Author Archives: SCEME


On The Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women

In February of this year, Al Jazeera reported on the rise of domestic violence against women in Iraq. Nine years after the U.S. – led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, the United Nations reports up to one in five women suffers from domestic abuse and there has been difficulty in opening shelters outside of the Kurdistan area in Iraq, due to the influence of Islamist politics that has crept in post-invasion.
The Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women is a joint effort by MADRE and the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI); together they founded the first shelters in the non-Kurdish part of Iraq. The shelters are vital and in fact a lifeline to many women and girls who are escaping violence and threats against them.  In addition to the immediate protection from violence, there is also a human rights training program, set up to empower women with the knowledge and the skills to demand their rights as equal and active citizens of society.  It is the hope that through this network of women helping women, a positive force against the continuing repression and state sanctioned violence against women can be stopped.
Iraqi women had no doubt suffered greatly under Saddam Hussein’s brutal rule, wars, and years of economic sanctions.  The deteriorating situation is now exacerbated by the lack of security and institutionalized violence, where the law protects the abusers, rather than the victims.

23 August: International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and of its Abolition

© – Allegory of the Transatlantic Slave Trade route

Today is the International Day for the Remembrance of the slave trade and of its Abolition. On 23 August each year, UNESCO pays tribute to the women, men and children who fought this oppression. The date is significant because, during the night of August 22 to August 23, 1791, a slave rebellion began in Santo Domingo (the Island containing present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic). This revolt was instrumental in the abolition of one of the most extreme violations of human rights in the history of humanity.It marked the beginning of the destruction of the slavery system, the slave trade and colonialism.

This Day gives people a chance to think about the historic causes and the consequences of slave tradeand it pays tribute to those who worked hard to abolish slave trade and slavery throughout the world. It’s also the perfect day to remind us that slavery still exists today. Far from being a thing of the past, the issue of slavery and the slave trade concerns us all.

On this Day of Commemoration, SCEMEwants to join the UNESCO initiative and invites people around the world to fight against contemporary forms of slavery of which 27 million of human beings (and probably even more) are still victims.

Tunisia: “A woman is no complement, she is everything”

Tunisia, once hailed as one of the region’s women’s rights trailblazers, is now a country in which many women are beginning to fear for the future of their daughters. 

An estimated 6000 women marched through Tunis on Monday to protest against the possibility of changes to the Tunisian constitution that, they fear, would relegate the status of women in the country.

While the Ennahda party, which formed a coalition government in October 2011, has rejected the idea that the constitution would be harmful to the attainment and protection of gender equality; women are rejecting the government’s draft proposal that the constitution includes a stipulation that women are to be “complementary to men” and are demanding that the 1956 law that had granted women and men equality remains in place.
Carrying a placard reading “A woman is no complement, she is everything”, one of the men who turned out to support women in their protest, Sami Layouni, declared “We are here to support women and to say there are men who stand for women’s rights… We are proud of Tunisian women … and we will not let Islamists turn our spring into a winter”.

Tunisian Cartoonist Nadia Khiari Speaks About Her Motivations

“Keep your nice words to yourself. What we really want is bread”.
Tunisian Cartoonist Nadia Khiari, creator of the series “Willis from Tunis”, created her famous cartoon cat as a commentary on Ben Ali’s response to the January 2011 uprisings. She spoke to the Guardian about her cartoons, her inspiration and her motivation. 
We wanted to share with you her interview.

Original Source


“It is her right to give the nationality to her children as much as his.”

According to the Syrian Nationality Law Mothers cannot pass on their nationality to their husband or child.

The child is deprived of basic rights of a citizen because his father is a foreigner. Identity-less “Syrian” children are deprived of free education, jobs, and the right to own property or travel abroad.

Children pay a heavy price every day for their mothers’ “blunder” of marrying non-Syrians. While there are no accurate statistics available, the Syrian Women League, a human rights organization, estimates that more than 100,000 women are married to foreign husbands, mostly from Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq.

In 2003 the Syrian Women League started lobbying to grant nationality to children born inside and outside Syria. The league has proposed an amendment to a clause of the nationality law seeking citizenship rights for those born to either a Syrian father or a Syrian mother, inside or outside the country.

