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News and Views
Father charged with murder in recent dis-honour killing
April 10, 2008
AFP: Al Arabiya
AMMAN (AFP) A Jordanian man has been charged with premeditated murder after his 35-year-old daughter was shot dead in an apparent honor killing, a judicial source said on Thursday.
"The suspect was arrested on Wednesday following a complaint by his other daughter that he killed and buried her sister several months ago in the (northern) city of Rasta," the source told AFP.
"The man was charged after he confessed to murdering his daughter to cleanse the family's honor because she frequently disappeared from home."
Girl secretly cremated in ‘honour killing’, family charged with murder
April 12, 2008
Times of India
HOSHIARPUR: Ravinder Kaur, just 18 and in love with Amritpal, hardly got any chance to be with the man she wanted to marry. On Wednesday, when her family left home to attend a neighbour's wedding, she sneaked out and went to meet her 25-year-old lover.
But someone spotted her with Amritpal and the word spread like wildfire in Darga Haeri village, 35 km away from Hoshiarpur. Soon, seething at seeing their Saini girl with a scheduled caste man, Ravinder was dragged home by her relatives and beaten unconscious.
Two women gang-raped in ‘honour’ motivated attack
April 11, 2008
DNA (Daily News and Analysis) India
Islamabad - Around a dozen men gang raped two women in Pakistan's eastern province of Punjab to avenge a love marriage, the police said Friday.
'The men abducted the women, one of them pregnant, and raped them in a nearby jungle for two days last month in the Rohallanwali area of Muzaffargarh district,' Mohammed Rafi, a police investigator, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in a telephone interview.
The gang was allegedly led by a man identified only as Latif, whose daughter had eloped with the nephew of the two rape victim.
Tajik Women’s Groups Press for Domestic Violence Law
As more and more suicides among women are attributed to violence in the home, pressure is building for a law to end the climate of impunity.
By Mukammal Odinaeva and Nafisa Pisarejeva in Dushanbe (RCA No. 522, 19-Dec-07)
Tajik women’s groups are lobbying hard for a draft bill to protect families from violence, claiming a growing number of suicides among women can be blamed on the phenomenon.
UPDATE: Pakistan: Community supports their murder of couple who eloped
By: Delawar Jan
13 April 2008
Source: The News on Sunday (Pakistan)
Dual murders reported as a stoning may have actually been a shooting. Yet the fact remains that another two people have been murdered in the name of their community's 'honour'. (The News)
The death of a couple allegedly by public stoning in the troubled Mohmand Agency points towards the ever-present menace of honour killing. Article by Delawar Jan.
Guatemala Congress approves law on femicide and violence against women
On 9 April, 2008 Congress finally approved the law on violence against women, meant to stop the killing and abuse of women and better prosecute the perpetrators.
The much discussed “Law Against Feminicide and Other Forms of Violence Against Women” was approved in Congress under loud applause from the public tribune, where representatives of political parties and women organisations had been awaiting the approval of the law.
Couple Stoned to Death
A couple have been stoned to death for 'adultery' in the tribal areas of northeren Pakistan. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemns the murder.
"A man and a woman were stoned to death by militants in Khwezai-Baezai area on Monday after a ‘qazi court’ found them guilty of adultery.
This is the first incident of Rajam (stoning to death) carried out in . Earlier, couples found guilty of adultery by militants or tribesmen were executed by firing squads.
Commemorate one year since Du’a Khalil Aswad was stoned to death
In April 2007, Du’a Khalil Aswad, a 17-year-old Yezidi girl in Iraqi Kurdistan, was stoned to death. Rights groups mark the year since her death and dencounce all 'honour' killings around the world.
(I) Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI): A call to remember Du’a Khalil Aswad and denounce “Honour killings” globally!
Burning and women's self-immolation in Iraqi Kurdistan
They lie in the Sulaimaniyah hospital morgue in Iraqi Kurdistan, set out on white-tiled slabs. A few have been shot or strangled, some beaten to death, but most have been burned. One girl, a lock of hair falling across her half-closed eyes, could almost be on the point of falling asleep. Burns have stretched the skin on another young woman's face into a fixed look of surprise.
These women are not casualties of battle. In fact, the cause of death is generally recorded as "accidental", although their bodies often lie unclaimed by their families.
"It is getting worse, especially the burnings," says Khanim Rahim Latif, the manager of Asuda, an Iraqi organisation based in Kurdistan that works to combat violence against women. "Just here in Sulaimaniyah, there were 400 cases of the burning of women last year." Lack of electricity means that every house has a plentiful supply of oil, and she accepts that some cases may be accidents. But the nature and scale of the injuries suggest that most were deliberate, she says, handing me the morgue photographs of one young woman after another. Many of the bodies bear the unmistakable signs of having been subjected to intense heat.
"In many cases the woman is accused of adultery, or of a relationship before she is married, or the marriage is not sanctioned by the family," Khanim says. Her husband, brother or another relative will kill her to restore their "honour". "If he is poor the man might be arrested; if he is important, he won't be. And in most cases, it is hidden. The body might be dumped miles away and when it is found the family says, 'We don't have a daughter.'" In other cases, disputes over such murders are resolved between families or tribes by the payment of a forfeit, or the gift of another woman. "The authorities say such agreements are necessary for social stability, to prevent revenge killings," says Khanim.
In March 2004 George Bush said that "the advance of freedom in the Middle East has given new rights and new hopes to women ... the systematic use of rape by Saddam's former regime to dishonour families has ended". This may have given some people the impression that the American and British invasion of Iraq had helped to improve the lives of its women. But this is far from the case.
Even under Saddam, women in Iraq - including in semi-autonomous Kurdistan - were widely recognised as among the most liberated in the Middle East. They held important positions in business, education and the public sector, and their rights were protected by a statutory family law that was the envy of women's activists in neighbouring countries. But since the 2003 invasion, advances that took 50 years to establish are crumbling away. In much of the country, women can only now move around with a male escort. Rape is committed habitually by all the main armed groups, including those linked to the government. Women are being murdered throughout Iraq in unprecedented numbers.
