Liberalism and progressivism in the Muslim world
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There are diferents examples of Muslims and Islamic movements in the Muslim world who identify with, espouse or have compatible liberal (religious liberalism) and/or progressive values, ideas, views and support its causes. The terms Muslim world and Islamic world commonly refer to the Islamic community (Ummah), consisting of all those who adhere to the religion of Islam, or to societies where Islam is practiced. In a modern geopolitical sense, these terms refer to countries where Islam is widespread, although there are no agreed criteria for inclusion.
- 1 In Islamic philosophy
- 2 Human rights
- 3 Secularism
- 4 Tolerance and non-violence
- 5 Challenges
- 6 In the Arab world
- 7 In Africa
- 8 In Asia
- 8.1 Afghanistan
- 8.2 Bangladesh
- 8.3 Bahrain
- 8.4 India
- 8.5 Indonesia
- 8.6 Iran
- 8.7 Iraq
- 8.8 Kazakhstan
- 8.9 Malaysia
- 8.10 Maldives
- 8.11 Mauritania
- 8.12 Northern Cyprus
- 8.13 Pakistan
- 8.14 Palestine
- 8.15 Rojava
- 8.16 Saudi Arabia
- 8.17 Syria
- 8.17.1 Syrian Democratic People's Party
- 8.17.2 Damascus Spring
- 8.17.3 Ammar Abdulhamid's foundations
- 8.17.4 Movement for Justice and Development in Syria
- 8.17.5 Dox Box
- 8.17.6 Strike for Dignity
- 8.17.7 Syrian National Council
- 8.17.8 Coalition of Secular and Democratic Syrians
- 8.17.9 National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change
- 8.17.10 National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces
- 8.17.11 Syria's Tomorrow Movement
- 8.18 Turkey
- 8.19 Yemen
- 9 In Europe
- 9.1 Albania
- 9.2 Bosnia-Herzegovina
- 9.3 Denmark
- 9.4 Kosovo
- 9.5 Netherlands
- 9.6 Russia
- 9.7 Sweden
- 9.8 United Kingdom
- 10 In North America
- 10.1 Canada
- 10.2 United States
- 11 Notable liberal and progressive Muslims
- 12 See also
- 13 Further reading
- 14 Notes
- 15 References
- 16 External links
In Islamic philosophy
The rise of Islam, based on both the Qur'an and Muhammad strongly altered the power balances and perceptions of origin of power in the Mediterranean region. Early Islamic philosophy emphasized an inexorable link between science and religion, and the process of ijtihad to find truth—in effect all philosophy was "political" as it had real implications for governance. This view was challenged by the "rationalist" Mutazilite philosophers, who held a more Hellenic view, reason above revelation, and as such are known to modern scholars as the first speculative theologians of Islam; they were supported by a secular aristocracy who sought freedom of action independent of the Caliphate. By the late ancient period, however, the "traditionalist" Asharite view of Islam had in general triumphed. According to the Asharites, reason must be subordinate to the Quran and the Sunna.
Ibn Rushd, often Latinized as Averroes, was a medieval Andalusian polymath. Being described as "founding father of secular thought in Western Europe", he was known by the nickname the Commentator for his precious commentaries on Aristotle's works. His main work was The Incoherence of the Incoherence in which he defended philosophy against al-Ghazali's claims in The Incoherence of the Philosophers. His other works were the Fasl al-Maqal and the Kitab al-Kashf. Ibn Rushd presented an argument in Fasl al-Maqal (Decisive Treatise) providing a justification for the emancipation of science and philosophy from official Ash'ari theology and that there is no inherent contradiction between philosophy and religion; thus Averroism has been considered a precursor to modern secularism.  Ibn Rushd accepts the principle of women's equality. According to him they should be educated and allowed to serve in the military; the best among them might be tomorrow's philosophers or rulers. The 13th-century philosophical movement in Latin Christian and Jewish tradition based on Ibn Rushd's work is called Averroism. Ibn Rushd became something of a symbolic figure in the debate over the decline and proposed revitalization of Islamic thought and Islamic society in the later 20th century. A notable proponent of such a revivival of Averroist thought in Islamic society was Mohammed Abed al-Jabri with his Critique de la Raison Arabe (1982).
In 1831, Egyptian Egyptologist and renaissance intellectual Rifa'a al-Tahtawi was part of the statewide effort to modernize the Egyptian infrastructure and education. They introduced his Egyptian audience to Enlightenment ideas such as secular authority and political rights and liberty; his ideas regarding how a modern civilized society ought to be and what constituted by extension a civilized or "good Egyptian"; and his ideas on public interest and public good. Tahtawi's work was the first effort in what became an Egyptian renaissance (nahda) that flourished in the years between 1860–1940.
Tahtawi is considered one of the early adapters to Islamic Modernism. Islamic Modernists attempted to integrate Islamic principles with European social theories. In 1826, Al-Tahtawi was sent to Paris by Mehmet Ali. Tahtawi studied at an educational mission for five years, returning in 1831. Tahtawi was appointed director of the School of Languages. At the school, he worked translating European books into Arabic. Tahtawi was instrumental in translating military manuals, geography, and European history. In total, al-Tahtawi supervised the translation of over 2,000 foreign works into Arabic. Al-Tahtawi even made favorable comments about French society in some of his books. Tahtawi stressed that the Principles of Islam are compatible with those of European Modernity.
In his piece, The Extraction of Gold or an Overview of Paris, Tahtawi discusses the patriotic responsibility of citizenship. Tahtawi uses Roman civilization as an example for what could become of Islamic civilizations. At one point all Romans are united under one Caesar but split into East and West. After splitting, the two nations see “all its wars ended in defeat, and it retreated from a perfect existence to nonexistence.” Tahtawi understands that if Egypt is unable to remain united, it could fall prey to outside invaders. Tahtawi stresses the importance of citizens defending the patriotic duty of their country. One way to protect one's country according to Tahtawi, is to accept the changes that come with a modern society.
Egyptian Islamic jurist and religious scholar Muhammad Abduh, regarded as one of the key founding figures of Islamic Modernism or sometimes called Neo-Mu’tazilism, broke the rigidity of the Muslim ritual, dogma, and family ties. Abduh argued that Muslims could not simply rely on the interpretations of texts provided by medieval clerics, they needed to use reason to keep up with changing times. He said that in Islam man was not created to be led by a bridle, man was given intelligence so that he could be guided by knowledge. According to Abduh, a teacher’s role was to direct men towards study. He believed that Islam encouraged men to detach from the world of their ancestors and that Islam reproved the slavish imitation of tradition. He said that the two greatest possessions relating to religion that man was graced with were independence of will and independence of thought and opinion. It was with the help of these tools that he could attain happiness. He believed that the growth of western civilization in Europe was based on these two principles. He thought that Europeans were roused to act after a large number of them were able to exercise their choice and to seek out facts with their minds. In his works, he portrays God as educating humanity from its childhood through its youth and then on to adulthood. According to him, Islam is the only religion whose dogmas can be proven by reasoning. He was against polygamy and thought that it was an archaic custom. He believed in a form of Islam that would liberate men from enslavement, provide equal rights for all human beings, abolish the religious scholar’s monopoly on exegesis and abolish racial discrimination and religious compulsion.
Muhammad Abduh claimed in his book "Al-Idtihad fi Al-Nasraniyya wa Al-Islam" that no one had exclusive religious authority in the Islamic world. He argued that the Caliph did not represent religious authority, because he was not infallible nor was the Caliph the person whom the revelation was given to; therefore, according to Abduh, the Caliph and other Muslims are equal. ʿAbduh argued that the Caliph should have the respect of the ummah but not rule it; the unity of the umma is a moral unity which does not prevent its division into national states.
Mohammad Abduh made great efforts to preach harmony between Sunnis and Shias. Broadly speaking, he preached brotherhood between all schools of thought in Islam. Abduh regularly called for better friendship between religious communities. As Christianity was the second biggest religion in Egypt, he devoted special efforts towards friendship between Muslims and Christians. He had many Christian friends and many a time he stood up to defend Copts.
Egyptian Qur'anic thinker, author, academic Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd is one of the leading liberal theologians in Islam. He is famous for his project of a humanistic Qur'anic hermeneutics, which "challenged mainstream views" on the Qur'an sparking "controversy and debate." While not denying that the Qur'an was of divine origin, Zayd argued that it was a "cultural product" that had to be read in the context of the language and culture of seventh century Arabs, and could be interpreted in more than one way. He also criticized the use of religion to exert political power. In 1995 an Egyptian Sharia court declared him an apostate, this led to threats of death and his fleeing Egypt several week later. (He later "quietly" returned to Egypt where he died.)
According to scholar Navid Kermani "three key themes" emerge from Abu Zayd's work:
- to trace the various interpretations and historical settings of the single Qur'anic text from the early days of Islam up to the present;
- to demonstrate the "interpretational diversity" (al-ta 'addud alta 'wili)  that exists within the Islamic tradition;
- and to show how this diversity has been "increasingly neglected" across Islamic history.
Abu Zayd strongly opposed the belief in a "single, precise and valid interpretation of the Qur'an handed down by the Prophet for all times".
In his view, the Quran made Islamic Arab culture a `culture of the text` (hadarat al-nass) par excellence, but because the language of the Quran is not self-explanatory, this implied Islamic Arab culture was also a culture of interpretation (hadarat al-ta'wil). Abu Zayd emphasized "intellect" (`aql) in understanding the Quran, as opposed to "a hermeneutical approach which gives priority to the narrated traditions [ hadith ]" (naql). As a reflection of this Abu Zaid used the term ta'wil (interpretation) for efforts to understand the Quran, while in the Islamic sciences, the literature that explained the Quran was referred to as tafsir (commentary, explanation).
For Abu Zaid, interpretation goes beyond explanation or commentary, "for without" the Qur'an would not have meaning:
The [Qur'anic] text changed from the very first moment - that is, when the Prophet recited it at the moment of its revelation - from its existence as a divine text (nass ilahi) , and became something understandable, a human text (nass insani), because it changed from revelation to interpretation (li-annahu tahawwala min al-tanzil ila al-ta'wil). The Prophet's understanding of the text is one of the first phases of movement resulting from the text's connection with the human intellect.
From the beginning of his academic career, Abu Zaid developed a renewed hermeneutic view (the theory and methodology of text interpretation) of the Qur'an and further Islamic holy texts, arguing that they should be interpreted in the historical and cultural context of their time. The mistake of many Muslim scholars was "to see the Qur'an only as a text, which led conservatives as well as liberals to a battle of quotations, each group seeing clear verses (when on their side) and ambiguous ones (when in contradiction with their vision)". But this type of controversy led both conservatives and liberals to produce authoritative hermeneutics. This vision of the Qur'an as a text was the vision of the elites of Muslim societies, whereas, at the same time, the Qur'an as "an oral discourse" played the most important part in the understanding of the masses.
Abu Zayd called for another reading of the holy book through a "humanistic hermeneutics", an interpretation which sees the Qur'an as a living phenomenon, a discourse. Hence, the Qur'an can be "the outcome of dialogue, debate, despite argument, acceptance and rejection". This liberal interpretation of Islam should open space for new perspectives on the religion and social change in Muslim societies. His analysis finds several "insistent calls for social justice" in the Qur'an . One example is when Muhammad—busy preaching to the rich people of Quraysh—failed to pay attention to a poor blind fellow named Ibn Umm Maktūm who came asking the Prophet for advice. The Quran strongly criticizes Muhammad's attitude. (Quran 80:10).
Abu Zayd also argued that while the Qur'anic discourse was built in a patriarchal society, and therefore the addressees were naturally males, who received permission to marry, divorce, and marry off their female relatives, it is "possible to imagine that Muslim women receive the same rights", and so the Quran had a "tendency to improve women's rights". The classical position of the modern ‘ulamā’ about that issue is understandable as "they still believe in superiority of the male in the family".
Abu Zayd's critical approach to classical and contemporary Islamic discourse in the fields of theology, philosophy, law, politics, and humanism, promoted modern Islamic thought that might enable Muslims to build a bridge between their own tradition and the modern world of freedom of speech, equality (minority rights, women's rights, social justice), human rights, democracy and globalisation.
Ijtihad (lit. effort, physical or mental, expended in a particular activity) is an Islamic legal term referring to independent reasoning or the thorough exertion of a jurist's mental faculty in finding a solution to a legal question. It is contrasted with taqlid (imitation, conformity to legal precedent). According to classical Sunni theory, ijtihad requires expertise in the Arabic language, theology, revealed texts, and principles of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh), and is not employed where authentic and authoritative texts (Qur'an and hadith) are considered unambiguous with regard to the question, or where there is an existing scholarly consensus (ijma). Ijtihad is considered to be a religious duty for those qualified to perform it. An Islamic scholar who is qualified to perform ijtihad is called a mujtahid.
Starting from the 18th century, some Muslim reformers began calling for abandonment of taqlid and emphasis on ijtihad, which they saw as a return to Islamic origins. Public debates in the Muslim world surrounding ijtihad continue to the present day. The advocacy of ijtihad has been particularly associated with Islamic modernists. Among contemporary Muslims in the West there have emerged new visions of ijtihad which emphasize substantive moral values over traditional juridical methodology.
Moderate Islamic political thought contends that the nurturing of the Muslim identity and the propagation of values such as democracy and human rights are not mutually exclusive, but rather should be promoted together.
The definition and application of secularism, especially the place of religion in society, varies among Muslim countries as it does among western countries. As the concept of secularism varies among secularists in the Muslim world, reactions of Muslim intellectuals to the pressure of secularization also varies. On the one hand, secularism is condemned by some Muslim intellectuals who do not feel that religious influence should be removed from the public sphere. On the other hand, secularism is claimed by others to be compatible with Islam. For example, the quest for secularism has inspired some Muslim scholars who argue that secular government is the best way to observe sharia; "enforcing [sharia] through coercive power of the state negates its religious nature, because Muslims would be observing the law of the state and not freely performing their religious obligation as Muslims" says Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, a professor of law at Emory University and author of Islam and the secular state : negotiating the future of Shariʻa. Moreover, some scholars argue that secular states have existed in the Muslim world since the Middle Ages.
Tolerance and non-violence
Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, in accordance with their increasingly modern societies and outlooks, liberal Muslims have tended to reinterpret many aspects of the application of their religion in their life in an attempt to reconnect. This is particularly true of Muslims who now find themselves living in non-Muslim countries.
At least one observer (Max Rodenbeck) has noted several challenges to "reform"—i.e. accommodation with the enlightenment, reason and science, the separation of religion and politics—that the other two Abrahamic faiths did not have to grapple with:
whereas Christian and Jewish reform evolved over centuries, in relatively organic and self-generated—albeit often bloody—fashion, the challenge to Islam of such concepts as empirical reasoning, the nation-state, the theory of evolution, and individualism arrived all in a heap and all too often at the point of a gun.
