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Nari Diganta and hundreds of women’s rights campaigners call for a Ban of Sharia Courts

Fresh Campaign Against Religious Law and Parallel Legal Systems in Britain

Women’s rights and secular organisations urge the new government to take concerted measures to stop the development of parallel legal systems and to facilitate full and proper access to justice for all citizens and to one secular law for all.

For decades, successive governments have appeased undemocratic religious power brokers in minority communities who have sought to gain power through multicultural and now multi-faith social policies. These policies have led to the homogenisation of minority communities including the ‘Muslim community’ and have recognised and legitimated ‘non-violent’ Islamists as ‘community representatives’, outsourcing legal justice to what are in effect kangaroo courts that deliver highly discriminatory and second-rate forms of ‘justice.’ Over the years, we have witnessed with increasing alarm the influence of ‘Sharia courts’ over the lives of citizens of Muslim heritage.

Any government inquiry into ‘Sharia courts’ must also examine the impact of the draconian cuts in legal aid that have adversely affected access to justice for the most vulnerable. Many abused women from minority backgrounds, for instance, are increasingly forced to either represent themselves in court in what are often complex family legal proceedings or go to ‘Sharia courts’ that operate entirely outside the rule of law. The loss of legal aid contributes to a context that is conducive to the consolidation of privatised and unaccountable forms of justice and ‘Sharia courts’ are amongst the main beneficiaries.

Though the ‘Sharia courts’ have been touted as people’s right to religion, they are in fact, effective tools of the far-Right Islamist movement whose main aim is to restrict and deny rights, particularly those of women and children. ‘Sharia’ laws are highly contested and challenged in many countries, including in Muslim-majority countries across the globe – from Iran to Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Pakistan. Those of us in Britain who oppose ‘Sharia courts’ and all other religious forms of arbitration over family matters, are part of the same movement that challenge the religious-Right and defend the principle of one law for all underpinned by the notions of universalism, human rights, secularism and equality.

Opposing ‘Sharia courts’ is not racism or ‘Islamophobic’; it is a defence of the rights of all citizens, irrespective of their beliefs and background to be governed by democratic means under the principle of one law for all. What amounts to racism is the idea that minorities can be denied rights enjoyed by others through the endorsement of religious based ‘justice’ systems which operate according to divine law that is by its very nature immune from state scrutiny.

We have seen recent victories against the accommodation of ‘Sharia’ codes within law and policy in the UK. Using equalities and human rights legislation, we have successfully challenged both the Universities UK for issuing guidance that condones gender segregation in universities and the Law Society for endorsing discriminatory ‘Sharia’ codes in the area of inheritance. As well as challenging draconian state measures that criminalise whole communities and aid and abet xenophobia, anti-Muslim bigotry and racism, it is vital that we also push back the Islamist narrative and challenge ‘Sharia courts’ since they clearly represent yet another assault on our civil liberties.

We also urge the government to withdraw from its intention to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. Such a move will represent a break from what was the most important social contract to have emerged between European States and citizens, following the Second World War. The agreement to sign up to a simple set of standards that uphold human decency and universal values led to the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to standards that protect and uphold the rights of all people in the face of state and non-state abuses of power. Now more than ever, we need the Human Rights Act to challenge the arbitrary and unaccountable power of ‘Sharia courts.’

We, the undersigned, therefore, call on the new Government to:

  1. Reinstate legal aid in all areas of civil and criminal law to ensure equal access to justice for all.
    2. Recognise that ‘Sharia’ and other religious courts deliver arbitrary and unaccountable forms of ‘justice’ that discriminate against women and children in particular. Citizenship and human rights are non-negotiable.
    3. Abolish the use of ‘Sharia courts’ and all other religious arbitration forums, including the Beth Din, in family matters since they undermine the principle of equality, non discrimination and universal human rights that must be enjoyed by all citizens.
    4. Reject calls for state regulation of ‘Sharia’ and other religious courts and tribunals. This will only legitimate parallel legal systems in the governance of family matters.
    5. Re-affirm the principle of the separation of religion and the law. The law is a key component of securing justice for citizens and one law for all.
    6. Desist from repealing the Human Rights Act 1998. This move will strip all vulnerable people of their right to protection and justice.