In October the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (Unami) expressed serious concern over the rising incidence of so-called honour crimes in Iraqi Kurdistan, confirming that 255 women had been killed in just the first six months of 2007, three-quarters of them by burning. An earlier Unami report cited 366 burns cases in Dohuk in 2006, up from 289 the year before, although most were not fatal. In Irbil, the emergency management centre had reported 576 burns cases since 2003, resulting in 358 deaths.
When questioned, Iraqi doctors have told UN investigators that many of these burnings are self-inflicted. "More than half of these women had sustained between 70-100% burns which, according to doctors, suggested that they were self-inflicted," the earlier Unami report said. A UN human rights officer has relayed to me the words of one judicial investigator in Irbil: "The woman is unhappy, or there is domestic abuse, but the family doesn't listen. So she does it because she wants to draw attention to herself."
The claim that some of these injuries are self-inflicted is something you hear from different quarters in Iraq. The human rights minister in the Kurdistan regional government, Yousif Aziz, says: "[Burnings take] place daily. Some are killed, some burn themselves." Activists, however, say that if the wounds are self-inflicted, it is because the women have been forced to do it.
The Iraqi penal code prescribes leniency for those who commit such crimes for "honourable motives", enabling some of the men involved to get off with no more than a fine. The Kurdish authorities, Aziz says, have removed these provisions for leniency from the code - but the killings continue to mount. "The politicians say the situation of women is all right with the new constitution in Iraq and new laws in Kurdistan," says Khanim, "but it is deteriorating."
Khanim's organisation sees cases from across Iraq, including from Baghdad and as far away as Basra. She tells me of a man from Kirkuk who accused his sister of adultery. "When we asked him why he wanted to kill his sister, he said, 'Because it is now a democracy in Iraq'. He thought that democracy meant he could do whatever he wanted." But the man's stupidity hid an important point: under the new system of government developing in Iraq, family disputes are increasingly settled not in state courts but by local tribal or religious authorities. "Not that any religion allows such abuse - it is the culture," says Khanim. "And we see cases from all the communities, including the Christians. It is even worse outside Kurdistan."
An Iraqi staff member at the UN mission agrees. "As there is no state authority in Iraq, everyone turns to the local sheikh. Every year since 2003 honour killings have increased." In just one month last year, 130 unclaimed women's bodies were counted in the Baghdad morgue, a representative from the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq has told the BBC. Another women's activist tells me why she refuses all media interviews: "The work has to be secret. In Kurdistan it is possible, but in Baghdad we couldn't open a shelter for women, we would just be attacked."
In a nondescript building on a busy road in the north I visit one of the few secret shelters in Iraq for women fleeing violence. A broom-cupboard door is unlocked to reveal a hidden staircase, leading to a two-room apartment where the morning sunshine and the hum of traffic filter through high-set windows. A pile of thin mattresses show that up to 20 women can stay here at any one time. The most recent arrivals are a woman and her two children from the local area. The woman, Zaynab, says she wants to divorce her abusive husband, a drunk, but he has refused. She had gone to live with her mother but he had come to threaten her. "I love my children. My family wanted me to marry again but I don't want to marry anyone, I want to be with my children." She stretches her arm out towards the room next door where her curly-haired daughter, eight, and son, seven, are playing.
Nur is here because she helped someone on impulse. Near her home in Diyala she heard the screams of a man locked in a compound and helped him escape. It turned out he was being tortured by a militia group. Later, the militia found out she had helped the man. "My father is dead, I have no brothers, just my mother and my little sister. They can't protect me." She fled north to Kirkuk, where she heard about the shelter.
Solaf, the young manager of the shelter, is used to receiving threats herself. (Her name, like those of Nur and Zaynab, has been changed for this article.) With nowhere else for the women to go, she tries to negotiate with their families to see if they can be reconciled, sometimes threatening to take them to court. "Women now know more about human rights, but the men and the culture don't allow it. Sometimes the family marries off the daughter from a young age - from 12 years old. But even if she stays out shopping too long, they say she is a bad woman."
I ask about the burnings. "Sometimes the family burns their daughter or wife, because no one can tell. They say in the hospital it was an accident. Some kill themselves." Solaf can see that I still find it hard to accept that someone, even under duress, would commit suicide by burning herself alive. "You have to realise," she says, "that the family just locks the girl into a room until she does it. They may leave her a knife, but it is hard to kill yourself with a knife. In one way, it is easier with fire."
At the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad, the women MPs file into the chamber beside their male counterparts, smiling, arguing, some in white or coloured headscarves, a few in the full-length abaya or the Iranian-style chador, a handful with heads uncovered. Under the new constitution a quarter of the 275 seats are reserved for women, making the level of female representation among the highest in the world. But, as one MP reminds me: "Even getting here is dangerous. People watch you come in." In 2005, one female MP, Lamia Abed Khadouri, was gunned down and killed on her doorstep.
"If security in Iraq can be provided - and it's a big if - then we have great hope," says a Baghdad economics professor who herself survived an assassination attempt last year (and also asked not to be named). "Three years has been a short time for women to be mainstreamed in the political establishment, but women have had the courage to expose themselves as activists. They have a chance to prove themselves outside of the home, to establish NGOs, to work in parliament and in the private sector." But asked if she believes that security will improve in the long term, her optimism disappears. "No. It is not in the interest of the different groups that make up the government for the security situation to get better. The domination of the religious parties, which is a negative for women, is helped by the insecurity. The ground is emptied for them."
While the new constitution has empowered women in parliament, she fears that what it has to say about the family may have had the opposite effect in the home. A committee reviewing the constitution is due to present its final amendments to parliament by the end of the year, and an alliance of women's organisations has been lobbying for the removal of article 41, under which the old statutory family law will be replaced with a new system where marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance will be determined according to the different religions and sects in Iraq.
