Monthly Archives: August 2012

Free Nagla Wafa

Egyptian rights organisations are requesting an investigation and assistance in the case of Egyptian Nagla Wafa who is incarcerated in Saudi Arabia serving a sentence of 5 years and 500 lashes to be carried on her.

By: Alexandra Kinias

Saudi Arabia, the land that had given birth to Wahabism, the rigorous creed of Islam, had evolved over the last century to become one the harshest, inhuman society in the world. Behind the dunes of the Arabian Desert, life had been confined for decades, but with the discovery of oil and with the need for development, this closed nomadic community invited outsiders to live and work.

In a society that is rated by human rights groups as hostile towards its own citizens, expatriates have no choice but to live with stolen rights and freedoms in exchange for the lucrative salaries that are offered to them. Women have to follow the dress code of the natives and cover up in the niqab, no churches, temples or any other places of worship are allowed to be built for non-Muslims, and everyone has to follow the laws of segregation in public.

Egyptian Nagla Wafa was among those who left her homeland seeking a job that would bring better income to secure a comfortable life for her family and good education for her sons. But in a land where adulteress are stoned to death, witchcrafts are beheaded, thieves are mutilated, and outlaws are flogged, the dreams of the wedding planner for a better life ended in a nightmarish experience.

According to an announcement of the Center for Egyptian Legal Women Assistance (CEWLA), that due to a dispute in a business partnership with one of the princesses of the royal family, Wafa was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in jail and 500 lashes on her body. CEWLA, who is seeking the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to release Wafa, announced that follow to her arrest on September 9, 2009, Wafa’s possessions and documents in Saudi Arabia were confiscated.

Because of the influence of her opponent, Wafa was badly treated by the investigator and was denied the right for legal assistance. One June 14, 2001, after nine months in custody, Wafa was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and 500 lashes on her body. Her appeal was denied.

In an interview with Al Ahram newspaper, Yehia Wafa tells the story of his daughter whom he had seen once in the last three years.

According to her father, Wafa’s story started seven years ago when the mother-of-two travelled to Riyadh with her then husband to launch a flourishing career as a wedding planner and flower arrangement expert. Her clients included Saudi elites and members of the royal family. As her business boomed, one of them, a daughter of the king, asked to be her partner.

“Hesitant at first, Nagla later agreed as the princess bought out the shares of my daughter’s other business partner, another Saudi woman,” Wafa’s father told Ahram Online.

Disagreements erupted over managing the business, and while Wafa was in Cairo to attend her brother’s wedding, she was informed that her office in the Saudi capital was raided and that documents and computers were confiscated.

Wafa left to Saudi not anticipating any trouble, but once she was there she was informed that she was banned from leaving the country. Later she was arrested and for a whole month she was unable to communicate with her family the news of her detention.

In fear for their and their daughter’s safety, following threats from the princesses’ lawyer, the family avoided speaking to the media. After three years in incarceration, Wafa is suffering from spinal cord complications as a result of the flogging.

Finally after three years, Wafa’s family was able to hire a lawyer for her. “The Egyptian embassy’s legal advisor has tried more than once to organize power of attorney so that we could get her legal representation but it was almost impossible,” explained Nagla’s father.

As Wafa’s case is attracting public attention, more organizations are requesting an investigation in her case. The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) issued a statement condemning her detention.
“What this Egyptian citizen has been exposed to violates all international human rights charters,” said EOHR head Hafez Abu-Seida.

Abu-Seida further added that the EOHR has sent a letter of complaint to the United Nations outlining Wafa’s situation as well as promising to launch a campaign calling for her release.

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Iran bans women from universities

Copied from The Telegraph

Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi said the real agenda was to reduce the proportion of female students to below 50%

Anger as Iran bans women from universities

Female students in Iran have been barred from more than 70 university degree courses in an officially-approved act of sex-discrimination which critics say is aimed at defeating the fight for equal women’s rights.

By Robert Tait

In a move that has prompted a demand for a UN investigation by Iran’s most celebrated human rights campaigner, the Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, 36 universities have announced that 77 BA and BSc courses in the coming academic year will be “single gender” and effectively exclusive to men.

It follows years in which Iranian women students have outperformed men, a trend at odds with the traditional male-dominated outlook of the country’s religious leaders. Women outnumbered men by three to two in passing this year’s university entrance exam.

Senior clerics in Iran’s theocratic regime have become concerned about the social side-effects of rising educational standards among women, including declining birth and marriage rates.

Under the new policy, women undergraduates will be excluded from a broad range of studies in some of the country’s leading institutions, including English literature, English translation, hotel management, archaeology, nuclear physics, computer science, electrical engineering, industrial engineering and business management.

The Oil Industry University, which has several campuses across the country, says it will no longer accept female students at all, citing a lack of employer demand. Isfahan University provided a similar rationale for excluding women from its mining engineering degree, claiming 98% of female graduates ended up jobless.

