Woman watch: A job for women, part II

Amity Shlaes updates the appeal of Sufiyatu Huseini, a Nigerian mother sentenced to death by stoning and questions the wider ramifications of religious extremism.

Word is that a decision on the appeal of Sufiyatu Huseini has been put back a week, to Monday March 25. Readers will recall that Ms Huseini is the Nigerian mother sentenced to death by stoning in the nation's courts. Her alleged crime is adultery, punishable by death under extreme versions of Sharia Law. Since the government of Olusegun Obansanjo seems at least somewhat susceptible to pressure, this case continues to be worth pushing. A BBC dispatch reports that four judges in Sokoto Court will decide her fate.

Meanwhile though, Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org) emailed us with another example in which female lives were apparently endangered, and perhaps sacrificed, in the name of religious extremism.

In Mecca, a fire at an intermediate school on March 11 claimed the lives of 14 girls. Eyewitnesses which included lawyers, reported to Human Rights Watch that the local Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice had blocked efforts to save the girls because the imperiled students were not wearing the appropriate black cloaks and head coverings.

The newspaper, Jedda, quoted a report, which said that virtue police had stood at the school's gate and "intentionally obstructed the efforts to evacuate the girls. This resulted in an increased number of casualties."

Whether or not this horrifying story proves true, it is interesting to question what the US would do in any future such instances. The problem of extremism is not confined to US enemies, but also plagues, and is to some degree supported by, the governments of US allies. This is the bloody backlash from US support of Afghanistan's Mujahedeen and other such allies during the Cold War.

One thing the US can do is pressure nations to abide by international treaties. Saudi Arabia, as Hanny Megally of Human Rights Watch notes, is party to both the United Nation (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

© Copyright 2002 Financial Times

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