Activist Travels to Canada to Highlight Plight of Women Living Under Sharia Criminal Laws in Nigeria

Ayesha Imam, winner of the John Humphrey Freedom Award, will tour Canadian cities – December 2-11, 2002

MONTREAL, 28 November, 2002 – A Nigerian women’s rights activist will travel to Canada in December to receive Rights & Democracy’s annual human rights prize, in recognition of her work against the restrictive and discriminatory application of the new Sharia Criminal laws in her country.

Ms. Imam, founding director of BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights in Nigeria, was selected last July by an international jury for her work in defending the human rights of Nigerian women.

As world attention is turned on the plight of Amina Lawal, the Nigerian woman sentenced to death by stoning under Sharia for having a child out of wedlock, the honouring of Ayesha Imam and her work is timely. She has worked with the international coalition Women Living Under Muslim Laws and BAOBAB to appeal the cruel sentence against Ms. Lawal, who is to be executed when her baby is weaned.

BAOBAB and Ms. Imam have also brought international attention to the discriminatory application of Sharia in the cases of Bariya Ibrahim Magazu, sentenced to flogging for having a baby out of wedlock, Hafsatu Abubakar and Safiya Hussein, both sentenced to death by stoning for allegedly committing adultery. In the case of Ms. Abubakar, the conviction was overturned and the death sentence against Ms. Hussein was commuted by the court on a technicality.

“Ayesha Imam has not only drawn the world’s attention to the manipulation of the Sharia by certain leaders for political gain, and their use to subjugate women,” said Jean-Louis Roy, President of Rights & Democracy. “She has also, through her scholarly work, shown how the Qu’ran in fact promotes women’s rights and peace, and that the use of the sacred text to repress and maim women contradicts Islamic values.”

Rights & Democracy also hopes that Ms. Imam’s public speaking engagements in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa will raise her international profile, thus providing a certain degree of protection for this courageous frontline human rights defender, whose life has been threatened on numerous occasions.

Ms. Imam will be award the 2002 John Humphrey Freedom Award at a ceremony in Montreal on Dec. 9, on the eve of International Human Rights Day. Last year’s laureate of the $25,000 prize and speaking tour was the former Minister for Women’s Affairs in the Interim Afghan government, Dr. Sima Samar, who founded Shuhada, a network of schools and clinics for women and children in Afghanistan and in refugee camps in Pakistan.

On December 10, Ms. Imam will join women from Iran and Afghanistan in a round table discussion on the role of international solidarity networks in the protection of rights of women living under Muslim laws. The round table is open to the media and will be held at Rights & Democracy’s offices, 1001 bd Maisonneuve East, Suite 1100, Montreal (Berri metro).

Ms. Imam will be available for interviews as she travels to Toronto from Dec. 2 to 4, to Montreal from Dec. 8 to 10 and to Ottawa on Dec. 11. In each city she will have public speaking engagements and meet members of the Nigerian community and human rights and women’s rights activists. She will hold a news conference on Monday, Dec. 9, at 10:30 am, at Rights & Democracy’s offices in Montreal.