Campaigners argue that this would strengthen the control of religious institutions and give "constitutional legitimacy to sectarianism". Most of all they fear an explosion in violence against women as traditional tribal codes take hold.
But only two of the committee's 27 members are women, and many of the women MPs represent the more conservative religious parties. Some are escorted everywhere by their husbands. A cabinet minister in Baghdad tells me: "The Islamisation had already started under Saddam, but now it is much more pronounced. My young son came to me laughing and showed me what he had in his schoolbook. It was a verse from the Koran saying that when a man has a son in his family he will be happy but when a girl is born he will be sad. They had made them learn that."
Many meetings for MPs are now held outside the country. One evening earlier this year I joined a group of women MPs in Amman who were attending a UN gathering on women's rights. During a traditional Jordanian meal of mansaf - lamb cooked in goat yoghurt - one of them, Samira al-Musawi, a member of Iraq's ruling Shia alliance and chair of the women's committee in the Iraqi parliament, said: "We are making progress, because now we are a democracy and we can discuss these issues together." Her faced framed in black, she dismissed the concerns over article 41 and said that "only one or two" members of her committee wanted it changed. Reaching forward for some green salad known locally as zjerzil, she suddenly pulled back. "It is haram - forbidden," explained her companion, and then in an undertone: "It increases sexual desire." I broke off a small corner of the leaf. It was a kind of rocket.
At another table, an Arab Sunni MP in a white headscarf disagreed pointedly over article 41. "We want the old law back, we and the Kurds, but the Shia prevent it. You want to know what the situation of women is? How many widows are there now?" But her bitterest comments were reserved for Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki. Earlier that week three members of the interior ministry's public order forces had been accused of raping a Sunni woman, who was admitted to a hospital in the government's fortified green zone compound. Two days later, Al-Maliki publicly rejected the woman's account and instructed that the policemen should be honoured. "They may have done it, or they may not, but how could he just say she was lying before any proper investigation had been done? He has turned them into heroes."
The coordinator of a women's organisation in Baghdad, who asked not to be named, says some groups target women - through kidnapping or sexual assault - "to make a family weak". "A girl was raped and returned to her family but she committed suicide rather than face the shame. Saddam was a dictator but at least then we had the freedom to go out. Then there was only one criminal - Saddam - but now they are everywhere, you do not know who your persecutor is."
Claims of rape being used as a weapon of war to humiliate and terrify communities are now frequently made against all the main parties in the conflict, and not just Iraqi forces. Since 2003 US forces have denied numerous allegations that soldiers have raped and abused female detainees or held them as bargaining chips in the hunt for family members wanted as insurgents. But the Pentagon's Taguba report into abuse at Abu Ghraib prison confirmed that US military police had photographed and videotaped naked women prisoners and referred to a guard "having sex with a female detainee". Earlier this year, four US soldiers were found guilty of the rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qasim Hamza and three members of her family in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, in an attack the US military had at first blamed on Sunni insurgents. Abeer's body had been set on fire, her killers believing that their guilt could be burned away.
Rapes carried out against Shia or Christian women have been justified by insurgent groups as revenge for what was done to women in Abu Ghraib. But the extent to which the abuse of women has become both the vehicle and the justification for sectarian hatred in Iraq was demonstrated most chillingly in the April killing of Du'a Khalil Aswad. A 17-year-old from Nineveh, Du'a was stoned in front of hundreds of men, some of whom videoed what happened on their mobile phones.
Climbing steadily past olive groves north of Mosul, the road into Du'a's home town of Bashiqa is dominated by the conical shrines of the Yezidi sect, an ancient religion that predates both Islam and Christianity. Their veneration of a fallen angel in the form of a blue peacock has led to the common slur in Iraq that the Yezidis are devil-worshippers and the community suffers entrenched discrimination.
After Du'a's death, the international media widely repeated a claim made on a number of Islamic extremist websites that she had been killed because she converted to Islam, but local reports do not concur. Some people tell me she had run away with her Muslim boyfriend and they had been stopped at a checkpoint outside Mosul; others say she had been seen by her father and uncle just talking with the boy in public and, fearing her family's reaction, they had sought protection at the police station. Either way, the police handed Du'a into the custody of a local Yezidi sheikh. One woman tells me that after she was stoned in the town square, Du'a's body was tied behind a car and dragged through the streets.
But the killers' taste for publicity quickly backfired. As the videos circulated around mobile phones in the region, and were even posted on the internet, Islamic extremists called for Yezidis to be killed in revenge. Meanwhile Du'a's body was exhumed and sent to the Medico-Legal Institute in Mosul so that tests could be performed to see whether she had died a virgin.
Just after 3pm on April 22 a bus carrying workers from a textile factory in Mosul back to Bashiqa was stopped at a fake checkpoint. Gunmen ordered the Muslims and Christians off the bus and drove it to the east of the city. They then dragged out the Yezidis. They were lined up, there was a shout of "Allah, curse your devil" and then they were shot. Other Yezidis living in the city started fleeing to the countryside, as an extremist Sunni group claimed responsibility. In all 24 Yezidi men were killed.
Three days later, I was printing out the first local reports of the massacre at a ramshackle business centre in Irbil when the manager approached me. "What do you know about it?" he said, anger breaking his habitual deference, as he dropped my print-outs on the desk. I asked him what he thought about the case. "Look what has happened now because of her," he said, jabbing his finger at the headlines. "She was a very bad girl".
By: Mark Lattimer, The Guardian,
December 13 2007
UPDATE: Mokarrameh Ebrahimi released from prison!!
The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women! (SKSW!) welcomes the news of the release of Mokarrameh Ebrahimi and her son Ali from Choobin Prison, in Takistan, Qazvin, in Iran, where she had been awaiting execution by stoning for adultery for the past ten years.