Currently only a Syrian man can give nationality for his non-Syrian wife and their children so that they can enjoy the rights of Syrian citizens.

The government finds marriages between Syrian women and non-Syrians to be a threat to national sovereignty and national security because women are emotional and “can be tricked so easily by men from enemy countries.” Damascus fears that the granting of full rights to foreign husbands would sharply increase such trends, especially temporary marriages with men from the Arabian Gulf.

Damascus also argues that granting citizenship to a large number of Palestinians residing in Syria and married to Syrian women would be a violation of the resolutions of a number of Arab summits. Arab leaders agree that nationality should not be given to Palestinians as they might lose their right of return to Palestine.

Human rights activists argue that if this is true then why is a Palestinian wife granted nationality when she marries a Syrian husband?

As Mohammad Habash, Islamic thinker and Syrian Member of Parliament stated, “The nationality law would not have a negative impact on Palestinians because they are treated well in Syria in terms of employment and education.”

Syria’s unjust legislation not only deprives women their due status in society but also reflects their poor prospects for work. 

An increased representation of women in the new Algerian Parliament

Last week, Algeria became the first country in the Arab world to have more than 30% of its parliamentary seats held by women. The percentage of women parliamentary members now stands at 31%, up from 8% during the previous period from 2007 through 2011. Although activists say the battle is far from won, SCEME wants to welcome this increased representation of women in the new Parliament,which followed the adoption in January of a quota law stipulating 30% women’s participation. It’s “a welcome step in Algeria’s progress towards democratic reform and gender equality” said Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women.

The target of 30% women in parliament was recommended in the Beijing Platform for Action and general recommendations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). According to a U.N. press release, the Beijing Platform for Action was the outcome of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, and represents a wide-ranging blueprint for promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls. It identified the need to take measures to ensure women’s equal access to and full participation in power structures and decision-making.

Algeria joins 30 other nations that have reached or surpassed this target by the end of 2011, with seven countries surpassing 40% and two exceeding 50% of women in parliament (Rwanda and Andorra).

Now we must wait to see how the new women MPs, many of them inexperienced, will work together across party lines. Nadia Ait Zaid, a jurist who runs a center that campaigned for the quotas and trained some of the women candidates before the election, said that women now have to prove that they deserved their seats. She said the two main issues that female lawmakers will have to tackle are a family code that still does not grant full equality to women and a bill criminalizing domestic violence.


Internally Displaced Persons and the Arab Spring

The Norwegian Refugee Council, Norway’s humanitarian NGO which provides assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide, announced today its findings that there were 26.4 million people displaced within their own countries at the end of 2011. 3.5 million of which had been newly forced to flee their homes during the year. 
Of this figure, 830,000 were those who had become newly displaced as a result of the Arab Spring. 
The displacement of thousands of Yemenis, Libyans and Syrians has thus resulted in a tripling of the number of Internally Displaced Persons in the region over the last decade.  While in Iraq, over 2,000,000 people continue to be trapped in prolonged periods of displacement. The ramifications of the Arab Spring on existing internally displaced Iraqis and refugees, who have sought shelter in exceptional numbers in Syria over the past years, cannot be understated. 

While many displaced persons have been able to return to their homes during the last year: 170,000 to Iraq, 400,000 in Libya; others remain in hope. In Libya, landmines have contributed towards making the journey home trecherous for many families. While ongoing fighting in Syria coupled with a tightening on the freedom of movement – both of Syrians and humanitarian aid organisations, continues to prevent many from returning home. 

We’re deeply concerned about the impact of displacement on the thousands of women and girls who are at risk of trafficking across the MENA region. In particular, we appeal for your help if you have any information that can assist us in supporting women and girls at the Syrian-Turkish border. If you have any evidence of trafficking, anecdotal or otherwise, please contact us at and help us shed a light on the trafficking of women and girls in the region. 