In addition traditional sharia law has been shaped in all its complexity by serving for centuries as "the backbone" of legal systems of Muslim states, while millions of Muslim now live in non-Muslim states. Islam also lacks a "widely recognized religious hierarchy to explain doctrinal changes or to enforce them" because it has no [central] church.
Islamic Modernism, also sometimes referred to as Modernist Salafism, is a movement that has been described as "the first Muslim ideological response"[a] attempting to reconcile Islamic faith with modern Western values such as nationalism, democracy, civil rights, rationality, equality, and progress. It featured a "critical reexamination of the classical conceptions and methods of jurisprudence" and a new approach to Islamic theology and Quranic exegesis (Tafsir).
It was the first of several Islamic movements – including secularism, Islamism and Salafism – that emerged in the middle of the 19th century in reaction to the rapid changes of the time, especially the perceived onslaught of Western Civilization and colonialism on the Muslim world. Founders include Muhammad Abduh, a Sheikh of Al-Azhar University for a brief period before his death in 1905, Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, and Muhammad Rashid Rida (d. 1935).
The early Islamic Modernists (al-Afghani and Muhammad Abdu) used the term "salafiyya" to refer to their attempt at renovation of Islamic thought, and this "salafiyya movement" is often known in the West as "Islamic modernism," although it is very different from what is currently called the Salafi movement, which generally signifies "ideologies such as wahhabism".[b] Since its inception, Modernism has suffered from co-option of its original reformism by both secularist rulers and by "the official ulama" whose "task it is to legitimise" rulers' actions in religious terms.
Modernism differs from secularism in that it insists on the importance of religious faith in public life, and from Salafism or Islamism in that it embraces contemporary European institutions, social processes, and values.
Reform Muslims, like their more orthodox peers, believe in the basic tenets of Islam, such as the Six Elements of Belief and the Five Pillars and they consider their views to be fully compatible with Islam. Their main differences with more conservative Islamic opinion are twofold. The first lies in differences of interpretation of how to apply the core Islamic values to modern life, the second a more reactionary dialectic which criticizes traditional narratives or even rejects them, thus denying any obligation to follow them while also allowing greater freedom in interpreting Quran regardless of the hadith.
Muslim intellectuals who have focused on religious reform include Muhammad Ali, Sayyid al-Qimni, Irshad Manji, Nasr Abu Zayd, Khalil Abdel-Karim, Abdolkarim Soroush, Mohammed Arkoun, Mohammed Shahrour, Ahmed Subhy Mansour, Edip Yuksel, Gamal al-Banna, Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Ahmed Al-Gubbanchi, Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, and Faraj Foda. Taha was hanged in 1985 under the sharia regime of Jaafar al-Nimeiri and Foda was assassinated in 1992 by al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya.
Quranists believe Muhammad himself was a Quranist and the founder of Quranism, and that his followers distorted the faith and split into schisms and factions such as Sunni, Shia, and Khawarij. Quranists reject the hadith and follow the Quran only. The extent to which Quranists reject the authenticity of the Sunnah varies, but the more established groups have thoroughly criticised the authenticity of the hadith and refused it for many reasons, the most prevalent being the Quranist claim that hadith is not mentioned in the Quran as a source of Islamic theology and practice, was not recorded in written form until more than two centuries after the death of the Muhammed, and contain perceived internal errors and contradictions.
The movement was initiated by Muhammad Iqbal, and later spearheaded by Ghulam Ahmed Pervez. Ghulam Ahmed Pervez did not reject all hadiths; however, he only accepted hadiths which "are in accordance with the Quran or do not stain the character of the Prophet or his companions". The organization publishes and distributes books, pamphlets, and recordings of Pervez's teachings.
Tolu-e-Islam does not belong to any political party, nor does it belong to any religious group or sect. It is strictly against sectarianism, because such acts of creating sects/divisions in Islam is equal in magnitude to "Shirk" i.e. rejection of Monotheism.
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A combination of Islam and feminism has been advocated as "a feminist discourse and practice articulated within an Islamic paradigm" by Margot Badran in 2002. Islamic feminists ground their arguments in Islam and its teachings, seek the full equality of women and men in the personal and public sphere, and can include non-Muslims in the discourse and debate. Islamic feminism is defined by Islamic scholars as being more radical than secular feminism, and as being anchored within the discourse of Islam with the Quran as its central text.
During recent times, the concept of Islamic feminism has grown further with Islamic groups looking to garner support from many aspects of society. In addition, educated Muslim women are striving to articulate their role in society. Examples of Islamic feminist groups are the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, founded by Meena Keshwar Kamal, Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality from India, and Sisters in Islam from Malaysia, founded by Zainah Anwar and Amina Wadud among other five women.
In 2014, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) issued a fatwa declaring that Sisters In Islam, as well as any other organisation promoting religious liberalism and pluralism, deviate from the teachings of Islam. According to the edict, publications that are deemed to promote liberal and pluralistic religious thinking are to be declared unlawful and confiscated, while social media is also to be monitored and restricted. As fatwas are legally binding in Malaysia, SIS is challenging it on constitutional grounds.
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In January 2013 was launched the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD). The organization was formed by members of the Queer Muslim Working Group, with the support of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Several initial MASGD members previously had been involved with the Al-Fatiha Foundation, including Faisal Alam and Imam Daayiee Abdullah.
The Safra Project for women is based in the UK. It supports and works on issues relating to prejudice LGBTQ Muslim women. It was founded in October 2001 by Muslim LBT women. The Safra Project’s “ethos is one of inclusiveness and diversity.”
In Australia, Nur Wahrsage has been an advocate for LGBTI Muslims and founded Marhaba, a support group for queer Muslims in Melbourne, Australia. In May 2016, Wahrsage revealed that he is homosexual in an interview on SBS2’s The Feed, being the first openly gay Imam in Australia.
In April 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina's parliament approved amendments to the country's Criminal Code by outlawing hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The law was published in the country's official gazette on 15 June 2016. Similar bans already existed in the Republic Srpska and the Brčko District. The Sarajevski Otvoreni Centar (Sarajevo Open Centre), abbreviated SOC, is an independent feminist civil society organization and advocacy group which campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people and women rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The organization also gives asylum and psychological support to victims of discrimination and violence.
The Pink Report is an annual report made by the organization on the state of the Human Rights of LGBTI People in the country and is supported by the Norwegian Embassy.
In Canada, Salaam is the first gay Muslim group in Canada and second in the world. Salaam was found in 1993 by El-Farouk Khaki, who organized the Salaam/Al-Fateha International Conference in 2003.
In May 2009, the Toronto Unity Mosque / el-Tawhid Juma Circle was founded by Laury Silvers, a University of Toronto religious studies scholar, alongside Muslim gay-rights activists El-Farouk Khaki and Troy Jackson. Unity Mosque/ETJC is a gender-equal, LGBT+ affirming, mosque.
In November 2012, a prayer room was set up in Paris, France by gay Islamic scholar and founder of the group 'Homosexual Muslims of France' Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed. It was described by the press as the first gay-friendly mosque in Europe. The reaction from the rest of the Muslim community in France has been mixed, the opening has been condemned by the Grand Mosque of Paris.
Examples of Muslim LGBT media works are the 2006 Channel 4's documentary Gay Muslims, the film production company Unity Productions Foundation, the 2007 and 2015 documentary films A Jihad for Love and A Sinner in Mecca, both produced by Parvez Sharma, and the Jordanian LGBT publication My.Kali.
In the Arab world
Arab Organization for Human Rights
The Arab Organization for Human Rights is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that works on human rights issues in the Arab World. It was founded with a resolution agreed on in Hammamet, Tunisia, in 1983. Its general Assembly is held every three years, while the Board of Trustees meets annually, and consists of 25 members. 20 of the members are elected, while the remaining 5 are appointed by the AOHR. Its current headquarters is in Cairo, Egypt. Among the organization's founders was French-Syrian sociologist Burhan Ghalioun, who later became first chairman of the Syrian National Council, and sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim. The organization aims to "call for respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all citizens and residents of the Arab world; defends any individual whose human rights are subjected to violations which are contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; endeavour, regardless of political considerations, to obtain release of detained or imprisoned persons, and seek relief and assistance for persons whose freedom is restricted in any way or who are subject to coercion of any kind because of their beliefs and political convictions, or for reasons of race, sex, colour or language; protest in cases where a fair trial is not guaranteed; provide legal assistance where necessary and possible; call for improvements in conditions of prisoners of conscience; work for amnesty of persons sentenced for political reasons." The AOHR’s goals include educating, training and documenting in the field of human rights. The AOHR carries out field missions in an effort to release political prisoners, in some cases as an observer and in others as a member of the defence panel. It receives complaints from individuals, groups and organizations and contacts the relevant authorities. In addition to offering legal assistance in several cases, the organization provides financial assistance to families of victims. In coordination with the Arab Lawyers Union, it launched a campaign for Freedom for Prisoners of Conscience in the Arab World. It also arranges conferences and seminars. According to UNESCO it was instrumental in setting up the Arab Institute for Human Rights in Tunisia in 1989, in association with the Arab Lawyers Union, the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights and with the support of the Centre for Human Rights in the United Nations.
Arab Democracy Foundation
Arab Commission for Human Rights
The Arab Commission for Human Rights is a human rights non-governmental organisation founded on 17 January 1998 by 15 human rights activists from around the Arab world, that bases its work in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESC), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).  The ACHR claims to avoid any political affiliation. The ACHR has a 15-member Board of Directors led by President Violette Daguerre from Lebanon. The Board includes Tunisian human rights activist and interim President of Tunisia Moncef Marzouki. Haytham Manna from Syria helped create the ACHR, becoming its spokesperson. He resigned from his role as ACHR spokesperson, while remaining a "non-office-holding" member, when in 2011 he helped found and take a leading role in the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change in Syria.
Arab Reform Initiative
The Arab Reform Initiative (ARI), a consortium of independent Arab research and policy institutes, with partners from the United States and Europe, was founded by Bassma Kodmani in 2005. The Arab Reform Initiative was established at the initiative of four directors of Arab policy research institutes who chose to partner with four European and a single US think tank, US/Middle East Project. Through policy recommendations and research, the ARI has the stated aim of promoting reform and democratization in the Arab world. It hopes to initiate a dialogue between policy institutes in the Arab world in order to "advance the understanding of decision-makers and opinion leaders on issues of reform in the Arab world." In addition, the Arab Reform Initiative "aims to raise awareness in the Arab world about successful transitions to democracy in other parts of the world, and of the mechanisms and compromises which made such successful transitions possible."
Arab Liberal Federation
The Arab Liberal Federation (ALF) is a network of liberal political parties, organisations and activists from Arab countries. It was formed in 2008 in Cairo under the name of Network of Arab Liberals (NAL). Wael Nawara of the Egyptian El-Ghad Party was elected its first president. The network was renamed The Arab Alliance for Freedom and Democracy in 2011, reacting to the negative connotations that the term 'liberal' has in some Arab countries and In March 2016 the Alliance was renamed to its current name using the term 'Liberal' as ideological identification.
Among those who set the liberal intellectual tone on Egypt where Rifa'a al-Tahtawi, Muhammad Abduh and Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, Qasim Amin, Muhammad Husayn Haykal, Taha Hussein, Abbas el-'Akkad, Tawfiq el-Hakeem, Salama Moussa and Nasr Abu Zayd.
In 2007 the liberal Democratic Front Party was founded by Ahmed Diab and Yehia El Gamal. In Spring 2008 the April 6 Youth Movement group was established to support the workers in El-Mahalla El-Kubra, an industrial town, who were planning to strike on April 6. Activist Asmaa Mahfouz is one of the founders of the movement. She is a prominent member of Egypt's Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution and one of the leaders of the Egyptian revolution.
On 25 January 2011 the Egyptian revolution of 2011, locally known as the January 25 Revolution, began and it took place across all of Egypt. It consisted of demonstrations, marches, occupations of plazas, riots, non-violent civil resistance, acts of civil disobedience and strikes. Millions of protesters from a range of socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The revolution included Islamic, liberal, anti-capitalist, nationalist and feminist elements. Violent clashes between security forces and protesters resulted in at least 846 people killed and over 6,000 injured. Protesters burned over 90 police stations. The protests took place in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities. The Egyptian Social Democratic Party and Free Egyptians Party ware founded after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party was formed by the merger of two minor liberal parties, the Liberal Egyptian Party, and the Egyptian Democratic Party on 29 March 2011. In March 2012, former deputy chairman and member of parliament Mohamed Abu Hamed resigned from the party to found Life of the Egyptians Party, and later with Ahmed Shafik the Egyptian Patriotic Movement.
The National Salvation Front is an alliance of Egyptian political parties, mainly secular and ranges from liberals to leftists, formed to defeat Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's 22 November 2012 constitutional declaration.
When the Egyptian defence minister, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, called for mass demonstrations on 26 July 2013 to grant the military a "mandate" to crack down on "terrorism" the movement Third Square was created by liberal, leftist and moderate Islamist activists who reject both Muslim Brotherhood and military rule following the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état.
2007 Guinean general strike
Two general strikes had been held in 2006, but these were limited to Conakry. The 2007 protests were first visible in Conakry, where workers stayed at home and businesses were shut. The government responded by threatening to sack striking civil servants. Youths took to the streets, despite a ban on rallies. Action soon spread to the nation's bauxite mines, where labourers stopped work. On 16 January, Conté offered to cut fuel duty, raise teachers' salaries and address police corruption. This was rejected by union leaders, who were then arrested but soon released.
The 2007 Guinean general strike began on January 10, 2007. Guinea's trade unions and opposition parties called on President Lansana Conté to resign, accusing him of mismanaging the economy and abusing his authority. The strikers also accused Conté of personally securing the release of Mamadou Sylla and Fode Soumah, both accused of corruption, from prison. A general strike was called by the United Trade Union of Guinean Workers (the USTG) in an attempt to force the president to resign. Strike leaders said that Conté, who had ruled Guinea since seizing power in a 1984 coup, had become increasingly erratic. They cite repeated scares about his health, sudden and chaotic cabinet reshuffles and his recent personal intervention to free from jail two former allies accused of graft. The two main opposition parties in the nation, the Rally for the Guinean People and the Union of Republican Forces supported the strike, as did the National Council of Civil Society Organisations group of NGOs and the newly formed Civic Alliance. Police were ordered to disperse crowds of protesters, numbering as many as 5,000, with tear gas. On 17 January, two deaths from bullet wounds were reported in Conakry, and one in Labé. At least ten protesters had died by January 21. The biggest protest was called on January 22, with demonstrations in cities across the nation. In the ensuing battles between police and strikers, at least seventeen workers were killed. In Conakry, a crowd estimated at 30,000 marched on the National Assembly of Guinea, but were blocked at the 8 November Bridge, where the police allegedly opened fire. The strike ended on January 27 with an agreement between Conté and the unions, according to which Conté would appoint a new prime minister; however, Conté's choice of Eugène Camara as prime minister was deemed unacceptable by the unions, and the strike resumed on February 12. Martial law was imposed on the same day. Nearly two weeks later, Conté agreed to choose a prime minister acceptable to the unions, and on February 26 he named Lansana Kouyaté as prime minister. The strike ended on February 27, and Kouyaté was sworn in on March 1.