"Trokosi" - Ritual Servitude & Sexual Abuse
The most recent report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on her mission to Ghana, highlights the practice of offering daughters as 'trokosi' to a traditional fetish shrine to ward off the punishment of the gods for crimes or moral wrongdoings committed by a family member.
The Ewe word trokosi can be translated as “slave to the gods” or alternatively as “wife to the gods”. The practice is thought to have originated in the seventeenth century as a means to attract the support of the gods, especially in times of crisis and war.
Discriminatory laws in Lebanon: rape, honour crimes
Lebanese women may be known as the Arab world's most liberal but they are by no means the region's most liberated considering antiquated laws that reduce them to second-class citizens.
"The law in this country still considers a woman as being inferior," complained sociologist Rafif Sidaoui.
From domestic violence to rape to adultery, the rights of women often fall by the wayside in this multi-confessional sectarian society, nonetheless deemed avant-garde in the mostly conservative Middle East.
"One of the absurd laws on the books allows a rapist to be exempt from prison if he marries his victim," said Ezzat Mroue, vice-president of the Women's Rights Committee (WRC).
"A few years ago, there was a major scandal when a young man, who was after his cousin, kidnapped her from her university," she added.
"He raped her and then brought her before a sheikh who married them.
"The result was that he was not guilty in the eyes of the law," Mroue said.
And although so-called "honour crimes" are not widespread in Lebanon, as in some other Arab countries, every year a number of women are killed by male relatives under the pretext of defending the family honour.
Under the law, the murderer can benefit from "mitigating circumstances".
But "murder is murder and you cannot apply different penalties" depending on gender, insisted Mroue.
She said when it comes to adultery, the picture is not brighter.
A woman can be sentenced to two years in prison if a third party accuses her of cheating on her husband, whereas a man has to be caught red-handed before being hauled to court.
If a man admits to adultery but apologises, he is usually pardoned. The same does not apply to a woman.
As far as domestic violence, the law offers no protection to women.
"If a woman in Lebanon is beaten or humiliated at home, there is nothing she can legally do about it," said Sidaoui.
"The husband has to break her neck, arm or leg, for her to be able to claim injury or damage, as you would for any car accident," said the sociologist.
Many women who do turn to the police become the object of ridicule by officers who pat them on the cheek and suggest they deal with their problems "at home".
Sidaoui said that one of the main problems in changing the status quo is the lack of legislation to protect women's rights and the fact that religion permeates most aspects of life in Lebanon, including marriage and divorce.
For example, there is no civil marriage in Lebanon, although the government recognises such a union as long as it is celebrated outside the country.
A woman also cannot transfer citizenship to her husband if he is foreign or to children born of such a union.
And in the event of divorce, a Lebanese man automatically gets custody of the children.
"For the religious and political communities determined to hang on to their prerogatives, this issue is a red line not to be crossed," Sidaoui said.
Labour laws are another issue that rights groups have been battling to change.
A married Lebanese man who works receives tax exemptions whereas a married woman does not.
A man with children is also given a family allowance by the state whereas a woman can only receive it if she is widowed or if her husband is handicapped.
"If these laws are not changed, they will perpetuate this mentality through generations and a woman will always be considered inferior to a man, whatever her social status," Sidaoui said.
By: Rana Moussaoui
7 March 2008
Source: Agence France Presse
“My husband cut off my arms for having a girl”
Francine Nijimbere relies entirely on her mother for basic things like bathing and eating. Her husband cut off her arms up to the elbows in 2004, for failing to give birth to a boy. She was pregnant at the time and lost the baby due to her injuries, which included cuts on her stomach. The man - a soldier - was arrested and later sentenced to life in prison but was recently released following a presidential pardon.
After her arms were cut off, Nijimbere left for Burundi's southern province of Makamba with her daughter, now four, where she lived with her mother. She is now living in fear following her husband's release and has sought refuge with ADDF, an association based in Bujumbura, dealing with the protection of women's rights. She spoke to IRIN on 22 February:
"In December , the president announced a pardon for all inmates suffering from incurable diseases. I hear my husband was released on a false name; how can a criminal like him be pardoned? The head of state pardoned inmates suffering from incurable diseases but my husband was not ill.
"I was married to his elder brother, who was a soldier. He died in 2000 five months after our wedding. However, I remained in the house as I waited for the end of the mourning period in order to return to my parents' home. My mother-in-law insisted I should not go to my parents since dowry had been paid. She convinced my parents that I should marry her other son; I was reluctant but my parents and in-laws reached an agreement.
"Right from the start, I never accepted him. One night, he forced the door to my house and raped me. I remained there; where was I supposed to turn?
"During our life together, he was just there; he never helped me, he did not buy me any clothes, nothing. Sometimes, I spent the nights out in the cold, other times he was good enough to let me in. When he realised I was not getting pregnant soon enough, he threatened to marry another wife and even built a house for her. He did not bring her home because I got pregnant then.
"When I delivered, he simply inquired about the sex of the baby. When he heard I had given birth to a girl, he did not even bother to visit me at the hospital, and he did not pay the bill when I was discharged. After three months, he came home from work and asked me: 'Do you consider yourself a mother after giving birth to girls?' He repeatedly told me I was worthless.
“I become pregnant again, four months later. This time he told me that if I gave birth to another girl, I would have to find somewhere to take her. Later when he came home on leave, he was all sweet, telling me he was sorry if he had wronged me and that from then on things would be different, that he was a new man. And I believed him. I actually hoped he would change.
"Then one evening, I saw him sharpening a machete. I did not know he was preparing to kill me. After the evening meal, I went to sleep, leaving him with his mother and sister. I was awakened by the machete blow on my arm.
"I cried and cried, I begged for pardon but he cut my second arm. Nobody came to my rescue. Neighbours were afraid of him because he was armed. With cuts everywhere, I had a miscarriage. My husband left me there bleeding, and fled. He was later caught and imprisoned. I was taken to hospital out of pity, no one expected me to survive.
