Sex Slavery Pushes Iraq IS Victims to Suicide: Amnesty

Three men play a game of Buzkashi to settle who will get to marry her

Germany to Open Trauma Centre for Sex Slave Women Raped By Militants

Pakistan Man Claims Daughter Being ‘Held’ In Jamia Hafsa

Jokowi Pledges to Protect Female Human Rights Activists

Trade In Illegal Maids in Saudi Arabia Flourishes

Saudi Wives of Prisoners Demand Support As They Suffer Ostracism

Haia Helps Woman in Shelter to Remarry

Peerzada, From Bollywood to Lecturing Women on Faith

‘Divorced’ Muslim Women Lack Access to Justice in Nepal

The Afghan Film Where a Buzkashi Game Decides a Woman’s Future

Pupils from a Muslim Girls’ School Have Raised Over £200 for a Hospice

Bringing Education to African Girls

Journey of Pakistan’s Sexual Harassment Law Captured in Documentary

Saudi Shoura to Vote on Birth Rate Cut

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Sex Slavery Pushes Iraq IS Victims to Suicide: Amnesty

23 Dec, 2014

BAGHDAD: Women and girls from Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority forced into sexual slavery by the Islamic State jihadist group have committed suicide or tried to, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

IS militants have overrun swathes of Iraq since June, declared a cross-border caliphate also encompassing parts of neighbouring Syria, and carried out a litany of abuses in both countries.

The group has targeted Yazidis and other minorities in north Iraq in a campaign that rights group Amnesty said amounted to ethnic cleansing, murdering civilians and enslaving others for a fate that some captives consider even worse than death.

“Many of those held as sexual slaves are children — girls aged 14, 15 or even younger,” Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser, said in a statement.

Amnesty said that many of the perpetrators are IS fighters, but may also include supporters of the group.

A 19-year-old named Jilan committed suicide out of fear she would be raped, Amnesty quoted her brother as saying.

A girl who was held with her but later escaped confirmed the account, saying: “One day we were given clothes that looked like dance costumes and were told to bathe and wear those clothes. Jilan killed herself in the bathroom.”

“She cut her wrists and hanged herself. She was very beautiful; I think she knew she was going to be taken away by a man and that is why she killed herself.”

Another former captive told the rights group that she and her sister tried to kill themselves to escape forced marriage, but were stopped from doing so.

“We tied… scarves around our necks and pulled away from each other as hard as we could, until I fainted… I could not speak for several days after that,” Wafa, 27, told the rights group.

Amnesty also recounted the story of 16-year-old Randa, who was abducted with her family and raped by a man twice her age.

“It is so painful what they did to me and to my family,” Randa said.

overa said: “The physical and psychological toll of the horrifying sexual violence these women have endured is catastrophic. Many of them have been tortured and treated as chattel. Even those who have managed to escape remain deeply traumatised.”

A US-led coalition has been carrying out a campaign of air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria in an attempt to halt the group’s advance.


Germany to Open Trauma Centre for Sex Slave Women Raped By Militants

23 Dec, 2014

Germany is planning to open a trauma centre to assist women and girls who were raped by members of terror group Islamic State (Isis).

Development Minister Gerd Müller told German newspaper Bild that the decision followed his visit to Iraq, where militants have imposed their own laws in controlled areas.

During his visit, Müller said he spoke with five girls who had been sexually abused by the militants, three of whom became pregnant.

“We have to take care of such girls,” he said and added that a facility could provide assistance to at least 100 girls, but did not speculate on when or where the facility could be opened.

IS insurgents, who control large swaths of Iraq and Syria and aim to establish an Islamic caliphate, are known for having launched a “campaign of ethnic cleansing” against non-Arabs and non-Sunni Muslims.

The Yazidi community has been persecuted by the militants for months.

Yazidis are considered devil-worshippers and apostates by the Sunni extremists as they profess a religion that dates back to ancient Mesopotamia and combines elements of Zoroastrianism with Sufi Islam.

In October the terrorists admitted they are kidnapping hundreds of Yazidi women and forcing them into sex slavery.

IS slave markets have sprung up across Iraq and have been used by the terror group as a way to recruit new fighters?

A Yazidi woman who was abducted by IS and forced into sex slavery, managed to contact members of Compassion4Kurdistan –  which aims to raise awareness of IS’ persecution of the Yazidi community in Iraq – to tell her story of the abuses she is subjected to daily.

Compassion4Kurdistan activists staged a mock sex slave market in London in October, to raise awareness of the grave violations of the basic human rights Yazidi women are being subjected to.

The manifestation came as UN officials issued a joint statement condemning “the explicit targeting of women and children and the barbaric acts the Islamic State has perpetrated on minorities in areas under its control.”

“We remind all armed groups that acts of sexual violence are grave human rights violations that can be considered as war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said the UN statement, which followed a UN study about IS sex slavery markets.

In December, IS members allegedly released a guide on how to abduct and rape non-Muslim women.

The encouraged practises include permission to rape a female captive “immediately after taking possession of her” and to have “intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse”.


Pakistan Man Claims Daughter Being ‘Held’ In Jamia Hafsa

23 Dec, 2014

ISLAMABAD: An old, distraught father joined the civil society’s campaign against Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid on Monday, but for a difficult battle of his own.

Father Abdul Qayyum surprised the campaigners, gathered at the Aabpara police station, to ask the police to add charges under anti-terrorism law to the FIR against the maulana, by presenting his own grievance against the maulana’s wife, Umme Hassan.

It looked strange that while the civil society is campaigning to ‘free’ Lal Masjid from Maulana Aziz, Mr Qayyum is out to ‘free’ his daughter from the Jamia Hafsa seminary for girls run by Umm-e-Hassan.

A resident of Muslim Town locality in Rawalpindi who played professional cricket for the Gulf state of Sharjah, Mr. Qayyum claimed that his graduate daughter Uzma deserted the family seven months ago, and was ‘being kept’ in Jamia Hafsa.

Uzma, 26, did a four-year course in a religious educational institute after her graduation and left her home suddenly one night, according to her father.

A burial shroud she left on her bed signified she was gone for good.

Later, a call came from Umm-e-Hassan informing that she had taken up residence in Jamia Hafsa, said the father.

All his efforts since to regain her have failed, he said.

“I wrote to religious figures for help but none responded. I tried to file a complaint against Jamia Hafsa but Aabpara police won’t do that. A gunman of Lal Masjid tortured me in front of the Aabpara police station for trying that,” he said.

When the parents’ pleas pestered her too much, he alleged, Umm-e-Hassan threatened leveling “such a shameful charge that I would not be able to survive in the society”.

“My daughter is willing to return home but Umm-e-Hassan never allowed me to meet her in privacy. I feel she has brainwashed my daughter,” Mr Qayyum claimed to Dawn.

His young, bearded companion, Muhammad Imran, gave a new angle to the story by saying that he was engaged to Uzma three years ago and had left immediately afterwards for Saudi Arabia.

“When I came back, I learnt that Uzma has gone to Jamia Hafsa and is not willing to return home. I have tried many times to contact her but failed,” he said.

Mr. Qayyum added that he had requested Umm-e-Hassan to arrange Imran’s Nikah with Uzma and let her go with her husband but she replied that Istikhara (guidance from holy Quran) did not favour the match.

Umm-e-Hassan, however, denied all the allegations against her to Dawn.

She said Uzma came to her institution saying she did not want to live with her “harassing” father.

“Since we are already burdened with so many difficulties, I was not ready to take a new responsibility. I tried my best to persuade her to return to her family but she refused. I also offered her to arrange her Nikah with Imran and leave with him but she again refused, saying that her Istikhara did not approve of the union,” said the head of Jamia Hafsa.

“Still I did not want to keep her in Jamia Hafsa. I knew that her family would level allegations against me so I decided to send her to a magistrate. He initially sent her to Darul Aman (a government shelter for women) and after four days recorded her statement in which she said that she wants to live in Jamia Hafsa. So the court sent her here,” she said.

“She is 26 years old and according to the laws of Pakistan and Islam she has the right to live anywhere she wants. That becomes an issue when parents want to force their children to marry a person of their choice but in this case it seems it is so just because the girl is in Jamia Hafsa. “Everyone wants that she should marry against her wish,” said Umm-e-Hassan.

SHO Khalid Awan of Aabpara Police Station agreed that the law is on the girl’s side. In the statement she recorded under section 164 before Magistrate Kamran Cheema (on July 10, 2014) she said that she does not want to live with her parents.

“We cannot file a case because, according to the law, every adult Pakistani has the right to live wherever he or she wants to live,” said the officer.


Jokowi Pledges to Protect Female Human Rights Activists

23 Dec, 2014

Jakarta. Having granted clemency to a female activist just last week, President Joko Widodo on Monday promised that other female Indonesian activists would never be imprisoned again for defending human rights.

“We have to keep fighting for people’s rights. Female activists, who strive for their rights and also other people’s rights, should never be imprisoned. Something like that should never happen again,” Joko, also known as Jokowi, said on Monday in Jakarta.

The president was speaking on Indonesia’s Mother’s Day. It was not immediately clear whether his pledge would also apply to male human rights defenders.

Last Wednesday, the Justice and Human Rights Ministry issued a letter granting clemency to Eva Susanti Bande, a human rights activist who had been jailed after standing up for farmers’ rights in Luwuk, South Sulawesi, in 2010

Eva, who was released from the Petobo detention center in Palu, Central Sulawesi, on Friday, was convicted of instigation and vandalism for her involvement in a rally with a group of farmers against a palm oil company.

In 2010, the Luwuk District Court in Central Sulawesi sentenced Eva to 3.5 years in prison but her sentence was increased to four years on appeal. Eva requested presidential clemency after the Supreme Court turned down her appeal last year.

“I granted Eva’s plea for clemency because I’m fully aware of what she’s striving for, which is the people’s right to land,” Joko said.


Trade In Illegal Maids in Saudi Arabia Flourishes

23 Dec, 2014

Many Saudi families have resorted to hiring illegal housemaids, since the legal recruitment of domestic workers has become more challenging. Some expat women who have entered the Kingdom illegally are offering their services to families who need them urgently, creating a flourishing black market for this kind of services.

Saudi families have been struggling to hire domestic help following a ban by Asian and African countries on sending housemaids to work in the Kingdom. Ethiopia and Kenya are among the countries which recently banned their citizens from working in Saudi Arabia, canceling visas for housemaids in the Kingdom and permanently stopping any manpower export to the Kingdom.

Other countries also refused to send domestic workers to Saudi Arabia, following reports of crimes and accidents last year. These conditions have contributed to an underground trade in housemaids who have entered the Kingdom illegally.

“There are several reasons for the flourishing illegal housemaid trade in the Kingdom. The first reason is the urgent need of Saudi families for housemaids. Secondly, recruitment offices have raised prices by 40 percent,” Khaleel Shake, an economist familiar with the issue, told Arab News.

“Some African and Asian countries have stopped sending domestic workers to the Kingdom, creating a demand-supply imbalance in the local market,” Shake said.

Many of these illegal women live in hard circumstances in the Kingdom, since most of them are uneducated, with barely enough money to survive. Therefore, they take advantage of the housemaid crisis, despite the risk of being arrested for working and staying in the country illegally.

Some citizens said they were forced to hire illegal housemaids as they did not see an alternative. “I hired illegal expat women to work as housemaids for two months since I couldn’t afford a recruitment office. I don’t think there are any other alternatives, except to hire illegal housemaids, which are creating a temporary solution due to their low prices,” Abu Ahmed, a Saudi citizen, explained.

Meanwhile, highway patrol foiled an attempt to smuggle illegal Somali and Indonesian women from Taif and Makkah region to different cities, with Saudis working as brokers, according to a local media.

Highway patrol has captured over 259,296 illegal infiltrators, mostly from the southern border. At the same time, the border guards succeeded in arresting 4,343 smugglers, 70 percent of whom are Yemenis who were trying to infiltrate into Saudi borders, according to 2013 statistics of the Directorate General of the Border Guards.


Saudi Wives of prisoners demand support as they suffer ostracism

23 Dec, 2014

Wives of prisoners serving time in the Kingdom’s jails are demanding protection from the harsh attitudes of society due to the stigma attached to the head of family being behind bars.

They said that they were being ostracized by society at a crucial time and demanded special attention for their children’s education to help them grow into responsible citizens.

Social scientists participating in the activities of the Third Gulf Inmates Week ,organized by the Prisons Administration of the Makkah Province in Jeddah recently, supported the demand of the families to receive support and be protected from social contempt and neglect.

They said that the women and children of inmates are also citizens of the country and had equal rights to education and other programs.

Umm Jaber, wife of an inmate with children said she was finding it hard to make ends meet after her husband was thrown into prison having been convicted in a criminal case five years ago. She said that the company which he used to work for before his conviction sacked him without making any payment leaving his family in dire straits. Umm Jaber wished she could get some government assistance to enable her children to grow into good citizens.

Umm Sami, wife of another inmate, also wished for some sort of steady financial assistance to pull her through, saying that society viewed her and her children as outlaws and refused any kind of assistance.

Psychologist Amani Al-Jahdali underscored the significance of supporting families of prisoners. “When a man is forced to spend a considerable part of his life in jail, his wife has to bear the family responsibility along with the trauma of her husband being a convict,” she said.

Amani stressed that the community should come forward and take responsibility for bringing up the children of a prisoner. “Several studies confirm the need to educate and shape a child’s personality during the first five years,” she said.

She said that it was important for society to double its efforts to protect the families of prisoners until the convicts are released from jail in order to help the children form a healthy social outlook.

She added that any citizen who has had the misfortune of being an inmate must have the right to rebuild his life after the completion of his jail time and be accepted in society.

Another psychologist Zahir Al-Hokair also stressed the need to grant moral, psychological and financial support to the prisoners’ families.


Haia helps woman in shelter to remarry

23 Dec, 2014

A woman living in a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Najran has remarried her husband with the generous support of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) and the Social Affairs Ministry.

This has been a positive event in a somewhat tragic affair for the woman who had been staying in the shelter in Najran with her two children and three sisters after seeking refuge from an abusive father. Their mother is also at the


Midwah Al-Midwah, head of the social affairs department and director of the social committee in Najran, told Arab News recently that the center helped to reunite the woman with her husband. The center and Haia members sponsored the costs of their wedding, SR30,000 dowry, furniture and housing in Al-Kharj governorate where the husband works.

Al-Midwah said the police had rescued the women from the head of the family who had physically abused them over several years, despite signing an undertaking with the police that he would not do so.

The social affairs committee had been trying to help the women. They started by looking at the case of the woman who had been divorced from her husband for over a year.

The center contacted the husband’s employer to ask if he could have time off to get married to his ex-wife. Al-Midwah said the husband had not been able to remarry because he did not have enough money.

The joyous nuptials were held at a wedding hall in the area in the presence of the bride’s happy mother and sisters who will continue to stay at the center until their case is resolved.


Peerzada, From Bollywood to Lecturing Women on Faith

23 Dec, 2014

DUBAI: Life takes unknown turns for everyone. People can hardly guess what is in store next. Such a scenario fits in perfectly for Murcyleen Peerzada, who some couple of years ago was in the limelight of Bollywood with prominent film makers, but now changed her life completely and devoted to religion, delivering lectures to women.

With such life-changing events, the learning and now devoting her life for Muslim world, Peerzada has so much to share.

In an email interview with The Gulf Today, Murcyleen Peerzada unfolds her life story and makes clear that the lack of information for masses results in various problems. She is set to start a series of lectures in January 2015 in Dubai to address women and educate them about Islam as religion and its practice in daily life. She belongs to a Kashmiri Muslim family and was born and raised in Mumbai, finished graduation from Narsee Monjee College of Commerce and Economics (Mumbai) and holds a degree in Mass Media and Communications. She grew up in a “liberal Muslim household” and received basic Islamic education. She was not a practicing Muslim till she was 21.

In the search for answers to her questions, Murcyleen began reading books on Islam for the very first time in her life. She came across a transcript of a video of Zakir Naik on the topic “Women in Islam” and read it all in one evening. She began to train under Farhat Naik, wife of world renowned Islamic speaker and orator, Dr Zakir Naik, who heads the ladies wing in IRF and within a short while became one her most dedicated students. Excerpts from the interview:

How difficult was it to leave the Bollywood world when you were so close to having a successful career?

Of course, it was difficult but Allah made it easy Alhamdulillah. People who have known me since my childhood can’t believe to see me taking up Islam so seriously.  So it’s like I planned something but Allah had different plans for me.

It’s good that I did get those many offers and opportunities, that way I don’t have any regrets now. I got what I wanted and then realised that I didn’t want it.  Walking out of a look test for my movie was probably the most difficult thing I ever had to do, but it took me six hours in front of the camera to give up something that I wanted.

I worked with the best talents in Bollywood for about two years. I was extremely focused towards being an actress. I started with assistant direction in YRF so that I could learn the whole process of film-making and while doing that I got many offers to be a lead actress.

Are you addressing issues faced by the women in society generally or issues particular to Muslim women to understand Islam and practice it in their daily lives?

I want to appeal to the ones who don’t have a strong Imaan (faith) because not too long ago I was exactly like that. I have had a very liberal upbringing and have been a very regular teenager.

We live in a different time and it’s hard to balance between the Deen and the Dunia. Islam liberates women from judgment, norms and trends. The Burqa doesn’t make us “backward” nor does a mini skirt make us “modern”. I would obviously want to help the society in general but mostly I’m interested in addressing issues faced by the Muslim women… That will be my first priority. I want to help the Muslim youth realise the importance of maintaining our identity and be proud of being a Muslim. Understanding Islam in the right prospective is very important for us so that we can carry it off in the right manner.

Who will be your target audience in Dubai?

Not just Dubai but Muslim girls everywhere, I want to spread a lot of goodness in the world. I have been in two very different careers. I have with all opportunities that have come to me chosen this for myself. I’m not a stranger to all the current trends and way of life. I understand the dilemma that young Muslims are facing. I want people to come back to Islam by understanding the wisdom and relevance of our faith.

Besides Mumbai, have you delivered lectures in other cities/states in India?

I recently organised a conference in Kashmir. There were several women speakers from IRF, Mumbai including myself and Farhat Zakir Naik. It was a great turnout more than we expected, around 6,000 women attended the event.  The whole auditorium was filled with young girls and women; we couldn’t make space for a lot of people.

What I realize is Muslim women are very interested in learning more about the Deen, but we don’t have too many platforms for them. I want to change that. I plan to create a wider platform for women to be heard and especially women in the field of Da’wah.

After Dubai are you planning to address women in other countries by going on an international tour?

Something like that is definitely on the cards. Dubai is my favourite city so I’ll start from Dubai. I’m a student of Deen and I’m yet learning about the various subjects in Islam. Insha Allah I do want to make a larger difference.


‘Divorced’ Muslim Women Lack Access to Justice in Nepal

23 Dec, 2014

MAHOTTARI, DEC 22 – Hasmuna Khatun of Parsadewad-7 in the district has been left in the lurch after her 10-year marriage ended recently as her husband Mustakim Shesh divorced her over the phone while he was working in Saudi Arabia.

“He (Shesh) divorced me over the phone, saying that I was not his right wife,” said Hasmuna, who is living with her parents after her in-laws kicked her out of the house following the divorce. Hasmuna said her husband does not support her and their two children.

Khusmuda Khatun was also divorced for she had gone to her maternal uncle’s house in India for the purpose of treating her son. Her husband works in Mumbai. She said she works as a wage labourer to support her three children.

The trend of Muslim women being divorced for no apparent reasons is on the rise in the district. According to available data, more than 300 Muslim women are divorced in Parsadewad alone.

However, many divorced women are deprived of the share of husband’s property as they lack marriage registration as well as birth registration of their children. Though the court delivered a verdict in favour of Hasmuna recently, she is yet to receive her share of her husband’s property for want of marriage registration. Chadani Khatun, a tenth grader at local school, said Muslim women are deprived of their rights as they neither register their marriage nor children’s births. “The trend of divorce for no apparent reason could end if marriages and births in the community were registered,” she said.

Sunita Bhattarai of District Women and Children Office said they are launching campaigns to minimise gender-based violence. Former VDC chairman Anawarul Hak said the government and society should create awareness on birth and marriage registration in Muslim community in order to control social evils.


The Afghan film where a Buzkashi game decides a woman’s future

23 Dec, 2014

A Man’s Desire for a Fifth Wife, an Afghan film shot in a volatile northern province of Afghanistan, has recently been screened in Kabul.

Ostensibly a love story, it delivered some uncomfortable home truths about Afghan society in this first outing to a home audience.

It tells the story of a wealthy landowner Sher Mohammad who is married with four wives, the maximum number according to Islamic law, but who becomes infatuated with another woman named Ulker. He decides he wants to marry her as well, a decision overshadowed by friction and rivalry at home.

But two other men are also in love with the object of his desire – another wealthy married man and a shepherd. To avoid mayhem in the local community the young woman’s father says that the fate of his daughter should be decided by a Buzkashi game.

This is a traditional Afghan game where men on horseback fight to pick up a dead goat from the ground, run it across the field and throw it into a circle or a “goal”.

Unflinching portrayal

But what about the object of the men’s desire?

She loves the shepherd, but as the film’s director Sadeq Abedi says: “Sadly Afghan women usually don’t have a choice in selecting their future husbands. They end up living in misery for the rest of their life. I wanted to show this reality.”