Signatories

A C Grayling, Philosopher
A Gilani, Spokesperson of Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan
Afiya S. Zia, Active member of Women’s Action Forum in Pakistan
Afsaneh Vahdat, Spokesperson of Children First Now
Alber Saber, Egyptian Blogger
Albert Beale, Pacifist Journalist
Ali A. Rizvi, Pakistani-Canadian Writer and Physician
Ali al Razi, Ex-Muslims Forum
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Egyptian Blogger
Alison Assiter, Professor of Feminist Theory at UWE, Bristol
Aliyah Saleem, Secular Education Campaigner
Alya Marquardt, British-Iraqi Singer and Composer
Amel Grami, Tunisian Professor
American Humanist Association
Andrew Lowdon, Chair, Nottingham Secular Society
Ani Zonneveld, President of Muslims for Progressive Values
Anila Atharhasan, Rationalist Society of Pakistan
Anissa Helie, Professor
Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-founder and Co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation
Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Nirmul Committee
Anthony McIntyre, Writer
Armin Nabavi, Atheist Republic Founder
Aso Kamal, Founding Board Member of Kurdistan Secular Centre
Ateizm Derneği
Atheist Alliance International
Babak Yazdi, Spokesperson for Kanoon-e Khavaran, Organisation for Defence of Political Prisoners in Iran
Bahram Soroush, Political Analyst
Bariş Çetin, Board of Directors’ Member of Ateizm Dernegi
Ben Kerr, Chair of Plymouth Humanists
Bo Liao, President of LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Bob Charlwood, Committee Member of Brighton Secular Humanists
Bread and Roses TV
British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Centre for Secular Space
Chetan Bhatt, Professor of Sociology, LSE Centre for the Study of Human Rights
Children First Now
Chris Moos, Secularist Researcher and Activist
Christine M. Shellska, President of Atheist Alliance International
Clara Connolly, Immigration Lawyer
Clive Aruede, Organiser of London Black Atheists
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Darren Johnson AM, Green Party, London Assembly
Dashty Jamal, Secretary of International Federation of Iraqi Refugees
David Silverman, President of American Atheists
Deeyah Khan, Filmmaker and Founder/CEO of Fuuse
Dennis Penaluna, Secular Activist and Organiser
Derek Lennard, Activist
Diana Nammi, Founder and Executive Director, Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation
Dilip Simeon, Labour Historian
Dominic Wirdnam, Secretary of Bristol Secular Society
Elham Manea, Academic and Writer
Ensaf Haidar, Campaigner
Equal Rights Now – Movement for Women’s Liberation in Iran
Faisal Gazi, Writer and Blogger
Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar, Iraqi Activist and Founder of the Global Secular Humanist Movement
Faizun Zackariya, Citizens Voice for Justice and Peace
Fariborz Pooya, Bread and Roses TV Host
Farida Shaheed, Executive Director of Shirkat Gah, Women’s Resource Centre in Pakistan
Farideh Arman, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Fatou Sow, International Director, Women Living Under Muslim Laws
Federation of Iranian Refugees UK
Fitnah
Francis Wheen, Writer
George Broadhead, Secretary of the Pink Triangle Trust
Gina Khan, Women’s Rights Activist and Researcher
Gita Sahgal, Director, Centre for Secular Space
Glen Carrigan, Scientist and Founder of AHSUCLan
Gona Saed, Founding Board Member of Kurdistan Secular Centre
Guy Otten, BHA Trustee and Humanist Celebrant
Habiba Jaan, Founder of Aurat- Supporting Women in the Midlands
Hamid Taqvaee, Leader of the Worker-communist Party of Iran
Haras Rafiq, Managing Director of Quilliam Foundation
Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize Winner
Harsh Kapoor, Founder and Editor of South Asia Citizens Web
Hasan Mahmud, Advisory Board of World Muslim Congress and General Secretary of Muslims Facing Tomorrow
Homa Arjomand, Coordinator of the International Campaign Against Sharia Court in Canada and One Secular School for All
Ibn Warraq, Writer
Ibrahim Abdallah, Muslimish NYC Organizer
Inna Shevchenko, FEMEN Leader
International Front for Secularism
Iram Ramzan, Journalist
Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation
Ishafak Tely, Technology Engineer
James Bloodworth, Journalist and Editor of Left Foot Forward
Jane Donnelly, Human Rights Officer of Atheist Ireland
Javed Anand, General Secretary of Muslims for Secular Democracy in India
Jocelynne A. Scutt, Barrister & Human Rights Lawyer
Johnny Monsarrat, Secular Policy Institute Alliance Director
Jonnie Dean, Peace Activist and Filmmaker
Julie Bindel, Writer
Justice for Women
Kamran Ahmed Khan, Oncologist
Kamyar Dadfar, Secretary of LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Karima Bennoune, Professor of Law, University of California, Davis School of Law
Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and Activist
Kazimierz Lyszczynski, Foundation Poland
Khushi Kabir, nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for her work at Nijera Kori with Bangladesh’s landless
Kiran Opal, Pakistani-Canadian Writer and Human Rights Activist
Lakshmi Pala, Ateizm Derneği
Laura Guidetti, Rivista Marea
Lawrence Krauss, Foundation Professor of School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics Dept., Co-director of Cosmology Initiative and Director of Origins initiative, Arizona State University
Leesa Gazi, Cultural worker
Lejla Kuric, Writer
Lila Ghobady, Filmmaker
Lino Veljak, University of Zagreb
Lloyd Newson, Artist
London Black Atheists
Maajid Nawaz, Founding Chairman of Quilliam Foundation
Madhu Mehra, Partners for Law in Development
Magdulien Abaida, Women’s Rights Activist
Maggie Hall, Committee Member of Brighton Secular Humanists
Mahin Alipour, Women’s Rights Activist
Mariam Faruqi, Rapporteur National Commission on Forced Marriage
Mariam Taheri, Human Rights Activist
Marieme Helie Lucas, Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue and Women Living Under Muslim Laws
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Mehran Mahbobi , Children’s Rights Activist
Michael Nugent, Chairperson of Atheist Ireland
Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson of the International Committee against Stoning and Execution
Mohammed Alkhadra, Human Rights Activist and Founder of the Jordanian Atheists Community Group
Morgan Elizabeth Romano, Vice President of the Board of Directors & Director of International Relations of Ateizm Dernegi
Muhammad Syed, President of Ex-Muslims of North America
Muslims for Progressive Values
Nadia El Fani, Tunisian Filmmaker
Nari Diganta – Women in Movement for Equal Rights, Social Justice and Secularism
Natalia Paszkiewicz, Campaigner for Refugee Women and Migrants Rights
National Secular Society
Nazanin Borumand, Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany
Network of Women in Black Serbia
Nick Cohen, Journalist
Nina Sankari, President of the Europejska Feministyczna Inicjatywa
Nira Yuval-Davis, a founder member of Women Against Fundamentalism and the International Research Network on Women in Militarized Conflict Zone
One Law for All
Ophelia Benson, Columnist of The Freethinker and Free Inquiry
Pervez Hoodbhoy, Pakistani Nuclear Physicist and Social Activist
Peter Tatchell, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Piara Mayenin, Solicitor and Producer of Legal Help with Piya
Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters
Protagora
Pushpita Gupta, Women’s Rights Campaigner and Convenor of Secular Bangladesh Movement
Rafai Aadam, Leader of the SOAS Ex-Muslim Society & The Student Room Ex-Muslim Society Organiser
Rahila Gupta, Writer and Journalist
Ramin Forghani, Ex-Muslims of Scotland Founder
Reza Moradi, Director of Bread and Roses
Ritu Mahendru, Director of South Asian Sexual Health
Robert Stovold, Committee Member of Brighton Secular Humanists
Robyn E. Blumner, President & CEO of Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
Rohini Hensman, Writer and Activist
Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director of American Humanist Association
Roy W Brown, International Representative, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Rumana Hashem, Nari Diganta Organiser and Founder of Phulbari Solidarity Group
Rumy Hassan, Author
Sadaf Ali, Writer and Civil Rights Activist
Salim Mansur, Vice President of Muslims Facing Tomorrow
Sally Armstrong, Journalist and Human Rights Activist
Salma Siddiqui, President of Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations
Sanal Edamaruku, President of Rationalist International
Sara Mohammad, Chairwomen for Never Forget Pela and Fadime Organisation
Sarah Haider, Director of Development of Ex-Muslims of North America
Sarah Peace, Founder of Fireproof Library
Sawsan Salim, Director of Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation
Secular Policy Institute
Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Selma Dabbagh, Author and Lawyer
Shaheen Heshmat, Writer
Shahla Daneshfar, Coordinator of Workers’ Solidarity Network of the Middle East and North Africa
Sheila Crosby, Author
Shelley Segal, Singer and Songwriter
Shirkat Gah
Soad Baba Aissa, Feminist
Sohaila Sharifi, Women’s Rights Campaigner
South Asian Sexual Health
Southall Black Sisters
Stasa Zajovic, WiB Belgrade
Sue Cox, Survivors Voice Europe
Sukhwant Dhaliwal, co-editor of Women Against Fundamentalism: Stories of Dissent and Solidarity
Sultana Kamal, Women’s Rights Defender
Taher Djafarizad, President of Neda Day Association
Tahira Abdullah, Human Rights Defender
Taslima Nasrin, Author
Tehmina Kazi, Director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Terence Waites, Head of Teesside Humanists
Terry Sanderson, President, National Secular Society
The Angelou Centre
Tolga Inci, President of Ateizm Dernegi
Tom Holland, Writer and Historian
Valerie Mainstone, Committee Member of Brighton Secular Humanists
Wahid Rahman, President of Queen Mary Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society
Waleed Al-Husseini, Palestinian blogger and Founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims of France
Women in Black Belgrade
Women Living Under Muslim Laws
Women’s Action Forum Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore and Peshawar
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Columnist
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Yasmin Weaver, Trustee of Aurat: Supporting Women in the Midlands
Zahra Asli, Coordinator of Friends of Women in the Middle East Society

