Speakers

Afsana Lachaux

Women's Rights Activist

has been fighting for many years to bring her son Louis home. Louis is separated from his mother and lives in Dubai where Sharia law prevents Afsana from visiting and gaining custody of her son. In 2017, Afsana won a landmark victory for women’s rights in France, in which the French courts, rejected the UAE Sharia court ruling. Afsana’s long running legal campaign for justice continues both in the UK and France. She is currently writing a book on honour killings.


Ahlam Akram

Founder of Basira

is the founder of BASIRA, British Arabs Supporting Universal Women’s Rights, a not-for-profit organisation. She is a peace and human rights campaigner, writer, and broadcaster. Ahlam is a British citizen of Palestinian origin who has lived in London since 1979. Her articles have appeared in Arabic newspapers Al – Quds, Al Hayat and Al Sharq al Awsat. Her work has also been published in Elaph, the most popular online Arabic magazine. Ahlam is regularly interviewed on Arabic TV channels and supports the role of women in peace building. Her areas of expertise involves the family status law which is widely implemented in the MENA region, and challenging the legislative systems that support the oppression of women. She is an active member of Women Without Borders and she is on the executive committee of Women Against Fundamentalism. She is a London Member of the UN Women NC UK, where she was invited to give a talk to UNIFM in London on 15 September 2012. 


Amina Lone

Director of Social Action and Research Foundation

is Director of Social Action and Research Foundation, which she co-founded in February 2012 with the aim of creating a think-tank that works more meaningfully with marginalised communities to evidence the lived experiences of people living in poverty and create alternatives.  She is a single mother of four, who has spent 20 years working with under-served communities throughout England and is passionate about empowering people to realise their full potential. Amina volunteers with marginalised groups, women’s groups, young people’s organisations and within working-class communities.


ANNIE LAURIE GAYLOR

CO-PRESIDENT OF THE FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION
is Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She was also the editor of the organisation's newspaper, Freethought Today until 2015. Gaylor is the author of several books, including "Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So", "Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children" and, as editor, "Women Without Superstition: No Gods – No Masters". In 2010, Gaylor received the Humanitarian Heroine award from the American Humanist Association. She has been an invited speaker at conferences including the 2012 Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, Australia, and the regional conference of the Minnesota Atheists. She is on the speakers bureau of the Secular Student Alliance.

Beatrix Campbell

Feminist Writer, Journalist, Broadcaster and Playwright

is a writer, journalist, broadcaster, playwright, influential feminist and a Green Party Parliamentary candidate.  She was active in the Women’s Liberation Movement, a founder of Red Rag, a Marxist and feminist journal,a member of the Free Communications Group that published Open Secret and campaigned against monopoly ownership of the mass media and was involved in an equal pay strike and occupation in 1981, amongst others. She collaborated with Judith Jones on two successful plays, was Writer in Residence in Prisons supporting young men through creative writing and has received numerous awards including Cheltenham Festival Literary Prize, Fawcett Prize, and several honorary doctorates for her work on community, crime, and children’s welfare. She was recipient of an OBE in 2009 for services to equality.


BONYA AHMED

ACTIVIST, WRITER AND BLOGGER AT MUKTO-MONA
is a Visiting Research Scholar at UT Austin since Fall 2016, working on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. She is also a published author and moderator at Mukto-mona blog, the first online platform for Bengali speaking freethinkers. Until recently, she worked as a Senior Director in the Finance industry in the USA. She is the widow of Avijit Roy, a well known writer, blogger, and activist who founded Mukto-mona. Roy and Ahmed were brutally attacked in the middle of the street by Islamists during a book signing trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh on February 26, 2015. Ahmed was gravely injured during the attack. She continues to work with international and local groups to help Bengali bloggers and activists and to seek justice for Avijit and others murdered. She is dedicated to drawing attention to the growing culture of impunity in Bangladesh.

Caroline Criado Perez

Writer, Broadcaster and Campaigner

is a writer, broadcaster and award-winning feminist campaigner. She is published across the major national media and regularly appears in both print and broadcast as a commentator. Her first book, Do it Like a Woman, was published by Portobello in 2015 and was chosen by Bridget Christie as one of her books of the year in the Guardian. She is currently working on her second book, which will be about the gender data gap. Caroline has a degree in English language and literature from the University of Oxford, and studied behavioural and feminist economics at the LSE. She was the 2013 recipient of the Liberty Human Rights Campaigner of the Year award, and was named OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2015.