At one point in the film Ulker says she does not want her fate to be “tied to the feet of the horses”.

It is not without irony that the most emotionally demanding roles for women in this film were played by Central Asian actresses. Afghan women tend to shy away from scenes that portray them at odds with their own culture.

Nevertheless a number of scenes in the film provide an unflinching portrayal of life in Afghanistan, including the scene where Sher Mohammad beats one of his wives or the scene where we are privy to the agony of two young boys as they are circumcised without anaesthetic.

“Scenes like a man hitting his wife or the circumcision of boys show the harsh reality of life in Afghanistan, where women are treated inhumanely and the vast majority of people still have no access to medical care,” Mr Abedi says.

A woman in the audience at its first screening in Kabul echoes these thoughts: “The film has shown scenes that we’ve never seen before. I think it will be interesting for a global audience to see what happens in parts of Afghanistan.”

People in rural Afghanistan still consult a man in the community whose many “skills” extending to cutting hair, pulling out painful teeth and performing circumcisions. This is a centuries-old tradition.

It was partly this desire to document these ancient and steadfast customs that led Mr Abedi to take the controversial decision of shooting the film entirely in northern Afghanistan. He wanted to capture real life in these areas.

“We needed Afghan scenery, horses and uniform for the horse riders not to mention thousands of extras,” he said.

Afghan princess

Putting an international crew of 120 in volatile Faryab province was not an easy decision, but although Mr Abedi received threats, the support of local residents, tribal leaders and the army was eventually decisive.

Very few films are produced in Afghanistan, as a result of decades of conflict.

Before those conflicts began, Afghanistan did have an emerging film industry. In 1965, Raia Balkhi was the first film produced without foreign help. It was a romantic story based on the life of a princess from the 10th Century – the first Afghan woman poet, who fell in love with a slave.

Sima and Abdullah Shadan played the leading roles. When they later married, they became the Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt of their time in Afghanistan.

Almost 50 years later, the spotlight is not on a story about an Afghan woman liberated and bold enough to proclaim her love for a slave, but a woman whose father decrees that the outcome of a game will decide her future husband.

Perhaps, as the director argues, this is the truest depiction of Afghan life. But, with a spoiler warning for the next line, the young woman’s fate was also in the director’s hands.

So despite the man’s desire for a fifth wife, the shepherd won the match and the young lovers were united. He opted for the happy ending.


Pupils from a Muslim Girls’ School Have Raised Over £200 for a Hospice

23 Dec, 2014

Pupils from a Muslim Girls’ school have raised over £200 for a Hospice.

Pupils from the Islamiyah Girls School raised the money in the hope of making a difference to patients.

In total they raised £214.50 for the East Lancashire Hospice.

Mr Seedat, head teacher of the school said, “The girls are helping to support their local community and the involvement they have may also lead to volunteering for the hospice. We will repeat our fundraising again next year for this important charity.”


Bringing Education to African Girls

23 Dec, 2014

THE HAGUE — Two decades ago, when Ann Cotton, a British educator and philanthropist, started examining the problem of low school enrollment among girls in rural Zimbabwe, she was struck by the crushing poverty, which to her presented an even bigger obstacle to girls’ education than tradition.

Families did not have enough money for school fees, uniforms or books, and would spend what little they had on the education of their sons, who were more likely to get paid jobs.

On Nov. 4, Ms. Cotton was awarded the World Innovation Summit for Education prize for her role as founder and director of Camfed, an organization that has helped millions of young girls in sub-Saharan Africa remain in school.

WISE, which was established by the Qatar Foundation in 2009 in Doha, Qatar, has become one of the leading forums for open discussion on the state of global education. More than 1,500 delegates, including academics, teachers, students and innovators from 107 countries, attended this year’s forum, with an especially large representation of educators from the Middle East and the Southern Hemisphere.

The $500,000 prize was awarded to Ms. Cotton at the meeting’s opening by Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, co-founder and chairwoman of the Qatar Foundation, and the wife of the former emir of Qatar.

Ms. Cotton’s early experience in Zimbabwe led her to the conclusion that direct sponsorship would help ensure that more girls attended school, a realization that motivated her to found Camfed in 1993.

She began by getting financial aid for a few dozen students. The organization has grown substantially since then and has supported more than 1.2 million students in Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

More than three million students have benefited from the improved learning environments that are an indirect result of Camfed’s work.

Besides financially supporting students, the organization trains teachers, mentors and community activists. It has also created a 25,000-member network of Camfed graduates who use their own experiences to teach and advise their communities, something the organization calls a “virtuous cycle.”

Providing universal primary education for children has been declared one of the goals of the United Nation’s post-2015 development framework, and technological advances promise to shake the foundations of even the poorest education systems. The announcement of the education prize on the first day of WISE’s sixth world summit meeting, in a year when Kailash Satyarthi of India and Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their fight to bring education to all children, put the topic of children’s education, especially for girls, at the forefront of the discussion.

“There is a feeling, a zeitgeist, a global awareness around this issue, and we have to take advantage it,” Ms. Cotton said in a telephone interview from Cambridge, England, the week before the prize was announced.

This sentiment was shared by others who attended the meeting.

“Fifteen years ago, you would have to explain to people why girls’ education is important,” said Safeena Husain, founder and chief executive of the Indian nonprofit Educate Girls. “Now the issue of education and gender is ripe.”

“It’s been these positive stories and also these incredibly horrific stories that have brought a sense of urgency to the issue,” Ms. Husain said, referring to a recent spate of violent crimes directed against women and girls in India.

Ms. Husain, who spoke on a panel on motivating young pupils, founded Educate Girls in 2007. Her organization works with nearly 5,700 schools in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan to eliminate the gender gap in primary schools.

Ahead of this year’s meeting, the theme of which was creativity, the Qatar Foundation conducted a survey on schools in the year 2030.

The results of the survey were released on the eve of the gathering, which led to extensive discussions on the evolution of global education and the factors that are likely to shape it in the future.

“We are facing, as a planet, huge challenges in terms of environmental and technological change,” said Keri Facer, a professor of education at the University of Bristol, in Britain. “These are not things that are confined to the border.”

Professor Facer was on a panel discussing the future of education degrees in a world where the opportunities to engage in higher learning have become uncoupled from conventional degree- or diploma-granting institutions, notably through the growth of massive open online courses, commonly known as MOOCs.

The Qatar Foundation survey, “School in 2030,” was carried out among 645 education experts this past summer. The majority of participants predicted that certification by companies, or peer-review mechanisms — like those already offered on some business-oriented social networks such as LinkedIn — would replace academic diplomas in the future as indicators of a person’s level of education or qualifications.

Nearly half agreed that by 2030, most of what students learn will come from online, with 73 percent saying the role of the teacher would shift toward a guide and mentor for students and away from the traditional role as the source of knowledge, a role predicted by only 19 percent.


Journey of Pakistan’s sexual harassment law captured in documentary

23 Dec, 2014

ISLAMABAD: “A large number of women face sexual harassment at work and leave their jobs rather than complaining about it. Women should speak up against sexual harassment because silence exacerbates the problem,” said Dr Fouzia Saeed at the launch of a documentary titled I was not alone based on her struggle for the promulgation of the law against sexual harassment.

The documentary was made by non-governmental organisation (NGO) World Movement for Democracy (WMD) and was launched in collaboration with the NGO, Mehergarh, at Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) on Monday.

WMD identified three individuals who had done outstanding work for the protection of human rights and highlighted their struggles and achievements in three documentaries.

Dr Fouzia said that although the law against sexual harassment was made in 2010, a large section of the population was unaware about the law and its implications.

I was not alone highlights one woman’s struggle for promulgation of law

“If we raise awareness about this law and join hands to work together for its implementation, no one can stop us from working and living our lives with dignity,” she said.

In the 20-minute long documentary, Dr Fouzia discusses how she used to work at the United Nations when a colleague sexually harassed her.

She was quiet about this for three years. When she finally decided to speak up, she found out that some of the other women at the office were facing the same problem. Eventually 11 women filed a sexual harassment case against their colleague.

This proved to be a turning point in Dr Fouzia’s life and the beginning of her 10-year struggle for the promulgation of the law against sexual harassment.

As Dr Fouzia filed the case against her colleague on December 22, the then prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, declared the day as National Working Women’s Day.

Representative of the WMD Zafarullah Khan said this documentary was an attempt to capture the movement for making a law against harassment. Success stories should be shared and exchanged to motivate others.

Speaking at the event, Member of National Assembly (MNA) Nafisa Shah said people often say that women have four roles – mother, daughter, wife and sister – but this is incorrect.

“A woman can be a good manager, worker, politician and social activist. We have role models like Malala Yousafzai and Dr Fouzia Saeed. We had the youngest woman prime minister in a Muslim country,” she said.

“Women should come out to work in greater numbers as there are few women in jobs today. For example, women are only 0.5 per cent of the police force,” she said.

MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said the documentary inspired him as it showed that anything was possible.

“I have been struggling for Hindu Marriage and Divorce Act since 2002. I believe that one day the act will pass. Dr Fouzia has also supported me in struggle against forced conversions,” he said.

Retired Senator Col Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement said women were a majority in Pakistan and this majority must be given their rights. He said that it was unfortunate that many senators opposed the sexual harassment act.

“Senators would blame women and say it’s inappropriate clothing that invites harassment,” he said. Former provincial minister from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Sitara Ayaz, from Awaami National Party said as the first woman minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, she faced many problems. “But only women can bring true change,” she added.


Saudi Shoura to vote on birth rate cut

23 Dec, 2014

The Shoura Council will vote on a delicate subject, the reduction of the birth rate in the Kingdom. During the session, the council will hear the point of view of the committee that was tasked with researching the subject.

In its report, the committee supported encouraging breastfeeding among Saudi women, but expressed reservations about reducing the birth rate because it has already dropped in the past four decades. According to the committee’s report, the birth rate at the end of the 1970s was 7 infants per woman, a number that has dropped to 4.8 in 2000 and 3.3 in 2009.

The committee said that some of its objections to reduce birth rates stem from the growing number of foreign workers already present in the country to fill the shortage in domestic labor. According to the committees’ population forecast, this will lead to an imbalance in demography of the Kingdom in the near future. In addition, when Western countries reduced their birth rates, they suffered shortages in manpower, which opened the door for large numbers of immigrants, resulting in many social, religious, economic and political disturbances.

In the next 15 years, the committee argued, the birth rate is expected to drop to 0.98 child per couple, less than the global average. Statistics also point to the drop in the population growth and birth rate in the Kingdom by 6.01 percent.



150 Women Executed After Refusing To Marry ISIL Militants

150 Women Executed After Refusing To Marry ISIL Militants


Kurdish female fighters of the Women Protection Unit (YPJ) squat as they discuss military strategies at a training field near Qamishli city May 11, 2014. REUTERS/Massoud Mohammed

15 Schoolgirls Killed In Yemen Car Bomb

China Becomes Latest Nation to Impose Burqa Ban in Muslim Western Capital

254 Female Freedom Fighters Honoured In Bangladesh

Breast-Feeding Break at Work: Saudi Ministry Official

Hatred of Women on the March in Iran

Saudisation Will Help Women Adapt To Work Culture

Embedding With the Women Who Are Kicking ISIS Ass

Women’s Veil Needed For ‘Weak-Hearted’ Men

Kurdish Female Fighters Battle for Freedom in Syria

Hope for Muslim Women’s Fashion Exhibition to Counter Misconceptions

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



150 Women Executed After Refusing To Marry ISIL Militants

World Bulletin/News Desk

December 17, 2014

At least 150 women who refused to marry militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, were executed in the western Iraqi province of Al-Anbar, Iraq’s Ministry of Human Rights said.

According to a ministry statement released Tuesday, ISIL militants carried out a number of attacks in Fallujah and buried the victims in mass graves in one of the city’s neighborhoods.

“At least 150 females, including pregnant women, were executed in Fallujah by a militant named Abu Anas Al-Libi after they refused to accept jihad marriage,” the statement said. “Many families were also forced to migrate from the province’s northern town of Al-Wafa after hundreds of residents received death threats.”

The ministry said many children died when their families were stranded in the desert after leaving their homes.

ISIL controls many areas in Al-Anbar and is attempting to take over Ramadi, the province’s capital city.

The U.S. is leading an international coalition that has carried out a number of airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria since the militant group captured the northern province of Mosul back in June.


15 Schoolgirls Killed In Yemen Car Bomb

December 17, 2014

SANAA: On a day when Taliban militants killed over 130 school children in Peshawar, 15 schoolgirls were killed in Yemen when their bus was caught up in a car bomb attack targeting a local militia leader by suspected al Qaeda militants on Tuesday, officials said.

Another 10 people also died in the blast outside the home of Abdallah Idriss, a leader of the Shia rebels known as Huthis, in the flashpoint town of Rada in central Yemen, a security source said.

A medical official confirmed at least 25 people had died.

The attack “bore the hallmarks” of al Qaeda, the security source told AFP.

The United States considers the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, to be the global jihadist network’s most dangerous affiliate.

Also blaming al Qaeda, the Yemeni defence ministry condemned “this cowardly terrorist attack on the home of a citizen and a school bus”.

The AQAP has yet to claim responsibility, but last month its military chief Qassem al-Rimi vowed to launch fierce attacks against the Shia militia.

“To the Huthis we say: brace yourselves for horrors that will make the hair of children turn white,” he said at the time.

Yemen has been rocked by instability since the Shia fighters seized control of the capital Sanaa on September 21.

The Huthis have since expanded their presence in western and central Yemen, but have been met by fierce resistance from Sunni tribes and al Qaeda militants.

The bombing comes after at least six Huthi militants were killed Friday in an attack on their checkpoint in Baida province, according to tribal sources.

Al Qaeda claimed at the time that it had killed dozens of people in several attacks in Rada, which is located in Baida province.

Tuesday’s attack was the second bombing to target Huthis in Rada in little more than a month.

On November 12, a suicide bomber killed dozens of people gathered at the residence of a tribal chief in the town.

The mixed Sunni-Shia town has seen heavy fighting since the Huthis took over parts of it in October, with al Qaeda setting its sights on Rada.

State authority has weakened in the face of the rivalries on the ground.

Armed Huthis on Tuesday surrounded the defence ministry in Sanaa after having been denied access, a military source said.

Another group of Shiite militiamen broke into the offices of Ath-Thawra newspaper demanding the dismissal of the chairman of the board, Faisal Makram, a source at the official daily told AFP.

The militiamen said they were following orders from their leader, Abdelmalek al-Huthi, “to end corruption in all state institutions”.

In another sign of its weakness, the government of Khaled Bahah lost a parliamentary vote of confidence on Tuesday.

Loyalists of ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh derailed the vote by leaving the assembly.

Lawmakers from Saleh’s General People’s Congress staged the walkout in protest after the party’s office in the southern city of Aden was shut.

“The closure of the headquarters of our party in Aden by the security forces does not help the government,” said Sultan al-Barakani, head of the GPC’s parliamentary bloc.

Saleh remains influential in Yemen nearly three years after he was forced to step aside following a bloody year-long crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired protests against his iron-fisted rule.

He has been accused of backing the Shia rebels.


China Becomes Latest Nation to Impose Burqa Ban in Muslim Western Capital

Dec 17, 2014

China has just banned the Burqa (ambulatory body bag and face mask) in the mainly Muslim province of Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi. The government has also banned Islamic head coverings and beards in an effort to contain restive Islamic fundamentalism (“political Islam”) from turning into a full-scale Jihad against the state.

“Beijing blames Islamist separatists for several deadly bomb and knife attacks that have killed hundreds of people in the past two years,” Reuters notes. According to experts and exiles, China’s “heavy-handed policies” may be the cause of ethnic and religious unrest.

Communism still views religion as the “opiate” of the people and as having the dangerous power of dividing a citizen’s loyalty between private faith and the state. Thus, China has controlled permitted religious practices—but it has also jailed clerics, instituted bans, restricted certain religious practices entirely. In neighbouring Tibet, occupied by China, Buddhist monks, nuns, and former nuns have immolated themselves in protest to the “brutal repression” of their religion.

While I do not agree with many of China’s policies, their ban on face veils, body bags, and beards in public may make sense. Many European cities and countries have also banned the face veil (with varying degrees of success).

Communist Russia was unsuccessful in holding back the tide of political Islam in Afghanistan. Although they did offer education and other benefits to poor people, including women, the Afghan mode of resistance was associated with the Burqa, the turban, and the beard. China is well aware of this. Interestingly, both Tunisia and Turkey have bans on hijab (head covering) in public schools, universities, and government buildings; Morocco has no such ban but it discourages women from wearing Islamic head or face coverings.

Do followers of radical, political Islam who believe in holy war (Jihad) against “unbelievers” tend to face-veil their women? According to Samia Labidi, the answer is yes.

There is also this: Face veils and Burqas are not mandated by the Qur’an. “Modesty” is mandated for both men and women. There are serious security risks associated with face veils (Niqab) and Burqas (head, face, and body bags). Recently, in Abu Dhabi, an American woman was stabbed to death by a woman wearing a Burqa. In addition, face masks are, in my view, a violation of both woman’s rights and human rights.

If someone is living in France or China, what does it mean that they want to look as if they are living in the Arab Middle East, following protocols with links to Jihadism that are not mandated by the Qur’an? Does it mean they are signalling a hostile separation from the state—one that seems to inevitably lead to Jihad terrorism?

China is not known as a bastion of religious freedom or of other human rights. Although religious freedom is a constitutional right, nevertheless, the atheist, communist, Chinese government has been persecuting, outlawing, and limiting Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, Falun Gong, and Taoist practices for many years.

Islamic practice has been similarly treated. There are anywhere from 21 to 50 million Muslims, mainly located in four northwest provinces of China: Ningxia, Quinghai, Gansu (where Hui/Han and some Uyghur Muslims live), and Xinjiang (where mainly ethnic Uyghur Muslims live).

Many Uyghur Muslims were once part of Eastern Turkistan.

As Westerners, we value the post-Enlightenment principle of freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion. Islam does not honour anyone who leaves the faith and views doing so as a capital crime. For this reason alone, Islam is radically different than other world religions. Today, most Muslim countries do not allow non-Muslims to practice their religion; on the contrary, over the centuries, Muslims have persecuted, exiled, and slaughtered Christians, Jews, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Ba’hai, “politicals,” and the wrong kind of Muslims.


254 Female Freedom Fighters Honoured In Bangladesh

17 December 2014

The Muktijuddho Academy yesterday accorded reception to 254 female freedom fighters for their contribution in the 1971 Liberation War.

Speakers at the programme said the female freedom fighters had not been recognised properly because of the patriarchal society, and that they should be honoured before they die.

Deputy Leader of the House Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury distributed crests, certificates and flag among them at the National Museum of the capital.

The senior Awami League leader said: “Women played a great role in our Liberation War which cannot be denied. But many female freedom fighters still do not get the proper recognition they deserve.

“The country achieved independence for the contribution of all people regardless age, occupation, religion, nationality and caste.”

Sajeda urged all to identify and bring out those women from every corner of the country who had contribution in the war; no matter if they used to cook for the freedom fighters.

Muktijuddho Academy Chairman Abul Azad presided over the programme.

He said: “Still, there is no final list of the female freedom fighters. The actual number of female freedom fighters will be more than what is in the gazette.

“We are preparing a primary list of female freedom fighters following proper verification. It will be submitted to the government soon.”


Breast-Feeding Break at Work: Saudi Ministry Official

Dec 17, 2014

The Ministry of Labour has announced several new measures to encourage women to enter the work force, including breast-feeding for one hour a day over two years.

Mothers would be allowed this concession at a time agreed upon with their employers. A ministry official told Arab News that the new steps would empower women, giving them the rights and independence to work in a safe and secure environment.

The concessions would also cover women with disabilities, he said. The other measures include working from home and in retail outlets such as shops and stalls in enclosed malls, particularly those selling products for female customers. Allowing women to work from home would reduce transport problems and benefit their families, he said.

The ministry said that employers are required to follow the Nitaqat program’s quotas.

The rate of unemployment amongst Saudi women in 2013 has been pegged at 34 percent, up 2 percent from the previous year, according to recent statistics issued by the Central Department of Statistics and Information (CDSI).

The CDSI statistics also showed that the rate of unemployment among men stands at 6.2 percent. According to the Civil Affairs Ministry, there are 1.2 million Saudis working in the public sector with women accounting for 38.3 percent.


Hatred of Women on the March in Iran

17 December 2014

The hatred, misogyny and injustice against Iranian women has continued to ratchet up under the office of the so-called moderate president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani.

After a series of acid attacks against young women in the city of Esfahan, the Iranian parliament (Majlis) has passed a new bill, which would allow Basij, the governmental volunteer militia, to go around in the streets and give verbal warning to those Iranian women who do not comply with the government’s Islamic dress code.

More recently, stabbing women has become another sign of increased violence. A suspect was recently arrested for stabbing six women in city of Fars in Iran, reportedly for wearing an improper Hijab. One of the women was stabbed in the stomach. According to Saham News, the suspect is the son of a Basij Commander from the village of Ghotbabad.

The Basij, which is supervised by the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, intervenes in the day to day activities of ordinary people, spying on individuals, and attempting to impose the ideological and Islamist doctrine of the Iranian government.

When I used to live in Iran, I, like many Iranian people, witnessed how young girls would be dragged into police cars by the moral police for not complying with the government’s religious dress code. Showing some strands of hair or some part of the body in public can lead to arrest, imprisonment, and fines.

