struggle within Islam

New Libyan government: progress for women

Libya's Government of National Accord officially handed power over to a new interim government in Tripoli on March 16, the day after Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh's cabinet was sworn in by the House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk. This is the fruit of a long and complicated UN-led process with multi-track negotiations. The new leadership faces multiple challenges, including holding elections and restoring much-needed government services. It also needs to unite a country that has largely been in chaos since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi, helped by NATO's decision (exactly 10 years ago) to intervene. The new cabinet contains five women, including the ministers of foreign affairs and justice. Together they make up 15% of the leadership—not the 30% delegates to the UN process had promised. But many Libyan women are viewing this as at least a step in the right direction.

Turkey drops treaty on violence against women

Turkey withdrew from the Council of Europe's convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, popularly known as the Istanbul Convention, by a presidential decree announced in the official gazette March 20. The Istanbul Convention seeks to "protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence." It is the first legally binding instrument in Europe to combat violence against women. Turkey was the first country to sign the convention the day it was launched in the city of Istanbul in May 2011.

Afghanistan: US withdrawal on hold?

With a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan approaching but a final peace deal stalled, the White House is said to be considering an extension beyond this date for removal of its 2,500 troops remaining in the country. The Washington Post writes that the Biden administration "is likely to postpone a full withdrawal—potentially with Taliban acquiescence—to buy more time to advance a power-sharing proposal they hope can break an impasse in talks between the militants and the Afghan government."

Saudi women's rights activist freed after three years

Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul was released Feb. 10 after spending a total of 1,001 days—almost three years—in prison. Al-Hathloul had been championing women's rights since 2013. She lobbied especially for the right to drive, as well as for an end to male guardianship laws in the Saudi kingdom. While women were granted the right to drive in 2017, advocates for the change were detained by authorities weeks before it took effect.

Pakistan: crackdown on internet 'blasphemy'

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued notices to Google and Wikipedia censuring them for "disseminating sacrilegious content" through their platforms. The notices, issued Dec, 24, accused these sites of hosting "misleading" content referencing the present khalifa (spiritual head) of Islam. The PTA specifically cited articles and search results allegedly portraying Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, as the "present khalifa of Islam." Additionally, the PTA demanded the platforms remove an "unauthentic" version of the Quran published by the Ahmadiyya community from the Google Play Store. The PTA warned the platforms "to remove the sacrilegious content to avoid any legal action" under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.

Iran: sweeps target Ahwazi women activists

Rights advocates in Iran's Khuzestan province, homeland of the marginalized Ahwazi Arab people, report another wave of sweeps and incommunicado detention of local activists. Agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on Dec. 11 detained Zeinab Sawari, a teacher and prominent Ahwazi advocate for women's and children's rights. Sawari's younger siblings were also detained when they came to her defense during the raid on the family's home in Neysan district of Howeyzeh shahrestan (county). Agents simultaneously raided the nearby home of their aunt, Fatema Sawari. Zeinab Sawari had recently been involved in fundraising to help victims of the severe flooding that devastated the region both this year and in 2019. Both Zeinab and Fatema Sawari remain in detention at an undisclosed location.

France: mass protests over new security law

Police and demonstrators clashed in Paris Nov. 28 as some 45,000 filled the streets to protest a new security law, with large mobilizations also seen in Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier and Nantes. The new law would severely restrict publishing of the images of police officers. The issue was given greater urgency by video footage of Paris police savagely beating local Black music producer Michel Zecler days earlier. President Emmanuel Macron said the images "shame us," but critics point out that their release could have been barred if his new security law had already been in force. Four officers have been suspended over the incident, but there have been no arrests. (Al Jazeera, NYT, EuroNews)

Algeria: Berbers boycott constitution vote

Amid low turn-out and a boycott in regions of the country, Algerians approved a new constitution pushed by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in a Nov. 1 referendum. The referendum took place on the anniversary of the start of Algeria's war for independence from France in 1954, with the government adopting the slogan "November 1954: Liberation. November 2020: Change." The preamble to the new charter actually invokes last year's Hirak or "revolution of smiles" protest movement, and the reform was clearly intended as a response to the movement's demands. But in the northeastern Kabylie region, heartland of the country's Amazigh (Berber) people and a bastion of support for the Hirak, demonstrators blocked polling stations to enforce a boycott. In response, election authorities annulled the votes from 63 of the 67 towns in the region.

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