Maryam will be speaking at Malmo, Sweden conference Friday

Maryam Namazie will be speaking at a conference entitled the Voice of the Voiceless in Malmo, Sweden on Friday 27 November. The conference is now sold-out.

Here is more information in Swedish:

En konferens om hedersvåld
”Rösten från röstlösa kvinnor”

Plats: Malmö folkets hus sal 5
Olof Palmes plats 1
Tid: 27 november, 2009
Kl: 8.00-16.00

Välkommen till en nyskapande konferens

Välkommen till en ny skapande konferens om hedersvåld

Den är nyskapande, den tar upp nya aspekter inom den hedersrelaterade våldfrågan. Vi kommer att behandla problematiken ifrån olika syn och inifrån fältet. Våra talare kommer från olika håll i Europa och kommer att utbyta erfarenheter och åsikter som kan resultera i en ny syn och nya åtgärder på hedersvåldsproblematik.

Konferensen arrangeras av Kommittén för Försvaret av Kvinnors rättigheter (KFKI_Malmö), med stöd av Brottsoffers myndighet,
KFKI- Stockholm och Equal Rights Now (ERN)-England

Avgift: 200 kr

Anmälan görs till: E-post: kfki.malmo@yahoo.se

Tfn: 040-611 61 09
Mob: 070-363 80 88
073-887 700 48

November 21 a successful day against Sharia and religious laws

Several hundred joined a rally in London’s Hyde Park organised by One Law for All to show their opposition to Sharia and religious-based laws in Britain and elsewhere and to demand universal rights and secularism.

At the rally, over 20 speakers and performers exposed the discriminatory and brutal nature of religious laws. They included Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s Asad Abbas; International Humanist and Ethical Union’s Roy Brown; Philosopher AC Grayling; Southall Black Sisters’ Rahila Gupta; MP Evan Harris; Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq’s Houzan Mahmoud; Lawyer Rony Miah; Campaigner Maryam Namazie; British Humanist Association’s Naomi Phillips; European Humanist Federation’s David Pollock; National Secular Society’s Terry Sanderson; Activist Muriel Seltman; Equal Rights Now’s Sohaila Sharifi; Organisation for the Defence of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq’s Issam Shukri; Iran Solidarity’s Bahar Milani; Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell; National Secular Society’s Keith Porteous Wood and the rally’s Master of Ceremonies, Iranian Secular Society’s Fariborz Pooya.

The rally heard from people with direct experiences of Sharia law, including Iranian-born activist Sohaila Sharifi and a Somali-born secularist who spoke of his cousin who had been forced to remain in a violent marriage by the sham courts here in Britain. He said: ‘I wanted to tell you my cousin’s story to highlight that whatever the pro-Sharia lobby say, we know that there are women out there being abused, and sadly all too-often too afraid to come forward. The only ‘choice’ my cousin was given, was either to be separated from her children or remain in a violent marriage. She chose to stay in the marriage for the sake of her children… I don’t think this is a ‘choice’ – how can it be?’

Maryam Namazie, the One Law for All Spokesperson, also gave several examples of the legal compulsion involved in the decisions of the Muslim Arbitration Tribunals and Sharia Councils, particularly with regards forced marriages, divorce and child custody. She went on to say that it was scandalous that countless women were relegated to kangaroo courts with lesser rights here in Britain and elsewhere.

Campaigner Peter Tatchell said: ‘Sharia law is a form of religious dogma and tyranny. It is homophobic, sexist and anti-democratic.’ Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society went on to say that: ‘Sharia law does not develop, it is fixed and immutable, but its interpretation is unpredictable, unregulated and subject to the whims and prejudices of individual practitioners.’

Many of the speakers spoke of the brutalities of Sharia in other countries. Issam Shukri from Iraq told the rally how Islamic militias linked to the cleric and MP Muqtada al-Sadr had executed dozens of women who they deemed to be improperly dressed because they were not fully covered head-to-toe in Iraq. Examples were also given of rights violations under Sharia in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere.

Activist Muriel Seltman condemned the cultural relativism that allows for religious laws to go unchallenged. She said: ‘What can be more racist than laying down different standards for different people in different societies? This is what is racist not the criticism of barbaric practices.’

Many speakers criticised the right of religion to special status to undermine fundamental human rights. David Pollock of the European Humanist Federation said: ‘Sharia courts seek to provide a parallel legal system… Arguments for Sharia law are based on the concept of group rights. And group rights are inherently hostile to human rights.’ MP Evan Harris condemned the government for giving privileged advisory status on policy and legislation to often unrepresentative faith leaders. Lawyer Rony Miah said: ‘Having separate systems of law for different communities are no different from separate faith schools; it will only lead to a fragmenting of communities – not cohesion.’

Rahila Gupta of Southall Black Sisters added: ‘accommodating alternative systems of justice is not about choice or tolerance in a pluralistic society; it is not about Muslim women’s autonomy. These demands emerge from fundamentalist politics however they are dressed up.’

Roy Brown of the International Humanist and Ethical Union spoke about how Islamic states are behind the demand for more religious laws and the banning of any criticism of Islam. He said: Sharia law [in Britain] is but a small part of a worldwide campaign to replace international law with Islamic law… The acceptance of Sharia law for the settlement of family disputes in Britain is just one small part of a global problem.’

