Iran Stalls Shourd Release; DRC Rape Rampage Hits 500

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Cheers

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Sarah Shourd, an American hiker and Women’s eNews contributor, is expected to be released soon in Iran after 14 months of captivity.

"I would like to confirm that Iran will be releasing Sarah Shourd (an American hiker) very soon," said Bak Sahraei, spokesperson at Iran’s mission to the U.N., in an e-mail message to reporters on the afternoon of Sept. 9.

Iran’s Culture Ministry told reporters via text message that the release of one of the detained Americans will be at 9 a.m. on Sept. 11 at the Estaghlal hotel to mark the end of Ramadan, the Associated Press reported Sept. 9. However, the BBC reported late Sept. 10 that the release was delayed for legal procedures to be completed and that it needed to be approved by the judiciary.

U.S. State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner told Reuters, however, that the United States had not yet been informed of Shourd’s release. "We don’t know, frankly, what Iran is contemplating at this point," said Toner.

Shroud and two companions, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, were arrested by Iranian authorities after Iran says they strayed into Iranian territory. Other reports indicate that the three were still on the Iraqi side of the border when they were detained in July 2009. There was no word about Fattal or Bauer’s fate.

The mothers of the three hikers, Cindy Hickey, Nora Shourd and Laura Fattal, issued the following statement upon release of the news: "We have seen the news reports and are urgently seeking further information. We hope and pray that the reports are true and that this signals the end of all three of our children’s long and difficult detention. Shane, Sarah and Josh are all innocent and we continue to call for their immediate release, so that they can return home together and be reunited with our families."

Shourd has medical problems, according to her mother, including precancerous cervical cells and a breast lump. She has been kept in solitary confinement in Evin prison, the New York Times reported Sept. 10.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, which bans openly gay and bisexual people from serving in the military, is unconstitutional, ruled Judge Virginia A. Phillips of Federal District Court in California, reported the New York Times Sept. 10. The judge ruled the Fifth and First Amendments of the Constitution were compromised under this law. Although those rights are diminished in the military, the judge wrote, the restrictions in the act still fail the constitutional test of being "reasonably necessary" to protect a "substantial government interest." President Barack Obama has been pushing for a repeal of the policy. A bill that would overturn the measure after a Pentagon review is completed in December is currently before Congress, reported CNN Sept. 10.
  • Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter appointed Deputy Attorney General Monica Marie Marquez to the Colorado Supreme Court Sept. 8. Marquez is the first Latina to be appointed to the state’s Supreme Court and possibly the first lesbian, reported the Pueblo Chieftain Sept 9. Ritter acknowledged the historic magnitude of the occasion, but stated she was not appointed because she is a minority. Instead, Ritter cited her "keen intellect," perspective on life and compassion.
  • Johnson and Johnson has pledged grant money, drugs and research funding for new HIV and tuberculosis medications as part of a five-year, private sector effort to improve the health of up to 120 million women and children in developing nations each year, reported Reuters Sept. 9. The announcement supports the United Nations’ call this year for a renewed push to meet the Millennium Development Goal of preventing premature deaths in women and children by 2015. The company will donate about $200 million in cash and medicine to the program, called "Every Mother, Every Child," reported the Associated Press Sept. 9.
  • A congressional committee will hold a hearing Sept. 14 to examine failure of police departments nationwide to fully investigate rapes, reported The Baltimore Sun Sept. 7. The Sun reported in July that Baltimore led the nation in the percentage of rape cases in which the police concluded that the victim was lying, with more than three in 10 cases determined to be "unfounded." Other cities have also seen high percentages of uninvestigated or dropped rape cases, the article reported.
  • Seven women in Mexico serving prison terms of up to 29 years for the death of their newborns were freed Sept. 7 after a legal reform enacted in the state of Guanajuato lowered their sentences, reported the Associated Press. The women claim they suffered miscarriages and did nothing to harm their unborn children. State prosecutors maintained that the women’s trials were fair, that their babies were born alive but died because of mistreatment or lack of care, a crime defined under state law "homicide against a relative." The women were not absolved, but rather released under a legal reform passed after the state government concluded that their sentences "were inappropriate, given that they were excessively punitive and ranged from 25 to 35 years." The reform reduced the sentences to 3 to 8 years, the time already served by the women, the article reported.
  • Plans to add a statue of groundbreaking aviator Amelia Earhart, who hailed from Kansas, to the collection displayed at the United States Capitol, have become public, reported Ms. Magazine Sept. 2. Earhart will be the 10th woman to be featured in statuary hall, where each state is allotted space for two of its citizens to be honored.

