International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day
They say that the Saudis aren’t serious about fighting terrorism, but once again the Kingdom shows its commitment to standing on the front lines against the lethal Jihad of… women driving cars.
Two Saudi women detained for nearly a month after they defied edicts that prohibit women from driving were referred on Thursday to a court established to try terrorism cases, several people close to the defendants said.
The Specialized Criminal Court, to which their cases were referred, was established in the capital, Riyadh, to try terrorism cases but has also tried and given long prison sentences to a number of human rights workers, peaceful dissidents, activists and critics of the government.
Well it’s not like there are any terrorists for them to try. The terrorists are just sent to “rehab” where they live a posh lifestyle and listen to Islamic lectures before being described rehabilitated.
But now those women drivers are dangerous.
Thirty-three men have been arrested in a night-time police raid on a Cairo bathhouse for alleged “debauchery”, a security official said on Monday.
Homosexuality is not specifically banned under Egyptian law, so they were arrested in connection with the offence of debauchery instead.
If tried and convicted they could face lengthy prison terms.
“The police arrested 33 men on Sunday night from a common public bathhouse in the Azbakeya neighbourhood of Cairo for practising debauchery,” General Ali al-Demerdash, head of the Cairo security directorate, said.
He told AFP that the arrests came following an order from the prosecutor general.
Defendants in similar cases in the past have been charged with debauchery and “scorning religion.”
In November, a Cairo court sentenced eight men to three years in jail for “inciting debauchery and offending public morality” after video footage of an alleged gay marriage went viral on the Internet.
Indonesia’s national police were urged Tuesday to halt virginity tests for women applying to join the force in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country with Human Rights Watch saying the practice was harmful and humiliating.
The rights group said women applicants are required to be both unmarried and virgins, and the virginity test is still widely used despite the insistence of some senior police officials that the practice has been discontinued.
In a series of interviews with HRW, young women — including some who underwent the test as recently as this year — described the procedure as painful and traumatic.
The women told how they were forced to strip naked before female medics gave them a “two-finger test”, to see if their hymens were intact, a practice described by HRW as archaic and discredited.
“I don’t want to remember those bad experiences. It was humiliating,” said one 19-year-woman who took the test in the city of Pekanbaru, on western Sumatra island, and whose identity was not disclosed.
“Why should we take off our clothes in front of strangers? It is not necessary. I think it should be stopped.”
Nisha Varia, associate women’s rights director at HRW, described the tests as “a discriminatory practice that harms and humiliates women.
“Police authorities in Jakarta need to immediately and unequivocally abolish the test, and then make certain that all police recruiting stations nationwide stop administering it.”
The tests contravene the police’s own guidelines on recruitment and violate international human rights to equality, non-discrimination and privacy, HRW said.
Police spokesman Ronny Sompie said a “comprehensive health test” was carried out on all applicants, and officials wanted to ensure that candidates were free from sexually transmitted diseases.
He said the discovery that a woman was not a virgin did not necessarily mean she would fail the application process.
However HRW said that a posting on the police’s own website this month noted that female applicants must be virgins.
National Police High Commissioner Sri Rumiati told the rights group that colleagues had opposed her calls in 2010 to stop the tests and asked: “Do we want to have prostitutes joining the police?”
Women currently make up about three percent of the 400,000-strong force, HRW said, but added the police had launched a drive to increase the number of female officers.
Society is deeply conservative in parts of Indonesia and some still value female virginity highly.
The issue hit the headlines last year, when the education chief of a city sparked outrage by suggesting that teenage schoolgirls should undergo virginity tests to enter senior high school.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan appears to be vying with a few other nations (also Islamic) for the title of most egregious human rights violator in the world. Much of the evil perpetrated is the fault of the country’s blasphemy laws, part of Pakistan’s Penal Code, that have victimized both Christians and Muslims. The long, drawn-out persecution and oppression of Pakistani Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi, sentenced to die under those egregious laws is just business as usual for Pakistan. But the November 4, 2014 torture and burning to death of a young Christian couple near Lahore has been called “the worst religiously-motivated hate crime in Pakistan’s history.”
