Syria – Extremist group ‘executes’ 15-year-old Syrian boy for heresy


 

Monday, 10 June 2013
The gunmen belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a militant group that started off known as the Jabhat al-Nusra Front, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. (File photo: Reuters)
Reuters, Amman

Members of an Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo executed a 15-year-old boy in front of his parents on Sunday as punishment for what the group regarded as a heretical comment, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Mohammad Qataa was shot in the face and neck a day after being seized, said the pro-opposition monitoring group, which is based in Britain and uses a network of observers across Syria.

“The Observatory cannot ignore these crimes, which only serve the enemies of the revolution and the enemies of humanity,” said the group’s leader Rami Abdulrahman.

A photo released by the Observatory showed Qataa’s face with his mouth and jaw bloodied and destroyed, as well as a bullet wound in his neck.

The Observatory, which based its report on witness accounts of the killing, said Qataa, who was a street vendor selling coffee in the working-class Shaar neighborhood, had been arguing with someone when he was overheard saying: “Even if the Prophet Mohammad comes down [from heaven], I will not become a believer.”

The gunmen, who belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a militant group that started off known as the Jabhat al-Nusra Front, took Qatta on Saturday and brought him back alive in the early hours of Sunday to his wooden stand, with whiplash marks visible on his body.

“People gathered around him and a member of the fighting brigade said: ‘Generous citizens of Aleppo, disbelieving in God is polytheism and cursing the prophet is a polytheism. Whoever curses even once will be punished like this.”

“He then fired two bullets from an automatic rifle in view of the crowd and in front of the boy’s mother and father, and got into a car and left,” the report said.

Abdulrahman said the boy’s mother had pleaded with the killers, whose Arabic suggested they might not be Syrian, not to shoot her son. Qataa’s parents said the youth had taken part in pro-democracy demonstrations in Aleppo.

Since last year, large parts of the city have fallen under the control of Islamist brigades, including the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra Front, as well as other rebel units.

Islamic Extremists Alarm Secular Women in Tunisia #Vaw #Womenrights


By Hajer Naili

WeNews correspondent

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tensions are rising between secular Tunisian women and political Islam. “There is no room for the opposition and women to participate in building the country we want,” says one critic.

Woman at a protest in Tunis, Tunisia.
Woman at a protest in Tunis, Tunisia.

 

Credit: Amine Ghrabi on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0).

(WOMENSENEWS)–“My body is mine, not somebody’s honor.”

Nineteen-year-old Tunisian feminist Amina Tyler wrote these words in Arabic across her breasts and stomach to defy growing Islamism in her country, and then posted topless pictures of herself on the Facebook page of the organization Femen Tunisia.

The images went viral on March 8, International Women’s Day, and unleashed a month of online debate and some calls by Islamic extremists for her to be stoned to death. Tyler went into retreat but last week broke her silence in an interview with the French magazine Marianne.

“My family accepts me, but not my action,” she is quoted as saying in the magazine. “I am tired, I am being given anti-depressants . . . I want to go back to school, I don’t feel free. I want to be free to call my friends again, to go on the Internet.”

Femen and other feminists called for April 4 to be “International Topless Jihad Day,” as it coincides with Tyler’s birthday, the French newspaper Liberation reported.

Tyler is an extreme example, but tensions between secular women and political Islam are growing inTunisia, the birthplace of the Arab uprisings.

On Feb. 6, the high-profile secular Tunisian politician Chokri Belaid was killed in what authorities said was an assassination by Salafi Islamist militants. The slaying collapsed the government of Hamadi Jebali, of the ruling moderate Islamist party Ennahda.

The new government, also led by Ennahda, expresses no outright intention to rule the country according to Sharia, or religious law. But its ability or willingness to control a minority of Salafists who want to impose Sharia and create an Islamic state by violent means if necessary is in doubt.

“There is a pressing problem of insecurity in Tunisia with the birth of militia and armed Salafists who attack people without hearing any reaction from the government,” said Saida Rached, secretary general of theTunisian Association of Democratic Women, a group that was banned under the ousted regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. “Tunisians are starting to suspect the current regime and especially the Ministry of Interior of complicity.”