Writing to Ban Ki Moon, the UN secretary general, and Navi Pillay, the high commissioner for human rights, Mrs Ebadi, a human rights lawyer exiled in the UK, said the real agenda was to reduce the proportion of female students to below 50% – from around 65% at present – thereby weakening the Iranian feminist movement in its campaign against discriminatory Islamic laws.

“[It] is part of the recent policy of the Islamic Republic, which tries to return women to the private domain inside the home as it cannot tolerate their passionate presence in the public arena,” says the letter, which was also sent to Ahmad Shaheed, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Iran. “The aim is that women will give up their opposition and demands for their own rights.”

The new policy has also been criticised by Iranian parliamentarians, who summoned the deputy science and higher education minister to explain.

However, the science and higher education minister, Kamran Daneshjoo, dismissed the controversy, saying that 90% of degrees remain open to both sexes and that single-gender courses were needed to create “balance”.

Iran has highest ratio of female to male undergraduates in the world, according to UNESCO. Female students have become prominent in traditionally male-dominated courses like applied physics and some engineering disciplines.
Sociologists have credited women’s growing academic success to the increased willingness of religiously-conservative families to send their daughters to university after the 1979 Islamic revolution. The relative decline in the male student population has been attributed to the desire of young Iranian men to “get rich quick” without going to university.

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11-year-old girl married to 40-year-old man

Copied from Christian Amanpour Blog on CNN

By Samuel Burke

Before their wedding ceremony begins in rural Afghanistan, a 40-year-old man sits to be photographed with his 11-year-old bride. The girl tells the photographer that she is sad to be engaged because she had hoped to become a teacher. Her favorite class was Dari, the local language, before she had to leave her studies to get married.

She is one of the 51 million child brides around the world today. And it’s not just Muslims; it happens across many cultures and regions.

Photographer Stephanie Sinclair has traveled the world taking pictures, like the one of the Afghan couple, to document the phenomenon. Christiane Amanpour spoke with Sinclair about a book which features her photographs called, “Questions without Answers: The World in Pictures by the Photographers of VII.”

Amanpour asked Sinclair if the 11-year-old Afghan girl married in 2005, and others like her, consummate their marriages at such an early age. Sinclair says while many Afghans told her the men would wait until puberty, women pulled her aside to tell her that indeed the men do have sex with the prepubescent brides.

Sinclair has been working on the project for nearly a decade. She goes into the areas with help from people in these communities who want the practice to stop, because they see the harmful repercussions.

In Yemen, a similar picture. Tehani and Ghada are sisters-in-law photographed with their husbands, who are both members of the military. Like most of the girls, Tehani didn’t even know she was getting married, until the wedding night. She was six years old.

Tehani describes how she entered the marriage, “They were decorating my hands, but I didn’t know they were going to marry me off. Then my mother came in and said, ‘Come on my daughter.’ They were dressing me up and I was asking, ‘Where are you taking me?’”

The subjects do know they’re being photographed and Sinclair tells them the topic she is working on. She does tell them that there is teen pregnancy in places like the U.S., but for the societies she’s photographing it’s even worse that 13-year-old girls are pregnant and unmarried.

Another one of the photographs Sinclair took is of a Yemeni girl named Nujood Ali. In a rare turn of events, Ali managed to get a divorce at age 10.

“A couple months after she was married, she went to the court and found a lawyer – a woman named Shada Nasser and asked her to help her get a divorce, and she was granted [it],” Sinclair says. “It’s definitely rare and Nujood became kind of an international symbol of child marriage, because she was able to do this. And I think she’s inspired a lot of other girls and other organizations to support these girls, to have a stronger voice.”

Sinclair has documented the practice outside of the Muslim world. In a Christian community in Ethiopia, she captured the image of a 14 year-old girl named Leyualem in a scene that looks like an abduction. Leyualem was whisked away on a mule with a sheet covering up her face. Sinclair asked the groomsmen why they covered her up; they said it was so she would not be able to find her way back home, if she wanted to escape the marriage.

Sinclair travelled to India and Nepal, and photographed child marriages among some Hindus.

A five-year-old Hindu girl named Rajni was married under cover of night: “Literally at four o’clock in the morning. And her two older sisters were married to two other boys,” Sinclair says. “Often you see these group marriages because the girl and the families can’t afford to have three weddings.” In the five-year-old girl’s case, Rajni will continue to live with her own family for several years.

Girls aren’t always the only ones forced into marriage. Sinclair wanted to photograph child marries in India and Nepal, because sometimes the boys entering a marriage are also young. “And often they’re victims just as much of this harmful traditional practice,” she says.

Sinclair told Amanpour that she hopes her photographs would not only highlight the problems to westerners, but also show people in the areas where this takes place that if the girls continue to be taken out of the population to forcibly work at home, that their communities suffer as a whole.

“It’s a harmful traditional practice that is slowly changing. We just want to have it change even faster.”

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Quote of the day: “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”
― Brigham Young

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