Tag Archives: Middle East

Activists press Beirut to end discrimination against women

13 Feb

By Dalila Mahdawi
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, February 11, 2009

BEIRUT: Gender equality activists came together in Beirut on Friday to urge Lebanon to lift reservations on the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), after Morocco became the first Arab country to drop all reservations to the document.

Beirut-based non-governmental organization The Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action (CRTD.A), organized a press conference at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA) in Beirut that was attended by several Arab ambassadors, Lebanese officials and ESCWA Executive Secretary Badr Omar AlDafa. The conference was held to mark Arab Women’s Day, celebrated annually on February 1.

Addressing the crowd, CRTD.A Director Lina Abou-Habib applauded Morocco’s decision to drop all reservations to CEDAW in December. “This decision crowns the years of struggle for Arab women,” she said. “We hope that Morocco’s action will motivate other Arab countries to commit to women’s rights through the lifting of all reservations to CEDAW.”

CRTD.A is regional coordinator of the Nationality Campaign which has for the last seven years advocated reform of Arab laws that prohibit women from passing on their nationality to their families.

While Lebanon is technically party to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, it has yet to ratify the convention, citing like many other Middle Eastern countries, reservations on Section 2, Article 9, which specifies women’s equal rights to nationality.


Lebanese law allows male citizens married to foreigners to pass their nationality onto their wives and children, but does not permit the same for Lebanese women. According to the Nationality Campaign, there are 1,100 Lebanese women married to non-Lebanese. Denied Lebanese nationality, their families are required to pay regular residency permit fees and face serious obstacles entering the job market and obtaining affordable education or health care.

Speaking to The Daily Star on Sunday, Abou Habib said that rights activists had been encouraged by Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud’s recent drafting of a law that grants Lebanese citizenship to the families of Lebanese women. In late January, Barroud promised the draft law would be discussed and ratified “ahead of the parliamentary elections” in June.

“This is probably the most concrete step taken by the Lebanese government in addressing gender inequality,” Abou Habib said of Baroud’s proposed law. “We hope that the law will come into effect soon and that it does not place any reservations on the nationality of the father,” specifically regarding Palestinians. She said she hoped rights groups would be included in consultations regarding the drafting of the new law. “So long as citizens are not equal because of their gender, religion or class, we should stop calling Lebanon a country of freedom and democracy.”

Saves the Day

14 May

Al Jazeera has a story on a Deal being reached for Lebanon through Arab mediation. I shall post a bit of the story below so you get an idea:
Lebanon’s pro-government and opposition factions, have reached a deal to revoke two decisions that resulted in fierce gun battles in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, last week. The violence was sparked when the government issued an order to dismantle Hezbollah’s communications system, and to sack the head of airport security.
Delegation members opened talks in Beirut on Wednesday to try to defuse tensions between the US-backed government and the Hezbollah-led opposition. The Lebanese cabinet is holding a session and is expected to formally endorse the deal.

1) This must be the first time in history the Arab League has ever produced anything other than empty rhetoric, wasted time and money. Well done, you can pat yourselves on the backs now!

2) How embarrassing that the Lebanese must always either ask for help from foreign powers, have it imposed on them or just be walked all over by foreigners. It’s time the Lebanese started using their own brains and start finding their own solutions to the problems they have a lot of responsibility in creating. This visit was no more than symbolic, to deliver the Lebanese government the hard kick up the arse it seems to need before it can make any sort of decision. Everyone knew what the Arab League was going to suggest- it wasn’t exactly rocket science. The suggestion was proposed ages ago.


8 May

Lebanon’s political and security situation is set to deteriorate further, it seems. At work today (I work at a newspaper), there was a noticeable, if quiet, atmosphere of panic. Hizbullah has taken control of Beirut international airport and is setting up protest tents similar to the ones that haunt Down Town, saying they will stay there until the government revokes its plans to crack down on the Shiite political opposition group. Violent clashes between armed pro-government and opposition supporters have been reported throughout the country.