Maryam Namazie said that Sharia courts and councils were extensions of the political Islamic movement – not the demand of Muslims or those labelled as such – and resistance to it was global as well. She told the crowd: ‘Sharia adversely affects the rights, lives and freedoms of countless human beings across the world. Opposing Sharia law is a crucial step in defending universal equal rights and secularism, and showing real solidarity with people living under and resisting Sharia.’ Fariborz Pooya added that ‘people living under Sharia law are the first victims and at the same time the first line of resistance against it and must be defended.’

Writer AC Grayling went on to say: ‘The principle of one law for all, with everyone equal before the law, is a vital one for a genuine democracy. The One Law For All campaign is doing an urgently needed job of protecting those who, hidden behind the veil of Sharia or other religious ‘courts’, risk injustice, abuse, and deprivation of rights.’

During the rally, Bahar Milani and Richard Francis of Iran Solidarity led an act against child executions. The Islamic Republic of Iran is the only state that continues to execute minors. At least 130 juveniles are on death row in Iran, including for homosexuality, apostasy, sex outside of marriage and involvement in school or street fights that have resulted in murder.

Throughout the event, there were performances from poets AK47, Lilith and Christine from the Anti-Injustice Movement and Selina Jus1jam from Yorkshire as well as musician Fari B and singer/songwriter David Fisher.

On the day, many others took part in simultaneous acts of solidarity with the rally and its demands in 23 countries across the globe, namely Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Hungary, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Kenya, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Serbia and Montenegro, Sweden, Switzerland and USA. In Serbia and Montenegro, Women in Black held a number of film events in support of women’s rights in Afghanistan. In Baghdad, 500 leaflets were distributed in defence of secularism and universal rights. In Canada, several acts took place, including a rally and a column written in a local paper. The Secular Humanist League of Brazil, The Peace and Freedom Party of San Francisco, and the Brussels Humanist Society amongst others issued press releases and an artist in the Netherlands contributed their artwork to the campaign. In Ibadan, Nigeria, leaflets saying ‘no to faith-based laws’ were distributed on the streets and at markets. In Pakistan, those trying to take part in an act were brutally beaten.

Photos and video footage of the rally speeches and performances can be seen here.

The protest was covered by several media outlets including on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme and in an article entitled Just say no to Sharia by Peter Tatchell in Guardian’s Comment is Free.

One Law for All will continue to push for an end to Sharia and religious laws in Britain. In the coming year, the campaign aims to conduct a survey of women who have been to Sharia courts here, will hold a fundraiser dinner on January 28, 2010 to raise money for the campaign; will host a March 8, 2010 seminar with legislators, lawyers and campaigners to recommend the legal and legislative avenues to ban Sharia and religious courts in Britain; will organise a June 20, 2010 rally against Sharia law; and will hold an October 10, 2010 conference on Sharia Law and Apostasy amongst other activities.

To support the campaign, please send a cheque made payable to One Law for All or donate via Paypal by visiting our website.

For more information, to sign on to our petition, or to volunteer visit our website or contact:
One Law for All
BM Box 2387
London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
onelawforall@gmail.com

November 21 rally a huge success!

Several hundred people joined a successful rally organised by One Law for All on November 21, 2009 in London’s Hyde Park. Acts of solidarity also took place in nearly 20 countries around the globe.

To hear coverage of the rally on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme, click here (from 2400-3100 minutes).

See also an article by Peter Tatchell in Guardian’s Comment is Free on the
Rally published Nov 20.

A more detailed report to follow shortly.

21 November is a day against Sharia law and for human rights

Press Release
For immediate release

21 November is a day against Sharia law and for human rights

One Law for All campaign is organising a rally on Saturday 21 November 2009 at 1200pm in London’s Hyde Park. The rally aims to oppose religious laws in Britain and elsewhere, show solidarity with people living under and resisting Sharia, and to defend universal rights and secularism.

The One Law for All campaign rally marks Universal Children’s Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women:
Date: November 21, 2009
Time: 1200hrs – 1400hrs
Place: North Carriage Drive, in-between Stanhope Place Gate and Albion Gate, Hyde Park (closest underground Marble Arch).

Please take note of underground closures on the day.

Simultaneous acts of solidarity and support for the rally and its aims will take place in countries across the world including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Hungary, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Kenya, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Serbia and Montenegro, Sweden, Switzerland and USA. (To organise an act – however small – contact us; right now acts taking place are groups or individuals handing out leaflets, organising a petition, holding rallies, issuing a statement on Sharia and so on.)

Moreover, winners of the campaign’s art competition exposing the discriminatory nature of religious law and promoting freedom and equal rights will be announced at the event.

One Law for All Spokesperson, Maryam Namazie, commented, ‘Sharia law is becoming a key battleground, particularly because it is an extension and representation of the rising threat of Islamism. Sharia matters to people everywhere because it adversely affects the rights, lives and freedoms of countless human beings across the world. Opposing Sharia law is a crucial step in defending universal and equal rights and secularism and showing real solidarity with people living under and resisting it everywhere. November 21 is yet another important day for further strengthening the mass movement needed that can and will put a stop to Sharia once and for all.’

Notes

1. The One Law for All campaign rally marks Universal Children’s Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women:
Date: November 21, 2009
Time: 1200hrs – 1400hrs
Place: North Carriage Drive, in-between Stanhope Place Gate and Albion Gate, Hyde Park (closest underground Marble Arch).