Increased Fear

Because of the insecurity “women are afraid to go out,” Rached added, recalling a few incidents in which violent Salafists attacked people, including women, who disagreed with their ideas. Rached spoke withWomen’s eNews in March, on the sidelines of the U.N. annual meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women.

The attacks have given Salafists a violent reputation, but the majority of adherents seek to establish an Islamic state through legal means. One apolitical faction takes no interest in the modern state and devotes itself to living as much as possible as the prophet Muhammad and his followers did in the 7th century.

Although women have not lost any legal ground, Rached said they are suffering a “social regression” that began with the start of the global economic crisis in 2008 and worsened after the ousting of Ben Ali.

Islam was the religion of the state under the previous constitution adopted in 1959 and the draft version of the new constitution, now being written, reasserts that. Secularists now wonder whether the official religion will overtake state functions and international treaties that sometimes oppose the cultural norms of conservative Islam.

Last year, an article in a draft version of the constitution expressing the “complementarity” between men and women brought protesters into the streets. The word was eventually dropped and replaced by “equality.” In the latest draft of the constitution, wording about equality between the sexes appears in the preamble, Article 5, Article 7 and Article 37.

Rached draws little comfort from such concessions. “It is still the Islamist party that is in power and decides who should be ministers and how the country should be ruled,” she said “There is no room for the opposition and women to participate in building the country we want.”

On March 29 dozens of angry people in Tunis brandished shoes and demanded the resignation of Sihem Badi,the minister of women’s affairs, for her slack response to the rape of a 3-year-old girl at a nursery in a Tunis suburb. Badi said a member of the girl’s family was to blame and that no measures against the nursery were needed.

Yesterday, a no-confidence motion against Badi was submitted to the Tunisian Parliament. Seventy-eight lawmakers signed the document, exceeding the 73 signatures required for a motion to be discussed. The signatories are demanding the dismissal of Badi from the government.

Polygamy Rumors

Rumors of legalized polygamy recently spread online to the point where a lawmaker named Karima Souid felt compelled to reassure followers on her Facebook page that no such bill had been submitted to the assembly.

Public discussion of female genital mutilation is also on the rise. A few weeks ago, Habib Ellouze, an Ennahda member, sparked outrage after he stated in a newspaper interview that female genital mutilation is “an aesthetic surgery.” The president of the Islamist party Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, expressed his disapproval for such a practice and was quoted in press accounts as saying that it “goes against Islam and that doesn’t belong to the Tunisian culture.”

There is no legal ban on female genital mutilation in Tunisia and the practice is uncommon. Article 17 in the draft of the constitution says “the state shall guarantee the physical and moral sanctity of the human self and shall prevent all forms of physical and/or moral torture.”

“Ellouze’s remarks on the excision are disgusting,” said Sophie Bessis, a research fellow at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations in Paris, in an email interview. “FGM has never really existed in North Africa. Ellouze wants to import a barbaric practice.”

Bessis, author of the 2007 book “Arabs, Women and Freedom,” added that “Tunisia has today a government dominated by conservatives and women are paying the price of it.”

She criticized the current draft of the constitution for continuing to affirm Islam as the official religion. “This might lead to abuses and in particular depending on the interpretation of Sharia,” Bessis said.

In January, Eric Goldstein, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in the Middle East and North Africa, sent a letter to assembly members saying the latest version of the constitution “is more respectful of the freedom of expression and women’s rights than the first draft.” However, he expressed concern about provisions such as judicial immunity for the head of state, lack of sufficient guarantees for the independence of the judiciary and ambiguous formulations that could threaten rights and freedoms.

Bessis said the current draft “is not good neither for women or democracy.”

Hajer Naili is a New York-based reporter for Women’s eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa.

 

4 April 2013: International Day to Defend Amina; she represents us #Vaw #Womenrights


by Maryam Namazie

amina

Today is our day to defend our Amina. The 19 year old Tunisian FEMEN activist whose only “crime” was to post a topless photo of herself saying: “my body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honour” and “fuck your morals”.

