Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Monday, March 20, 2006

Afghan Women Living in U.S. Find Support at Dialogue Group

March 18, 2006

Every month, a group of Afghan women émigrés comes to the Fremont Family Resource Center in California to participate in the Afghan Women’s Dialogue Group, the Contra Costa Times reported Saturday. They practice English, debate politics, discuss religion, and take part in traditional dance at the end of each meeting.

“The women come to heal," Shahla Arsala, the group’s founder, told Contra Costa Times. Arsala started the group two years ago to help women -- many fleeing the Taliban -- having almost the same experiences she did when she came to the United States 25 years ago. "They come for emotional support. They want to know they're not alone, that this lady sitting next to you has problems worse than you."

Sometimes discussions become heated when politics and homeland issues are argued. Although she tries to keep the peace, Arsala said, "At least we can talk about things; in Afghanistan, many women would just sit there and be quiet."

Click here to read the full story.

Afghan Woman Parliamentarian Tours U.S. and Canada

March 18, 2006

Afghan Parliamentarian Malalai Joya, currently on a speaking tour in the U.S. and Canada to represent the women of Afghanistan, received cheers and jeers from a divided Afghan crowd in Fremont, California, on Thursday. InsideBayArea.com reported that while some applauded Joya, others in the audience heckled her and accused her of holding a sectarian viewpoint. Responding to one man who questioned her, according to the report, Joya said:

“‘I have come here to speak for the women and success of Afghanistan,’ Joya responded nervously. ‘You can come up here and beat me if you like. (I suggest) if you're going to do it then do it, but I ask you to take your seats and let me speak my voice, then you can respond when I am finished.’”

Joya also spoke of her safety, frightened that many government members in Afghanistan do not agree with her views. She has been critical on the electoral process, accusing warlords of using force and bribery to get people to vote for them.

In closing, Joya stated, “I am against corruption, whether it is from a communist, Islamist, former Mujahideen or drug dealers. I don't favor anything except for the success of our country by ridding it of corruption."

Click here to read the full story.

Afghan Christian Man May Be Put to Death for Religious Conversion

March 20, 2006

Abdul Rahman converted from Islam 16 years ago, while working with refuges in Pakistan. Now on trial under Afghanistan’s Sharia Law for his religious conversion - unless he recants - he could face the death penalty, the BBC reported today.

Although the government under Karzai is striving toward a more liberal, secular court system, the present constitution still allows for religious law to be used.

As for Rahman’s future, the judge declared, “We will invite him again because the religion of Islam is one of tolerance. We will ask him if he has changed his mind. If so we will forgive him." If Rahman does not recant, his mental state will be evaluated before he is sentenced to death.

According to the BBC, President Karzai will not intervene in the case, though it is likely that sentencing Rahman to death for his faith will upset Western nations who currently supply the country with billions of support dollars.

The Afghan Human Rights Commission has called for a better balance in the judiciary, with fewer judges advocating Sharia law and more judges with a wider legal background.

Click here to read the full story.

Media Stereotypes Do Not Reflect Real Afghan Women

March 16, 2006

The Epoch Times reported on Afghan women’s increasing role in civil society and Canada’s support for their cause last week. The story notes that Western media portrayals of Afghan women have not told the whole story, relying on stereotypes instead of on-the-ground realities.

According to the report:

“At twenty six years of age, Khatera Akbari, an accountant, is frustrated with the western media image of Afghan women. Her family left Afghanistan when she was two years old. She spent all her school years in Canada showing her friends where Afghanistan was on a map. After 9/11 even though the Afghan community was thrilled that the western media ‘discovered’ Afghanistan, they were disturbed by the media coverage of Afghan women as passive victims.”

“‘All we heard was about women being oppressed and who didn't mind being oppressed,’ Akbari said. She grew up admiring the strength and courage of Afghan women.”

For the full story click here.


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