Additional links which overflowed the Fatwah and the Shulamite
Siberia in my soul
A YEAR has passed and I am one year older, but the new year has brought no promise nor hope of freedom. Exile has no limits: how long shall I spend the life of a stranger in a foreign land? I see no reason to live in hope of tomorrow.
If someone gave me a single wish, I would answer without a thought: I want to go back to my homeland, Bangladesh. So many years have passed since I left my home. So many years since I last looked on her beautiful face. Sometimes I think I'll go crazy. To those who judge me from outside, I should be happy, content. I don't have to worry about food, clothes and shelter like most of the people back home. I don't have to run for my life any more. There is no fatwa nor demonstrations against me. And no spontaneous flow of writing in my life any more.
There are so many caring, friendly people around me here. But still I cannot say I am happy. I've been uprooted from the very soil where I was born and grew up to be myself. Europe: 'the land of dreams' for so many. But what am I here? A rootless person in this alien soil, no sense of belonging. Just another plastic plant in a painted pot. No flowers bloom, even the buds wither away long before their time.
Deep in my soul I still have the urge to create, once more to bring forth the flowers. I want to write again. But for the last year I could write nothing but poems. Poems born from the tears and sighs of my depressed soul. I could describe only my cravings to be a bird and fly back to my beloved Bangladesh. I remember how, in winter, birds from cold, distant lands like Siberia would make their long flight to Bangladesh in search of warmth and sunlight. I too was caught in the wintry coldness of imprisonment in my country when the fatwa was announced against me, when they put a price on my head. It was Europe that gave me shelter and saved my life. I can never forget its warm generosity.
But still my heart craves to return. To start my life as a writer again in my old familiar surroundings, among my own people. To sit behind my old writing desk, pen in hand once more. Will Bangladesh remain my eternal Siberia?
Women under the Taliban
They spend all day in the house or the small, dusty garden in front of it, behind the high wall of the compound typical of Afghan housing.
Zaigul looked at her three daughters, their two female cousins and a woman friend down the street and wept. "It is better to die than stay alive in the house. We are like birds in a cage. She had one daughter a lawyer, another studying language and literature at Kabul university and a third at school. None of them expects to study or work again, even though the Taleban say they favour women's education and will find a way for that to continue and for women to work in complete separation from men. "They always say that, but in Khandahar and Herat for a long time now the girls there don't go to school and the women don't go to work. But the Qur'an says to seek knowledge without regard for gender".
Women were told to stay at home and they could go out only if wearing the head-to-foot covering called a burqa with a mesh over the eyes, and only if accompanied by a close male relative like a father or a brother. But this family have no such close relative among them. They have not been outside the house for three weeks. A nephew brings them provisions. There are about 45,000 widows who are sole providers for their families in Kabul. About 70% of the teachers in Kabul are women.
"We have lost our freedom" "The future is very dark and I don't know whether we will be able to stay in our city. My friends and I are Muslims, but the holy Koran only says that women must wear a scarf when they feel afraid, not all the time. It says both men and women should know god, which means that they should be educated, otherwise how can they read the Koran and the sayings of the prophet?"
10 Mar 97 World 'silent' at plight of Afghani women
ISLAMABAD - Women in Afghanistan are helpless and the international community has remained silent over their deteriorating plight, a leader of a Pakistan-based organisation of Afghan women said in a week- end interview. "Women are the worst victims of the Afghan crisis," Fatana Ishaq Gilani, head of the Afghan Women Council (AWC), told the Pakistani newspaper the Frontier Post. "Men are asked to grow beards and women are confined to four walls," Fatana Gilani said, complaining that the international community was 'silent' over the "deteriorating condition of helpless and shelterless women in Kabul." "Taleban were proud to have restored peace in Afghanistan but did not know that Afghan women were begging in Peshawar [a north-western Pakistan city] and other parts of the world to eam their livelihood," she said. She also blamed neighbouring Muslim countries for the situation because they had been "supporting warlords in Afghanistan by providing arms" to them. Fatana Gilani said the Islamic militia had no right to "commit injustices against women. Does Islam allow that?" she asked. She castigated the intemational conununity, saying the United Nations, human rights organisations, Western countries and Muslim states had "ignored human rights violations" in Afghanistan. The AWC leader also expressed concern over the "deteriorating economic situation" of Afghan women living in Nasir Bagh refugee camp near the border city of Peshawar. The Taleban, who seized Kabul last September, have strictly enforced their rigid version of Islamic Sharia law, imposing an almost general ban on women's employment and a dress code that requires them to cover themselves from head to toe. The Islamic militia has also banned music, television, cinema and photography of people. - AFP
4 Jan 97 Pray, or else
Afghanistan's ruling Taleban movement says it will punish Muslims who fail to perform their five-times-a-day Islamic prayers in the capital, Kabul. Units of the Government's Amar Bel Maruf wa Nahi Anil Munkar (promoting good and fighting evil) department would check observance. All citizens, including shopkeepers and Government employees, must stop work on hearing the muezzin's call for prayers and go to mosques.