Please take note of underground closures on the day: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/livetravelnews/realtime/by-date.aspx?offset=weekend

2. Speakers at the rally include: Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s Asad Abbas; Poet ‘AK47;’ Musician Fari B; International Humanist and Ethical Union’s Roy Brown; Singer/Songwriter David Fisher; Philosopher AC Grayling; Southall Black Sisters’ Rahila Gupta; Journalist Johann Hari; MP Evan Harris; Poet ‘Lilith;’ Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq’s Houzan Mahmoud, Lawyer Cris Mccurley; Lawyer Rony Miah; Campaigner Maryam Namazie; Writer Taslima Nasrin; British Humanist Association’s Naomi Phillips; European Humanist Federation’s David Pollock; Iranian Secular Society’s Fariborz Pooya; National Secular Society’s Terry Sanderson; Poet Selina aka ‘Jus1Jam;’ Activist Muriel Seltman; Equal Rights Now’s Sohaila Sharifi; Organisation for the Defence of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq’s Issam Shukri; Iran Solidarity’s Bahram Soroush; Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell and National Secular Society’s Keith Porteous Wood.

3. Art competition judges are Philosopher AC Grayling; Singer Deeyah; Journalist Johann Hari; and Columnist Polly Toynbee.

4. Responses to Frequently Asked Questions including the affinity between the far right and the Islamists, the issue of secularism, whether Islamic states are a threat to humankind and the need to defend the right to asylum for those who have fled Sharia law can be found on http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/about/faq.

5. One Law for All campaign was launched on 10 December 2008 – International Human Rights Day. It has since received the support of over 20,000 groups and individuals.

6. For further comment or information, please contact Maryam Namazie on +44 (0) 7719166731 or onelawforall@gmail.com or visit www.onelawforall.org.uk.

You don’t need to know Arabic to oppose Sharia

November 18, 2009

Usman writes: You don’t speak a word of Arabic. Your only understanding of the Holy Qur’an is through a man-made translation in a foreign language. Your understanding of the Shariah has been acquired through studying those who reflect your own ignorance of this institution. My dear, stop wasting your life trying to solve ‘our’ problem. Solve ‘your’ problem first. Your problem is not the Shariah. It is the fact that you hate the identity destiny gave you. You cannot help others find themselves when your own self is lost in the hatred of its own reflection.

Maryam Namazie responds: There are a lot of Muslims, ex-Muslims and atheists even who don’t speak a word of Arabic or who do. Obviously that is not a criterion for understanding, accepting, or as in my case rejecting Islam and religion.

Moreover, we aren’t talking about something centuries past or taking place on some other planet. Every day, all day, we live through and can see the misery, barbarity and cruelty that Sharia and political Islam are unleashing across the world. Not a day goes by without this movement hanging the likes of sweet 16 year old Atefeh Rajabi for ‘acts incompatible with chastity,’ stoning men and women to death for adultery, executing apostates like Ehsan Fattahian, throwing acid in the faces of girls who dare to go to school, imposing sexual apartheid and misogyny, and murdering our beloved Nedas in broad daylight.

Our opposition to Sharia is not about solving your problems (which seem far too great for that) but about standing up for humanity vis-à-vis this onslaught.

And by the way, people’s destiny is what they make of it and we are making ours.

And unlike Sharia and Islamism, it has nothing to do with hate.

***

As an aside on the issue of ‘the identity given by destiny’ and being born into Islam, the late Humanist and Marxist Mansoor Hekmat said it best: ‘The child has no religion, tradition and prejudices. She has not joined any religious sect. She is a new human being who, by accident and irrespective of her will has been born into a family with specific religion, tradition, and prejudices…

To read more about my perspective on Islam, political Islam and women’s status, click here.

Iran: we must get the jailed sugar cane workers freed

International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran (WPI)

Ali Nejati, president of the union of Haft Tappeh sugar cane workers, today became the fifth worker to start a six-month jail sentence at Dezful Prison in Iran. He joins his colleagues Fereydoon Nikoofard, Jalil Ahmadi, Ghorban Alipoor and Mohammad Heydari, who were detained and imprisoned earlier this month.

The jailings come after a long and bitter fight by the sugar cane workers over months of unpaid wages and for the right to set up their union.

In the days leading up to today’s summons’ deadline, Nejati issued several letters on behalf of sugar cane workers and his jailed colleagues calling for support by workers in Iran and internationally.

“While employers can freely organise, workers who set up their independent organisations are prosecuted and put in jail”, said Nejati in his letter dated 7th November. “Today is the day to support workers who fought in Haft Tappeh for workers’ rights, and who were elected by Haft Tappeh workers to represent them in an independent organisation. No doubt tomorrow and in future when we are out of prison we will do our share in this workers’ duty”.

In a statement on Saturday, the Free Union of Iranian Workers reiterated Ali Nejati’s call for support for the jailed sugar cane workers and their families (Read the full text of the English translation here: www.kargaran.org).

We must get these workers freed! Thrashed by months of revolutionary protests of the people, the regime in Iran is in its most vulnerable state ever. It cannot and should not be allowed to continue with its usual brazen acts of worker persecution, and must be driven back. Your solidarity is needed more than ever. Please publicise the news about these jailed workers and help in whatever other ways you can to get these workers freed. We can get them freed!