 


 

Jeers

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The United Nations on Sept. 7 reported more than 500 systematic rapes were committed by armed combatants in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since late July, more than double the number previously reported, the Canadian Press reported. U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Atul Khare told the U.N. Security Council that in addition to the 242 rapes in and around the village of Luvungi that were reported earlier this month, more than 260 other rapes and sexual attacks took place in Uvira and other regions of North and South Kivu. He said that U.N. troops failed the female and child victims of mass rape attacks, reported Agence France-Presse Sept. 7.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent Khare to the Democratic Republic of Congo to investigate why U.N. peacekeepers didn’t learn about the mass rapes in the Luvungi area from July 30 to Aug. 4 until Aug. 12. Luvungi, a village of about 2,200 people, is a half-hour drive from a U.N. peacekeepers’ camp, the Canadian Press article reported.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • One of four men accused of kidnapping and burning a California woman to death over a pound of pot has been found guilty of murder, reported the Associated Press Sept. 9. Prosecutors say in October 2007, Luis Alberto Valencia and three other men bound, gagged and set Rosa Avina ablaze in an abandoned boat over $750 worth of drugs. Avina walked nearly a mile before collapsing. She died in a burn unit in San Jose.
  • A survey shows that the majority of U.S. women may be ill prepared for retirement, lacking the financial know-how needed for a secure future, reported Newsweek. Released Sept. 7 by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, the survey of nearly 1,800 American women workers found that half of respondents say they are not confident in their ability to retire comfortably. Only 6 percent of respondents in the report, entitled "Helping Women Become Golden Girls," said they are "very confident" in their ability to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle. A "lack of knowledge of savings and investing fundamentals" is cited in the report as underscoring the need for improved guidance and education.

Noted:

  • Amnesty International activists will be staging protests around the world against the failure of world leaders to help the poor, the organization said in a Sept. 10 press release. The group will send a delegation to the U.N.’s Millennium Summit in New York, which takes place Sept. 20-22, to call on governments to commit to upholding the human rights of the world’s poorest people and to work towards the goals of the summit. A flagship event in New York’s Times Square on Sept. 20 will feature a Maternal Death Clock, a giant digital clock that counts maternal deaths around the globe while world leaders are meeting, the release reported.
  • Marcus Huffman, a suspended Providence police officer, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for raping a woman in a police substation, reported the Associated Press Sept. 9. Huffman was convicted of first-degree sexual assault for the March 2007 rape of a woman he picked up outside of a Providence nightclub while on duty. When the woman made it home after the alleged assault and called 911, Huffman was among the officers who responded. Huffman and his lawyer have maintained that no rape occurred and that the sex was consensual. However, the woman testified at the trial that she is a lesbian, is not physically attracted to men and never consented to sex with Huffman.
  • An Iranian official has confirmed that the government halted the sentence of death by stoning of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman convicted of adultery, reported the New York Times Sept. 9. The sentence provoked an international outcry and intensified criticism of Iran’s human rights record. The official, Ramin Mehmanparast, a spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, reiterated that she is still facing accusations of murder. Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006. Murder charges emerged publicly only weeks ago, as Iranian officials responding to criticism from human rights groups and foreign leaders sought to tilt focus away from the adultery charges and portray Ashtiani as a killer, the article reported.
  • Three women testified this week in the case brought by 16 women, seeking damages from the Namibian government of 1.2 million Namibian dollars (165,000 U.S. dollars) for allegedly sterilizing them without their consent because they are HIV-positive, reported Agence France-Presse Sept. 9. The women said the procedure violated their right to life, to privacy and to freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. More than 40 women have suffered a similar experience, with their cases recorded and presented to the Health Ministry in August 2008 by legal aid groups and a women’s AIDS organization. The lawsuit is the first case of its kind in Africa and testimony is expected to conclude Sept. 10.
  • Craigslist put a black "censored" label over the "adult services" section on their site over Labor Day weekend after about 20 state attorneys general demanded that the online-classifieds site shut down the section. But Craigslist watchers — both supporters and critics — say ads for prostitution will simply migrate to other sites or other parts of Craigslist, reported The Wall Street Journal Sept. 7. The article examines whether Craiglist’s actions will help or hurt efforts to combat prostitution and sex trafficking. Sociologist and Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd says the move actually helps pimps and traffickers by driving the business further underground.
  • The Center for Reproductive Rights’ Aug. 31 report on the approximately 600 bills proposed this year to restrict abortion access stirred media attention this week. While such policy proposals impact all women, ColorLines finds they fall especially hard on those who are poor, of color or immigrants. "We may be past the era of cruel reproductive social engineering," writes Michelle Chen," but we may see something more sinister now emerging in its place: an era of political dehumanization of women of color, which is poised to legislate away their power to determine when and how they will raise the next generation of their communities."
  • The wife and daughter of Iranian human rights lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, both arrived in Norway Sept. 2, where the family is seeking asylum, reported Ms. Magazine. Mostafaei sought asylum in Norway in August after he fled a warrant for his arrest. After he disappeared, Mostafaei’s wife, Fereshteh Halimi, her father, and brother were arrested and imprisoned in Iran’s Evin prison. Prior to fleeing the country, Mostafaei was defending Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani, an Iranian woman who was convicted of adultery and originally sentenced to stoning.
  • Charlotte

    An update on Sarah Shourd from the BBC – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11268820

    Tehran’s prosecutor general said Sarah Shourd, one of three detained Americans, would not be freed because legal procedures were not complete.

    Officials had previously said the 31-year-old would be freed on Saturday.