Whilst she has done nothing wrong, she has been effectively detained incommunicado by her family with the help of the police, and the latest reports say she has been drugged and beaten.

Amina says though that she has no regrets.

Our beloved Amina, this is for you…

Actions taken and statements made today in support of Amina will be posted here on a regular basis. You can also post any acts in the comments section below or on FEMEN’s Facebook page.

  • There are actions today in Berlin, Bonn, Bremen, Brussels, Frankfurt, Gothenburg, Kiev, London, Malmo, Milan, Montreal, Paris, Rio De Janeiro, San Francisco, Stockholm, Vancouver, Warsaw and more to mark 4 April, the International Day to Defend Amina. (See time and place here.) Many actions have already taken place in the run-up to this day. You can see some of them here or here.
  • 107,000 people have signed the petition in support of Amina; let’s make it 150,000 today!
  • Jaya Gopal, International Coordinator, wrote the “International Committee to Protect Freethinkers stands in support of the Tunisian Amina for her courage and act of protest against the oppressive misogynistic ethos and archaic laws across the globe. We condemn the Islamic cleric Adel Almi for his Fatwa calling for flogging and stoning Amina to death. The cleric deserves immediate prosecution.”
    • Elisabeth van der Steenhoven, Director of WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform (the largest network in Netherlands on women’rights internationally) sent  a message saying they support Amina.
    • Algerian sociologist Merieme Helie Lucas is at a conference in New Delhi today speaking on women using nudity against the Muslim Right as a new form of resistance by women and youth. She will stress the need for solidarity with Amina.
    • Swapna, Convener, writes “Let the world understand that Woman is a Human who has her own body and mind and that she should be respected and loved. The Tunisian Amina is right in posting a topless photo of herself bearing the slogan: ” MY BODY BELONGS TO ME AND IS NOT THE SOURCE OF ANYONE’S HONOR”. Her message is a human protest against a misogynistic inhuman social system. The Islamist cleric Adel Almi’s call for flogging and stoning Amina to death reflects such a system and ethos. Our Scientific Students Federation (SSF) unequivocally stands in defense of Amina.
    • Ligue du Droit International des Femmes, Association créée par Simone de Beauvoir, Regards de Femmes and Femmes Solidaires, Maison des Ensembles submitted this protestCOMMUNIQUE to the Tunisian embassy today in support of Amina; Anne Marie Lizin, honorary president of Belgian senate submitted the same letter to the Tunisian embassy in Belgium.
    • Zari Asli and Lily M prepared this postcard for distribution at rallies and future events.POstcard_FRONT  POstcard_back_other_places.
    • Yesterday, Tunisian Merieme and FEMEN burnt an Islamic flag in front of a mosque in Paris to symbolise women’s fight against Islamism:

IsnRmFk4fG

 

Bangladesh amends war crimes law, mulls banning Islamists


By Anis Ahmed

DHAKA (Reuters) – DHAKA | Sun Feb

Feb 17 (Reuters) – Bangladesh‘s parliament, meeting the demands of protesters thronging the capital, amended a law on Sunday allowing the state to appeal any verdict in war crimes trials it deems inadequate and out of step with public opinion.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators jamming central Shahbag Square for the 13th day burst into cheers amid driving rain as the assembly approved the changes.

The protesters have been demanding the death penalty for war crimes after a tribunal this month sentenced a prominent Islamist to life in prison in connection with Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

The life sentence pronounced on Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant Secretary General of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, for murder, rape and torture had stunned many Bangaldeshis.

The amendment will “empower the tribunals to try and punish any organizations, including Jamaat-e-Islami, for committing crimes during country’s liberation war in 1971”, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said after the change was approved.

Lawyers said the amendment sets a timetable for the government to appeal against Mollah’s sentence and secure a retrial. The previous law did not allow state prosecutors to call for a retrial except in the case of acquittals.

Adoption was quick — less than a week after the amendment was approved by the cabinet in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of 150 million.

OPPOSITION BOYCOTTS PARLIAMENT

Opposition benches were empty as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (the BNP) of former premier Begum Khaleda Zia and its allies have been boycotting sessions almost since her arch rival, Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Awami League, took office in 2009.