For more information, email ILSC-WPI.

The Free Union of Iranian Workers calls for support for jailed sugar cane workers of Haft Tappeh

International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran (WPI)

The following is the translation of an appeal by the Free Union of Iranian Workers calling for support for the jailed sugar cane workers and their families in Iran – ILSC-WPI, Nov 16, 2009

* * *

Organisation, strike and assembly are our certain rights

Honourable workers and people of Iran

Four workers of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company, Fereydoon Nikoofard, Jalil Ahmadi, Ghorban Alipoor and Mohammad Heydari have been detained and sent to prison, following the confirmation of their six-month sentences by the appeal court. Another worker, Ali Nejati, is also about to be apprehended.*

Meanwhile, Farzad Kamangar, Mansoor Osaalou and Ebrahim Madadi are still serving long prison terms. Mehdi Farahi Shandiz is still in jail, without charge, six months after being arrested on May Day in Tehran, while other May Day detainees, having already spent some two months in jail, are also being summoned.

These workers have not committed any crime. Their only crime is to have protested against injustice and delays in payment of wages; for having celebrated May Day and for having built organisations to defend their most basic human rights.

The imprisoned sugar cane workers repeatedly came out into the streets at the forefront of their colleagues to protest at the non-payment of wages and the starvation to which their families have been subjected. The response by the existing system to the most basic demands of the workers has been nothing but batons, tear gas and fabricated court cases.

Having worked at Haft Tappeh company for years under the harshest conditions, and having created hundreds of billions of Tomans of wealth, these workers had every right to come out into the streets to protest at unpaid wages and the appalling conditions that the inhuman capitalist system has imposed on them and their families. They were right to rise up in protest against the violation of their most basic human rights and in defence of the right to life. They were right to build their independent organisation so as to unite their forces against the endless abuses of the employer.

Freedom-loving workers and people of Iran

Chaining up the sugar cane workers for setting up their organisation and for protesting at the non-payment of wages means silencing every cry for freedom of all workers in the country. We must stand up to this in a united rank and call for the immediate and unconditional release of these workers.

The Free Union of Iranian Workers condemns the detention and jailing of Haft Tappeh workers and the continued imprisonment of Farzad Kamangar, Ebrahim Madadi, Mansoor Ossalou and other justice-seeking people who are in the country’s prisons. We call on the workers and all the people of Iran to support the demand for the immediate and unconditional release of these prisoners and to offer their support to their families.

Our Union sets aside a monthly sum of 3 million Rials (in addition to donations raised from amongst our members and other workers) and calls on all workers and people in Iran to raise and send donations for the families of the jailed Haft Tappeh workers. Our union will stand by Haft Tappeh workers in their struggle for their human rights, and, while continuing its fight for their release, will not forget about their families.

Organisation, strike and assembly are our certain rights
Long live Haft Tappeh workers
Long live workers’ solidarity

The Free Union of Iranian Workers
14 November 2009
www.ettehadeh.com
k.ekhraji@gmail.com
Fax: 02144514795

* Ali Nejati, the president of the union, began a six-month sentence on Monday 16 November – Note by translator

Nationalism is a regressive trend

Robin writes: Maryam, while I agree with your critique of those comments of Stephen Gash [of Stop Islamisation Of Europe], on some other points I think you are too unforgiving of human limitations. You have to judge people not only from where they are at at a particular moment but also in terms of where they have come from and could be progressing to. For all their faults the English Defence League, etc has arisen from “ordinary (lower class) people”, having direct experience of being oppressed by both Islamism and by a wider politically-correct anti-Britishness. Your own efforts are very much a realm restricted to only relatively posh ‘intellectualism’ sort of people, even though I appreciate that is not your intent. I think it is very sad that you fail to appreciate the need to at least try to engage with and build bridges with those of differing views and values, rather than find reasons to condemn them. It’s clear that most of the organisers of the EDL etc are naive people with zero experience of campaigning, or even of thinking about political issues. I would hope that you could be an inspiration to them to improve on their views and attitudes, rather than someone who spits in their face as if they are some sort of Untermenschen unworthy of your time. I think you’ll find there are a lot more of them than of you, and if you don’t exert any influence on them now, you will find the agenda moving on without your useful input…

Maryam Namazie responds: Political ideologies are not measured by the numbers of ‘ordinary’ working class people who subscribe to them, and anyway have you counted ours versus the BNP’s or the EDL’s to know?

Irrespective of numbers, ideologies and movements linked to them have to be judged not by the makeup of their supporters but their impact and effect on the lives of ordinary people everywhere. The nationalism that the EDL, BNP, SOIE and their likes promote is segregationist, divisive, anti- working class and inhumane; it denies universal human identity. In fact, nationalism is by its very nature discriminatory and a reactionary trend and incompatible with human freedom and progress.

So it is obvious then that we can’t build links with far-right groups that are antithetical to ours. Just as we can’t forge links with the Islamists. Our job is to criticize both of them, and mobilize people to oppose them and leave their ranks and to join us. That is politics and if people can’t take the heat, well there is always football hooliganism to return to.

Finally, Robin, you are sadly mistaken if you think there are a lot more of them than us – that will the day that we have lost and we don’t intend to.