Banner of Sharia law consultation meeting 15 October 2014

See Further News below:

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Britain must ban sharia “kangaroo courts”, say activists http://www.trust.org/item/20150615155710-r8kxz/?source=shtw

The Daily Mail report : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-3125047/Britain-ban-sharia-kangaroo-courts–say-activists.html

‘Nearly 200 hundreds signatories call to dismantle parallel legal systems’  http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/sharia-courts/

IKWRO news: ‘Nearly 200 signatories, including IKWRO, call for dismantling of parallel legal systems’ http://ikwro.org.uk/2015/06/signatories-including-dismantling/

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It is time to be loud and clear

Celebration of International Women’s Day 2015 at Nari Diganta

By Nazratoon Nayem

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Last Sunday, on 8 March 2015, the women in Movement for Equal Rights, Social Justice and Secularism at Nari Diganta have celebrated International Women’s Day 2015 with a diverse group of women and men belonging to 14 different ethnicities and nationalities in Britain. At a packed room of some 150 audience, the members of Nari Diganta have greeted Bengali creative women and renowned BME women’s rights campaigners at the Brady Arts and Community Centre in Tower Hamlets, London. The event was explicitly focused on secular Bengali women who have dedicated their lives to creative work and BME women’s empowerment in Britain and elsewhere.

Sarah Begum takes Nari Diganta to 'Amazon Souls'. Courtesy: Rumana Hashem

Sarah Begum takes audience from Brady Arts Centre to ‘Amazon Souls’ through her slides. Courtesy: Rumana Hashem

The unusual event of progressive Bengali women kicked in with a greetings from the Secretary, Nasima Kajol, and an opening message by the Chairperson of Nari Diganta, Shamima Begum. It followed by a compliment of International Women’s Day from a secularist-sociologist and BME women’s rights activist, Dr Rumana Hashem. Rumana invites Sarah Begum, an award winning young film-maker and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, to screen her documentary film about Amazonian life. Sarah took the audience to her film through a showreel and slides followed by a biographical speech, demonstrating the difference, passion and courage that a creative woman does posses in terms of freedom and women’s struggle for emancipation.

From right: Chandra Chakraborty,  Sarah Begum and Smrtiy Azad  spoke about their struggles as women in creative fields. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

From right: Chandra Chakraborty, Sarah Begum and Smrity Azad spoke about their struggles as women in creative fields. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Sarah’s talk was followed by a creative women’s panel and a bilingual discussion by three creative women from three backgrounds including music, film and theater. The panel chaired by Nari Diganta’s legal adviser, Piara Mayenin, was attended by a proclaimed Bengali classical vocalist Chandra Chakraborty, the film-maker and explorer Sarah Begum, and Bengali performer, Smrity Azad. The creative panelists have made a point that Bengali creative women are not just performers who would perform to please men and the society. Rather, they are innovative women who posses transformative power, who made valuable contribution to their respective societies by overcoming hazardous barriers and by choosing creativity and performance as a way forward to emancipation and progress of women.

The discussion by the creative women was followed by a panel of prominent BME women’s rights campaigners and secularists. The panel formed by Gita Sahgal, the producer of War Crime File,and a writer and the Director of Centre for Secular Space, and Maryam Namzie, an Iranian Secularist and the Founder and Spokesperson of One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation, was chaired by Bangladeshi women’s rights campaigner and a core group member at Nari Diganta, Rumana Hashem.

From the left: Gita Sahgal, Maryam Namazie and Rumana Hashem discussed the need for moving forward with a secular agenda for women's emancipation and BME women's empowerment in Britain. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

From the left: Gita Sahgal, Maryam Namazie and Rumana Hashem discussed the need for moving forward with a secular agenda for women’s emancipation and BME women’s empowerment in Britain. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The event ends with a staggering cultural programme of Bengali dance, music and poetry by women and young girls. Finally the singing sensation Farzana Sifat appeared with her solo music, followed by a choir of the members of Nari Diganta.

Vocalist Farzana Sifat sings for the women at Nari Diganta. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Vocalist Farzana Sifat sings for the women at Nari Diganta. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The cultural event, presented by Nasima Kajol and Munjerin Rashid ended with a powerful choir ‘We remain undefeated, we will remain undefeated.’

Sunday’s IWD event at Brady Arts Centre was as unusual as festive, and was filled with lively music and songs of Bengali women. The diverse audience of a wide range of ethnicities, dressed up in their national outfits, have joined from Iran, India, Libya, Norway, Morocco, Poland, Pakistan, Spain, Sweden, Scotland, USA, and of course, Bangladesh and England.

Part of the mixed audience at Brady Arts Centre IWD2015 at Nari Diganta. Courtesy: Golam Rabbani

Part of the mixed audience at Brady Arts Centre IWD2015 at Nari Diganta. Courtesy: Golam Rabbani

Despite the delayed start and some alterations to the programme, audience have expressed their full-solidarity to the organisers and the women at Nari Diganta who have shown passion and ability to create a space for a mixed and secular audience in Tower Hamlets. The jolly composer of the event, Rumana Hashem started the evening by calling upon the audience to engage with the ideas of creative Bengali women who appeared on national dresses and on posh-colourful saris in festive mood. Dr Hashem says, explaining the importance of sari for Bengali women: ‘those who are new to Brady Arts and Community Centre or who joined us for the first time at Nari Diganta may get a culture shock by seeing Muslim Bengali women on fancy sari. Believe me it is our everyday dress and this dress demonstrates our professionalism back home. You got to take it easy. Note that we are Bengali women at work.’ The room broke into laughter and a festive breeze had been felt throughout the evening.

