NEW: SCEME will be providing free personal development and empowerment workshops in London

As part of our belief in the power of people to bring about great change in the UK and internationally, we are offering a social activism and volunteerism workshop series to empower social activists and community members based in London who have a commitment to improving the lives of the Middle Eastern and North African community in the UK, as well as the lives of those across the MENA region.

During April 2014, SCEME will be providing a series of free personal development and empowerment workshops especially tailored to provide dynamic local networking opportunities between London’s Middle Eastern and North African communities, to support enhanced cooperation and co-working, to facilitate reflection, personal development and dialogue between like-minded social activists as well as to provide specialist support to assist local community members to create and implement community, human rights and/or development projects meeting needs on local and international levels.
If you are interested in joining us as a participant please let us know, it will be held from the 28th April till 1st May at 18:00 each night in Westminster. 

For more information and to register your interest in our workshops, please contact Iman on

Jusour Youth Exchange

Jusour (Bridges) an international exchange programme we provide to young people living in the MENA region and the UK. This eight day programme brings together inspiring young people who are committed to working together in the area of local and international development. 

Jusour facilitates the young participants to explore some of the core issues facing youth in the Euro-Mediterranean region today, from education to political participation. It also provides training in project management, fundraising and outreach to support the youth to work together to identify and implement effective solutions to these issues on a local level.

Within this programme, SCEME has recently completed an international exchange for young people living in the UK and Algeria. While the youth have returned home, their work continues. Throughout the course of the week the group created some absolutely fantastic social action projects that they would like to implement in their own communities.

You can learn more about the project, see what the participants think of it, and follow their progress as they implement their projects by following their blog

Unfortunately, the deadline for this opportunity has now passed. We will be launching details of new opportunities as soon as they emerge.

Iraq’s Women Ten Years Later

llustration:Judy Green
March 20, 2013 marks the ten-year anniversary of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Little has improved in the life of ordinary Iraqis despite the government rhetoric that it is better than it was under Saddam.  The Iraqi government itself is rife with corruption, and the seeds of sectarian violence sown by the American administration have become increasingly inflamed in recent months with the mass protests in Sunni provinces such as Anbar and Diyala.  They oppose the Shia –led government of Noori Al-Maliki and accuse them of sidelining the Iraqi Sunnis.
While the brunt of the violence in Iraq has somewhat settled, major attacks are still being perpetrated, as a reminder of the fragile security apparatus in the Iraq.  On Tuesday 19th March 2013, CNN reported on attacks across the capital that took the lives of over fifty people. There are daily attacks as reported by Iraqi media, but largely ignored by western sources.
Women’s rights were touted as one of the reasons to enter Iraq, yet that quickly was forgotten when the American appointed Iraqi Governing Council sought to overthrow Iraq’s progressive personal status law. While there were protests from women and men across Iraq and this move was rejected, various articles in the new constitution now undermine the true equality of women, leaving them subject to religious interpretation rather than the civil law code.
Women suffered greatly within weeks of the coalition forces entering the country as human rights organisations were reporting on the kidnapping and rape of women and girls and SCEME later released a comprehensive report on the sex trafficking of women and girls to neighboring countries.  Crimes against women were, and continue to be committed with utter impunity, thanks in part to the corruption of the government and lack of the enforcement of the rule of law.
While women’s rights were deteriorating under Saddam with the wars in Iran and the invasion of Kuwait (leading to the first Gulf War), and further worsened by the sanctions put in place by the United Nations, they have not improved much in the new Iraq.  
Women were in Tahrir Square in Cairo when the Mubarak regime was brought down over two years ago.  Today they remain, despite reports of attacks of horrific acts of sexual violence against them, they are continuing to stand their ground in protest of the Muslim Brotherhood.  In Iraq’s Sunni provinces where some are saying could bring forth an “Arab Spring” in Iraq, women are nowhere to be found.  It is a worrying sight indeed when half of society has disappeared.  
What will become of Iraq and the women of Iraq in the next ten years? We can only hope that women continue the fight for their rights and the rights of their daughters, for this is a dangerous and trying path the nation on. 
By Tamara Albanna

Silvia is Leading our Work to Research Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK and the MENA Region. On International Women’s Day, she Comments on the Situation Internationally.