The BNP accuses the prime minister of using the war crimes tribunal as a weapon against its opponents. Hasina denies the allegation.

In its first verdict last month, the tribunal sentenced a former Jamaat leader, Abul Kamal Azad, also an Islamic preacher, to death in absentia for similar offences.

Eight other Jamaat leaders, including its current and former chiefs, are being tried by the war crimes court that Hasina set up in 2010 to investigate abuses during the 1971 conflict. Three million people were killed and thousands of women were raped.

The government is facing growing pressure from the protesters to ban Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party, and groups linked to it.

Students and teachers throughout the country hoisted the national flag and sang the national anthem simultaneously to support the demonstrators’ call to put war criminals to death.

Law minister Shafique Ahmed told reporters the government was considering such a ban.

Jamaat activists have called a country-wide strike for Monday, but demonstrators and many shopkeepers have pledged to resist any attempt to enforce such a stoppage.

Demonstrators have shown new resolve after the killing on Friday of one of the protest leaders, a popular blogger.

Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British rule in 1947 but broke away in 1971 after a war between Bangladeshi nationalists, backed by India, and Pakistani forces.

Some factions in what was then East Pakistan opposed the break with Pakistan. Jamaat denies accusations that it opposed independence and helped the Pakistani army.

(Editing by Ron Popeski)

 

I am not LEFT, I am not RIGHT… I am not HINDU, I am not MUSLIM… I am just a Journalist.


My Case: Let the Jury decide

By Syed Hassan Kazim in http://kindlemag.in

2012-08-30

This time I am not going to write about any particular incident and events surrounding it. Because in a journalist’s life, there comes a time when he has to clarify regarding his own belief , principles, ideas and his own prism through which he sees the things happening around him. After writing for a considerable period of time, he is confronted with an avalanche of questions, and attacked from all sides, left, right and the centre. So please bear with me this time, while I write about my understanding of certain things while standing like a culprit in the ‘’ Janta ki Adalat’’ aka, the jury of the masses.

 

In a short journalistic career of 5 years, I have been attacked from each and every side, from many people because some think that I am an advocate of Islamism, which I am totally not. I hate the radicalism prevailing in my own religion as much as I hate the orthodoxy prevailing in the other. The rightists think that I am leftist and the leftists think that I am a rightist. If I write against the crimes of Narendra ‘’ Milesovic’’ Modi,  I am branded as the sympathizer of Al Qaeda. If I pen down something against Al Qaeda and other radicalists and ‘’Lashkars’’ then I am regarded as a ‘’secularist’’.

 

If I speak against the American, Saudi and Israeli bullying tactics against Iran, I am accused of acting as a Shiahaving a sectarian outlook. Despite agreeing to the fact that Bashar Al Asad is an autocrat and can go to any extent to save his regime, if I write against the way American, Saudi and Turkish backed terrorist groups, most of them, Al Qaeda sponsored and trying to create mayhem in Syria , I am branded as some sort of an Iranian agent and most of the people start reminding me about my opposition to the way the uprising in Bahrain was suppressed. Some people try to compare the situation in Syria and Bahrain despite knowing the fact that in Bahrain, America never wanted a regime change while in Syria, US is hell bent on a regime change as per its own choice for the survival of Israel, America’s biggest and most favoured stooge and ally in the Middle East.

 

Back home, If I speak against the policies of the Congress led UPA and the Congress as a whole, I am accused by the supporters of the Congress as someone who doesn’t know about the way Indian democracy and politics work. Some Congress people even tried to portray me as a sympathizer of Anna, despite knowing the fact that I have been in a great disagreement with Anna’s and his team’s way. If I write against Anna and Ramdev, I am accused of being an agent of Congress who is up there to defame the two ‘’ pious’’ people. Even I am asked that ‘’ you , the Muslims only think about the welfare of your own people, no matter in which part of the world they reside and do not give an iota of attention to the condition and welfare of your fellow Indian citizens’’, as if Anna and Ramdev are the sole spokesmen of the Indian masses. If I ask why Anna becomes silent whenever he is asked to condemn Modi , I am reminded to understand the pros and cons and the limitations of Anna and his movement. I cannot understand where the so called ‘’limitations’’ go when Anna praises Modi on his so called development, and Ramdev shares a dais with the mass murderer of Gujarat?

