Palestinian women voices raised in UN Human Rights Council

Hanan Kaoud, Madeleine Rees, Sama Bamieh at the 27th session of  UN Human Rights Council

Hanan Kaoud, Madeleine Rees, Sama Bamieh at the 27th session of UN Human Rights Council

In 2007 the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said: “All victims of human rights abuses should be able to look to the Human Rights Council as a forum and a springboard for action”.

That is not the reality for many people today. Aminah is one of these people. She has lost everything. One year ago her husband died and during the Gaza offensive she also lost her home. These events have had devastating consequences for Aminah, not knowing what’s going to happen in the future. Currently Aminah is living with her parents in Jerusalem because she holds a Jerusalem ID which gives her permission to legally reside in Jerusalem. Her permit to live in Gaza was revoked after the death of her husband and now she no longer has permission to reside in the place that has been her home for 30 years. On top of that Aminah may also have challenges claiming reparations of her destroyed house in Gaza as the property was registered in her husband’s name.

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Thirsting for justice – a review of the Sjövik seminar 14-16 June

The 11th Sjövik seminar 2013 started one day after the Swedish Minister of International Development Cooperation announced that Sweden should cut its development aid to Palestine, since it yields no visible results. The focus of the seminar was the water situation and the situation of women in Palestine. As usual, restrictions on travel for Palestinians implied that the planned participants were not able to attend which resulted in a list of guests that were not necessarily as familiar with the topic of women’s rights in Palestine as the original plan. However, the guests made up for it with compelling and moving personal stories about being women in Palestine.

The only guest from Israel, Lihi Joffe from New Profile, did a very good job of focusing on feminism and the impact of militarism on the Israeli society. She spoke in depth about the way in which militarism infiltrates all parts of Israeli society. Her talk started with the question: “Do we have a country with an army or do we have an army with a country?”  and went on to inform the audience about the societal sanctions that people who leave the army or refuse to serve will face in the Israeli society; how schools create a ranking system or a pecking order between students based on how many in their family that have served in the army during the history of wars in Israel.

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“The future is bright – full of challenges, but bright”

I’m in Brussels for a conference called Peace for all Afghans? organised by the European Network of NGOs in Afghanistan, Crisis Management Initiative, Heinrich Böll Stiftung and the Agency Coordination Body for Afghan Relief in cooperation with MEP Thijs Berman.

The question mark in the name of the conference symbolizes both the lack of peace and security on the ground for most Afghans and the doubt whether the current peace process is creating a peace for all. A sustainable peace, a peace for all, requires an inclusive and credible peace process in which a multitude of groups in society participate. This was stressed by Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development, in his keynote speech. Piebalgs pointed out six areas that are crucial for security and development in Afghanistan – a credible peace process, a peaceful transfer of power during next year’s presidential elections, an urgent need to secure jobs, a need for transparency and fight against corruption, a need to secure justice and the rule of law and the necessity to safeguard human rights, and in particular women’s rights.  Let’s hope that this analysis is reflected in EU’s efforts in Afghanistan ahead.

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Women’s Rights Movement Unstoppable

The following is a piece I wrote for 100år event done in Norway to remark the 100 Year Anniversary of Norwegian women’s suffrage, this year. The piece sums up what I spoke about during the 100år seminar that took place last week, titled, “Power to Change: Strategies in Feminist and Human Rights Activism” .


Photo via Femen France

Just over the past two weeks, a 19-year-old Tunisian woman, identified only as Amina sparked massive controversy when she posted two photos of herself topless on the Femen Tunisian Facebook page (FEMEN is a women’s movement promoting women’s rights through  topless struggle). In one of the picture Amina posed while smoking a cigarette, baring her breasts and it was written across her chest “my body belongs to me and it’s not the source of anyone’s’ honor.” The purpose behind that was “to make the voice of the Tunisian women heard and protect them from suppression,” Amina told a local Tunisian press.

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