Our campaign is a defence of human civilisation

Clive writes: ‘I feel quite powerless to convince people of the real threat that Western civilisation is facing, so it makes me feel more hopeful when I learn of initiatives such as yours. If there is anything I can do, let me know. I am willing to send money if you are in need of it. Keep up the good work.’

Maryam Namazie responds: Thank you! Donations are always appreciated as we rely solely on support from the public to keep us going. Any initiative like ours that gives people hope is an initiative worthy of support.

I do want to add however that it is human and not Western civilisation that is being threatened.

Though this may not have been your intention, when I hear of Sharia law framed as an attack on Western civilisation it makes it seem to me as if it is only those living in the West who deserve rights and freedoms. Also saying it is an attack on Western civilisation denies political Islam’s assault on people’s lives outside the West – and long before September 11. Similarly, the Islamists frame any opposition to Sharia law as Western as if people choose to live under that which is imposed with brute force and indiscriminate violence.

The reality is that a vast majority of civilised humanity are refusing and resisting the political Islamic movement day in and day out because rights, freedoms and lives worthy of the 21st century are a demand and desire of people across the globe.

I think this is an important point if we are to make links with and show real solidarity with people at the forefront of this battle in places like Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

I mean after all, who better to represent this human civilisation than the likes of 27 year old Neda Agha Soltan, killed on June 20 by the Islamic regime of Iran for demanding freedom?

* See more about Neda here and here.

* Join November 21 rally in London’s Hyde Park to oppose Sharia and religious laws and show solidarity with people languishing under and resisting it worldwide. For more information on the rally, go to One Law for All website.

Execution of Shirko Moarefi postponed

International Committee against Executions

PRESS RELEASE
Saturday November 14, 2009

Following a wave of protests in Iran and internationally, the execution of Shirko Moarefi, which was due to take place today, Saturday 14 November, in the prison of the town of Saqez, has been postponed for the time being. Shirko has now been transferred back from the quarantine cell to the general ward.

However, the threat of execution still looms large over Shirko and a number of other political prisoners. So the work for the revoking of all the execution sentences continues.

The International Committee against Executions calls on the people of Saqez and other cities in Iran and Kurdistan to protest against the impending executions and to demand the revoking of all the execution sentences. The committee is continuing its international work and calls on everyone to hold protest actions in front of parliaments, in city centres and in other venues across Europe, North America and everywhere.

21 November is a day against Sharia law and for human rights

Press Release
For immediate release
12 November 2009

One Law for All campaign is organising a rally on Saturday 21 November 2009 at 1200pm in London’s Hyde Park. The rally aims to oppose religious laws in Britain and elsewhere, show solidarity with people living under and resisting Sharia, and to defend universal rights and secularism.

Simultaneous acts of solidarity and support for the rally and its aims will take place in countries across the world including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Kenya, Nigeria, Serbia and Montenegro and Sweden.

Moreover, winners of the campaign’s art competition exposing the discriminatory nature of religious law and promoting freedom and equal rights will be announced at the event.

One Law for All Spokesperson, Maryam Namazie, commented, ‘Sharia law is becoming a key battleground, particularly because it is an extension and representation of the rising threat of Islamism. Sharia matters to people everywhere because it adversely affects the rights, lives and freedoms of countless human beings across the world. Opposing Sharia law is a crucial step in defending universal and equal rights and secularism and showing real solidarity with people living under and resisting it everywhere. November 21 is yet another important day for further strengthening the mass movement needed that can and will put a stop to Sharia once and for all.’

Notes

1. The One Law for All campaign rally marks Universal Children’s Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women:
Date: November 21, 2009
Time: 1200hrs – 1400hrs
Place: North Carriage Drive, in-between Stanhope Place Gate and Albion Gate, Hyde Park (closest underground Marble Arch).

2. Speakers at the rally include: Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s Asad Abbas; Poet ‘AK47;’ One Law for All’s Yasmin Atasheen; Musician Fari B; International Humanist and Ethical Union’s Roy Brown; Singer/Songwriter David Fisher; Philosopher AC Grayling; Women Against Fundamentalism’s Rahila Gupta; Journalist Johann Hari; Poet ‘Lilith;’ Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq’s Houzan Mahmoud, Lawyer Cris Mccurley; Lawyer Rony Miah; Campaigner Maryam Namazie; Writer Taslima Nasrin; Southall Black Sisters’ Pragna Patel; British Humanist Association’s Naomi Phillips; European Humanist Federation’s David Pollock; Iranian Secular Society’s Fariborz Pooya; National Secular Society’s Terry Sanderson; Poet Selina aka ‘Jus1Jam;’ Activist Muriel Seltman; Equal Rights Now’s Sohaila Sharifi; Organisation for the Defence of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq’s Issam Shukri; Iran Solidarity’s Bahram Soroush; Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell and National Secular Society’s Keith Porteous Wood.

3. Art competition judges are Philosopher AC Grayling; Singer Deeyah; Journalist Johann Hari; and Columnist Polly Toynbee.

4. Responses to Frequently Asked Questions including the affinity between the far right and the Islamists, the issue of secularism, whether Islamic states are a threat to humankind and the need to defend the right to asylum for those who have fled Sharia law can be found here.

5. One Law for All campaign was launched on 10 December 2008 – International Human Rights Day. It has since received the support of over 20,000 groups and individuals.

6. For further comment or information, please contact Maryam Namazie on +44 (0) 7719166731 or onelawforall@gmail.com or visit its website.

