Archive for the 'Women’s Rights' Category

Syria in denial on denying women’s rights

Syria told a UN Committee that women’s rights in the country are excellent and rapes never happen.

On Friday, July 4, the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) reviewed women’s rights in Syria. Syria, among the 188 States that are subjected to the scrutiny of the Convention, is required to submit regular reports to the 23 independent experts to evaluate the implementation of the Convention in the country.

The five hour session began with a presentation of a report from Ms. Kinda Al-Shammat, the Syrian Minister of Social Affairs, highlighting the actions taken by the Syrian government to combat harmful stereotypes, illiteracy, lack of support for rape victims, and other forms of discrimination against women.

However, the report failed to acknowledge any fault among the Syrian government itself. In a 2012 report, Human Rights Watch shared the story of witnesses and victims who testified to the sexual abuse of women and girls as young as 12 at the hands of the military and other pro-government forces during home raids. Similarly, a 2012 report from the BBC quoted a woman formerly held in a military detention center in Damascus who described the “daily rape” committed against girls while other girls were forced to look on. At the 2012 Geneva Summit, Hadeel Kouki described unspeakable violations of women’s rights in the country.

Continue reading ‘Syria in denial on denying women’s rights’

Event: “Profiles in Courage: Human Rights Defenders and the Struggle to End Violence Against Women”

Join UN Watch for parallel event to UN Comission on the Status of Women, 4 March 2013: “Profiles in Courage: Human Rights Defenders and the Struggle to End Violence Against Women”

The situation of women’s rights in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia
Dr. Qanta Ahmed

Human rights activist, associate professor of Medicine at the State University of New York (Stony Brook), author of In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom.

The situation of women’s rights in Iran
Roya Hakakian

Author, Farsi poet, founding member of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, producer for CBS 60 Minutes and other programs. Her most recent book, Assassins of the Turquoise Palace, about Iran’s terror campaign against exiled Iranian dissidents in Western Europe, was named a Notable Book of 2011 by the New York Times Book Review.

Violence against women’s in the Syrian struggle for freedom
Hadeel Kouki

Student activist from Syria

Continue reading ‘Event: “Profiles in Courage: Human Rights Defenders and the Struggle to End Violence Against Women”’

Say No to Iran & Saudis Leading U.N. Women’s Rights Agency

50554_155483681160666_7408031_n.jpg Speak out for women who are hanged, lashed and stoned to death: go to this web page and click “Like.”



Iran Says “Chastity” is Key to “Preventing Violence Against Women”

During today’s annual full day discussion on women’s human rights at the U.N. Human Rights Council, opinions clashed on the role of culture and religion in violations of women’s rights. Continue reading ‘Iran Says “Chastity” is Key to “Preventing Violence Against Women”’

Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi again slams Swiss FM Calmy-Rey for meeting Ahmadinejad

panel1It is rare when the UN hosts an event that speaks truth to power. But that is exactly what happened in Geneva today when Iranian human rights defender and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and Nigerian author and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka appeared on a panel, in the magnificent Salle des Assemblées, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), organized by the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

The event was chaired by UNOG Director-General Sergei Ordzhonikidze and attracted a full room, mostly with students and Iranian expats, as well as diplomats and NGO activists.

Ordzhonikidze opened with a speech, followed by a clip on the adoption of the UDHR, which showcased speeches and key figures behind the document, as well as the actual 1948 vote. The film only showed three positive votes from the roll call, but omitted to mention the 8 abstentions that came from the USSR and its vassals and satellites (Byelorussia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine), Yugoslavia, apartheid South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Both Nobel laureates made passionate statements, reaffirming the universality of human rights. They spoke against dictatorships, non-democratic Islamic states and oppression. Both condemned the notion of cultural relativism as an excuse for not implementing human rights.

Ebadi spoke of “human rights defenders [who] are silenced as ‘heretics’”, and dictatorships that use religion to oppress their people. Soyinka deplored the situation in Zimbabwe and also criticized the US Patriot Act.

Following the two speeches, a panel of Swiss journalists asked questions, and, in a Davos-style setting, the floor was opened for questions from the audience. panel2

The first question from a Swiss journalist was to Ebadi, saying how much the Swiss were “shocked” to see Swiss FM Micheline Calmy-Rey meet with Ahmadinejad this year, and asking her opinion.

Ebadi said that she was surprised that a Cabinet Minister from a country with such respect for human rights would agree to meet with such a government and sign an agreement with them, which is to the detriment of the Iranian people, instead of meeting with representatives of civil society. The room gave Ebadi a round of applause.

Ordzhonikidze was quick to respond in support of the Swiss Foreign Minister, saying that he disagreed with Ebadi and agreed with Calmy-Rey. He said that her visit means that diplomacy is working. Diplomats have to meet each other to make peace in the world. Negotiations are happening all around the world between hostile nations. If not, the other option would be war. He said he fully supported what Calmy-Rey did. Few applauded this statement.

The moderator, the head of UNITAR, invited Ebadi to respond. Ebadi said she doesn’t oppose dialogue. It is normal for countries to have dialogue. But Calmy-Rey’s trip to Iran was not to talk of peace or human rights, and she was not prepared to meet with even one person from Iran’s civil society. Agreements were signed, pictures were taken and Calmy-Rey left. It was only done for economic reasons, and to the detriment of the people of Iran. Ebadi received another round of applause.

For the rest of the discussion, Ebadi spoke about women’s rights in Iran. About how a woman is only worth half of a man’s life. How the Bahais are discriminated in Iran and suffer from a “cultural genocide.” How Iranian law establishes religious discrimination. Bahais have no rights under the law. For the last 30 years, they are barred from universities.