 

If I write against the massacres of Rohingyas Muslim community in Burma, I am again branded as an Islamist who is always up there to defend Islam and support Muslims. But I think it as my duty as a human being to raise my voice against the injustices being done, no matter against whom. I regard it as my duty to speak against Burmese regime and the criminal silence of Aang Sang Sui Kyi as well as the forceful conversion of the Hindus to Islam in Pakistan.  It sometimes becomes irritating to see the same people who accuse me of being sympathetic to everything which are associated with Muslims, becoming silent and expressionless when I write against the injustices done against the people of other faith residing in the Muslim countries. I think that somehow they prefer to ignore my writings which can break their self created stereotypes regarding me and my views.

 

As a concerned Indian citizen, if I write against the human rights violations in Kashmir, I am branded as some sort of a sympathizer of the separatist forces and an anti- national; traitor, as if an Indian has no right to speak against the excesses of the security forces.

 

The list is long but just to sum up, I would like to request my friends to start looking at me as a journalist first, and everything else later.  I do not want to impose my religious ideology on others. I will speak and write against the injustices and tyrannies, no matter they are done against anyone, at whichever place or country. After all, the thing which suffers and matters most is the humanity and humane values.  The blood of a single innocent human being is equal to the blood of entire humanity and everyone in his own capacity and rights should speak against the tyrants and unjust system. It’s our duty as human beings which we cannot forget or ignore.

 

In an age of post modernization, no one owes any explanation to anyone about what he believes, but this write up is just an effort, so that people can understand my writings in the right perspective. Hope my effort won’t go in vain and I will stand vindicated in the ultimate analysis.

Human Rights Groups Blur Issues of Women Rights


English: 44th Munich Security Conference: The ...

Image via Wikipedia

By Meredith Tax

(WOMENSENEWS)– Salafi mobs have caned women in Tunisian cafes and Egyptian shops; attacked churches in Egypt; taken over whole villages in Tunisia and shut down that country’s Manouba University for two months in an effort to exert social pressure on veiling.

And while “moderate Islamist” leaders say they will protect the rights of women (if not gays), they have done very little to bring these mobs under control.

In this context, the support given by Kenneth Roth, head of the major U.S. organization Human Rights Watch, to Islamist parties is disturbing to say the least and shows a wider problem in the attitude of the human rights movement toward political Islam.

In his group’s 2012 World Report, Roth wrote: “It is important to nurture the rights-respecting elements of political Islam while standing firm against repression in its name,” but he failed to call for the most basic guarantee of rights–the separation of religion from the state.

His essay only once mentions the rights of women, gays, and religious minorities, almost in passing: “Many Islamic parties have indeed embraced disturbing positions that would subjugate the rights of women and restrict religious, personal, and political freedoms. But so have many of the autocratic regimes that the West props up.”

Are we really going to set the bar that low? This is the voice of an apologist, not a senior human rights advocate.

Roth’s essay is just the latest example of a crisis within the human rights movement, some of whose leaders have treated political Islamists as partners and been willing to downplay systematic violence and discrimination against women, gays and religious minorities.

Marieme Helie-Lucas is founder of Women Living Under Muslim Laws, the 20-year advocacy group with headquarters in London, Dakar, Senegal and Lahore, Pakistan. She suggested a group response to Roth.
Over a period of three weeks, with several women writing and others offering suggestions, we produced an Open Letter to Roth, which serves as a critique of his essay, signed by 17 global women’s human rights groups. Our letter is accompanied by a petition.

Read more here

 

Egypt’s Artists Fear Censorship by Islamists


Feb13, 20122- Egypt’s revolution encouraged painters to shake off decades of censorship. But with Islamists gaining power, will provocative art soon be suppressed?

Sublimation is a psychological process in which socially unacceptable impulses are transformed into something less destructive, explains Weaam El-Masry, a fiery Egyptian artist, as she unloads a truckload of her watercolor nudes for sale in a central Cairo art gallery.

