The Hague [Netherlands], July 13 (ANI): Noting the fact that women continue to live in horrendous situations in many countries, Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD), an NGO on July 7, held the second edition of its Human Rights Film Festival in The Hague with a focus on women’s rights, Marco Respinti wrote in his piece in Bitter Winter.
The second annual Global Human Rights Defence’s Human Rights Film Festival also presented the sufferings of Tajik, Yazidi, Ahmadi, Pakistani, Uyghur, and other women, including that in China and Pakistan.
One of the major picks of the festival, ‘Farangis’ a documentary by Tajik director Lolisanam Ulugova, which discussed the true story of a dancer, Farangis Kasimova, 25, prima ballerina at the State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre of Tajikistan Sadriddin Ayni.
In the story, she tries to overcome the prejudices of the society, which considers as morally corrupted women who pursue her profession. The movie also addresses a key point, both philosophical and practical: the tension between social customs framed by religion and personal freedom.
Farangis faces her problems in a country, Tajikistan, that is more than 97 per cent Islamic, but the reflections that the movie prompts apply to any society where traditional values are (still) strong, Bitter Winter reported.
However, with intelligence and even delicacy, Ulugova avoids blaming traditional cultures per se, but at the same time does not refrain from advocating individual rights. Of course, the movie cannot propose an easy solution—for the simple fact that these dilemmas have no easy solutions. All solutions must in fact be prudential, because intellectualizing on these subjects can do more harm than good. Nonetheless, the documentary makes an unquestionable point in affirming that, while preserving traditions is a worthy endeavor, one should always discriminate between what really deserves to be conserved and what can instead go.
This also reminds the Western public of Irish philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke (1729–1797), who based his traditionalist philosophy on the idea that attitudes that have proven wrong must be abandoned for the sake of what is truly worthy. So, he argued, to avoid revolutions and search for a decent society, changes and reforms are as vital as conservationist instincts.
Burke played on the very nature of tradition, which, as its Latin etymology makes clear, means transmitting values from one generation to another, not latching on customs that have become empty shells. ‘Farangis’ may serve as an apt reminder of this, Bitter Winter reported.
A different scenario was depicted by ‘Yazid Girls: Prisoners of ISIS’, a 2016 production by Reber Dosky, a Kurdish filmmaker residing in the Netherlands since 1988.
The movie paved the way to Dosky’s new and longer documentary, “Daughters from the Sun,” which premiered in The Hague on March 25 this year. Cemila, Ilham, and Perwin, at that time 15, 17 and 18 respectively, were among the women saved by Kurdish Peshmergas in early 2016 after the self-styled Islamic State (IS or ISIS) had militarily occupied the province of Sinjar, in Iraqi Kurdistan, in August 2014, Bitter Winter reported.
That region was inhabited by Yazidis (also spelled Yezidis). They are members of a religious community that, alongside Christians and Shiite Turkmens living in the area, is regarded by ISIS as composed of infidels to be savagely tortured and brutally killed.
Notably, ISIS abducted more than 6,000 people and put them to work as slaves. It reserved for the women the infamous condition of sex slaves. In the short movie, Cemila, Ilham, and Perwin tell their stories on camera for the first time, detailing the horrors that Yazidi girls and women of any age and condition suffered until liberation came. ISIS’ actions have been labelled as genocide. A film like Dosky’s effectively underlines that, even if strongly reduced in numbers and strength, ISIS still performs its evils where it is still in control, Bitter Winter reported.
Another important point in the issue of female sufferance is described in ‘Section 298’ by directors James Dann, English, and Mahshad Afshar, Iranian.
The title of the movie refers to the section of the Pakistani Criminal Code that forbids Ahmadi Muslims even to call themselves Muslims, since many non-Ahmadi Muslims consider them heretics.
The snippet of ‘Section 298’ presented in The Hague (the complete final form of the movie is due later in 2023) was enough to illustrate the constant climate of threat and intimidation that Ahmadis suffer in Pakistan. Not only many Sunni mullahs and activists criticize their theology, but the state itself acts as the religious referee while at the same time it is one of the two teams on the playing field—the strongest, Bitter Winter reported.
It has come to the fore multiple times, that the intolerance against Ahmadis in Pakistan is a story of continuous aggressions, attacks, violences, desecrations, and killings. Dann and Afshar’s original approach is to tell this sad and known story through the eyes of women, those who suffer the situation with a double layer of depth.
As Ahmadis, they suffer the fate all “infidels” must suffer in an Islamist state/society that makes discrimination (religious and other) its rule. As women, they suffer the fate all women must suffer in an Islamist state/society that considers women second-class citizens. Being Ahmadis and women in Pakistanis is the worst possible combination, Bitter Winter reported.
Another notable snippet was presented by Jurgen Schaflechner, research group leader at the Department for Social and Cultural Anthropology in the Freie Universität Berlin, of his 2016 “Thrust into Heaven,” which shines a light on the tragedy of forced conversions in Pakistan
With the eye of the scholar combined with that of the filmmaker, Schaflechner set his camera on the situation of young girls, mainly Hindu and Christian, who are forcibly converted to Islam to justify their equally forced marriage to older Muslim men. Many incidents depicted in the movie show the reality of what some Islamist clerics instead describe as a happy and free choice to change religion. The faces and the eyes of young girls obliged to recite a false story of voluntary conversion on camera tell a totally different story, Bitter Winter reported.
Although, forced conversions hit men and women as well, but young girls are the most common target. Many of them seem to know nothing of Islam, even after some time has elapsed since their “conversion,” just a few sentences in Arabic, learned mechanically by heart. Others confess, to the bewildered face of Muslim local authorities collecting their testimony, that they do not even pray, thus violating one of the pillars of Islam, simply because they do not know how to pray according to the ways of their new faith.
Schaflechner’s camera even catches some converts receiving money from Islamic local authorities. While converts testify that they never receive money in payment of their change of faith, banknotes seem to be passed onto them as a reward for their conversion, Bitter Winter reported.
During the concluding roundtable that followed the screening of the films, Rubina Greenwood, Chairwoman of the World Sindhi Congress, criticized Schaflechner’s movie, denouncing the situation as far worse than depicted.
Other panelists also added important comments and evaluations on the general topic of the Festival: Manel Msalmi, International Affairs Advisor at the European Parliament; Yulia Koval-Molodtsova, responsible for Programme Development and Public Affairs at AFEW International; Herma Kluin, private detective and winner of the Women of the Year award; journalist María Luz Nóchez of Shelter City Program of Justice and Peace; and Zumretay Arkin, Program and Advocacy Manager of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC). Dolkun Isa, President of the WUC and special guest at the event, took the floor to introduce Kalbinur (also spelled Qelbinur) Sidik, Bitter Winter reported.
An Uzbek survivor of one of the “re-education” camps that the Chinese Communist Party maintains in Xinjiang (which its non-Han inhabitants call East Turkestan) for Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities (most of which are Muslim), she was forcibly sterilized and witnessed the same humiliating persecution and the atrocities perpetrated against dozens of other women.
GHRD announced that its third Annual Film Festival, scheduled to take place in The Hague in mid-June 2024, will focus on human rights and children
According to Marco Respinti, another notable mention from the festival was GHRD’s own new documentary “What Happened? The Liberation of Bangladesh”—an original production for the June 30 festival. (ANI)
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