Young girls in Chah Bahar, Iran. Iran’s body of clerics and jurists has not yet vetted the new legislation on child marriage. Photograph: Jamshid Bairami/EPA
Human rights activists say approved bill, making girls vulnerable to the ruling from age 13, ‘legalizes paedophilia’
by, Saeed Kamali Dehghan | The Guardian
Parliamentarians in Iran have passed a bill to protect the rights of children which includes a clause that allows a man to marry his adopted daughter and while she is as young as 13 years.
Activists have expressed alarm that the bill, approved by parliament on Sunday, opens the door for the caretaker of a family to marry his or her adopted child if a court rules it is in the interests of the individual child.
Iran’s Guardian Council, a body of clerics and jurists which vets all parliamentary bills before the constitution and the Islamic law, has yet to issue its verdict on the controversial legislation.
To the dismay of rights campaigners, girls in the Islamic republic can marry as young as 13 provided they have the permission of their father. Boys can marry after the age of 15.
In Iran, a girl under the age of 13 can still marry, but needs the permission of a judge. At present, however, marrying stepchildren is forbidden under any circumstances.
As many as 42,000 children aged between 10 and 14 were married in 2010, according to the Iranian news website Tabnak. At least 75 children under the age of 10 were wed in Tehran alone.
Shadi Sadr, a human rights lawyer with the London-based group Justice for Iran, told the Guardian she feared the council would feel safe to put its stamp of approval on the bill while Iran’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, draws the attention of the press during his UN visit to New York.
“This bill is legalising paedophilia,” she warned. “It’s not part of the Iranian culture to marry your adopted child. Obviously incest exists in Iran more or less as it happens in other countries across the world, but this bill is legalising paedophilia and is endangering our children and normalising this crime in our culture.”
She added: “You should not be able to marry your adopted children, full stop. If a father marries his adopted daughter who is a minor and has sex, that’s rape.”
According to Sadr, officials in Iran have tried to play down the sexual part of such marriages, saying it is in the bill to solve the issue of hijab [head scarf] complications when a child is adopted.
An adopted daughter is expected to wear the hijab in front of her father, and a mother should wear it in front of her adopted son if he is old enough, Sadr said.
“With this bill, you can be a paedophile and get your bait in the pretext of adopting children,” Sadr said. Some experts believe the new bill is contradictory to Islamic beliefs and would not pass the Guardian Council.
An initial draft of the bill, which had completely banned marriage with adopted children, was not approved by the council and it is feared that MPs introduced the condition for marriage to satisfy the jurists and clergymen. This is why Sadr fears it can pass the council this time.
The bill has prompted backlash in Iran with the reformist newspaper, Shargh, publishing an article warning about its consequences. “How can someone be looking after you and at the same time be your husband?” the article asked.
Shiva Dolatabadi, head of Iran’s society for protecting children’s rights, has also warned that the bill implies that the parliament is legalising incest. “You cannot open a way in which the role of a father or a mother can be mixed with that of an spouse,” she said, according to Shargh. “Children can’t be safe in such a family.”
Execution of juvenile offenders in Iran has also been in spotlight in recent years amid confusion between the age of majority – when minors cease to be legally considered children – and the minimum age of criminal responsibility, which is 15 for boys and nine for girls under Iranian law.
by, SHAFIQ BUTT | Dawn.com – Pakistan
Sahiwal, Pakistan: Harrappa police have yet to arrest a shopkeeper and his two associates who allegedly tortured a 13-year-old orphan boy to death on Friday night while ‘interrogating’ him in connection with a petty theft.
Waqas Anjum, whose father had died, worked as a helper at the grocery shop owned by Suleman at 105/7-R village. His widow mother is a daily-wager.
On Thursday night, a theft occurred in the shop of Suleman who called a khoji (a person who claims he can trace a thief by following footprints) next day to resolve the matter.