Two daughters of members of Nari Diganta perform for their mothers and sisters. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Two daughters of members of Nari Diganta perform for their mothers and sisters. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Inspite of threats of radicalism by the unexpected intruders who sneaked into the venue in the midst of the programme, without permission of the organisers, the festive atmosphere was obvious at the event. Both the audience and speakers remained calm and bold throughout. The support of the wonderful audience became apparent especially in their efforts of networking and friendly comments. The speakers and presenters were articulate in their statements that Bengali women are progressive, secular and not blind to male-dominated social norms and customs.

Young girls of Nari Diganta danced for the creative Bengali women. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Young girls of Nari Diganta danced for the creative Bengali women. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Vocalist Chandra Chakraborty declared, in her final comment, ‘indeed, women are the superiors in terms of their ability’. She argued that it is wrong to assume that men are higher than women in relation to ability of creativity and ethics of care. Even though it is mostly men who hold political power, women are the ones who have the real ability to do things innovatively and passionately. We must recognise women’s real power, she said.

Gita Sahgal addresses the mixed audience. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Gita Sahgal addresses the mixed audience. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

In her remark about Nari Diganta, Gita Sahgal said that she was delighted to hear the powerful statements of the creative women and the secular ideas that they upheld. She thanked the women at Nari Diganta for taking a secular agenda in the question of women’s rights.

Maryam Namazie calls upon the women at Nari Diganta to take a bold step against patriarchy and religious oppression. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Maryam Namazie calls upon the women at Nari Diganta to take a bold step against patriarchy and religious oppression. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Maryam Namazie, the Iranian-born women’s rights campaigner and secularist, has similarly expressed her thankfulness to the organisers for their courage to create a space for secular practices and for overcoming religious barriers in Bengali women’s lives.

She said, in her complimentary speech on IWD, ‘It has been great to join you all.  We need to keep moving forward with a secular agenda from here’.

The pledge to women’s emancipation and secularism were apparent throughout the event. In her welcome message, Nari Diganta’s chairperson Shamima Begum Hena said:

‘I hope that you will enjoy the event and will stay with us. We are celebrating International Women’s Day at a juncture when our homeland, Bangladesh is burning, as many other countries. We are facing division and confrontation between the progressive and extremist forces. In such a situation women’s insecurity became most obvious in all of these countries. We remain vigilant and  we try to establish a clear position in the question of women’s rights there and here. We want to celebrate International women’s day by recognising the good work that our Bengali creative women are doing in Britain, overcoming their situation every day. We want also to scrutinise BME women’s situation in Britain.’

Part of the colourful audience at  Brady Arts Centre. Courtesy: Golam Rabbani

Part of the colourful audience at Brady Arts Centre. Courtesy: Golam Rabbani

She added, ‘We need to be critical and be careful to any uncritical solidarity. We need to avoid generalisation of BME women’s rights issues with all women in Britain. We want to be loud and clear about the real situation within which we work, and we want to hear how our creative women may make their voices against bigotry and oppressions heard. In a world of uncertainty, we need to be loud and clear about our mission, vision and achievements. I am very pleased to see that so many of you have come to our event, despite it being a Sunday.’

Following Hena, Dr Hashem invites everybody to join Sarah Begum’s talk. She added:

Sarah Begum attempts to connect her work with women's emancipation.  Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Sarah Begum attempts to connect her work with women’s emancipation. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

‘Sarah’s film is a politically informed documentary and it bears a highly political message of women’s empowerment and freedom. May I ask everybody please focus on the “theme” of the film rather than the “scene”’. In explaining the significance of the theme and the design of the programme, Rumana Hashem explains also that the programme was designed differently because it bore a political message for women’s empowerment, equal rights and bigotry-free society. She said: ‘We are a young organisation and only four years old. But as you would know, sometimes a four-year child can be more clever, bold, innovative, scrutinising and imaginative than many adults. We believe that today’s event would demonstrate this creativity and boldness of a four years old child. The design of our event is unusual and the theme is important. We hope that you will like it and you will bear with us.’

Nasima Kajol addressing audience during cultural programme. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Nasima Kajol addressing audience during cultural programme. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

In commenting about IWD2015 at Nari Diganta, Nasima Kajol, the Secretary of the organisation told that: ‘We have tried to do something different, something new and something especial. I do not claim that it was a fully successful event in terms of Western discipline and order. Still I am pleased that we have done it differently than many traditional events in Tower Hamlets. One does not gain success in one day. I think that we are doing well as a young organisation. I am proud of our ability to unite in a secular and progressive political stand at Nari Digatna.’

Nasima Kajol and Munjerin Rashid jointly greeted the pleasant audience. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Nasima Kajol and Munjerin Rashid jointly greeted the pleasant audience. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The evening was filled with film, dialogue, music and dance with Creative Bengali Women speaking out against oppression and bigotry. It was partially sponsored by the Tower Hamlets Council, PCO Claims, Amifro Associates, Chambers of MM Hussain, and Hillside Travel. The organisers have greeted the sponsors with bouquet of flowers for the much needed support that the funders have provided to Nari Diganta as faithful friends and well-wishers.

The choir at Nari Diganta on International Women's Day 2015. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The choir at Nari Diganta on International Women’s Day 2015. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The daughters of the women at Nari Diganta performed for their mothers and sisters. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The daughters of the women at Nari Diganta performed for their mothers and sisters. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The IWD2015 Raffle draw. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The IWD2015 Raffle draw. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri


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Support Those Fighting Religious-Right and Jihadists in Bangladesh

By Rumana Hashem

Nari Diganta is horrified and outraged by the brutal killing of Bangladeshi-born freethinker and humanist- writer, Avijit Roy. This is not the first time that we are shocked by watching how the fatal stabbing of humanists and freethinkers happens in Bangladesh. There has been a series of such killings for which fundamentalist and Islamic groups are responsible. Just about six weeks ago a freethinker and female teacher, Anjali Devi Roy, at Chittagong Nursing College was stabbed to death by Jamat-e Islami’s cadre for she had spoken out against Hijab and refused to cooperate to impose Hijab on her students in the college. Previously Bangladesh has witnessed the brutal attack on renowned humanist –literary Professor Humayun Azad in 2004, who was forced into exile in Germany and was succumb to death there. In 2013, humanist-bloggers Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed and Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed by religious fanatics in Dhaka.