That is saying something, in a nation where Christians are commonly treated like second-class citizens – if not animals, where mobs of extremists have attacked Christian villages forcing the residents to flee or die, and where the small minority of courageous Muslims who stand up for Christians also become victims of the enraged. But it is hard to imagine anything more horrific than the murder of Sajjad Masih and his pregnant wife, Shama Bibi, the parents of four children. Accused of “desecrating the Koran,” the couple was held in a room next to the brick kiln where they were bonded laborers while the local mosques worked up the usual suspects, some accounts say 2,000, some say as many as 4,000. The Muslim mob dragged the couple outside, beat them, broke their legs so they could not get away, and threw them – still alive – into the kiln’s furnace.
Disturbingly, the same, or a similar fate, could await Asia Bibi, if Pakistan’s Supreme Court should overturn her death sentence. Her only hope would be to immediately flee the country with her family. Not sure what hope there would be for any Supreme Court justices who might pardon her. The High Court in Lahore did not venture into justice, most probably because they knew the repercussions they would face from Muslim “mobs.” Along with other religious freedom activists and human rights organizations we are outraged over the October 16, 2014 decision to uphold the death penalty against Bibi, who has been on death row for four years on the blasphemy charge. Bibi is the only woman this century to have been condemned to death for blasphemy. She also has a price on her head, offered by a radical Muslim cleric who is encouraging Pakistan’s Taliban to “finish her.”
What was the terrible crime for which Asia Bibi was arrested in June 2009? While picking fruit in a field, she stopped to get a drink of water from a nearby well. She offered a drink to another woman, but one of the Muslim women workers screamed that she was “contaminating” water that belonged only to Muslims. The situation escalated. Bibi was accused of making derogatory statements against Islam’s prophet Mohammed and dragged before the village imam. She was attacked and brutally beaten by a mob of outraged Muslims. Then she was thrown into prison where she has suffered from abuse, including more beatings by other prisoners as well as by guards. She now faces hanging unless charges against her are overturned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Meanwhile, her husband, Ashiq Masih, and their children are in hiding.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws prescribe the death penalty for both desecration of the Qur’an (Section 295-B) – hence the justification for the vile crime perpetrated against Christian couple Sajjad and Shama (first names, to distinguish between the two women named “Bibi”) – and blasphemy against Islam’s prophet Mohammed (Section 295-C). The law is inspired by Sharia law and has been entrenched in Pakistan for years. According to the very brave Pakistani activists campaigning to end the abuse of the blasphemy laws, “the draconian Blasphemy Law is used for the miscarriage of justice; it is exploited ruthlessly by fanatics to settle scores with rivals and by religio-political parties to gain political leverage over administrative apparatuses.”
Muslim radicals have often threatened, attacked, and even killed blasphemy suspects and their family members, although nothing like what was done to Sajjad and Shama on the trumped-up charge of burning Koranic pages. In almost every case, suspects who have been acquitted have had to flee the country with their families. Islamists have also threatened and attacked lawyers, judges and police for defending or acquitting the suspects. As hinted at earlier, activists believe that the Lahore High Court judges may have rejected Bibi’s appeal out of fear for their own lives. Many of the Islamists demanding angrily Bibi’s execution were present in the courtroom. Such extremists have even killed politicians that called for the reform of the blasphemy laws.
Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, opposed the blasphemy laws and defended Asia Bibi. He was murdered on January 4, 2011, shot 27 times by his own body guard, Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri, for his outspoken defense of Bibi and condemnation of the misuse of the blasphemy laws. Qadri was celebrated as a “hero” by the Pakistan Taliban and other Islamists. In contrast, when Asia Bibi heard of Taseer’s death, she “wept inconsolably” and a prison source reported that she repeated, “That man came here and he sacrificed his life for me.”
Then on March 2, 2011, our own friend, Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet, was also killed for speaking out against the law and for Bibi. The cowardly gunmen (later the Taliban claimed credit for the murder) ambushed him just outside his mother’s home in Islamabad and riddled his car with bullets. In a video recorded just a few months before his assassination and released to the media after he was murdered, Bhatti, the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs said, “When I am leading these campaigns against the Sharia laws, for the abolishment of blasphemy law and speaking for the oppressed, marginalized Christians and other minorities these Taliban threaten me. … I am living for my community and suffering people, and I will die to defend their rights.”