On January 23, the three most prominent trade unionists were arrested by Presidential troops: Rabiatou Sérah Diallo of the National Confederation of Guinean Workers, Ibrahima Fofana of the United Trade Union of Guinean Workers and Yamadou Touré of the National Organization of Free Unions of Guinea. They claimed to have received death threats from various sources, including Conté himself. Troops then ransacked the Labour Exchange, headquarters of many of the unions. Fofana and Diallo were both injured, but all arrested unionist were released by the following day.
Parti de l'Unité et du Libéralisme Social
The Parti de l'Unité et du Libéralisme Social (PULS) is a minor social liberal party in Guinea. It was founded in May 2008 following the wave of popular protest in Guinea which began in 2007. The leader of the party is Mr Alpha Mamadou Diallo. The PULS advocates "national unity, the establishment of the rule of law, continued dialogue between social groups, and the adoption of social liberalism as a model for development." It is a member of the Africa Liberal Network.
The Peace, Unity and Development Party, also known as Kulmiye, is a liberal political party in Somaliland, a self-declared republic that is internationally recognized as an autonomous region of Somalia. Prominent members include Muse Bihi Abdi, 4th President of Somaliland Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud and Abdirahman Saylici.
In 1978, the Movement of Socialist Democrats (MDS) was founded by defectors from the then ruling Socialist Destourian Party (PSD) and liberal-minded expatriates. The founders of the MDS had already been involved in the establishment of the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH) in 1976/77. The MDS welcomed Zine El Abidine Ben Ali taking over the presidency from the logterm head of state Bourguiba in 1987.
In September 1988, the Social Liberal Party (PSL) was founded. As well as liberal social and political reforms, the PSL advocates economic liberalisation, including the privatisation of state-owned firms. The party is a member of the Liberal International and the Africa Liberal Network.
In 9 April 1994, the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties (Ettakatol or FDTL) was founded and officially recognized on 25 October 2002. Is a social democratic and secularist political party in Tunisia. Its founder and Secretary-General is the radiologist Mustapha Ben Jafar.
Active from 1993 to 2012, the Ettajdid Movement (Movement for Renewal) was a centre-left secularist, democratic socialist and social liberal political party in Tunisia. It was led by Ahmed Ibrahim.
On 25 July 2001, the creation of the Congress for the Republic (CPR) was declared. Is a centre-left, liberal and secular political party founded by 31 people including Moncef Marzouki and Naziha Réjiba. The CPR declared that it was aimed to install a republican form of government, including freedom of speech, freedom of association. The CPR's declaration also called for a new constitution, strict separation of the different branches of government, human rights guarantees, gender equality, and a constitutional court for protecting individual and collective rights. The CPR called for renegotiating Tunisian commitments toward the European Union, for Tunisia to support the rights of national self-determination, in particular for the Palestinian people.
Formed in 2010 and legalised on 12 March 2012, the Tunisian Pirate Party is a small political party in Tunisia. It's one of the first outgrowths of the Pirate Party movement in continental Africa. The party achieved notoriety during the Tunisian revolution, as party members declared their intention to break a media blackout on the social unrest taking place across the country. Members distributed censorship circumvention software, and assisted in documenting human rights abuses during the riots in the cities of Sidi Bouzid, Siliana, and Thala. After the revolution, a Pirate Party member who had been detained during the unrest, Slim Amamou, was briefly selected as Secretary of State for Sport and Youth in the new government. He later resigned in protest of the transitional government's censorship of several websites at the request of the army.
In 1983, the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) was founded under the name of Progressive Socialist Rally, and gained legal recognition on 12 September 1988. It was secular and liberal party. The party was renamed as Progressive Democratic Party in 2001. Under the rule of Ben Ali it was a legal opposition party, but subjected to political repression. After the Tunisian revolution it was one of the major left-leaning secular political forces. It was led by Ahmed Najib Chebbi and Maya Jribi. On 9 April 2012, it merged into the Republican Party.
Founded in 19 April 2004Green Tunisia Party is a Green political party in Tunisia. The party participated in the foundation of left-wing Popular Front coalition in 2012, but left on 16 May 2014, denouncing the hegemony of Workers' Party leader Hamma Hammami.and legalized only since the Tunisian Revolution in 2011, the
The Tunisian Revolution was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia, and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections with the Tunisian Constitution of 2014, which is seen as progressive, increases human rights, gender equality, government duties toward people, lays the ground for a new parliamentary system and makes Tunisia a decentralized and open government. And with the held of the country first parliamentary elections since the 2011 Arab Spring and its presidentials on 23 November 2014, which finished its transition to a democratic state. These elections were characterized by the fall in popularity of Ennahdha, for the secular Nidaa Tounes party, which became the first party of the country. The protests inspired similar actions throughout the Arab world.
On 22 March 2011 the Maghrebi Republican Party (PRM) was founded by Mohamed Bouebdelli, head of the Free University of Tunis, under the name of Maghrebi Liberal Party and it changed its name to Maghrebi Republican Party on 13 April 2012. The party is liberal. It was
Founded in March 28, 2011Afek Tounes (Tunisian Horizons) is a centre-right political party in Tunisia. Its program is liberal, focusing on secularism and civil liberties. The party mainly appealed to intellectuals and the upper class.,
In April 2012, the Social Democratic Path, a centre-left secularist political party in Tunisia, was Formed by the merger of the post-communist Ettajdid Movement and the Tunisian Labour Party, including some individual members of the Democratic Modernist Pole.
Formed on 7 April 2012, the Pirate Party is a small political party in Tunisia. It is the second Pirate party in Tunisia after the Tunisian Pirate Party. On the Pirate Party's official website, it lists its main objectives as preserving the right of every citizen of the absolute freedom of expression, communication, association and assembly, direct democracy and the inclusion of digital technology in this area support, dedicated to the neutrality of the Internet, protecting the freedom of information and independence of investigative journalism, unconditional and free access to information, open government, anti-censorship of all kinds, among others.
On 9 April 2012, the Republican Party was formed as a merger of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), Afek Tounes and the Tunisian Republican Party, several minor parties and independents. The party is centrist and liberal, it's led by Maya Jribi who was previously the secretary-general of the PDP. The party held 11 out of 217 seats and was the largest oppositional party in the National Constituent Assembly of Tunisia. The party withdrew from the Union for Tunisia coalition, though it is still part of the National Salvation Front.
After being founded in 2012, Nidaa Tounes (Call of Tunisia) won a plurality of seats in the October 2014 parliamentary election. It's a big tent secularist political party in Tunisia. The party's founding leader Beji Caid Essebsi was elected President of Tunisia in the 2014 presidential election. Other prominent members are Mohamed Ennaceur, Taïeb Baccouche and Mohsen Marzouk.
On 23 December 2013, the independent tribunal Truth and Dignity Commission was established by law in Tunisia and formally launched on 9 June 2014 by then-President Moncef Marzouki. Its purpose is to use both judicial and non-judicial mechanisms to investigate gross human rights violations committed by the Tunisian State since 1955, and to provide compensation and rehabilitation to victims. Its president is the human rights activist and journalist Sihem Bensedrine.
Formed in the summer of 2013, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet is a group of four organizations that were central in the attempts to build a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011. On 9 October 2015, the quartet was awarded the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.
- The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT, Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail)
- The Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA, Union Tunisienne de l'Industrie, du Commerce et de l'Artisanat)
- The Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH, La Ligue Tunisienne pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme)
- The Tunisian Order of Lawyers (Ordre National des Avocats de Tunisie)
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan
In 1977, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) was found by Meena Keshwar Kamal when she was a student at Kabul University. Is a women's organization now based in Quetta, Pakistan, that promotes women's rights and secular democracy. The organization aims to involve women of Afghanistan in both political and social activities aimed at acquiring human rights for women and continuing the struggle against the government of Afghanistan based on democratic and secular, not fundamentalist principles, in which women can participate fully. Meena founded the organization to promote equality and education for women and continues to "give voice to the deprived and silenced women of Afghanistan". In 1979 she campaigned against DRA, and organized meetings in schools to mobilize support against it, and in 1981, she launched a bilingual feminist magazine, Payam-e-Zan (Women's Message). She also founded Watan Schools to aid refugee children and their mothers, offering both hospitalization and the teaching of practical skills. Kamal was assassinated in Quetta, Pakistan on February 4, 1987 for her political activities. Reports vary as to who the assassins were, but are believed to have been agents of the Afghan Intelligence Service KHAD, the Afghan secret police, or of fundamentalist Mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Liberal Democratic Party of Afghanistan
National Congress Party of Afghanistan
Formed in 2004, the National Congress Party of Afghanistan is the only major opposition party that is not linked to an armed group. It's a liberal, secular, multi-ethnic political party in Afghanistan. The leader of this party is Latīf Pedrām who was an opponent of the communist, Islamist and Taliban regimes. Pedram is also a critic of Hamid Karzai's government. As the party leader, Pedram, was a candidate in Afghanistan's 2004 presidential election and received the fifth most votes. Unlike other political parties in Afghanistan, the National Congress of Afghanistan has remained firm and united. Latīf Pedrām is a strong supporter of secularism, federalism and decentralization in Afghanistan. He denounces corruption and strongly opposes Islamic fundamentalism.
Solidarity Party of Afghanistan
Founded in 17 April 2004 in Afghanistan, the Solidarity Party of Afghanistan (SPA) is a small, left-wing political party. The party platform focuses on four main issues: secularism, women's rights, democracy, and opposition to the US/NATO presence in Afghanistan. The party is strongly critical of the Afghan government, which it views as corrupt, fundamentalist, and dominated by warlords. The party claims a membership of some 30,000.
Bahraini protests of 2011
The Bahraini protests of 2011 was a series of demonstrations, amounting to a sustained campaign of civil and violent resistance in the Persian Gulf country of Bahrain. As part of the revolutionary wave of protests in the Middle East and North Africa following the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia, the Bahraini protests were initially aimed at achieving greater political freedom and equality for the majority Shia population, and expanded to a call to end the monarchy of Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa following a deadly night raid on 17 February 2011 against protesters at the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, known locally as Bloody Thursday.
The Coalition Youth of 14 Feb Revolution, sometimes called The Coalition is a Bahraini youth group, named after the date of the beginning of Bahrain's uprising, and led by anonymous individuals who organize protests chiefly via new-media sites. The Coalition first appeared on the popular pro-democracy forum Bahrain Online. Their Facebook page started in April 2011 where they have 65,282 likes (as of July 2014). It is the main Facebook page that calls for daily peaceful demonstrations and protests. One of the first sub-groups called February 14 Youth was behind the call for demonstrations on February 14, 2011, named "Day of Rage" and developed later to a nationwide uprising.
In 1904 the Social Democratic Party was formed by Persian emigrants in Transcaucasia with the help of local revolutionaries, maintaining close ties to the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party and Hemmat Party. The party created its own mélange of European socialism and indigenous ideas and upheld liberalism and nationalism. It maintained some religious beliefs while being critical of the conservative ulama and embracing separation of church and state. It was founded by Haydar Khan Amo-oghli and led by Nariman Narimanov.
In 1909 the Democrat Party was founded in Qajari Persia, during the constitutional period. It was one of two major parliamentary parties at the time. It was largely composed of middle-class intellectuals and stood for the separation of church and state. In 1918, the party had split definitively into the Pro-Reorganization Democrats led by Bahar; and the Anti-Reorganization Democrats. Notable member were Hassan Taqizadeh and Haydar Khan Amo-oghli.
Founded in 1909, the Society of the Supporters for Progress party championed the development of southern provinces of Persia and was consisted of MPs representing the southerners. They promoted building hospitals, women's education and regarded Persian as "the official and scholarly" language of Iran.
Founded during 1920s, the Revival Party had a secular progressive ideology. The party had also liberal and nationalist tendencies and supported Reza Khan and helped him become the new Shah of Iran while holding majority in the parliament. Formed by young western-educated reformists, it was mainly organized by Ali Akbar Davar, Mohammad Tadayon and Abdolhossein Teymourtash, and was led by former Democrat Party politicians who had lost confidence in the masses. Many contitutionalist veterans were associated with the party, including Mohammad Ali Foroughi, Mostowfi ol-Mamalek, Hassan Taqizadeh, Mohammad-Taqi Bahar and Ebrahim Hakimi.
Founded by Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1949, the National Front of Iran is the oldest and arguably the largest pro-democracy group operating inside Iran despite the fact that it never was able to recover its prominence in the early 1950s. It was banned in July 1981 and although officially remains illegal and under constant surveillance, is still active inside Iran. Prominent members are Mohammad Mosaddegh (leader of the party during 1949–1960), Allah-Yar Saleh (leader during 1960–1964) Karim Sanjabi (leader during 1967–1988), Adib Boroumand (leader during 1993–2017) and Davoud Hermidas-Bavand (current spokeperson).
Founded in 1941, the Iran Party is described as the "backbone of the National Front", the leading umbrella organization of Iranian nationalists established in 1949, it has a secular, liberal socialist and nationalist ideology. The party was declared banned after 1979. Prominent members are Karim Sanjabi and Allah-Yar Saleh.
Founded in May 16, 1957People's Party, of liberal ideology, was one of two major parties in the apparent attempt to decree a two-party system by Shah, apparently opposition to the ruling New Iran Party and previously Party of Nationalists. The party was dissolved in 1975, in order to be merged into newly founded Resurgence Party., the
Founded in 1961, the Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI) is an Iranian pro-democracy islamic liberal political organization, its members describes themselves as "Muslims, Iranians, Constitutionalists and Mossadeghists". The party was established with support and blessings of Mohammad Mossadegh and soon applied for the membership in the front with a platform advocating national sovereignty, freedom of political activity and expression, social justice under Islam, respect for Iran’s constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Charter of the United Nations. It believes in the separation of church and state, while that political activity should be guided by religious values. Prominent members are Mehdi Bazargan, Ebrahim Yazdi, Mostafa Chamran, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh and Ali Shariati. Mehdi Bazargan, long-time pro-democracy activist, was head of Iran's interim government, making him Iran's first prime minister after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
Founded during the Iranian Revolution of 1979 by Hedayatollah Matin-Daftari, the National Democratic Front was a liberal-left political party that, though it was short-lived, it has been described as one of "the three major movements of the political center" in Iran at that time.