Walking home from work, I was one of very few people out and felt somewhat intimidated by the swarms of young soldiers staring boredly at me, playing with their guns and putting up even more barbed wire around government buildings. On the other hand, there were camerapersons and journalists out in the tens, with foreign correspondents setting up shop on most corners, next to a handily placed tank to provide a good visual backdrop. Once in my neighbourhood, I decided to join the mass hysteria by going panic-food shopping. My dad had done it a few days ago and I had laughed, shrugging off his fatalistic outlook of the political situation. But when I myself arrived at the supermarket it was virtual pandemonium and I began to feel a little tense- the queues of people buying canned goods, bottled water and sanitary towels were absurd. One old man was buying five boxes of hair dye, an odd purchase I thought at a time of potential conflict. But most people were shopping seriously, and in bulk. I got into a fight with an older woman pushing and shoving me out of the way, as everyone was bustling to get to cash registers first. People here seem scared, more than I’ve ever noticed, and are preparing for the worst.

Hassan Nasrallah, head of Hizbullah, is speaking on television at 4pm Lebanon time. His political rival Saad Hariri (of March 14 Coalition and the Sunni, US/Saudi-backed Future movement) is also due to give a news conference today. Almost no one will be on the streets after 4pm and only time will tell what happens after that. So, with little else to do, I’m going to enjoy my current supply of electricity and gas, my water and excess of food while it all lasts, and settle down to watch angry politician after angry politician deliver their verdict on why this tiny country is in the royal mess it is in.

(Picture shows Said Beyrouti of Hizbullah’s Al-Manar TV in confrontation with Lebanese army soldiers. From Menassat article)

Riot Riot Riot

7 May

It may seem a little peverse for me to be talking about the days events in Lebanon at a time when over (at least) 15,000 people in Burma/’Myanmar’ are dead and thousands more missing after a huge cyclone, but this blog is, after all, about the Arab world and thus my world. And yet I can’t ignore the terrible catastrophe that has befallen those innocent people already suffering under a bonkers military junta and so I have to at least give my respects to the victims. The Burmese military rulers are only allowing in a pathetic trickle of aid: valuing politics and their positions more than their people’s lives. More should be done for the people- more should always be done.
So as for the Arab world: Beirut was today transformed from a hustling, bustling, car-crammed city into a virtual ghost town. There were almost no people out, no cars, very few shops open, and an unnerving quiet most alien to the capital. The General Confederation of Labour Unions (CGTL) had organized a strike, with the backing of the opposition, to demand the government increase the minimum wage from $200, which has been in effect since 1996. Of course, as is usual in Lebanon, what started as a strike over living conditions then became riots in certain areas, with teenage boys burning cars, tyres (and I think I even saw a carpet on TV), looking for fights and egging on riot police. An important call to demand the poorer sections of Lebanese society get better wages to meet increasing food and living costs therfore became a complete farce, was completely politicized and played into the hysteric scare-mongering that politicians here are so fond of.
It seems that the March 8 ‘opposition’, essentially Shiite Hizbullah and Amal, together with their Christian ally the Free Patriotic Movement, have hijacked the protests and say they will continue until the government repeals a decision to shut down Hizbullah’s phone networks.That decision was triggered by  Walid Jumblatt, Druze leader and head of the Progressive Socialist Party (the leadership of which inherited from his assassinated father), who earlier this week ‘outed’ Hizbullah’s network, which was in fact public knowledge years ago. Jumblatt also accused Hizbullah of having surveillance cameras trained on Beirut airport’s runway 17 , which alot of politicians and private planes use. The government also returned the head of the airport’s security to an army position for his links to Hizbullah. March 14, of which Jumblat is a key member, has accused the riots of being “inspired by Iran and executed by Hizbullah”. March 14 usually blame Iran and Syria for their woes and the ‘opposition’ usually blame Israel and the United States.
Jumblatt’s move is a great example of the bitter rivalry between the main political groups here, March 14 and the ‘opposition’. The tension has been brewing for months- Lebanon has been without a president since last November because agreement over the formation of a national unity government and an electoral law cannot be reached.
Alot of news agencies are saying gun shots and explosions were heard in Beirut, but I myself heard nothing out of the ordinary. There are usually alot of sounds here that one could mistake for violence, but usually turn out to be fireworks, back-firing engines, exploding gas canisters, so perhaps I just didn’t notice.
(Photo from Al Jazeera article.)

Iraq’s biggest victims are women

29 Apr

Barbaric ‘honour killings’ become the weapon to subjugate women in Iraq:
Murder of a girl who became infatuated with a British soldier highlights a disturbing new trend

By Terri JuddMonday, 28 April 2008
Article available from the Independent.