Ms Turay (aged 12) was mutilated at her aunt’s house where she had been staying with her three sisters and her cousin. “We didn’t even know that we were going to be initiated,” she says. “They called me to get water and then outside they just grabbed me.” She was blindfolded, stripped, and laid on the ground. Heavy women sat on her arms, her chest, her legs. Her mouth was stuffed with a rag. Her clitoris was cut off with a crude knife. Despite profuse bleeding she was forced to walk, was beaten and had hot pepper water poured into her eyes. “My mother had always told me never to let anyone touch me there. I was scared and I tried to fight them off. Nobody talked to me but there was all this clapping, singing, shouting,” recalls Ms Turay. “When I tried to walk on the seventh day I could not walk. All they could say is ‘Today you have become a woman’.” reported by The Independent online


Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is recognised internationally as a form of violence against women and girls, and as one of the most widespread and systematic violations of human rights.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), female genital mutilation includes “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs practiced for cultural reasons and for any other non-therapeutical reasons”.

It is estimated that more than 3 million girls and women worldwide are at risk of female genital mutilation every year. About 140 million girls and women are living with a consequence of FGM and only in the African countries about 100 million girls age 10 years and above are estimated to have undergone FGM.

Worldwide, we are seeing great progress. However, while it was originally a traditional practice carried out in most of the African and in some of the Middle East countries, in the last years the number of women and girls who are victim of Female Genital Mutilation has increased in countries that were previously foreign to this type of practice (consider e.g. the United States or those of Europe). The UK is nowestimated to be the EU country with the highest percentage of girls at risk of FGM. This is due to the great migration wave that has influenced and that still influences our time.
UK was one of the first EU countries to develop specific criminal law provisions emitting the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act in 1985, that made FGM a crime throughout the UK. The Act was replaced by the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, issued in March 2004, in which penalties have been increased and the concept of extraterritoriality was introduced. 

Several national and international human rights organisations work hard to raise awareness among people on this topic and have consistently pushed governments to adopt or to improve specific laws in order to reduce, or to eliminate, this cruel practice. Last 20 December 2012, the UN General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution banning the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. The FGM resolution urges countries to condemn all the harmful practices that affect women and girls, and to take all the necessary measures, including enforcing legislation, awareness-raising and allocating sufficient resources in order to protect women and girls from this form of violence. 

The struggle to combat Female Genital Mutilation should not end with the writing of a report or the watching of a movie, but it must continue to bring concrete results that can offer the chance of a safer life to those women and girls who are at risk of mutilation.


Two Year Anniversary of the Karamatuna Programme

As our friends and supporters will be aware, two years ago on International Women’s Day 2011, we launched the Karamatuna programme. Our hope was, and still is, that Karamatuna will in some way shine a light on trafficking of women and girls across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
When we launched the programme, we did so out of the great horror and sadness that we felt when slowly uncovering more and more details of young Iraqi girls who had been trafficked and forced into prostitution, or who had been sold as slaves to those who were all too willing to violate the rights and dignity of these young girls. 
Today is International Women’s Day 2013 and, two years on, and we are still working with supporters and friends across the region to uncover the depth of this problem; to advocate on behalf of trafficking survivors and to find solutions so that together individuals, grassroots organisations, governments and the international community can put an end to trafficking in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Karamatuna programme, through which we will be releasing new research, reports and toolkits later on in the year, has grown exponentially. What initially begun life as an attempt to investigate the sex-trafficking of Iraqi women into Syria quickly became an investigation into the sex-trafficking of Iraqi women and girls across the region and later, out of the necessity that we saw, it evolved into an investigation into the trafficking of persons of many different countries and nationalities into and within the region. Today, our work is increasingly coloured by the devastating war in Syria. 
Last week, news emerged from UNHCR that the number of Syrians either registered as refugees, or waiting to be registered as refugees has now exceeded 1 million. As is common in times of conflict, Syrian refugee women and girls have become particularly vulnerable to gender based violence and abuse; and the troubling stories emerging from the Syrian refugee camps sound all too familiar to those we have heard from Iraqi refugees and those organisations established to protect Iraqis following the 2003 invasion. 
To name just one example, in the summer of 2012 news quickly spread of advertisements being posted by men who hoped to find a Syrian bride, as well as of the increasing presence of ‘agents’ operating inside the camps working to find young brides for foreign men. The requests for marriage often offer a price of $130 – $250 (US) and many young girls have been promptly removed from camps in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. Many of these under-aged girls are believed to have arrived in Saudi Arabia.  Those working to provide basic assistance to Syrian refugees who have fled to refugee camps and neighbouring states suggest that occasionally a few of the potential buyers do seem genuinely concerned with ‘saving’ these young Syrian girls from a troubled life inside the camps. Those in the field believe that the majority, however, do appear to be taking the opportunity to arrange an (often unofficial and even temporary ‘muta’a’) marriage with an under-aged, and particularly vulnerable, child. 
While we are working to unravel the full story, concrete information is so far hard to come by. Figures from late last year suggested that in excess of 500 children had left the refugee camps to enter into marriages.
Upholding human rights and recognising that promoting the rights of women and girls is central to this mission is always at the heart of our work.  We offer our sincere gratitude for your support and interest in our work and Karamatuna over the past years, and pledge to continue expanding our programmes to allow us to address the very real problem of trafficking and gender-based violence to which so many refugees and migrants from, into and across the Middle Eastern region are sadly subjected. 
To download our preliminary investigation into the sex trafficking of Iraqi women and girls, click here. If you have skills, knowledge or time that you would like to donate to the Karamatuna programme and would like to become involved in supporting our work, we would love to hear from you! Drop us an email.