In 1996, the Executives of Construction Party was founded by 16 members of the cabinet of the then President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The party is a member of Council for coordinating the Reforms Front. Economically, the party supports free markets and industrialization; with a high emphasis on the progress and development. The party's ideologies are reformism, pragmatism, technocracy and liberal democracy. The party is divided into two factions in constant struggle, the more conservative "Kermani faction" and the more liberal "Esfahani faction" led by Mohammad Atrianfar and Gholamhossein Karbaschi.
Protests against the 2009 Iranian presidential election results (a disputed victory by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and in support of opposition candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi occurred in major cities nationwide from 2009 into 2010. The protests were titled as Iranian Green Movement by their proponents, reflecting presidential candidate Mousavi's campaign color, and also the Persian Awakening by the western media. The creation of the Iranian Green Movement was developed during these protests. Green was initially used as the symbol of Mir Hossein Mousavi's campaign, but after the election it became the symbol of unity and hope for those asking for annulment of what they regarded as a fraudulent election. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi are recognized as political leaders of the Green Movement.
The Iranian women's movement involves the movement for women's rights and women's equality in Iran. The movement first emerged some time after the Iranian Constitutional Revolution. The first journal published by a woman in Iran was Danesh, started in 1910.
Pirate Party of Kazakhstan
The Pirate Party of Kazakhstan is a political party in Kazakhstan. Based on the model of the Swedish Pirate Party, it supports intellectual property reform, freedom of speech and privacy. It was a founding member of Pirate Parties International.
Assembly of Democratic Forces
2011–13 Mauritanian protests
The 2011–13 Mauritanian protests are a series of protests in Mauritania that started in January 2011, concurrent with the Arab Spring, and continued into 2012. The largely peaceful protest movement has demanded President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz institute political, economic, and legal reforms. Common themes of protest have included slavery, which is officially illegal in Mauritania but is widespread in the country, and other human rights abuses the opposition has accused the government of perpetrating.
The February 25th Movement is a Mauritanian youth group, named after the date of the beginning of Mauritania's protests, and led by anonymous individuals who organise protests chiefly via new-media sites. The group also tries to attract members through more direct means, such as by distruting leaflets and posters. The movement has also published a list of 28 grievances, including both political and economic problems. The groups demands include; the removal of the military from Mauritanian politics, the elimination of institutional racism, better rights for women, reformation of the country's education system, an end to the endemic corruption within government, the strengthening of Mauritanian civil society, and revamping Mauritania's foreign policy so that it better represents the interests of its citizens.
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Rojava ("the West") is a de facto autonomous region originating in and consisting of three self-governing cantons in northern Syria, namely Afrin Canton, Jazira Canton and Kobanî Canton, as well as adjacent areas of northern Syria like Shahba region. The region gained its de facto autonomy as part of the ongoing Rojava conflict and the wider Syrian Civil War, establishing and gradually expanding a secular polity based on the Democratic Confederalism principles of democratic socialism, gender equality, and sustainability.
Also known as Syrian Kurdistan or Western Kurdistan, Rojava is regarded by Kurdish nationalists as one of the four parts of Greater Kurdistan, which also includes parts of southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), northern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan), and northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan). However, Rojava is polyethnic and home to sizable ethnic Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian and Turkmen populations, with smaller communities of ethnic Armenians, Circassians and Chechens. This diversity is mirrored in its constitution, society and politics. Most ethnic Kurdish and Arab people in Rojava adhere to Sunni Islam, while ethnic Assyrian people generally are Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic or Syriac Catholic Christians. There are also adherents to other faiths, such as Zoroastrianism and Yazidism. Many people in Rojava support secularism and laicism. The dominant Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the political administration in Rojava are decidedly secular and laicist and contrary to most of the Middle East, religion is no marker of socio-political identity.
On 17 March 2016, its de facto administration self-declared the establishment of a federal system of government as the Federation of Northern Syria–Rojava (commonly abbreviated as NSR). While entertaining some foreign relations, the NSR is not officially recognized as autonomous by the government of Syria or any international state or organization. The protagonists of the NSR consider its constitution a model for a federalized Syria as a whole. The updated December 2016 constitution of the polity uses the name Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria.
Movement for a Democratic Society
Democratic Union Party
The Democratic Union Party (PYD) is a left-wing Kurdish political party established in 2003 by Kurdish activists in northern Syria. It is a founder member of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, and is described by the Carnegie Middle East Center as "one of the most important Kurdish opposition parties in Syria". It is the leading political party in the Federation of Northern Syria - Rojava and its cantons. Chemical engineer Saleh Muslim became its chairman in 2010, and Asiyah Abdullah its co-chairwoman in June 2012. On its website, the PYD describes itself as believing in "social equality, justice and the freedom of belief" as well as "pluralism and the freedom of political parties". It describes itself as "striving for a democratic solution that includes the recognition of cultural, national and political rights, and develops and enhances their peaceful struggle to be able to govern themselves in a multicultural, democratic society." The PYD is a member of several organisations, e.g. the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK). The PYD has adopted Democratic Confederalism as one of its ideologies and have implemented ideas of Murray Bookchin and Abdullah Öcalan in Rojava, where hundreds of neighborhood-based communes have established across the three Rojava cantons. Like the KCK umbrella in general, and even more so, the PYD is critical of any form of nationalism, including Kurdish nationalism. This policy stands in stark contrast to the Kurdish nationalist visions of the Kurdish National Council.
Syriac Union Party
Syriac Union Party (SUP) is a secular Syriac political party in Syria that represents the interests of Syrian-Assyrians and their communities in Syria and is committed to the Dawronoye modernization ideology. Established on 1 October 2005, since the start of the Syrian Civil War it has positioned itself on the side of secular, democratic and federalist Kurdish forces in Rojava and aligned itself with the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Syrian Democratic Forces
The Syrian Democratic Forces, commonly abbreviated as SDF or QSD, are a multi-ethnic and multi-religious alliance of Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian, Armenian, Turkmen, Circassian and Chechen militias in the Syrian Civil War. The SDF is dominated in manpower and militarily led by the People's Protection Units (YPG), a mostly Kurdish militia. Founded in October 2015, the SDF states its mission as fighting to create a secular, democratic and federal Syria, along the lines of the Rojava Revolution in northern Syria. The updated December 2016 constitution of the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria names the SDF as its official defence force.
The prime opponents of the SDF and their allies are the Salafist and Islamic fundamentalist groups involved in the civil war, in particular the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Turkey-backed Syrian opposition groups, al-Qaeda affiliates and their allies. The SDF has focused primarily on ISIL, successfully driving them from important strategic areas, such as Al-Hawl, Shaddadi, Tishrin Dam and Manbij.
The Law–Citizenship–Rights Movement (QMH, also translated as Wheat Wave Movement) is a democratic secular multi-ethnic political party established in 2015 in northern Syria. The Law–Citizenship–Rights Movement currently has three members on the General Federal Assembly of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), Salih El-Nebwanî, Majid Hebu (also written Macid Hebo) and Haytham Manna who was a co-leader of the assembly. Manna resigned his leadership role from the SDC on 19 March 2016 in protest at the council's announcement of a federal system for Northern Syria, i.e. at the creation of Rojava.
Ensaf Haidar is a Saudi Arabian-Canadian human rights activist. She is the wife of Raif Badawi and campaigns for his freedom. She is the president of the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom, which campaigns for freedom of speech and human rights awareness in the Arab world.
2011–12 Saudi Arabian protests
During 2011 and 2012, the protests in Saudi Arabia were part of the Arab Spring that started with the 2011 Tunisian revolution. Protests started with a self-immolation in Samtah and Jeddah street protests in late January 2011. Protests against anti-Shia discrimination followed in February and early March in Qatif, Hofuf, al-Awamiyah, and Riyadh. A Facebook organiser of a planned 11 March "Day of Rage", Faisal Ahmed Abdul-Ahad, was allegedly killed by Saudi security forces on 2 March, with several hundred people protesting in Qatif, Hofuf and al-Amawiyah on the day itself. Khaled al-Johani demonstrated alone in Riyadh, was interviewed by BBC Arabic Television, was detained in `Ulaysha Prison, and became known online as "the only brave man in Saudi Arabia". Many protests over human rights took place in April 2011 in front of government ministry buildings in Riyadh, Ta'if and Tabuk and in January 2012 in Riyadh.
Anti-government protests demanding release of prisoners held without charge or trial continued in April and May 2011 in Qatif, al-Awamiyah and Hofuf in the Eastern Province, and extended to calls for the Peninsula Shield Force to be withdrawn from Bahrain and for the Eastern Province to have a constitution and a legislature. Four protestors were shot dead by Saudi authorities in late November in Qatif region protests and funerals, two on 12/13 and 26 January 2012, and two on 9 and 10 February 2012. In the early 2012 demonstrations, protestors chanted slogans against the House of Saud and Minister of Interior, Nayef, calling Nayef a "terrorist", "criminal" and "butcher" and throwing an effigy of Nayef at tanks. Police described two of the fatal shootings as responses to unidentified gunmen who had shot first. Eastern Province protests intensified after Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was wounded in the leg and arrested by police on 8 July. Four men were killed in a protest immediately following the arrest, and on 13 July, with several funerals and protests following, including calls for the downfall of the House of Saud. While detained, al-Nimr was tortured and started a hunger strike. Protest organisers insisted on the use of nonviolent resistance and called for all Shia and Sunni detainees to be freed. A protestor and a soldier were fatally shot in Qatif during a 3–4 August protest, leading to more protests.
Protests and sit-ins calling for political prisoners to be released spread beyond the Eastern Province to protests at the Ministry of Interior in Riyadh on 20 March and in Riyadh and Buraidah in December 2011, and in July and August 2012 in front of the Ministry in Riyadh, in Mecca in Ta'if, in Buraidah, and near al-Ha'ir Prison.
On 15 October 2014 Nimr al-Nimr was sentenced to death by the Specialized Criminal Court for "seeking 'foreign meddling' in Saudi Arabia, 'disobeying' its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces." His brother, Mohammad al-Nimr, was arrested on the same day for tweeting information about the death sentence. Al-Nimr was executed on or shortly before 2 January 2016, along with 46 others in a mass execution. His execution was condemned by Iran and Shiites throughout the Middle East, as well as by Western figures and Sunnis opposed to sectarianism. The Saudi government said the body would not be handed over to the family. In March 2017, after a long campaign of harassment, the Saudi security forces killed two members of Nimr family during a raid on a farm in eastern Saudi Arabia. Miqdad and Mohammad Al-Nimr were killed at a farm in Awamiyah, the Nimr family hometown. al-Nimr was very critical of the Saudi Arabian government, and called for free elections in Saudi Arabia. He was arrested by Saudi authorities in 2006, at which time al-Nimr said he was beaten by the Mabahith. During the 2011–12 Saudi Arabian protests, al-Nimr called for protestors to resist police bullets using "the roar of the word" rather than violence, and predicted the collapse of the government if repression continued. The Guardian described al-Nimr as having "taken the lead in [the] uprising." Al-Nimr also criticized Bahrain's Sunni monarchy, which brutally suppressed massive pro-democracy Shia-led demonstrations in Bahrain in 2011, and Syria's Bashar Assad, saying "(Bahrain's ruling family) Al Khalifa are oppressors, and the Sunnis are innocent of them. They're not Sunnis, they're tyrants. The Assads in Syria are oppressors ... We do not defend oppressors and those oppressed shouldn't defend the oppressor." In August 2008, he stated that he believed that Iran and other states outside of Saudi Arabia act mainly out of self-interest, not out of religious solidarity. Then he distanced himself from Iran.
As of 2013[update], women in Saudi Arabia have limited freedom of movement and in practice are not allowed to drive motor vehicles. In 1990, dozens of women in Riyadh drove their cars in protest, were imprisoned for one day, had their passports confiscated, and some of them lost their jobs. In September 2007, the Association for the Protection and Defense of Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia, co-founded by Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Uyyouni, gave a 1,100 signature petition to King Abdullah asking for women to be allowed to drive. On International Women's Day 2008, Huwaider filmed herself driving and received international media attention after the video was posted on YouTube. Inspired by the Arab Spring, a woman from Jeddah, Najla Hariri, started driving in the second week of May 2011, stating "Before in Saudi, you never heard about protests. [But] after what has happened in the Middle East, we started to accept a group of people going outside and saying what they want in a loud voice, and this has had an impact on me." Women organised a Facebook women's suffrage campaign called "Baladi", stating that Saudi Arabian law gives women electoral rights. In April 2011, women in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam tried to register as electors for the 29 September municipal elections despite officials stating that women could not participate. In May and June, Women's rights activist Manal al-Sharif and other women organised a women's right-to-drive campaign, with the main action to take place on 17 June. al-Sharif had previously filmed herself driving, Wajeha al-Huwaider, filmed al-Sharif driving a car as part of the campaign. The video was posted on YouTube and Facebook. Al-Sharif was detained and released on 21 May and rearrested the following day. In late September, Shaima Jastania was sentenced to 10 lashes for driving in Jeddah, shortly after King Abdullah announced women's participation in the 2015 municipal elections and eligibility as Consultative Assembly members; King Abdullah overturned the sentence. Al-Sharif and Samar Badawi filed lawsuits against Saudi authorities in the Grievances Board, a non-Sharia court, because of the rejection of their driving licence applications. Women university students protested in King Khalid University (KKU) in Abha in March 2012 and were attacked by security forces, leading to one death. Other university protests followed in Taibah University in Medina and Tabuk University in March and April. KKU students called for the university president to be dismissed. He was replaced on 1 July 2012.
Saudi Arabia is unique in being the only country in the world where women are forbidden to drive motor vehicles. The women to drive movement is a campaign by Saudi Arabian women, who have more rights denied to them by the regime than men, for the right to drive motor vehicles on public roads. Dozens of women drove in Riyadh in 1990 and were arrested and had their passports confiscated. In 2007, Wajeha al-Huwaider and other women petitioned King Abdullah for women's right to drive, and a film of al-Huwaider driving on International Women's Day 2008 attracted international media attention.
