* Death penalty for Iranian bloggers
* Saudi servants: “Her fingers & toes were amputated after beatings & starvation”
* Attempt to smuggle Uday Hussein’s vintage Rolls-Royces out of Iraq
1. 17 girls removed from Brussels hotel after being “enslaved” by UAE royals
2. In Italy, a 15-year-old girl “leaps from balcony after refusing arranged marriage”
3. 31-year-old Danish woman shot dead in Pakistan “honor killing”
4. Georgia man “killed his Chicago daughter to protect family honor”
5. Turkey: over 1,000 honor killings in five years
6. Swedish fitness club sued for rejecting woman with headscarf
7. Muslim woman deemed too submissive to be French
8. Rights group condemns “horrific” Saudi “slave” treatment of foreign women
9. “At least 25 killed” in Syrian jail riot
10. Death penalty calls for Afghan man who translated the Koran
11. British woman faces up to six years in jail for sex on Dubai beach
12. Relatives of 7/7 London bomber hold party at his grave to “celebrate his life”
13. Iranian draft law would apply death penalty to bloggers
14. Iranian women’s activist jailed for five years
15. Egypt’s large Christian minority under pressure
16. Iraqi police foil attempt to smuggle Saddam son’s cars
[Notes below by Tom Gross]
This dispatch contains a variety of items from recent days, most of which concern the abuses of Muslim women and girls in Europe and Asia. These items have generally been underreported in the mainstream media.
17 GIRLS REMOVED FROM BRUSSELS HOTEL AFTER BEING “ENSLAVED” BY UAE ROYALS
Seventeen young women and girls were removed by police from the luxury Conrad Hotel in Brussels last Tuesday evening following allegations that they had been enslaved by Arab royals.
Belgian police raided the Conrad, the city’s most prestigious hotel and the preferred place of residence for many presidents and prime ministers during European Union summits.
Police took away 17 young girls from the Philippines, Morocco, India, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Syria, amid allegations they had been held captive in the hotel for eight months.
Belgian newspapers have described the case as “slavery right in the heart of Brussels.”
The chic and pricey Conrad Hotel, “where you can discover the luxury of being yourself” (according to the hotel’s website), is situated on the Avenue Louise and surrounded by the most expensive shops in Brussels.
Police have questioned members of the UAE’s royal family who kept near-permanent suites at the hotel. No charges have been brought but the investigation continues.
“We are convinced that these 17 girls are victims of people trafficking,” a Belgian official said. The operation was triggered by the escape of a Filipina girl who was imprisoned in the hotel by the widow of a senior royal figure from the UAE and her four daughters, who have rented the entire fourth floor of the hotel for the last year.
The government of the UAE has refused to comment.
IN ITALY, A 15-YEAR-OLD GIRL “LEAPS FROM BALCONY AFTER REFUSING ARRANGED MARRIAGE”
A 15-year-old Pakistani girl has been hospitalized after jumping from a balcony in the northern Italian town of Alessandria. She had refused an arranged marriage with a 16-year-old Pakistani.
The Italian daily La Stampa reported that doctors have operated on fractures to her legs sustained during the fall.
The girl, who has grown up in Italy, is said to be well integrated. Neighbors were quoted by Italian newspapers as saying she wears “western-style clothes” and has Italian school friends.
The previous center-left Italian government issued a “charter of values” for immigrants following the death of a young Pakistani girl, Hina Saleem, who had her throat slit by male relatives in August 2006 after she went to work in a pizzeria.
31-YEAR-OLD DANISH WOMAN SHOT DEAD IN PAKISTAN “HONOR KILLING”
Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that a man in a small Pakistani town killed his Danish sister-in-law on July 1, because he suspected her of having a “bad character” after she gave birth to a baby girl rather than a baby boy.
Faisal Bashir shot dead 31-year-old Tahira Bibi, who was of Pakistani origin, local police official Mohammad Shahbaz Cheema told AFP. “It’s a clear case of honor killing,” he said.
More than 4,000 people, mostly women, have been killed in conservative rural areas of Pakistan in recent years in the name of “protecting family honor.”
GEORGIA MAN “KILLED HIS CHICAGO DAUGHTER TO PROTECT FAMILY HONOR”
A man in the American state of Georgia appeared in court last Monday on charges he killed his own daughter for disgracing his family. The 54-year-old is of Pakistani descent.
The 25-year-old victim, Sandeela Kanwal, was wed in Pakistan in an arranged marriage. Police said Kanwal hadn’t seen her husband, who lives in Chicago, for months.