The Vigilante Law to Impose Hijab and Dress Code

Under the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian parliament has also introduced a bill referred to as the “Plan to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice.”  Apparently, all of these human rights abuses and discrimination against women are part of promoting virtue in the perception of the ruling clerics in power.

Nevertheless, what is crucial to point out is that discrimination against Iranian women and the egregious human rights abuses against them are at the core of the cleric political power. In other words, these human rights abuses — such as restricting women’s freedoms, imposing the Hijab on them, encouraging them to stay at home and raise children, forbidding them from participating in sports or even watching some sports events such as volleyball — are cemented in the state’s institutional structure as well as in the Islamic Republic’s constitution.

Secondly, women are being utilized as a crucial tool and platform to define the country as Islamic. Imposing dress codes and the Hijab on women gives the clerical political institution unique character ideologically.  Walking in public and watching millions of women across the country being forced to wear the Hijab and cover their hair strengthen the image of the country as being Islamic.  It also makes it stands out immediately in comparison to other Muslim countries, and it significantly ratchets up the ideological foundation and Shiite agenda of the Islamic Republic.

Third, forcing women to comply with a dress code is the manifestation of the state’s power. Technically, this is referred to as bio power of the state, which is applied in order to homogenize the population, immediately find those who dissent, make women compliant, subservient, and remind women everyday that the state is in power of even their basic activities such as wearing clothes, listening to music, and watching sports. As Michel Foucault states, bio power is a political strategy. “By this I mean a number of phenomena that seem to me to be quite significant, namely, the set of mechanisms through which the basic biological features of the human species became the object of a political strategy, of a general strategy of power.”

Fourth, marginalization of Iranian women by the state and depriving them of their basic and fundamental rights is a method to treat almost half of the population as second-class citizens.  Subduing women, repressing them, and ensuring that women are controlled by their male guardians and state apparatuses, promotes the patriarchal character of the system.

Fifth, the increasing misogynistic laws and hatred against Iranian women will continue whether the president of the Islamic Republic is a reformist, moderate, hardliner, etc. This is due to the fact, all Iranian presidents believe in the fundamental institution of the Islamic Republic and they totally accept the superiority of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Nevertheless, misogyny and hatred against women has not halted courageous and brave Iranian women from fighting inequality and the repression against them. Several female leaders and formidable women’s movements in Iran continue to resist the repressive apparatuses even though they face imprisonment, execution, and torture. Their efforts have produced powerful women such as Shirin Ebadi, the Noble Prize Laureate, and Maryam Rajavi, the human rights and political activist, and the president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

As the repression against women continue in the Islamic Republic, their resistance grows deeper, and their stance firmer. Our responsibility is to chart efficient approaches in order to give a voice to these women and assist them in their struggle for combating extremism carried out under the name of religion, the ruling cleric’s version and the manipulation of Shia Islam.


Saudisation Will Help Women Adapt To Work Culture

17 December 2014

Several Saudi businesswomen claimed that many young women are unable to work in certain jobs due to lack of experience and poor training.

Nouf Al-Rakan, chairman of the businesswomen committee in Riyadh’s Chamber of Commerce, told Arab News that their main difficulty when hiring females was insufficient experience, since many Saudi women don’t work for long periods of time.

Al-Rakan hoped that the recent launch of campaign to promote female employment will yield results, as their expectations are to employ over 2,500 Saudi women for next year. Their hopes are high after a similar campaign during 2014 succeeded in employing more than 1,300 female workers.

The new campaign was presented during the Together for Nationalization plan, presented by Riyadh’s Chamber of Commerce this month. Saudi women are much more productive than their male counterparts, said Al-Rakan.

a fact that has enticed many companies to employ more females.

Currently, women who applied for jobs following the chamber’s program have various degrees of education, with titles ranging from secondary school, university degrees, masters and sometimes PhD degrees, according to the chamber’s data. Women usually prefer jobs in fields like banking, medicine, administration and commerce.

Al-Rakan confirmed that there is coordination between the government private companies, but so far, none from the Ministry of Labor. The chamber is hoping the ministry will be more supporting of the program through follow up and training next summer.


Embedding With the Women Who Are Kicking ISIS Ass

Dec 17, 2014

SULIMANIYA, Iraq—Every morning when veteran fighter Lt. Col. Nasreen Hamlawa walks into her office, the first thing she sees is her daughter’s martyr poster. Snapped on the front lines outside Kirkuk just days before she was killed, Rangin Hamlawa, 26, dressed in classic beige Peshmerga fatigues and holding a sniper rifle, stares hard into the camera.

“I’m glad my daughter died for a cause,” Hamlawa said calmly, referring to the duty of the Peshmergas (described as a “regional guard force” in the Iraqi constitution) to defend Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. “It’s a cause, beliefs that I share,” she said, “and now all I want is to return to the battlefield to continue that work.”

Hamlawa was by her daughter’s side when she was fatally wounded in October. A round of mortar fire launched by the Islamic State landed near their position, riddling Rangin’s body with shrapnel. As Rangin was being prepared to be evacuated to a hospital back in Sulimaniya, Hamlawa’s fellow fighters told her to stay by her daughter’s side and travel with her to the hospital. But, Hamlawa says, she choose to stay on the front lines instead, “I stayed with my other daughters.” Ten days later Rangin died.

Martyr Rangin, as she’s now referred to at the base, was the first female peshmerga fighter to be killed in battle from the 2nd Battalion, since its founding 18 years ago. While the senior officers are veterans of battles against Saddam Hussein’s forces and the Iran-Iraq War, for the majority of the more than 500 women in the unit, the fight against the Islamic State was the first time they’d seen battle.

And while Hamlawa says her daughter’s death has only strengthened the resolve of her fellow fighters, the unit has since been taken off the front lines and called back to their base for further training.

The unit’s commander, Col. Nahida Ahmed Rashid, denies that ordering her troops off the front lines had anything to do with Rangin’s death. She says the women were called back as a matter of common practice for more heavy weapons training. But she admits she’s stir crazy at the base; she wants to return to the fight.

“[Rangin’s death], her loss made our women stronger and more adamant to take their revenge,” she said. “We didn’t want to come back [to our base].”

But, she says, Rangin’s death has also left a “gap” in her unit. “It a big loss,” she says, her eyes sad but dry. “She was one of our bravest fighters.”

Throughout the afternoon, Rashid was inundated with phone calls and knocks on the door. Since Rangin’s death, Rashid says the numbers of women seeking to join the peshmerga has skyrocketed.

“We are getting more and more people asking to join,” she said, so many that she has had to start turning them down because she no longer has the capacity to train new fighters.

Gesturing to a small photograph of Rangin she wears on her lapel, Rashid says she saw a lot of herself in the young officer and was hoping that one day she would take over command of the unit.

“I could see she was a talented leader,” Rashid said of her first impressions of Rangin. “I’m getting older so I was trying to train her to be the one to replace me if I’m not here anymore.” Rashid said she was initially criticized for making the relatively junior Rangin her deputy, but she believed in the young fighter and stood by her decision.

“All these Peshmerga are my daughters but this one was special to me, she was close to me,” Rashid said, “I loved her so much, everyone did.”

“When you become a Peshmerga, your life becomes like a butterfly,” she said. “You can go at any moment.”

The 2nd Battalion was formally established in 1996 during the Kurdish civil war by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) as they were battling the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP).

In four years of brutal fighting reportedly sparked by a quarrel between a KDP landlord and a group of PUK shop owners, an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people were killed. However, the true death toll is believed to be higher as mass graves dating back to that period are still being discovered in the Kurdish region. The conflict ended in 1998 following intensive U.S. mediation with a treaty that divided power and resources between the two parties.

“The idea was to eliminate the difference between men and women in Kurdistan,” said Rashid, who was then a founding member of the unit. After fighting alongside her brothers for years in the 1980s, she demanded the women fighters be formally recognized.

“We wanted to have what the civilized nations do,” she said, “Have women in the armed forces and at the same time fight for women’s rights.”

The relatively young unit partnered with American troops in 2003 during the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, but rarely saw battle. Most female peshmerga fighters were tasked with staffing checkpoints and guarding bases alongside their male counterparts. But following the fall of Mosul and the Islamic State’s ultimate thwarted advance on Erbil, the unit was called up to fight.

“We were part of the unit protecting gas and oil depots outside of Kirkuk,” Rashid says. Her unit first deployed in late June—“A very hot summer,” she remembers. “We first participated in the fight in Basheer against [ISIS], then later our women deployed to the Jalawla area.”

In both arenas, Rashid describes the work of her troops as critical to the Peshmerga victories achieved around the strategically important city of Kirkuk.

“Of course the women fighters are important [in the fight against the Islamic State],” said Jaber Yawer, the spokesman for the Peshmerga forces. Darkly joking, he added, “We were running out of the men.”

Yawer says as a matter of policy, the female Peshmerga unit is treated the same as the other male units. “We don’t think that they are weak,” he said. “They play an important role fighting next to the men because they complement one another.”

Like Rashid, Hamlawa, the mother of the slain female fighter, first fought alongside her brothers in the 1970s against Saddam Hussein’s forces before formally joining the peshmerga when the female unit was established. She says her family encouraged her to join and she, in turn, encouraged her own children.

“We’ve been brought up that Kurdistan is the first thing, to liberate our country and protect our country, so that’s our guiding principle,” she explained from behind a desk in her dark office, “I always wanted my children to follow my path.”

Her family, she said, was aware of the risks. “When you become a peshmerga your life becomes like a butterfly,” she said. “You can go at any moment.”

Another of Hamlawa’s children—a son—is on the front lines outside Kirkuk, she says, while her three surviving daughters, all fighters as well, want to return as soon as possible.

“Children are dear to their mothers, but our land, Kurdistan, is also dear to us.” At this, Hamlawa’s strong eyes water slightly. She dabbed them with a tissue and continued without ceremony. “Without martyrs, you’ll never see a free Kurdistan.”


Women’s Veil Needed For ‘Weak-Hearted’ Men

17 December 2014

Muslim women need to keep a veil on their body and face to protect themselves against men with weak hearts, a senior Saudi Islamic scholar has said.

Sheikh Abdullah Al Manei, member of the 7-man supreme scholars authority in the oil-rich Gulf kingdom, admitted that women’s face veil has been a ‘bone of contention’ among the Islamic scholars for a long time.

“Scholars have differed on whether women can unveil their faces…this matter has been a bone of contention for a long time,” he said, quoted by ‘Sada’ newspaper.

“But the veil can be part of the woman’s commitment to preserving her dignity and chastity…covering her face will protect her from men with weak hearts.”


Kurdish Female Fighters Battle for Freedom in Syria

17 December 2014

TAL KOCHER, Syria: Every night before 27-year-old Arin goes to bed, she hangs her Makarov, a Russian semiautomatic pistol, from a steel coat rack by the entrance to her one-bedroom apartment in a small, dusty town on the Syrian border with Iraq. The pistol was an award for her success on the front line in the battle to protect Kurdish areas of northeastern Syria and is a far cry from her life a year ago when she was working as a nurse in Cologne, Germany.

“This is a bloody war,” Arin, using only her combat name, said at the almost deserted apartment block in Tal Kocher.

“‘But we need to fight it, we need to protect our women and children or nobody else will defend us.”‘

Arin is one of thousands of young Kurdish women who have taken up arms in the past two years.

Kurds, Syria’s largest minority group, are largely left to their own devices by President Bashar Assad’s forces battling ISIS militants who have seized large areas of Iraq and Syria.

An estimated 7,500 women have joined the Women’s Protection Unit (YPJ), many as volunteers.

The unit was set up in 2012 as part of the People’s Defense Unit (YPG), the Kurds’ dominant fighting unit in the northern Syrian Kurdish region of Rojava.

Their aim is to fight any group that threatens Kurdish-inhabited areas of Rojava.

The YPG has taken de facto control over a sizable chunk of Syria’s predominantly Kurdish north.

While female fighters are common within the ranks of Kurdish forces, a women-only combat unit is unusual for the Muslim world, where some traditionalists believe women should not engage in combat.

Like ISIS’ followers, many Kurds are Sunni Muslims, but this band of young female fighters hopes their front-line role will help put women on an equal footing with men.

“We want to set an example for [both] the Middle East and the West. We want gender equality for all,” said one of the six other women in Arin’s unit who all live together in the same, small apartment.

When asked for their full names, the women declined, preferring to be known and addressed by their noms de guerre.

David L. Phillips, director of the Program on Peace-building and Human Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights in New York, said these women were making a mark.

“[They] are some of the fiercest and most effective fighters. Many of them are widowed, and strongly motivated on the battlefield by their personal loss,” he said.

Human Rights Watch has reported serious human rights abuses by the Syrian government and other opposition fighters in Syria.

They also said Kurds in parts of northern Syria have carried out arbitrary arrests and failed to investigate the killings and disappearance of political opponents.

Arin, who was born and raised in Germany, said she was awarded her pistol after she killed 20 ISIS militants, earning her the reputation among her colleagues as one of the most dangerous snipers in the group.

Born in Cologne of Kurdish parents, Arin graduated from nursing school and was working there when the Syrian uprising started.

Some 200,000 people have died during the four-year conflict, according to the U.N.

“I had a good life, I liked living there,”Arin said, dressed in a dark green camouflage uniform.

But she felt she had to do something as the news became worse.

“I remember watching television when I saw women and children slaughtered by ISIS, and I couldn’t stand it anymore,” she added.

Last year she travelled to Syria to join the YPJ and now heads her unit, which originally had 20 members, mainly from Syria and Turkey. Today, only seven survive.

She was reluctant to give too many details about the group’s combat operations or to comment on any links between the YPJ and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, an organization fighting for Kurds in Turkey that is designated a terrorist group by the United States and European Union.

Syrian Kurds have an ambiguous relationship with Assad, who has mostly left them alone while focusing firepower on insurgents fighting to unseat him.

The Syrian Kurds have denied cooperating with him.

When they’re not fighting, the unit of seven women try to avoid talking about war.

They cook and laugh as if they were living an ordinary life, but their lives are far from normal.

Arin hasn’t talked to her parents since she left Germany.

“I don’t call them, its better this way,” she said, adding that she might call then one day, once the war is over.

“My life is here with these brave women. They are my family.”

Her loyalty to her fellow soldiers is typical of YPJ members who boast about living by a code of honesty, morals and justice, addressing each other as “Haval,” the Kurdish word for comrade and friend.

The schedule of Arin’s unit is always tight, starting with breakfast at 8 a.m. and strategy meetings.

Nisan, a 24-year-old combatant, spread a plastic tablecloth on the floor.

She lost her right finger in August while fighting in Rabia, the Iraqi town adjacent to Tal Kocher.

Rangin, another sniper, came in with breakfast: tomatoes, olives, goat cheese, and homemade bread.

After breakfast, the unit’s phone rang. Orders were given and three women grabbed their combat gear, ready to jump in a car waiting for them outside to take them to Jezza, a town close to Ain al-Arab near the Turkish border and one of the most violent flashpoints in the war.

“We are going to fight ISIS, take care,” Arin said as she closed the door behind her.


Hope for Muslim Women’s Fashion Exhibition to Counter Misconceptions

17 December 2014

Geraldton’s museum will host an exhibition showcasing Muslim women’s contemporary fashion this week.

‘Faith Fashion Fusion: Muslim Women’s Style in Australia’ originated in Sydney and will run in Geraldton until March, showcasing the Burkini, denim and red carpet dresses.

It is expected the exhibition will then move to the Kalgoorlie and Albany museums next year.

Geraldton resident Erfana Jackey said she hoped the exhibition would help people better understand the diversity of women in the community.

“We get judged through our local community because we’re more covered and more modest,” she said.

“We get a lot of questions, why do you cover yourself … and isn’t it hot under there?

“It’s not, there are different fabrics, different looks and different seasons that we use to express ourselves.”

She said she hoped the exhibition would help people see through the misconceptions about Muslim women in the community.

“Comfort comes first with me. It’s the way I am with myself and who I am as well,” she said.

“I’m a mother and a wife so it’s about respecting myself and respecting my husband.

“I’m very privileged to be in the exhibition and to be representing the community.”



Faceless ‘Deeni Doll’ Wearing Hijab Launched in Britain for Muslim Girls

Girls after recovery are sitting for their registration before shifting to Darul Banaat child protection unit in Karachi. – PPI/file

Female Saudi Nurses ‘Excel at Their Jobs despite Pressures’

India: Hindutva Forces Issue Warning to Women

Kenyan Girls Sold Into Marriage

Kenya: 20 Girls Forcefully Circumcised in Marakwet

10-Hour Shift Hits Saudi Women Employment

NA Committee to Take up Issue of Karachi’s Madrasah Girls Today

Eva Longoria Says She Relates To the Struggle of Arabs

Amina Wadud Exemplifies Islamic Feminism, Makes Significant Strides In Research

Woman and Girls in Mkhondo, South Africa: Force for Change

Filipino Children Make Gains on Paper, but Reality Lags Behind

Kenya: Islam’s Stance on Violence against Women

Women of 2014: The women of the YPJ, the Syrian Kurdish Women’s Protection Units

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Faceless ‘Deeni Doll’ Wearing Hijab Launched in Britain for Muslim Girls

15 Dec, 2014

A new doll that has no facial features like eyes, nose or mouth and wears a hijab has been launched in Britain for Muslim girls.

The doll has been designed in accordance with the Sharia or Islamic law, which forbids graphic depiction of facial features of any kind.

The “Deeni Doll” costs £25 ($40) and was manufactured in China. Its creator Ridhwana B, who used to teach at a Lancashire Muslim school, said she took four years to create it.

“I came up with the idea from scratch after speaking to some parents who were a little concerned about dolls with facial features,” said Ridhwana, Metro reports.

She further said that some parents do not leave dolls with their children at night “because you are not allowed to have any eyes in the room.”

“There is an Islamic ruling which forbids the depiction of facial features of any kind and that includes pictures, sculptures and, in this case, dolls,” she added.

To materialise the idea, she needed to have considerable knowledge as to what is allowed and what is not under the Islamic law. She said that she spoke to a religious scholar living in Leicester. The scholar guided her through the entire process of designing the product.

At present, the doll is limited to ‘Romeisa’, the female companion of Prophet Muhammad. Ridhwana hopes to extend the range after doing proper research.

“The Islamic range in kid’s toys is quite limited at the moment with few choices. Although this project took a while, I am looking at researching other ideas in the future. I am looking at compiling a book for the Islamic upbringing of children in the future too. We have produced a limited amount at the moment but already I have had parents take up the order.”


Female Saudi nurses ‘excel at their jobs despite pressures’

15 Dec, 2014

A recent report has revealed that Saudi nurses are excelling at their jobs despite social pressure and other biases toward the profession and garnering good reviews from the patients.

With almost 70 percent of the nursing sector dominated by expatriates, the study, a first-of-its-kind, indicated through scientific research papers that an overwhelming majority of patients are satisfied with the performance of Saudi nurses.

The study conducted by Dr. Haya Al-Fozan, head of the Nursing College at King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz University included patient interviews and chats with their accompanying members.

Of the 302 people surveyed, there were 149 patients and 153 accompanying members.

The study funded by the King Abdullah International Medical Research Center University was conducted simultaneously at the King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh, King Abdulaziz Medical City in Jeddah, King Abdulaziz Hospital in Al-Ahsa, and Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal Hospital in Dammam.

The study appeared in the December issue of the American publication, “Journal of Natural Sciences Research” and was highly appreciated by readers at King Saud University.

According to the results of the study, 80 percent expressed satisfaction with Saudi nurses’ knowledge of the nursing profession and ability to provide correct information; 89.4 percent confirmed their satisfaction with the clinical skills; 89 percent expressed satisfaction with the care provided by the nurses while 95.4 percent indicated satisfaction with the communication skills; 90 percent confirmed their satisfaction with the Saudi nurses’ decision-making abilities, and 93.4 percent expressed satisfaction with parents’ involvement in the care of the patient. Finally, 92 percent confirmed that they were satisfied with the nurses’ professional behavior.

Alia Mohammed, a Saudi nurse said that the nursing profession has social and humanitarian aspects, which makes it ideal for women globally. “But there are long hours and it is especially difficult for working mothers who often can’t find babysitters for their children while they are away,” Mohammed told Arab News.

Other challenges involve lack of experience and training programs as well as poor English language skills.

Salma Al-Shahri said that the challenge for women begins when they decide to join the profession. “Often, families object to the profession. Also, the nursing curriculum is difficult. Finally, when one is able to find a job, there are problems because of the long working hours,” she said.


Hindutva forces issue warning to women

Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Dec 15, 2014

Now Hindutva forces have taken to WhatsApp to save the ‘honour’ of ‘their’ women. Reacting to Facebook and WhatsApp messages by an outfit calling itself ‘Muslim Defence Force’ warning ‘their’ women to not talk to men of other religions, a message is being circulated on WhatsApp, warning Hindu women against engaging with men of other religions.

Bangalore Mirror had reported on Dec 5, In ‘Hindutva factory, how Muslim moral police had sent out messages warning both men and women of ‘unIslamic’ activities.

The WhatsApp message that is in Kannada reads, “A warning bell to a few Hindu women. Henceforth, in case you are trapped with a guy, be it from any religion including ours in parks, hotels or lodges, you along with the guy will be given ‘prasad’.

“The message elaborates the meaning of prasad. “We will see to it that you reach your house in a procession and a garland of chappals,” it says. “We are not bothered if women rights are violated. We do not mind running around courts,” the message reads.