Two years later, another campaign to defy the ban targeted 26 October 2013 as the date for women to start driving. Three days before, in a "rare and explicit restating of the ban", an Interior Ministry spokesman warned that "women in Saudi are banned from driving and laws will be applied against violators and those who demonstrate support." Interior ministry employees warned leaders of the campaign individually not to drive on 26 October, and in the Saudi capital police road blocks were set up to check for women drivers.
Manal al-Sharif, following her 30 May release from prison, started a Twitter campaign called "Faraj" to release Saudi, Filipino and Indonesian women prisoners in the Dammam women's prison who "are locked up just because they owe a small sum of money but cannot afford to pay the debt". Al-Sharif said that the women prisoners were mostly domestic workers who remained in prison after completing their prison terms, because they could not pay their debts and because their former Saudi employers did not help to release them or fund their flights to return to their countries of origin. She referred to 22 Indonesian women and named four women needing help and stated the amount of their debts. She called for donations to be made directly to the director of the Dammam women's prison in order to reimburse the women's debts and free them. In December 2012, al-Sharif criticized an initiative by the Saudi government to inform husbands via SMS when their wives or dependents leave the country, in accordance with a law making men the legal guardians of their wives. "The small fact of the SMS story gives you the idea of the bigger problem with the whole guardianship system", she wrote on Twitter. When King Abdullah appointed women to the advisory Shura Council for the first time in January 2013, al-Sharif criticized the reform as too small, noting that the Council was still not an elected body and could not pass legislation. In February, she worked to bring international attention to the case of five-year-old Lama al-Ghamdi, whose father Fayhan al-Ghamdi fatally raped, beat, and burned her; he served four months in jail and paid 200,000 riyals (roughly US$50,000) in blood money.
Syrian Democratic People's Party
The Damascus Spring was a period of intense political and social debate in Syria which started after the death of President Hafiz al-Asad in June 2000 and continued to some degree until autumn 2001, when most of the activities associated with it were suppressed by the government. It started with the Statement of 99 and the establishing of the Committees of Civil Society, then the Statement of 1000 was issued carrying the signature of 1000 Syrian intellectuals in 2001. The Statement of 99 was a statement made by 99 Syrian intellectuals on 27 September 2000, during the Damascus Spring that followed Hafez al-Assad's death in June of the same year. The intellectuals called for the state of emergency to be ended, for political prisoners to be pardoned, for deportees and exiles to be allowed to return, for legal protection for free speech and freedom of assembly, and to "free public life from the laws, constraints and various forms of surveillance imposed on it".  Prominent signers included Abdulrazak Eid, Anwar al-Bunni, Mamdouh Adwan, Haidar Haidar and Michel Kilo. The Statement of 1000, made in January 2001, was more detailed than the earlier statement, criticising the effective one-party rule of the Ba'ath Party and calling for multiparty democracy, with an independent judiciary and without discrimination against women.
The Damascus Spring was characterised above all by the emergence of numerous muntadayāt (singular muntadā), referred to in English as "salons" or "forums". Groups of like-minded people met in private houses, with news of the occasion spread by word of mouth, and discussed political matters and wider social questions. The phenomenon of the salons spread rapidly in Damascus and to a lesser extent in other cities. Long-standing members of the Syrian opposition were notable in animating the movement, as were a number of intellectuals who resolutely declared themselves apolitical, such as filmmaker Omar Amiralay. Members of the Syrian Communist Party and reform-minded Ba'th Party members also took part in debate. The most famous of the forums were the Riad Seif Forum, founded by Riad Seif to promote political debate and freedom, and the Jamal al-Atassi National Dialogue Forum. That "marked the onset" of the Damascus Spring. In January 2001, Seif announced his intention to create a new political party to compete with the ruling Ba'th Party. A major seminar/meeting of the Riad Seif Forum was held on 5 September 2001. Several hundred people attended and leaders of the Syrian opposition called for political reform and democratic elections and discussed amending the constitution and issuing a call for a civil disobedience campaign. Following this Seif, Riad al-Turk, Aref Dalila, Kamal al-Labwani, and the six other opposition leaders were arrested. Seif was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison and released in January 2006.
Ammar Abdulhamid's foundations
Ammar Abdulhamid is a Syrian-born author, human rights activist, former radical Islamist, political dissident. Ammar was featured in the Arabic version of Newsweek Magazine as one of 43 people making a difference in the Arab world in May 2005. He is married with author and human-rights activist Khawla Yusuf. Abdulhamid and Yusuf have founded several politically oriented foundations. In 2003, while still residing in Syria, they established DarEmar, a publishing house and non-governmental organization dedicated to raising the standards of civic awareness in the Arab world. After relocating to the U.S. in 2005, they founded the Tharwa Foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots political organization that encourages diversity, development, and democracy in Syria and across Southwest Asia and North Africa. (The foundation's name comes from the Arabic word tharwa or "wealth" while playing on thawra or "revolution.") The foundation works to break the information blockade imposed by the government of Bashar Al-Assad with a cadre of local activists and citizen journalists to report on socio-political issues in Syria. In 2008, Abdulhamid co-founded Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance (HAMSA), an initiative to mobilize international grassroots support for democracy activists in the Arab world. In 2012, founded I Am Syria, a non-profit media based campaign that seeks to educate the world of the Syrian conflict.
Movement for Justice and Development in Syria
The Movement for Justice and Development in Syria is a political party and movement founded in the year 2006 and based in London, United Kingdom. The group describes itself as "committed to peaceful, democratic change in Syria, and the creation of a modern state which respects human rights and promotes economic and social development." Its chairman, Anas Al-Abdah, has been vocal in criticizing the actions of the Syrian government throughout the Syrian Civil War. The group is banned in Syria and was the center of controversies.
Orwa Nyrabia (born 16 December 1977) is a highly acclaimed independent Syrian documentary film producer, filmmaker, trainer, human rights defender and co-founder of DOX BOX International Documentary Film Festival in Syria. Nyrabia trained as a film producer at the INA/Sorbonne in France. In 2002, he co-founded Proaction Films, the first independent film production and distribution company in Syria. He and his partner and wife, Diana El Jeiroudi, launched DOX BOX in early 2008 as an annual documentary film festival and suspended in 2012, and in 2014, it became ″Dox Box Association″, a Berlin-registered non-profit. Dox Box Festival was organised by a Syrian production company, Proaction Film, as a non-profit free-admission event to spread awareness and increase interest in documentaries. In its fourth edition, Dox Box 2011, it reached 28000 admissions according to the festival's website. The international documentary film festival grew quickly into the most important documentary film gathering in the Arab World. The festival started with screenings in Damascus cinemas but from 2009 on screenings were expanded to other Syrian cities including Homs and Tartus. Along with the annual festival, many workshops and activities were offered to young Syrian filmmakers. The fifth edition of the festival, planned for March 2012, was cancelled in protest of the Syrian government's crackdown on protesters during the ongoing Syrian uprising. Instead, Nyrabia advocated for Syrian documentary films to be shown in festivals around the world in what was termed the "Dox Box Global Day." The aim, according to the DOX BOX website, was to show "how poverty, oppression and isolation do not prevent humans from being spectacularly brave, stubborn and dignified." His work with DOX BOX earned him and his partner, Diana El Jeiroudi, several awards including the Katrin Cartlidge Award and the European Documentary Award in 2012.
Nyrabia's role in the drafting of the Syrian filmmakers' international Call in late April 2011, which is the Syrian uprising's first public statement by a professional group, is known to be central. The call was signed by over 70 Syrian filmmakers, inviting filmmakers around the world to join in demanding democracy for Syria. Stars like Juliette Binoche, Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Mike Leigh were among more than one thousand international film professionals who joined the call.
Nyrabia's father, Mouaffaq Nyrabia, is also a known political dissident, previously detained by the Syrian authorities, and currently the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces's representative to the EU.
Strike for Dignity
Strike for Dignity (the Karamah Strike) was a nationwide general strike organised by groups in the Syrian Civil War in December 2011 as a nonviolent expression of dissent against the government of President Bashar al-Assad during the Syrian civil war. It is significant as one of the very few strikes during the four decades of Ba'ath Party rule in Syria.
A nonviolent demonstration of approximately 150 participants emerged in Damascus' Hamidiya Market area on 15 March 2011; then on Friday, 18 March 2011, four Syrian cities (Dara, Banyas, Homs, and Damascus) saw what appear to be much larger protest crowds take to the streets. Three young men protesting in the city of Dara were allegedly shot and killed on 18 March 2011 by government military forces sent to repress the nonviolent demonstrations, triggering more protests in the ensuing days. Grassroots demonstrations, predominantly nonviolent, grew into a nationwide movement by April 2011. These demonstrations in Syria occurred in the context of the wider Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring. Protesters' discourse demanded freedom and dignity; an end to martial law (in place since March, 1963); the release of prisoners of conscience; and the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in Syria since 1971; as well as the end to over four decades of Ba'ath Party rule.
The Syrian Nonviolence Movement along with civil resistance groups in Syria such as the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, working together under an umbrella group called Freedom Days Syria, called for a general strike on 11 December 2011 to express dissent against the Syrian government in a nonviolent way. The organisers of the strike claimed that the strike would contribute to weakening the government and could lead eventually to its fall. The strike had six different stages which progressed toward widespread, organized civil disobedience. Activities included sit-ins and closure of shops and universities, followed by the shutdown of transportation networks and a general public sector strike.
|Razan Zaitouneh (Zeitunah)|
The Local Coordination Committees of Syria documented more than 600 points that participated in the Strike across Syria. The expatriated opposition body called the Syrian National Council said in a statement that the "Dignity Strike" launched that Sunday was widely observed in 12 provinces across Syria "against all expectations."  Syrian human rights lawyer and civil society activist Razan Zaitouneh (Zeitunah) has documented the abuse of human rights in Syria for the Local Coordination Committees of Syria. Actively involved in the Syrian uprising, she went into hiding after being accused by the government of being a foreign agent and her husband was arrested. Razan Zaitouneh is currently missing after being abducted in Douma on December 9, 2013, along with fellow activists Samira Khalil, her husband Wael Hamada, and Nazem Hammadi. Samira Khalil was arrested and detained for four years from 1987-1991 for her opposition to the Al-Assad government in Syria. After her imprisonment in the eighties, Khalil operated a publishing house before shifting her efforts to working with the families of detainees and writing about detention in Syria. Before her abduction, she was working to help women in Douma support themselves by initiating small income generating projects, and had stayed in Douma to establish two women's centres. Khalil and her husband Yassin al-Haj Saleh were the subject of the documentary Baladna Alraheeb (Our Terrible Country), which documented the period in their lives prior to Khalil's 2013 abduction. It's been reported that Orwa Nyrabia has been one of the secret people behind the Local Coordination Committees, however, the details of such work are concealed by the organization, for safety reasons. Arabic media praised Nyrabia for his role in humanitarian work, mainly to displaced civilians from Homs. Since Razan Zaitouneh was abducted late 2013 in Douma, near Damascus, by an unknown group of extremists, Orwa became the temporary Acting Director of the organization she founded and directed, Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria (VDC)
Nadi al-Tufula (Club Childhood), a small private elementary school in Damascus founded by women with a history of teaching nonviolence, tried to join the strike. School staff made the decision public by posting notice on the school entrance indicating that the school would be closed in observance of the strike. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced that the strike was being "very widely observed" in southern Syria's Daraa province, Idlib, Homs area and the Damascus countryside.
Opposition groups in Syria took a new turn in late 2011, during the Syrian Civil War, as they united to form the Syrian National Council (SNC), which has received significant international support and recognition as a partner for dialogue. The Syrian National Council was recognized or supported in some capacity by at least 17 member states of the United Nations, with three of those (France, United Kingdom and the United States) being permanent members of the Security Council.
A broader opposition umbrella group, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, was formed in November 2012 and has gained recognition as the "legitimate representative of the Syrian people" by the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG) and as a "representative of aspirations of Syrian people" by the Arab League. The Syrian National Coalition was subsequently given the seat of Syria in the Arab League, with Ba'athist Syria representative suspended. The Syrian National Council, initially a part of the Syrian National Coalition, withdrew on 20 January 2014 in protest at the decision of the coalition to attend the Geneva talks. Despite tensions, the Syrian National Council retains a degree of ties with the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. Syrian opposition groups held reconciliation talks in Astana, Kazakhstan in October 2015.
Syrian National Council
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
The Syrian National Council sometimes known as SNC, the Syrian National Transitional Council or the National Council of Syria, is a Syrian opposition coalition, based in Istanbul, formed in August 2011 during the Syrian civil uprising (escalating into civil war) against the government of Bashar al-Assad.
Initially, the council denied seeking to play the role of a government in exile, but this changed a few months later when violence in Syria intensified. The Syrian National Council seeks the end of Bashar al-Assad's rule and the establishment of a modern, civil, democratic state. The SNC National Charter lists human rights, judicial independence, press freedom, democracy and political pluralism as its guiding principles. Its intended purpose is to "represent the concerns and demands of the Syrian people." The creation of the SNC was celebrated by the Syrian protestors since the Friday protest following its establishment was dubbed "The Syrian National Council Represents Me".
In November 2012, the Syrian National Council agreed to unify with several other opposition groups to form the Syrian National Coalition, and withdrew from it on 20 January 2014 in protest at the decision of the coalition to attend the Geneva II Conference on Syria.
- Syrian Democratic People's Party: A socialist party which played a key role in the creation of the SNC. The party's leader George Sabra is the official spokesman of the SNC, and also ran for chairman.
Syrian Patriotic Group
On 27 February 2012, human rights activist Haitham al-Maleh and Kamal al-Labwani along with 18 other members of the Syrian National Council formed a sub-group called the Syrian Patriotic Group. The leading activists of the SNC consider many of the SNC members to be too slow in taking action, and so the group is designed so that while still remaining SNC members, the 20 leading activists would speed up "backing the national effort to bring down the regime with all available resistance means including supporting the Free Syrian Army". Both al-Maleh and al-Labwani have been imprisoned by the Syrian government, al-Maleh because he was calling for constitutional reforms.
Coalition of Secular and Democratic Syrians
The Coalition of Secular and Democratic Syrians or Syrian Coalition of Secular and Democratic Forces is the nucleus of a Syrian secular and democratic opposition that appeared during the 2011–2012 Syrian uprising. It was created by the union of a dozen Muslim and Christian, Arab and Kurd parties, who called the minorities of Syria to support the fight against the government of Bashar al-Assad. The Coalition has also called for military intervention in Syria, under the form of a no-fly zone similar to that of Kosovo, with a safe zone and cities. The president of the coalition, who is also a member of the Syrian National Council, is Randa Kassis. The former president of the coalition Randa Kassis is a Franco-Syrian politician, anthropologist, journalist and a leading secular figure of the Syrian opposition. She is the President and founder of the Movement of the Pluralistic Society. She was a member of the Syrian National Council until August 2012. The Coalition of Secular and Democratic Syrians, the nucleus of a secular and democratic Syrian opposition, was created by the union of a dozen Muslim and Christian, Arab and Kurd parties, who called upon minorities in Syria to support the fight against the government of Bashar al-Assad. Kassis is participating in the 2016 Geneva Peace Talks under the banner of the Moscow/ Astana groups. She is Co-President with Qadri Jamil of the Syrian secular and democratic opposition delegation., She is criticized by other oppositors for her advocacy to a political transition in cooperation with Bashar al-Assad and her support of the Russian intervention in the civil war.