A women in fever with malaria must still remain covered from head to toe in hospital
Flash! The Associated Press Covers the World
1998 Ed V Alabasio, K Tunney, C Zoeller Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers.
10 Mar 97 Photos out of Bounds
KABUL Afghanistan's purist Islamic Taleban have told news agencies that they cannot photograph "living bodies.' The Foreign Ministry, in a letter to news organisations in Kabul detailing "an order from the high authorities," said photography and filming of living bodies "is forbidden and is against the Sharia [the Islamic legal code] of the Islamic State of Afghanistan." - REUTER
7 May 1997 Women outlawed from Schools and Universities
Schools have reopened in Afghanistan this year without a single female student or teacher. This latest affront to girls and women follows the introduction of a rule banning the wearing of white socks . because they might be attractive to men. Kite-flying, once popular in much of the country, has also been banned because the excitement might disturb men obeying the Taleban edict to pray five times a day. House windows have been painted black to stop women being seen from outside. Paper bags have been outlawed because of the remote chance that discarded pages of the Koran could end up in recycling bins and be tumed into a bag. Soccer has been banned because it is said to be un-Islamic possibly because men show their legs, though the reason has never been announced. The strict regime is enforced by members of the Religious Police Force, who patrol the streets checking on women and reminding people of the latest regulations over loud speakers. Photography and video players have been banned as un-islamic, and women are no longer allowed to use the public baths the only means to have a bath for many women because of cramped living conditions. No other Islamic country imposes such harsh regulations. Iran allows women to vote, work and hold seats in parliament. In Afghanistan, women and girls are essentially banned from doing anything excdpt working in ihe home and shopping. They are whipped or jailed for violating the rules, which are invented by senior mullahs before being broadcast over Radio Shariat. It is essential for people to listen regularly to the radio to keep up with the constant flow of orders. Most mullahs in Afghanistan are illiterate graduates of madrassas (Islamic schools), which teach them to recite the Koran by heart. The United Nations Children's Fund described the exclusion of women and girls from schools as an affront to human rights, calling Afghanistan a nation of widows. There are 30,000 of them in Kabul, banned from working, except for a few who are allowed employment in designated hospitals. Kabul University, which used to have 4000 female students, reopened without female teachers or students. The Taleban require women to wear a voluminous veil. Even their eyes are covered by a eloth mesh.
Taleban's new rule for women: silent walking Reuter 23-7-97
KABUL - The fundamentalist Islamic Taleban's religious police have issued new regulations restricting Afghan women's access to aid and ordering them to avoid making noise when they walk. The religious police, formally known as the Department for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice, have issued two memos; one to international aid agencies operating in Kabul, and one to hospitals. "The regulations of our Islamic country are based on the non-employment of females in intemational or local offices, and must be observed by foreign and local institutions," says the memo sent to all international agencies. The new regulations also formalise the laws restricting employrnent of women. "Women are not allowed to work in any field except the medical sector." But even there the women have to observe certain regulations t6, conform to the Taleban's interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law. "No Afghan woman can take senior or acting senior position foreign-run hospitals." Also included is a rule that aid agencies need to gain permission to employ or assist women. A large proportion of aid programmes are aimed at women, particularly Kabul's thousands of widows, many of whom have been, driven to destitution by the Taleban ban on women working. The regulations sent to hospitals, ban women from visiting male patients in wards that contain non- family members and outlaw make-up, jewellery, and shoes with heels, that make a noise when walking. The Taleban say they are trying to implement a pure Islamic state, and the regulations are necessary to achieve that end.