The message justifies this ‘crusade’ citing the dire consequences of such alliances.

“Today you will go with your friend, but will not know that he is ‘mixed’. When it is known that he is from another religion, there will be an attack by the organisation and will be followed by communal tension; there will be a bandh and business will be brought to a halt,” it reads. The message lays the onus of the consequences on the women. “You will be responsible when people who earn in your house are also affected,” it reads. The message, however, makes it clear that the warning is not applied to ‘girls with repute’. A suo motu case was registered at Barke police station under section 66(a) of the IT act and 506 of the IPC.


Kenyan girls sold into marriage

15 Dec, 2014

This is the heartbreaking moment young girls in Kenya are sold into arranged marriages for a dowry of livestock.

It is part of a traditional ceremony which marks their passing into womanhood.

Clad in tribal jewellery and with their hair tied up in braids, some of the women can be seen struggling as they are hauled away, traded by their fathers for 20 goats, three camels, and ten cows.

Many of the girls, who are members of the Pokot tribe, are not aware they have been bargained away until their husbands come to collect them after spending a month in isolation before the ceremony takes place.

Daily Mail


Kenya: 20 Girls Forcefully Circumcised in Marakwet

15 Dec, 2014

Twenty girls were forcefully circumcised in two villages in Marakwet East sub-county.

The girls aged between 6 -14 are pupils at Chugor Girls boarding and Chesetan primary schools in Elgeyo Marakwet county.

The girls reportedly faced the cut in Tinyar and Kapkobutwo villages in Chugor, Kibaimwa location of Marakwet East, in an exercise that started from 5:30 am to7:00 pm.

Villagers who spoke to the media on condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested said although the government had outlawed FGM, they would not abandon their most valued practice in their society.

The villagers asked the government not to interfere with their traditions but instead tackle insecurity associated with terrorism and banditry witnessed recently in parts of the country

Deputy County Commissioner Hussein Alaso Hussein summoned the chief and Police station commander [OCS] in areas where the Female Gential Mutilation allegedly occurred.

“We will investigate who among them failed in their responsibility to prevent it and we have summoned the Kibaimwa location chief and Mogil police station OCS, and as we speak we are in a crisis meeting and they only have up to this evening to produce suspects or face disciplinary action.” Hussein said

Anti FGM Board Chairperson Linah Kilimo regretted that after great efforts have been made to eradicate the outlawed practice, FGM is still rampant in the area.

“It is so unfortunate that we are still getting reports from home that is so bad. I thought we had come a long way and were free from the chains of barbaric cultural practices of FGM,” said Kilimo.

Local MP Kangogo Bowen and County Women Representative Dr. Susan Chebet condemned FGM and asked police to ensure the culprits were brought to book.


10-hour shift hits Saudi women employment

15 Dec, 2014

Despite government efforts to support women’s employment in the private sector, their participation in the labor force is not up to the desired level owing to the obstacles in implementing the decision including the 10-hour working day that tops the list.

Women employees have said that working for long hours is negatively impacting women psychologically and socially and particularly their families, which has led to their resignations.

Fatima Qaroub, a social activist and consultant said women’s working hours had initially been set at eight but the decision was changed because these hours did not include the prayer times.

According to Qaroub, the six-hour system should have been applied giving employees two hours for a break and prayers. She pointed out that some employers had resorted to an 11-hour working day, which means that they only have to pay one employee but this is not acceptable because women have family commitments.

She added that some women are forced to choose between work and family, which is illogical since some of them need to work to help support their families.

“Some companies gave women fewer holidays because they said that they give them a two-hour break,” she said. She stressed that companies should be obliged to follow the eight-hour working day to retain women in the workforce and protect companies from being left in the lurch by their employees who decide to abandon them for better prospects.

Amani Al-Qarni, a human resource official in a company said most women employees agree that the 10-day working shift is too long because it has negative effects on women in general and married women in particular. “This decision is in the interest of neither party; the employee or the employer,” she said.

She added that she left her last job because of the long working hours.

Al-Qarni also said that transportation should be taken into consideration because women employees often live at a distance from the workplace, which adds to the number of hours they stay away from home.

Lama’ Matar, a training specialist said the 10-hour working day is too long and that no one will allow his wife, sister or daughter to stay that long outside the house.

She said this decision has pushed many women to quit jobs. “This decision is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor and companies can’t ignore it, because the ministry might conduct inspections on these facilities asking employees about their working hours,” she said.

The 10-hour working day has been in effect for some time now, said a saleswoman in a shopping center, but “the hours are too long and the work is exhausting.”

Deputy Chairman of the human resource committee in the Jeddah chamber, Abdullah Atiyah Al-Zahrani, said the eight-hour shift would increase women’s productivity. “Companies should appreciate the circumstances of working women especially with regard to the transportation issue. I don’t expect owners of establishments to employ one woman to save on salaries, especially in light of the implementation of true Saudization.”


NA committee to take up issue of Karachi’s madressah girls today

15 Dec, 2014

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights is meeting here on Monday (today) to receive a briefing on the recovery of minor girls from various places in Karachi last month. The committee will also take up two constitution amendment bills.

According to the agenda of the meeting issued by the NA Secretariat, the committee headed by Chaudhry Mahmood Bashir Virk has called senior officials of the ministry to brief the members about the steps taken by the government for the rehabilitation of the minor girls hailing from a tribal area and the action taken against those responsible for the crime.

Police had recovered 36 girl students of a seminary from a house in Liaquatabad area and a flat in Korangi Crossing area of Karachi on Nov 26. These girls, hailing from Bajaur Agency, had reportedly been handed over to a family by a teacher and a supervisor of the madressah over a monetary dispute.

The seminary had handed the girls over to the family when the family was unable to repay a loan it had taken from the madressah. In order to get the loan adjusted, the seminary had reportedly asked the family to take charge of the young girls’ welfare.

Later, 15 girls were handed over to their parents in Karachi after verification and 20 were brought to Peshawar and then sent to their hometown in Bajaur Agency.

The incident drew severe reaction from political parties, civil society organisations and people from all walks of life who called for adequate punishment to those involved in illegal practice.

The matter also came under discussion during the National Assembly session when a ruling PML-N member from tribal areas, Shahabuddin Khan, brought it into the notice of his colleagues.

PPP’s female members Azra Fazal Pechuho and Nafisa Shah had assured the house at the time that their party-led provincial government in Sindh would do its best to bring to light facts about the recovery of girls.

Although police and authorities in tribal areas made claims about the arrest of some suspects in this regard, the mystery as to how these girls were transported to Karachi is yet to be resolved.

The committee will also take up two constitution amendment bills piloted by a minority MNA of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam from Balochistan, Asiya Nasir.

The first bill, moved by four MNAs, suggests an amendment to Article 251 calling upon the government to make arrangements for using Urdu for official purposes from Jan 1, 2015.

Presently, Article 251 states: “The national language of Pakistan is Urdu, and arrangements shall be made for it being used for official and other purposes within 15 years from the commencing day.”

The members have suggested replacement of the words “from the commencing day” with “from the first day of 2015”.

Through the other bill, the members have sought increase in the reserved seats in the NA for minorities from 10 to 16.


Eva Longoria says she relates to the struggle of Arabs

15 December 2014

Hollywood star Eva Longoria said Sunday that she relates to the struggle of Arabs, UAE-based daily Gulf News reported.

“I am Mexican-American, so I am American, but I was raised with Mexican culture — so I have a different language, I have a religion,” Longoria, who was the honorary chairperson of the Global Gift Gala fundraiser held in Dubai, said when she was asked whether she relates to the Middle East.

“I understand the similarities that happen when people judge you for having a culture and an ethnicity — or an identity — that I’m very proud of, being Mexican-American,” she added.

Longoria, who was speaking at the Global Gift Gala which was set in association with the Dubai International Film Festival and Dubai Cares also said that she will be starting a new television show next year.

The non-profit organization aims to raise funds to improve the lives of disadvantaged children, women and families around the world.

During the event, which was held at White Dubai at Meydan, British singer Alexandra Burke performed her most popular songs.


Amina Wadud exemplifies Islamic feminism, makes significant strides in research

Taylor Hallet, Staff Videographer

15 Dec, 2014

On Tuesday, Oct. 28, Dr. Amina Wadud, Islamic feminist and scholar, gave a fascinating lecture in the Carnegie Room in Hege Library on the current debates and struggles in Islamic feminist discourse.

The work Wadud is undertaking as a scholar is unique given her specific focus on a woman’s perspective of the Qur’an. She is not, however, the only individual involved in the burgeoning Islamic feminist movement.

“I prefer to speak in terms of women’s activism and engagement, as opposed to ‘Islamic Feminism,’” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Betsy Mesard in an email interview. “Many Muslim women who are doing work to transform women’s roles and rights don’t like this term.”

Mesard is currently teaching a course offered in the religious studies department entitled “Islam and Modernization.”

One student in the class, junior Katie Fullerton, decided to do an in-depth research project on the body of work that Amina Wadud has contributed as a scholar in Islamic studies.

“Researching Amina’s work has given me a glimpse into the complexities of Islamic feminism,” said Fullerton in an email interview. “Her initial rejection and then her gradual acceptance of the label ‘feminist’ gave me some insight into the negative impression the term has in some Muslim circles.”

Fullerton described her experience in Mesard’s class in positive terms.

“We are discussing various Muslim responses to ‘modernity,’ primarily defined as the influences of European and Western domination,” said Fullerton.

During her lecture in October, Wadud made clear to the audience the significance of the current women’s movement in relation to the history of Islam.

“There have been more radical considerations of the possibilities of how to live as Muslim women in our time rather than at any other time,” said Wadud during her lecture.

So, what is it that makes Wadud’s work especially important at this point in time?

“She, along with many other Islamic feminists, makes a distinction between feminism inspired by Islamic ideals versus feminism inspired by Western and modern ideals,” said Fullerton.

Associate Professor of English Diya Abdo, who attended Wadud’s lecture in October, shared similar thoughts on the importance of Wadud’s work.

“Wadud’s work is significant because it brings a much-needed perspective to religious exegesis,” said Abdo. “Her methodology’s clear emphasis on justice shows us how we can live and be better as human beings.”

Mesard found importance in Wadud’s work for its thought -provoking aspects.

“Amina Wadud’s work is significant in part simply because it has provoked debate,” said Mesard. “Whenever people are forced to think carefully about, clarify and defend their commitments, there is a potential for change — even if it is not immediate change along the lines that she calls for.”

Wadud’s work is also significant for its emphasis on “tafsir,” meaning interpretation in Arabic. In a video interview with The Guilfordian, Wadud elaborated on the strategies she employs in her methodology of applying “tafsir” to the Qur’an.

“If you have a 14,000 year history of engaging with the text, but you don’t have a record of women’s responses to that text until this last century, then maybe we are missing something from the story of how the text is understood,” said Wadud.

Other prominent scholars in the Islamic women’s movement include journalist Mona Eltahawy, Harvard professor Leila Ahmed and Egyptian writer Nawal el-Saadawy.

“Many of the things that she said during her visit have stuck with me, and most of what has stuck with me are life lessons rather than comments specific to Amina’s experience,” said Fullerton. “Above everything that I admire about Amina though, I most appreciate her ability to claim power for herself in a situation, while also empowering those around her.”


Woman and girls in Mkhondo, South Africa: Force for change

15 Dec, 2014

Maria Shongwe has overcome obstacles that many women and girls in South Africa face – including poverty and living with HIV – to become an inspirational community activist.

Maria was the first person in the small town of Amsterdam, near the Swaziland border, to openly reveal she was living with HIV. She also broke new ground by setting up a local branch of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) – a prominent national organization pushing for HIV healthcare services. Maria’s determination secured anti-retroviral treatment (ART) for 50 people when they couldn’t get it through the public health system, and recently got lottery funding to set up a home for orphans.

She now works for TAC in Mkhondo Municipality, where health services are among the worst in the country. In her own words, she gives an insight into her life and work:

‘He raped me’

I was born in Swaziland. We had to walk 70km to and from school every day. There was a guy – like an uncle. One day he gave me a lift on a bicycle. He went in the forest and he raped me. It was my first time, and I fell pregnant. But there was nothing I can do. Because maybe if you are a girl and you report something to your parents, they say: “That can’t be. It means that you are in love with that guy”.

‘The law doesn’t care about us as women’

‘When I grew up, I was married here in South Africa. After [my husband] passed away, his family took everything, even my furniture. I was in and out of court fighting. I take another step – I don’t want to hear about any women being abused. Because the law doesn’t care about us as women. I decided to leave everything and move to Amsterdam.

‘Don’t tell anybody’

I spoke to the lady [at the clinic] and disclosed my [HIV] status. She say: “No, don’t tell anybody you have tested positive.” I say I want to be helped because I don’t know what this virus will do to my body. She didn’t understand.

Becoming an activist

My daughter started to be sick. After six months, she tested positive for HIV. There was no medication in this area, so she passed away. She was 19. I started to do the [TAC] support groups. People started to talk about living with this virus but the medication was nowhere to be seen. I went to [the private] Iswepe Clinic, 56 km from here, and talked with the nurse.

She said: “People from Amsterdam can start the [ART] programme because people here don’t want to take the medication.” But it was difficult because we don’t have money to go there. Some of those taking the medication can’t walk. I brought them to [my] house until they were better. I cared for them. And I was going door-to-door. Without any stipend – I was getting nothing. If I found someone who was sick, I do the counselling to that person and take them to the clinic. Now I am a [paid] mentor, looking after TAC branches in the whole of Mkhondo Municipality.

Girls selling themselves

We are on the road to Swaziland and from Nelspruit to Durban – many people pass through. You can see the [young] girls in town going to sell themselves to the drivers. There are many taverns, poverty. The parents die and the children stay alone. If men give them R20 (US$2), they think it is a lot of money. They start sleeping with boys at an early age. Now I have started a group for these girls, educating them about how to keep themselves healthy.

The woman and girls in Mkhondo South Africa are one of 12 cases in Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign. Take action


Filipino Children Make Gains on Paper, But Reality Lags Behind

15 Dec, 2014

A child rights advocate with the secretariat of the Philippine NGO Coalition on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Baez says, “Teenage pregnancies continue to rise, street children are treated like criminals who are punished, children in conflict with the law and those affected by disasters are not taken care of, and now, with the prevalence of child porn, children know how to video call.”

The most notable case of this last scourge was early this year in the island of Cebu, 570 kilometres south of Manila, where the Philippine National Police arrested and tried foreign nationals for pedophilia and child pornography in a large-scale cybersex business.

While the Philippines is praised by international human rights groups as having an advanced legal framework for children, child rights advocates like Baez said “violations continue to persist,” including widespread corporal punishment at home, in schools and in other settings.

The Bata Muna (Child First), a nationwide movement that monitors the implementation of children’s rights in the Philippines consisting of 23 children’s organisations jointly convened by Save the Children, Zone One Tondo Organization consisting of urban poor communities, and Children Talk to Children (C2C), said these violations were contained in the United Nations reviews and expert recommendations to the Philippine government.

The movement listed the gains on the realisation of children’s rights with the existence of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act, Anti-Child Trafficking, Anti-Pornography Act and Foster Care Act, among other policies protecting children.

There is also the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), a social welfare programme intended to eradicate extreme poverty by investing in children’s education and health; the National Strategic Framework for the Development of Children 2001-2025; the Philippine Plan of Action for Children; and the growing collective efforts of civil society to claim children’s rights.

But Baez said these laws have not been fully implemented, and are in fact clouded by current legislative proposals such as amending the country’s Revised Penal Code to raise the age of statutory rape from the current 12 to 16 to align the country’s laws to internationally-accepted standard of age of consent.

The recently-enacted Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, which endured 15 years of being filed, re-filed and debated on in the Philippine Congress, has yet to be implemented. Many civil society groups have pinned their hopes on this law on the education of young people on sexual responsibility and life skills.

Teenage pregnancy, which affects 1.4 million Filipino girls aged 15 to 19, is widespread in the country, according to the University of the Philippines Population Institute that conducted the Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Survey in 2013.

There are 43 million young Filipinos under 18, according to 2014 estimates of the National Statistics Office, and these youth, especially those in the poorest households and with limited education, need to be informed about their bodies, their health and their rights to prevent early pregnancies.

The child advocates said early pregnancies deny young girls their basic human rights and prevent them from continuing their schooling. The advocates said if the Reproductive Health Law is implemented immediately, many girls and boys will be able to receive correct information on how to protect and care for their bodies.

On education, Baez said the government’s intention to provide more access has yet to be realised with the introduction in 2011 of the K to 12 program to provide a child ample time to be skilled, develop lifelong learning, and prepare them for tertiary education, middle-level skills development, employment, and entrepreneurship.

“While the programme does not solve the high drop-out rate in primary education, children in remote and poor areas still walk kilometres just to go to school,” Baez said.

This situation was echoed by Mark Timbang, advocacy coordinator of the Mindanao Action Group for Children’s Rights and Protection in the country’s predominantly Muslim south, who said the government has not shown its intentions to provide children a more convenient way of going to school.

Timbang also said “the government has not intervened in protecting children from early marriage and in ending the decades-long war between Muslims and Christians to achieve true and lasting peace” where children can grow safely.

Sheila Carreon, child participation officer of Save the Children, added that another pending bill seeks to raise the age of children who can participate in the Sangguniang Kabataan (Youth Council), a youth political body that is a mechanism for children’s participation in governance, from the current 15-17 years to 18-24.

“We urged the government not to erase children in the council. Let the children experience the issues that concern them. The council is their only platform,” said Carreon.

Angelica Ramirez, advocacy officer of the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development, said existing laws do not give enough protection to children, citing as an example pending legislative measures that seek positive discipline instead of using corporal punishment on children.

Foremost among them is the Positive Discipline and Anti Corporal Punishment bill that promotes the positive discipline approach that seeks to teach children that violence is not an acceptable and appropriate strategy in resolving conflict.

It promotes non-violent parenting that guides children’s behaviour while respecting their rights to healthy development and participation in learning, develops their positive communication and attention skills, and provides them with opportunities to evaluate the choices they make.

Specifically, the bill suggests immediately correcting a child’s wrongdoing, teaching the child a lesson, giving tools that build self -discipline and emotional control, and building a good relationship with the child by understanding his or her needs and capabilities at each stage of development without the use of violence and by preventing embarrassment and indignity on a child.

Citing a campaign-related slogan that quotes children saying, “You don’t need to hurt us to let us learn,” Ramirez said corporal punishment is “rampant and prevalent,” as it is considered in many Filipino households as a cultural norm.

She cited a 2011 Pulse Asia survey that said eight out of 10 Filipino children experience corporal punishment and two out of three parents know no other means of disciplining their children.

Addressing this issue by stopping the practice can have a good ripple effect on future generations, said Ramirez, because nine out of 10 parents who practice corporal punishment said it was also used by their parents to discipline them.

The U.N. defines corporal punishment as the physical, emotional and psychological punishment of children in the guise of discipline. As one of the cruelest forms of violence against children, corporal punishment is a violation of children’s rights. It recommends that all countries, including the Philippines as a signatory to the convention, implement a law prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment in schools, private and public institutions, the juvenile justice system, alternative care system, and the home.


Kenya: Islam’s Stance On Violence Against Women

15 Dec, 2014

Violence against women remains a major concern in today’s society. This problem is widespread and it affects people from all walks of life regardless of socio-economic status, ethnicity or religion.

At a time when there is growing focus on women’s rights, gender equity and economic emancipation of women, it is expected that there should be a marked decrease in violence against women but instead the opposite is true.

Even in countries which have attained phenomenal growth in human rights and development, cases of violence against women continue to rise. Statistics by the American Medical Association indicate that nearly one quarter of women in the United States fall victim to domestic violence.

Among the philosophies of Islam is to establish justice and mercy among people while at the same time oppressive actions which are harmful to humanity are strongly prohibited.

Islam emphasizes that all humans have the same origin and are created equal regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. The Qur’an states, “O mankind! reverence your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and created, of like nature, its mate, and from them two scattered countless men and women.” (Quran 4:1)

During the time of Prophet Muhammad, violence against the weak in society particularly women and children was prevalent but the societal reforms which the Prophet undertook not only brought to an end these horrific practices but enhanced the role of women and granted them a myriad of rights which protected their dignity.

One of the most grotesque abuses in pre-Islamic Arabia was the widespread culture of female infanticide where fathers chose to bury their daughters alive as they considered the girl-child as a painful burden and a potential source of shame to her father. Islam outrightly prohibited this practice and the Qur’an went ahead to speak ill against those who viewed the birth of a girl child with contempt. (Quran 16:58-59).

While this practice can be seen to be archaic, it is regrettable that in the 21st century, it is still prevalent in this modern age particularly in India and China where sex-selective abortion and female infanticide is blamed for the killing of millions of female children.

To promote harmony in the society, Islamic principles require husbands to treat their wives with respect and honour as this serves to reduce acts of violence against women in the homes. Husbands are urged to live with their spouses in tranquility and treat them under the shade of mercy and love. “And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put Love and mercy between your (hearts), verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (Quran 30:21).

Husbands are further prohibited from inflicting physical and emotional abuse against their wives and the Quran repeatedly warns against the use of injurious statements by a husband against his wife. (Quran 58:2-4)

However, there exists a misunderstanding that Islamic teachings sanctions violence by a husband against a recalcitrant wife. The origin of this misunderstanding is derived from the Quranic verse which reads: “As for those (women) on whose part you fear ill-will and nasty conduct, admonish them (first), (next) separate them in beds (and last) beat them. But if they obey you, then seek nothing against them. (Quran 4:34).

