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Sudan: Petitioning Facebook: when Facebook endangers activists

Signatures Campaign

Thursday 31 March 2016, by siawi3


Petitioning Facebook
Save the lives of Sudanese women and men, take down "Sudanese Women Against Hijab" Page!

Authors of the petition:
The group of persons affected by "Sudanese Women Against Hijab" page on Facebook
الترجمة العربية في نهاية الصفحة

The Facebook page Sudanese Women Against Hijab was created in 2014 by anonymous administrator/s.
The page uses photos of Sudanese women and men without their consent and publishes false statements, mostly blasphemous, under their names. Affected individuals reported the page and the photos several times to Facebook; however, Facebook did not delete the page and justifies its decision that “the page does not violate Facebook community policies.”

In the past few days, religious leaders and extremists picked up on some of the page’s contents and started inciting the public opinion against the people whose photos appeared in the page, accusing them of blasphemy and even apostasy.
This move jeopardizes the lives and wellbeing of 8 women and a man, whose photos were published without their consent on this page.

We call on Facebook privacy regulators to investigate the case and consider the cultural and political context of Sudan where allegations of apostasy and blasphemy merit the death penalty.
Furthermore, we demand that Facebook takes down the page immediately.

Background: Sudanese Women Against Hijab’s method for the past year has been to publish photos of prominent Sudanese women who do not wear hijab along with false statements against Hijab claimed to be said by them. Several complaints were made by the affected women and the page was reported to Facebook a number of times but to no avail. However, it has emerged as a serious threat in the past few days as it started to attract the attention of religious leaders and extremists after publishing photos of women and men with the claim that the campaign against hijab will be taking to the streets, led by these individuals; an allegation that would expose the group to serious criminal charges and punishment of up to 5 years in prison according to the recently amended Sudanese penal code.

On Friday, the 25th of March, 2016 Yousif Alkoda, an exiled Sudanese religious leader who is followed by almost 15,000 people on social media, shared one of these photos on his personal Facebook page. In his post, he claimed that the six ladies in the photo are the admins the page and that by their denouncing of Hijab they are thus denouncing Islam; i.e. a clear accusation of apostasy.
Subsequently, the photo and the allegations went viral and the page gained exponential publicity, with the result of these women being identified on the street and online and receiving public threats against them from extremists. These threats include battering, public flogging, stoning and even death.
The affected individuals resorted to the law after their reporting attempts to Facebook administration were in vain, and filed a complaint against the page administrator, the religious leader and some of the extremists threatening them.

While posting photos on any given page may not violate Facebook’s community policy, the Sudanese cultural context which is mostly dominated by Islamic fundamentalism greatly complicates this matter and takes it to a very different and dangerous level. Not wearing a headscarf is considered ‘indecent clothing’ and would count as a criminal offense that is dragging many women and girls to summary courts and is punishable by fines and public flogging.
Accusations of apostasy are an even more serious matter; several cases of apostasy reported in the past few years invoked international outcry after the death penalty was handed down, such as the infamous case of Mariam Ibrahim.

It is in this context that the page clearly endangers the reputations and the lives of these individuals by inciting public violence against them. These photos have been used without consent of their owners with the purpose of defamation and inciting hatred. Due to those threats; those women and men are unable to leave their homes. They are emotionally stressed and could not go to school or work in fear for their lives after some of them were confronted in public.Therefore we are urging Facebook administration to take down the page immediately to avoid further harm to those men and women, and that information about managing accounts of the page be shared with law enforcement bodies in Sudan upon their official request.

PLEASE SIGN this petition HERE