National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change
The National Coordination Committee for the Forces of Democratic Change (NCC), or National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB), is a Syrian bloc formed in 2011 at a congress in Damascus and chaired by Hassan Abdel Azim consisting of 13 left-wing political parties and "independent political and youth activists", its spokeperson is Haytham Manna who also helped to create the organization. It has been defined by Reuters as the internal opposition's main umbrella group. The NCC initially had several Kurdish political parties as members, but all except for the Democratic Union Party left in October 2011 to join the Kurdish National Council. Relations with other Syrian political opposition groups are generally poor. The Syrian Revolution General Commission, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria or the Supreme Council of the Syrian Revolution oppose the NCC calls to dialogue with the Syrian government. In September 2012, the Syrian National Council (SNC) reaffirmed that despite broadening its membership, it would not join with "currents close to [the] NCC". Despite recognizing the Free Syrian Army on 23 September 2012, the FSA has dismissed the NCC as an extension of the government, stating that "this opposition is just the other face of the same coin".
The NCC formally called for the "overthrowing [of] the regime with all its symbols". The Preparatory Committee issued an eight-point statement which called for toppling the government, a rejection of sectarianism, "adopting non-violent resistance as the strategy to accomplish the goals of the revolution", "extract[ing]" the Syrian Army "from the clutches of the regime", holding the government accountable for its actions, the protection of civilians and the upholding of international law, resolving the status of Kurds within a democratic framework and the "undivided" cohesion of the Syrian nation. Notable members of the Committee:
- Syriac Union Party: A party representing the interests of Syriac Christians and affiliated with the Syriac Union Party in Lebanon (itself part of the anti-Assad March 14 Alliance). It has taken part in numerous opposition demonstrations, including storming the Syrian embassy in Stockholm in August 2012.
- Democratic Socialist Arab Ba'ath Party: A neo-Ba'athist political party founded in 1970 and led by Ibrahim Makhous, a former Syrian foreign minister. It is a remnant of Salah Jadid's left-wing faction of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Syria Region. The party is based in Paris, France and joined the National Democratic Rally coalition in 1981. Unlike historic Ba'athism which advocates Ba'athist political control of the state, the Arab Democratic Socialist Ba'ath Party supports democratic pluralism. The party advocates the implementation of the laws enshrining freedom of speech, assembly, and equality of opportunities that, although included in the constitution, are not enforced. The party also supports the concept of class struggle.
National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces
The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, commonly named the Syrian National Coalition, is a coalition of opposition groups in the Syrian Civil War that was founded in Doha, Qatar, in November 2012. Notable liberals members are former president Ahmad Jarba, vice presidents Riad Seif, Suheir Atassi and Mouaffaq Nyrabia, Seif and Atassi are both prominent democracy activists and the latter a secular human rights advocate. Suheir al-Atassi has been called the "Lady of the Revolution" and is widely respected in secular and intellectual circles within the Syrian opposition structure. She had previously run the media wing of the banned Jamal Atassi Forum, which was named after her father, a founding member of the Ba'ath Party who later left and founded the Democratic Arab Socialist Union. Mouaffaq Nyrabia is a Syrian dissident, politician, political writer, best known for his pivotal role in the creation of Damascus Declaration, a prominent Syrian Opposition structure until the Syrian Revolution erupted in March 2011. Since he left Syria, in early 2013, he has been an active member of the National Coalition, a member of its executive board, representing the secular political current Muwatanah (Arabic for "Citizenship"). Nyrabia worked on founding a democratic bloc inside the Syrian Coalition and joined the similar attempts led by dissident writer and politician Michael Kilo. Notable members of the Coalition:
- Assyrian Democratic Organization: A party representing Assyrians in Syria and long repressed by the Assad government, it has been a participant in opposition structures since the beginning of the conflict. Abdul-Ahad Astepho is a member of the SNC.
Syria's Tomorrow Movement
The Syria's Tomorrow Movement is a Syrian opposition party founded in March 2016 in Cairo by Ahmad Jarba, a Syrian National Council member. The party is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates and cooperates with the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, although it is not part of the coalition. They also cooperate with the Syrian Democratic Council and the associated de facto autonomous administration of the Federation of Northern Syria - Rojava. The movement is described as pluralist, liberal democratic and secularist. The movement aims to decentralize Syria and implement pluralist democracy. However, it opposes any partition of the state. The party considers Alawites, as with all other ethnic groups in Syria, to be an essential component of the Syrian people and called for greater inclusion of them in the opposition.
Part of a series on the
|History of the
The Tanzimât, literally meaning reorganization of the Ottoman Empire (see Nizam), was a period of reformation that began in 1839 and ended with the First Constitutional Era in 1876. Many changes were made to improve civil liberties, but many Muslims saw them as foreign influence on the world of Islam. That perception complicated reformist efforts made by the state. A policy called Ottomanism was meant to unite all the different peoples living in Ottoman territories, "Muslim and non-Muslim, Turkish and Greek, Armenian and Jewish, Kurd and Arab". The policy officially began with the Edict of Gülhane of 1839, declaring equality before the law for both Muslim and non-Muslim Ottomans. Among the Tanzimât reforms were the abolition of slavery and slave trade; the decriminalization of homosexuality; the establishment of the Civil Service School, an institution of higher learning for civilians the Press and Journalism Regulation Code; and the Nationality Law of 1869 creating a common Ottoman citizenship irrespective of religious or ethnic divisions; among others;.
The Young Ottomans) were a secret society established in 1865 by a group of Ottoman Turkish intellectuals who were dissatisfied with the Tanzimat reforms in the Ottoman Empire, which they believed did not go far enough. Young Ottomans sought to transform Ottoman society by preserving the empire and modernizing along the European tradition of adopting a constitutional government. Though the Young Ottomans were frequently in disagreement ideologically, they all agreed that the new constitutional government should continue to be somewhat rooted in Islam to emphasize "the continuing and essential validity of Islam as the basis of Ottoman political culture." The Young Ottomans sought to revitalize the empire by incorporating certain Europeans models of government, while still retaining the Islamic foundations the empire was founded on. Among the prominent members of this society were writers and publicists such as İbrahim Şinasi, Namık Kemal, Ali Suavi, Ziya Pasha, and Agah Efendi.
In 1876, the Young Ottomans had their defining moment when Sultan Abdülhamid II reluctantly promulgated the Ottoman constitution of 1876 (Turkish: Kanûn-u Esâsî), the first attempt at a constitution in the Ottoman Empire, ushering in the First Constitutional Era. Although this period was short lived, with Abdülhamid ultimately suspending the constitution and parliament in 1878 in favor of a return to absolute monarchy with himself in power, the legacy and influence of the Young Ottomans continued to endure until the collapse of the empire. Several decades later, another group of reform-minded Ottomans, namely the Young Turks, repeated the Young Ottomans' efforts, leading to the Young Turk Revolution in 1908 and the beginning of the Second Constitutional Era.
Republican People's Party
Social Democracy Party
Democratic Left Party
Liberal Democratic Party
Peoples' Democratic Party
The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), or Democratic Party of the Peoples, is a liberal pro-minority political party in Turkey founded in 15 October 2012. Generally left-wing, the party places a strong emphasis on democracy, feminism, minority rights, including LGBT rights. It is an associate member of the Party of European Socialists (PES), consultative member of the Socialist International and member of Progressive Alliance. In 2015, Barış Sulu was the first openly gay parliamentary candidate in Turkey as a candidate of the HDP. Other notable members are former chairwoman Figen Yüksekdağ, former chairman Selahattin Demirtaş and spokesperson Osman Baydemir.
Figen Yüksekdağ (born 1971) was a former co-leader of the left-wing Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) of Turkey from 2014 to 2017, serving alongside Selahattin Demirtaş. She was a Member of Parliament for Van since the June 2015 general election until her parliamentary membership was revoked by the courts on 21 February 2017 during the 2016–17 Turkish purges. Selahattin Demirtaş and her party membership and therefore they co-leadership positions were revoked by the courts on 9 March 2017 following a six-year prison sentence for distributing terrorist propaganda. Born from Turkish Sunni farming family, she was an independent parliamentary candidate for the Adana electoral district in the 2002 general election. She was involved in women's rights movements for several years before becoming the editor of the Socialist Woman magazine. While serving on the board of the Atılım newspaper, she was taken into custody in 2009 due to her political activity. She cofounded the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) shortly after in 2010 and resigned as leader in 2014 to join the HDP, with which the ESP merged later the same year. During the second ordinary congress of the HDP, she was elected the co-leader of the HDP.
Yemeni Women's Union
The Yemeni Women's Union (YWU) is a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) founded in 1990. Its purpose is to promote women's civil rights and to empower women in Yemen. The current chairperson of the Yemeni Women's Union is Fathiye Abdullah. The YWU is headquartered in Sana'a and has 22 different branch offices and 132 smaller offices throughout Yemen. Each branch offers women microcredit projects, literacy, health care and vocational training programs. Branches have also conducted legal workshops for women on commercial and tax laws. Other workshops have covered amendments to marriage laws and custody rights for women. The YWU runs shelters with undisclosed locations to protect women who have fled from violent or abusive family situations. The YWU also runs a hotline which allows women to report domestic abuse so that they can be "transferred to a safe house and assigned an attorney." The organization also manages over 10% of all literacy classes in Yemen and helps raise awareness about the importance of education for women. YWU is also active politically and in religious matters. In 2008, when Muslim clerics issued a fatwa against women running for office, YWU's former chairperson, Ramziya al-Iryani, responded stating that the fatwa was "against Islam, against equality between men and women stipulated by the Quran."
Democratic Muslims is a political organization in Denmark founded by Naser Khader, Yildiz Akdogan and other Muslims in February 2006 after the escalation of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. Its goal is a peaceful co-existence of Islam and democracy. Naser Khader left his position as leader in 2007. In 2009 and 2011, it was reported that the organization had few members and little activity.
The Jadids were Muslim modernist reformers within the Russian Empire in the late 19th and early 20th century. They normally referred to themselves by the Turkic terms Taraqqiparvarlar ('progressives'), Ziyalilar ('intellectuals'), or simply Yäşlär/Yoshlar ('youth'). Jadids maintained that Muslims in the Russian Empire had entered a period of decay that could only be rectified by the acquisition of a new kind of knowledge and modernist, European-modeled cultural reform. Although there were substantial ideological differences within the movement, Jadids were marked by their widespread use of print media in promoting their messages and advocacy of the usul ul-jadid or "new method" of teaching in the maktabs of the empire, from which the term Jadidism is derived. A leading figure in the efforts to reform education was the Crimean Tatar Ismail Gasprinski who lived from 1851–1914. Intellectuals such as Mahmud Khoja (author of the famous play "The Patricide" and founder of one of Turkestan's first Jadid schools) carried Gaspirali's ideas back to Central Asia.
Young People Against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia
Siavosh Derakhti (born July 3, 1991) is a Swedish social activist, founder of Young People Against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia. In 2016, Derakhti was named by Forbes Magazine to its list of 30 influential leaders under the age of 30. In recognition of his activism to reduce prejudice and xenophobia, the government of Sweden presented him in 2013 with the Raoul Wallenberg Award, an honor named after the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews from Nazi death camps during WWII. The selection committee said Derakhti set a "positive example" in his hometown of Malmö and throughout Sweden. "He is a role model for others," the Wallenberg Award committee wrote, "showing through his actions and determination that one person can make a difference." On Nov. 8, 2012, the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism gave Derakhti its first Elsa Award, established by Committee member Henrik Frenkel in memory of his parents to encourage young people to incorporate social media into the battle against Swedish anti-Semitism. Sia, as he is known, travels throughout Sweden and gives presentations at schools, businesses and public organizations on the "equal dignity of all human beings." His team has also started a program for youth ambassadors, organized visits to concentration camps and sponsored training for young people involving exercises on cooperation and values. In addition to combating anti-Semitism, the organization intends to fight Islamophobia, Antiziganism and homophobia, though Derakhti prefers to remain focused and face one issue at a time.
Progressive British Muslims
Progressive British Muslims (PBM) was a group of Liberal British Muslims that formed following the London terrorist attacks of July 7, 2005. The organisation was founded and is chaired by Farmida Bi, an expert in Islamic Finance to provide a voice for progressive Muslims who she felt were unrepresented by existing faith organisations. 
British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Founded in 2006, British Muslims for Secular Democracy is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supporting secularism in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 2006 by Nasreen Rehman and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. The group believes the diversity of views among British Muslims is not adequately represented to wider British society and that their image is distorted. The organization is one of the growing number of feminist and progressive Muslim organizations.
Quilliam is a London-based left-of-center think tank founded in 2008, that focuses on counter-extremism, specifically against Islamism, which it argues represents a desire to impose a given interpretation of Islam on society. Founded as The Quilliam Foundation, it lobbies government and public institutions for more nuanced policies regarding Islam and on the need for greater democracy in the Muslim world whilst empowering moderate Muslim voices.
According to one of its co-founders, Maajid Nawaz, "We wish to raise awareness around Islamism"; he also said, "I want to demonstrate how the Islamist ideology is incompatible with Islam. Secondly … develop a Western Islam that is at home in Britain and in Europe … reverse radicalisation by taking on their arguments and countering them."
The organisation opposes any Islamist ideology and champions freedom of expression. The critique of Islamist ideology by its founders, Maajid Usman Nawaz, Rashad Zaman Ali and Ed Husain, is based, in part, on their personal experiences.
Co-founder Maajid Nawaz is a British activist, author, columnist, radio host and politician. He was the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for London's Hampstead and Kilburn constituency in the 2015 general election. Nawaz is a former member of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. This association led to his arrest in Egypt in December 2001, where he remained imprisoned until 2006. Reading books on human rights and interacting with Amnesty International, which adopted him as a prisoner of conscience, resulted in a change of heart. This led Nawaz to leave Hizb-ut-Tahrir in 2007, renounce his Islamist past and call for a "Secular Islam". He wrote an autobiography, Radical, which was published in 2012. Since then, he has become a prominent critic of Islamism in the United Kingdom. He is a regular op-ed contributor, debater and public commenter. He presented his views on radicalisation in front of US Senate Committee and UK Home Affairs Committee in their respective inquiries on the roots of radical extremism. His writings have been published in various international newspapers and has delivered lectures at LSE and University of Liverpool, and has given talks at UK Defence Academy and Marshall Center for Security Studies.