Avijit hattar Bichar chai Poster

Poster: Avijit hattar Bichar Chai #IamAvijit

As reports demonstrate, Avijit Roy was killed in a similar fashion to all of the above, by Islamic extremists and men hired by identifiable jihadist groups in the capital city of Dhaka on his way back to home from the Bangla Academy Ekushey Book Fair, a place/space that was historically known as secular in Bangladesh. The killing of Avijit by jihadists is neither an isolated incident nor surprising to Bangladeshi secularists and freethinkers. Rather it was expected, and now being accepted by many Muslims in and outside Bangladesh who believe that Avijit was “a talent but a bit insensible and careless! He spoke and wrote things that he shouldn’t have. People belonging to Hijbut Tahrir are extremists, how could we fight them?”

After this killing of this renowned freethinker on Thursday, 26 February 2015, such a statement is outrageous and unacceptable. It is time to recognise that expressing indignation, denunciation and paying tribute, as so many are doing, is not enough. It is time to act and prevent the brutal attack and killing of freethinkers from happening. We need to support our freethinkers openly and without reservation. Everyone will be killed one after another unless we have recognised the importance of freethinking, secularism and humanism – unless we stop being partial to the religious-Right.

A glance at the Bengali-speaking media shows that whilst many Bangladeshis condemned the violence itself, the majority of them are hesitant to accept the fact that the killers were hired men of Islamic groups, and deny the fact it is religious-right that is responsible for Avijit’s brutal killing. Some also expressed a view that freethinkers like Avijit must have insulted Islam and hence this is his ‘fate’. These stories are similar to what we have seen and experienced after the fatal stabbing of Professor Humayun Azad, another humble atheist, a triumphant academic and an unforgotten Bengali literary who was killed in August 2004, following the publication of his last revolutionary book ‘Pak Sar Jamin’ [the Holy Land]. Professor Azad’s narrative is so very like Avijit Roy’s. Both of them were fatally stabbed during the month of February, near the Bangla Academy, in Dhaka University neighbourhood and as returning from the historical Book Fair in February. The Dhaka University’s secularists, humanists and freethinkers have broken into outrage that time too. But as usual, a large number of the population in the country was undecided and hesitant to support us – those who were fighting at the frontier, those who demanded justice for Humayun Azad, just like today.

Many have said that it was ‘sad’ that the Professor ‘had to experience this brutality’, however, it was ‘arrogant and insensible’ of the Professor to attack Allah and the holy Quran in the way that he did in his Pak Sar Jamin. The media and civil society in Bangladesh were divided into two sections, along the above lines. Their attitudes suggest that atheists must ‘be polite or face death’. This trend in the media, government and civil society in Bangladesh demands our grave attention. It is shocking to see that secularists and atheists are the ones who must keep silent and who do not get the kind of respect that the believers do. It is shocking to see that believers and Jihadists could kill people if any individual wants to enjoy free speech to the same degree as the believers do in a state that was created to enjoy secularism and freedom of speech. The separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971 was primarily to establish a secular state which would ensure freedom of speech and would promote freethinking. But today’s Bangladesh and the murder of a renowned freethinker tell us that we belong to a state of extremism and a state of Jihadist/killers.

We believe that the attitude of government, media and civil society in a supposedly secular and democratic state, Bangladesh, has given birth of too many Jihadists, who continue to kill voices and stab freethinkers like Azad, Rajib, Anjali and Avijit Roy. It is indeed the obsessive religious-Right that is being supported and given centre stage in a supposedly secular state. This must stop. It is time for cure and prevention. Those who are on the forefront of countering armed fundamentalists must gain justice instead of being left to their own devices. It is time to recognise importance of those secularists who are at the forefront and who seek to reform society with their courage, critical thinking, political clarity and their great abilities. It is time to stop referring to Allah, Quran and Islam when humans are being killed in the name of religious sensibility. It is time to stop any killing in the name of religion.

We insist prevention, and NOT protest and outrage only. We do not pay tribute or express condemnation only but also stand in solidarity with Avijit’s family who demand justice for Avijit. We join all who fight religious fundamentalism and Islamic extremists in Bangladesh and other states across world. As reports show, clearly it is a Bangladeshi Islamist group who is responsible for Aviji’ts killing, and they can be tracked down if government of Bangladesh would be willing to do so. The group calling itself Ansar Bangla-7, is a fundamentalist group who claimed responsibility for the attack in a series of Twitter postings by saying that Roy “was a target for more than 3/4 years” for his writings that it characterized as being critical of Islam. Although the group’s Twitter account was later disabled, we believe that it is possible to trace the group if government and mainstream media in Bangladesh are willing to help us to ensure justice for Avijit Roy.

We stand in solidarity with the protesters and peace activists who are working to prevent all of those fanatic occurrences around the world from happening. Our struggle is against religious fundamentalism and racism and for universal human rights. State must take the responsibility to safeguard freethinking and humanity. Bangladesh government must ensure justice for Avijit and all other freethinkers who were killed in the name of religion and Islam. Avijit Roy will leave as long as we protest and seek justice for #AvijitRoy .

Protesters paid tribute to murdered #Avijit  at  Trafalgar Squire,  London. Sunday, March 2, 2015. Photo: Paul Dudman

Protesters paid tribute to murdered #Avijit at Trafalgar Squire, London. Sunday, March 2, 2015. Photo: Paul Dudman

Letter from Avijit Roy’s daughter Trisha Ahmed: ‘…everyone could share his story…Use your influence to help bring some sort of justice to the atrocious acts’

Avijit Will live as we speak Poster by Freethinkers

Avijit Will live as we speak Poster by Freethinkers

Avijit Roy’s daughter, Trisha Ahmed, called upon everyone to spread the words of her father who was never submissive and never to be forgotten. In a form of paying a tribute and expressing solidarity with Trisha and her mother, we have reproduced the letter of Trisha Ahmed below, which she has posted on Facebook, which she wanted us all to share as widely as possible. Readers are requested to please read, share and spread the story of Avijit Roy, as written by Trisha, to honour Dr. Roy and to remember an ever-powerful humanist voice.

My dad was a prominent Bengali writer, most famous for his books about science and atheism. He and my mom went to Bangladesh last week to publicize his books at Bangladesh’s national book fair. 15 hours ago, Islamic fundamentalists stabbed my dad to death. My mom was severely wounded from the attack and is still in the hospital. His death is headline news in Bangladesh.

