[Marxism] Letter from SOWFI to WBAI in Support of Women's Rights in Iraq

mekchi at verizon.net mekchi at verizon.net
Wed Jul 28 22:00:29 MDT 2004

Sowfi Organization <sowfiorg at hotmail.com> wrote:

From: "Sowfi Organization" 
To: aguttu at yahoo.com, fran_luck_ at hotmail.com, j4fasulo at yahoo.com, journalista1 at yahoo.com, laurasaiter at earthlink.net, shourash at msn.com, luccoop at yahoo.com, indymediaforum at yahoo.com, emilcecura at hotmail.com
Subject: Letter to WBAI in Support of SOWFI
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2004 17:42:31 +0000

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We, SOWFI, the Solidarity with Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, are asking for your support in challenging WBAI’s popular morning news show Wake Up Call for their negative mischaracterization of our solidarity demonstration with Iraqi women’s struggle for equality. 

On the March 31 edition of Wake Up Call, it was implied that our demo was a racist demonization of Muslims and we were denounced as "American women" who were "ignorant" of Islam. We subsequently wrote to the producers of Wake-up Call, hand-delivered, mailed and emailed the following letter of protest asking for a right of rejoinder to this show. Despite verbal indications that an invitation to the show would be forthcoming, SOWFI has still not been given a date for the show where we stated we would like to bring on the air members of SOWFI and speakers from the demo to correct any misconceptions and to reinforce the message that women's rights are inalienable; and that the left community should be supporting these rights, not defending misogynist practices. 

Now, we have decided to make our letter public and ask supporters of the demo and women’s freedom to send a letter to Wake Up Call producers and hosts. Let them know that you are a WBAI listener and are requesting that the event organizers for the March 3 SOWFI action have equal air time to respond to the March 31 Wake-Up Call show which blatantly mischaracterized them.

A sample letter is pasted below. Feel free to write your own more personalized letter. A review of our attached original complaint ("Letter to WBAI") will give you a good sense of the program content or you can write to us to get a taped copy of the Wake Up Call program in question.
Address your letter to Wake Up Call Producers and Hosts:

Sharan Harper sharper at wbai.org
Errol Maitland emaitland at wbai.org
Bernard White bwhite at wbai.org
Deepa Fernandez dfernandes at wbai.org
Station Manager Don Rojas drojas at wbai.org

** and please remember to cc a copy to SOWFI at sowfiorg at hotmail.com
Allison Guttu 
Solidarity with Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (SOWFI)


Dear Wake Up Call Producers,

I am writing as a WBAI listener to urge you to meet SOWFI’s (Solidarity with Organization of Women’s Freedom) request for rejoinder to your show. As someone who attended the March 3 demo against the US occupation and in support of Iraqi women’s struggle for equality (or as someone who supports the struggle for Iraqi women’s equality) I believe the mischaracterization of this important solidarity effort on your show was shameful. By likening this solidarity movement to the racist demonization of Muslim people, you are helping strengthen a taboo against defending women's basic human rights.

I share the alarm over racist profiling and racist attacks against Muslims, Arabs, and all (perceived to be) of Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian descent, and I strongly object to the implication that anyone who speaks out against the oppression of women under Islamic governments is participating in racism. The answer to addressing racism, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment is not to be silent about abuses against women of color by political Islam.

In the interest of justice and responsible journalism, I urge you to support SOWFI’s proposal for a right to rejoinder on your program. They should be given equal time as was given to the guests who misrepresented SOWFI's efforts at building much needed solidarity with Iraqi women’s struggle for equality.

April 24, 2004

To the Producers of Wake-Up Call,

On the 3/31/04 Wake-Up call, Bernard White hosted several Muslim guests to speak about the negative portrayal of Islam in the American media.  Several false characterizations were made regarding a solidarity demonstration we, SOWFI (Solidarity with the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq) organized on March 3 in support of Iraqi women's struggle for equality.  We strongly object to this misrepresentation of our efforts and are therefore writing to request the right of rejoinder in the form of equal time on Wake-Up Call.  Bernard White concluded the program with the promise of a longer upcoming segment on the same topic. We request to be guests on Wake-Up Call so as to have a fair chance to accurately represent our position and political goals, and as well, to be co-guests when the future program airs.  We wish one or both segments to include representatives from our organization, SOWFI, and the Iraqi and Iranian activists who spoke at our demonstration.  An important part of this program would be the presentation of the latest information on the struggle of Iraqi women for an Iraqi state that is secular and not religious in nature.   (See attachment for program proposal)

Our March 3 "Demonstration Against U.S. Occupation and the Imposition of Islamic Shar'ia" was the first of its kind that sought to demonstrate solidarity with the indigenous women's movement in Iraq, a movement that the American left has largely chosen to ignore.  Far from being "ignorant of Islam" as your broadcast suggested, SOWFI organizers made a determined effort to bring the voices of Iraqi and Iranian women and men to the public stage to explain the situation facing women in Iraq, as only those with first-hand experience can.  In the Wake-Up Call segment, one of the guests explained that he attended the demonstration, which he wrongly described as organized by "MADRE"  (MADRE was one of the demo endorsers).  He described challenging those present to explain the problems with Shar'ia law and concluded that they "knew nothing about Islam."  What he failed to mention was that many of the individuals present were activists from the Middle East who are intimately familiar with Islam, and who have spent decades struggling against political Islam (not Islam as a religion), a political and totalitarian movement which imposes itself by force and strips women of their basic human rights.   Make no mistake; this is not an issue of religious choice, but rather the forcible removal of women's choice, rights and freedom.  