In this verse a three-phase approach which involves advising the wife, refusing to share the bed and should these measures fail, the last instruction is applied but as the Prophet stated it should be a light strike (ghayr muharrib) — which should not involve hitting the face and should not cause injury or leave bruises. Islamic scholars have described the beating as symbolic which should be administered with a folded scarf or with a miswak (traditional chewing stick for cleaning teeth).

This makes it clear that even when it comes to this extreme last resort, terms such as “physical abuse,” or “wife battering” have no place in Islam.

Never in his entire life did the Prophet, who serves as the exemplary model to Muslims, hit any woman and he expressly condemned husbands who beat their wives. In one of his sayings, he expressed his extreme repulsion against this behavior and said, “How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then embrace (sleep with) her?” (Al-Bukhari)

In his last sermon, he was clear that both men and women have rights over each other and exhorted men to be kind to women. “Treat your women well, and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers,” he said.

In addition to the violence that women are subjected to during times of peace, Islam condemns acts of aggression against women which occur during times of conflict. Prophet Muhammad emphasized that during war time, noncombatants, primarily women, children and those in places of worship such as monks and nuns should under no circumstance be harmed. “Why was she killed, she was not among the combatants?” he once remarked after observing the body of a woman after a battle.

Among the most degrading forms of violence against women is rape and other acts of sexual violence which remain prevalent in the present society. While a rape victim suffers physical and psychological injury, the effect goes much deeper as even the victim’s male relatives such as father, husband and brothers do not escape the ensuing psychological trauma. Islam, therefore, views rape as a violent crime not only against the victim, but the family and the society as a whole.

Another form of violence against women is female genital mutilation which at times is wrongly associated with Islam even though this is a widespread cultural practice that is prevalent in many Muslim and non-Muslim communities. This painful and potentially harmful practice which often ends in permanent physical mutilation and alteration of body functions has no Islamic basis as the faith is against all actions which are a source of harm to humanity.

Ultimately, the society has a responsibility to ensure an end to all acts of violence against women. As individuals, we all need to ensure that women are treated in a honourable manner and their dignity is protected and preserved as illustrated in this tradition of Prophet Muhammad, “Women are the twin halves of men. None but a noble man treats women in an honourable manner, and none but an ignorant treats women disgracefully.”

Abu Ayman is a Nairobi-based journalist.


Women of 2014: The women of the YPJ, the Syrian Kurdish Women’s Protection Units

15 Dec, 2014

Most photographs of “Narin Afrin” are fake. Few people even know her real name. Yet so striking is the idea of a woman not just fighting but commanding forces on one of the Middle East’s most dangerous battlefields, that she has become a local legend among the region’s stateless Kurds.

The woman who goes by the nom de guerre Narin Afrin tries to remain elusive. She wants to keep the focus on her all-female YPJ forces – a Kurdish acronym for the Syrian Kurdish Women’s Protection Units. “Military force is no longer the monopoly of men  . . .  The YPJ proves women can be the defenders. They can protect their own lives – and their nation,” she says, in a rare telephone interview from Kobani, the besieged Kurdish city in northern Syria.

Both male and female Kurdish fighters have become some of the most effective ground forces in the US-led coalition that is fighting off a three-month-old assault by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the jihadi group known as Isis. The YPJ has become a cause célèbre: the image of bronzed women toting guns is a rare symbol of female empowerment in a conservative region – and a stark contrast to a group taking female captives as slaves.

Afrin worries that the photographs of “girls with guns” mean the world ignores how serious her forces are about their ideological goals. “We’re not just a pretty picture. We are a way of thinking,” she says. “We have beliefs. And we have a cause.”

The YPJ is a Syrian offshoot of a group that the west labels as terrorists. The leftist guerrilla Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has fought a three-decade war for Kurdish self-rule against Turkey. Spread across four Middle Eastern countries, Kurds are the world’s largest stateless ethnicity. Despite the PKK link, Kurdish forces in Syria are now allies of the international coalition. Media attention on the YPJ may have helped win them support. “Whatever their flaws, they are a more democratic option whose ideas of gender equality are closer to the west,” says Aliza Marcus, author of Blood and Belief, a book on the PKK and its affiliates. “The women, the fighters, really helped sell the group, and work against Turkey’s push to have them labelled a terrorist group.”

For many Kurdish women, joining PKK-linked forces appeals both to their nationalist aspirations and a desire for gender equality. The PKK has often taken teenage recruits. More recently, Human Rights Watch, the global lobby group, said Syrian Kurdish forces, both male and female, were using child soldiers. The YPJ has been trying to address those criticisms in an effort to maintain international support.

The PKK is also totalitarian. After years of ideology ingrained during training, many fighters speak only in platitudes. “As a child I always dreamt of the idea of equality among humankind,” Afrin says. “I imagined that if I had the strength, I would create a society where there were no poor or rich, strong or weak.” When she turned 18, she met a female PKK fighter from Turkey. She was shocked by her freedom and confidence, and immediately went to enlist.

Women rename themselves when they begin military training. Narin was a name she loved; Afrin is a reference to her Kurdish village. “By picking a new name, you are separating yourself in every way from your old self and whatever that past may have held before you chose revolution,” she says.

The PKK and its affiliates have recruited women since the 1980s, partly because of leftist ideology, but also because women, half the population, were an untapped base. Grateful for the rare outlet for social mobility, women are often the most committed members. Every political and military leadership position is co-chaired by a man and a woman. Quotas ensure women get nearly half the organisation’s positions.

That doesn’t mean the struggle for equality is over. In a pink headscarf and black leather jacket, 40-year-old Fawzia Abdo, co-head of Kobani’s political leadership, is the epitome of an older generation juggling conservative customs and political advancement. “They accept that outside, we are playing an equal role. But at home, men still want the ‘golden days’. We still need to liberate the home front – men now have to accept they share a burden in child-rearing and domestic life. We’re not providing them a hotel service any more,” she says.

Like Afrin, Abdo sees the YPJ media obsession as a mixed blessing. On one hand, it raises their profile and increases regional interest in women’s roles. The semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq is now creating female security forces. The United Arab Emirates sent a female fighter pilot to help in the coalition bombing of Isis.

But Abdo also sees signs the excitement is superficial: “We share political leadership, but those women hardly get media recognition . . . That’s not just our problem – it’s the world’s. They focus only on female fighters, as if they were strange animals.”

Erika Solomon is an FT correspondent based in Beirut



Indian Muslim Women’s Group Seeks Abolition of Triple Talaq

No More Easy Entry to UK via Sham Marriages

Caught between Rules, Saudi Girl’s Fate Hangs in Balance

Turkey: Half of Transgender Sex Workers Subjected To Police Violence

Iran Refuses To Sign UN Resolution Stresses Girls Marriage in 18 Years of Age

Cases of Women Forced To Marry Relatives on the Rise

Rula Ghani, Afghanistan’s Unusually Prominent First Lady

Rise in Cohabitation Has Iran Officials Railing Against ‘White Marriage’

Abu Dhabi Courts Consider Marriage In Lieu Of Punishment

Girl Sues Dad for Not Letting Her Complete Overseas Education

Woman attacked with acid by five men in Pakistan

Pakistan’s Women Cotton Pickers Find Power in Uniting over Wages

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Muslim Women’s Group Seeks Abolition of Triple Talaq

07 Dec, 2014

‘We do not want a unified civil code. We want to follow the Muslim Personal Law with modifications that can help in the upliftment of women’

Life has not been a bed of roses for 27-year-old I. Ravithammal ever since her husband left her seven years ago, simply by writing Talaq thrice, on a piece of paper.

Though she is struggling to meet her daily needs and educate her children, she helps other women like herself to gain employment.

Ravithammal is among the hundreds of women from across the country who took part in the 7 annual convention of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) held in the city recently.

The main aim of the convention is to create awareness of a draft law prepared by BMMA that calls for a ban on oral Talaq and polygyny. It also seeks raising the minimum age limit for marriage to 18 for Muslim girls and 21 for boys.

The Hindu,

Ravithammal, who hails from Dindigul, says she is a victim of triple Talaq and wants the government to abolish the system.

“After my husband left me, I began working at a construction site. I was employed in a mill later. Now, I earn about Rs. 200 every day,” she says.

Though she is educating her children, she is unable to afford treatment for her seven-year-old son who has only 30 per cent vision in one eye. But this has not deterred her from helping other women. “I try to motivate young girls to be independent. I counsel couples against separation. I don’t want others to meet my fate,” Ravithammal says.

BMMA co-founders Zakia Soman and Noorjahan Safia Niaz say while the Quran has laid down rules, they are often misinterpreted, and this leads to victimisation of women. “We do not want a unified civil code. We want to follow the Muslim Personal Law with modifications that can help women,” says Ms. Niaz.

  1. Faiz ur Rahman, secretary general of Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought, says triple Talaq in one sitting is not sanctioned by the Quran. “It has no basis in Islamic law. It is time the Ulema de-legitimised it,” he says.


No more easy entry to UK via sham marriages

LUBNA KABLY,TNN | Dec 7, 2014

MUMBAI: The United Kingdom has amended its laws to crack down on sham marriages. Registrars will now have to refer to the home office all proposed marriages, which involve non-European Economic Area (non-EEA) nationals such as Indian citizens, who have limited or no immigration status in the UK. An extended period of time will also be available to the authorities to investigate the genuineness of a proposed marriage.

The tightened norms spell bad news for unscrupulous Indian citizens who hoped to resort to this shortcut to stay on in the UK. Many rackets of sham marriages involving Indians have been busted in the past.

A UK’s home office report said sham marriages are typically entered into when a migrant’s visa is about to expire and it is unlikely that the person will be able extend it, or if a person has overstayed his visa. But on the basis of their marriage to a UK citizen or even an EEA national, such persons can continue to stay in the UK.

As the requirements for non-EEA nationals seeking to remain in the UK to work or study have become tougher in recent years, sham marriages proved to be an attractive quick-fix solution.

The marriage notice period for all (including British citizens) has been increased from 15 days to 28 days. Where one of the couple to the marriage is a non-EEA national, the marriage registrar will have to forward the information to the home office. If a sham marriage is suspected, the notice period in these referred cases will be extended to 70 days to enable investigation and action.

Couples who fail to comply with an investigation under a 70-day notice period will not be able to marry on the basis of that notice. A written ministerial statement announcing these changes was laid in UK’s House of Commons in November last week. These provisions will apply from March 2, next year.

Currently, Sections 24 and 24A of UK’s Immigration and Asylum Act, 1999, require marriage registration officials to report suspected sham marriages to the home office. Now, all cases of marriage involving a non-EEA national will have to be reported. The main draw back of the existing provisions was that the home office got this information very late, in many cases just prior to the marriage ceremony, leaving very little time to take action.

Indians were one of the most referred nationals for suspected sham marriages, constituting around 10% of the total referrals made to the home office in 2012.

“The revised provisions will result in couples facing scrutiny before their marriage. A considerable difference in the age between the parties or the difference of language between the parties could well be a reason to doubt whether the relationship is actually genuine. In order to prove a genuine relationship, evidence may be required in form of emails, letters, joint bank accounts, photographs, etc. and an intention to live together in the UK by a confirmation of commitment from both the parties,” explains Sarosh Zaiwalla, senior partner, Zaiwalla & Co, a UK-based firm of solicitors.

A home office report released last year points out to a well designed scam where Portuguese women came to the UK to marry Indian men at the Blackburn register office. The brides made initial trips to the UK to give notice of marriage at a register office, which was often different from the register office where they intended to hold the ceremony. They also attended appointments at banks in the UK and elsewhere, to generate documentation to support the illusion that they were based in the UK. These documents were then used to support an immigration application to the home office by their Indian spouse. The Indian nationals each paid around £6,000 (nearly Rs 6 lakh) to a facilitator in the UK, who in turn worked with another agency in Portugal to recruit the brides. Even Indian students have attempted to enter into such sham marriages.


Caught between Rules, Saudi Girl’s Fate Hangs in Balance

Dec 7, 2014

JEDDAH — A six-year-old girl who has been living with her non-biological mother after she was abandoned as a baby is facing deportation, Makkah daily reported.

Her biological mother, an Arab expatriate, was raped by a Saudi man over six years ago and got pregnant as a result, sources said. Although the court proved at the time through DNA evidence whom the father was, he refused to accept the girl as his daughter.

Courts cannot use DNA as conclusive evidence. As the father refused to accept any responsibility, the Arab mother decided to abandon her baby near a dumpster in Jeddah.

A woman found the girl and decided to take her home. However, six years later, this woman found out she had broken the law when she contacted the Ministry of Social Affairs for permission to become the legal guardian of the girl.

The ministry told her the regulations of the Interior Ministry stipulate that a child born out of wedlock to a non-Saudi woman should be deported together with his or her mother.

Shocked, the woman refused to take the child to the deportation center and filed a request at the Jeddah General Court asking for guardianship rights over the girl.

The court contacted the Ministry of Social Affairs for approval but the latter rejected the request under the pretext that it was against the law.

The ministry told the court the biological mother of the girl is still alive and has been identified and the regulations needed to be strictly observed.

The girl needed to be handed over to the authorities, the ministry said. The woman tried to find a solution with several authorities but to no avail.

It is also believed the biological mother has said she would kill the girl if she is returned to her because she did not want the child.

The biological mother relinquished her guardianship as well as custody rights. Abdullah Al-Tawee, director of Social Affairs in Jeddah, said such cases are dealt with based on the regulations issued by the Interior Ministry.

He said the regulations are clear and the girl cannot stay with the woman because her biological mother is still alive.

The Ministry of Social Affairs cannot do anything but enforce the regulations.


Turkey: Half of Transgender Sex Workers Subjected To Police Violence

Dec 7, 2014

A report drafted by a civil rights organization has drawn a picture of the plight of transgender individuals in Turkey, finding that half of all transgender women sex workers in the country have been subjected to physical violence from police. It also states that the murder of transgender individuals in Turkey amounts to 40 percent of the total number of such killings in all of Europe.

The report, titled “Violence against Transgender Woman Sex Workers in Turkey” and produced by the “Kırmızı Şemsiye” (Red Umbrella) Sexual Health and Human Rights Association, is set to be presented to the United Nations. For the report, a total of 233 transgender sex workers were interviewed.

“Out of the 233 transgender women sex workers, 171 have been subjected to violence. Some 49.7 percent said the police had used violence against them and 31.2 percent said they had been sexually assaulted by the police, including rape,” said Kemal Ördek, the head of Kırmızı Şemsiye.

The interviews for the report were conducted in Ankara, Antalya, Bursa, Diyarbakır, Eskişehir, Gaziantep, Istanbul, İzmir, İzmit, Mersin and Sivas.

“Forty percent all transgender individuals murdered in Europe are reported to have been killed in Turkey. Among European countries, Turkey is followed by Italy, where 27 percent of the killings have been reported,” Ördek also said.

“Some 53.88 percent of interviewees said they have been victimized by sexual violence at least once in their lifetime,” he added.

Despite such frequency of sexual violence against them, 75 percent of transgender sex workers who have been victimized by sexual assault refrain from filing official complaints.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, particularly transgender individuals, are frequently the target of hate crimes hate crimes in Turkey.

A government-led reform package, adopted by Parliament in March 2014, prohibited discrimination and hate crimes, but not on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.


Iran Refuses To Sign UN Resolution Stresses Girls Marriage in 18 Years of Age

07 Dec, 2014

TEHRAN: Iran has refused to sign resolution which is prepared by United Nations UN human rights, which opposes girl’s marriages in less than 18 years of age.

The Iranian media said that the resolution was presented in human rights committee in last month for opinion vote and the Country opposed the voting.

It is expected that the resolution will also be presented in general assembly for vote.

On the suggestions of few other countries another point was added in the resolution that urges girls will also be provided with sex education and training.

Iran thinks that limiting the age for girl marriages is against the Islamic Shariah and laws and the religion does not impose any age restriction regarding marriage of girl.

The member of Iranian parliament Muhammad Ali Ishphanae has said in his statement that his country will not accept the UN resolution regarding the limiting the age of girls for marriage.


Cases of Women Forced To Marry Relatives on the Rise

07 Dec, 2014

DAMMAM — The Kingdom’s courts reported an increase in “Tahjeer” cases where the male relative of a woman strikes an agreement with her guardian to marry her without consultation and she is then banned from marrying anyone else, Al-Hayat daily reported.

Courts in the Kingdom confirmed that there were nine cases of Tahjeer during the last two years, three of them in the last 40 days.

The National Society for Human Rights General Secretary Khalid Al-Fakhry said Tahjeer is a crime against Islamic, international and national law.

“In fact, it is a form of human trafficking where the victim’s freedom, identity and rights are robbed from her,” said Al-Fakhry.

“A woman who raises a Tahjeer case in court is one rejecting a non-Islamic tradition in which she is victimized due to the ignorance of society,” he said.

“These cases are usually raised before a marriage contract is about to be signed.

“The woman would go to the court and report that she is a victim of Tahjeer and her opinion and consent to the marriage were never obtained.”

He said if the women’s allegations were proven to be true, the judge would try to advise the guardian to refrain from his act.

If he is adamant that the marriage should go ahead, then he is stripped of his guardianship rights, which are then assigned to someone else.

The Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa in 2005 saying Tahjeer and forced marriages were not allowed in Islam because they violate the religion’s conditions governing marriage.

Senior scholars considered those who commit Tahjeer as disobeyers of Allah who still follow a pre-Islamic and ignorant tradition.

In their view, those who commit Tahjeer must be imprisoned and never released until they repent their crime.

The Forum on Domestic Violence in Dammam presented a number of workshops and seminars helping women identify domestic abuse and how to report it.

The forum included a number of activities and campaigns held by the Ministry of Social Affairs for the prevention of domestic violence that showcased what the ministry is doing to protect women, children and victims.


Rula Ghani, Afghanistan’s Unusually Prominent First Lady

07 Dec, 2014

Rula Ghani, wife of recently elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, has enjoyed a remarkably high profile by the standards of the region. When Ghani delivered his inaugural address he surprised his audience by publicly addressing his wife, thanking her for her efforts in helping women, children, and the internally displaced persons (IDPs). This was in stark contrast to Ghani’s predecessor, Hamid Karzai, whose wife Dr. Zeenat Quraishi Karzai remained virtually invisible during his long term in office.

The fact that Ghani would publicly thank his wife has sparked hope in some quarters that women might be given a more prominent role in Afghanistan, with positive implications for women’s rights generally. But not everybody was happy: Hard-liners have expressed concern that the foreign-born, Christian first lady could pose a threat to Islamic values.

Rula Ghani was born into a Lebanese Christian family, and is a dual citizen of Lebanon and the U.S. She met her future husband when they were both studying at the American University of Beirut, and the couple lived in Afghanistan for a few years after marrying in 1975. In 1978, Rula and her husband moved to the United States, where he pursued a Ph.D. while she raised their children. The family returned to Afghanistan in 2002, when Ashraf Ghani was appointed finance minister of Afghanistan. Rula was reportedly shocked to see the living conditions many Afghan children were enduring, and went to work for an organization called Aschiana, which helps feed and educate street children.

Rula Ghani has often been compared to Soraya Tarzi, known as Queen Soraya, wife of King Amanullah Khan, who ruled Afghanistan from 1919. The queen – who received an honorary degree from the University of Oxford – was a target for criticism because of her perceived modernity. The queen served as minister of education, and sought to improve the lot of women in society. She established Afghanistan’s first school for girls and its first hospital for women. However, her liberal ideas on women’s roles in society as well as her appearance (including a penchant for short-sleeved dresses) incensed the religious right and were a factor in her ending up in exile with her husband in 1929.

For her part, Rula Ghani has not given any indication of plans to upturn social norms in Afghanistan. Rather, she aims to revolutionize women’s roles within the current structure to improve their quality of life. Ghani has set up an office within the Presidential Palace to find ways to improve conditions for IDPs, who number around 750,000 in Afghanistan. Although women in Afghanistan have won more rights since the fall of the Taliban, they are still heavily restricted by objections to girls receiving an education and working outside the home. The literacy rate for females aged 15 to 24 is 32 percent, compared to 62 percent for males. Girls in rural parts of the country are less likely to receive an education. Rula Ghani apparently aims to change this, and encourage Afghans to realize the important roles that women play in society.

However, even during her husband’s campaign her religious and educational background drew criticism. Mohammad Mohaqeq, deputy to the rival presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, has commented that Rula was out of touch with Afghan society since she is a foreigner. Her husband was questioned for having a Christian wife. More recently, Rula has been criticized for appearing to side with the French government’s ban on the niqab (face covering). The Presidential Palace of Kabul released a statement insisting that her words were taken out of context.

A first lady who is visible, let alone politically active, is unusual for Afghanistan. Advocating women’s rights backfired for the exiled Queen Soraya. Decades later, Afghanistan is probably still not ready for radical change, but eyes will be on Rula Ghani to see whether she can bring about modest gains in the rights of Afghanistan’s women.


Rise in Cohabitation Has Iran Officials Railing Against ‘White Marriage’

07 Dec, 2014

Raana and Hamed have been living together for four years.