When some Bahai leaders were arrested, nobody wanted to represent them, so she did. The official Iranian News Agency sought to defame Ebadi by claiming she was a Bahai convert. In Iran, a convert is liable to execution for apostasy. These discriminatory laws need to be reformed.

A Kurd from Iran also asked a question and Ebadi responded that it is true that Kurdish leaders have been assassinated and she thinks that violence can never be justified.

Ebadi shared a story about the Commission on Human Rights. A few years ago she came to Geneva to meet with diplomats from the Commission and tell them about women’s rights in Iran. She entered the room and saw eight diplomats — five of whom represented countries where the situation of women’s rights is even worse that in Iran! So she said hello, and left the room. She said this needs to change.

Soyinka deplored the weak performance of the Human Rights Council. He also deplored the lack of UN response to the great human rights disaster in Darfur, and said that the UN has still not learned the lessons of the Rwandan genocide. He also criticized China for its support to Sudan.

The event concluded with a speech by the Prince of Monaco, Albert II. The Prince repeated many of the notions of the discussion. He said that today is an anniversary but not a celebration. Relativism has emerged as a new enemy of the universality of human rights. How can it be acceptable to turns one’s back on the oneness of humanity?

The ambassador of Sri Lanka was reportedly quite upset that he was not recognized by the chair to ask a question.

The event was a rare instance of fresh air at the UN. The doors of the UN were opened to human rights defenders and victims, and oppressive regimes were named and shamed.

To watch the entire event, click here:

U.N. Ruling: Islamic Sharia Taboo in Human Rights Council Debates

In its recently concluded June session, the UN Human Rights Council ruled that any references to Islamic Shar’ia law are prohibited in the council chamber. Even outgoing UN rights chief Louise Arbour, who more than once sought to appease the UN’s anti-blasphemy squads, expressed her concern.

It all started when the heroic David Littman, undaunted by malicious attempts to expel him from the UN, tried to deliver a speech on violence against women and what Islamic scholars can do to prevent it. The Egyptian representative interrupted repeatedly and challenged the council president. “Regardless of the result of the vote — I couldn’t care less if I will win or lose this vote — my point is that Islam will not be crucified in this council!”

The president gave in: “Statements should refrain from making judgments or evaluations of a particular religion. . . I can promise that at the next evaluation of a religious creed, law, or document, I will interrupt the speaker and we’ll go on to the next one.”


Following is a transcript from June 16, 2008 debate at 8th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. General debate on Agenda Item 8, “Follow up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.” The video archive can be seen here under “Points of Order” (requires RealPlayer).


In the context of integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations system we wish to draw attention to four examples of widespread violence against women that we believe merits far greater attention from the council. One, regarding FGM [female genital mutilation], we are making available our detailed written statement…


[Bangs gavel.]  A point of order raised by the delegation of Egypt. You have the floor, sir.


Thank you Mr. President. Mr. President, I have a copy of this statement. Continue reading ‘U.N. Ruling: Islamic Sharia Taboo in Human Rights Council Debates’

Saudi women’s tales horrify UN


Members of Saudi delegation


Friday, January 18, 2008
Canwest News Service

Members of a United Nations women’s rights panel sat aghast yesterday as women in a Saudi delegation defended their status in their country without a hint of irony.

Marking Saudi Arabia’s first appearance before the panel, the team seemed oblivious to the fact the testimony flew in the face of internationally declared standards.

“Women are flourishing in different areas …” said Dr. Lubna Al-Ansari, one of the many women Saudi Arabia dispatched to testify before the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

“We can travel on our own. For instance, for me, I have permission from my husband, so I can move freely and go wherever I want.”

Another delegate defended Saudi Arabia’s ban on driving for women by saying it’s a legacy of history.

“In ancient times, there were no cars. Women used to ride camels and donkeys. They used to participate in all kinds of transportation,” the delegate explained. “When mentalities are ready, women will be able to drive cars.”

A male member of the Saudi delegation focused on Saudi laws allowing polygamy, saying they restrict the number of wives a man can take to four.

“A man who is not confident about treating his women fairly should marry only one woman,” he said. “One reason for polygamy is that the husband may have a strong sexual desire, and maybe just one woman will not necessarily fulfill all his desire.”

He also described polygamy as “humanitarian” because it gives more women opportunities to marry and “covers the expenses” of more of them.


Committee members shot back, accusing Saudi Arabia of failing to meet international norms that guarantee women’s economic, political and civil rights.

“Only when women are free to make their decisions on all aspects of their life, are they full citizens,” committee member Maria Regina Tavares told the session in Geneva.

Saudi Arabia ratified the 1979 women’s rights treaty that the committee oversees eight years ago – but with the proviso that

Islamic Sharia law would prevail if there were conflict between the two.

With a team of more than 45, the Saudi government made its case with one of the biggest delegations ever to turn up for such a hearing.

The monitoring group UN Watch said the Saudi delegation had masked the “pervasive discrimination” against women in the desert kingdom.

“Many of the responses speak for themselves,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based group.

The hearing took place on the heels of a rape case that focused international attention on the plight of women in Saudi Arabia. In that case, the country’s King Abdullah eventually pardoned the 19-year-old rape victim, who’d been sentenced to lashes by Saudi Arabia’s powerful Islamic clerics because she had been in the company of a man unrelated to her.

“Instead of sending massive delegations to the UN to pretend that Saudi women are not treated like chattel, Riyadh should focus on reforming the kind of discriminatory laws that sentence women rape victims to lashes,” Neuer added.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008

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