"I stayed in a coma for six days in hospital. When I was well enough, I went to live with my old mother. These days I depend on her for everything. If she is ill, I cannot get anybody to feed me. I cannot wash, I cannot clothe myself.
"If neighbours take pity on me, they come and assist me. I am more helpless than a newborn baby.
"Two weeks ago, my sister-in-law came to inform me that he has been released from prison. I know it meant death for me, so I fled to Bujumbura. I heard that while in prison, he had vowed he would 'finish the work' if he ever came out. I hear he said cutting my arms was not what he wanted in the first place.
"The only thing I want now is justice and assistance."
25 February 2008
Honor killing outcry in Iraq
Six years ago, Hataw fled to a women's shelter to escape her brother's rage when she refused to marry the man he chose for her. Just a few weeks later, her brother ambushed her and her mother near the shelter, opening fire with an automatic weapon.
Hataw, not her real name, was shot seven times; her mother twice. Miraculously, they survived, but their physical and psychological wounds may never heal. Hataw, now 26, whose brother escaped prosecution, lost one of her kidneys and her mother has scars on one of her arms.
Although Hataw - still living in a women's refuge - refused to speak to IWPR, she gave permission for the head of the shelter to speak on her behalf.
"She doesn't sleep all night long," said the head. "She gets up and screams at the slightest noise, fearing her brother will break in and kill her."
Hataw is one of a growing number of women in Iraqi Kurdistan falling victim to domestic violence, with honor killings, in particular, the focus of concern among human rights groups.
The recent increase in cases has outraged activists who blame the Kurdish government for not doing enough to protect women.
The region's human rights ministry says that honor killings in Iraqi Kurdistan rose from 106 in 2005 to 266 the following year. Figures for 2007 are not available, but official sources say in Sulaimaniya alone 30 women were killed in the first six months of the year.
"Every day, more and more women are killed in Kurdistan, while the authorities watch and do nothing," said Roonak Faraj, head of the Women's Media and Cultural Center in Sulaimaniya.
In April 2007, an angry mob stoned to death a 17-year-old Yezidi girl, Duaa Khalil Aswad, in Bashiqa, a small town east of the city of Mosul, while bystanders applauded and filmed the killing on their mobile phones.
Duaa's crime was that she had fallen in love with a Muslim boy. The footage was seen by thousands on the internet, sparking massive condemnation by human rights groups around the world.
Faraj said the male-dominated local culture is one of the reasons why women are targeted in her region. "It is a patriarchal society," she said, "Males control everything. For example, they decide whom a girl should marry."
There is also insufficient legislation to punish violence against women. Article 111 of the Iraqi Penal Code - passed in 1969 and still valid in most of the country - tolerates honor killings if the defendant has "honorable motives."
The maximum punishment is two years' imprisonment, and, in most cases, the sentence is commuted if the defendant has no criminal background.
In 2002, the Kurdish parliament amended the 1969 law to allow honor killings to be treated in the same way as murder. However, critics say that the changes were too weak.
Following the killing of Duaa, the Kurdish government formed two agencies to deal with violence against women, one based in Sulaimaniya and another in Erbil.
Zhilamo Abdel Qadir, an official in the Sulaimaniya agency, said that since July 2007 they have investigated 110 cases of serious threats against women, successfully intervening on 70 occasions.
"We have rescued many women from death in the last few months," said Twana Ali, spokesman for the Sulaimaniya agency. "We have arrested several suspects as well."
Recently, more than 20 women's advocacy groups came together to pressure the authorities to impose heavier punishments on perpetrators of violence against women and have made recommendations to parliament on the matter.
They've also called on the regional assembly to pass other legislation tackling discrimination against women, such as a ban on polygamy and forced marriage, and to ensure equality between men and women in relation to inheritance law.
Pakhshan Zangana, head of the Women's Caucus in the Kurdistan parliament in Erbil, said, "The law is outdated and needs amendments that go along with the current situation."
The government has pledged reforms, but for Faraj actions speak louder than words.
"When bird flu broke out, the government launched a huge campaign to make people aware of the risks of the disease," he said. "You wonder why they can't launch a similar campaign to put an end to the killing women."
By: Azeez Mahmood
25 February 2008
Source: Middle East Times
Impunity Fuels Violence Against Women
"I still have the scar," says Valeria Díaz, running her hand over the mark left by her husband when he beat her eight years ago. "But it's nothing compared to what I have here," she adds, pointing to her head, in allusion to the psychological damages left by his abuse.
"The day he beat me, our relationship ended. I left home. That was the first and last time he hit me," the 59-year-old Guatemalan mother of three tells IPS. She had been married for 30 years.
The domestic violence complaint filed by Díaz (not her real name) was one of nearly 140,000 filed in the last seven years in Guatemala.
In that period, there have also been 6,025 reported cases of rape and 3,281 women have been murdered, according to official statistics in Guatemala, which has one of the highest homicide rates in Latin America and is the focus of concern from human rights groups because of the large number of women killed in a climate of impunity.
"Unfortunately, in Guatemala, killing a woman is like killing a fly; no importance is assigned to it," complained local activist Hilda Morales, who argued that "the perpetrators are encouraged to continue beating, abusing and killing because they know that nothing will happen, that they won't be punished."
A report by the Coordinadora 25 de Noviembre, an umbrella group made up of nearly 30 local women’s organisations, said that in the last seven years, only two percent of crimes against women have been solved.
In 2006, judges handed down a total of 12 sentences, one for 60 years and the rest for 50 years. And of the few cases that are actually brought to justice, some take up to three years to make it to court.
Díaz, who went to live with her parents after her husband beat her, filed a complaint without much hope, "because our laws are not enforced."
Although this impoverished Central American country has laws aimed at protecting women from violence and has signed international conventions on the issue, there is a "continuing lack of will to recognise and respect human rights, which translates into silence in the face of a scourge that should be classified as a crime against humanity," says the study by the Coordinadora 25 de Noviembre.