They eat together. They both contribute to the household and share a savings account. They fight “like husbands and wives in a registered marriage.” They even wear wedding rings and introduce themselves as a married couple.

But they’re not because, as they also told Iranian daily “Ebtekar” in May, they don’t believe in marriage.

Their arrangement is being described in Iran as a “white marriage,” a relatively new phenomenon that is worrying Iranian authorities.

Officials there see couples like Raana and Hamed as an affront to the Islamic values that are preached and enforced by the state through pressure and harassment.

On November 30, Mohammad Mohammad Golpayegani, the chief of staff for Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, criticized cohabitating couples as “shameful” and warned that an entire generation would be doomed.

Golpayegani said “their Halal generation will be extinguished and they will become bastards.”

He declared that “the Islamic ruler should strongly fight this kind of life.”

One day later, a deputy at Iran’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports blamed the media for fuelling interest in so-called white marriages.

Mahmud Golzar allowed that some young Iranians might be cohabitating — following the example of Western countries — but he added to the semi-official Fars news agency that such reports had not been confirmed.

If confirmed, he warned, the Islamic republic would confront those “ominous marriages,” which have “very negatives effects” in Western countries, including the United States.

There are no reliable estimates of the number of couples cohabitating in Iran, where sexual relations outside of marriage are punishable by law. But public acknowledgement and warnings by officials, as well as media reports and anecdotal evidence, suggest that a number of Iranians in major cities have chosen cohabitation over wedlock.

Thirty-three-year-old Ali, who asked that RFE/RL not use his real name, is an engineer by profession who lived with his former girlfriend for several months before they broke up last year.

“We didn’t want to get married but we wanted to be together, so she moved in,” he said.

He added that they cohabitated despite their parents’ disapproval.

Ali told RFE/RL that some of his friends and acquaintances had also chosen the unmarried route over wedlock.

“We basically want to live our lives the way we want,” Ali said. “Now you can call it a white marriage or whatever you want.”

He said he was aware of the risk he was taking, adding that “everything is risky and illegal in Iran, even partying.”

Kids Will Be Kids

A Tehran-based observer said the possible rise in unmarried couples should be seen in the context of a new generation of Iranians who are turning their backs on tradition and state-promoted values.

“Attitudes are changing, a number of young people don’t care about what other people might think or how the state might react, they are becoming increasingly independent,” he told RFE/RL.

A desire to be free from the responsibilities and financial burden that come with wedding and married life appears to contribute to the perceived trend.

Mostafa Eghlima, the head of Iran’s Society of Social Workers, believes that the so-called white marriages are similar to what “engagements” used to be like in Iranian society.

Eghlima told “Ebtekar” that one of the main reasons that families accept white marriages is because they want to be freed from the burden of responsibility.

“Girls and boys [in white marriages] can easily end their relationship without any problem and without any expectation,” he said.

‘Cultural Invasion’

Javid Samoudi, a psychologist based in the holy city of Qom, home to many of Iran’s senior clerics, blamed such cohabitation on “cultural invasion,” fading religious beliefs, weakening family ties, rising economic costs, and a desire for diversity and noncommitment among young people.

In an interview with the semi-official ISNA news agency, he likened white marriages to “a microbe that pollutes men’s views and damages the character and personality of women.”

Sociologist Majid Abhari was quoted by Iranian media as saying that the “growing influence” of the Internet and satellite channels was behind white marriages.

The spread of cohabitation comes amid another headache for Iranian authorities: a reported decline in marriages and a soaring divorce rate.

Media reports suggest that in major cities such as Tehran, more than 20 percent of marriages end in divorce.

Authorities have said that marriage should be encouraged and facilitated for young people in order to preserve morals and fight the declining birthrate.

On December 1, presidential adviser Hessamedin Ashna noted that many people are concerned about white marriages. He suggested that if getting married was easy and affordable, Iranians would not choose cohabitation.

Ali, for his part, says he is not planning to get married anytime soon. With a laugh, he says the idea of another white marriage is more appealing to him.


Abu Dhabi Courts Consider Marriage In Lieu Of Punishment

07 Dec, 2014

ABU DHABI // Couples charged with having sex outside of wedlock would avoid trial by getting married in a plan being considered by the Abu Dhabi judiciary.

Under the proposal, the judge would ask a couple accused of having an intimate relationship if they wanted to be married.

The aim is to ease case loads in courts and reduce penalties.

Most cases arise when a man and woman are caught being intimate in public, said Ali Al Qareiny, a lawyer at Al Mansour Advocates and Legal Consultancy.

Mr Al Qareiny said that in some cases, the couple might have married secretly in an unregistered “Urfi” marriage with no witnesses, or by signing a contract they had drawn up themselves.

These marriages are considered invalid.

“In such cases, there was an intention to be married, no matter the circumstances they were in and what prevented them from marrying legally,” Mr Al Qareiny said.

“So the judge orders them to get married at court to drop the charges. If any party refuses the marriage, they are penalised accordingly.”

Dr Rima Sabban, associate professor in the college of sustainability sciences and humanities at Zayed University’s Dubai campus, said marriage was a better answer than penalties.

“I see that some of these cases have a positive stance as it shows a type of legal protection to the women, protection from the society that will hold her accountable for her mistake,” Dr Sabban said.

“A man is given freedom because we live in a male-dominated society, and this hurts the woman more.

“It’s good that the judge is trying to reconcile them and trying to get them away from a scandal.”

Mr Al Qareiny said it was necessary that the court provided continuous guidance to the couple to ensure their marriage was stable and avoid issues that might arise, and to ensure the marriage was not a fraud. He said it was important to provide religious advice so the accused did not feel guilty or threatened by society.

Women charged with such offences can suffer damage to their reputation, especially in Arab countries, said Dr Ahmed Al Omosh, dean of sociology at the University of Sharjah.

“This will eliminate unnecessary labelling by the act that they have done and will prevent rumours,” Dr Al Omosh said.

Dr Sabban said the move would limit negative societal reactions.

“We live in a world where some Islamic societies are penalising them in a horrendous way,” she said.

“However, giving such solutions would reflect a more civilised version of Islam and would also minimise the criminalisation in the society at large, let alone protecting people from horrendous versions of Islamic penalties we hear about these days, like lashing and stoning.”


Girl Sues Dad for Not Letting Her Complete Overseas Education

07 Dec, 2014

JEDDAH – The Criminal Court is reviewing a case filed by a young woman who claimed her father would not let her complete her scholarship program because she refuses to give him her stipends, Makkah daily reported.

She told the judge that her father did not let her travel back to the country where she is studying.

Her father kept asking her again and again for money but she did not give him any, the court heard.

When he realized that his daughter did not have any intention to share her scholarship money with him, he waited for her until she got back and then banned her from travelling.

She accused her father of being a drug addict and having a prior criminal record.

A source in the court told Makkah daily that such cases are filed frequently and they are always complicated in nature.

In this case, the father refused to provide the court with sound justifications why he did not want his daughter to travel back and continue pursuing her studies, the source said.

The judge is reviewing the case based on the acts and behaviour of the father and trying to verify whether his justifications are valid.

He said the reasons why the daughter was not allowed to continue her studies are still unclear to the court.

Lawyer Rashid Al-Amro said the law, based on Shariah, does not give parents the right to cause damage to their children.

Al-Amro said: “Any girl, who has attained adulthood or not, may bring a lawsuit against her parents if they mistreat her intentionally.

“The government grants the right of education to all citizens, male and female.” The verdict in such cases depends on the discretion and evaluation of the judge, who will have to assess the damage caused by not allowing the daughter to travel back and continue her studies.

If the daughter’s guardian continues to skip court hearings on purpose, the judge will rescind his guardianship and appoint another one, or the judge himself become the guardian and allow the daughter to continue her studies.


Woman attacked with acid by five men in Pakistan

Dec 7, 2014

MULTAN: A woman in Muzaffargarh allegedly managed to fight off five men who were attempting to rape her, only to be intercepted and attacked with acid as she made her way back to her house.

The incident took place in a rural area of Qureshi Chowk in Muzaffargarh on Friday.

Arfa*, 30, a mother-of-five, worked as daily wage labourers in Aliwaala fields along with her husband.

The victim was reportedly asked to provide illicit services by five men belonging to a local feudal family but had refused to oblige. Her husband advised her to leave the local field, after which she began working in Chowk Qureshi.

However, the suspects managed to locate her and allegedly attempted to kidnap and rape her. Afra is said to have put up a fight and escape, only to be intercepted and doused with acid by the suspects.

She was immediately shifted to the hospital by  locals.

A doctor in Nishtar Hospital in Multan Dr Pervez Haider told The Express Tribune that over 65% of the victim’s body was burnt, and she is stated to be in critical condition.

An FIR has been registered under section 336B in Chowk Qureshi police station under against the five suspects.

Sources said the police is allegedly under pressure as all five suspects, who are still at large, belong to powerful feudal families of the district.


Pakistan’s Women Cotton Pickers Find Power in Uniting Over Wages

Dec 7, 2014

Meeran Pur, Pakistan. Azeema Khatoon, a mother of five, has spent most of her life laboring in Pakistan’s sunbaked cotton fields for less than $2 a day.

Last year, she and a group of around 40 women struggling to feed and clothe their families on their meager wages did something almost unheard for poor women working in rural Pakistan — they went on strike. The gamble paid off.

Khatoon, 35, says she has nearly doubled her wage in the past year, now taking home $3.50 a day compared to $2, with her success just one story cited by labor activists to encourage rural women to band together and form a united workforce.

Illiterate women like Khatoon make up the bulk of the estimated half a million cotton pickers in Pakistan, the world’s fourth-largest cotton producer, after China, India and the United States, but their working conditions are often poor.

Khatoon said she worked for hours for little money in the fields of Pakistan’s rural southeastern Sindh province where she lives in Meeran Pur village about 225 kilometers north of the provincial capital of Karachi.

“Before our collective bargain we made no profit from our work,” said Khatoon, picking rows of fluffy, white cotton shining under the afternoon sun near Meeran Pur.

“We all collectively decided to refuse to work for low wages,” she added, proudly.

Pakistan is one of the few Asian countries where agricultural wages have gone down, not up, in the past 10 years, according to the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Britain’s leading international development and humanitarian think tank.

The ODI said in rural wages are rising across Asia, partly driven by a slow down in population growth, increasing agricultural productivity and migrants moving to cities.

But Pakistan remains one of the few exceptions. Power shortages plague the factories. Agricultural productivity is stagnant. Landlords are hugely powerful.

Daily hazards

Agricultural wages in Pakistan have a massive impact on women, and in turn on their families. About 74 percent of working women aged 15 and are employed in agriculture, according to the International Labor Organisation.

The 2014 Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum ranked Pakistan as the second worst country in the world in gender equality after Yemen.

Many women are employed informally on low earnings and with limited protection, with women’s agricultural wages falling to an average of $1.46 a day in 2012 from around $1.68 in 2007, said the ODI in its recent Rural Wages in Asia report.

On top of the meager wages, women laborers also tell labor activists that landlords or managers will sometimes try to cheat them of their rightful money because they cannot read the records. Sometimes bosses sexually harass them.

Heat stroke, snake bites, exposure to pesticides and cuts on their hands from handling the rough cotton bolls are other hazards of their daily toil.

Khatoon and others have started bringing their school-age children to check the books, or tie knots in the edge of their colorful saris to count how many days they have worked.

“Even though they can’t read the numbers of letters, they can say I have worked one day for each knot,” said Javed Hussain, the head of the Sindh Community Foundation, which aims to improve the socioeconomic conditions of communities and has trained 2,600 women in skills like bargaining and labor rights.

Muhammad Ali Talpur, the director of the government-linked Pakistan Central Cotton Committee, says owners are sympathetic to the workers’ problems but warns paying much higher wages may drive Pakistan’s cotton farmers out of business.

“Cotton producers are being squeezed by low prices and producers are having a hard time to meet their costs,” he said.

Global cotton prices have fallen, hitting a five-year low this summer due to slowing demand from China, a glut in the market, and growing popularity of manmade fibers.

Pakistan produces about 13 million bales a year from a world total of about 119 million bales. This year the government has already bought one million bales to try to shore up the price.

Hussain said the Sindh Community Foundation talks to small landlords and trains workers how to read market prices, trying to ensure there is negotiation, not confrontation.

He said the bigger landlords weren’t usually willing to negotiate over wages and there was no legislation protecting casual agricultural workers but small owners did often sympathize with their workers.

Karim Ullah, who owns a small cotton farm near Meeran Pur, agreed to pay his workers $3 per day this year but said he couldn’t raise wages further unless cotton prices rose.

“We pay wages according to the rate at which the cotton is sold. Only if the going price increases can I pay the pickers more,” he said. “Also, I’m just a small farmer. It’s the big landlords with hundreds of acres who set the rate.”



Photos of Woman Walking With Bare Legs in Kabul Goes Viral

Photos of Woman Walking With Bare Legs in Kabul Goes Viral

Members of Muslim Mahila Foundation submitting a petition with local office of the PM for the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya

Women’s Tight Pants Sprayed with Paint, Cut in Aceh

Uzbekistan Jails Women for Teaching Qur’an

Report: Brits, Americans among ISIS’s Feared Burqa Brigade

Varanasi’s Muslim Women Want Ram Mandir at Ayodhya

Bombay HC to Hear PIL on Ban on Women in Haji Ali Sanctum

Kenya: 800 Girls Saved From FGM

Australian Muslim Women’s Grants Fund New Family Law Clinic and Girls Gotta Know App

Abused Women Face Lonely Struggle for Justice in Pakistan

Swedish Girls ‘Forced’ Into Joining Isis

‘Women Can Be President, Governor’: Nigeria

Turkish PM: Gender ‘Equality’ Linked To Suicide

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Photos of Woman Walking With Bare Legs in Kabul Goes Viral

5 December 2014

A set of photographs have gone viral on social media websites in Afghanistan which shows a young lady walking in the streets of Kabul city with bare legs.

The young woman was reportedly spotted in Karte-3 area in the western part of Kabul city but there are no reports regarding the exact date and time the photographs were taken.

The photographs were widely shared on social media, specifically on Facebook which have created confusions among the users of social media.

There have been mix reactions towards the photographs where certain people have said that the young lady has intentionally walked in the streets with bare legs, accusing her of prostitution.

While certain others have said she was not psychologically in a normal condition and was perhaps looking for someone anxiously.

However, the photographs show the woman was not only walking with bare legs but she is not wearing any footwear either.

Women walking with bare legs or wearing miniskirts was common in Kabul during the late 1960’s where the country had seen relatively steady progression for women’s rights by making significant strides in its efforts to modernize and construct a civilian democracy

The women were first eligible to vote in 1920’s – only a year after women in the UK were given voting rights, and a year before the women in the United States were allowed to vote.

However, the certain restrictions were implemented on women following the collapse of Soviet occupation and the Najibullah regime where women had to wear the head-scarf or Hijab and were refused to attend the UN’s fourth world conference on women in Beijing in 1995.

Further restrictions were implemented on women during the Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001 where women were forced to fully cover themselves in veils and were prohibited to work or attend school or educational institutes.


Women’s Tight Pants Sprayed with Paint, Cut in Aceh

5 December 2014

PETALING JAYA: To Malaysians who are already recoiling at the stifling prohibitions imposed by Shariah law in Kelantan when it comes to concealing their “Aurat”, the news that women in Aceh are prohibited from wearing tight pants can only cause more alarm, lest the Kelantan state government latch on to the idea and impose it here as well.

Having come into effect as law on January 1, 2010, women in some parts of West Aceh were humiliated further when Shariah police cut their tight jeans and pants and forced them to wear loose-fitting attire in their bid to enforce the law.

According to the Jakarta Post, the West Aceh regency administration even stockpiled some 7,000 long skirts to be given away to women caught wearing the offensively tight pants.

The law also prohibits clothes vendors from selling jeans and slacks to women.

West Aceh Regent Ramli M S, the man behind the controversial regulation, even instructed government agency personnel to refrain from serving women who came to their offices in “un-Islamic” attire.

According to BBC news, Ramli said, “We’re not stopping women from wearing trousers. What’s prohibited are tight trousers and jeans.

“If they have to wear trousers, the trousers must cover their ankles and be worn under loose, long skirts.”

semprot celana-facebook On a local Malaysian website , pictures of young women being spray-painted by ordinary folk armed with spray cans also showed the lengths to which enforcement authorities would go to ensure the law was upheld.

The law also apparently extends to other forms of women’s wear like tank tops and tight dresses.

“As an Acehnese who understands the culture and values of Aceh, I very much agree with the tight clothing ban. Such regulation is necessary to filter western influences and preserve Acehnese values, which are rooted in Islam,” chairman of the Aceh Graduate Students Association Sayuti Abubakar told Khabar South East Asia.

Meanwhile a report in the Jakarta Post in 2013 related how the administration of Lhokseumawe in Aceh were prohibiting women from straddling a motorcycle because the practice was “improper” and seen as un-Islamic.

Brushing aside the obvious reasons of safety, Lhokseumawe Mayor Suaidi Yahya said that women should sit sideways on motorcycles, with their legs dangling off to one side.

Saying this practice would “uphold the dignity of women”, he added anyone caught violating the regulation would face punishment.

Needless to say many women’s groups and social activists are up in arms over these extreme rulings and have protested in earnest but as it stands, the rulings stay.


Uzbekistan Jails Women for Teaching Qur’an

5 December 2014

TASHKENT – A group of Muslim women has been jailed by Uzbek authorities in the capital city of Tashkent, in the district of Yangiyul, for teaching Muslims’ holy book, the Qur’an, to young girls.

The news, reported by World Bulletin on Thursday, December 4, said that women were teaching children Qur’an at home when they were arrested.

The state television reported that the defendants will face charges of “radicalism” for teaching the Qur’an.

The arrested women included Hanife Mirganieva, who was said to be “the group leader” along with other women.

A few number of women managed to escape police, with Uzbek officials expecting them to seek refuge in Turkey.

“Ozodlik” radio, the Uzbek service of Radio Free Europe, said that Mirganieva’s husband has been previously caught as Hizbut Tahrir member.

Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most populous nation, is at the heart of a geopolitical power struggle between the West and Russia.

Rights groups have long accused Uzbekistan of suppressing religious freedoms as part of a campaign against Islamic extremism.

In a 2012 country report, the New York-based Human Rights Watch accused the Uzbek authorities of continuing “their unrelenting, multi-year campaign of arbitrary detention, arrest and torture of Muslims who practice their faith outside state controls”.

In March 2012, Uzbek authorities prohibited the sale of religious clothing, specifically hijabs and face veil, at several Tashkent markets following a secretive ban on sales.

There is no legal provision banning sales of hijab, but legislation passed in 1998 sets out fines and short jail terms for wearing religious clothing in public. Punishment ranges from a fine of five to 10 times the monthly minimum wage to 15 days in jail.

In the first known prosecution under the law, a court in Syrdarya region fined a woman the equivalent of 155 US dollars for wearing hijab.


Report: Brits, Americans Among ISIS’s Feared Burqa Brigade

5 December 2014

Armed and dangerous women covered in full Islamic body veils and led by a six-foot-tall Amazon are brutally enforcing strict religious laws and managing brothels with sex slaves in the self-declared capital of the Islamic State.

The Al-Khansa female secret police in Raqqa, Syria carry weapons under their veils and arrest and torture women for the slightest infraction of Sharia Law, London’s Daily Mail newspaper reported Thursday, as it revealed that at least 60 British women are members of the feared Burqa brigade.

The newspaper named Aqsa Mahmood, 20, of Glasgow, Scotland, Khadijah Dare, 22, of London and the “terror twins,” Zahra and Salma Halan of Manchester, among the enforcers who have identified themselves as ISIS supporters over social media sites. The Mail said the female force also includes women from the United States, the Netherlands and Russia. They are mostly Western educated and speak little Arabic.

Dare, believed to be a nom de guerre, has appeared in ISIS recruitment videos and is among the top terrorists wanted by Britain’s MI6 secret service. After ISIS beheaded American journalist James Foley in August, Dare sent out a Twitter message saying she hoped to be the first female terrorists to cut off the head of a Western hostage.

“Her notoriety has evolved so rapidly that she has achieved a celebrity-like status among jihadists fighting in Syria and those who are thinking of traveling abroad to join ISIS,” a security source told the Mail.

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The leader of the Al-Khansa force is reportedly a six-foot-tall woman named Umm Hamza, who hides a cattle prod, a gun and daggers under her veil.

“She’s not a normal female. She’s huge,” a woman who fled from Al-Khansa told CNN in October.

Along with imposing Sharia Law on women who might wear the wrong-colored shoes or unapproved Burqas, Al-Khansa manages brothels with sex slaves kidnapped from the minority Yazidi sect, which ISIS accuses of devil worship.

Yazidi women between the ages of 40 and 50 are sold for about $40, but female children under nine go for $160.

Al-Khansa takes it name from a 7th century female poet who was a contemporary of Muhammad, the founder of Islam.

Female fighters have a long history in Islam, said Dalia Ghanem-Yazbeck of the Carnegie Middle East Center. Some join jihadist groups because the pay is good. Others have religious reasons.

“There are also those who join for ideological reasons,” she wrote. “A large number of these evoke their desire to “glorify the word of God on earth” or to demonstrate “their love for God and the desire of raising the banner of Islam.”


Varanasi’s Muslim Women Want Ram Mandir at Ayodhya

5 December 2014

VARANASI: Mohammad Hashim Ansari, the litigant in Babri Masjid case, who doesn’t want to pursue the matter any further and wants ‘Ram Lalla’ to be free, gets support of Muslim women of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Varanasi.