According to locals, the khoji after inspecting the crime scene told Suleman that Waqas was the thief. At this, the shop owner, along with two influential men of his Biradri – Khalid and Muzammil – went to Waqas’ house on Friday night and asked his mother to hand over the boy for ‘interrogation’. The poor widow had no other option but to obey them.
The three men brought the boy to the shop and started subjecting him to severe torture.
According to locals, the boy’s cries could be heard outside the shop but nobody intervened. The boy was allegedly subjected to torture for some seven hours and finally fell unconscious.
As his condition deteriorated, the accused left him at his house and fled away. The boy reportedly died while being shifted to the hospital.
Sources said the medical report issued by the District Headquarters Hospital confirmed the boy’s neck was broken.
Harrappa police allegedly tried to use delaying tactics but later on the insistence of locals a murder case (FIR 443/13) was registered against three accused. All the three accused were still at large.
Alamadar Husain, the head of district core group of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), brought the matter into the notice of District Police Officer Syed Khurram Ali, demanding immediate arrest of the accused.
Investigating Officer Malik Masood said police were conducting raids on the possible hideouts of the accused.
In Iran, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, has been sentenced to death by stoning
by, EMMA BATHA | The Independent
Two months ago, a young mother of two was stoned to death by her relatives on the order of a tribal court in Pakistan. Her crime: possession of a mobile phone.
Arifa Bibi’s uncle, cousins and others hurled stones and bricks at her until she died, according to media reports. She was buried in a desert far from her village. It’s unlikely anyone was arrested. Her case is not unique. Stoning is legal or practised in at least 15 countries or regions. And campaigners fear this barbaric form of execution may be on the rise, particularly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Women’s rights activists have launched an international campaign for a ban on stoning, which is mostly inflicted on women accused of adultery. They are using Twitter and other social media to put pressure on the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to denounce the practice.
“Stoning is a cruel and hideous punishment. It is a form of torturing someone to death,” said Naureen Shameem of the international rights group Women Living Under Muslim Laws. “It is one of the most brutal forms of violence perpetrated against women in order to control and punish their sexuality and basic freedoms.”
She said activists will also push the UN to adopt a resolution on stoning similar to the one passed last year on eradicating female genital mutilation – another form of violence against women often justified on religious and cultural grounds.
Stoning is not legal in most Muslim countries and there is no mention of it in the Koran. But supporters argue that it is legitimised by the Hadith – the acts and sayings of the Prophet Mohamed. Stoning is set out as a specific punishment for adultery under several interpretations of sharia or Islamic law. In some instances, even a woman saying she has been raped can be considered an admission to the crime of zina (sex outside marriage).
In one case cited by Shameem, a 13-year-old Somali girl, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, was buried up to her neck and stoned by 50 men in front of 1,000 people at a stadium in Kismayu in 2008. Her father told Amnesty International she had been raped by three men but was accused of adultery when she tried to report the rape to the al-Shabaab militia in control of the city.
Iran has the world’s highest rate of execution by stoning. No one knows how many people have been stoned but at least 11 people are in prison under sentence of stoning, according to an Iranian human rights lawyer, Shadi Sadr.
Sadr, who has represented five people sentenced to stoning, said Iran carried out stonings in secret in prisons, in the desert or very early in the morning in cemeteries. “Pressure from outside Iran always helps. The Islamic Republic pretends that they don’t care about their reputation, but they do care a lot,” added Sadr, who lives in exile in Britain.
In 2010, the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery, caused international outcry. The authorities have suspended her sentence but she remains in prison. Officials withdrew stoning from a new draft penal code last year, but have since reinserted it.
Stoning is also a legal punishment for adultery in Mauritania, a third of Nigeria’s 36 states, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
In some countries, such as Mauritania and Qatar, stoning has never been used although it remains legal. However, in other countries, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, stoning is not legal but tribal leaders, militants and others carry it out extrajudicially. “In Afghanistan, warlords are manipulating religion to terrorise the population for their own political ends. Stoning is one way of doing that,” said Shameem, a human rights lawyer who is co-ordinating the Stop Stoning Women campaign.
