By Faz Velmi
Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman sentenced to death by stoning for 'adultery', must wait until June to hear her fate. Her appeal hearing against her sentence was due in late March but was adjourned when only three of the five required tribunal members were available. There are suggestions that the trial was deliberately delayed until after Nigeria's elections -recently concluded-took place.
Amina is being persecuted under the Sharia (Islamic law) penal code recently introduced in a number of northern Nigerian states. The "evidence" of Amina's "crime" was that she bore a child outside marriage. After her initial conviction, her sentence was delayed until she stops breastfeeding her baby in 2004.
If Amina's appeal fails, her supporters will increase their pressure on recently re-elected president Olusegun Obasanjo-a Christian-to intervene on her behalf. Obasanjo has said he is confident that Amina's appeal will succeed, but he has shown little sign of wanting to intervene if it doesn't. He wants to avoid interfering in the affairs of the north and inflaming the tensions there between Christians and Muslims that have led to many deaths in recent years.
Last December, NUS Women's Campaign organised a publicity campaign and lobby of the Nigerian embassy in protest at the threatened stoning of Amina Lawal. NUS Women's Conference in March endorsed this action in a motion arguing that "democracy, secularism, equality, sexual freedom and women's liberation are of universal value", and that "those who claim these things are somehow Western impositions are guilty not only of betraying our sisters and brothers fighting for liberation, but of a patronising worldview in which democracy and equality are OK for us, but not for Muslims or people in the developing world."
Not everyone in the student movement shares this view. A motion to the NUS Black Students' Conference (17 May), with proposers including the national Black Students' Committee, condemns the Women's Conference resolution as "derogatory and insulting to the people of Nigeria" and indicative of a lack of "support, understanding and respect" for black women! The proposers don't seem interested in supporting black women who are going to be tortured to death by religious fundamentalists!
Hopefully, delegates to the conference will realise that opposing racism and Islamophobia doesn't mean accommodating to fundamentalism. Hopefully, they will reject this motion in favour of organising solidarity with Amina Lawal when she needs it most.
- Protest details: 07811 370627