Maryam Namazie – Iran & UK

Linked with our two presentations: Islam must be criticised!, and

Human beings first!

She is a Writer, International English TV producer; Director of the Worker-communist Party of Iran’s International Relations; and 2005 winner of the National Secular Society’s Secularist of the Year award.

You will find many others of her speeches, articles, campaigns, the Manifesto, her biography, on one of her blogs named Maryam Namazie.

Maryam Namazie – Iran & UK

Bio: Below is the introduction of Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, of Maryam Namazie during the Secularist of the Year award ceremony in October 2005.

Maryam Namazie was born in Tehran, but she left Iran with her family in 1980 after the establishment of the Islamic Republic. She then lived in India, the UK and then settled in the US where she began her university studies at the age of 17.

After graduating, Maryam went to the Sudan in to work with Ethiopian refugees. Half way through her stay, an Islamic government took power. She was threatened by the government for establishing a clandestine human rights organisation and had to be evacuated by her employer for her own safety.

Back in the United States, Maryam worked for various refugee and human rights organisations. She established the Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees in 1991. In 1994, she went to Turkey and produced a video documentary on the situation of Iranian refugees there.

Soon after her return to the US, she was elected executive director of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees, an international organisation with 60 branches in nearly 20 countries. As director of the refugee-run organisation, she campaigned on behalf of thousands of Iranian asylum seekers and refugees having intervened successfully on many cases preventing. Some successes include preventing the deportation of over 1000 from Holland including having spoken at a parliamentary meeting on the issue; to a successful campaign against the Turkish government to extend the period in which asylum seekers can apply for asylum.

Maryam Namazie is also a member of the Organisation of Women’s Liberation Central Council since its establishment in which she has worked on numerous campaigns, including against stoning, executions, sexual apartheid, and women’s rights violations particularly in Islamic societies. Some successes include the Homa Arjomand-led campaign against the Sharia court in Canada. She was a speaker at its first public meeting in Toronto and continued supporting and highlighting the issue and mobilising support.

Other campaigns she has worked on include preventing stonings and executions in Islamist societies, opposing the veiling of children, opposing Sharia or religious laws, defending the banning of religious symbols from schools and public institutions, opposing the incitement to religious hatred bill in the UK and calling for secularism and the de-religionisation of society not only in Iran but in Britain and elsewhere.

Maryam is an inveterate commentator and broadcaster on rights, cultural relativism, secularism, religion, political Islam and many other related topics.

The present revival of Islam has heightened interest in Maryam’s work, and at last her writings are gaining a mainstream audience. She has spoken at numerous conferences and written extensively on women’s rights issues, particularly violence against women.

More recently, Maryam has been hosting a weekly programme on International TV. This is broadcast via satellite to the Middle East and Europe and can be seen on the Internet. TV International focuses on issues pertaining to the Middle East from a progressive, left-wing perspective. The programme promotes secularism amongst other values and has developed a considerable following amongst people in Iran and the Middle East as well as in Europe and the west.

The issues raised in the programme provoke much correspondence, and she has been roundly criticised by Islamists, the Islamic Republic of Iran and even of Ken Livingstone after his invitation to this country of Yusuf Al Qaradawi.

So she must be doing something right.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are sure you will agree with us that Maryam Namazie is a worthy and noble winner of this first Irwin Prize.

Maryam Namazie is currently a producer for TV International English, a member of the Central Council of the Organisation for Women’s Liberation and Director of the Worker-communist Party of Iran’s International Relations Committee. She is also co-editor of WPI Briefing and the Worker-communist Review.

She has spoken at numerous conferences and written many articles on women’s rights issues, violence against women, political Islam, and secularism – some of which have been translated into various languages. She has been interviewed on BBC TV and radio, including the Heaven and Earth programme and the Moral Maze, ABC TV Australia, quoted in Time magazine, the Independent, the Observer, the Guardian, Al Ahram Weekly, Persian media outlets, and had articles published in various sources, including Tribune, Gay Times, Medusa Journal, Gender Policy Review.

Previously, Namazie was the elected Executive Director of the International Federation of Iranian Refugee, a refugee run organisation with 60 branches in 15 countries worldwide; founded the Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees (CHAIR); was the Human Rights Advocates Training Programme Coordinator at Columbia University’s Centre for the Study of Human Rights in New York and the NYC Refugee Coordinator/ US National Steering Committee Member of Amnesty International. She also ran a refugee women’s leadership training programme in NYC.

She works and lives in the UK.

Together facing the new totalitarianism: with 11 other intellectuals, she signs a manifest for the French paper ‘Charlie Hebdo’ and also publishes it on her Blog (see here after):

She writes on March 1, 2006: MANIFESTO – Together facing the new totalitarianism,

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations or an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man’s domination of woman, the Islamists’ domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

We reject « cultural relativism », which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of “Islamophobia”, an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.

We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism … (read the rest of this long article, and many others of her thinkings, on her Blog).

links:

audio interview, click on fifth item named ‘ Interview med Maryam Namazie, medunderskriver af Salman Rushdies manifest’.

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