Amnesty Intl. criticizes scarf ban

Women have become key victims of growing religious intolerance fueled by a clash between the West and the Muslim world, comparing the ban imposed on women in Turkey and France for wearing headscarves in public places to the obligations imposed on women in

Amnesty Intl. criticizes scarf ban
Women have become key victims of growing religious intolerance fueled by a clash between the West and the Muslim world, a leading international human rights organization has asserted, while comparing the ban imposed on women in Turkey and France for wearing headscarves in public places to the obligations imposed on women in Iran and Saudi Arabia for putting on a veil.

"In an environment of fear and religious fundamentalism, governments have backtracked on their promise to promote gender equality," said Irene Kahn, Amnesty International (AI) secretary-general, in the foreword she wrote for the AI Report 2007, the organization's annual assessment of human rights worldwide, rele-ased in London on Wednesday.

“The state has the obligation to safeguard a woman’s freedom of choice, not restrict it. To take an example, the veil and headscarf of Muslim women have become a bone of contention between different cultures, the visible symbol of oppression according to one side, and an essential attribute of religious freedom according to the other. It is wrong for women in Saudi Arabia or Iran to be compelled to put on the veil. It is equally wrong for women or girls in Turkey or France to be forbidden by law to wear the headscarf. And it is foolish of Western leaders to claim that a piece of clothing is a major barrier to social harmony,” Kahn said in strongly worded remarks.

“In the exercise of her right to freedom of expression and religion, a woman should be free to choose what she wants to wear. Governments and religious leaders have a duty to create a safe environment in which every woman can make that choice without the threat of violence or coercion. The universality of human rights means that they apply equally to women as well as to men. This universality of rights -- universality both in understanding and in application -- is the most powerful tool against gender violence, intolerance, racism, xenophobia and terrorism,” Kahn emphasized.

The infamous Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) -- which makes it a criminal offense to denigrate “Turkishness” and is widely considered as a barrier to freedom of expression in Turkey -- featured prominently in the Amnesty report.

The organization noted that other articles of the latest TCK, which was introduced with the legislative reforms of June 1, 2005, also imposed restrictions on the freedom of expression, giving Article 288 as an example, which restricts public comment on cases under judicial consideration. The article was used in an arbitrary and overly restrictive way to hinder independent investigation and public comment on human rights violations, the report said.

Frequent prosecutions faced by officials of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) and those joining pro-Kurdish platforms was another item highlighted under the title of freedom of expression in the country report for Turkey, as the report took note of prosecutions “amounting to a pattern of judicial harassment.”

There were continuing reports of fatal shootings of civilians by members of the security forces and that the usual explanation for these killings was that the victims had failed to obey a warning to stop, but such killings often demonstrated disproportionate use of force and in some cases may have amounted to extrajudicial executions, the report said.

“There were concerns about Article 16 in the revised Law to Fight Terrorism, which failed to be explicit that lethal force could only be used when strictly unavoidable to protect life. There were fears that Article 16, which permitted the ‘direct and unhesitating’ use of firearms to ‘render the danger ineffective,’ could further hinder thorough and impartial investigations into shootings by members of the security forces,” it added, emphasizing that members of the security forces continued to use excessive force during the policing of demonstrations.

Amnesty maintained that bombings targeting civilians had increased and noted attacks by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a group affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and which assumed responsibility for attacks on resort areas in southern and western Turkey. The report also cited the deadly armed attack in May 2006 on judges at the Council of State.

The controversial Şemdinli bombing trial also found a place in the report. Amnesty said that the trial proceeded after an investigation into “the bombing, which appeared to have been mired by political interference by members of the government and senior military personnel.”

The report noted that during the Şemdinli case a local public prosecutor indicted Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt, then Land Forces commander and now chief of General Staff, for allegedly organizing an illegal group to plan the Şemdinli bombing and that the prosecutor in question, Ferhat Sarıkaya, was later removed from office and disbarred. An appeal by the prosecutor concerning his dismissal was unsuccessful, the report said.

‘Genocide' bill in France restriction on freedom of expression

The French Parliament's approval of a bill in October of last year that made it a crime to deny that Ottoman Turks committed "genocide" against Armenians during World War I was listed by Amnesty International as a restriction on freedom of expression in the Amnesty International Report 2007, the organization's annual assessment of human rights worldwide, released in London on Wednesday.

The bill was the sole item highlighted under the title "Restriction on freedom of expression" in the country report for France. "On 12 October parliament adopted a bill that would make it a crime to contest that the massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 constituted genocide. The new crime would be punishable by up to five years' imprisonment and a fine. The bill was awaiting approval by the Senate and the President," the report noted.

The bill has angered Turkey, which categorically refutes genocide charges.

Source: Agencies and Today's Zaman


Last Mod: 24 Mayıs 2007, 09:48
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