The full report, Internal Displacement Global Overview 2011, compiled by the NRC’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, can be downloaded here

Des travailleuses domestiques condamnées à rester en Syrie en raison du « Sponsorship system »

A Filipino woman who arrived from Syria
Le mois dernier, SCEME dénonçait le « sponsorship ou Kafala system », mécanisme autorisant une personne d’origine étrangère à venir travailler au sein d’un pays (Liban, Syrie, Pays de la Coopération du Golfe…) à condition que celle-ci soit complètement liée à son employeur ( Il s’agit d’une tutelle poussée à l’extrême, pouvant donner lieu à de nombreux abus tels que la confiscation de passeport, le confinement forcé, le non-paiement des salaires…).
Aujourd’hui ce système doit d’autant plus être condamné,  car il empêche les travailleurs migrants et notamment les travailleuses domestiques de quitter la Syrie, les condamnant dès lors à rester au milieu d’un conflit dont l’intensité ne faiblit pas, et ce malgré le cessez-le-feu imposé par les Nations Unies.
Si la situation catastrophique en Syrie est actuellement montrée du doigt par la scène internationale, qu’en est-il de la situation des travailleuses domestiques émigrées au sein du pays ? Elles n’ont pas disparu avec le conflit, bien au contraire. D’origine philippine pour la majorité d’entre elles, elles se retrouvent confrontées aux violences et aux combats de manière quotidienne. Certes, un décret syrien est entré en application au début du mois afin d’interdire aux travailleuses philippines d’entrer dans le pays.  Mais cela n’arrange en rien la situation de celles toujours sur place. Une ONG Philippine estime que sur 17000 travailleuses domestiques, seules 2000 ont eu la chance d’être rapatriées depuis le début du conflit.
Deux problèmes ont été soulevés :
          Lorsque le conflit a éclaté, le gouvernement philippin n’a pas pris les mesures nécessaires afin de mettre en place un plan d’évacuation et assurer le rapatriement de ses ressortissantes.
          Le système du Kafala oblige les travailleuses à recevoir l’aval de leurs employeurs pour pouvoir quitter le pays. Or, ces derniers refusent la plupart du temps de donner leur consentement, empêchant les travailleuses de quitter leur emploi et par conséquent le pays.
Encore une fois, le système Kafala prouve son manque d’humanité. Empêcher une personne de partir, la retenir de force et mettre ainsi volontairement sa vie en danger constitue clairement une violation des droits humains. Qu’en est-il de la liberté de mouvement ? Les travailleuses doivent avoir le droit de quitter un travail et un pays librement, sans avoir besoin de quémander une quelconque autorisation, particulièrement lorsque ce pays est plongé dans une guerre civile de telle intensité. Il est plus que temps d’abolir ce système rétrograde, déjà responsable de la mort de plusieurs travailleuses domestiques en Syrie.
Domestic workers caught in Syrian crossfire because of the sponsorship system
A month ago, SCEME raised awareness about the “sponsorship or Kafala system”, that means that expatriate workers can only enter, work, and leave a country with the assistance or explicit permission of their sponsor or employer, who is a local in the country. He is responsible for their visa and legal status. Today, human rights advocates are demanding reforms to this system that has left many migrant domestic workers in Syria with no place to run.
The situation of the maids within the Syrian territory is simply catastrophic. The majority of them, of Filipino origin, are trapped in the war zone, struggling to stay alive. A 40-year-old woman, who tried to flee Homs to seek shelter at the Philippine Embassy in Damascus was killed after being hit by stray bullets. A Syrian decree banning Filipino migrant domestic workers from entering the country went to effect at the beginning of April, but thousands of Filipino women are desperately looking for a way to get out.
Migrante International, a Filipino labour rights organisation, estimates that on 17000 Filipino migrant domestic workers, only 2000 have been repatriated since the beginning of the conflict last year.
Two problems can be highlighted:
 – First of all, when the violence broke out in the country last year, the Filipino government didn’t take the necessary measures to set up an evacuation plan and insure the safe repatriation of its nationals. “As a result, several Filipino migrant domestic workers have served as collateral damage due to the Philippine government’s wait-and-see policy.” said John Leonard Monterona, Middle East coordinator for Migrante International.
 – Second of all, the “sponsorship” system obliges domestic workers to receive the approval of their employers to be able to leave the country, and most of the time, they don’t allow them to leave. Without this final issuance, the Filipino women can’t exit the country.
Once again, the “Sponsorship” system proves its non-sense, showing a true lack of humanity. Preventing a person from leaving and putting voluntarily its life in danger clearly constitutes a violation of human rights. Migrant workers must have the ability to quit and leave the country freely, without any “sponsor” consent, without begging for any authorization, especially when this country is drowning in a civil war of an unprecedented intensity. It’s more than time to abolish this system that is already responsible for the death of several domestic workers in Syria.

