ISSUE #61 CONTENTS:
- A Passport of One's Own: Kuwaiti Women Gain Travel Rights
- Cartoons & Crackdowns: Press Freedom under Fire in Morocco
- WANTED for Organizing a Green Protest in Miami Beach
- Quiz: What president was re-elected with “only” 89% of the vote?
A Passport of One's Own: Kuwaiti Women Gain Travel Rights
Kuwait’s highest court has just issued two breakthrough rulings on women’s rights. On Wednesday, justices ruled that female parliamentarians are not required by law to cover their hair. A few days earlier, the court struck down a legal restriction that restricted women from obtaining a passport without their husbands’ permission. Indeed, until last week, the basic right of Kuwaiti women to travel was hostage to the whims of their spouses.
Fatima al-Baghli was one of thousands of women who petitioned the court for the right to secure her own passport. Her attorney Adel Qurban persuasively argued her case before the high court, which declared the law unconstitutional because it “undermined woman’s free will and compromised her humanity” and violated constitutional guarantees providing for personal freedom and gender equality.
These latest victories come on the heels of breakthroughs enabling women to vote and serve in parliament. Now women's rights activists are gearing up to take on other remaining restrctions. As activist Aisha al-Rsheid declared after the ruling: "We want to see women judges and prosecutors, we want women to give their citizenship to their children, and we want women to have the right to state-provided houses [just as men can].”
It all started with a cartoon. Moroccan newspaper Akhbar Al Youm ran a drawing featuring a prominent prince. The Ministry of the Interior promptly closed down the paper without a court order and posted police outside the offices to prevent employees from entering. The cartoonist and his editor-in-chief were summarily charged with printing material that "lacked respect for the royal family."
The scandal then escalated when the French daily Le Monde ran a cartoon by famous cartoonist Plantu critiquing the closure of Akhbar Al Youm over a drawing. Moroccan officials responded by banning the distribution of Le Monde for two days. Back in August, Le Monde was also banned for running an opinion poll, conducted with local magazine TelQuel, showing a 91% approval rating for the king. Meanwhile, journalists from two other newspapers have been put on trial for publishing articles about the king’s health.
After several years of expanding press freedoms, the crackdown on coverage of the royal family has reporters in Morocco rattled. In a show of solidarity, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has launched a statement condemning repression of press freedom and demanding the restoration of the constitutional right to free speech. This appeal to the Moroccan government has garnered support from over 55 international human rights organizations. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if Moroccan officials will back down or instead further escalate the crackdown.
In June, Ghazal Yazdanparast was an event planner at a high-end Miami hotel and one of the thousands of Iranian-Americans quietly living their lives on the shores of South Florida. But then news reports of the disputed presidential elections in Iran sparked her to take action. In three hours, she organized an impromptu community rally that attracted over 200 people to protest beatings and killings of peaceful activists in Iran. In an interview with The CRIME Report, Ghazal describes how an everyday person can become an activist within few hours - and how she now continues to pursue her new passion as a campus organizer.
How did you manage to organize 200 people in less than three hours?
First I called several friends whom I knew would reach out to their friends and spread the word. I created a Facebook event page so that everyone would have the information handy - and made sure to contact the local police department to get a permit for the rally. Then I sent out notices to the local media about our protest. I am proud that we received an amazing turnout on such short notice.
What was the biggest challenge of organizing the rally?
Actually it was not getting people out – but rather organizing everyone once we all got there. Everyone was on fire inside immediately after the results, but some protestors opposed the current regime and brought the old Iranian royal flag. Others just wanted to see human rights in Iran and did not want to support one political faction. So my biggest challenge was to get beyond internal divisions and unite everyone for the same civil rights cause: to honor those that were risking their lives in Iran and those that had died.
What were the most inspiring aspects of the rally?
Meeting non-Iranians who were there protesting with us. I was really touched that even those who had no immediate connection to Iran still felt the need to stand up for human rights and oppose injustice. After the first event’s success, we organized another rally where 200 people marched silently down a popular street in Miami Beach, holding candles and signs. Many people stopped and clapped for us showing their support. Those moments inspired me to work harder.
In fact, I recently left my job as a hotel event planner to join AIC’s campus organizing initiative, Project Nur. I’m now working to help students become activists and educate others about civil rights issues in the Middle East. If any CRIME Report readers want to get involved – whether you are Persian or not – please get in touch. You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quiz: What president was re-elected with “only” 89% of the vote?
ANSWER: Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. There was no doubt the Tunisian president would handily win a fifth term in office. But what struck some observers is that his “victory margin” dropped from previous elections. The BBC's Rana Jawad, for instance, noted that the election marked the first time Ben Ali has won less than 94% of the vote. Last week’s results suggest the fallout of Iran’s June presidential elections is being felt all the way in North Africa. In other words, Ben Ali’s concession to the pretenses of open elections may be to reduce his usual margin of victory by 10%.
- Forward this newsletter to friends & encourage them to subscribe.
- Write a letter to imprisoned Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer.
- Join 11,000 others in demanding Nokia stop aiding Iran's crackdown.
- Apply to participate in HAMSA's civil rights fellowship program.