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"Why are we afraid to say that Muslim women are deprived of their freedom?"

“I’m only one person and sometimes I feel helpless in a situation.”

Warning: This post contains details of human rights abuse and the content and video may be distressing for some readers.

The issue of human rights when it comes to Muslim women has always been an ambiguous one. At best, it can be described as a struggle; At worst, deprivation of humanity.

As so many women continue to live in fear for their lives, there are so many questions that are left unsaid. For instance, where is the dialogue? What can be done to enact real change? And who will speak for those women that cannot speak for themselves?

Read more: Humiliating and isolating Muslim women won’t make us any safer.

Here, finally, is part of the answer.

A group of nine, very powerful Muslim women have come together to speak about what they describe as “one of the most alarming human rights issues in the world”.

These women, whose ideas, experiences and backgrounds make them a powerful force to be reckoned with, are speaking out for Muslim women who live in fear of persecution and subjugation.

The group includes the President and Co-Founder of Stop Child Executions, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, the President of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Raheel Raza, and activist, writer and commentator, Raquel Saraswati. And together they are out to prove that no woman should have to feel alone in this struggle.

The film Honor Diaries, which touches on key human rights issues facing Muslim women today, embodies the idea that “the struggle for women is our struggle”.

The women, all of whom have personal experiences of suffering, share their stories of abuse and mistreatment that is often carried out in the name of honour. This is because family honour, as it is explained, “is vested in a woman’s body… But it’s a misplaced sense of honour.”

“I’m only one person and sometimes I feel helpless in a situation,” former Miss World Canada Nazanin says.

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Co-founder of Karma Nirvana, Jasvinder Sanghera, shares her personal experience of female circumcision and how she used a booklet to stop the practice being carried out upon two of her cousins. Her experience is not unlike many others.

Other members of the group share similar tales of human rights abuse such as body mutilation, acid violence, attacks targeting women who work or study (for fear they are becoming “too Westernised”), rape, groping, female genital mutilation, child brides and arranged marriages.

The issue of child brides is a very real one for many Muslim girls.

It is not uncommon, one of the women says, for “marriages [to be] consummated through rape”.

As the women swap stories it becomes clear that in almost every instance, “nobody stopped to ask the question, why?”

Parents who doused their daughter in acid for “looking” at a boy. A husband who beheaded his wife after she filed for divorce. Women run down by their husbands and fathers for “becoming too Westernised”. The list goes on and on.

“I’m only one person and sometimes I feel helpless in a situation.”

“We shy away from criticising anything that’s different because we don’t want to be seen as the type of people who would restrict people’s expression,” one of the women says.

The women agree that often people don’t want to be labelled “Islamophobic” and they don’t want to be seen as speaking out against the crowd.

And those who do? They face hate mail, rape threats, death threats and worse.

“I’m afraid all the time. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t also be courageous,” Raquel believes.

“It’s very easy to break a twig or a stick. But when you bundle them together, you can’t break that.”

Honor Diaries is the first film to break the silence on ‘honor violence’ against women and girls. It is more than a movie, it is a movement to save women and girls from human rights abuses – around the world and in America.

There are a number of campaigns to stop female genital mutilation, including many grassroots campaigns to create change within communities. Visit www.banfmg.org  OR www.stop-fgm-now.com  for more information. 

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