Morales, an activist with the Network of Non-Violence Against Women, which forms part of the umbrella group, complained that in Guatemala, "domestic violence and sexual harassment, the forerunners of the current wave of murders of women, are not even classified as crimes."
She pointed out that until last year, a law was on the books that allowed a rapist to escape charges if he married his victim, even if she was only 12 years old.
The lawyer also noted that not until the late 1990s were discriminatory laws, like one that allowed husbands to keep their wives from working outside the home, amended.
Giovana Lemus, director of the Guatemalan Women’s Group (GGM), said violence against women "is deep-rooted" in the country, based on historically unequal power relations reflected in the oppression, discrimination and subordination of women.
"The education that we receive is at fault. From a young age, women are raised to see violence as a normal part of marriage," said Díaz, who got married at the age of 21, and believes dependence on men forces many battered women to keep silent.
For Morales, a recipient of Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award in 2004, "a lack of confidence in the system, compounded by the economic, social and emotional dependence in which these women live and are raised, makes it very difficult for the majority of them to report the violence."
In the first half of 2007, 287 women were killed, 10.5 percent more than in the same period of 2006, according to the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman.
From January to June, a total of 2,857 homicides were committed, most of them with firearms.
Although most homicide victims are men, women victims are often killed with especial brutality, after being beaten and raped, and sometimes tortured.
Morales said that although violence against women is nothing new in Guatemala, the methods used in recent years hark back to the violence seen during the 1960-1996 civil war, when "soldiers were allowed and encouraged to commit atrocities, not only sexual crimes, but also the mutilation of female bodies."
A 1996 peace deal ended the 36-year armed conflict between government forces and the National Guatemalan Revolutionary Unity (URNG) which left a death toll of 200,000 victims, mainly rural indigenous villagers. A United Nations-sponsored truth commission held the army responsible for over 90 percent of the killings.
"During those years, women were seen as war booty that soldiers could make use of as they pleased," said Morales, who lamented that these crimes went unpunished.
Lemus said that in Guatemala, "social impunity" surrounds violence against women, and that there is a lack of support and compensation for victims of rape or other kinds of violence.
Non-governmental organisations put the poverty rate in this country of 13 million as high as 80 percent, although the official rate is 51 percent. A majority of the population is indigenous, and the rest are mainly of mixed-race (mestizo - indigenous and Spanish) heritage.
The records kept by the Survivors Foundation of Guatemala indicate that 10 percent of women victims of murder are killed by their husbands or partners, another 10 percent in fights with other family members or neighbours, and 80 percent by organised crime, including youth gangs.
Inefficiency and impunity are among the central causes of the problem, said U.S. anthropologist and feminist Diane Russell at a Nov. 15 conference in Guatemala that formed part of the activities in the run-up to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to be celebrated on Sunday.
The activist said another major factor in Guatemala is the large number of firearms -- more than two million -- in the hands of civilians.
A law aimed at preventing, punishing and eliminating domestic violence was passed in 1997 in Guatemala, but according to Morales it lacks teeth, and its main objective is to provide security and safety measures like restraining orders and alimony for women who file complaints, which she said is insufficient.
Díaz complained that her husband, who emigrated to the United States after beating her, has never paid spousal support -- one of the security measures that courts can order in cases of domestic violence, under the 1997 law.
Morales said there are "many shortcomings" in the investigation of rape and murders of women because "there is no chain of custody of evidence, safeguarding of the crime scene, or adequate gathering of primary information that could link the assailant with the victim."
Pending approval in Congress is a draft law on violence against women which would make "femicide" and sexual harassment a crime, and would create public policies to prevent and address the problem, such as the creation of "integral support centres" that would include temporary shelters for battered women and their children.
The term femicide was coined for misogynist or gender-motivated murders of women, sometimes accompanied by sexual violence.
The Coordinadora 25 de Noviembre and other groups around the country have organised seminars, music festivals, walks, plays and other activities to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The activities began on Nov. 8 and will run through Nov. 29.
Díaz, who has been receiving psychological support for the emotional and physical abuse suffered at the hands of her husband, believes that to break the circle of violence against women, "it is necessary to start by educating the human being inside us."
By: Inés Benítez
24 November 2007
'Honour Killing’ at Lecture on Society and Abuse Cases
"Experts attending a lecture in Jeddah on Wednesday gasped in shock as Dr. Ali Al-Hanaki, director of the Social Affairs Ministry in the Western Region, spoke about the death of a young woman who was taken from a women’s shelter in Riyadh by her father and uncles, and secretly killed.
Al-Hanaki was one of a number of speakers at a seminar, entitled “Therapy of Abuse Cases and Social Adjustment.”
The event had been organized by the Social Services Department at King Abdul Aziz Medical City in Jeddah to delve on social workers and doctors’ experience in dealing with cases of abuse.
Al-Hanaki said that the woman, who was killed, came from a tribal background. Her father and uncles thought that she had brought them into disrepute by being in a state of khulwa (seclusion) with a unrelated male. The woman initially escaped and sought help with the Social Affairs Ministry in Riyadh. She was later returned to her family after they promised not to harm her.
A woman from the audience interrupted Al-Hanaki and asked why the woman was returned to her tormentors. “Her father and four uncles showed up at the center and argued that it’s shameful for them that their daughter is there. They made promises and signed papers that made it incumbent on them not to harm her,” said Al-Hanaki, adding that the woman’s relatives have not been charged.
“We received news about her death off the record. Such ‘honor killing’ crimes happen secretly and the bodies are buried in the desert. The families usually say that the women in question are traveling or have run away,” he added.
The Social Affairs Ministry chief said that women are subjected to severe violence in the rural parts of the Kingdom where tribal communities look down on women. “Women there deal with violence as one does with air pressure. They can’t do anything but put up with it,” he said, adding that raising such issues is like throwing stones into still water.
“Even if it takes us 10-15 years, we need to change their tribal attitudes toward women,” he added.
