She is on the International Advisory Board of the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom and Euromind; a Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism, National Secular Society Honorary Associate; Honorary Associate of Rationalist International; Emeritus Member of the Secular Humanist League of Brazil and a Patron of Pink Triangle Trust.
Maryam and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain were featured in a 2016 film by Deeyah Khan called Islam’s Non-Believers. She was also a character in DV8 Physical Theatre’s Can We Talk About This?, which deals with freedom of speech, censorship and Islam.
She was joint winner of the 2019 Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize; awarded the 2017 Henry H. Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism award; 2016 International Secularism (Laicite) Prize from the Comité Laïcité République and was honoured by the National Secular Society for her campaigning work defending free speech at universities (2016) despite attempts at barring her by Student Unions or Islamic Society efforts to intimidate and cancel her talks. She was also awarded Atheist of the Year by Kazimierz Lyszczynski (2014); Journalist of the Year at the Dods Women in Public Life Awards (2013); selected one of the top 45 women of the year by Elle magazine Quebec (2007); one of 2006’s most intriguing people by DNA, awarded the National Secular Society’s Secularist of the Year Award (2005); selected ‘Iranian of the Year’ by Iranian.com readers (1997 and 1998); International Rescue Committee medal recipient (1988); and received the Julia B. Friedman Humanitarian Award (1987).
The Islamic regime of Iran’s media outlets has called Namazie ‘immoral and corrupt’ and did an ‘exposé’ on her entitled Meet this anti-religion woman. In 2019, the Islamic regime’s intelligence service did a TV programme, where Namazie was featured as “anti-God”.
She produced the film “Women Leaving Islam” in December 2020; published The Woman’s Quran; organised the first ever Apostasy Day on 22 August and Atheist Day on 21 March with an international coalition of ex-Muslim groups. She organised the largest gatherings of ex-Muslims in history, including at De Balie’s Celebrating Dissent; led a topless protest at Pride London in 2017 in defence of LGBT rights with placards saying “Allah is Gay” and “LGBT rights are universal”. She also took part in a nude protest in defense of women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa, initiated a Day to Stand with Bangladesh’s Bloggers and Activists; an International Day to Defend Amina and the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar 2012-2013, founded Iran Solidarity, and helped launch the Manifesto for a Free and Secular Middle East and North Africa. In 2006, Maryam signed signed a statement of 12 writers against Islamic totalitarianism with Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasrin and others.
Some of her recent talks and interviews include an interview with The Origins Podcast and Lawrence Krauss and talks such as “Creativity against Islamic Fundamentalism” at TedX Warwick in February 2020 and the De Balie Freedom Lecture in January 2019 entitled “Secularism is my Right; Freedom is my Culture.”
She has spoken and written numerous articles on women’s rights issues, free expression, Islamism, and secularism. She has co-authored Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights (One Law for All, June 2010), Enemies Not Allies: The Far-Right (One Law for All, August 2011), and The Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam (CEMB, August 2017). She also has an essay entitled ‘When the Hezbollah came to my School’ in 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists (Wiley-Blackwell, October 2009) and is featured in A Better Life: A Hundred Atheists Speak out on Joy and Meaning in a World Without God (2013) amongst others.
Previously, Namazie was a Central Committee and Political Bureau member of the Worker-communist Party of Iran until she resigned in January 2017; the elected Executive Director of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees, a refugee-run organisation with 60 branches in 15 countries worldwide for 8 years; founded the Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees; was the Human Rights Advocates Training Programme Coordinator at Columbia University’s Centre for the Study of Human Rights in New York and the NYC Refugee Coordinator/ US National Steering Committee Member of Amnesty International. She was Co-founder and President of the US-based Refugee Women’s Network and ran a refugee women’s leadership training programme at a community-based organisation in Brooklyn, NY.
In 1991, she was beaten by NYPD when protesting the Gulf War Parade in NYC and charged with with obstructing government administration, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, felony riot – punishable by up to 13 years in prison. When footage was finally found showing police attacked Namazie and others know as the “War Parade 18,” charges were dropped.
She was Co-founder of Human Rights Without Frontiers when she lived in Sudan during 1988-90. When her activities were revealed, she was threatened by Sudanese security and forced to leave the country.
Below is the introduction of Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, of Maryam Namazie during the Secularist of the Year award ceremony in October 2005:
Maryam Namazie was born in Tehran, but she left Iran with her family in 1980 after the establishment of the Islamic Republic. She then lived in India, the UK and then settled in the US where she began her university studies at the age of 17.
After graduating, Maryam went to the Sudan in to work with Ethiopian refugees. Half way through her stay, an Islamic government took power. She was threatened by the government for establishing a clandestine human rights organisation and had to be evacuated by her employer for her own safety.
Back in the United States, Maryam worked for various refugee and human rights organisations. She established the Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees in 1991. In 1994, she went to Turkey and produced a video documentary on the situation of Iranian refugees there.
Soon after her return to the US, she was elected executive director of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees, an international organisation with 60 branches in nearly 20 countries. As director of the refugee-run organisation, she campaigned on behalf of thousands of Iranian asylum seekers and refugees having intervened successfully on many cases preventing. Some successes include preventing the deportation of over 1000 from Holland including having spoken at a parliamentary meeting on the issue; to a successful campaign against the Turkish government to extend the period in which asylum seekers can apply for asylum.
Maryam Namazie has also worked on numerous campaigns, including against stoning, executions, sexual apartheid, and women’s rights violations particularly in Islamic societies. Some successes include the campaign against the Sharia court in Canada. She was a speaker at its first public meeting in Toronto and continued supporting and highlighting the issue and mobilising support.
Other campaigns she has worked on include preventing stonings and executions in Islamist societies, opposing the veiling of children, opposing Sharia or religious laws, defending the banning of religious symbols from schools and public institutions, opposing the incitement to religious hatred bill in the UK and calling for secularism and the de-religionisation of society not only in Iran but in Britain and elsewhere.
Maryam is an inveterate commentator and broadcaster on rights, cultural relativism, secularism, religion, political Islam and many other related topics.
The present revival of Islam has heightened interest in Maryam’s work, and at last her writings are gaining a mainstream audience. She has spoken at numerous conferences and written extensively on women’s rights issues, particularly violence against women.
More recently, Maryam has been hosting a weekly programme on International TV. This is broadcast via satellite to the Middle East and Europe and can be seen on the Internet. TV International focuses on issues pertaining to the Middle East from a progressive, left-wing perspective. The programme promotes secularism amongst other values and has developed a considerable following amongst people in Iran and the Middle East as well as in Europe and the west.
The issues raised in the programme provoke much correspondence, and she has been roundly criticised by Islamists, the Islamic Republic of Iran and even of Ken Livingstone after his invitation to this country of Yusuf Al Qaradawi.
So she must be doing something right.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are sure you will agree with us that Maryam Namazie is a worthy and noble winner of this first Irwin Prize.
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