Monthly Archives: October 2010

A Tribute to Aisha Ibrahim Dhuhulow (1995-2008)

By Alexandra Kinias

Blogging hasn’t been always an easy ride for me. The process of researching certain topics sometimes becomes an emotionally traumatic experience. The topic of this particular post was very stressful to research and I have been wrestling with it for quite sometime. It had evoked a wave of feelings inside me that ranged between anger, despair, depression and total helplessness. My simple mind still can’t comprehend how a regime that governs according to any law or creed would sentence a thirteen years old girl to death by stoning. Just the thought of the last terrifying moments of her life makes my heart cringe. I despise how tied my hands are, how useless can one be. I wonder if I am really helping by spreading awareness to these issues or I have just become a ghost of Don Quixote incapable of nothing but to fight illusionary windmills.

Today marks the second anniversary of Aisha Ibrahim Dhuhulow’s death. The young girl’s life ended on October 27, 2008, in front of 1000 spectators who crowded the Kismayu stadium in Somalia to watch her stoned to death. Fifty men from al Shabab militia, the radical Islamist group that control this part of the country and have enforced the Islamic Sharia as the law, carried out the brutal act. Aisha was charged with adultery which according to them is a violation of the Islamic law and is punished by death.

Amnesty International though had another story which was told by Aisha’s father. Three months earlier and on her way from the Hagardeer refugee camp in Kenya to the village of Kismayu Aisha was assaulted and raped by three men. When her father reported the rape to the Shabab militia, instead of looking for the rapists, the girl was detained and charged with prostitution.

The court authorities said that the girl came forward, admitted her guilt and asked to be punished according to the Islamic Sharia law. According to eyewitnesses who were on site, the girl who screamed and pled for her life was dragged and forced against her will inside a hole that was dug in the ground, buried up to her neck and then pelted with stones until she died.

The armed militia guarded the sight and shot at anyone who wanted to help the girl. According to amnesty international, nurses were sent during the stoning to check if the girl was still alive. The nurses removed her out of the hole, checked her vital signs and declared that she was still alive.  The executioners returned her back to the hole and resumed stoning her until she was dead.

And of course the three rapists were never found, never arrested and never charged. As always women are solely responsible for being in these lands.

It is very unfortunate that at this time and age, the world is still unable to stop such brutality. Al Shabab militias are not the only ones who should be held accountable for Aisha’s death.  Our silence makes us all partners for allowing such crimes to still take place. We are no better than the 1000 spectators who gathered in the bleachers to watch her die in the name of religion. I can never understand nor accept that such brutality could be carried out in the name of any God. It is a total disgrace how a bunch of imposters were allowed to interpret the Holy Scriptures according their own self serving interests. What is more astounding is how women are always their victims.

To read more about Aisha’s story check these links:

Stoning victim asked for mercy

Somali fighters stone rape victim


Filed under Violence against women

Daddy Sent His Baby Girl To Jail

By: Alexandra Kinias

Samar Badawi, the thirty years old Saudi woman might not be known for most people in the West. She wouldn’t have been known for anyone who lived beyond the sand dunes of Arabia either, had her name not been circulated by human rights organizations. These organizations intervened for her release from jail which she was sent to without trail for disobeying her father. Yes, in Saudi Arabi when a female doesn’t follow her father’s orders, he has the right to send her to jail. Badawi’s case is neither the first nor shall it be the last, but yet it is a classical demonstration of how women are viewed and treated in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; a vile place for women to be born and live.

Under Saudi law, women must obtain permission from a male guardian – a father, husband, brother or son – to travel abroad, access certain government services or marry.

Badawi who had previously escaped her father’s abuse in 2008 and stayed in a women’s shelter away from his violence sued him in July 2010 to cancel his guardianship for refusing to grant her permission to re-marry after being divorced.  Instead of finding salvation in the legal system, the judge sent her to jail without a trial on the grounds that she had disobeyed her father.

Badawi’s imprisonment had stirred a lot of commotion from women’s activists inside Saudi Arabia and triggered more criticism of the religious governing law of the Kingdom from outside. Such controversies sent urgent messages for the King Abdullah’s personal intervention.

International pressures finally succeeded in releasing Badawi on October 25, 2010 after six months spent in jail without formal charge. Badawi was released by an order of Prince Khalid Al Faisal, governor of Makah region.

Badawi was released from jail and her custody was given to her uncle who became her new guardian.


Filed under Women's Rights

Was Aisha – Youngest Wife of Prophet Mohamed – Really Nine Years Old?