The Buddhist world 'is outraged by the Taleban's threat to blow up a colossal 1600-year-old statue of the Buddha carved out of a sandstone cliff on the ancient Silk Route. Afghanistan's greatest archaeological treasure, it is protected by a rival Shia Muslim faction in the Bamiyan Valley of the Hindu Kush mountains in central Afghanistan. At 55 metres, it is the world's tallest standing Buddha. Frontline Taleban commander Abdul Wahid said the carving was un-Islamic because it represented an "infidel" religion. It also bears a human image, forbidden by Islam. The statue was a tourist and pilgrimage site before the civil war began in the 1970s. The Times
9 May 1997 Beard-Trimmers Jailed
KABUL Anti-vice patrols of Afghanistan's purist-Muslim Taleban militia have imprisoned three people for trimming their beards and a shopkeeper selling goods to women without veils, state-run radio reported yesterday. "Three men who had trimmed their beards were given two days of punitive imprisonment," Taleban-mouthpiece Radio Shariat announced. The number of beard-trimmers and shavers arrested, beaten, imprisoned or sacked from Govemment jobs so far this year is fast reaching the 500 mark. "A shopkeeper who was selling to improperly covered women was also given two days of punitive imprisonment and his shop was closed for three days," Kabul's voice of virtue said. The patrols are conducted by the "department of fostering virtue and suppressing vice," armed with emergency powers to crack down on wrongdoing in the previously liberal Afghan capital seized by the Taleban last September. "The bad hejab [improperly covered] sisters were given necessary moral and Islamic advice," the report said. The so-called religious police speed around Kabul in Japanesemade four-wheel-drive vehicles mounted with , speakers and equipped with a microphone in search of offenders. Rules banning the trimming of beards or shaving originate from interpretations of the 'Sunnat," or examples of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Laws regarding the appearance of women originate from the Koranic verse requiring women to dress modestly. Women are made to wear a head-to-toe garment called a burqa, with only a small hexagonal embroidered piece of gauze over the eyes to allow a blurry glimpse of the outside world. In the two-thirds of Afghanistan under their control, the Taleban have imposed a strict interpfetation of [Shariat] Islamic law in their aim to bring a "pure Islamic state" to the country ravaged by 17 years of war. AFP
Iran further Items
A Season of Infamy in Iran Bahai Murders and Persecution (extract)
FOR IRAN the summer of 1983 has been a season of infamy. The world has watched in stunned disbelief as the mullahs continued their genocidal campaign against the Baha'i community. They first hanged eight men in Shiraz, and later ten women, three of them teenagers. The Revolutionary prosecutor, Siyyid Husayn Músaví, announced the official banning of all Bahai'i institutions and proclaimed membership in them a criminal act. The charges were -spying and sabotage - and - warring against God.
The spiritual assemblies collectively perform the work of priest, teacher, advisor, trustee of funds, and keeper of records. They admit to membership, witness marriages, supervise the religious education of children, settle disputes among individuals, grant religious divorce, encourage good deeds, and censure bad behavior.
This letter, delivered to some two thousand government officials and prominent personages in Iran, eloquently testifies to the heroism of its authors and the peaceful nature of the community they led. It exemplifies also the confidence and pride of those who firmly believe that the One unknowable God has decreed the ultimate triumph of truth and justice.
When to Forgive is Never to Forget
Escaping the hangman's noose has not dimmed the courage or faith of a remarkable Iranian woman, as RON TAYLOR discovers. NZ Herald 19 Mar 97.
Olya Roohizadegan campaigns for her cause
from her base in England.