Other speakers at the event, who work closely with cases of abuse, expressed the urgent need to have a system in place that provides instant safety and comfort to victims.
“Let’s not lie to each other. We don’t have programs to deal with abuse problems. We merely have committees that work alone. We won’t solve anything unless we work collectively,” said Dr. Adel Al-Jama’an, manager of Social Services at Heraa Hospital.
Speaking about the Social Affairs Ministry’s newly set-up safety committees — bodies set up to check on abuse — Al-Jama’an listed a number of negative points. He also lamented that there is an absence of following up on victims of abuse after they leave hospital.
“After filling in the hospital form and leaving, we’re unable to know whether the person is still suffering... or whether they’re still alive,” he said.
Amal Al-Khalifa, a child behavior specialist at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, suggested that every health center should have a section dealing with cases of abuse, regardless of whether the victim is a child or a woman. “The workers there should be given the authority to protect victims until officials become involved,” she said."
By: Ebtihal Mubarak
7 March 2008
Source: Arab News
Man disfigures wife’s face with acid on suspicion of adultery
Twenty-two-year-old Ameena, an acid burns victim, regrets marrying her husband Mohammad Ali, alias Danish, who splashed acid on her face after allegedly suspecting that she had illicit relations with another man. The severe burn injuries have not only disfigured her face, but also damaged both her eyes, compelling her to hide her face behind a veil as her daughters, aged seven and two-and-a-half, are frightened by the sight of their mother’s disfigured face.
Her husband has been temporarily detained by the police, but Ameena fears he may return and attack her two daughters if the concerned authorities let him go scot-free. She has also filed a suit against her husband for dissolution of her marriage, but because Danish possesses her NIC and the couple’s marriage certificate, Ameena fears she may not be able to do so.
According to Ameena, who was addressing a press conference at Madadgaar Helpline’s office on Monday, Danish and his sisters (who also live in their neighbourhood in Federal B-area) attacked her on the afternoon of January 31, 2008 - which was a few days after they learnt that Ameena was expecting her third child that Danish claimed was not his.
“He did not even wait for the third child’s delivery so my daughter could prove that his suspicion was wrong and instead tortured Ameena in order to force her to ‘confess’ that the unborn child is not his. When she started weeping and did not answer, he became aggressive and threw concentrated acid on her face and fled,” wept Kaneez Fatima, who accompanied her daughter at the conference because Ameena was unable to speak.
Ameena cried for help but no one came to rescue her. However, she managed to walk to her mother’s house, who is also Ameena’s next door neighbour. “My daughter fainted at my doorstep following which we rushed her to Civil Hospital’s Burns Ward but by the time we reached, Ameena’s eyes were damaged, as the concentrated acid leaked into her eyes,” said the distressed mother.
Ameena alleged that her husband, who is a balloon-seller, frequently abused her physically and due to the restrictions placed by him, she barely stepped out and his allegations of illicit relations with his friends were baseless. “He is a drug addict and frequently asked me for money. On refusal to do so, he would torture me. I tried complaining about his behaviour to his sisters and family members but they ignored me and said I should get used to his behaviour,” said the mother of two daughters, aged five and two-and-a-half years old.
An FIR (11/08) has been lodged at the Joharabad Police Station, but the police officials are protecting Danish, taking the plea that he is mentally sick, alleged Advocate Zia Awan, who is also providing legal aid to Ameena. “In a majority of the cases, husbands escape punishment by showing themselves to be ‘psychologically ill’ with the help of the police, which is why an increasing number of burns cases are being reported,” he said.
However, the Station Investigation Officer (SIO), Sajid Javed, said Danish’s fate has not been decided yet as investigation is under way. “An interim challan report has been filed in the city court,” he said. Ameena’s case will be heard in the city court on Wednesday, Awan further said.
It may be noted here that the offence of permanent impairing of any organ of the body of another person (by his spouse or any of his blood relations within the prohibited degree of marriage) is defined under Section 299 of Pakistan Penal Code, known as “Ikrah-e-tam”, whereby the offender is liable to imprisonment for a period of ten years. “Since we do not have a law against domestic violence as yet, Danish should be immediately tried under the PPC,” demanded Awan.
However, Ameena says imprisonment would not be enough to ‘teach him a lesson’. “My husband should be hanged to death, so that other men like him do not take advantage of a woman’s vulnerability,” she wept. Ameena’s mother and Advocate Awan also appealed for financial support from the government’s Zakat funds and Bait-ul-Mal so Ameena’s family can be rescued from the financial straits.
By: Aroosa Masroor
4 March 2008
Source: The News
Women's lives in occupied Iraq
Iraq, where women once had more rights and freedom than most others in the Arab world, has turned deadly for women who dream of education and a professional career.
Former dictator Saddam Hussein maintained a relatively secular society, where it was common for women to take up jobs as professors, doctors and government officials. In today's Iraq, women are being killed by militia groups for not conforming to strict Islamist ways.
Basra police chief Gen. Jalil Hannoon told reporters and Arab TV channels in December that at least 40 women had been killed during the previous five months in that city alone.
"We are sure there are many more victims whose families did not report their killing for fear of scandal," Gen. Hannoon said.
The militias dominated by the Shia Badr Organisation and the Mehdi Army are leading imposition of strict Islamist rules. The Shia-dominated Iraqi government is seen as providing tacit and sometimes direct support to them.
The Badr Organisation answers to the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), the Shia bloc in the Iraqi government. The Mehdi army is the militia of anti-occupation Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Women who do not wear the hijab are becoming prime targets of militias, residents both in Basra and Baghdad have told IPS in recent months. Many women say they are threatened with death if they do not obey.
"Militiamen approached us to tell us we must wear the hijab and stop wearing make-up," college student Zahra Alwan who fled Basra to Baghdad told IPS last December.
Graffiti in red on walls across Basra warns women against wearing make-up and stepping out without covering their bodies from head to toe, Alwan said.