Diana Nammi

founder of the Iranian Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation

is the Founder and Executive Director of Iranian Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation, which she established in 2002. IKWRO is an NGO providing advice, advocacy, training and counselling for women and girls from Middle Eastern and North African communities affected by “honour” based violence, forced marriage, FGM and domestic violence, and campaigning for better laws and policies. Her work has received national and international recognition and she is regularly called upon to share her expertise with the government, academics, the media and professionals. In 2012 she was named in a list of 150 women who shake the world by Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and in 2014 she received the Special Jury Women on the Move Award from UNHCR, The Forum and Migrants Rights Network and she was honoured with the UK’s Woman of the Year Award and recognised by BBC's 100 Women. In 2015 she won the Women of Courage Award from the Women's Refugee Commission in New York and the XX1 Premis Ones Mediterrania Award. Diana has been bestowed an honorary degree from the Department of Law at from Essex University. Prior to moving to the UK, at 15, she set up an underground women’s group and became an active member of an opposition party in Iran. After the Islamists took power following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, she narrowly escaped arrest and fled to the mountains to join the Peshmerga, Kurdish freedom fighters. She moved to the UK later on.


Eve Sacks

Trustee of Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance UK

is Trustee of Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance UK.  JOFA expands the spiritual, ritual, intellectual and political opportunities for women within the framework of halakha (Jewish law), by advocating meaningful participation and equality for women in family life, synagogues, houses of learning and Jewish communal organizations to the full extent possible within halakha. Eve writes for various publications, including The Jewish Chronicle and is author of "My Jewish Learning". She is also an accountant specializing in corporate taxes.

 

FARIBORZ POOYA

Bread and Roses TV Producer

was born in Iran. He took part in 1978-79 revolution, but moved to UK in 1979. He studied economics and politics at Oxford Brookes and Birkbeck College, University of London. He founded the Iranian Secular Society, was one of the founding members of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and writes and comments on politics and secularism. He also co-hosts and produces  a weekly political-social TV magazine, Bread and Roses TV in Persian and English.


GINA KHAN

One Law for All Spokesperson

was born in Birmingham to Pakistani Muslim parents. Gina is a human rights activist and researcher. Personal experiences prompted Gina to break her silence in 2005 by speaking out in radio debates and writing to local Birmingham newspapers following a traumatic divorce and experience of living as a lone woman and parent in Birmingham. Gina focuses on two main subjects: the rise of pro-jihad ideologies within Muslim communities and the position and status of women within those communities. Gina believes these two twin phenomena to be symptomatic of deeper problems. After speaking out against Jihadism in Birmingham, Gina and her children were forced to leave her home after it was attacked. She is currently the co-Spokesperson of One Law for All.


GITA SAHGAL

Director of Centre for Secular Space

is a writer, journalist, film-maker and rights activist. She is currently Founder and Director of Centre for Secular Space. She was formerly Head of the Gender Unit at Amnesty International; she was suspended in 2010 after she was quoted criticising Amnesty for its high-profile associations with the Islamist Moazzam Begg, the director of a group called Cageprisoners. For many years she served on the board of Southall Black Sisters and was a founder of Women Against Fundamentalism and Awaaz: South Asia Watch. With Nira Yival Davis, she edited "Refusing Holy Orders: Women and Fundamentalism in Britain" ( London, 1992). Among her articles are "Legislating Utopia? Violence Against Women, Identities and Interventions" in "The Situated Politics of Belonging". During the 1980s, she worked for a Black current affairs programme called "Bandung File" on Channel 4 TV. She made two films about the Rushdie affair, "Hullaballoo Over Satanic Verses" and "Struggle or Submission". She has also made two programmes for Dispatches Channel 4, "The Provoked Wife" on the case of Kiranjit Ahluwalia and "The War Crimes File" an investigation into allegations of war crimes committed by members of the Jamaat i Islami in Bangladesh in 1971.


Homa Arjomand

Coordinator of the International Campaign for Once Secular School System

is an Iranian–born political activist in Canada running the International Campaign against Sharia Court in Canada and others including to close down Iranian embassies and for One Secular School System in Ontario. She received the 2005 Toronto Humanist of the Year award and was recognised as women of the year by Gazette Des Femmes amongst others. She is the Spokesperson of Women’s Liberation in Canada and founder of the Cultural Bridges.


