NOW logo1


International Women's Festival 2006

(published February 2006)

The seventeenth annual Oxford International Women's Festival is taking place from 4 to 19 March 2006. The theme this year will be "Women's Voices: A Celebration" and as usual NOW will be making a very worthwhile contribution to the event.

We have proposed two activities. On the evening of March 8, coinciding with International Women's Day, we have invited two distinguished Iraqi women to speak on matters affecting women and children in Iraq, with the title 'Iraqi Women Speak Out'. This year we are also taking part in the Festival's evening activities in the Town Hall on March 10, when some of us will be singing in a women's choir we have set up specially for the occasion, Women NOW.

Below you can find some of the relevant details and photos.Other photos, posters and articles will hopefully follow in the next few weeks.

NB: As a consequence of what we learnt from Haifa Zangana and Tahrir Swift on 8 March, a NOW sub-group sent a letter to Oxfordshire's MPs on 8 April. You can see the text of this email in the Reports section, item 12, entitled:

Letter to 6 Oxon MPs about the plight of Iraqi women and children


Iraqi Women Speak Out

المرأة العراقية تسمع العالم صوتها


Wednesday 8 March
Lecture Room XXIII, Balliol College, Broad Street, Oxford (Opposite the Oxfam shop)
7.00pm - 9.00pm
Entrance: Free Collection for Doctors for Iraq
Wheelchair Access. All welcome
Contact (01865) 725 991  

Haifa Zangana, Iraqi novelist, activist, lecturer, will speak on the life of women in Iraq. She will be supported by Tahrir Swift, who will highlight the effect of depleted uranium on women and children in Iraq. Shaista Aziz, recently appointed Regional Media Co-ordinator for the Middle East and CIS states for Oxfam, will speak about the work of 'Doctors for Iraq', on whose behalf there will be a collection at the end of the meeting. Followed by questions and discussion.

Photos and Short Biographies of Haifa Zangana and Tahrir Swift

( Links to Tahrir's recent speeches or writings can be found here. Haifa's are still to come.)

Photo of Haifa Zangana   Photo ofTahrir Swift
Haifa Zangana
Tahrir Swift
هيفاء زنكنة
تحرير سويف

Haifa Zangana was born in Baghdad in 1950, and has lived in London since 1976.
She worked with the PLO in Damascus, Syria in 1975.

As a painter and writer she participated in the Eighties in various European and American surrealist publications and group exhibitions, with
one ­ woman shows in London and Iceland.

Through the vast halls of memory, her biographical novel, was published in
English by Hourglass in 1990, reprinted in 1991, and published in Arabic in 1995.

Three collections of short stories followed: The Ant's Nest (1996), Beyond
what the eye sees
(1997), The presence of others (1999). Her novel Keys to
a city
was published in 2000 and Women on a journey in 2001.

Other publications:

Halabja ­ Iraqi and Arab writers and artists homage to the Kurdish town
Published in Arabic & English.

Forthcoming publications

Translation of Women on a Journey, Dec 2006, by Texas University Press.

The three Cyclops of Empire: targeting the fabric of Iraqi society, a chapter in Empire¹s Law, Pluto, Feb- 2006.

Colonial feminist: From Washington to Baghdad, a chapter in Barriers to Reconciliation, Washington D.C University Press, 2006.

Packaged Lives, a collection of short stories, in Arabic. Published by Al Sawad, Baghdad.

Other Activities

  • Co - founder of Act Together: Women's action for Iraq ( ).
  • Chair of Iraqi Committee for National Media and Culture ( ICNMC).
  • Founding member of International Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies (IACIS).
  • Advisor for UNDP, writing report on empowerment of women in the Arab World.
  • Member of Brussels¹s tribunal on Iraq¹s advisory board.
  • Lectures regularly on Iraqi culture, literature, and women issues. Occasional commentator for The Guardian, Red Pepper, Al Ahram Weekly.
  • Weekly columnist at Al Quds.

Born in Baghdad in 1959, Tahrir came to the UK in 1979 to escape Saddam Hussein's regime, which had imprisoned and tortured her father and brother.

She studied Computing Science in Essex University and is a qualified teacher.
Tahrir's activism started after the 1991 war was launched on Iraq. She campaigned against the sanctions on Iraq from day one. She did voluntary work for Medical Aid for Iraq.

Tahrir is an active local peace campaigner within Bromley CND. She is also active in Arab Media Watch, a voluntary organisation of Arabs and British people from all walks of life and various ethnic and religious origins. It aims at monitoring the British media's coverage of issues that concern people living in the Arab World. Tahrir also supports the Iraqi National Foundation Congress (INFC) and Women's Will Association, which is a member of the INFC.



Women NOW

This is the name of the women's singing group we set up especially to take part in this year's IWF. We shall be appearing in a variety performance in the Town Hall, Oxford, from 7.00pm to 9.30pm on Friday 10 March. Organisers of the Festival Evening as a whole are the Oxford International Women's Collective (



Women NOW onstage at Oxford Town Hall, March 10 (detail)




We had the honour of being the opening act of the evening, at just after 7.00pm on Friday March 10. The short programme of songs, many of them from the Greenham Common Song Book, consisted of 'Granny was a Suffragette', 'We are Gentle, Angry Women','Building Bridges/Stand Up', 'Bread & Roses', and finally the rousing, jazz-style 'Oxford Women NOW' with words and music written by choir members Jane Alexander and Jillian Drewitt. Our performance was very well received and I think we can congratulate ourselves on achieving a high level of musicianship and professionalism with, basically, an ad hoc group of singers and just a few practices. Special thanks to our musical director Sarah Westcott, who contributed her usual energy, enthusiasm and focus. (Photo courtesy of Nigel)


To see details of last year's International Women's Festival, click here