"The situation in Baghdad is not very different," Mazin Abdul Jabbar, social researcher at Baghdad University told IPS. "All universities are controlled by Islamic militiamen who harass female students all the time with religious restrictions."
Jabbar said this is one reason that "many families have stopped sending their daughters to high schools and colleges."
In early 2007 Iraq's Ministry of Education found that more than 70 percent of girls and young women no longer attend school or college.
Several women victims have been accused of being "bad" before they were abducted, residents have told IPS in Baghdad. Most women who are abducted are later found dead.
The bodies of several have been found in garbage dumps, showing signs of rape and torture. Many bodies had a note attached saying the woman was "bad", according to residents who did not give their names to IPS.
Similar problems exist for women in Baquba, the capital city of Diyala province, 40 km northeast of Baghdad.
"My neighbour was killed because she was accused of working in the directorate-general of police of Diyala," resident Um Haider told IPS in January. "This woman worked as a receptionist in the governor's office, and not in the police. She was in charge of checking women who work in the governor's office."
Killings like this have led countless women to quit jobs, or to change them.
"I was head of the personnel division in an office," a woman speaking on condition of anonymity told IPS in Baquba. "On the insistence of my family and relatives, I gave up my position and chose to be an employee."
Women's lives have changed, and women are beginning to look different across most of Iraq. They are now too afraid to wear anything but conservative dresses -- modern clothes could be a death warrant. The veil is particularly dominant in areas under the control of militias.
Women are paying a price for the occupation in all sorts of ways.
"Women bear great pain and risks when militants control the streets," Um Basim, a mother of three, told IPS in Baquba recently. "No man can move here or there. When a man is killed, the body is taken to the morgue. The body has to be received by the family, so women often go alone to the morgue to escort the body home. Some are targeted by militants when they do this."
Confined to home, many women live in isolation and depression.
"Women have nowhere to go to spend leisure time," Um Ali, a married woman in Baquba, told IPS. "Our time is spent only at home now. I have not travelled outside Baquba for more than four years. The only place I can go to is my parents' home. Housekeeping and children have been all my life; I have no goals to attain, no education to complete. Sometimes, I can't leave home for weeks."
In northern Kurdish controlled Iraq, 'honour killings' continue. In the ancient tradition of 'honour killing', the view is that a family's honour is paramount. As of last December, at least 27 Kurdish women were murdered on suspicion of having had 'illicit' affairs in the previous four months, according to Youssif Mohamed Aziz, the regional minister of human rights.
Iraqi women are not spared U.S. military prisons either. In December, Iraq's parliamentary committee for women's and children's affairs demanded the release of female detainees in Iraqi and U.S.-run prisons.
According to Nadira Habib, deputy head of the parliamentary committee, there are around 200 women detained in the Iraqi run al-Adala prison in Baghdad. Habibi says there are presumably women in U.S.-run prisons too. "But no one knows how many female detainees are now in prisons run by U.S. forces as they always refuse requests from our committee to visit them."
As the central government remains essentially powerless, and religious fundamentalism continues to grow across Iraq, it appears that the plight of Iraqi women will get worse.
By: Dahr Jamail
7 March 2008
Source: IPS news
UN Calls for End to Male Guardianship in Saudi Arabia
A United Nations human rights body called on Saudi Arabia on Friday to immediately end its system of male guardianship which it said severely limits the basic freedoms of women in the kingdom.
The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, in its first scrutiny of Saudi Arabia's gender equality record, said Islamic Sharia law should not trump an international women's rights treaty that Riyadh signed in 2000.
The committee's 23 independent experts urged Saudi Arabia to "amend its legislation to confirm that international treaties have precedence over domestic laws," and "enact a comprehensive gender equality law".
They also said that Riyadh should "take immediate steps to end the practice of male guardianship over women" and work to eliminate "negative cultural practices and stereotypes" which discriminate against women.
Saudi Arabia's system of male guardianship severely curtails the rights afforded in the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the committee said.
The rules restrict women's legal rights in marriage, divorce, child custody, inheritance, property ownership and decision-making in the family, as well as choice of residency, education and jobs, the committee said.
It "contributes to the prevalence of a patriarchal ideology with stereotypes and the persistence of deep-rooted cultural norms, customs and traditions that discriminate against women," the committee said. A de facto ban on Saudi women driving further reinforces such stereotypes, the U.N. body concluded.
Although the body has no legal power to enforce its recommendations, it is regarded as a moral authority on women's rights.
SAUDIS SAY NO DISCRIMINATION
A report submitted by Riyadh on its compliance with the treaty said that generally there was "no discrimination against women in the laws of the kingdom".
A Saudi delegation led by Zeid Bin Abdul Mushin Al Hussein, vice president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, told the committee during a recent debate: "Human rights in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia are based on Sharia law."
Saudi clerics, who rule according to the strict religious tenets, have wide powers in Saudi Arabia under a traditional pact with the royal family.
The country drew international criticism after its Supreme Judicial Council ordered a 19-year-old to 200 lashes and six months in jail for having been with a man she was not related to when she was attacked and raped by seven other men in 2006.
King Abdullah pardoned the gang-rape victim in December.
The U.N. committee urged Riyadh to withdraw its proviso that Islamic law take precedence over the women's rights treaty, particularly as Saudi authorities have given assurances that there is "no contradiction in substance" between the two.
The committee's conclusions were issued at the end of a three-week meeting during which it also reviewed other states.
By: Stephanie Nebehay
1 February 2008
UN human rights chief speaks out against reported stoning in Iran
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour spoke out against the reported stoning last week of a man in Iran and urged the country not to execute his companion or any other person in the same unlawful manner.
“I am extremely concerned that despite a stated moratorium of the Iranian Government on execution by stoning this execution has gone ahead,” Ms. Arbour said in a statement released in Geneva. “Stoning is in clear violation of international law, which also limits the death penalty to only the most serious, violent crimes.”