HOUZAN MAHMOUD

Culture Project Co-Founder

is a women’s rights campaigner, public lecturer and co-founder of Culture Project, a transnational project formed recently to raise awareness about feminism and gender in Kurdistan and diaspora. She has an MA in Gender Studies from SOAS, London University. She worked as a representative of the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq for many years. She was born in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1973 and currently resides and works in London. Her articles have been published in The Independent, The Guardian, The Tribune, The New Statesman and others. Houzan has led many campaigns internationally, including campaigns against the rape and abduction of women in Iraq, and against the imposition of Islamic sharia law in Kurdistan and the Iraqi constitution. She has also led other campaigns against so called honour killings, and against violations of freedom of expression. She is the winner of 2016 Emma Humphrey’s Memorial Award.


Inna Shevchenko

FEMEN Leader

is leader of FEMEN, topless activists against various manifestations of patriarchy, including dictatorship, religion, and the sex industry. She has published "Anatomie de l'oppression" with Pauline Hillier. She was kidnapped and threatened by the Belarus KGB in 2011 and was given political asylum in France. In July 2013, Shevchenko was the main inspiration for a new French stamp depicting Marianne. In December 2012, the French magazine Madame Figaro included Shevchenko in its list of the world's top 20 iconic women of the year. Shevchenko is a speaker at conferences and a columnist for the international press. She was a speaker at a debate on freedom of speech in Copenhagen on 14 February 2015 with cartoonist Lars Vilks. She was speaking about an illusion that in Western Europe people can fully enjoy freedom of speech when a terrorist opened fire in the lobby of the cultural centre, where the debate took place. Surviving the attack, Shevchenko later said, "Liberal voices should be louder than Kalashnikovs".


Marieme Helie Lucas

 Founder of Secularism Is A Women’s Issue

is an Algerian sociologist, political theorist and author. Marieme was born in Algeria to a family of feminists and participated in the national liberation from French colonialism. She worked as a senior civil servant during the first three years after independence, before leaving to teach at Algiers University for 12 years. In 1984, she founded the international solidarity network Women Living Under Muslim Laws and served as its international coordinator for 18 years. WLUML linked women fighting for their rights in Muslim contexts, throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In 2004, she founded the international Secularism Is A Women’s Issue (SIAWI) network, which focuses on the threat of the erosion of secular spaces and of formal secularism, and challenges all forms of fundamentalisms. She is winner of the 2017 CEMB Award.


Maryam Namazie

Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All

is Co-Spokesperson for One Law for All, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Fitnah. She hosts a weekly television programme called Bread and Roses. She is on the International Advisory Board of the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom; National Secular Society Honorary Associate; a Patron of London Black Atheists and Pink Triangle Trust; International Advisory Board Member of Feminist Dissent and a columnist for The Freethinker. 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.” Maryam was a character in DV8 Physical Theatre’s Can We Talk About This?, which deals with freedom of speech, censorship and Islam. She was 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), amongst others.


NADIA EL FANI

Filmmaker

a Tunisian film-maker living in France, risks arrest and up to five years in prison if she returns to Tunisia after Islamists filed a complaint against her for her film “Neither Allah nor Master”. The film is an account of Tunisian life immediately before and after the fall of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. Others films include "Ouled Lenine" and "Our breasts, our weapons!"


Nasreen Rehman

Women's Rights Campaigner

was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan and has been living in the UK, since 1975. As an economist, she has worked in the private sector and in development. From 1998-2001, she was Director of the Mahbubul Haq Human Development Centre, a UNDP funded economic research think tank in Pakistan; and continues to serve on its Board. She was on the Pakistan Power 100 list of most influential women. Nasreen has worked in the performing arts for the past three decades, as a facilitator and practitioner. She is on the Board of Akademi, a leading South Asian dance provider in the UK, and is Artistic Director of the Grand Trunk Road Company, a forum that uses ‘the road’ as a metaphor for bringing communities together. Nasreen is an award winning screenplay writer who has worked with directors such as Bollywood’s Yash Chopra, Canada’s Deepa Mehta and Mehreen Jabbar from Pakistan. In the 1990s, as a Trustee of the Runnymede Trust she served on the Commissions on Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. In 2009 she co-founded British Muslims for Secular Democracy. Currently, she is completing a PhD on The History of the Cinema in Lahore c.1919-1947, at the University of Cambridge.  She is also on the Forced Marriages Commission.


Nina Sankari

VICE PRESIDENT OF THE ATHEIST KAZIMIERZ LYSZCZYNSKI FOUNDATION IN POLAND

is a Polish secular, atheist and feminist activist. She is the Vice President of the atheist Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation in Poland, co-founder of the International Association of Free Thought and its Spokesperson. She writes and translates articles for the Polish and French freethinkers and feminist centres (Fakty i Mity, 50/50, Journal ReSPUBLICA, La Raison, Charlie Hebdo). She has participated in many international conferences related to secularism, rationalism, atheism, women’s rights, and on political and social issues. She is the initiator and co-organiser of the Atheist Days – a big yearly event in Warsaw.

