Women's march in Paris rallies for Iraq captive

6th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 6 (AFP) - Thousands of women took to the streets of Paris Sunday to march for freedom and equal rights ahead of international women's day, focusing especially on the plight of a woman journalist held hostage in Iraq.

PARIS, March 6 (AFP) - Thousands of women took to the streets of Paris Sunday to march for freedom and equal rights ahead of international women's day, focusing especially on the plight of a woman journalist held hostage in Iraq.

Organisers said as many as 10,000 rallied for "all women deprived of liberty" two days ahead of International Women's Day on Tuesday, March 8. Police put the figure at only 2,600.

The marchers unveiled two huge portraits of Florence Aubenas, a correspondent for the leftist daily newspaper Liberation and her Iraqi guide Hussein Hanun al-Saadi, who went missing in Baghdad two months ago.

The demonstration was "dedicated to Florence and Hussein, while remembering all women who are deprived of freedom," said Fadela Amara, president of one of two women's groups organising the march.

Hope has been rekindled for Aubenas after an Italian hostage, journalist Giuliana Sgrena, was freed Friday in Iraq. Last week Aubenas was shown in a videotape by her abductors looking frail and ill and pleading to be rescued.

Sunday's rally was called by a group of young women of mainly immigrant origin calling itself "Neither whores nor submissive" (NPNS), headed by Amara, and by the French Family Planning organisation.

The Family Planning group opted to demonstrate Sunday with NPNS rather than with its more traditional ally, the National Collective for Women's Rights, which will march on Tuesday.

By staying away on Tuesday, the Family Planning group was seeking to avoid demonstrating alongside Muslim girls who want the right to wear headscarves in state schools.

Amara denounced what she said was "lack of clarification of certain feminist organisations," a reference to the National Collective for Women's Rights.

A new French law prohibits the wearing of conspicuous religious insignia, such as Islamic headscarves for girls, Jewish skullcaps or Sikh turbans for boys, and large Christian crosses in state schools, colleges and universities.

It aims to assert the country's secular identity and ensure that each pupil is treated equally in the classroom.

The controversial legislation has angered many of the country's estimated five million Muslims and 300,000 Sikhs.

"I believe the feminist struggle is for everybody including darker skinned women," said Amara, who is of Algerian parentage. "The business of the scarves is nothing but a piece of fabric. In the end it's also a social project promoting separation of the sexes."

Maite Albagly, Secretary General of the Family Planning movement, warned that the feminist movement must split over the issue.

Her group was planning to invite the women's rights collective for talks. "I believe many of them defend the same values as we do."

At Sunday's march, 20 women wearing white masks represented prostitutes' rights. A spokeswoman said: "They're marching for their rights, to obtain respect so that one day they can take off their masks."

She demanded abrogation of new legislation against soliciting, saying it "turns us into delinquents. I think there are rather more serious things in terms of threat to public order."

Sunday's marchers also remembered Ingrid Betancourt, a French national who is one of thousands of people held by rebels in Colombia.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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