Islamic states and Sharia are a threat to humankind

See interview in English with Maryam Namazie by Eli Vieira, President, LiHS – Secular Humanist League of Brazil below or here. Maryam is now an Emeritus member of the LiHS.

You can see the interview in Portuguese here.

LiHS: You are a very busy activist taking a stand for a number of noble causes such as equal rights for women in Islamic countries, ‘one law for all’ (against Sharia law) in the UK, and support for those ex-Muslims who would have been perhaps executed for the ‘crime’ of apostasy. From whence comes all that energy? Have you always been like this and supported these causes?

Maryam Namazie: I have been active for over twenty years now – much of it the result of having lived through a revolution and witnessed its suppression and expropriation by the political Islamic movement in Iran. All the great revolutions – like the French, Russian and Iranian ones – change the world we live in and affect generations even when they are crushed as was the case in Iran (though we still see the revolutionary movement alive and well in Iran today).

And I think while we all hear about or live through things that outrage us into action, it does help a great deal to be linked into and part of progressive social movements and political parties as I am. For me, the determining moment came in 1994 when I was sitting in an Iranian refugee camp in Turkey and first heard of the late Marxist and worker-communist Mansoor Hekmat who has been my hero ever since – and that of any entire generation in Iran. I feel stronger because of it.

LiHS: You witnessed the upsurge of two Islamic states – Iran and Sudan. Are these a threat for the future of humankind? Could there be an Islamic state in which human rights are respected?

Maryam Namazie: Islamic states are a threat to humankind though not the only one – US-led militarism is another. I do think the two feed off each other and need the other for legitimisation in the same way that Israel and Hamas do or the Soviet Union and the US did during the Cold War. But like any threat much depends on the resistance it meets. Worse threats have been pushed back by the working class and progressive movements and this will be too.

In my opinion, an Islamic state that respects human rights is impossible; in fact the two are antithetical. It is the same for any religious state where religious dogma and rules take precedence over rights and freedoms and real live human beings. In fact religion is at its best when it restricts and represses. Religious laws and states belong to an era of medievalism and brutality. The enlightenment managed to push back the Church’s role in public life to a large extent – the same is needed with Islam in political power.

LiHS: Since the outbreak of riots against the supposed results of Iran’s last election, the issue has since almost vanished from mass media in the western world, or at least in Brazil. A friend of mine in Iran has almost been arrested. Do any of the organisations you represent, particularly Equal Rights Now, have privileged access to information on what is happening there? How great is the support for democracy and secularism in Iran?

Maryam Namazie: News on the situation in Iran may have vanished but the protests are ongoing; people use any excuse to come out and show their opposition. The fraudulent election was one such case as everyone knows elections in Iran are not elections by any standards. I think the protests are not one off riots but the reflection of an unfolding revolution in Iran – one that could herald a new dawn for the country and the world.

Many of the organisations I am involved with – including the 24 hour New Channel TV – which is constantly being jammed by the Islamic regime of Iran because of its importance and the Worker-communist Party of Iran have wide reaching contacts within Iran. In fact New Channel TV has millions of viewers and receives hundreds of calls a day from Iran. The message coming out of Iran is very clear if one cares to listen and that is that the days of the Islamic regime are numbered and that people want nothing less than to drag Iran into the 21st century.

LiHS: What do you do in your everyday time in order to live a happy and interesting life, beside your tireless efforts to promote human rights and secularism in the world?

Maryam Namazie: I have a four year old son, which is the best thing that has ever happened to me. If I had known how wonderful it is to have children I would have had many more but unfortunately it’s a bit late for me to have a large family given that I am 43 now. I also have a wonderful partner and loving family and friends, which I think are so important. A lot of my personal time goes into being with my family but when I can I love to watch movies (sadly I love any romantic comedy no matter how cheesy) or music videos, dance, and I could sit in a café all day every day and not tire of watching people passing by.

LiHS: What is the role of science in your worldview? Does it have anything to do with your views about Islam and Christianity? What in your opinion is the common evil between Islam, Christianity and other religions?

Maryam Namazie: Science represents free inquiry, improvement, and human advancement whereas religion represents dogma, medievalism and regression. I think all religions are the same – Islam only matters more now because it is linked to a political movement.

LiHS: Do you think atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and sceptics from Latin America as ourselves could help you in any of your causes? How?

Maryam Namazie: Of course – I mean where would we be without the support of civilised humanity everywhere? There are so many ways to help too – and every act of support however small is appreciated and crucial for us. It could be anything from signing up to our campaigns, donating to our cause, volunteering, including by translating our materials, publicising our work in the Latin American media and amongst people and organisations there and so on. On November 21, we are organising a rally against Sharia and religious laws in Britain and in support of secularism and equal rights. We are asking people to stand with us in city centres across the globe to support our action. It doesn’t have to be very big – even a few people holding a banner or a placard saying no to Sharia and religious laws. We would post the various actions with any photographs on our website. Maybe some of your readers might be able to do something in support of our rally on November 21?

LiHS: Would you come to Brazil for a possible future meeting of freethinkers and human rights activists? We promise we wouldn’t let Catholics baptise you.

Maryam Namazie: Oh well then, yes I would love to. I will go anywhere I am invited to share information and meet friends but also to confront opponents – and what better place than Brazil. I’m not too worried about being baptised – after all it means nothing to me – and in any case the National Secular Society has a debaptism certificate if I need it!