The reason I’m sharing this is less for me and more for my dad. He was a firm believer in voicing your opinion to better the world.

He and my mom started dating when I was six years old. In the twelve years that followed, he became my friend, my hero, my most trusted confidante, my dance partner (even though we’re both terrible dancers), and my father. Not once did he tell me to simmer down or be more polite; he taught me to be informed, bold, and unafraid.

To say that I’m furious or heartbroken would be an understatement. But as fucked up as the world is, there’s never a reason to stop fighting to make it better. I’ll carry the lessons he taught me and the love he gave me forever. I love you so much, Dad. Thank you for every single thing

What would help me the most right now is if everyone (even people I’ve never met) could share his story. His story should be heard in the US because Bangladesh is powerless; it’s corrupt, there is no law and order, and I highly doubt that any justice will come to the murderers. I want his story to be on US headline news, not only Bangladesh’s. If you could just do all you can to spread word of what’s happened, I would appreciate it so so much. Inform your schools, your communities, write all that you can. Please don’t allow my dad to die in vain.

Please use your influence to help bring some sort of justice to the atrocious acts that have been committed against my parents.

‪#‎WordsCannotBeKilled

Read also:

‘I am Avijit’ Vigil in London https://www.facebook.com/events/645691532226458

‘Avijit was an intellectually-fulfilled-atheist who dedicated life to promote science and secularism’- Listen to Rafida Ahmed about Avijit https://m.soundcloud.com/bbc-world-service/rafida-bonya-ahmed-murdered-blogger-avijit-roys-wife-i-will-not-be-quiet

Prominent writer killed by Jihadists in Dhaka http://www.ajc.com/news/news/alpharetta-blogger-hacked-to-death-in-bangladesh/nkKmy/

Blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh capital: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/blogger-hacked-death-bangladesh-capital-150227045121388.html

Blogger killed in Bangladesh machete attack: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/27/us-bangladesh-blogger-idUSKBN0LV11G20150227

Bangladeshi-origin U.S. Blogger Critical of Fanatic Muslim and Extremist Stabbed http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-bangladesh-blogger-slain-20150227-story.html

Avvaz petition to Bangladesh Government https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Bangladeshi_Government_Prosecute_Islamists_who_Killed_Avijit_Roy_and_Protect_Freethinkers/?sMXAXib


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Listening to Voices of Creative Bengali Women in London

An evening with Film, Dialogue, Music and Bangla-Feast with Creative Bengali Women speaking out against oppression and bigotry on International Women’s Day 2015

When?            8 March, Sunday, at 5pm – 9pm

Where?          Brady Arts & Community Centre, 192- 196 Hanbury Street, London, E1 5HU

Who?             Nari Diganta – the Women in Movement for Equality, Social Justice and Secularism

Nari Diganta recognises and celebrates Bengali women’s achievements and struggles in a particular field on every International Women’s Day since its foundation. In 2013 we have celebrated the success and struggles of our women in the field of education, and last year we have focused on Bangladeshi-British women’s struggle in public political sphere. This year Nari Diganta organises an evening to recognise the success and voices of creative Bengali women against bigotry and oppression. We will explore our women’s contribution in the creative field to celebrate International Women’s Day 2015 and will scrutinise BME women’s situation in Britain. You are cordially invited to this free event!

Building on their rich cultural heritage, Bengali women in the UK, particularly the new generation are taking on increasingly confident steps into the British creative landscape in the fields of literature, film making, music, dance, theatre, fine arts and other unusual creative works. Many of these outstanding talents are indigenous to Tower Hamlets. Nari Diganta undertakes a ‘talent hunt’ of creative Bengali women in Tower Hamlets and beyond to celebrate and critically examine these women’s achievements by inviting them to present their talents to a diverse audience. Our core group members and experienced women’s rights activists will engage in a dialogue with the creative women to understand how their works address issues of oppression, inequity and bigotry. This exchange of ideas will address the question as to how loud and clear our creative Bengali women’s works are in terms of addressing minority women’s oppression and bigotry in a world of injustice.

The event is Free. Its filled with fun, film, timely exchange, music and entertainment. Its a space for networking with community activists, women’s rights campaigners, and creative and cultural activists. But space is limited, so please reserve your place asap via eventribe https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/listening-to-voices-of-creative-bengali-women-in-london-tickets-15829202571

Programme

5pm: Welcome by Nasima Kajol – ‘Greetings from the Four Years Old Child’

5:05: Opening Speech by Shamima Begum – ‘Its Time to be Loud and Clear’

5:10pm: Screening of Amazon Souls – An award winning film by Sarah Begum, a young woman exploring the Amazon and challenging the environmental destruction through creative work.

5:45pm: Creative Women’s Voices against Oppression – How Loud and Clear Do We Sound?

An Exchange of Ideas between Creative Women and Bengali Women’s Rights Campaigners

Panelists include: Classical Vocalist Chandra Chakraborty, Film-maker and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society Sarah Begum, Novelist and Author of the Golden Age Tahmima Anam, and Performer Smrity Azad.

Bengali women’s rights campaigners at Nari Diganta include Dr Rumana Hashem and Piara Mayenin.

6:40pm: ‘Needs to Move Forward with a Secular Agenda’: Remarks & Greetings by Notable Women’s Rights Campaigners

Commentators include Gita Sahgal, Writer, Film-maker, and Director of Centre for Secular Space; Maryam Namazie, Founder and Spokesperson of One Law for All & Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation

6:50pm: Remarks by Special Guest, H.E. Mr. Md. Abdul Hannan, Honourable High Commissioner of Bangladesh Embassy in London (tbc)

7:00pm: Bangla Dinner with Special Guest, Creative Women and Women’s Rights Campaigners

7:40pm: Nach Gan Kabita O Bajna – Cultural Performance by Bengali Women Artists and Musicians, Presented by Munjerin Rashid & Nasima Kajol

8:40pm: End of Evening Choir – Presentation by Women in Movement for Equality, Social Justice & Secularism

&

Solo Exhibition of Painting by Syeda Nasim Queen, a young Bengali woman and a member of Nari Diganta.

This programme is designed for a diverse audience. The medium of instruction are English and Bengali. All welcome!

Note: The event will be filmed and it is open to public and mainstream media. We are unable to control press and TV crews during the event.