We’re now accepting applications for our Algeria – UK Youth Exchange

Call for Applications

SCEME has launched its free youth exchange programme, ‘Jusour’ (Bridges) and is now accepting applications from UK based young people (aged 15-30) who would like to take part.

Jusour is a challenging and inspiring programme of training workshops, cultural trips and visits to meet NGOs that brings together young people living in the UK and Algeria who have an interest in youth, national and international issues.

Within this training scheme, you will have the opportunity to share your experiences with students, activists and young volunteers of different backgrounds and cultures; discuss some of the key challenges and issues facing your communities and young people internationally – and identify solutions; and become part of an international network of people that address some of the major issues facing youth in Europe and the Mediterranean region. 

Over the course of 6 days you will have the opportunity to participate in a series of interactive workshops, and you can also join our group of fantastic Algerian youth to participate in a series of visits to London-based NGOs, cultural sites and to enjoy sharing London with a group of students and activists from Algeria. 

You will also receive a YouthPass Certificate (European Union recognition of your learning in the youth field) to certify your completion of the training programme and to allow you to showcase your learning and experiences. 

Over the course of the training, you will gain:

  • Knowledge and understanding of a range of challenges and issues impacting on youth in the UK and internationally – including education, employability, inequality, social and political participation.  
  • The opportunity to share experiences, ideas, best practice and identify solutions with other young people in the UK and Algeria.
  • Skills in Project Management and Fundraising.
  • First hand Project Management experience, and the opportunity to implement a social action project together with other participants.
  • New friends and supportive contacts who are committed to making a difference in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
  • You will also become part of a long-term facilitated international network, and be provided with the tools and resources you need to continue interacting with other participants and making an impact together.  

The training will take place in Central London this Easter break, from 25th-30th March. The training is free and local (Greater London) travel expenses will be covered, as will food.

Unfortunately, we are only able to accept applications from those aged 30 and under living in the Greater London area. Spaces are limited, so we advise that you apply early to avoid disappointment. 

If you have any questions (don’t be shy!) please feel free to contact the team on If you would like to apply, then please send a quick email introducing yourself and your interest in the programme to the same address:

 Jusour is a project initiated by SCEME (Social Change through Education in the Middle East) in partnership with Nada (Réseau Algérien pour la Défense des Droits des Enfants). It has been funded with support from the European Union. This publication/communication reflects the views only of the author, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of information contained therein.


Two year anniversary of the revolution in Libya celebrated with mixed feelings around the country

Sunday February 17th 2013 marked the second anniversary of the uprising in Libya that led to the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Celebrations in Benghazi began on Friday and continued through the weekend.  Over 2,000 Libyans waving flags and singing national songs gathered at the courthouse where people gave patriotic celebratory speeches. 

“You cannot imagine how I feel today, the joy is immense,” Arbiya, a 24-year old engineering student said while in Martyrs Square, tears in her eyes as she carried a picture of her brother who died fighting Gaddafi forces in the 2011 conflict.