Supporting Hashim Ansari’s stand, these women associated with Muslim Mahila Foundation and Bharatiya Awam Party sent a petition to PM requesting the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. They said that the construction of Ram Mandir would end hatred and strengthen the bond of unity and harmony between Hindu and Muslim. They will also go to Ayodhya to meet Ansari.

The president of MMF Nazneen Ansari along with Najma Parveen, president of BAP, and others submitted the petition at the local office of Modi in Ravindrapuri colony on Thursday. The petition was also sent to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and senior RSS functionary Indresh Kumar.

“Yadi Musalman Apni Tarakki Chahate Hain Aur Hinduon Se Ijjat Chahate Hain To Ram Janmbhoomi Par Mandir Nirman Ke Liye Pahal Kare Kyonki Duniya Janti Hai Ayodhya Sri Ram Ki Hai,” (If Muslims want prosperity and respect from Hindus they should come forward to build the temple at the birthplace of Ram, as all know that Ayodhya belongs to Sri Ram), said Nazneen adding that the construction of temple would be the permanent solution of ending the hatred between the two communities.

“Ram Se Yudh Karne Wale Ravan Ko Logon Ne Maf Nahi Kiya Toh Ram Mandir Todne Wale Babar Aur Uske Samarthakon Ko Log Kaise Maf Karenge,” (When people did not forgive Ravana for fighting with Ram, how could they forgive the Ram Mandir destroyer Babar and his supporters), wondered Nazneen. Describing Babar as Mongol invader, she wrote that his ancestor Halaku killed thousands of Muslims and Khalifa in Baghdad in 1258, and Babar sowed the seeds of hatred by destroying Ram Mandir in 1528. “Everybody know that the Indian Muslims have no connect with Mongols,” she said adding that those who oppose the construction of temple really are not well wisher of Muslims.

The BAP President Najma Parveen said that time has come when Muslims should present an example of communal harmony by contributing their share to the construction of Ram Mandir. “No one can play with the sentiment of crores of Hindus attached with Ram,” she said.

It may be mentioned here that the Muslim women associated with MMF and BAP openly campaigned for Modi during the parliamentary election. Besides, these women had also sent Rakhi to Modi on the occasion of Rakshabandhan and prayed for his well being during the holy month of Ramzan.


Bombay HC to Hear PIL on Ban on Women in Haji Ali Sanctum

5 December 2014

MUMBAI: Bombay high court is slated on Friday to hear a public interest litigation challenging the ban on women entering the inner sanctum of the Haji Ali Dargah which houses the Mazar (tomb) of the saint and has millions of visitors every year.

The PIL is filed by activists Noorjahan Niaz and Zakia Soman of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, who experienced, ”first hand the restriction which was imposed somewhere between March 2011-June 2012.” They said right from their childhood they were allowed unimpeded access to the inner sanctum (Mazar) but now there is a barricade. A trustee in July 2012 told them the decision was taken for the safety and security of women and is based on Shariat provisions which they began following no sooner they realised they were making a mistake.

The petitioners followed up with representations to the authorities including women commissions, State Minority Commission and the Charity Commissioner in vain. In April 2014 they again visited the Dargah and “much to their dismay learnt that the debarment of women was still in force.” Aggrieved, they moved HC urged it, “to declare that women devotees have equal right of entry and access to all parts including the inner sanctum (Mazar) of the Haji Ali Dargah on par with the male devotees.”


Kenya: 800 Girls Saved From FGM

5 December 2014

Migori — More than 800 girls have been rescued from undergoing Female Genital Mutilation in the Kuria region.

Kuria East police boss Gladys Ogonda on Wednesday said two circumcisers and more than 10 parents have been arrested.

“We are working with our neighbours to tame the foreigners who come into our country and encourage such bad practices,” she said.

She was speaking at Komotobo Center when Migori Governor’s wife Hellen Obado donated materials worth Sh100, 000 to rescued girls.

The girls are now camping at six centres across both Kuria East and Kuria West districts, with the largest group being at Maranatha Komotobo Centre.


Australian Muslim Women’s Grants Fund New Family Law Clinic and Girls Gotta Know App

5 December 2014

A new family law clinic for women of culturally diverse backgrounds and a digital platform for Muslim women to share their stories are among initiatives for Canberra women to share in $115,000 funding.

Eight projects have successfully secured funding as part of this year’s Women’s Grants.

The Women’s Legal Centre (ACT and Region) has received $24,000 to open a specialist women’s family law clinic for women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The centre also received another $3000 to develop the Girls Gotta Know App, for quick access to essential legal information for young women aged 14 to 24 years old.

Muslim women will share their personal stories through short films thanks to $19,000 granted to Photo Access. The digital storytelling project will be screened at Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centre.

The Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT will use a $25,000 grant to create a project to enhance support for women affected by drug and alcohol use and domestic and family violence.

Other grant recipients include Beryl Women with $12,000 to create a book documenting the refuge’s history and statistics about domestic violence in the territory, and another $12,000 granted to the Women’s Centre for Health Matters to develop a local resource to help GPs and community health workers identify signs of domestic violence.

The YWCA Canberra has received $20,000, half for the She Leads College Conference 2015, a leadership conference for up to 200 young women from colleges across the ACT, and the Relationship Things Online project, an interactive digital portal and mobile app which aims to prevent sexual assault and violence.

Minister for Women Joy Burch said the projects would make a real difference to women and girls across the territory.

“This year’s grant round attracted an innovative and diverse range of applications, and I look forward to seeing these important initiatives come to life in coming months,” she said.


Abused women face lonely struggle for justice in Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan — The Associated Press

5 December 2014

KARACHI: When Ruqayya Parveen’s husband dumped a jug of acid on her and her children as they slept, she awoke to a life of pain and disfigurement — one that many in conservative Pakistan believe she brought upon herself.

The police have shown little interest in tracking down her husband in the 18 months since the attack, and she says many in her community shun her, not only because of her appearance but because they assume she did something to provoke the attack.

Last year, at least 1,000 Pakistani women were murdered in so-called “honour killings” carried out by husbands or male relatives over suspicions of adultery or other illicit sexual behaviour, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a private organization. It said another 7,000 survived similar assaults, including acid attacks, amputations, and immolation.

The commission only compiles reported cases, meaning the true statistics are likely much higher, as cases are often covered up by families.

Last month, a Pakistani court sentenced to death four men who had beaten a pregnant woman to death in front of a Lahore courthouse for marrying against the family’s wishes. One of the men was her father; the others were male relatives.

That verdict came after the killing sparked widespread outrage. But women’s rights groups say justice in such cases is often elusive, with police and prosecutors having little interest in getting involved in what many in the conservative, Muslim-majority Pakistan see as private family matters.

Parveen, 26, said her husband, an “alcoholic gambler,” threw acid on her as she slept with three of their four children.

“I lost my senses. I was shivering with pain,” she said. She was hospitalized for six months with severe burns on her face, torso, back and arms. She lost vision in her left eyeball, which hangs from the socket, and hearing in her left ear.

When she went to the police she was told they could only apprehend her husband if she told them where he was. “Is this a joke?” she asked.

Police investigator Mahmood Khan told The Associated Press that he did not have the intelligence resources to track the husband down. “We’re ready to spend the money. We’re ready to travel,” he said, but only if she tells them where to look.

“In our country, domestic violence is still considered a private matter,” said Zoia Tariq, a women’s rights activist. “Try telling a police officer or a government official that someone is hitting his wife, sister, daughter, you will get a response … ‘What have you got to do with it? It is their personal matter.“’

Parveen says it is the lack of justice, more than the disfigurement, which has “robbed me of the will to live.”

She is still in pain from the attack, and stays at home most days to avoid the stares. Her mother works as a housekeeper and her eldest son, an 11-year-old, quit school to work as a gravedigger.

There are shelters in Karachi where she and other abused women can learn skills in order to earn a livelihood.

“It is important that these women consider themselves survivors and not victims. It is essential for their rehabilitation and reintegration into society,” said Uzma Noorani, who runs one such shelter.

But it’s hard to see yourself as a survivor when you are treated like a pariah.

“Acid attack victims are avoided like the plague, like AIDS,” Tariq, the women’s rights activist, said. “They’re considered someone punished for doing something wrong. People would ask their kids to stay away from such victims, stay away from their influence.”

Rubina Qaimkhani, a Pakistani minister in charge of women’s affairs in Sindh province, acknowledged that the government could do more, but said there was a need to change the mindset of the entire society. “We are making laws and trying to create awareness among women of how they can fight for their rights,” she said.

Laws already on the books bar sexual harassment in the workplace and criminalize acid-throwing. But a bill specifically addressing domestic violence failed to make it out of Pakistan’s upper house because of opposition from hard-line religious parties.

Zohra Yusuf, the chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission, says the legal system does little to protect the rights of people like Parveen, but that society is slowly changing.

“You hear of a lot of cases of women marrying of their own will,” she said. “You are seeing a bit of change that, you know, they will not accept patriarchy all their lives.”


Swedish Girls ‘Forced’ Into Joining Isis

5 December 2014

The head of Sweden’s Security Service has told a television network that the country was experiencing a rapid rise in numbers heading to Iraq and Syria to fight for Islamic State.

Anders Thornberg who heads Säpo, told STV to suggest some girls are being forced to travel to the war torn region and spoke of the need to “pull together all the forces in society” to try prevent more young people from signing up to the Islamic State.

He suggested up to 300 Swedish nationals had travelled to countries including Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria, according to The Local news website.

But Mr Thornberg said the worrying situation wasn’t just limited to Sweden.

“It’s an explosive development” he said in an interview with the Agenda programme. “When I talk to my colleagues on the other security services in Europe and around the world we see the same trend.”

The Scandinavian country is taking the problem seriously: in the summer they appointed a national coordinator against violent extremism, former leader of the Social Democrat party Mona Sahlin.

She will be attempting to improve cooperation between local authorities and government agencies and developing a programme to allow vulnerable youngsters to resist any appeal which religious extremism might hold.

And she said that while some young people did volunteer to fight for the terrorist group in the Middle East, others, especially girls, are “forced” or “trafficked” to the areas. She explained that she had spoken to parents of those who had left their homes to fight and they suggested their children did not leave voluntarily.

“I hope that cases of trafficking come to light that can be investigated” she said, adding that many joined up because they were following a “dream” to “become something” that turned out to be “a very different reality”.

Ms Sahlin spoke out against Muslim groups in Sweden which she accused of not doing enough to stop young people leaving their homes and travelling to fight.

But the chairman of an Islamic association in Stockholm, Ibrahim Boutaleh, insisted that Muslim organisations in Sweden are working hard to stop people being radicalised.

“We’ve been looking into different models that appear to be working in both Denmark and the UK, where social services and police work together to support families affected” he said. “They work in advance, educating parents so they can spot the signs before it’s too late.”

Yesterday we reported how French security workers had been requesting secondments to the UK services who have the best track record in de-radicalising fundamentalist fighters.


‘Women can be president, governor’: Nigeria

5 December 2014

CONTRARY to a popularly-held opinion among some Muslims, the Chief Imam of Al-Adabiyya Kamaliyya Central Mosque, Foma, Ilorin, Kwara State, Alhaji Shuaib AbdulRafiu, has said that women can occupy top political positions to bring about good governance.

He said Islam does not discriminate against women as regards political appointments.

Delivering his final sermon in a three-part lecture on Islamic views on Muslim women’s eligibility for political offices, AbdulRafiu said Islam does not oppose their participation in the affairs of state.

He explained that only in a caliphate, where a religious leader is the head, can a woman not aspire to or occupy a political position.

The cleric added that women could hold governorship, presidential or other political positions in any secular society like Nigeria.

The cleric, who said he had earlier argued that Muslim women could not hold political positions, explained that further religious and academic studies in foreign Islamic countries revealed that women could govern in secular societies of the world.

He cited Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, among other countries, where Muslim women hold political offices.

AbdulRafiu said some women leaders are more qualified than men, adding that corruption within the political class would reduce if more women were elected into positions of authority in the country.

The cleric charged Muslim men to fear Allah in their relationship with women and be responsible husbands and sons to their wives and mothers.


Turkish PM: Gender ‘equality’ linked to suicide

5 December 2014

“Mechanical equality” in gender relations in developed countries is linked to their higher suicide rates, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in a speech Thursday.

“Why is the Gross National Product in most developed countries – I don’t want to name it but in Scandinavian countries and in many other countries – at the highest level on one side [GDP], but the suicide rate is also at the highest level there. Why?” Hurriyet Daily News quoted Davutoğlu.

The premier, who was speaking at a meeting hosted by the women’s branch of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), described “mechanical equality” as something that it is beginning to “destroy the complementary relationship in life.”

“That’s why, since our women are fulfilling that divine mission of keeping humanity alive, then they have the right to rest before and after becoming a mother and spare time for their children. Granting this is not a favor, it is just paying a debt.”

He stressed the importance of “motherhood” and dubbed his government as a “champion” to promote the natural kinship.

The premier also denounced violence against women, describing those who “use violence against women” as “displaying their own weakness and dishonor.”

“No matter if it is among the family, even by a father against his daughter in the form of a slap [in the face] as sign of compassion, it will leave deep traces in the hearts of those children,” he added.

“No matter if it on the street, against a woman who is considered weak, all of this violence is a direct assault on human honor, and fighting against this assault is a mission for all of us.”

Davutoğlu hailed his party when he said that 14.5 percent of AKP deputies elected in the most recent 2011 parliamentary elections were women.

He also promised: “We should increase this to at least 25 percent in the shortest time. As AKP, we will do whatever this requires. The AK Party doesn’t follow others, it drags others to follow its lead.”



Hundreds of British Women Want To Be Jihadi Brides, Warns IS Researcher

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Female trainees, between 15 to 22 years of age, of the Yazidis Protecting Sinjar pose with their trainer, Hader, at their barracks on Mount Sinjar. All the girls have since graduated from training. Jonathan Krohn for The National

Behind-The-Scenes Look at Life for Saudi Women

Terrorizing Women in Indian Society Should End: Indian Actress

Yazidi Girls Train To Take On ISIL from Sinjar Mountain

Young Kelantan Woman Claims Almost Left For Syria to Be Islamic State Sex Slave

Nigeria’s Purported Boko Haram Leader Says Has “Married Off” Girls

Pakistan Policewomen out on roads to regulate traffic

Israeli-Canadian Woman Kidnapped by ISIS Makes Contact: ‘I’m Totally Safe and Secure’

I Met an Afghan Girl Sold Into an Abusive Marriage at Age 9

Sydney Girl, 9, Feared Sent To Middle East for Arranged Marriage

HRW Urges Saudi to Free Two Women Held In Driving Case

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Hundreds Of British Women Want To Be Jihadi Brides, Warns IS Researcher

03 Nov, 2014

Hundreds of young women in the UK are desperate to join Islamic State and become jihadi brides, a London-based researcher on radicalisation warned today.

Melanie Smith, 22, is in direct contact with 53 women from Europe who have either made it to Syria or attempted to go there.

But the researcher at King’s College International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, who tracks women and girls who want to marry into the terror group, said soaring numbers of British citizens are being brainwashed by jihadists over the internet every day.

Miss Smith talks to these women on, the site on which IS fighters can often be found updating the world on their thoughts and activities.

“There must be hundreds of girls wanting to go across,” she said. “I come across girls every day who say, ‘I’m so desperate to go over there but it’s just so hard for me.’ I saw someone say this morning, ‘I want to come but I’m a full-time mum.’ And someone said, ‘Just bring your kids.’ The proportion of girls who eventually make the transition from wanting to go to physically going is tiny. But there are so many people who want to go.”

She said one girl on told her of “a thing called Jihad Matchmaker” on Twitter: “You follow it, it follows you back, you send a picture of yourself with your veil and the men choose from hundreds of headshots.”

Miss Smith added: “I’d say 90 per cent of the messages to these jihadi men are marriage proposals. It’s ‘You’re so attractive. Will you marry me if I come to Syria?’”

Aqsa Mahmood, who tweets under the name Umm Layth, is one of the women Miss Smith is tracking. The 20-year-old radiography degree dropout from Glasgow married an IS fighter and has become one of the group’s most hard-line internet activists.

Miss Smith said that independence is a huge incentive. “There may be pressure from parents: ‘You should study for your A-levels so you can go to university so you can be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer.’ They say they have more freedom in IS.”

But once there, she warned, it is near impossible to leave. “The people around you and the entire state in which you live would probably kill you if you said you wanted to go home openly. Once you’re there you’re not supposed to leave. It’s the rest of your life.”


Behind-The-Scenes Look at Life for Saudi Women

03 Nov, 2014

The boulevards of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, are lined with office towers, American fast food chains, and super-sized shopping malls. But the modern façade can’t obscure a deeply conservative Islamic country.

The malls may sell miniskirts and sexy lingerie, but the female shoppers nearly all wear floor-length black gowns known as Abayas, and Niqabs that cover everything except their eyes. And – as is the norm in Saudi Arabia – the fast food restaurants are segregated. Men sit at the front; women and families sit in a partitioned area at the back, shielded from public view.

Saudi women are also banned from driving, and need a male relative’s permission to work and travel overseas. For visitors from the West, it can be tough to digest.

But we went to Saudi Arabia to talk to Saudi women, and to find out what they think about their own society. We wanted to look behind the cliché that paints all Saudi women as veiled and therefore victimized. On a rare visit to the closed-off kingdom, we also wanted to know if there were any real signs of change.

(For more of Holly Williams’ reporting from Saudi Arabia, tune in to “CBS This Morning” Wednesday and Thursday.)

A few days after arriving in Riyadh, we visited the Starbucks near our hotel. We ordered our coffees and sat at a table outside in the sun. My producer, Erin Lyall, and I both wore head-to-toe black, and had covered our heads out of respect for local customs.

After a few moments a very apologetic staff member approached us and explained that, as women, we weren’t allowed to sit at the front of the café.

“We don’t have a problem,” he said. “But if the religious police see you there could be trouble.”

The religious police, employed by the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, are tasked with implementing Islamic Sharia Law in Saudi Arabia. They can punish unrelated men and women for “intermingling” in public areas, and they enforce the dress code that is imposed on Saudi women.

Fearful the religious police would blame Starbucks for allowing intermingling to take place on its terrace, the staff member directed us to the “family” section at the rear: indoors, with little natural light.

There, we bumped into two young Saudi women who complained to us vociferously.

“We hate this,” said one, as she tapped her fingernails on the counter.

During nearly two weeks in Saudi Arabia we met many other Saudis who shared their frustration with the country’s strict interpretation of Islamic law — some of them reformers within the government. One member of the Shura Council, the body that advises Saudi Arabia’s all-powerful King Abdullah, told us he wanted reform in “in every aspect of life.”

Saudi Arabia is clearly changing. There are now more women than men graduating from university, and the government is encouraging them to join the workforce. We met countless professional Saudi women who – despite a legal system that treats them as less-than-full citizens – occupy powerful positions in government and private companies.

There are others in Saudi Arabia — including women — who don’t necessarily want things to change.

One of them is Um Seif, a high school teacher whose husband has two wives. Polygamy is legal under Islamic law, and still widely practiced in Saudi Arabia.

“Foreign women outside Saudi Arabia have more freedom than we do,” she told us. “But I don’t want to be like them. From a young age we’re taught that these are our customs, and we follow them.”

Balancing those very different attitudes is the challenge for King Abdullah and his government. Nobody in Saudi Arabia doubts that change is happening, but many worry that if it occurs too quickly it will prompt a backlash from religious conservatives.


Terrorizing women in Indian society should end: Indian Actress

03 Nov, 2014

Mumbai:   Actress and TV host Gauahar Khan rued the fact that our laws aren’t stricter to inculcate fear among people committing crimes against women.

Speaking to media persons for the first after she was blatantly hit by a youth for wearing a short dress, Gauahar said that, “I spoke to now because I wanted the law to take its course. I have given my statement to police & they have co-operated well by taking the right action.”

Gauhar was attacked and threatened by an audience member who said that, “being a Muslim woman, she should not have worn such a short dress”.

The accused, identified as Mohammed Akil Mallick (24), slapped and touched her inappropriately during the break of the show, but was immediately overpowered by the security guards deployed there, following which the police were notified.

Unhappy with the way the security arrangements at the sets of ‘India’s Raw Star’, Gauahar said that, “we ignored a few things during the course of the show & never made me think that anything of such sorts could even happen.”

“There was a huge security lapse. Even if he had a card to enter the premises, his intentions with what he came in should have been analysed.”

Equating the shocking incident to a “terrorist attack”, she questioned “isn’t this a terror attack? To create a terror this… It happened to a girl & why does this happen only to girls.”

“Respecting women has to come from within and it can’t just be fed into people’s minds,” she added.

Gauahar said when the attack happened, she kept shouting “don’t let him go”.

She is of the opinion that the laws in the country aren’t stricter that apprehend such men.

“Laws are not stricter as they do not create fear or regret among such offenders,” the model said.


Yazidi girls train to take on ISIL from Sinjar mountain

03 Nov, 2014

Mount Sinjar, Iraq // Seventeen Yazidi girls stream out of the wedding hall that serves as their military training camp and line up for inspection.

Their blemished faces highlight their youth: many appear no older than 13, though their instructor claims they are all between 15 and 22.