In a soon-to-be-released book by one of us, (Darara Gubo) entitled Blasphemy and Defamation of Religions in a Polarized World: How Religious Fundamentalism is Challenging Fundamental Human Rights (Lexington Books, December 16, 2014), the danger of the blasphemy laws to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to life of those accused of violation like Asia Bibi and so many others is described in detail. Pakistan and other member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have made efforts to introduce internationally binding agreements to protect Islam and Mohammed from blasphemy. Such agreements would violate universal human rights and would make it even more of a nightmare for anyone charged with blasphemy.
The bid for an international protocol against defamation of religions has faced opposition from Western countries pressured particularly by human rights and religious freedom organizations as well as other activists. But although the OIC has not been able to get this sort of agreement enacted, it has not abandoned its push to protect Islam. In 2011, the United States actually joined Turkey in what was called the “Istanbul Process” to create HRC Resolution 16/18 to “combat intolerance, discrimination and incitement to hatred and/or violence on the basis of religion or belief.” Many believe that by doing this the United States has actually legitimized “the longstanding Islamic campaign at the UN to ban ‘defamation of religion,’ only with different terminology.”
And truly, as the cases of Asia Bibi, Sajjad and Shama, and other Christians and Muslims charged under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws prove, HRC Resolution 16/18 – if it were to become internationally binding – would only aid in the aggressive and abusive use of the blasphemy laws. Actions as innocuous as Asia Bibi’s taking a drink of water from a well that Muslims think is only for them, or of Shama allegedly burning pages of the Koran, could be considered “incitement” to violence.
In the wake of the horrific death of Sajjad Masih and Shama Bibi, we wonder what will become of Asia Bibi as she awaits her last appeal to the Pakistan Supreme Court. Both secular and religious human rights groups have launched petitions and letters on her behalf to bring justice and freedom to this Christian victim of religious persecution. Amnesty International, for example, has over 18,000 signatures so far on a petition to Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Christian organization the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has over 215,000 signatures on their petition to the Pakistani government. We can only hope and pray that Asia Bibi will be freed, and that she and husband, Ashiq Masih, and their daughters will be protected and provided with a place of safety where they can live in peace and freedom.
Faith J. H. McDonnell directs the Institute on Religion and Democracy’sReligious Liberty Program and the Church Alliance for a New Sudan in Washington, DC, and is the author of Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children (Chosen Books, 2007). Find her at email@example.com.
Dr. Darara Gubo leads Their Blood Cries Out, a Birmingham, AL based Christian group that works for the persecuted church, and is the author of Blasphemy and Defamation of Religions in a Polarized World: How Religious Fundamentalism Is Challenging Fundamental Human Rights (Lexington Books, December 16, 2014). Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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“According to the verdict she was sentenced to one year,” her lawyer Alizadeh Tabatabaie was quoted in Iranian media as saying, noting that the judge had shown him the sentence.
But no reason was given for the conviction.
Iranian officials have said Ghavami was detained for security reasons unrelated to the volleyball match. So far she has been held in the capital’s notorious Evin Prison for 126 days.
The “Free Ghoncheh Ghavami” Facebook page where her friends and family campaigned for her release features photographs of her against the slogan: “Jailed for wanting to watch a volleyball match.”
An update on the page on Sunday appeared to corroborate the one year sentence but bemoaned the closed-doors legal process that has prevailed in the case.
“This morning Ghoncheh’s family and lawyer returned empty handed from branch 26 of Revolutionary court,” it said.
“It is not clear to her family and lawyer as to what the current legal basis of her detention is. A fair and just legal process according to Iran’s legal framework is the basic right of every Iranian citizen. Why are these rights not upheld in Ghoncheh’s case?”
Ghavami’s arrest came after female fans and even women journalists were told they would not be allowed to attend the volleyball match at Azadi (“Freedom” in Persian) stadium in the capital.
National police chief General Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam said it was “not yet in the public interest” for men and women to attend such events together. “The police are applying the law,” he said at the time.
Women are also banned from attending soccer matches in Iran, with officials saying this is to protect them from lewd behavior among male fans.