadded the death penalty as an optionfor this conviction. Nawaz Sharif, Zia’sprodigy, made death mandatory in 1990 for punishment under this section.Since 1986, blasphemy law has somehowbecome a rallying point for Islamistsand Muslim vigilantes, who oppose anyamendment to the law with threats of anarchy. When Sherry Rahman proposedher bill on blasphemy laws,thousandsrallied across the country, calling for ‘jihad’and pledging to sacrice their lives toprotect the honour of the holy Prophet
Mohammad.
Mullahs and religious leaders haveused skewed interpretations of Islam toestablish their personal power and controlover society since the creation of Pakistan.They have therefore leveraged allopportunities to garner support for religion-based laws in Pakistan. Religion has alsobeen used by leaders across the politicalspectrum to further their political power.Leaders like Zia, Nawaz Sharif and evenBhutto and Zardari have promulgatedor supported retrogressive laws like theHudood Ordinances, legislation declaringthe Ahmadis to be non-Muslims, andNizam-e-Adl legislation (April 2009)
 
that
formally established
shari’a
law in theMalakand division and would have led to‘Talibanisation’ of the region. Support fromleaders who were not particularly inclinedto the conservative ideology forming thebasis of these laws demonstrates thepolitical utility of religion and the extentof the hold of militant religious groups in
Pakistan.
Individuals and groups have also usedlaws like the blasphemy law for personalgains and private vendettas. According
to
the Independent Human RightsCommission of Pakistan (HRCP), theallegations of blasphemy tend to be“premeditated”, levied against others for reasons of personal enmity, economicrivalry or political motivation.However, the citizens of Pakistan havehistorically not supported militant or conservative Islamic groups in public pollsand have condemned unfair legislationlike the
hudood 
laws that punish thevictims of rape. Thousands of lawyerscame forward to defend a misinformednotion of blasphemy and its punishment.It is ironic that 500 lawyers signed up todefend Taseer’s killer while none of themprotested the killing of 32 victims accusedof blasphemy since 1986. Many of thesevictims had been acquitted by courts andothers were killed in horrifying incidents of vigilante justice, even within jails.Women’s rights have generally beenperceived as a Western issue and contraryto Pakistani culture and tradition. It hastherefore been an uphill battle to ensurethat women’s rights to equality and non-discrimination are understood as partof all fundamental human rights. Theextreme and almost universal support of misinformed notions of blasphemy showsthe level of religious intolerance prevalentin society. This coming together of peoplefrom across society including so-calledmoderate Pakistanis raises serious doubtsabout the future of human rights andespecially women’s rights in Pakistan.
Fauia Viar 
IN THIS ISSUE
02 /
Editorial
 
03 /
Solidarity
04
 
/
 
Campaigns
05
 
/
Women’s Empowerment andActivism
08
 
/
News from Networkers
10
 
/
Reviews
11
 
/
Events and Announcements
BLASPHEMY LAW AND WOMEN’SRIGHTS IN PAKISTAN
01
 
EDITORIAL
Overseeing the co-ordination of WLUMLhas been among my most rewardingactivities in recent years. The challengeswere massive for an organisation of thisnature, but exciting. It took hard workand good spirit to maintain relationshipsacross continents. We have to preserveand strengthen the analytical skills andsolidarity of the members of the network,and expand our collective actions.Our discussions on the interweavingof cultures, religions and politics haveallowed us, despite the diversity andcomplexity of our historical, cultural,economic and political contexts, anddespite some controversies, to developstrategies tailored around the samefeminist ambition: the human rights of women and those of communities.Our solidarity was manifested in all forms:appeals against violations of fundamentalrights; support of our allies threatened intheir freedom of conscience and speech;petitions against unjust laws in thename of religion or coercive measureson women’s bodies in the name of indecency; campaigns against all formsof violence; support for legal reforms,and many others. This moral and politicalsolidarity is essential in resistance to allfundamentalisms that overwhelm us.I thank my wonderful team at the ICO:Aisha Lee Shaheed, Giulia Girardi, ChiaraMaurilio, Anthonia Onwordi, Eleanor Kilroy,Johanna Heden, Roya Rahmani, LidiaNoronha, Shaina Greiff, Nandita Dutta andSara Yasin; and all volunteers who havegiven their time so generously. To AneelaMajid, who has taken over the reins, I saythank you and wish her good luck.
Fatou Sow
Firstly, a big thank you to Fatou and Aishafor the time they spent with me at theICO and their patience with a WLUMLnovice. The ICO team has been terricin helping me to understand the work of the organisation. Coming to my role of Fundraising and Resource Coordinator from outside the network, I know I have asteep learning curve.A bit of background: I was born, raisedand educated in the UK. I am of Pakistanidescent and have a ne arts education.After 10 years of studio practice, I decidedagainst being a starving artist. This ledto 11 years of working in the UK charitysector, in organisations concernedwith Asian women, homelessness anddisability; I am currently Chair of a Hindu/Muslim charitable organisation.Some upcoming issues for the year: Thedecision for WLUML to apply to becomea UK charitable organisation and t withinthe more regulated framework of theUK charitable model will denitely moveWLUML towards institutionalisation.Although it may be a difcult transition, I dobelieve the benets of these changes willspeak for themselves in time.The start to this year also brings with ita real and urgent need to fundraise for WLUML operations. We have a fundraisingcommittee due to meet shortly; if you wouldlike to join it or have suggestions, your experience and support is very welcome(please email me at: aneela@wluml.org).So, in summary, we may be lookingforward to a period where the line, “Hangon to your hats, we may be in for a bumpyride” applies... but not for long.
Aneela Majid
/ WLUML
I have held WLUML in high regard since Iwas a teenager when I read the materialpublished by the network, which resonatedwith me very deeply. It was tremendouslyinspiring to learn there was a collective of women’s rights defenders that transcendsnational, cultural, religious and professionalboundaries in shared struggles for justice.After working for a year at the RegionalCoordination Ofce for Asia, I learned moreabout the different ways in which WLUMLworks: through publications, networking,campaigning and more.It was a privilege to join the InternationalCoordination Ofce in 2007 and duringmy time here, as CommunicationsOfcer and as Deputy Coordinator, Ihave learned a great deal and madelong-lasting connections. From watchingyoung women new to WLUML developinto active networkers to learning fromthe founding generation of the network,I have sought to be one of the bridgesbetween generations and between culturalcontexts. The simultaneous use of differentpolitical strategies and various methods of working is a unique model and despite itschallenges, I believe that the multiplicity of views and beliefs in the WLUML network isone of its key strengths.Though the time has come for me tomove on from the ICO, I wish to extendmy sincere gratitude to my colleaguesand friends over the years, and especiallyto Fatou Sow, Homa Hoodfar andMarieme Hélie-Lucas for their support andinspiration. I look forward to remaining anactive WLUML networker and continuingour shared journey towards unconditionalrights for all women.
Aisha Lee Shaheed
CHANGINGPERSONNEL ATTHE WLUML ICO
Greetings from Aneela Majid(centre) who joins the team, andfarewells as Fatou Sow (left) and
Aisha Lee Shaheed (right) reect
on their time at the International
Coordination Ofce
02
 
