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Books and Documents

Islam, Women and Feminism (29 May 2014 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Female Soldiers Join Army Ranks in Somalia, Break Barriers in Islamic Society

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF) at the South Asian Championship in Nepal in April. PHOTOS: Muhammad Javaid & Zafar Aslam/ File

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Nigerian Girls Escape Boko Haram Captors: Official

Saudis Back Women's Role in Public Life

Stoning In Pakistan Renews Rights Rhetoric

Saudi Arabia Said To Ban Women from Working at Night

Apostasy Woman in Sudan Sentenced To Death Forced To Give Birth 'With Her Legs Chained'

Drive-By Targeting Muslim Women May Be Hate Crime

Female Pioneers in the UAE Urge Women to Play a Role in Society

Women’s Rights in Brunei Are Highly Threatened – ASEAN Women’s Caucus

Second Season For Abu Dhabi Sports Awards for Women

Pakistani Female Judokas to Help Indian Athletes Prepare For Commonwealth Games

Iranian Women's Magazine Zanan Makes Comeback

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/female-soldiers-join-army-ranks-in-somalia,-break-barriers-in-islamic-society/d/87256

 

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Female Soldiers Join Army Ranks in Somalia, Break Barriers in Islamic Society

May 29, 2014

MOGADISHU, Somalia –  It's unusual to see a female in the military in traditionally conservative Somali society where women's duties are generally at home and limited to family chores. But several determined women are breaking down those barriers and joining the army.

Somali army officials report female army recruits have increased following the ouster from the capital in 2011 of the Islamic extremist rebels of al-Shabab. According to estimates, about 1,500 females are now in the military of 20,000.

At work the women often wear camouflage trouser uniforms, boots and bright blue or purple headscarves topped by a beret with the military's insignia. At other times they wear long skirts to observe Islamic dress codes. They also often carry heavy backpacks.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/05/28/breaking-barriers-in-conservative-islamic-society-female-soldiers-join-army/

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Four Nigerian Girls Escape Boko Haram Captors: Official

May 29, 2014

Four of the more than 200 Nigerian girls kidnapped by militants in April have escaped their captors, a Nigerian Ministry of Information official confirmed to NBC News.

The schoolgirls have been missing more than a month since they were abducted by Boko Haram, an Islamist terror organization, which first vowed to sell them into slavery and then said it would free them only in exchange for the release of militant prisoners.

Education commissioner Musa Inuwa told Reuters by telephone the four girls had been reunited with their parents, but he declined to provide the wire service with additional details of their escape.

The reports of the kidnapping have sparked global outrage. The United States has deployed surveillance drones, spy planes and roughly 30 civilian and military specialists to aid Nigeria's security forces in the hunt for the missing schoolgirls.

Nigeria has said it knows the whereabouts of the abducted girls. But U.S. military officials were quick to say that they could not confirm the report.

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/missing-nigeria-schoolgirls/four-nigerian-girls-escape-boko-haram-captors-official-n116686

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Saudis Back Women's Role in Public Life

May 29, 2014

Dubai: In a country where women are officially not allowed to play sport in public, drive cars, or issue religious edicts on an official level, the general population in Saudi Arabia appears to be significantly more open to women’s role in society, a study has found.

An increasing number of Saudi men and women said they would like to see Saudi women as ministers, diplomats and senior religious scholars in the kingdom, according to the study.

The study, conducted by the Al Saydah Khadijah Bint Khwailid Centre, an NGO established under the umbrella of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, surveyed the opinions of 3,004 individuals over the age of 18 in 11 cities across the kingdom.

Asked about their support of women being employed in different jobs, 88 per cent said they supported having female trainers in women sports clubs, 57 per cent said they supported women in preparing food in restaurant kitchens and 44 per cent support women in tourist offices, showed the study, a copy of which was obtained by Gulf News.

Interestingly, 52 per cent said they support women as diplomats, and 54 per cent support women as ministers, 42 per cent said they support women as member of senior religious scholars, and 48 per cent support women in Sharia (Islamic law) courts.

“These results came as nice surprises,” said Basmah Omair, CEO of the centre.

“This was reflected across the regions [of Saudi Arabia],” she told Gulf News. “We couldn’t statistically get something that differentiates regions from each other. Everybody supports the idea and this could be among the reasons that make us see soon a women minister or a diplomat,” Basmah said.

The support for female personal trainers was also among the “nice surprises”, especially that there is an ongoing debate in Saudi Arabia whether to introduce physical activity classes to girl’s schools.

Existing centres were established as part of medical centres and under the licence of “physiotherapy”, Basmah noted.

When the Shura council debated the suggestion of introducing exercising to girls’ schools, the proposal received considerable backing. However, there were opposing voices in recent years.

“The study shows that their [opposition] voices are loud, but their numbers are small compared to supporting voices,” she said.

Controversial issues

The same applies to other controversial issues related to women including allowing women to drive. Asked about their willingness to drive if permitted by the government, 47 per cent of women said they will drive, and 53 per cent said they would not.

As for men’s willingness to support their female relatives driving if permitted, 44 per cent said they will support, and 54 per cent said they would not.

“The nice thing is that the society is divided into two groups, and that the voice that we thought is against any development related to women doesn’t constitute the majority voice as we [previously] thought is,” she said.

The centre — its board of directors is chaired by the daughter of the Saudi King, Princess Adelah Bint Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz — recommended in its study a series of steps to boost women’s participation in national development.

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/saudi-arabia/saudis-back-women-s-role-in-public-life-1.1340285

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Stoning in Pakistan Renews Rights Rhetoric

May 29, 2014

The death of the 27-year-old Pakistani woman Farzana Iqbal, who was fatally stoned Tuesday, has renewed rhetoric surrounding women’s rights. To the shock of many, Iqbal’s story is just one in a long line of stoning executions across the globe.