“Maybe you have something you want to say—maybe it’s sexual—but society suppresses it,” she says. “When it comes out in your art, that’s sublimation.”

Since the Arab Spring broke out in Egypt a year ago, the country’s art world has started to shake off decades of repression. Sexuality is more out in the open, as are deep-seated social problems such as poverty and corruption—subjects long off limits under former president Hosni Mubarak. Many artists, it seems, no longer feel obligated to cloak their politics in thick layers of allegory.

At Townhouse, a funky art gallery nestled in the heart of central Cairo, iconoclasm is now the rule rather than the exception. In December, the gallery opened D1sc0nN3ct, a dizzying collection of digital-media pieces by a handful of Egyptian artists. Featuring videogames that can’t be won and Web pages with faulty encryptions, the exhibition presents corruption—a debilitating ulcer in a society where you can’t get a driver’s license without paying a bribe—in a daringly critical light.

On the same night but in an adjacent space, the gallery headlined another bold exhibition titled The Politics of Representation. Composed entirely of campaign paraphernalia from the country’s ongoing parliamentary contest—the first since Mubarak’s ouster a year ago—the exhibit takes on the explosion of political activity that has rocked Egypt in recent months and reduces it to a maze of symbols, slogans, and glossy poster stock. According to William Wells, who founded Townhouse in 1998, the exhibition was conceived as an “interactive, real-time visual representation of the electoral process.”

Egyptian Artist Weaam El-Masry's Antsy Nudes

Read more here

Open Letter to Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch


Separate  Between Religion and State

Having experienced the ways in which religious fundamentalists have used both armed violence and state power to attack fundamental freedoms, we want to express our alarm at the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and other representatives of political Islam. We believe that secularism is a minimum precondition for the freedom and equality of all citizens. It is intrinsic to democracy and the full realisation of human rights.

Rather than becoming complicit with religious fundamentalists in power, we call on Human Rights Watch to report violations and threats against those targeted by fundamentalists and to support the call for secularism, and the continuing struggle for social justice.

Dear Kenneth Roth,

In your Introduction to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2012, “Time to Abandon the Autocrats and Embrace Rights,” you urge support for the newly elected governments that have brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Tunisia and Egypt. In your desire to “constructively engage” with the new governments, you ask states to stop supporting autocrats. But you are not a state; you are the head of an international human rights organization whose role is to report on human rights violations, an honorable and necessary task which your essay largely neglects.

You say, “It is important to nurture the rights-respecting elements of political Islam while standing firm against repression in its name,” but you fail to call for the most basic guarantee of rights—the separation of religion from the state. Salafi mobs have caned women in Tunisian cafes and Egyptian shops; attacked churches in Egypt; taken over whole villages in Tunisia and shut down Manouba University for two months in an effort to exert social pressure on veiling. And while “moderate Islamist” leaders say they will protect the rights of women (if not gays), they have done very little to bring these mobs under control. You, however, are so unconcerned with the rights of women, gays, and religious minorities that you mention them only once, as follows: “Many Islamic parties have indeed embraced disturbing positions that would subjugate the rights of women and restrict religious, personal, and political freedoms. But so have many of the autocratic regimes that the West props up.” Are we really going to set the bar that low? This is the voice of an apologist, not a senior human rights advocate.

Nor do you point to the one of the clearest threats to rights—particularly to women and religious and sexual minorities—the threat to introduce so-called “shari’a law.” It is simply not good enough to say we do not know what kind of Islamic law, if any, will result, when it is already clear that freedom of expression and freedom of religion—not to mention the choice not to veil—are under threat. And while it is true that the Muslim Brotherhood has not been in power for very long, we can get some idea of what to expect by looking at their track record. In the UK, where they were in exile for decades, unfettered by political persecution, the exigencies of government, or the demands of popular pressure, the Muslim Brotherhood systematically promoted gender apartheid and parallel legal systems enshrining the most regressive version of “shari’a law”. Yusef al-Qaradawi, a leading scholar associated with them, publicly maintains that homosexuality should be punished by death. They supported deniers of the holocaust and the Bangladesh genocide of 1971, and shared platforms with salafi-jihadis, spreading their calls for militant jihad. But, rather than examine the record of Muslim fundamentalists in the West, you keep demanding that Western governments “engage.”