A seven-day mission to examine the situation of trafficked individuals and the impact of anti-trafficking measures in the United Arab Emirates

Joy Ngozi Ezeilo
Ms Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, arrived in Abu Dhabi yesterday as part of her first official visit to the UAE to examine the situation of trafficked individuals and the impact of anti-trafficking measures in the country. The UAE is known as a destination country for men, women and children trafficked for the purposes of labor and commercial sexual exploitation.

The UAE requested her visit last year, just one of three Middle East states to do so (the others being Saudi Arabia and Kuwait). In the last two years, the UAE has made impressive efforts to prevent human rights’ violations: The country welcomed the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and the UN special Rapporteur on the Sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Their reports were really positive on the country’s efforts to uphold, respect and protect human rights.

The UAE has joined the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Dr Al Awadi, Assistant Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs, noted that the UAE was the first Arab country to adopt legislation on combating human trafficking: the Federal Law No 51 of 2006, which prescribes penalties ranging from one year to life imprisonment. He also told the UN envoy that the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, established in 2007, is aggressively implementing a four-part anti-trafficking plan, designed to prevent the crime, enforce the law and provide necessary support to victims.

 During my mission I wish to reach out to a wide range of stakeholders and trafficked persons themselves, so that their voices are heard and can be considered in the development of national laws, policies and measures related to trafficking in persons” Ms. Ezeilo said last week. She will also assess the progress made and the remaining challenges in the fight against trafficking in persons in the United Arab Emirates. According to The National, a newspaper published in Abu Dhabi, this visit should be seen as an opportunity to accelerate implementation of victim-orientated approaches.


Sexual violence in Libya conflict: Perpetrators must be brought to Justice

A protest in Tripoli, Libya.
 The government is failing to help women raped during the civil war.
(Abdel Magid al-Fergany, AP)

In the recent conflict in Libya, as well as in most civil and international armed conflicts, women were subjected to different forms of visible and invisible violence, including sexual exploitation and abuse. 


Last week, the UN Security Council members voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the UN’s political mission in Libya, expressing their deep concern about sexual violence in the country. The mandate explicitly mentions the monitoring and protection of human rights, particularly those of women and vulnerable groups.

Libya has to provide assistance for survivors of sexual violence and not only for the male victims: Injured men are being looked after properly and sent abroad for treatment,” said Amira Nayed, from a women’s group, Phoenix. “The women who also suffered during the conflict should be cared for too. They need psychological help. And we need awareness programmes so people know that it’s not their fault that they are victims of a crime.” Last December, dozens of women were attending a protest outside the interim prime minister’s office. Their mouths were covered with tape, to symbolise the silence with which rape victims were greeted by the interim authorities.
Colonel Salim Juha, leader of the Misrata insurgents, says that many women in Misrata and its suburbs were forced to strip naked in front of strangers or their children, while others were brutally raped in their homes and severely traumatized. Libyan women who suffered such violence need appropriate services, which include medical, psychosocial and legal support, otherwise they might never come forward. “If the bleeding had stopped, I would never have reported it,” as one victim said. Those women may suffer socio-medical problems, including sexually transmitted diseases and family rejection. Indeed, the stigma of sexual assault runs so deep in Libyan culture that the raped are virtually forced into social exile, unable to wed, a humiliation to their entire family. They choose to remain silent rather than to give voice to the crime they have suffered so that they can fit back into society.

According to Hilmi M. Zawati, President of the International Legal Advocacy Forum,”The government should establish special socio-medical centers, staffed only with well-trained female specialists to deal with and treat victims, rehabilitate them and encourage them to come forward and speak out.

Margot Wallström

We have to reinforce efforts to monitor, prevent and prosecute” says Margot Wallström, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. “Much still remains to be done in the fight against rape as a tactic of war. With the help of the Security Council, we will continue to push for an end to impunity and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.”