For a free and secular Middle East and North Africa

76 secularists and human rights campaigners, including Mina Ahadi, Nawal El Sadaawi, Marieme Helie Lucas, Hameeda Hussein, Ayesha Imam, Maryam Jamil, Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasrin, Farida Shaheed, Fatou Sow, and Stasa Zajovic have signed on to a Manifesto for a Free and Secular Middle East and North Africa.

In light of the recent pronouncements of the unelected Libyan Transitional Council for ‘Sharia laws’, the signatories of the manifesto vehemently oppose the hijacking of the protests by Islamism or US-led militarism and unequivocally support the call for freedom and secularism made by citizens and particularly women in the region.

Secularism is a minimum precondition for a free and secular Middle East and for the recognition of women’s rights and equality.

We call on world citizens to support this important campaign by signing on to our petition.

We also ask that supporters click ‘like’ on our Facebook page to support this important campaign and Tweet: #freesecularMENA in support of a free and secular Middle East and North Africa.

Manifesto for a Secular Middle East and North Africa

The 2009 protests in Iran followed by the Arab Spring have the potential to herald a new dawn for the people of the region and the world. The protests have clearly shown that people in the region, like people everywhere, want to live 21st century lives.

We, the undersigned, emphasise their modern and human dimension and wholeheartedly welcome this immense and historical development. We are vehemently opposed to their hijacking by Islamism or US-led militarism and support the call for a free and secular Middle East and North Africa made by citizens and particularly women in the region.

Secularism is a minimum precondition for the freedom and equality of all citizens and includes:

1. Complete separation of religion from the state.

2. Abolition of religious laws in the family, civil and criminal codes.

3. Separation of religion from the educational system.

4. Freedom of religion and atheism as private beliefs.

5. Prohibition of sex apartheid and compulsory veiling.


1.Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson, International Committees against Stoning and Execution, Iran/Germany
2.Marieme Helie Lucas, Sociologist, Founder and former international coordinator of Women Living Under Muslim Laws and founder of Secularism Is A Women’s Issue, Algeria/France
3.Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Iran/UK
4.Shahla Abghari, University Professor, Iran/USA
5.Siavash Abghari, Esmail Khoi Foundation, Iran/USA
6.Ahlam Akram, Palestinian Peace and Human Rights Writer and Campaigner, Palestine/UK
7.Sargul Ahmad, Women’s Liberation in Iraq, Iraq/Canada
8.Mahin Alipour, Coordinator, Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Iran/Sweden
9.Reza Alkrami, Human Rights Activist, Iran/USA
10.Farideh Arman, Coordinator, Committee to Defend Women’s Rights, Iran/Sweden
11.Sultana Begum, Regional Gender Adviser, Diakonia Asia, Bangladesh
12.Djemila Benhabib, Writer, Algeria/Canada
13.Codou Bop, Journalist and Director of GREFELS, Dakar, Senegal
14.Ariane Brunet, co-founder Urgent Action Fund, Québec, Canada
15.Micheline Carrier, Sisyphe, Québec, Canada
16.Patty Debonitas, Iran Solidarity, UK
17.Denise Deliège Femmes En Noir, Belgium
18.Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Sweden
19.Fanny Filosof, Femmes en Noir, Belgium
20.Mersedeh Ghaedi, New Channel TV Programme host, Iran/Norway
21.Groupe de recherche sur les femmes et les lois, Dakar, Senegal
22.Laura Guidetti, Marea Feminist Magazine, Italy
23.Zeinabou Hadari, Centre Reines Daura, Niger
24.Anissa Hélie, Historian, Algeria/France/USA
25.Rohini Henssman, Human Rights Activist, India
26.Hameeda Hossein, Chairperson Ain o Salish Kendra, Dhaka, Bangladesh
27.Khayal Ibrahim, Women’s Liberation in Iraq, Iraq/Canada
28.Leo Igwe, Founder, Nigerian Humanist Movement, Nigeria
29.Ayesha Imam, Women’s Human Rights and Democracy Activist, Nigeria/Senegal
30.International Campaign in Defence of Women’s Rights in Iran, Sweden
31.International Committee against Execution, Germany
32.International Committee against Stoning, Germany
33.Iran Solidarity, Iran/UK
34.Maryam Jamil, Women’s Liberation in Iraq, Iraq
35.Sultana Kamal, Executive Director, Ain o Salish Kendra and Chairperson Transparency International, Bangladesh
36.Abbas Kamil, Unity Against Unemployment in Iraq, Baghdad, Iraq
37.Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizens Web, India
38.Akbar Karimian, Human Rights Activist, Iran/UK
39.Cherifa Kheddar, President of Djazairouna, Algeria
40.Monica Lanfranco, Marea Feminist Magazine, Italy
41.Houzan Mahmoud, Representative of Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Iraq/UK
42.Nahla Elgaali Mahmoud, Biologist, Sudan/UK
43.Anwar Mir Sattari, Human rights Activist, Iran/Belgium
44.Amena Mohsin, Professor, Dept. International Relations Dhaka University, Bangladesh
45.Khawar Mumtaz, Director Shirkat Gah, Lahore, Pakistan
46.Taslima Nasrin, Writer and Activist, Bangladesh
47.U. M. Habibun Nessa, President, Naripokkho, Bangladesh
48.Partow Nooriala, Poet, Writer and Human Rights Activist, Iran/USA
49.Asghar Nosrati, Human Rights Activist, Iran/Sweden
50.One Law for All, UK
51.Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters, UK
52.Fariborz Pooya, Iranian Secular Society, Iran/UK
53.Protagora, Zagreb, Croatia
54.Hassan Radwan, Activist, Egypt/UK
55.Mary Jane Real, Women’s Human Rights Coalition, Manila, The Philippines
56.Edith Rubinstein, Femmes en Noir, Belgium
57.Nawal El Sadaawi, Writer, Egypt
58.Fahimeh Sadeghi, Coordinator, International Federation of Iranian Refugees, Iran/Canada
59.Gita Sahgal, Director, Centre for Secular Space, UK
60.Nina Sankari, Secularist and Feminist, Poland
61.Secularism Is A Women’s Issue (International Network)
62.Aisha Lee Shaheed, London, UK
63.Farida Shaheed, Shirkat Gah, Lahore, Pakistan
64.Siba Shakib, Filmmaker, Writer and Activist, Iran/USA
65.Sohaila Sharifi, Women’s Rights Campaigner, Iran/UK
66.Issam Shukri, Head, Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq, Iraq/Canada
67.Southall Black Sisters, UK
68.Fatou Sow, Sociologist CNRS, Dakar, Senegal
69.Afsaneh Vahdat, Coordinator, International Campaign for Women’s Rights in Iran, Iran/Sweden
70.Lino Veljak, Professor of Philosophy, Zagreb University, Croatia
71.Fauzia Viqar, Director Advocacy and Communications, Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre, Lahore, Pakistan
72.Anne Marie Waters, One Law for All, UK
73.Vivienne Wee, anthropologist, feminist and human rights activist, Singapore and Hong Kong, China
74.Women In Black, Belgrade, Serbia
75.Sara Zaker, Theatre Director, Bangladesh
76.Stasa Zajovic, spokesperson Women in Black, Belgrade, Serbia


  1. rwahrens says

    I doubt that this has much chance of going anywhere, given the complete dominance of that area of the world by Islamist interests, but I do applaud the courage of the signers and the writers of this manifesto!

    To see this secular movement finally extend beyond the Western world is a light burning in a dark and forbidding part of the world, euphemistically speaking. It is the very picture of that light brought out from under the basket to burn, bright and shining, as a beacon of freedom and knowledge for all the world to see.

    Congratulations, and I wish your movement well!

  2. Egbert says

    It’s a lovely dream and uniting together makes that dream a little less distant and futile. Islam is not a dream but a nightmare, and if a nightmare can have such huge success, then so too can dreams…

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