Stoning has been used as a form of community justice throughout history in various religious and cultural traditions, many pre-dating Islam. Unlike beheading, which is performed by a single executioner, stoning is carried out by a group.
The practice has been documented among the Ancient Greeks to punish people judged to be prostitutes, adulterers or murderers. It is also mentioned in the Jewish Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and the Talmud. Today, it is predominantly associated with Muslim culture. However, clerics are deeply divided. Supporters of stoning say the Hadith depicts the Prophet as occasionally ordering stoning in cases of extramarital sex.
But some scholars say these acts and sayings – recorded several hundred years after the Prophet’s death – have been misinterpreted. Others argue that the Prophet was simply following prevailing customs and Jewish law. Modern laws sanctioning stoning as a punishment for adultery emerged with the revival of political Islam in the late 20th and early 21st century.
Campaigners say women are more likely to be convicted of adultery than men because discriminatory laws and customs penalise women more for extramarital sex.
If a man is unhappy with his wife he can – depending on the country – divorce, take other wives or marry another woman temporarily. A woman has few options. She can divorce only in certain circumstances and risks losing custody of her children. Men accused of adultery are also more likely to have the means to hire lawyers, and their greater physical freedom makes it easier for them to flee in situations where they risk extrajudicial stoning.
Activists say trials are often unfair. Convictions are frequently based on confessions made under duress. As adultery is difficult to prove, judges in Iran can also convict on the basis of gut feeling rather than evidence.
Even the manner of stoning is loaded against women. People sentenced to stoning in Iran are partially buried. If they can escape they are spared. But women are customarily buried up to their chests while men are only buried up to their waists.
Stoning contravenes a host of UN treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that no one should be subjected to torture, or cruel or inhuman punishment. The treaty, which Iran and Pakistan have signed, allows countries to execute people only for “the most serious crimes”.
Many prominent Muslim clerics have spoken in support of a ban on stoning, deeming it un-Islamic and antithetical to the Koran’s emphasis on repentance and compassion. Shameem said stoning mostly happened in conflict or post-conflict areas where politicians, warlords and militants exploit people’s religious beliefs as they jockey for power. Mali saw its first case last year after Islamist militants took control of the north of the country. It is not clear why, in Bibi’s case, the tribal court should have justified stoning as a punishment for owning a mobile phone. Shameem said stoning and the threat of stoning was being used “to control women, constrain their freedoms, and police their sexuality”.
The threat of stoning has even happened in Tunisia, a relatively liberal country with no history of stoning. This year, the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Tunisia called for a teenage activist to be stoned to death for posting nude protest images of herself online.
Campaigners plan to present an online petition to Mr Ban and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
In this image taken with a mobile phone, rescue workers and family members gather to identify the shrouded bodies of students brutally murdered following an attack by Islamist extremist on an agricultural college in Gujba, Nigeria, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, Suspected Islamic extremists attacked the Yobe State College of Agriculture early Sunday, gunning down students as they slept in dormitories and torching classrooms, leaving some 50 students dead in the attack according to college Provost Molima Idi Mato. The attack is seen as part of an ongoing Islamic uprising in northeastern Nigeria prosecuted by Boko Haram militants in their declared quest to install an Islamic state. (AP Photo)
Several Students Shot… Many Burned Alive.
by, Associated Press (AP)
Potiskum, Nigeria (AP) — Suspected Islamic extremists attacked an agricultural college in the dead of night, gunning down dozens of students as they slept in dormitories and torching classrooms, the school’s provost said, reporting the latest violence in northeastern Nigeria’s ongoing Islamic uprising.
As many as 50 students may have been killed in the assault that began at about 1 a.m. Sunday in rural Gujba, Provost Molima Idi Mato of Yobe State College of Agriculture, told The Associated Press.