LiHS: Do you have any other advice for LiHS as a starting secular humanist organisation in Brazil?

Maryam Namazie: I wish you all the success in the world – I think it is hugely important for all of us to have an organisation like yours in Brazil. Even newly formed and small organisations can make a world of difference so keep at it. You have all our support and warm wishes and please do call on us if there is anything we can do to help.

LiHS: Maryam Namazie, it’s been a great pleasure talking to you. You are surely one of the most admirable women in the world, and we look forward to hearing from you many times in the future.

Maryam Namazie: That’s very kind of you to say. It has been a pleasure and I know we will be working together for many years to come.

Political Prisoner Ehsan Fattahian executed today in Iran

According to reliable sources in Iran, political prisoner Ehsan Fattahian was hanged in Sanandaj today.

Despite campaigns on his behalf, he was executed in Sanandaj prison this morning.

Iran Solidarity sends its condolences to Fattahian’s family and loved ones, unequivocally condemns the Islamic regime of Iran and calls for a stepping up of efforts to end the death penalty in Iran and everywhere once and for all.

I have never feared death: Ehsan Fattahian

The last glimmers of the dusk sun
Are showing me the path on which to write;
The sounds of leaves under my steps
Are telling me “let yourself fall
And you will rediscover the path to freedom.”

I never feared death. Even now, as I feel its odd and honest presence next to me, I still want to smell its aroma and rediscover it; Death, who has been the most ancient companion of this land. I don’t want to talk about death; I want to question the reasons behind it. Today, when punishment is the answer for those who seek freedom and justice, how can one fear his fate? Those of “us” who have been sentenced to death by “them” are only guilty of seeking an opening to a better and fair world. Are “they” also aware of their deeds?

I started my life in the city of Kermanshah, the name of which has always been on the tongues of my compatriots for its greatness; the city which is called the cradle of civilization. As my thoughts were developing, I came to see and feel the injustice and discrimination; an injustice that targeted me not only as an individual but also as a member of humankind. I went in thousand different directions to find out the reasons behind injustice. Alas, they had made the arena so closed for those who were thriving for justice that I could not find my way in. I immigrated to another arena outside the superficial boundaries to find answers to my questions. I became a Komeleh guerilla in order to find my stolen identity. Yet I never separated from my first home, and once in a while I returned there to renew my memories. And then one day, they found me during one of my visits, arrested me and put me in a cage. The greeting my captors reserved for me from day one convinced me that my fate would be similar to those who had walked before me along that road: torture, fabricated charges, biased court, an unjust and politically motivated verdict and finally death.

Let me put it this way: after being arrested on July 20th, 2008, in Kamyaran, I was taken to the Intelligence Ministry’s local office. A few hours later, as I was blindfolded and chained and could not see or move, a person who introduced himself as the deputy prosecutor began questioning me. His questions were irrelevant and filled with made up accusations (let me remind you that it is strictly against the law to interrogate people in places other than courts and tribunals). This was the first of many interrogation sessions I had to face. The same night, I was taken to the Intelligence Ministry’s provincial headquarters in Sanandaj, where I had to attend the real party: a dirty cell with a disgusting washroom. The blankets had not been washed for years. This was the beginning of three months of going up and down the hall from my cell to the interrogation room, always being beaten along the way. The honorable interrogators were so keen to get a promotion or make a bit more money that they accused me of all kinds of bizarre things, even though they knew of the falsehood of their accusation. They used every means in their power to prove that I had taken part in armed operations. In the end they could only prove that I had been a member of Komeleh and had taken part in propaganda activities against the regime. The 10 year sentence handed by the initial court is good proof that I only had one charge. The 1st branch of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj sentenced me to 10 years in prison, to be served in Ramhormoz Prison outside Kordestan. The political and administrative establishment in Iran has always been in favor of centralized policies, but, apparently, in my case, they had decided to reverse course! Recently provincial appeals courts have become the judicial authority to rule in cases related to political prisoners, even in capital punishment cases. Capital punishment cases were the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. So, the Kamayaran prosecutor objected the initial ruling, and, surprisingly, against Iranian law, the 4th branch of the Kordestan Appeals Court changed the 10 year sentence to a death sentence. According to Article 258 of Iranian Criminal law, appeals courts can only issue a heavier sentence when the initial sentence is lighter than the minimum punishment required by law. The indictment presented by the prosecutor stated the charge as Moharebeh (enmity against God). The minimum punishment required by law in similar cases is 1 year in prison. Now, be the judge yourself and compare the 10 year prison sentence (served in exile) with the minimum required to see how illegal, unlawful and political the death sentence is.

Let me add that, shortly before my sentence was changed to the death sentence, I was taken from Sanandaj prison to the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center, where I was asked to make a false confession on camera, show remorse for the actions I had not committed and reject my beliefs. I did not give in to their illegitimate demands, so I was told that my prison sentence would be changed to the death sentence. They were fast to keep their promise and prove to me how courts always concede to the demands of intelligence and non-judicial authorities. How can one criticize the courts then?