The event is partially sponsored by the Tower Hamlets Council, PCO Claims, Amifro Associates and Chambers of MM Hussain. With thanks to the sponsors for their kind partial sponsorship, the event is dedicated to Bengali women in the UK. Space is limited, so please reserve your place asap via eventribe https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/listening-to-voices-of-creative-bengali-women-in-london-tickets-15829202571.Please check out our blog www.naridiganta.org.uk and FB page www.facebook.com/naridiganta for updates and further information.

Listening to creative Bengali Women’s Voices Flyer


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বেগম রোকেয়ার নারীমুক্তির মশাল আজও বাতিঘরের মত পথ দেখাচ্ছে

Nari Diganta Celebrates Begum Rokeya Dibosh 2014

যুক্তরাজ্যে নারী দিগন্তের উদ্যোগেরোকেয়া দিবসউদযাপন

By Nilufa Yesmin Hasan

নারীমুক্তি আন্দোলনের পথিকৃত বেগম রোকেয়া স্মরণে নারী দিগন্ত গত ৫ ডিসেম্বর শুক্রবার পূর্ব লন্ডনের মন্টিফিউরি সেন্টারে ‘রোকেয়া দিবস’ পালন করেছে। ৯ ডিসেম্বর নারী শিক্ষার অগ্রদূত মহীয়সী নারী বেগম রোকেয়া সাখাওয়াত হোসেনের জন্ম ও মৃত্যুবার্ষিকী। এই দিনটি দীর্ঘদিন যাবৎ ‘রোকেয়া দিবস’ হিসাবে পালিত হয়ে আসছে।

Key note speech by Nilufa Hasan on 5 December 2014.

Key note speech by Nilufa Hasan on 5 December 2014.

সমাজ সচেতন লেখিকা বেগম রোকেয়া ছিলেন নারীদের মুক্তির অগ্রদূত। শিক্ষাকে তিনি হাতিয়ার হিসাবে দেখেছেন। তিনি বুঝেছিলেন কুসংস্কারাচ্ছন্ন, নিরক্ষর ও ধর্মীয় গোঁড়ামী থেকে নারীকে মুক্ত না করে সমাজের অগ্রগতি যেমন সম্ভব নয়, তেমনি নারী স্বাধীনতাও সম্ভব নয়। নারীমুক্তি আন্দোলনের যেই মশাল তিনি প্রজ্জ্বলিত করেছেন তা আজও বাতিঘরের মত আমাদের পথ দেখাচ্ছে।

নারী দিগন্তের সভাপতি শামীমআরা হেনার সভাপতিত্বে অনুষ্ঠিত সভায় বক্তারা বেগম রোকেয়ার কর্মময় জীবন ও তাঁর লেখনীর উপর আলোকপাত করতে গিয়ে বক্তারা উপরোক্ত মন্তব্য করেন। নারী দিগন্তের সাধারন সম্পাদক নাসিমা কাজলের চমৎকার উপস্থাপনায় পরিচালিত সভায় মূল বক্তব্য প্রদান করেন নারী দিগন্তের প্রচার সম্পাদক নিলুফা ইয়াসমীন। উক্ত সভায় আরও বক্তব্য রাখেন নারী নেত্রী রাজিয়া বেগম, ডঃ রুমানা হাশেম,  সংগ্রাম বিষয়ক সম্পাদক জুবাইদা নাসরিন কণা, এবং বাঙালী সাংস্কতিক কর্মী স্বাগুপ্তা তানিয়া।

Nari Diganta's Co-chair Razia Mannan greeted audience and paid tribute to Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain.

Nari Diganta’s Co-chair Razia Mannan greeted audience and paid tribute to Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain.

বক্তারা বলেন, যে যুগে নারী শিক্ষা ছিল নিষিদ্ধ, সে যুগে পর্দার আড়ালে থেকে বেগম রোকেয়া নিজে শিখেছেন এবং সেই শিক্ষা সবার মাঝে ছড়িয়ে দিয়েছেন। তিনি বুঝতে পেরেছিলেন, শিক্ষা এবং অর্থনৈতিক স্বাধীনতা ছাড়া নারী মুক্তি সম্ভব নয়। তিনি স্কুল প্রতিষ্ঠা করেছিলেন এবং বাড়ী বাড়ী গিয়ে স্কুলের জন্য ছাত্রী যোগাড় করেছেন। আধুনিক মনের মানুষ রোকেয়া নারী শিক্ষার জন্য সারাটা জীবন যে সংগ্রাম করেছেন এবং অবদান রেখেছেন, তা সকল বক্তাই শ্রদ্ধার সাথে স্মরণ করেন।

বেগম রোকেয়ার লেখনী সম্পর্কে আলোকপাত করতে গিয়ে বক্তারা বলেন, তাঁর উপন্যাস পদ্মরাগ এবং অন্যান্য বই- রসনা বিলাস, অবরোধবাসিনী, সুলতানার স্বপ্ন- প্রত্যেকটি লেখাতেই আছে নারী জাগরণ ও অমানবিক বৈষম্যমূলক সমাজ ব্যবস্থার শিকার ভাগ্যবিড়ম্বিতা রমনীদের বেদনাদায়ক কাহিনী। তাঁর উপন্যাসের নায়িকা সিদ্দিকার তেজ্যোদৃপ্ত উক্তি বেগম রোকেয়ার নিজস্ব অনুভূতিরই বহিঃপ্রকাশ। বক্তারা আরো বলেন, একশ ৩৪ বছর আগে বেগম রোকেয়া যে শোষণভিত্তিক ও বৈষম্যমূলক সমাজ ব্যবস্থার বিরুদ্ধে লড়েছেন তা আজও বিদ্যমান। তারা আরও বলেন, সকল চ্যালেঞ্জিং পেশায় এমনকি রাষ্ট্রীয় ক্ষমতায় নারী অধিষ্ঠিত হলেও আজও মেয়েরা তাদের ন্যায্য মুজুরী পাচ্ছেনা, কাজের মূল্যায়ন হচ্ছেনা, নির্যাতনের শিকার হচ্ছে। নারী প্রতিনিয়ত ধর্ষণের শিকার হচ্ছে। এখনো ধর্মের দোহাই দিয়ে নারীকে পিছিয়ে রাখার চেষ্টা চলছে। আমরা আজ কথা বলছি একটি সভ্য দেশে বসে, এই পূর্ব লন্ডনেও এই ধরনের অপচেষ্টা আমরা দেখতে পাই।