TURKEY: OVER 1,000 HONOR KILLINGS IN FIVE YEARS
In Istanbul, at least one person is killed every week in an “honor killing” according to a new report by a Turkish human rights group. The report is said to be the most comprehensive ever on the subject. The number of murders committed for honor in the last five years exceeds 1,000. “The murderers are treated as heroes in prisons and they do not regret their crimes,” says the report.
SWEDISH FITNESS CLUB SUED FOR REJECTING WOMAN WITH HEADSCARF
A sports club in Malmo is being sued for 50,000 Swedish krona in damages by the “Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination” for refusing access to a woman with a headscarf.
The woman was prevented from attending aerobics and spinning classes because according to the gym’s rules at the time, headgear was banned “for safety reasons.” The case will be decided by the Malmo court, reports the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan.
Please note that other countries, such as supposedly intolerant Israel, are much more protective of the rights of religious Muslims than supposedly tolerant Sweden, and the banning of headscarves for women, whether worn in the gym or otherwise, is strictly against Israeli law.
MUSLIM WOMAN DEEMED TOO SUBMISSIVE TO BE FRENCH
The French newspaper Le Monde reported on Friday (July 11) that France has denied citizenship to a veiled Moroccan woman on the grounds that her “radical” practice of Islam is incompatible with “basic French values such as equality of the sexes.”
Le Monde said it was the first time a Muslim applicant has been rejected on grounds of religious practice.
The woman, who is aged 32, arrived in France in 2000. She is married to a French national, speaks good French and has three children born in France.
She wears a black burqa that covers all her body except her eyes, which are visible through a narrow slit, and lives in “total submission” to her husband and male relatives, according to reports by social services. “She lives almost as a recluse, isolated from French society,” added Le Monde.
RIGHTS GROUP CONDEMNS “HORRIFIC” SAUDI “SLAVE” TREATMENT OF FOREIGN WOMEN
For years, various people (including myself and the excellent group NGO Monitor) have called on major western human rights groups to highlight the plight of others in the Middle East besides the Palestinians.
The U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has finally issued a major new report, which was released last Tuesday in Indonesia, outlining horrific cases of domestic slavery in Saudi Arabia.
The 133-page report, titled “‘As If I Am Not Human’: Abuses Against Asian Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia,” was compiled after two years of research. It outlines many cases of Saudi families severely abusing female migrant workers and urged the government in Riyadh to take action.
“THEY WOULD BEAT ME, CUT ME, OR BURN ME”
“Saudis treat them like chattel, slaves, like cattle. A domestic worker is like a slave and slaves have no rights,” the report quoted a “senior consular official” at a foreign embassy in the kingdom as saying.
“For one year and five months... no salary at all. I asked for money and they would beat me, or cut me with a knife, or burn me,” Sri Lankan domestic worker Ponnamma S. was quoted as telling HRW.
Haima G., a Filipina domestic worker, said her employer called her into his bedroom one day soon after she had arrived and told her she had been “bought” for 10,000 riyals (2,670 dollars).
“The employer raped me many times. I told everything to madam. The whole family, madam, the employer, they didn’t want me to go. They locked the doors and gates,” she said.
HER FINGERS & TOES WERE AMPUTATED AFTER BEATINGS & STARVATION
Nour Miyati, an Indonesian domestic worker, had her fingers and toes amputated due to daily beatings and starvation. Charges against her employers were dropped after a three-year legal process, despite a confession.
“Employers often take away passports and lock workers in the home, increasing their isolation and risk of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse,” HRW said.
It said many “servants” were forced to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week – often without pay – for years. Sleeping quarters included closets and bathrooms.
There are more than eight million migrants work in Saudi Arabia, including 1.5 million domestic workers, mainly from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Nepal.
“AT LEAST 25 KILLED” IN SYRIAN JAIL RIOT
At least 25 inmates have been killed during a deadly days-long standoff between inmates and security forces at a Syrian prison where many Islamist and political dissidents are held, reports The Los Angeles Times.
Human rights groups say Syrian security forces have also wounded as many as 100 other inmates at the notorious Saydnaya prison near Damascus.
One inmate told the BBC he believed the death toll was higher. The prisoners managed to contact Syrian human rights groups and western media by telephone. The Syrian authorities have not commented on the situation.
DEATH PENALTY CALL FOR AFGHAN MAN WHO TRANSLATED THE KORAN
An Afghan journalist accused of distributing an “unacceptable” translation of the Koran should be put to death, says former Afghan Prime Minister Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai.
The journalist, Ghows Zalmay, 50, who previously served as the spokesman for Afghanistan’s attorney-general, was arrested last November for distributing a translation of the Koran into Dari, one of Afghanistan’s two official languages.
Ahmadzai, who ran in the 2004 presidential election against current President Hamid Karzai, told media that Zalmay should be put to death. “Afghanistan is today in the grip of such vices,” he said.
