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Iranian Women Denied Freedoms, Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali Tells VOA

Calls on women to raise sons to treat women equally

Washington, December 12, 2008 - Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somalia-born writer who has publicly criticized Islam, told Voice of America (VOA) that women need to draw attention to the lack of basic freedoms denied their gender in Iran and other Islamic societies.

"We ought to speak out about the hardships women are enduring in Islamic societies in order to improve the condition of women … so they are not downgraded by tradition and can exercise their freedoms," Hirsi Ali told VOA's Persian News Network (PNN), which reaches millions of viewers in Iran.

Hirsi Ali, the author of Infidel, her autobiography, appeared Thursday on PNN's Roundtable With You, a live call-in show. She discussed her life, the evolution of her views on Islam, and the difference between religious beliefs and abuse in the name of religion.

"What women in Iran are enduring, living under Sharia law, is far worse than what I have ever experienced, and I feel for them," she said.

She called on women in Islamic societies to "bring up your sons to treat your daughters with respect, equal with themselves, and to know that as women we have the responsibility to train tomorrow's generation of men to be respectful of women and treat them as equal."

Hirsi Ali, 39, left Somalia when she was five. After living in East Africa, she evaded an arranged marriage, ending up in the Netherlands where she became a politician and women's rights activist. Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2005.

Her script for the film Submission, produced by Theo van Gogh, criticized the treatment of women in Islamic societies. The film led to deaths threats for the pair, and van Gogh was later murdered in Amsterdam.

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