Indeed, it was the Iraqi women's call for solidarity to which our demonstration was a response. In October, the US-puppet Iraqi Governing Council passed Resolution 137 (Islamic Shar'ia) which would have set back women's hard-earned rights by 50 years.  Despite repeated erosion by Saddam Hussein, the largely secular code still gave Iraqi women many more rights than other women in the region.   When Iraqi women reacted by taking to the streets and protest poured in from around the world, the IGC was forced to rescind the resolution two months later.  
Our demonstration was a proud part of that international outcry.  

Equally problematic was a statement made during your broadcast that "the only people who see Islamic Shar'ia as oppressive are corporate media, foreign policy makers and feminists."  First of all, this statement dismisses decades of activism by women living under or in exile from political Islam, groups such as RAWA in Afghanistan, the Organization of Women's Liberation in Iran, and the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq.  It also ignores the condemnation of the treatment of women living under Muslim laws by human rights organizations worldwide.  And while we recognize that foreign policy makers and their corporate media allies have exploited women's suffering in countries like Afghanistan to gain support for their imperialist wars, this does not make the suffering of women in Afghanistan any less real.  It merely shows the hypocrisy and utter insincerity of U.S. officials who help sustain the exact same brutality in countries like Saudi Arabia with whom they maintain close, friendly relations.  On the contrary, many feminist groups, such as Redstockings, V-Day, MADRE  Equality Now and SOWFI, have consistently spoken out against these crimes whenever and wherever they occur and sought to support the indigenous resistance that always accompanies them.  Why doesn't WBAI, the American left and the anti-war movement show their solidarity with these struggles?  Where is the outrage at the crimes against women's humanity that are being promulgated all over the world and bolstered by U.S. aggression and occupation?

The attempt to unilaterally impose Shar'ia on the women of Iraq, the widespread incidence of rape and abduction, the increased practice of "honor killing" (often against those same women who have been victims of rape) the assassinations and death threats against women fighting for their rights (OWFI leader Yanar Mohammed has received two death threats by Islamic group Jaysh Al-Sahaba for her "psychologically disturbed ideas of women's freedoms") all have come about as a result of US occupation and alliance with the right-wing forces of political Islam.  We find it dismaying that none of these facts were reported on your broadcast.  Something is wrong when vicious and inhuman practices against women do not warrant condemnation, but a demonstration, such as ours, demanding the end of those practices, does.  

Program guests defined Islamic Shar'ia as "sacred law flowing primarily from the Koran and the prophetic traditions of Mohammed" but they never delineated the laws themselves.   According to the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, Islamic Shar'ia includes: giving men the right to have four wives, lowering the marriage age to nine (for girls only), giving men the sole right of divorce and custody over children, forcing women to veil, making adultery punishable by death (stoning for women being the most common practice), reducing women's inheritance to half that of a man, counting women's testimony in court as half that of a man and enforcing gender segregation in public spaces.  These are laws practiced under Islamic governments, with some variations, but the ultimate thrust of the law is quite clear: to legalize women's inferiority.    Regardless of whether you believe such misogynist laws are "sacred" or "prophetic," the fact is that political Islam seeks to make Islamic law the law of the state and impose it on all of the society, believers and non-believers, enforcing non-compliance with the full power of the state.  

Finally, we share the alarm over racist profiling and racist attacks against Muslims, Arabs, and all (perceived to be) of Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian descent and we object to the implication that anyone who speaks out against the oppression of women under Islamic governments is participating in racism.   This is no different than accusations of "anti-Semitism" hurled against anyone who dares to criticize the inhuman and repressive policies of the Israeli government against Palestinians.  The answer to addressing racism, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment is not to be silent about abuses against women of color by political Islam.

Because the facts and purpose of our demonstration were significantly distorted and misrepresented on your program, we are requesting air time on Wake-Up Call to exercise our right of rejoinder. We would like to conduct a live phone interview with the Iraqi women who inspire our work and who are protagonists in the current struggle for women's lives in Iraq. Especially as the danger increases in Iraq, we believe it is more important than ever to ensure that Iraqi women's voices reach the airwaves.  We can be reached at sowfiorg at hotmail.com Please contact us at your earliest convenience. 


Jennifer Fasulo
Allison Guttu
Priya Reddy

for SOWFI, Solidarity with Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq

cc:  Bernard White, Deepa Fernandes, Kathy Davis, Don Rojas

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