SOLIDARITY
TUNISIA / WOMEN’SDEMANDS FOREqUALITY
January 2011:
Excerpt from a
manifesto:
“We, Tunisian women, express bothpride in this revolution that belongs to allTunisians and a determination that wewill not be dispossessed… The Tunisianwoman is a modern woman who activelyparticipates in the political, social andcultural development of the country. It is,therefore, imperative that these reformsare committed to the separation of religionand politics, and guarantee equalityand the rights of all Tunisians, male andfemale, to an emancipated and digniedpolitical and social life.“The current political scene is unstable,and negotiations are underway for therecognition of all the political parties thatwill make their demands. We, therefore,express our reservation in relation to theintegration into the political landscape of religious movements or totalitarian andsectarian ideologies in the absence of aconstitutional reform that guarantees theseparation of politics and religion.”Read full text (in French) at:
http://tinyurl.com/6hh326l
EGYPT / A CALLTO FEMINISTSISTERS WORLDWIDE
February 2011:
“On 25 January 2011,a revolution began… Something thatimpressed me in this revolution, that mademy dreams came true: I saw a feministmovement united, powerful and engaging inthe political situation, a historical precedent.We are united for one cause, regardless of ideology, generation or political afliation.Women showed a great example… in thefront lines: co-ordinating, strategising andimplementing. As my dear friend, MoznHassan, said, we fought in the public andprivate realm to claim our rights, and this isthe core of our feminist struggle. A day willcome when we will tell the glorious storiesof the Egyptian people. We will prove thatno matter how long injustice prevails, oneday it will always come to an end.“Finally, I am writing this piece before theFriday of Departure, which will be a crucialday in the history of our nation. I call uponfeminist sisters all over the world to showtheir solidarity, support their fellow Egyptianwomen, and scandalise this brutal regime.In solidarity we believe and for liberty welive. Long live the Egyptian people!”
Fatma Emamwww.wluml.org/node/6926
GAMBIA / TRIALCONTINUES OF WHRD’S ISATOUTOURAY ANDAMIE BOJANG-SISSOHO 
January 2011:
Isatou Touray andAmie Bojang-Sissoho are, respectively,the Executive Director and Program
Coordinator for the Gambia Committee for 
Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP), andhave for many years been active in thepromotion of gender equality, and rightsof women and children, particularly in theght against female genital mutilation andother discriminatory practices.In May 2010, the Presidency set up acommission of investigation into theallegation that GAMCOTRAP had beenmismanaging donor funds from anorganisation called Yolocamba Solidaridad.The Coalition for Human Rights inthe Gambia states that “After carefulinvestigation, the various reports anddocuments, the Committee had concludedthat allegations of abuse were unfounded.But, after presenting her ndings, thecommission was dissolved and some of its members dismissed by the Gambiangovernment. A second committee was thenestablished, but while the GAMCOTRAP[was] awaiting the conclusions of thissecond investigation, the two women werearrested and imprisoned.”Dr Touray and Ms Bojang-Sissoho werereleased on bail on 20 October 2010, andtheir trial continues. Call for the fair trialof Dr Isatou Touray and Ms Amie Bojang-Sissoho.
www.wluml.org/node/6883
IRAN / SHIVA NAzAR AHARI’SFOUR-YEAR SENTENCE IS FINAL,SAYS LAWYER
January 2011:
Shiva Nazar Ahari was twice arrested after the 2009 Iranian presidentialelection. She was rst arrested by security forces on 14 June 2009. She was released on13 October 2009 on bail of $200,000, but arrested again on 19 December 2009. Branch36 of Tehran Appeals Courts acquitted Ms Nazar Ahari from charges of “assembly andcollusion against the regime”, reducing her sentence to four years in prison, and alsochanged her exile location from the township of Izeh to one of the prisons in Karaj. MsNazar Ahari, 26, a human rights activist and university student, was temporarily releasedfrom prison on bail of $500,000 on 12 September 2010. In her lower court on 4 September 2010, she had been sentenced to six years in prison, exile to Izeh and 74 lashes.
www.wluml.org/node/6881
 WLUML /03

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