The new translation reportedly said that other translations of the Koran had misinterpreted verses about alcohol, begging, homosexuality and adultery.
Zalmay awaits trial in jail and is expected to face charges in an Afghan court shortly.
BRITISH WOMAN FACES UP TO SIX YEARS IN JAIL FOR SEX ON DUBAI BEACH
The Times of London reports (on July 9) that a British businesswoman is facing six years in a Dubai jail after she was caught allegedly having sex on a beach. Michelle Palmer, 30, a publishing firm manager, says that she was arrested by a police officer who saw her with a man on Jumeirah Beach.
She has been charged with having sex outside marriage. The man, who has also been arrested in connection with the incident, was a British tourist.
Dubai is one of seven principalities that make up the United Arab Emirates. In the past, there have been several arrests of foreign nationals in Dubai for kissing in public.
RELATIVES OF 7/7 LONDON BOMBER HOLD PARTY AT HIS GRAVE TO “CELEBRATE HIS LIFE”
A party was reportedly held on July 7 in Pakistan at the grave of one of London transport’s “7/7 bombers.” 52 commuters were murdered that day three years ago by four al-Qaeda inspired terrorists.
The family of Shehzad Tanweer, who was 22 at the time of his crime, and up to 400 guests “celebrated his life” and “remembered him as a martyr” at a village in Pakistan.
According to reports in the British and Pakistani press, Tanweer’s uncle, 42-year-old property developer Tahir Pervez, organized the celebration during which verses from the Koran were read and curry and rice was served to guests at his home in Samundari.
The gathering has apparently been held in secret during the last two years, but this year villagers commemorated Tanweer more openly. Tanweer detonated a rucksack bomb in a crowded Tube train near Aldgate station close to London’s financial district.
The epitaph on Tanweer’s grave in the village bears the phrase “La ilaha il Mohammed dur rasool Allah” which means “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger.”
IRANIAN DRAFT LAW WOULD APPLY DEATH PENALTY TO BLOGGERS
The Paris-based media organization Reporters Sans Frontieres warned in a press release last week that a draft law in Iran would extend the death penalty to crimes committed online, including for bloggers and website editors who “promote corruption, prostitution or apostasy.”
Reporters Sans Frontieres added: “Death sentences were already passed last year on two journalists – Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed “Hiva” Botimar – after judicial proceedings marked by many irregularities. They have been held for more than a year without any certainty as to what will happen to them, and we urge the authorities to free them at once.”
Iran executes far more people each year than any other country, apart from China.
IRANIAN WOMEN’S ACTIVIST JAILED FOR FIVE YEARS
An Iranian women’s rights activist has been sentenced to five years in prison. Hana Abdi, a 22-year-old woman from Iran’s Kurdistan province, was accused of “illegal gathering with the intention of committing a crime against the nation’s security,” Reuters reported.
Abdi is a leader in a campaign to try to gather one million signatures in support of greater women’s rights in the Islamic Republic, a fellow activist said.
EGYPT’S LARGE CHRISTIAN MINORITY UNDER PRESSURE
Under pressure from Islamic fundamentalists, the most populous Christian community in the Middle East is seeking safety by turning inward, and cutting day-to-day social ties that have bound Muslim to Christian in Egypt for centuries.
Deadly attacks this summer on Coptic monks and shopkeepers, and scattered clashes between Muslims and Christians, have compelled many of Egypt’s estimated 6 to 8 million Copts to isolate themselves in a nation with more than 70 million Muslims, reported The Washington Post on July 7.
This is a rare example of a mainstream media publication reporting on the plight of minority groups in the Middle East other than the Palestinians.
While this will be welcome news to some, The Washington Post nevertheless equivocates about who is doing what to whom, and it appears that there is more than a little victim-blaming being done by The Post. It’s difficult to believe, as the Post’s article says, that Muslims are attacking monks and shopkeepers because Christians have chosen to send their children to Coptic schools; the reverse seems more likely.
About one Egyptian in seven in the 1950s was Coptic, but that has shrunk to about one in 10 today.
IRAQI POLICE FOIL ATTEMPT TO SMUGGLE SADDAM SON’S CARS
The Dubai-based, pan-Arab news channel Al-Arabiya TV, reported (in Arabic, on July 8) that Iraqi police have foiled a plot to smuggle out of Iraq luxury cars that belonged to Uday Hussein. Uday was the murderous, sadistic son of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The cars, including vintage British Rolls-Royces and U.S.-made Humvees, were plundered by Iraqis on the first day the U.S. troops entered Baghdad in 2003, and buried underground in an orchard in the area of Al-Durah.
-- Tom Gross