Ask Olya Roohizadegan how she can bring herself to forgive those who hanged her 10 women friends she replies simply: "It is my faith. I am Baha'i.' They were hanged 14 years ago, one after the other, in an Iranian jail after steadfastly refusing to disavow their faith during months of imprisonment. She keeps photos of these friends, one of whom was only 17, in a well-thumbed album. Whenever she travels around the world seeking support from governments to stop the persecution of the Baha'i in Iran, the book goes too. So does her biography, Olya's Story. She brought it with her on a five-day trip meet foreign affairs officials in Wellington: they assured her of New Zealand's support in the United Nations. - "I'm grateful for those expressions but nothing is ever enough. The persecution goes on. There are five Baha'is under sentence of death in Iran simply because they won't renounce their faith," said 54-year-ofd Mrs Roohizadegan. "It is nothing political. Contrary to what a lot of people think, we do not oppose the government of Iran. It is a matter of religious conscience." There are about 300,000 Baha'i in Iran and the faith has about seven million adherents worldwide. Mrs Roohizadegan said the imprisonment, torture and execution of Baha!is the current regime was a continuation of Iranian policy down the years. It was as bad, if not worse, under the former Shah but was not widely publicised in the West. 'The hounding of the Baha'i stems from the MusIim leadership in Iran maintaining that there were no further revelations after the prophet, Mohammed. But the faith's prophet, Baha'u'llah, was not born until 1817 and the Baha'i calender dates, from 1844. To the Muslim clerics this is heresy . The persecution of the Baha'i has gone on for more than a century. Mrs Roohizadegan was bom into a Baha'i family but because of the danger her parents kept their religious beliefs secret. As a result she was brought up as a Muslim and it was only later in life that she revealed her faith. She and her husband Allah-Morad worked for the Iranian National Oil Company in Shiraz. After the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979 there was an upsurge of persecution of Bahai's who were deprived of their homes, shops and farms. She helped to organise food and shelter for the homeless, smuggling news and photographs of what was happening to the outside world. In 1982 the Roohizadegans were sacked because of their religious beliefs. Prior to this they had managed to get their two eldest sons out of the country to England. She was arrested by Iranian Revolutionary Guards and interrogated along with her 10 friends. She, too, was sentenced to death but released temporarily. "It was hoped I'd lead [spies] to other Baha'i but I didn't. What happened was that I was saved by Muslim friends who helped smuggle me, Morad and our youngest son, then aged three, overland to Pakistan. It was when we got there that I learned that my friends had been hanged The family was reunited in England from where she has continued to work for support for the persecuted Baha'i of Iran. She has testified at hearings on human rights before committees of the United Nations and the European Parliament. "All we want is to be allowed to follow our own beliefs," she said before leaving Auckland for Australia yesterday. "There are many Muslim who want the same. They don't hate us as witness those who saved me ... 'World pressure on Iran to recognise human rights is the only way this can be achieved. All we want is justice and mercy ...'I don't hate and I can forgive - even those who have done such terrible things to us."
31-12-96 Women and the Vote in Rural Pakistan
Tribesmen in the rugged tribal regions of Pakistan have vowed to burn down the homes of women who voted in the February general election. "We can't allow women to vote because it will create certain disorders and allow unwanted evils to enter our areas" said Alliance of Clerics cheif Mulana Abdul Hadi. His group had decided men could vote on behalf of women "because the women will certainly support them".
Woman Still Barred from Husband
LAHORE - Pakistani judges yesterday failed to agree on whether to allow a 22-year-old woman to live with her husband against the wishes of her father. The woman, Saima Shah, has been staying in a private shelter, under a court order, for the past 11 months awaiting a final ruling on whether she can live with Arshad Ahmad, a college lecturer whom she married secretly in February 1996.
Saima's father, Abdul Waheed Ropri, a member of the militant Sunni Muslim Ahle Hadith group, argues that Islam forbids a woman to many without the consent of a parent or guardian. Two Supreme Court judges yesterday said they had referred the case to the Supreme Court chief justice after failing to agree on whether Saima should be set free to join her husband. One judge, Mukhtar Ahmad Junejo, favoured ordering Saima's release, but the other, Rhalilur Rehman, said the case must wait until the Lahore High Court rules on a petition by Mr Ropri seeldng custody of his daughter. A decision is expected on March 10. Mr Ropri argues that Saima was kidnapped by Mr Ahmad and forced into marriage, but she told the court on Tuesday that this was not true and she just wanted to live with her husband. "Retuming to my father's house is unthinkable," sh.e said, adding that she had lived in 11 near-solitary confinement" for 11 months though she had committed no offence. The case is seen as a legal test in the tussle between Muslim conservatives and women's rights advocates in Pakistan. REUTER 6 March 1997