MENA: 'Manifesto for a Secular Middle East and North Africa'



76 secularists and human rights campaigners, including Mina Ahadi, Nawal El Sadaawi, Marieme Helie Lucas, Hameeda Hussein, Ayesha Imam, Maryam Jamil, Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasrin, Farida Shaheed, Fatou Sow, and Stasa Zajovic have signed on to a Manifesto for a Free and Secular Middle East and North Africa.

In light of the recent pronouncements of the unelected Libyan Transitional Council for ‘Sharia laws’, the signatories of the manifesto vehemently oppose the hijacking of the protests by Islamism or US-led militarism and unequivocally support the call for freedom and secularism made by citizens and particularly women in the region.

Secularism is a minimum precondition for a free and secular Middle East and for the recognition of women’s rights and equality.


Manifesto for a Secular Middle East and North Africa

The 2009 protests in Iran followed by the Arab Spring have the potential to herald a new dawn for the people of the region and the world. The protests have clearly shown that people in the region, like people everywhere, want to live 21st century lives.

We, the undersigned, emphasise their modern and human dimension and wholeheartedly welcome this immense and historical development. We are vehemently opposed to their hijacking by Islamism or US-led militarism and support the call for a free and secular Middle East and North Africa made by citizens and particularly women in the region.

Secularism is a minimum precondition for the freedom and equality of all citizens and includes:

 1. Complete separation of religion from the state. 
 2. Abolition of religious laws in the family, civil and criminal codes. 
 3. Separation of religion from the educational system. 
 4. Freedom of religion and atheism as private beliefs. 
 5. Prohibition of sex apartheid and compulsory veiling.


 1. Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson, International Committees against Stoning and Execution, Iran/Germany 
 2. Marieme Helie Lucas, Sociologist, Founder and former international coordinator of Women Living Under Muslim Laws and founder of Secularism Is A Women’s Issue, Algeria/France 
 3. Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Iran/UK 
 4. Shahla Abghari, University Professor, Iran/USA 
 5. Siavash Abghari, Esmail Khoi Foundation, Iran/USA 
 6. Ahlam Akram, Palestinian Peace and Human Rights Writer and Campaigner, Palestine/UK 
 7. Sargul Ahmad, Women’s Liberation in Iraq, Iraq/Canada 
 8. Mahin Alipour, Coordinator, Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Iran/Sweden 
 9. Reza Alkrami, Human Rights Activist, Iran/USA 
 10. Farideh Arman, Coordinator, Committee to Defend Women’s Rights, Iran/Sweden 
 11. Sultana Begum, Regional Gender Adviser, Diakonia Asia, Bangladesh 
 12. Djemila Benhabib, Writer, Algeria/Canada 
 13. Codou Bop, Journalist and Director of GREFELS, Dakar, Senegal 
 14. Ariane Brunet, co-founder Urgent Action Fund, Québec, Canada 
 15. Micheline Carrier, Sisyphe, Québec, Canada 
 16. Patty Debonitas, Iran Solidarity, UK 
 17. Denise Deliège Femmes En Noir, Belgium 
 18. Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Sweden 
 19. Fanny Filosof, Femmes en Noir, Belgium 
 20. Mersedeh Ghaedi, New Channel TV Programme host, Iran/Norway 
 21. Groupe de recherche sur les femmes et les lois, Dakar, Senegal 
 22. Laura Guidetti, Marea Feminist Magazine, Italy 
 23. Zeinabou Hadari, Centre Reines Daura, Niger 
 24. Anissa Hélie, Historian, Algeria/France/USA 
 25. Rohini Henssman, Human Rights Activist, India 
 26. Hameeda Hossein, Chairperson Ain o Salish Kendra, Dhaka, Bangladesh 
 27. Khayal Ibrahim, Women’s Liberation in Iraq, Iraq/Canada 
 28. Leo Igwe, Founder, Nigerian Humanist Movement, Nigeria 
 29. Ayesha Imam, Women’s Human Rights and Democracy Activist, Nigeria/Senegal 
 30. International Campaign in Defence of Women’s Rights in Iran, Sweden 
 31. International Committee against Execution, Germany 
 32. International Committee against Stoning, Germany 
 33. Iran Solidarity, Iran/UK 
 34. Maryam Jamil, Women’s Liberation in Iraq, Iraq 
 35. Sultana Kamal, Executive Director, Ain o Salish Kendra and Chairperson Transparency International, Bangladesh 
 36. Abbas Kamil, Unity Against Unemployment in Iraq, Baghdad, Iraq 
 37. Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizens Web, India 
 38. Akbar Karimian, Human Rights Activist, Iran/UK 
 39. Cherifa Kheddar, President of Djazairouna, Algeria 
 40. Monica Lanfranco, Marea Feminist Magazine, Italy 
 41. Houzan Mahmoud, Representative of Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Iraq/UK 
 42. Nahla Elgaali Mahmoud, Biologist, Sudan/UK 
 43. Anwar Mir Sattari, Human rights Activist, Iran/Belgium 
 44. Amena Mohsin, Professor, Dept. International Relations Dhaka University, Bangladesh 
 45. Khawar Mumtaz, Director Shirkat Gah, Lahore, Pakistan 
 46. Taslima Nasrin, Writer and Activist, Bangladesh 
 47. U. M. Habibun Nessa, President, Naripokkho, Bangladesh 
 48. Partow Nooriala, Poet, Writer and Human Rights Activist, Iran/USA 
 49. Asghar Nosrati, Human Rights Activist, Iran/Sweden 
 50. One Law for All, UK 
 51. Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters, UK 
 52. Fariborz Pooya, Iranian Secular Society, Iran/UK 
 53. Protagora, Zagreb, Croatia 
 54. Hassan Radwan, Activist, Egypt/UK 
 55. Mary Jane Real, Women’s Human Rights Coalition, Manila, The Philippines 
 56. Edith Rubinstein, Femmes en Noir, Belgium 
 57. Nawal El Sadaawi, Writer, Egypt 
 58. Fahimeh Sadeghi, Coordinator, International Federation of Iranian Refugees, Iran/Canada 
 59. Gita Sahgal, Director, Centre for Secular Space, UK 
 60. Nina Sankari, Secularist and Feminist, Poland 
 61. Secularism Is A Women’s Issue (International Network) 
 62. Aisha Lee Shaheed, London, UK 
 63. Farida Shaheed, Shirkat Gah, Lahore, Pakistan 
 64. Siba Shakib, Filmmaker, Writer and Activist, Iran/USA 
 65. Sohaila Sharifi, Women’s Rights Campaigner, Iran/UK 
 66. Issam Shukri, Head, Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq, Iraq/Canada 
 67. Southall Black Sisters, UK 
 68. Fatou Sow, Sociologist CNRS, Dakar, Senegal 
 69. Afsaneh Vahdat, Coordinator, International Campaign for Women’s Rights in Iran, Iran/Sweden 
 70. Lino Veljak, Professor of Philosophy, Zagreb University, Croatia 
 71. Fauzia Viqar, Director Advocacy and Communications, Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre, Lahore, Pakistan 
 72. Anne Marie Waters, One Law for All, UK 
 73. Vivienne Wee, anthropologist, feminist and human rights activist, Singapore and Hong Kong, China 
 74. Women In Black, Belgrade, Serbia 
 75. Sara Zaker, Theatre Director, Bangladesh 
 76. Stasa Zajovic, spokesperson Women in Black, Belgrade, Serbia