All judges take an oath to remain impartial at all times and in all cases, to rule according to the law and nothing but the law. How many of the judges of this country can say that they have not broken their oath and have remained fair and impartial? In my opinion the number is countable with the fingers on my hand. When the entire justice system in Iran orders arrests, trials, imprisonments and death sentences with the simple hand gesture of an uneducated interrogator, what is to be expected from a few minor judges in a province that has always been discriminated against? Yes, in my view, it is the foundation of the house which is in ruins.

Last time I met in prison with the prosecutor who had issued the initial indictment, he admitted that the ruling was illegal. Yet, for the second time, it has been ruled that my execution should be carried out. It goes without saying that the insistence to carry out the execution at any cost is a result of pressures exercised by political and intelligence groups outside the Judiciary. People who are part of these groups look at the question of life and death of a prisoner only based on their own political and financial interests. They cannot see anything but their own illegitimate objectives, even when it is the question of a person’s right to life – the most basic of all human rights. How pointless is it to expect them to respect international treaties when they don’t even respect their own laws?

Last word: if the rulers and oppressors think that, with my death, the Kurdish question will go away, they are wrong. My death and the deaths of thousands of others like me will not cure the pain; they will only add to the flames of this fire. There is no doubt that every death is the beginning of a new life.

Ehsan Fattahian
Sanandaj Central Prison

You should care about the people of the Middle East

Maurice writes: ‘Delete me from your contact list… I really don’t care about the Middle East and its people!!!’

Maryam Namazie responds: Maurice, you should care about the people in the Middle East because they are doing your dirty work.

You are most likely on my mailing list because of an interest in Sharia law. Well, the people there are on the frontlines of the battle against the political Islamic movement. They are the ones that are stuck in ditches and stoned; hung in city centres from cranes for being gay or for ‘acts incompatible with chastity;’ flogged for organising May Day rallies; tortured and murdered for being political opponents or apostates; and daily losing their children and loved ones to this machinery of terror.

All because of a movement that was incidentally brought to centre stage by Western government policy of establishing an Islamic belt vis-à-vis the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Despite the decades of repression, though, they continue to refuse and resist.

Today, Students’ Day in Iran is a good case in point. Tens of thousands came out onto the streets across Iran to demand an end to dictatorship and for freedom. Hundreds were arrested and many more wounded.

There are many video clips that you should see of today’s protests and many others that the western media fails to cover but I want you to see just one of them. In this one, a woman is hit in the face by a policeman; she falls to the ground. A man rushes to her aid and is beaten (remember he does this even though it is illegal for men and women who are not immediate family to touch each other because of compulsory sex apartheid). Another woman rushes to protect the young man who once again goes to the aid of the woman who had fallen to the ground.

This brief video clip captures a passing glimpse of the brutality of the Islamic regime of Iran but also more importantly the courageous resistance and humanity of the unfolding revolution that will bring the regime to its knees and herald a new dawn not just for people in the Middle East but for you as well.

A humanity that you would do well to learn from.

The right to asylum is a basic human right

Andy writes: I agree with your organisation on all aspects apart from “Defend the right to asylum for those who have fled Sharia.” This has already destroyed my culture and everything that makes my country England. I am white, Saxon and proud of it! I will not allow anyone to take that away from me. And I will go beyond the limits to stop my country falling into foreign hands!

Maryam Namazie responds: Andy, you couldn’t possibly agree with our organisation. You clearly don’t understand where we’re coming from though it is very clear where you are coming from.

We are opposed to Sharia law because it is unfair, medieval, brutal, and barbaric in the same way that Canon law or any religious law is. It belongs to another era. You are merely opposed to it because you think Sharia law is ‘foreign,’ not ‘white’ and not ‘Saxon.’ You most likely have no problem with ecclesiastic courts and bishops in the House of Lords even today and probably long for the days of the inquisition and crusades.

Moreover, we are opposed to Sharia law because it violates rights and freedoms – and not just of people living in Britain but everywhere. You are opposed to it because you believe it has ‘destroyed [your] culture.’ You couldn’t care an iota for the ‘Muslim minority’ in this country or the masses languishing under Sharia in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan or Afghanistan. You think that ‘others’ don’t deserve the same rights and freedoms as you. And that is why you couldn’t begin to understand the need and right to asylum for those who have resisted or suffered under Sharia. In my opinion, Sharia law is so brutal, so inhuman, so intolerable, that every man, woman and child fleeing it deserves the right to asylum.

And by the way, it isn’t your culture being destroyed that we need to worry about – especially since you seem to have very little of a culture worthy of the 21st century. This progressive culture is something that has been fought for tooth and nail by the working class and progressive social movements in every corner of the world for centuries. It has been a battle fought for in Britain, Canada, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan… vis-à-vis the ruling class and very often vis-à-vis nationalism, ethnocentrism, fascism and religious dogma. It belongs to everyone and not just those who are ‘white’ and ‘Saxon.’

Also, I am not sure how long we – those of us who are not ‘white’ and ‘Saxon’ – will be considered ‘foreign?’ Is there a cut off date we should know about so we have something to look forward to?

Finally, you say you will go ‘beyond the limits to stop [your] country from falling into foreign hands.’ In this age of global capital where practically everything you eat, your football stadium, clothes and car are ‘foreign,’ an attack on vulnerable asylum seekers seeking protection is racism pure and simple.

Clearly, we too will do anything we can to build a vast social movement to stop this country and our world from falling into the hands of Islamists and fascists alike.

And we aim to win.