বেগম রোকেয়া নারীদের কাজের মূল্যায়নের কথা বলেছেন, বাংলাদেশের স্বাধীনতা যুদ্ধে যে সকল নারীরা অস্ত্র হাতে রণাঙ্গনে যুদ্ধ করেছেন, আজও সেইসব নারী মুক্তিযোদ্ধাদের বীরত্বের কথা গুরুত্বের সাথে উল্লেখ করা হয়না। এটাকে দুঃখজনক বলেও সভায় বক্তারা তুলে ধরেন।

আলোচনা পর্ব শেষে নারী দিগন্তের সদস্য নাজ নাঈমের পরিচালনায় শুরু হয় প্রাণবন্ত কুইজ প্রতিযোগিতা। এতে জাকিয়া তাসনিম ঝুমু প্রথম এবং জুবাইদা নাসরিন কণা ও স্বাগুপ্তা তানিয়া যৌথভাবে দ্বিতীয় স্থান অধিকার করেন। তৃতীয় পর্বে নারী দিগন্তের সদস্যরা সাংস্কৃতিক অনুষ্ঠান করেন। এতে গান পরিবেশন করেন মুনজারিন রশীদ সনি, রাজিয়া রহমান, নাসিমা কাজল, কণা, সাঈদা খানম এবং স্বরচিত কবিতা পড়েছেন মেহের আহমেদ। সভাপতি শামীমআরা হেনার বক্তব্যের মাধ্যমে অনুষ্ঠানের সমাপ্তি হয়।


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নারী দিগন্তের বাৎসরিক মেলবন্ধন

Bangla-Style Party at Nari Diganta

By Nilufa Yesmin Hasan

গত ৮ নভেম্বর ২০১৪ তারিখে সৌহার্দ্যপূর্ণভাবে আনন্দ উপভোগ করার প্রয়াসে প্রতি বছরের ন্যায় এবারও নারী দিগন্ত জাঁকজমক ও বর্ণাঢ্য আয়োজনে উদযাপন করলো বর্ষপূর্তি পূনর্মিলনী উৎসব। ‘মানবমুক্তির পূর্বশর্ত নারীমুক্তি‘ এই শ্লোগানকে ধারণ করে দীর্ঘদিন যাবৎ কাজ করে যাচ্ছে যুক্তরাজ্যের উল্লেখযোগ্য সংগঠন ‘নারী দিগন্ত‘। প্রায় অর্ধ শতাধিক সদস্যের মিলন মেলা বসেছিল গত ৮ই নভেম্বর পূর্ব লন্ডনের হেনয়েল্ট-এ নারী দিগন্তের সদস্য শ্রীমতি পুষ্পিতা গুপ্তের বাসভবনে।

Members of Nari Diganta and their families are playing musical pillows and other games. Photo: Nilufa Hasan

Members of Nari Diganta and their families are playing musical pillows and other games. Photo: Nilufa Hasan

সভাপতি শামীম আরা হেনার সার্বিক তত্ত্বাবধানে নারী দিগন্তের সকল সম্মানিত সদস্য ও পরিবারবর্গের অংশগ্রহণে মনোরম সন্ধ্যাটি হয়ে উঠেছিল প্রাণবন্ত। এই অনুষ্ঠান সাফল্যমন্ডিত করতে যারা অগ্রণী ভূমিকা পালন করেছেন তারা হলেন রাজিয়া বেগম, আয়েশা আহমেদ, আঁখি চৌধুরী, নিলুফা ইয়াসমীন, ডালিয়া রহমান, নাসিমা কাজল, মুনজারিন রশীদ, মাহের আহমেদ, নাজ নাঈম, ফাতেমা নার্গিস ও আরো অনেকে।

সন্ধ্যায় শুরু হওয়া অনুষ্ঠান চলে গভীর রাত অবধি। স্বামী সন্তানসহ আংশগ্রহণকারী সকল সদস্য রান্না করে নিয়ে আসেন বাংলাদেশের ঐতিহ্যবাহী সুস্বাদু খাবার। চটপটি, পায়েস, শুটকী, নানা বাহারী ভর্তা, ভাজী কোন কিছুই বাদ যায়নি সেইদিনের আয়োজনে।

অনুষ্ঠানের প্রথমেই পুষ্পিতা গুপ্তের মেয়ে আনিতার পরিবেশিত গান সবাইকে মুগ্ধ করে। তারপর আনন্দঘন পরিবেশে সাধারণ সম্পাদক নাসিমা কাজলের পরিচালনায় শুরু হয় বিভিন্ন প্রতিযোগিতামূলক অনুষ্ঠান। গানের তালে তালে চলে ছোটদের ও পুরুষ এবং মহিলাদের বালিশ ছোঁড়া (পিলো পাসিং) খেলা, পিলো পাসিং প্রতিযোগিতায় ছোটদের মধ্যে প্রথম ও দ্বিতীয় হয় আনিতা ও নয়েল, পুরুষদের মধ্যে শাহারিয়ার বিন আলী প্রথম ও আবু হাসান দ্বিতীয় হন, মহিলাদের মধ্যে যথাক্রমে প্রথম ও দ্বিতীয় হন রাজিয়া বেগম ও রিবা। সবচেয়ে হাস্যরসের প্রতিযোগিতা হলো স্ত্রীর পছন্দ সম্পর্কে স্বামী কতটুকু জানেন সেই পরীক্ষা। এতে প্রথম পুরষ্কার অর্জন করেন পুষ্পিতা-জ্ঞান দম্পতি এবং নিলুফা-হাসান দম্পতি দ্বিতীয় স্থান লাভ করেন। গভীর রাত পর্যন্ত চলে নাচ ও গানের পরিবেশনা। গান পরিবেশন করেন আঁখি চৌধুরী ও নাসিমা কাজল তবে উপস্থিত প্রায় সবাই গানে কন্ঠ মেলান।

উৎসব আয়োজনের মধ্যেই সকল সদস্য তাদের বাৎসরিক চাঁদা পরিশোধ করেন। পরিশেষে নির্ধারিত হয় নারী শিক্ষার অগ্রদূত মহিয়সী নারী বেগম রোকেয়া স্মরণে আলোচনা, ছোটদের রচনা প্রতিযোগীতা ও সাংস্কৃতিক অনুষ্ঠানের আয়োজন করবে নারী দিগন্ত। আগামী ৫ই ডিসেম্বর ২০১৪, বিকাল সাড়ে ৫টায় পূর্বলন্ডনের হ্যানবারী স্ট্রীটস্থ মন্টিফিউরি সেন্টারে ‘বেগম রোকেয়া দিবস‘ সাফল্য মন্ডিত হবে এই আশা নিয়ে উৎসবের ইতি টানা হয়।