Western governments are engaged already; if support for autocrats was their Plan A, the Muslim Brotherhood has long been their Plan B. The CIA’s involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood goes back to the 1950s and was revived under the Bush administration, while support for both the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat e Islaami has been crucial to the “soft counter-terror” strategy of the British state. Have you heard the phrases “non-violent extremism” or “moderate Islamism?” This language is deployed to sanitize movements that may have substituted elections for bombs as a way of achieving power but still remain committed to systematic discrimination.

Like you, we support calls to dismantle the security state and to promote the rule of law. But we do not see that one set of autocratic structures should be replaced by another which claims divine sanction. And while the overthrow of repressive governments was a victory and free elections are, in principle, a step towards democracy, shouldn’t the leader of a prominent human rights organization be supporting popular calls to prevent backlash and safeguard fundamental rights? In other words, rather than advocating strategic support for parties who may use elections to halt the call for continuing change and attack basic rights, shouldn’t you support the voices for both liberty and equality that are arguing that the revolutions must continue?

Throughout your essay, you focus only on the traditional political aspects of the human rights agenda. You say, for instance, that “the Arab upheavals were inspired by a vision of freedom, a desire for a voice in one’s destiny, and a quest for governments that are accountable to the public rather than captured by a ruling elite.” While this is true as far as it goes, it completely leaves out the role that economic and social demands played in the uprisings. You seem able to hear only the voices of the right wing—the Islamist politicians— and not the voices of the people who initiated and sustained these revolutions: the unemployed and the poor of Tunisia, seeking ways to survive; the thousands of Egyptian women who mobilized against the security forces who tore off their clothes and subjected them to the sexual assaults known as “virginity tests.” These assaults are a form of state torture, usually a central issue to human rights organizations, yet you overlook them because they happen to women.

The way you ignore social and economic rights is of a piece with your neglect of women, sexual rights, and religious minorities. Your vision is still rooted in the period before the Vienna Conference and the great advances it made in holding non-state actors accountable and seeing women’s rights as human rights. Your essay makes it all too clear that while the researchers, campaigners, and country specialists who are the arms and legs and body of Human Rights Watch may defend the rights of women, minorities, and the poor, the head of their organization is mainly interested in relations between states.

Organizations:

Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW)

Centre for Secular Space (CSS), global

Marea, Italy

Nijera Kori, Bangladesh

One Law for All, UK

Organisation Against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, UK

Secularism Is a Women’s Issue (SIAWI), global

Southall Black Sisters, UK

Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights (WICUR), global

Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), global

Individuals (organizations listed for identification purposes only)

Dorothy Aken’Ova, Exercutive Director, INCRESE, Nigeria

Codou Bop, Coordinator, Research Group on Women and the Law, Senegal

Ariane Brunet, Co-Founder, Urgent Action Fund, Canada

Lalia Ducos, WICUR-Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights

Laura Giudetti, Marea, Italy

Asma Guenifi, President, Ni Putes Ni Soumises, France

Lilian Halls-French, Co-President, Initiative Féministe Européenne pour Une Autre Europe (IFE-EFI)

Anissa Helie, Assistant Professor, John Jay College, US

Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Alia Hogben, Canadian Council of Muslim Women

Hameeda Hossain, Bangladesh

Khushi Kabir, Nijera Kori, Bangladesh

Sultana Kamal, Executive Director, Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh

Frances Kissling, Visiting Scholar, University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics

Maryam Namazie, One Law for All and Equal Rights Now; Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, UK

Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters, UK

Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space, UK

Fatou Sow, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML)

Meredith Tax, Centre for Secular Space, USA

Faizun Zackariya, Cofounder, Muslim Women’s Research and Action Front (MWRAF), Sri Lanka

Afiya Zia, Journalist, Pakistan

PL SIGN AN ONLIEN PETITION TO HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

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