At first glance Shawbo Ali Rauf appears to be slumbering on the grass, her pale brown curls framing her face, her summer skirt spread about her. But the awkward position of her limbs and the splattered blood reveal the true horror of the scene.
The 19-year-old Iraqi was, according to her father, murdered by her own in-laws, who took her to a picnic area in Dokan and shot her seven times. Her crime was to have an unknown number on her mobile phone. Her “honour killing” is just one in a grotesque series emerging from Iraq, where activists speak of a “genocide” against women in the name of religion.
In the latest such case, it was reported yesterday that a 17-year-old girl, Rand Abdel-Qader, was stabbed to death last month by her father for becoming infatuated with a British soldier serving in southern Iraq.
In Basra alone, police acknowledge that 15 women a month are murdered for breaching Islamic dress codes. Campaigners insist it is a conservative figure.
Violence against women is rampant, rising every day with the power of the militias. Beheadings, rapes, beatings, suicides through self-immolation, genital mutilation, trafficking and child abuse masquerading as marriage of girls as young as nine are all on the increase.
Du’a Khalil Aswad, 17, from Nineveh, was executed by stoning in front of mob of 2,000 men for falling in love with a boy outside her Yazidi tribe. Mobile phone images of her broken body transmitted on the internet led to sectarian violence, international outrage and calls for reform. Her father, Khalil Aswad, speaking one year after her death in April last year, has revealed that none of those responsible had been prosecuted and his family remained “outcasts” in their own tribe.
“My daughter did nothing wrong,” he said. “She fell in love with a Muslim and there is nothing wrong with that. I couldn’t protect her because I got threats from my brother, the whole tribe. They insisted they were gong to kill us all, not only Du’a, if she was not killed. She was mutilated, her body dumped like rubbish.
“I want those who committed this act to be punished but so far they have not, they are free. Honour killing is murder. This is a barbaric act.”
Despite the outrage, recent calls by the Kurdish MP Narmin Osman to outlaw honour killings have been blocked by fundamentalists. “Honour killings are not actually a crime in the eyes of the government,” said Houzan Mahmoud, who has had a fatwa on her head since raising a petition against the introduction of sharia law in Kurdistan. “If before there was one dictator persecuting people, now almost everyone is persecuting women.
“In the past five years it is has got [much] worse. It is difficult to described how terrible it is, how badly we have been pushed back to the dark ages. Women are being beheaded for taking their veil off. Self immolation is rising – women are left with no choice. There is no government body or institution to provide any sort of support. Sharia law is being used to underpin government rule, denying women their most basic human rights.”
In August last year, the body of 11-year-old Sara Jaffar Nimat was found in Khanaqin, Kurdistan, after she had been stoned and burnt to death. Earlier this month, two brothers and a sister were kidnapped from their home near Kirkuk by gunmen in police uniforms. The brothers were beaten to death and the woman left in a critical condition after being informed that she must obey the rules of an “Islamic state”. One week ago, a journalist, Begard Huseein, was murdered in her home in Arbil, northern Iraq. Her husband, Mohammed Mustafa, stabbed her because she was in love with another man, according to local reports.
The stoning death of Ms Aswad led to the establishment of an Internal Ministry unit in Kurdistan to combat violence against women. It reported that last year in Sulaymaniyah, a city of 1 million people, there were 407 reported offences, beheadings, beatings, deaths through “family problems”, and threats of honour killings. Rape is not included as most women are too fearful to report it for fear of retribution. Nevertheless, police in Karbala recently revealed 25 reports of rape.
The new Iraqi constitution, according to Mrs Mahmoud, is a mass of confusing contradictions. While it states that men and women are equal under law it also decrees that sharia law – which considers one male witness worth two females – must be observed. The days when women could hold down key jobs or enjoy any freedom of movement are long gone. The fundamentalists have sent out too many chilling messages. In Mosul two years ago, eight women were beheaded in a terror campaign.
“It was really, really horrifying,” said Mrs Mahmoud. “Honour killings and murder are widespread. Thousands [of people] … have become victims of murder, violence and rape – all backed by laws, tribal customs and religious rules. We urge the international community, the government to condemn this barbaric practice, and help the women of Iraq.”