PETER TATCHELL

HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGNER
has been campaigning for human rights and global justice since 1967. New Statesman readers voted him sixth on their list of “Heroes of our Time” 2006. He won Campaigner of the Year at The Observer Ethical Awards 2009, as well as Secularist of the Year 2012. He writes and broadcasts on many human rights and social justice issues. In protest against the Archbishop of Canterbury's support for legal discrimination against LGBT people, he interrupted Dr Carey's Easter Sunday Sermon in 1998. He attempted a citizen’s arrest of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in 1999 and again in 2001, and was beaten unconscious the second time. He was also arrested and beaten when he went to support Moscow LGBT Pride in 2007. Both attacks left him with brain and eye damage. He is currently the Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

PRAGNA PATEL

Director of Southall Black Sisters

is Founder and Director of the Southall Black Sisters. SBS is, a multi-award-winning women’s organisation founded in 1979 to address the needs of black and minority women experiencing gender violence. It successfully campaigned for the release of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, a landmark case in which an Asian woman was convicted of the murder of her violent husband. The case reformed homicide law, creating greater awareness within and outside minority communities. Pragna has been in the forefront of many other SBS’ milestone cases and campaigns on domestic violence, legal aid, immigration and religious fundamentalism which includes mounting successful legal challenges against the practice of gender segregation in schools and universities and the accommodation of ‘Sharia’ codes within the legal system. She is also a co-founder of Women Against Fundamentalism. She has also written extensively on race, gender and religion, including "Faith in the State? Asian Women’s Struggles for Human Rights in the UK", and "Shrinking Secular Spaces: Asian Women at the Intersect of Race, Religion and Gender". She was listed in The Guardian’s Top 100 women: activists and campaigners.


Rahila Gupta

WRITER AND JOURNALIST
is a freelance journalist and writer. Her work has appeared in The Guardian and New Humanist among other papers and magazines. Her books include, "Enslaved: The New British Slavery"; "From Homebreakers to Jailbreakers: Southall Black Sisters"; "Provoked"; and "Don't Wake Me: The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong" (Playdead Press, 2013). She is co-authoring a book with Beatrix Campbell with the title "Why Doesn’t Patriarchy Die?"

Rumana Hashem

Women's Rights Activist

 is a Bangladeshi-born rights activist and a political-sociologist. She is a spokesperson of the Community Women Against Abuse and a former organiser of Nari Diganta, a secular Bangladeshi women’s organisation in Britain. She has a PhD in gendered and sexualised violence in the conflict in south-east Bangladesh. She teaches on an Open Learning Initiative programme for asylum seekers and refugees in Higher Education at at the department of Social Sciences at the University of East London . Her current research focuses on narratives of sexuality and gendered violence; interconnections between gender, power and politics; and displaced narratives of forced-migrants and refugees from the global south.


SADIA HAMEED

Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

is a Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and has been featured in a 2016 film, "Islam's Non Believers", by award-winning filmmaker Deeyah Khan. She is also a human rights activist and Honour Based Violence, Forced Marriage and FGM Consultant, based in Gloucestershire, working in the sexual violence field, with a focus on Black Minority Ethnic women. Sadia organised a hugely successful event titled ‘Let’s Talk Honour’ in October 2016, which was held at Gloucester University. She also launched Critical Sisters. She is Winner of IKWRO Special Recognition: Activist of the Year 2017.


Sadikur Rahman

Solicitor

is a Solicitor with extensive experience in all areas of Community Law and specialises in housing, possession, homelessness, disrepair, unlawful eviction and community care cases and in taking these matters through the County and Admin Courts. He is also a National Secular Society Council Member and Chair of the NSS Secular Legal Forum. He has written extensively on Sharia courts and religious arbitration.


VICTORIA GUGENHEIM

BODY ARTIST

is an award-winning body artist. She is passionate about the necessity of and is merging, art with science. Art and science share a common ancestor with the human imagination, and without imagination there can be no hypothesis. It was the first visual, material, tangible “What if?” that humanity had, and it started 300,000 years ago deep in the caves near the twin Zambini Rivers. Victoria’s art has been a lifelong quest of “de-othering” people through art, public speaking and personal aesthetic choice. Her art ranges from bodypainting, makeup, photography, sculpture, performances, installations, digital art, clothing design, drawing and painting with science and technology. She uses bodypainting as a way of empowering the human spirit, giving the person painted a new found confidence that can be life changing.

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