Nawaz argues that society must build a competing brand by adhering to its own values and visibly distinguishing its actions from those of the extremists. He warned against the illiberal approach of seeking new powers to intercept communications, or banning non-violent groups, and asserted that liberalism will kill totalitarianism softly, not by mimicking it. He advocates a civil society push back against extremism, just like it was done against racism and homophobia, by seeding grass-roots initiatives and making extremist narratives a taboo. In Nawaz's view, society is moving from an era of Nation-States and Globalisation, where identity is defined by national allegiances and citizenship, to an "Age of Behaviour" where behaviour is shaped by transnational ideas, narratives and allegiances.
Nawaz notes how all transnational social movements of today, whether European Neo-fascism or Islamism, are extremist in nature, and democracy aspirants all over the world are left behind. He criticises the idea of political correctness, and the hesitation of democrats in asserting the universality of democratic norms. He also points to the political failure of many states in the Muslim world as a contributing factor. According to him, there is absence of democratic choice in many Muslim-majority countries, which means that their democratic parties often find themselves competing with non-democratic parties, including theocratic and military-backed ones. The political failure of democratic parties is taken as a failure of democracy itself in the Muslim world.
- Ideas: Idea is the cause in which one believes e.g. the establishment of a global caliphate.
- Narratives: Narrative is the propaganda technique employed to sell that idea e.g. the narrative of West being at war with Islam.
- Symbols: Symbols denote iconography, flags, the logos, attires, congregations etc.
- Leaders: Leaders are the people that come to symbolise what the struggle means.
As a solution, Nawaz suggests building of global youth-led democratic movements that are above politics, and that build demand for democracy at the civilisational level. He notes that while Islamists offer a full package to the Muslim youth, the democrats of the Muslim world offer nothing: there is nothing to dream, no democratic leaders to follow and no democratic symbolism to admire. He cites Malala Yousafzai as a successful symbol of democracy and women's rights, but stresses the need for more such symbols which young Muslims can look up to.
In his essay On Blasphemy, Nawaz notes that all prophets and reformers blasphemed against the existing orders of their time, and that heresy is the only guarantee of progress. He lamented the revival of the atmosphere of blasphemy, and the neo-orientalist unwillingness to defend the ideals of free speech. He also criticised the term Islamophobia which, according to him, is a muzzle on free speech and deployed as a shield against genuine criticism.
Inclusive Mosque Initiative
The Inclusive Mosque Initiative (commonly known as IMI) was founded in 2012, in London, UK. It is a grassroots activist organization which works toward ‘Establishing a place of worship for the promotion and practice of an inclusive Islam.’ Since its inception the organisation has spread rapidly, with chapters across the UK and IMI internationally (Malaysia, Kashmir, Pakistan and Zurich). The London group remains the most active of IMI sites, and is structured around a majlis or committee of volunteers who share the everyday running of the organisation. The beginning of IMI came out of their frustrations with the situation for women in many British mosques, where often women’s sections do not exist and ‘[s]ometimes the facilities for women are very inferior, cramped, and not at all conducive to the attitude of worship.’
Relatedly, and thematically linking both the above channels of influence is the work of progressive, feminist and liberationist scholars rereading primarily Islamic sources in practice-based ways, such as Wadud’s canonical work and activist endeavours on gender equality, and Asra Nomani’s ‘Islamic Bill of Rights for Women’. IMI provides a space where families can pray together and at times are led by women. In all circumstances, regardless of the madhab of salah or who's leading, there is no compulsion for attendants to join in salah.
Inclusive Mosque Initiative is intentionally inclusive and welcomes everyone who is interested in its activities. Whilst IMI is not a specifically queer organisation, amongst its social justice campaigns, IMI is openly concerned with the rights and safety of the LGBT community, Imi also works with, and follows, guidance of progressive, liberationist readings of Islam, and welcomes everyone regardless of gender or sexual identities.
In North America
Canadian Muslim Union
Muslim Canadian Congress
Formed in December 2001, the Muslim Canadian Congress was organized to provide a voice to Muslims who support a "progressive, liberal, pluralistic, democratic, and secular society where everyone has the freedom of religion." Tarek Fatah was one of the founders of the Muslim Canadian Congress in 2001, after the September 11 attacks and served as its communications director and spokesperson until 2006. The group gained prominence by opposing the implementation of Shariah in civil law in Ontario and supporting the country's same-sex marriage legislation. The group also promotes gender equality and was involved in organizing a Muslim prayer session in which the prayers were led by a woman, Raheel Raza. It has also been critical of Islamic fundamentalism and has urged the government to ban donations to Canadian religious institutions from abroad arguing that doing so will curb extremism.
American Islamic Congress
The American Islamic Congress (AIC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in the United States. AIC was founded in November 2001 by a group of American Muslims to promote tolerance following the September 11, 2001 attacks. AIC is a non-religious, civil rights organization whose stated goal is to build interfaith and inter-ethnic understanding. It receives significant funding from the U.S. government. Zainab Al-Suwaij co-founded the organitazion to "represent those American Muslims who cherished the freedoms of the U.S. after living under repressive regimes." Suwaij was a prominent public supporter of the 2003 U.S. war with Iraq.
American Islamic Forum for Democracy
American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) is an American Muslim think tank formed in 2003 by a small group of Muslim professionals in Phoenix, Arizona. The group's founder is Zuhdi Jasser who is also the group’s president and chief spokesman. AIFD advocates for the separation of religion and state and confronts the ideologies of political Islam and openly counters the belief that the Muslim faith is inextricably rooted to the concept of the Islamic state. Jasser and a group of American Muslims founded the group with the goal of demonstrating the compatibility of Islam with democracy and American values. The AIFD supports separation of religion and state, religious pluralism, equality of the sexes, the unconditional recognition of Israel, and the creation of an independent Palestine “on the current ‘occupied territories.’” The organization rejects terrorism and any justification for it. Zuhdi Jasser has been the center of various controversies and has been criticized by several muslims and non muslims alike.
Center for Islamic Pluralism
The Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) is a United States-based Islamic think tank challenging Islamist interpretations of Islam. It was founded in 2004 by eight people including the Sufi Muslim author Stephen Suleyman Schwartz and officially opened on March 25, 2005. With its headquarters in Washington, D.C., today it has subsidiaries in London and Cologne, Germany and correspondents in 32 countries of the world.
Project on Middle East Democracy
Muslims for Progressive Values
Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) was founded and incorporated by Ani Zonneveld in August 2007, headquartered in Los Angeles and with a regional office in Malaysia. In December 2013, United Nations recognized Muslims for Progressive Values as an official non-government organization (NGO) association member. The NGO/DPI Executive Committee represents 1,500 NGO organizations with monthly meetings. MPV’s consultative status enable its advocacy to go global by challenging human rights abuses in the name of Sharia law of Muslim-majority countries at the United Nations and at the Human Rights Council on issues of women's rights, LGBT rights, Freedom of Expression and Freedom of and from Religion and Belief. MPV has a board of advisors including scholars and activists such as: Reza Aslan, Amir Hussein, Karima Bennoune, Daayiee Abdullah, Zainah Anwar, Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, and El-Farouk Khaki.
Muslim Reform Movement
The Muslim Reform Movement is an organization dedicated to reform in Islam based on values of peace, human rights and secular governance. The organization was founded on December 4, 2015 when the founders read a "Declaration of Reform" at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The founders then went to the Saudi-affiliated Islamic Center of Washington and posted the Declaration of Reform on the doors of mosque "denouncing violent jihad, rejecting Islamic statism and opposing the 'ideology of violent Islamic extremism.'"
Founding signatories of the Muslim Reform Movement are Asra Nomani, Tahir Aslam Gora, Tawfik Hamid, Usama Hasan, Arif Humayun, Farahnaz Ispahani, Zuhdi Jasser, Naser Khader, Courtney Lonergan, Hasan Mahmud, Raheel Raza, Sohail Raza, and Salma Siddiqui.
Progressive Muslim Union
Secular Islam Summit
The Secular Islam Summit was an international forum for secularists of Islamic societies, held 4–5 March 2007 in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was largely organized and funded by the Center for Inquiry, a secular humanist educational organization, along with secular Muslims such as Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi and in partnership with the International Intelligence Summit, a forum on terrorism.
The common ground of the participants was the belief that Islam and secular democracy should be compatible. They agreed that Islam must be either a religion or a political philosophy, not both. According to Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, one of the organizers, one of the summit's goals was to be a "sanctuary" for victims of Islamism and a forum for the embrace of secular values.
Speakers ranged from former believers to devout reformers, including Ibn Warraq (the pen name of an ex-Muslim author known for criticism of Islam), Tawfik Hamid (an ex-jihadist, now in hiding), Afshin Ellian (an Iranian refugee under police protection), Irshad Manji (a self-described "radical traditionalist"), Ayaan Hirsi Ali (a former member of the Dutch Parliament), and Hasan Mahmud (director of Shariah at the Muslim Canadian Congress).
Several devout Muslims that had been invited to speak, such as Faisal Abdul Rauf and Mike Ghouse, did not attend; one that did, Irshad Manji, criticized the summit for "not making stronger overtures to practicing Muslims", and urged them to seek common ground.
Notable liberal and progressive Muslims
Shukria Barakzai: is an Afghan politician, journalist and a prominent Muslim feminist. She campaigns on issues such as maternal and infant mortality, areas in which Afghanistan has great difficulty. (The World Health Organization (WHO) calculated that Afghanistan in 2003 had the world's highest proportion of women dying in childbirth (Maternal Mortality Ratio) at 1900 per 100 000 live births.) Barakzai states, "Child marriage, forced marriage, and violence against women are still common and accepted practices." She focuses on large issues, saying, "in my opinion the burka is not that important. What is important is education, democracy and freedom." She stresses unity among women as well as the role that men have to play. She also uses her position to point out the lack of freedom of the press and the risks to journalists. (Reporters Without Borders ranks Afghanistan 156 out of 173 in its list of press freedom, and says the situation is especially difficult for women and those working in the provinces.) She is one of only a handful of female MPs who speak up for women's rights, and faces death threats for her views. Her criticisms of the legislature are wide-ranging: "Our parliament is a collection of lords. Warlords, drug lords, crime lords." She defended Malalai Joya, another female MP who has condemned warlordism, who faced abuse and threats of violence in parliament. While expressing gratitude for "the support of the international community" in creating the conditions by 2004 in which hundreds of publications and dozens of radio stations could flourish, Barakzai condemns "the support of armed groups and outlaws, a key part of U.S. policy". She opposes U.S. President Barack Obama's troop build-up plan, asking for "30,000 scholars or engineers" instead of that many soldiers.
Malalai Joya: (born April 25, 1978) is an activist, writer, and a former politician from Afghanistan. She served as a Parliamentarian in the National Assembly of Afghanistan from 2005 until early 2007, after being dismissed for publicly denouncing the presence of warlords and war criminals in the Afghan Parliament. She is an outspoken critic of the Karzai administration and its western supporters, particularly the United States.
Her suspension in May 2007 has generated protest internationally and appeals for her reinstatement have been signed by high-profile writers, intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, and politicians including Members of Parliament from Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain. She was called "the bravest woman in Afghanistan" by the BBC.
Mohammed Arkoun: (1928–2010) is an Algerian scholar and thinker, he was considered to have been one of the most influential secular scholars in Islamic studies contributing to contemporary intellectual Islamic reform. In a career of more than 30 years, he had been a critic of the tensions embedded in his field of study, advocating Islamic modernism, secularism, and humanism.
Salima Ghezali: (born 1958) is an Algerian journalist and writer. A founding member of Women in Europe and the Maghreb, president of the association for the advancement of women, editor of the women's magazine NYSSA, which she founded, and editor of the French-language weekly La Nation, Salima Ghezali is an activist of women's rights and human rights and democracy in Algeria.
Raheel Raza: (born 1949) is a Pakistani-Canadian journalist, author, public speaker, media consultant, human rights and anti-racism activist, interfaith discussion leader, and has advocated what she believes is gender equality, especially for Muslim women. She advocate for secularism and separation of church and state. She has been compared to Asra Nomani and Amina Wadud for her controversial views on Islam. She is the author of Their Jihad, Not My Jihad: A Muslim Canadian Woman Speaks Out and How Can You Possibly be an Anti-Terrorist Muslim?. She opposes Islamic extremism, terrorism and all violence in the name of religion, and in the name of Islam in particular. Raza is a board member of and Director of Interfaith Affairs for the Muslim Canadian Congress. She founded and is currently president of Forum for Learning, an interfaith discussion group. It is a non-profit organization. Raza has been a She became the first woman to lead mixed-gender Muslim prayers in Canada, in 2005 and received death threats following the event. She is also against the use of hijab and the burqa.
Irshad Manji (born 1968) is a Muslim Canadian author, educator, and advocate of a reformist interpretation of Islam. She is the founder and director of the Moral Courage Project at Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, a course offering that aims to teach young leaders "to make values-driven decisions for the sake of their integrity -- professional and personal". Manji is a well-known critic of traditional mainstream Islam.
In April 2013, the project's YouTube channel, Moral Courage TV, was launched by Manji and professor/activist Cornel West. West spoke of Manji's work as a "powerful force for good." Manji is also founder and president of Project Ijtihad, a charitable organization that has innovated a 24/7 service to advise people, especially young Muslims, who are struggling with faith. Known as the "Guidance Team", their advice is free of charge and available in multiple languages.
Manji's most recent book, Allah, Liberty and Love was released in June 2011 in the US, Canada and other countries. On Manji's website, the book is described: "Allah, Liberty and Love shows all of us how to reconcile faith and freedom in a world seething with repressive dogmas. Manji’s key teaching is "moral courage," the willingness to speak up when everyone else wants to shut you up. This book is the ultimate guide to becoming a gutsy global citizen.
Manji's previous book, The Trouble with Islam Today (initially published as Trouble with Islam), has been published in more than 30 languages, including Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Malay and Indonesian. She was troubled by how Islam is practised today and by the Arab influence on Islam that took away women's individuality and introduced the concept of group honour. Manji has produced a PBS documentary in the America at a Crossroads series titled "Faith Without Fear", chronicling her attempt to "reconcile her faith in Allah with her love of freedom".