“They attacked our students while they were sleeping in their hostels, they opened fire at them,” he said.
He said he could not give an exact death toll as security forces still are recovering bodies of students mostly aged between 18 and 22.
The Nigerian military has collected 42 bodies and transported 18 wounded students to Damaturu Specialist Hospital, 40 kilometers (25) miles north, said a military intelligence official, who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press.
The extremists rode into the college in two double-cabin pickup all-terrain vehicles and on motorcycles, some dressed in Nigerian military camouflage uniforms, a surviving student, Ibrahim Mohammed, told the AP. He said they appeared to know the layout of the college, attacking the four male hostels but avoiding the one hostel reserved for women.
“We ran into the bush, nobody is left in the school now,” Mohammed said.
Almost all those killed were Muslims, as is the college’s student body, said Adamu Usman, a survivor from Gujba who was helping the wounded at the hospital.
Wailing relatives gathered outside the hospital morgue, where rescue workers laid out bloody bodies in an orderly row on the lawn for family members to identify their loved ones.
One body had its fists clenched to the chest in a protective gesture. Another had hands clasped under the chin, as if in prayer. A third had arms raised in surrender.
Provost Idi Mato confirmed the school’s other 1,000 enrolled students have fled the college.
He said there were no security forces stationed at the college despite government assurances that they would be deployed. The state commissioner for education, Mohammmed Lamin, called a news conference two weeks ago urging all schools to reopen and promising protection from soldiers and police.
Most schools in the area closed after militants on July 6 killed 29 pupils and a teacher, burning some alive in their hostels, at Mamudo outside Damaturu.
Northeastern Nigeria is under a military state of emergency to battle an Islamic uprising prosecuted by Boko Haram militants who have killed more than 1,700 people since 2010 in their quest to install an Islamic state, though half the country’s 160 million citizens are Christian. Boko Haram means Western education is forbidden in the local Hausa language.
United States President Barack Obama on Tuesday described the group as one of the most vicious terrorist organizations in the world, speaking at a meeting with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at which both reaffirmed their commitment to fight terrorism.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau last week published a video to prove he is alive and prove false military claims that they might have killed him in an ongoing crackdown.
Government and security officials claim they are winning their war on terror in the northeast but Sunday’s attack and others belie those assurances.
The Islamic extremists have killed at least 30 other civilians in the past week.
Twenty-seven people died in separate attacks Wednesday and Thursday night on two villages of Borno state near the northeast border with Cameroon, according to the chairman of the Gamboru-Ngala local government council, Modu-Gana Bukar Sheriiff.
The military spokesman did not respond to requests for information on those attacks, but a security official confirmed the death toll. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to give information to journalists.
Also Thursday, police said suspected Islamic militants killed a pastor, his son and a village head and torched their Christian church in Dorawa, about 100 kilometers from Damaturu. They said the gunmen used explosives to set fire to the church and five homes.
Meanwhile, farmers and government officials are fleeing threats of imminent attacks from Boko Haram in the area of the Gwoza Hills, a mountainous area with caves that shelter the militants despite repeated aerial bombardments by the military.
A local government official said there had been a series of attacks in recent weeks and threats of more. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his life, said Gwoza town was deserted when he visited it briefly under heavy security escort on Thursday.
He said militants had chased medical officers from the government hospital in Gwoza, which had been treating some victims of attacks. And he said they had burned down three public schools in the area.
The official said the Gwoza local government has set up offices in Maiduguri, the state capital to the north.
More than 30,000 people have fled the terrorist attacks to neighboring Cameroon and Chad and the uprising combined with the military emergency has forced farmers from their fields and vendors from their markets.
The attacks come as Nigeria prepares to celebrate 52 years of independence from Britain on Tuesday and amid political jockeying in the run up to presidential elections next year with many northern Muslim politicians saying they do not want another term for Jonathan, who is from the predominantly Christian south.