The young trainees are learning to fight with the aim of breaking ISIL’s siege of Mount Sinjar, the mountain in north-west Iraq where they live after fleeing the Islamist’s onslaught.

With most Iraqi towns at the foot of the mountain taken over by ISIL and the road to Syria also cut off by the militants, Kurdish and Yazidi fighters have struggled with a lack of troops to launch a counter offensive.

To fill the gap, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) has offered military training to young Yazidis between the ages of 15 and 30 under the banner of the Sinjar Resistance Units.

Back at their barracks in Kursi Valley, located on the north side of Mount Sinjar, Qul Baher Said Hassan, one of the trainees, smiles shyly. “I like the weapons,” she says. Her classmates giggle. Qul Baher claims to be 15, though she looks much younger.

“Yes, we are the youngest fighters, but our hearts are big enough to fight,” she says.

Hader, a seven-year-veteran of the PKK who instructs the girls, says they are learning to be the “women of the future.”

“All these girls are like men,” she says, surveying her recruits.

Based in northern Iraq, the PKK has for 30-years battled neighbouring Turkey for Kurdish rights. Yet, since ISIL took over large areas of Iraq last summer, the PKK have trained their guns on the Islamist extremists.

In August, two months after ISIL launched its blitzkrieg across Iraq, they stormed into areas populated by followers of the Yazidi religion — one of Iraq’s oldest minorities.

The militants embarked on a campaign of persecution against the group kidnapping, killing, and enslaving hundreds of girls and women and sending thousands fleeing to the top of Mount Sinjar. Most have now scattered to safehavens across Iraqi Kurdistan. Some, however, have stayed to fight.

The PKK has three training camps for the Sinjar Resistance Units. There is a male training camp at one of the highest points on the mountain and separate training camps for male and female fighters in the mountain village of Kursi.

Each class of trainees consists of about 20 recruits and covers nine courses over a 15 day period.

The training includes learning to shoot an AK-47 and throwing hand grenades. Recruits are also taught the ideology of Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK’s leader who has been jailed on an island off Istanbul since 1999.

Hader says that it’s not uncommon for recruits under 18 to take part in the training.

For those as young as Qul Baher and many of her classmates, Hader says their families had given permission for them to be trained to fight.

When the girls are sent to the front they will be on the “second line,” according to Hader, learning from older, more experienced PKK fighters.

Already, part of the training involves visiting the battle field. “Sometimes we take the girls to the front lines to stand behind the guys on the front,” Hader says.

Qul Baher’s father, Said, a Yazidi politician, beams proudly as he watches his daughter, in full military fatigues, recite the well rehearsed rationale for why she and the others have become fighters at such a young age.

“All of the Yazidis are our family,” she explains, “Many of our girls were taken by ISIL. That is why we fight.”

There are about 200 PKK-trained fighters in the Sinjar Resistance Units.

In combat, the group is commanded by the PKK, though the Kurds claim the end goal is for the units to eventually function without their help.

Still, the Sinjar Resistance Units’ status as a franchise of the PKK has led to criticism of the group for not being a purely Yazidi organisation.

“[The group] is not beneficial for us, because their leaders are not Yazidi” says Sheikh Qassem Derbo of the Jelko, a Yazidi tribe on Sinjar. “Their orders come from the PKK.”

Following the visit by The National last month, the girls went on to complete their training, and are now stationed around Kursi. They are among the last to be trained due to a lack of new volunteers.

Hader is now the commander for all female Yazidi fighters.

She is routinely followed around Sinjar by a troop of girls giggling with shouldered guns.


Young Kelantan Woman Claims Almost Left For Syria to Be Islamic State Sex Slave

03 Nov, 2014

A young Kelantan woman has alleged that she almost left for Syria to act as a sex slave to Islamic State (IS) jihadists there, Utusan Malaysia has reported.

Citing a purported video interview, the Malay language daily reported that the woman — identified only as Umairah — claimed she was lured by promises of “paradise” and influenced by a religious class in a local university.

Umairah reportedly spoke of the preparations she made for the abortive trip to Syria, including learning the guide to taking care of Muslim militants such as eating, dressing and fulfilling their sexual needs that included serving five men at a time.

The 23-year-old was determined to go Syria despite her parents’ opposition to carry out jihad (holy struggle) and fulfilling the militants’ sexual needs, but hinted that a nightmare of being gang-raped put a stop to her plans.

“Up until that pointed, I still agreed because (I) wanted heaven. I told my parents; of course they were very angry. But I have already promised to jihad, so I don’t care about the prohibition, what I know, I want to go Syria.

“But on the last night I was in Malaysia, I dreamt of being gang-raped. Very torturous. Only God knows. After I was raped, my mother came and wrapped me with white cloth and black veil,” the second daughter of an engineer was quoted saying in the video cited by Utusan.

According to the Malay-language daily’s report dated December 1, the eight minute and 11 second video was posted the day before on popular video-sharing website YouTube by a local portal.

Utusan did not specify, however, the name of the purported video clip or the portal that was said to have posted it.

Citing the same video, Utusan said Umairah spoke of how a man in a religious class had exposed her to the new method of using jihad to wipe out past sins, adding that he had also spoken of heaven and the benefits of jihad.

She said she was also taught to hate infidels, liberal Muslims and Muslims of different sects, besides being given reading materials from Syria and Indonesia and online articles.

Last week, the prime minister tabled a White Paper in Parliament titled “Addressing the threat of Islamic State”, in which he outlined the history of IS, the threat the group poses and the impact it has on Malaysians as well as the danger in allowing its skewed Islamic teachings and practice of violence to spread in Malaysia.

According to the White Paper sighted by Malay Mail Online, 39 Malaysians are already in Syria, with 17 of them involved in IS while 22 had joined Ajnad al-Sham.

The police have also arrested 40 suspects in the country as of November 13, with the first arrest on February 7.

The White Paper pointed out that the arrests of 11 suspects on April 28 exposed their plans to bomb entertainment centres in KL, an alcohol plant in Selangor, government buildings in Putrajaya.

Putrajaya also confirmed last week that it was planning to introduce a new anti-terrorism law, with the bill expected to be debated during the next Parliamentary sitting in March next year.


Nigeria’s purported Boko Haram leader says has “married off” girls

03 Nov, 2014

(Reuters) – A man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has said more than 200 girls kidnapped by the group six months ago were “married off” to its fighters, contradicting Nigerian government claims they would soon be freed.

Nigeria’s military says it killed Shekau a year ago, and authorities said in September that they had killed an imposter posing as him in videos.

In the video recording obtained by Reuters on Saturday, the man’s face is difficult to see as he is filmed from a distance.

“We have married them off and they are all in their husbands’ houses,” the man claiming to be Shekau says.

“The over 200 Chibok girls have converted to Islam, which they confess is the best religion. Either their parents accept this and convert too or they can die.”

The majority of the kidnapped girls were Christians.

It was not possible to independently verify the video, but it was given to local journalists through the same channels that Boko Haram has used to distribute video tapes for the past three years, in what has become the militant group’s sole means of communicating messages through the media.

It was also the classic style seen in the group’s previous videos — the purported leader is standing in semi-desert scrubland surrounded by fourteen masked gunmen with four military jeeps in the background. Two of the gunmen are holding up Boko Haram’s al Qaeda-inspired black flag.

Verifying the authenticity of the video was further complicated by the fact that the group is made of several competing, and sometimes cooperating, factions with little in the way of a centralised command structure.

Whoever the figure in the video is, its release is likely to raise doubts about whether talks between a Boko Haram faction and the government in neighbouring Chad will secure the release of the girls, who were kidnapped from a secondary school in Chibok, northeast Nigeria, in April.

The man in the video denounced Danladi Ahmadu, the self-proclaimed representative of Boko Haram in Chad with whom the government has been talking. Nigerian authorities have said repeatedly they believe Ahmadu is a real Boko Haram commander and that he represents the faction holding the girls.

He also denied the existence of a ceasefire called by the government two weeks ago to help make the talks a success, which has had no apparent effect on the level of violence in the country.

“Who says we are dialoguing or discussing with anybody? Are you talking to yourselves? We don’t know anybody by the name of Danladi. If we meet him now we will cut off his head,” the man in the video says.

“All we are doing is slaughtering people with machetes and shooting people with guns … War is what we want.”

Officials at the presidency, whose office is conducting the talks, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The five-year-old campaign for an Islamic state by Boko Haram, which has killed thousands and whose name means “Western education is sinful”, has become by far the biggest menace to the security of Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer.

Its fighters have attacked targets almost every day for weeks and last week seized control of the town of Mubi, the district town of Nigeria’s defence chief Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh. It was Badeh who announced the ceasefire.

They robbed banks, burned down houses and hoisted their black flag over the Emir’s palace, killing dozens of people and forcing thousands to flee, witnesses in Mubi said.

On Saturday the fighting continued, with a security source saying as many as 30 Boko Haram fighters were killed in a battle in remote community called Sabon Gari, after insurgents stormed it on motorcycles and Nigerian troops fired back to protect it.

A car bomb thought to have been planted by Boko Haram killed at least 10 people at a crowded bus stop in Gombe on Friday morning, emergency services said.

The government has blamed the violence on Boko Haram’s allied criminal networks that it cannot control, and on the various competing factions within the group.

The man in Saturday’s video, who spoke in the northern Hausa language with occasional phrases in English, also said the group is holding a “white man”, without giving details.

The only known hostage seized in the northeast is a German teacher kidnapped from a college in the northeastern city of Gombe in July by gunmen widely assumed to be linked to Boko Haram. (Additional reporting from Lanre Ola in Maiduguri; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Louise Ireland and Sonya Hepinstall)


Pakistan Policewomen out on roads to regulate traffic

03 Nov, 2014

KARACHI: “Look out! There’s a woman in the middle of the road with a stop sign.” Jamming on the brakes, drivers brought vehicles to a halt. No one dared jump the red light. A few motorcycles with their front wheels over the zebra crossing line were politely asked to move backwards, which they did without questioning.

This was the case from Fawwara Chowk to the traffic intersections of the PIDC to Do Talwar where some 30 women traffic constables took to the roads to control traffic. “Well, we are training at the moment which would be completed in about a week, Insha Allah. From next week, we will be wearing our new white traffic police uniforms,” head constable Syeda Bobby Tabbasum minding traffic at the Teen Talwar intersection told Dawn on Tuesday.

“There would also be more women controlling traffic on the roads soon as 70 more are expected to join the ranks. Some of us are from Police Operations, some from Investigations and others from the CIA,” she said.

Police constable (PC) Madiha Shah said their timings during training were from 12noon to 5pm, and they were picked and dropped by a police bus. “We are all family women and when transport became an issue for us we were provided it by our department for which we are grateful,” she said.

Some of the lady constables there wore black shirts with khaki shalwar while others donned khaki trousers. “Well, there is flexibility over what we feel more comfortable in at work,” said PC Mehwish Dani.

Working side-by-side with male traffic police officials, who were also guiding them, the women said they had faced no problems so far. “I’m six months pregnant with my first baby,” said PC Asma Akhtar. “And I’m grateful that my supervisor gives me relief whenever I feel tired.”

She added: “My husband and I have been trying to have a child for four years and now that I’m expecting my husband is concerned about me controlling traffic. It can become hectic but it’s also pretty exciting. I’ll soon be taking my maternal leave but hope to come back here after that.”

Head constable Saifal Khan, one of their colleagues, said he was glad to be working with the women. “We are usually afraid of stopping women drivers for violating traffic rules. Now they are our lady constables’ problem,” he said.

Head moharrir Mohammad Jawaid Jadoon, one of the personnel supervising the lady constables’ training, said he told them to also brief the people about traffic rules while on duty. “They are quick learners and I don’t usually have to explain things to them more than once. But I think they tire easily and we let them take short breaks. Still I am hopeful they will do better than us even after gaining more confidence,” he said.

This new change on Karachi’s roads is said to have been brought about by DIG-traffic Dr Amir Sheikh. “I believe in equal opportunities for women and wanted to empower police women in this male-dominated society. For this I intend to bring in at least 100 lady constables and we are encouraging the women in the police department to opt for traffic police by also offering them an extra monthly allowance of Rs1,000 with pick and drop facility,” he said.

“At the moment there are only 30 of them out there but it would be a positive change as more and more join in. I want them regulating traffic everywhere as people, too, seeing women would behave and listen to them. That way the usual arguments we see on our roads between the public and traffic police would slowly lessen too,” the DIG added.

“And this is not all. Besides the lady constables controlling traffic, we also have two very senior lady section officers. These are two very senior lady inspectors driving around town in police mobiles, who’ll come to hear your grievance in person when you call on the ‘1915’ complaint number. These are all just a part of our new reforms and improvements.”


Israeli-Canadian woman reportedly kidnapped by ISIS makes contact: ‘I’m totally safe and secure’

03 Nov, 2014

After reports of her kidnapping by Islamic State surfaced, the Israeli-Canadian woman fighting the extremist group seemed to have relayed a message on social media reassuring of her well-being on Monday night.

31-year-old Gill Rosenberg apparently posted on her Facebook that she was safe but had not been able to communicate with the outside world for safety reasons.

“Guys, I’m totally safe and secure. I don’t have Internet access or any communication devices with me for my safety and security. I can’t reply regularly and only happened to have a chance to log in and see these buklshit news stories. Ignore the reports I’ve been captured. Yalla, Acharai! [alright, later],” read a message on her Facebook.


I met an Afghan girl sold into an abusive marriage at age 9

By Sudarsan Raghavan

03 Nov, 2014

Pekay was small, with a puffy nose and an infectious smile. That was the last memory I had of her, 10 years ago.

She was 13 back then, but she had already suffered a lifetime of misery.

When Pekay was 9, her impoverished family sold her into marriage to a man old enough to be her grandfather. They needed to pay their rent — $80, a princely sum at the time – and so their landlord became Pekay’s husband. He brutalized her, so severely that she contemplated suicide.

As I wrote in a 2004 article for Knight-Ridder, Pekay was “one of thousands of girls and women who are trapped in forced marriages, caught between the rural, tribal and Islamic customs that ruled the country for centuries and the promise of a new Afghanistan ruled by laws that apply equally to everyone.”

The Afghanistan of 2004, as it is now under new President Ashraf Ghani, was one of great expectations. The Taliban Islamist regime had been ousted three years earlier by the U.S.-led intervention after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The nation had its first presidential elections, won by Hamid Karzai. Women voted in unprecedented numbers.

But none of that helped Pekay. Afghanistan’s laws made it illegal for girls younger than 16 to marry. Buoyed by the new hope across the nation, Pekay’s parents reported the abuse to the police and then tried to get her a divorce. But the court’s conservative clerics, who abided by Islamic law, ruled that she could not separate, even from a violent child molester.

Finally, though, the chief justice of the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the lower court – but only because he learned of the abuses committed against Pekay.

Pekay went back to her parents’ house and to the life of a child – as best she could, anyway, after so much trauma. But the threat remained.

In my last conversation with her husband, he declared:

“I’ll die before divorcing her. I can’t force her to come back to my house, but I can make sure she won’t marry again. One day she’ll come back. She has to.”

When I returned to Afghanistan last month to become The Washington Post’s bureau chief, I wanted to learn Pekay’s fate.

Today, domestic violence against women and girls is still widespread in Afghanistan. Many rural women are still forced into unhappy marriages every year. The legal system remains weak and corrupt.

Had Pekay managed to overcome all these obstacles?

Kabul has changed so much since I was last here that I couldn’t remember where Pekay and her parents lived.  After knocking on doors, we learned that the family had moved to a village north of Kabul. Last week, we drove there.

Pekay’s mother and father, frail and aging, welcomed me into their mud-brick house. They were so poor they could no longer afford to pay rent. They were staying in a compound of a cousin. Pekay’s father was nearly blind, staring through bottle-thick spectacles. Her mother was completely blind in her left eye. Pekay’s mentally ill brother was lying on a mattress, staring vacantly at the wall.

But Pekay was not there. When I asked about her, her mother’s face turned solemn. She informed me that Pekay had married again. Then, she asked me not to contact her.

“She’s happy now,” explained her mother. “And I want her to remain happy.”

The family, I learned, had not told Pekay’s new husband about her past. Divorce in Afghanistan is still considered a disgrace to the family and tribe, particularly in conservative rural areas. “Half of this village doesn’t even know,” said her mother. “We didn’t say anything about her past.”

Since Pekay’s divorce, the only potential suitors were old, disabled men, her mother explained. Four years ago, through some neighbours, her parents were introduced to a man in his 40s who ran a business and wanted a wife to bear him a son.

Pekay, who was 19, was of childbearing age. She had never attended school and spent her teenage years doing chores around the house. “We were too poor to send her to school,” her father said.

They were desperate to find Pekay a husband. They didn’t mind that her suitor was from a conservative ethnic Pashtun family and that they were ethnic Tajiks. They told him that she was a widow, and that her husband had been killed.

It was a large wedding, said her mother, adding that today Pekay has lots of clothes and plenty of food.

Most important, they never heard again from her ex-husband. “He never dared to show up and take her back,” said her mother.

When I asked what would happen if Pekay’s husband and her in-laws learned about her past, her mother replied:  “It would be a big problem. They would do something to her, probably.”

“We don’t want our daughter to suffer any more,” she continued. “She has suffered enough.”

I thanked her parents and left, satisfied with the knowledge that Pekay seemed to be in a happier place.


Sydney girl, 9, feared sent to Middle East for arranged marriage

03 Nov, 2014

A women’s health service has fears a nine-year-old Sydney girl sent overseas may become a child bride.

The girl’s mother told the Immigrant Women’s Health Service that her daughter had flown out of Australia on Monday to travel to a Middle Eastern country.

Dr Eman Sharobeem, a doctor in psychology and the health service’s chief executive, said she feared for the girl’s safety and wellbeing.

While the girl’s mother did not specifically say her daughter would be involved in an arranged marriage, Dr Sharobeem feared the girl would become a child bride.

Dr Sharobeem said health service workers had become suspicious when the girl told them several days ago that she was going overseas and “wasn’t coming back”.

“She said, ‘I’m going to go to my country and I’m going to stay there, I’m not going to come back to school. I hate school’,” Dr Sharobeem said.

“The worker was trying to talk to her about schooling and how it’s important for her life, and she said, ‘No, my parents told me it’s better to go there and stay there and I’m going to be happier there.’

“In cases like this, many girls disappear from the radar and we don’t know anything about them, and then we are surprised with them coming back married or already pregnant.”

Dr Sharobeem said staff immediately went to the girl’s home to speak to her family. The girl’s mother spoke limited English, but suggested her daughter would return to Australia in the near future.

“We tried to have another conversation with the girl, and she actually disappeared,” Dr Sharobeem said.

“A colleague went there and she was told that she [the girl] already was sent overseas. Basically we were not able to have a conversation with her after the first suspected comments were made by the girl.

“I have fears for her safety. I have fears for her wellbeing. If the suspicion came and we didn’t attend to it, then it’s our fault.”

Dr Sharobeem said girls often approached the Immigrant Women’s Health Service and asked for help to negotiate with their parents.

“Some others just go along with what the parents want and accept it,” Dr Sharobeem said.

Dr Sharobeem said the youngest child she had encountered being sent away for an arranged marriage was 14 years old.

More needed to be done to educate at-risk communities, she said.

“Addressing this epidemic within the culturally and linguistically diverse communities doesn’t happen because the government is creating a website or creating glossy brochures. This is not the way to deal with this epidemic,” she said.

“We really need to talk sense, we really need to address these communities in a culturally appropriate manner and we need to tailor our education to these girls. It’s a continuous battle and it’s not a quick fix by another brochure.”

In October, Fairfax Media reported that Australian Federal Police were investigating a record number of human trafficking cases in Australia involving sex slavery, forced marriages and child brides.

In particular, the AFP revealed they were uncovering more cases of trafficking that were related to forced marriages. Police had more than 20 active investigations into alleged forced marriages, with 18 cases involving females aged under 18.


HRW urges Saudi to free two women held in driving case

December 3, 2014

DUBAI: Human Rights Watch on Wednesday urged Saudi authorities to “immediately release” two women arrested after one of them attempted to drive into the kingdom in defiance of a ban.

Border officers stopped Loujain Hathloul when she tried to drive from neighbouring United Arab Emirates (UAE) into Saudi Arabia on Sunday. Maysaa Alamoudi, a UAE-based Saudi journalist, later arrived to support her.

An activist told AFP on Wednesday that Hathloul, 25, and Alamoudi were still in custody in Eastern Province but neither had been charged.

The activist declined to be named.

“Given that both women appear to be detained because they were driving, Saudi officials should immediately release them and end the discriminatory driving ban on women,” said HRW.

The New York-based watchdog’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said: “After years of false promises to end its absurd restrictions on women, Saudi authorities are still arresting them just for getting behind the wheel.“

“The Saudi government’s degrading restrictions on women are what bring shame to the country, not the brave activists standing up for their rights,” she said.

Before her arrest on Monday, Hathloul wrote on Twitter that she had been stuck at the frontier for 24 hours waiting to cross from the UAE to Saudi Arabia.

The interior ministry has so far not commented on the case, and referred enquiries to the customs department.

During October, dozens of women drove in the kingdom and posted images of themselves doing so as part of an online campaign supporting the right to drive.

In response, the interior ministry said it would “strictly implement “measures against anyone undermining “the social cohesion”.

Activists say it is not actually against the law for women to drive and that the ban is linked to tradition and custom in the kingdom.