Saad Eddin Ibrahim: Sociologist, is one of Egypt's leading human rights and democracy activists. He is the founder of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies in Cairo, the Arab Organization for Human Rights and the Arab Council of Childhood and Development. He is also a board member of the Arab Democracy Foundation.
Khān Abdul Ghaffār Khān: (1890–1988) nicknamed Bāchā Khān (king of chiefs) or Pāchā Khān, was a Pashtun independence activist against the rule of the British Raj. He was a political and spiritual leader known for his nonviolent opposition, and a lifelong pacifist and devout Muslim. A close friend of Mohandas Gandhi, Bacha Khan was nicknamed the "Frontier Gandhi" in British India. Bacha Khan founded the Khudai Khidmatgar ("Servants of God") movement in 1929, whose success triggered a harsh crackdown by the British Empire against him and his supporters, and they suffered some of the most severe repression of the Indian independence movement. Khan strongly opposed the All-India Muslim League's demand for the partition of India. When the Indian National Congress declared its acceptance of the partition plan without consulting the Khudai Khidmatgar leaders, he felt very sad and told the Congress "you have thrown us to the wolves." After partition, Badshah Khan pledged allegiance to Pakistan and demanded an autonomous "Pashtunistan" administrative unit within the country, but he was frequently arrested by the Pakistani government between 1948 and 1954. In 1956, he was again arrested for his opposition to the One Unit program, under which the government announced to merge the former provinces of West Punjab, Sindh, North-West Frontier Province, Chief Commissioner's Province of Balochistan, and Baluchistan States Union into one single polity of West Pakistan. Badshah Khan also spent much of the 1960s and 1970s either in jail or in exile. Upon his death in 1988 in Peshawar under house arrest, following his will, he was buried at his house in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of mourners attended his funeral, marching through the Khyber Pass from Peshawar to Jalalabad, although it was marred by two bomb explosions killing 15 people. Despite the heavy fighting at the time, both sides of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the communist army and the mujahideen, declared a ceasefire to allow his burial.
Kourosh Zaim: (born May 17, 1939) is an Iranian author, inventor, engineer, translator, and nonviolent political activist. He was born in Kashan, Iran, on May 17, 1939. A vocal advocate of secular democracy and human rights since youth, Kourosh rose to prominence as a political analyst and Secretary to the Leadership Committee of Iran’s National Front party, or Jebhe Melli, Iran's largest pro-democracy political organization. Membership in Jebhe Melli has been illegal since 1981. As of 2017, Kourosh is incarcerated in Iran as a political prisoner. He was last arrested on July 16, 2016 for charges of "undermining the Islamic Republic" and "promoting anti-regime activity", and is currently serving a four-year prison term in Evin Prison, the sixth time he has been imprisoned for his views since Iran's Islamic Revolution.
Shirin Ebadi: (born 21 June 1947) is an Iranian lawyer, a former judge and human rights activist and founder of Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran. On 10 October 2003, Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her significant and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights, especially women's, children's, and refugee rights. She was the first Iranian and the first woman to receive the prize, and thousands greeted her at the airport when she returned from Paris after receiving the news that she had won the prize. The response to the Award in Iran was mixed—enthusiastic supporters greeted her at the airport upon her return, the conservative media underplayed it, and then-Iranian President Mohammad Khatami criticized it as political. In her book Iran Awakening, Ebadi explains her political/religious views on Islam, democracy and gender equality:
In the last 23 years, from the day I was stripped of my judgeship to the years of doing battle in the revolutionary courts of Tehran, I had repeated one refrain: an interpretation of Islam that is in harmony with equality and democracy is an authentic expression of faith. It is not religion that binds women, but the selective dictates of those who wish them cloistered. That belief, along with the conviction that change in Iran must come peacefully and from within, has underpinned my work."
Isa Saharkhiz: (born 1953) is an Iranian journalist, political figure, and former head of the press department at the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Education during former President Khatami's administration. He is also a member of the central council of the Association for the Defense of Press Freedom in Iran. He was arrested in July 2009 during the post-presidential-election crackdown and is currently serving a three-year sentence on charges of "insulting Iran's supreme leader" and "spreading propaganda against the regime." According to his son Saharkhiz completed this three years prison in June 2012 and he is not released yet. Isa Saharkhiz was released on October 3, 2013 two months before the end of his sentence.
Heshmatollah Tabarzadi: (born March 21, 1959) is an Iranian democratic activist. Tabarzadi has been arrested several times on charges related to his political activities, most recently in December 2009. In October 2010, a court sentenced him to nine additional years in jail and 74 lashes, a sentence that was reduced to eight years on appeal. Tabarzadi served as the leader of the banned opposition group, the Democratic Front of Iran. Tabarzadi was viewed by the government as one of the leaders of the student protests of July 9, 1999. He was arrested and spent nine years in Evin Prison, including two in solitary confinement, for his activities as a student leader.
Panahi was quickly recognized as one of the most influential film-makers in Iran. Although his films were often banned in his own country, he continued to receive international acclaim from film theorists and critics and won numerous awards, including the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival for The Mirror (1997), the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for The Circle (2000), and the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival for Offside (2006). His films are known for their humanistic perspective on life in Iran, often focusing on the hardships of children, the impoverished, and women. Hamid Dabashi has written, "Panahi does not do as he is told — in fact he has made a successful career in not doing as he is told." In December 2010 Panahi was sentenced to a six-year jail sentence and a 20-year ban on directing any movies, writing screenplays, giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media, or from leaving the country except for medical treatment or making the Hajj pilgrimage. While awaiting the result of an appeal he made This Is Not a Film (2011), a documentary feature in the form of a video diary in spite of the legal ramifications of his arrest. It was smuggled out of Iran in a flash drive hidden inside a cake and shown at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. In February 2013 the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival showed Closed Curtain (Pardé) by Panahi and Kambuzia Partovi in competition; Panahi won the Silver Bear for Best Script. Panahi's new film Taxi premiered in competition at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2015 and won Golden Bear, the prize awarded for the best film in the festival.
Nasrin Sotoudeh: ( 30 May 1963 ) is a human rights lawyer in Iran. She has represented imprisoned Iranian opposition activists and politicians following the disputed June 2009 Iranian presidential elections as well as prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were minors. Her clients have included journalist Isa Saharkhiz, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, and Heshmat Tabarzadi, the head of the banned opposition group Democratic Front of Iran. Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security and was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. Additionally, she has been barred from practicing law and from leaving the country for 20 years. In mid-September 2011, an appeals court reduced Nasrin Sotoudeh's prison sentence to six years; her ban from working as a lawyer was reduced to ten years.
Omid Memarian: (born 1974~) is an Iranian journalist and blogger. He was a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism in 2005-2006 and was a Rotary Peace Fellow at the Journalism School in 2007-2009, where he received his master's degree. In 2013 he edited Sketches of Iran: A Glimpse from the Front Lines of Human Rights. Since 2007, Memarian has taught training courses for journalists at the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) among other media organizations. Memarian was the editor of Volunteer Actors Quarterly which dealt with civil society issues. On 10 October 2004, Memarian was arrested on the orders of the Tehran Prosecutor's Office's Ninth Chamber. He was detained for posting articles on several reformist newspapers, his blogs and online publications, and was charged with spreading a "dark picture of the country and stoking women's issues." He was detained until mid-December 2004. According to Human Rights Watch, Memarian and other journalists who had been detained were subjected to torture and solitary confinement, but before their release they were coerced into signing a confession letter which stated that they had been detained under good conditions.
Malala Yousafzai: (born 1997) is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. She is known for human rights advocacy, especially education of women in her native Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. Her advocacy has since grown into an international movement. On the afternoon of 9 October 2012, Yousafzai was injured after a Taliban gunman attempted to murder her. Since recovering, Yousafzai became a prominent education activist. Based out of Birmingham, she founded the Malala Fund, a non-profit and in 2013 co-authored I am Malala, an international bestseller. In 2014, she was announced as the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Kailash Satyarthi, for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. Aged 17 at the time, she became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. On 12 July 2015, her 18th birthday, Yousafzai opened a school in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, near the Syrian border, for Syrian refugees. The school, funded by the not-for-profit Malala Fund, offers education and training to girls aged 14 to 18 years. Yousafzai called on world leaders to invest in "books, not bullets".
Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim: (born 1933) is a Sudanese writer, women rights activist and Socialist leader. After she started at Omdurman Girls' Secondary School she began to support women's rights. She created a wall newspaper called Elra'edda, or in English Pioneer girls. Her newspaper focused on women's rights and she also wrote in newspapers at that time again under a pen name. In 1954 Fatima joined the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), and for a short period Fatima became a member of the Central Committee of the SCP (the SCP was the first Sudanese Party which had an internal women's structure, since 1946). In 1956-1957, Fatima became the president of the Women's Union. One of her objectives was for the independence of the union from their affiliation with and domination by the SCP, and she widened the participation of women with difference backgrounds. In 1965 Fatima was elected to parliament, becoming the first Sudanese women deputy. In 1990 Fatima left Sudan after the Omar Hassan al-Bashir military coup, and joined the opposition in exile as the President of the banned Sudanese Women's Union. In 1991 Fatima was elected President of the Women's International Democratic Federation. She returned to Sudan in 2005 after a reconciliation between the government and opposition, and was appointed as a deputy in the parliament representing the SCP. Her brother is also a writer and involved in politics Salah Ahmed Ibrahim, She retired from political leadership in 2011.
Salah Ahmed Ibrahim: (1933-1993) was a Sudanese writer, poet and diplomat. Salah Ibrahim was described in 1963 as the most important Sudanese poet of his generation, and that: "in his poetry there is all the yearning, all the frustration of his generation. He writes his poetry with miraculous ease and beauty.". Ibrahim was also noted for his socialist realist fiction, of which he was a notable proponent.
Ali Farzat: (born 22 June 1951) is a Syrian political cartoonist. He has published more than 15,000 caricatures between Syrian, Arab and international newspapers. He serves as the head of the Arab Cartoonists' Association. In 2011 he received Sakharov Prize for peace. Farzat was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2012. Farzat's drawings criticized bureaucracy, corruption and hypocrisy within the government and the wealthy elite. His drawings, typically without captions, are noted for their scathing criticism and for depicting types rather than individuals. Through his cutting caricatures he gained the respect of many Arabs while drawing the ire of their governments. However, since the uprising in Syria began Farzat has been more direct in his caricatures, depicting actual figures including the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.
Bassma Kodmani: (born 29 April 1958) is a Syrian Muslim academic and former spokesperson of the Syrian National Council. She is the Executive Director of the Arab Reform Initiative, a network of independent Arab research and policy institutes working to promote democracy in the Arab world. She is affiliated to the National Bloc. Until 2011, she was the senior advisor to the director of the academic program at the Académie Diplomatique Internationale.
Naziha Réjiba: is a Tunisian journalist. In 2000, Réjiba co-founded Kalima, along with Sihem Bensedrine. In 2001, Réjiba and Bensedrine founded Observatoire de la Liberté de la Presse, de L'Edition et de la Création (OLPEC), a group that promotes freedom of the press and which was banned in Tunisia. In 2009, Réjiba won an International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Sadiq Aman Khan is a Muslim British politician and the current Mayor of London since 2016. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tooting from 2005 to 2016. A member of the Labour Party, he is situated on the party's soft left and has been ideologically characterised as a social democrat and social liberal, and Khan has self-described as a "proud feminist".
While fasting for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in 2016, Khan declared that he would use the period as an opportunity to help "break down the mystique and suspicion" surrounding Islam in Britain and help to "get out there and build bridges" between communities, organising iftars to be held at synagogues, churches, and mosques. He then appeared at a Trafalgar Square celebration of Eid al-Fitr, endorsing religious freedom and lambasting "criminals who do bad things and use the name of Islam to justify what they do". Following the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, Khan attended a vigil in Old Compton Street, Soho, and insisted that he would "will do everything in [his] power to ensure that LGBT Londoners feel safe in every part of our city"; later that month he marched in the LGBT Pride London parade. Khan has stated that he received death threats for voting in favour of the same-sex marriage equality bill. There was a fatwa put out against him, in which an Imam declared him to be no longer a Muslim; he had been given police advice on protection.
Ramziya al-Iryani: (1954 – November 14, 2013) was a pioneering Yemeni novelist, writer, diplomat and feminist. She was also the niece of the former president Abdul Rahman al-Iryani. She was head of the Yemeni Women's Union (YWU) and was a board member of the Arab Family Organization. In her political work, she was a tireless supporter of feminism in Yemen and encouraged women to run for political office.
Al-Iryani's writing addresses gender issues in a predominantly patriarchal, Islamic society. She also writes about the importance of education for women in an Arab society. Other themes in her work include Yemeni political struggles of the day. Al-Iryani started publishing when still in her teens. Her novel Ḍaḥīyat al-Jashaʿ (The Victim of Greed), published in 1970, is considered to be the first novel by a Yemeni woman. Her first book of short stories La'allahu ya'ud (Maybe He'll Return) was published from Damascus in 1981. Since then, she wrote several more volumes of fiction as well as several children's books. She had also written a book on Yemeni women pioneers called Raidat Yemeniyat (1990). Al-Iryani's short stories have appeared in English translation in an anthology of Arab women writers.
Amat Al Alim Alsoswa: (August 27, 1958) is a Yemeni journalist and politician for the Yemeni Socialist Party. She served as the Assistant Secretary-General, then Assistant Administrator and finally Director of UNDP's Regional Bureau for Arab States. Between 1984 and 1986, she worked as Deputy TV Programs Director at Sana’a TV, where she held the most senior position as a woman in Yemeni television. Later, she became the Chief Editor of Mutaba'at I'elamiah Journal. From 1989 to 1991, Alsoswa led the Yemeni Women's Union before Yemeni unification. She was Undersecretary at Yemen's Ministry of Information and Chairperson of the National Women's Committee - the first woman Undersecretary in the Ministry of Information. In May 2003, Alsoswa was appointed the Minister of Human rights in Yemen, the second female Minister of Human Rights in Yemen's history after Waheeba Ghalib Faree al-fakih was Appointed the first minister in the country history. During her tenure, she established and oversaw Yemen's Human Rights Ministry, initiated the country's second national human rights report, and established a public human rights resource center. In 2006, she became the Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator for the Regional Bureau for Arab States of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Alsoswa has written and spoken on women's rights and democracy. She has been an activist for Human Rights in general and freedom of expression in particular. Alsoswa asserts that in order for women to fight against discrimination in Arab countries, older traditions of interpretations of Islamic texts which were once more favorable to women must be revived, girls need equal access to education and recognizing women's contributions to the family and society as important and valuable are necessary for change. She also stresses that "even against immense odds, women remain catalysts for reform in Arab countries."
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