By: Alexandra Kinias

Forcing a woman into marriage is more atrocious than sending an innocent person to jail for life; as some of these women have no chance of parole. What is more outrageous than forcing women into matrimony is forcing minors, as young as eight years old, into marriages. My article “My Deep Condolences for Your Daughter’s Wedding” addressed the issue that minors are forced into marriages in various parts of the world because of cultural and social reasons. However, in some lands such marriages are blessed by religious clerics who licensed this appalling procedure because, according to them, it follows in the footsteps of the Prophet Mohamed who married his wife Aisha at the age of nine.
The subject of Islam and women is a very sensitive issue. In most Muslim societies, the degrading state of women is accepted as part of their belief. Even though it is unjust to women, it can not be refuted or challenged.
However, in the age of satellite and Internet, the distorted views and messages against women, broadcast on television screens by zealot clerics have successfully reached every corner of the globe. These views are stirring enormous clouds of controversies and criticism in the global arena against the religious establishment. Saudi Arabia, the most conservative country in the world, which solely takes credit for the export of the Wahabism ideology, is under tremendous pressure to reform by human rights organizations. The pressure forced King Abdullah to sign a declaration of reform that among its items was to improve the conditions of women.
The battle for reform encouraged intellectual thinkers in the Kingdom to express their critical and opposing views against the religious establishment and to challenge the decisions imposed by the clerics. It came as a surprise to me to read an article by the Saudi writer Saleh Ibrahim where he not only condemned child marriages, but also challenged it. He supported his argument with acknowledging the existence of historical records which provides serious challenges that Aisha, the wife of Prophet Mohamed was at least nineteen years old and perhaps as old as twenty four when the Prophet married her, and not nine years old as it has been presented to Muslims.
The writer concludes the article by saying that [the Saudis] have to re-evaluate what have been written in history books and perhaps [they] will discover that there are those who have enforced obsolete social customs and traditions into the religious practices merely for their benefit. He questions the concept of pedophilia and whether legitimizing it through marriage cleanses it from the crime that is being committed to minors with their father’s consent.
An eight years old girl’s right is being violated when she is forced into marriage even if her father approves. No matter from which angle the situation is looked upon, it still bears rape all over it. However, this article was a small reason for optimism. It proves that there are voices out there that have started to refute, question, challenge and reject the views of religious clerics. Reform of Islam will come from within there is no doubt about that. It may not be a surprise if the issues of the women who have been victimized by its practices trigger this reform.


Filed under Women's Rights

Divorce Laws: Formula For Submission

By: Alexandra Kinias

It was not just humiliation that Rana Shemaly felt when she was brutally beaten by her husband and thrown  into the street in the middle of the night after a confrontation over the extra marital relationship he was having.

“I was raged.” She told me years later. “At moments I feared that my heart would rupture  from anger. It was the most profound experience I ever encountered in my life. It was worse than mourning my mother’s death. I not only felt disgraced, cheated and demeaned, but the feeling of powerlessness over my destiny was devastating.”

With no destination in mind, six months pregnant Shemaly wandered the streets in her nightgown, her vision blurred by her tears; her body ached and her mind numb.  She never thought to go to the police station. Domestic violence in Egypt is rarely reported. It is viewed as a private matter between a man and his wife that doesn’t require police intervention. Abusive husbands are never punished by the law.

A cab driver stopped to help Shemaly. He drove her to her brother’s house at the other side of town and refused to collect fair, after all she had no money with her.

Shemaly returned back two days later to collect her belongings, but couldn’t get into the house. Her husband had changed the lock. When her brother intervened, the husband allowed her to pack only her clothes under his mother and sister’s watchful eyes.  Shemaly didn’t find her jewelry box. Her sister in-law was already wearing one of her bracelets.

Millions of women in Egypt stay in abusive marriages because there is no way out. Those women are victims of a corrupt system that strip them their rights when they choose to terminate a dysfunctional marriage, yet it rewards the abuser. The divorce is a right given only to men. While women battle for years in courts to attain it, their estranged husbands are usually settled in with their second wives.

After years of suffering, the laws in Egypt finally allowed women to divorce their husbands on the condition that they leave behind the community property and return back all money and gifts received during their marriage.

Unfortunately, most of the divorce laws were drafted by men at a time when women were still kept captive in their homes. There is  no doubt these laws are biased in favor of men. Until today women still excluded from participating in the drafting of divorce laws.

Over centuries, men became comfortable with the outcome of these laws that were intelligently drafted to assure women’s submission. Since man-made laws could be objected, debated, altered and repealed, such laws always had a splash of divinity attached to their label to appeal to a wider range of people, attract more supporters and become irrefutable.

Women’s rights organizations in Egypt are not idle. They are working very hard to bring changes to women’s lives. But the resistance is overwhelming.  It is easier to start wars, invade a country or enforce sanctions  on another  than it is to issue a law that protects women’s rights. If a civil law is drafted, theologians always find a line in a forgotten book written a thousand years ago to justify why the law should be repealed.

In July 2010, women’s rights associations in Egypt introduced a draft law that included articles that would bring tremendous changes to the lives of millions of women. This draft included a number of issues that ranged between restricting polygamy, alimony, divorce, child support and wealth sharing.

It should not come as a surprise that loud voices are already objecting it on account that it is not only non-Islamic, but it also depicts Western life styles.  And as Western life styles should never become a role model in Islamic societies, especially in the areas of restricting polygamy and dividing the husbands’ wealth after the divorce, the opposition for this law is growing.

The battle is still long. For it is not the Western life styles that Islamists are really fighting, but how to salvage the formula of submission that their ancestors had invented and has been enforced upon women for centuries.

Rana Shemaly  hopes that such law will soon be drafted so her daughter Zeina who is now in college wouldn’t  face a fate similar to hers.  Zeina who helps her mother with the catering business that she  started after her divorce to support them  never gave up the hope yet that one day she might be able to collect the child support that her father never paid.  She dreams to use it to expand her mother’s business.

The names have been changed for privacy.

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Filed under Women Rights in Egypt