Despite the thousands of people happily celebrating, there were others voicing their discontent and disappointment with the current situation in Libya.  “I am not celebrating, I am not carrying a flag,” said Ahmed al-Mijbari as fireworks exploded over his head. “I am here stranding for my right, for the east and to put a stop to centralization.”  In the east citizens are pushing for a federal political structure and all around the country many are unhappy that the government has yet to disarm the militia and write a new constitution.

National Congress leader Mohammed Magarief addressed the crowd in Benghazi saying “We admit that we have not fulfilled our duties completely. Maybe the excuse is a lack of experience, but we have started from scratch and we will learn from the lessons we learned in the past months”.

International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

In observation of International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) we’d like to focus on the incredible efforts made by numerous advocates and organisations around the world that work to end FGM. Each year, around 3 million girls and women—or some 8,000 girls each day—face the risk of mutilation or cutting. An estimated 130 million to 140 million girls and women have undergone the practice, mostly in Africa and some countries in Asia and the Middle East. But thanks to the work of these advocates and organisations to raise awareness against FGM and strive to ultimately end the practice, certain areas of the world FGM is on the decline.

Social norms and cultural practices are changing towards the practice of FGM, specifically in Africa. A United Nations report showed that in the past five years over 2,000 communities have abandoned the practice of FGM across Africa. A joint program between UNICEF and UNFPA and the assistance of WHO, works to encourage communities to abandon the practice FGM and do so through working closely with NGOs, government officials, religious leaders, and community members in a culturally sensitive manner to address the issue of FGM.

Great strides have been made in the effort to end FGM but millions of girls and women around the world remain at risk of being subjected to FGM. With continued cultural sensitivity and advocacy to end FGM, the abandonment of the practice all-together is a realistic goal. Become part of the global campaign to end FGM, Stop FGM Now! Is an organisation that works to raise awareness about FGM and suggests ways you can become an advocate for girls and women around the world and end the practice of FGM.


Jordan parliamentary elections, democracy or sham

Jordanians are set to vote in important parliamentary elections today, for the first time the country’s Pime Minster will be selected based on vote rather than chosen by the King. The new electoral framework is a result of mass protests around the country and dissatisfaction with King Abdullah II and the government. For the past two years protests have been fuelled by political and economic problems, one of the most pressing issues in the country has been the removal of fuel subsidies, along with issues of corruption and incompetent governing.

King Abdullah says these elections are the first step towards a gradual and necessary process for a better democracy, but many are doubtful and believe the elections to be a sham and purely for show. Protests against the elections have rocked every corner of the country on claims that the system is rigged in favour of rural existing tribal leaders and against the urban poor. The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition party in Jordan, and four smaller parties are boycotting the polls. Muslim Brotherhood deputy Rsheid tells Rusiya Al-Yaum says government reforms have brought little change and the majority of the power remains in the government not in the hands of the people.

Despite civil unrest throughout the region and uprisings, Jordan is one of the few monarchies to retain control of its government. But, with the largest opposition party boycotting the election and protests around the country, pressure will remain on King Abdullah and the government to make serious changes and devolve some of the power. Without these changes political stability, control of the government and peace may be difficult to maintain.

UAE announces Youth Parliament

Following states around the world, the UAE is preparing to launch its first Youth Parliament for primary and secondary school students from across the Emirates. 
With plans to hold elections after the beginning of the next school year, the Youth Parliament will include committees on education, culture, media and communications, environment and sustainable development, youth and sports, scientific research, law, political affairs and international relations, health and housing. 
Speaking last week, Acting MoE Undersecretary Ali Mehad Al Suwaidi advocated on behalf of the host of skills and attributes young people will have the opportunity to develop: 
“The school parliament will provide a platform for exchanging views, fostering values of loyalty to the homeland, promoting community culture and values, encouraging explicit expression of points of view, sharpening skills of thinking, understanding and respect of the other’s stances, enriching students’ Arabic language and speech skills and nurturing the culture of dialogue among students themselves on one hand and between them and officials on the other.” 
Young people across the globe are already participating in their thousands in the youth parliaments of their own states. When implemented with genuine conviction and a desire to enhance youth participation within states that typically favour the voices of the older generation, they provide the space for youth to make their voices heard, often for the first time and provide a fantastic opportunity for the youth to learn through action.