Iqbal was three months pregnant as she waited for the doors of a public courthouse to open with her newlywed husband. During the wait to finish the paperwork of their marriage, the couple was attacked by a group of 30 people. Among those throwing the stones, which ended Iqbal’s life, were her father, brothers and cousins.

Calling it an “honor killing,” the young woman’s father told police, “I killed my daughter [because] she…insulted…our family by marrying a man without our [permission],” adding that he had no remorse. Iqbal had gone against her family’s wishes by marring a man of her choice, rather than subjecting herself to the pre-arranged marriage to her cousin.

While the story seems brutal and unusual, at least 1,000 such death sentences are carried out each year according to the Aurat Foundation, a Pakistani human rights group. Pakistan is not alone, either. Stoning is either authorized by law or practiced in 15 countries worldwide.

While some nations like Pakistan do not condone stoning, the legal consequences for those who practice it are far less than one would expect. Following Iqbal’s death, her father was arrested but has a high chance of walking free, as Pakistani law allows the victim’s family to forgive their killer.

Stoning is traditionally used to punish adultery or “zina.” It is a way of controlling men and women’s sexuality, but according to Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), a women’s advocacy group, it has no religious support.

The practice of stoning is never mentioned in the Koran, despite the continuous religious justification surrounding the punishment. In fact, many prominent Islamic leaders condemn it.  A well-known Shi’a cleric in Iran, Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei, issued a religious edict against the act, agreeing with his colleagues who have called it “Islamically unjustifiable.”

The stoning in Pakistan has renewed both moral and legal rhetoric about women’s rights across the world. Activist groups, like WLUML, believe the punishment to be in violation of international human rights laws, such as the fundamental freedom from torture. Despite this belief, there are no specific commitments on the international level regarding the legality of stoning.

Groups like WLUML, with support from Progressive Muslims and the International Committee Against Stoning, are pushing to bring increased attention to this issue. A petition addressed to the United Nations, which circulated last year, had 12,000 supportive signatures.

Rights activists in Pakistan and Iran, though, have said the international pressure has not stopped stoning from happening. In fact, some believe the number is rising. Four nations including Iran, Sudan, Mauritania and Pakistan legally authorize the practice, while 11 more are the scene of extrajudicial killings.

The recent death of Farzana Iqbal in Pakistan has renewed the rhetoric surrounding women’s rights and the practice of stoning. While a number of international groups have condemned the act, it is still taking the lives of women in a number of nations.

http://guardianlv.com/2014/05/stoning-in-pakistan-renews-rights-rhetoric/

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Saudi Arabia said to ban women from working at night

May 29, 2014

The Saudi Labour Ministry has banned women from working between 11pm and 9am, Arab News has reported.

The decision “ensures that women don’t begin work too early and don’t work after streets become empty”, the newspaper said.

It was not clear whether the rule applied to both Saudis and expats but is likely to only apply to local women, who face far stricter working regulations.

Under King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia, which adheres to a strict Islamic conservatism that applies many restrictions on women, has gradually opened up working opportunities for females, targeting specific roles such as assistants in women’s shops.

http://www.arabianbusiness.com/saudi-arabia-said-ban-women-from-working-at-night-552136.html

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Apostasy Woman in Sudan Sentenced To Death Forced To Give Birth 'With Her Legs Chained'

May 29, 2014

A Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death for apostasy was forced to give birth in prison with her legs chained, her husband has claimed.

Daniel Wani said his wife Meriam Yahya Ibrahim gave birth to a girl in the early hours of Tuesday morning in the hospital wing of Omdurman Women’s Prison.

"They kept a chain on her legs," he told The Telegraph. "She is very unhappy about that."

Amnesty International said Ms Ibrahim has been shackled in heavy chains since being sentenced to death, a customary practice for prisoners facing execution.

The 27-year-old doctor, whose father was Muslim but was raised as a Christian by her mother, was convicted of apostasy and adultery and sentenced to death by a court in Khartoum after refusing to renounce her Christian faith during a four day ‘grace period’ while she was eight months pregnant.

Mr Wani said he was refused permission to see his wife immediately after the birth and was only able to visit her the next day with his lawyer. Authorities finally removed the chains once he was inside her cell. 

Ms Ibrahim has named their daughter Maya, he said, adding: "The baby is very beautiful."

Mr Wani, an American citizen and biochemist suffering from muscular dystrophy, married his wife in 2011. The couple have a 20-month-old baby together, Martin, who is also in prison with Ms Ibrahim.

"Martin is fine actually," said Mr Wani. "I don't think he really knows what is going on but he is happy. A woman is helping take care of him."

Sudanese Parliament speaker Fatih Izz Al-Deen said her brother, a Muslim, filed the charges against her, according to CNN, but Mr Wani refused to comment on or confirm this claim.

The court in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum also ordered that Ms Ibrahim be given 100 lashes for committing zena — meaning illegitimate sex in Arabic — for having sexual relations with a non-Muslim man.

Mr Wani said he has been charged with adultery because the Sudanese courts do not recognise their Christian marriage. Lawyers for the couple have filed an appeal to overturn the charges and the appeals court are expected to make a ruling on the case next week.

"She is not going to renounce her religion, though," he added. "She told me that."

Amnesty International are currently heading a petition demanding her immediate release and her execution, which is expected to take place in two years, be halted.

Amnesty said: "Meriam has committed no crime. She is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately."

The campaign has already garnered over 600,000 signatures.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/apostasy-woman-in-sudan-sentenced-to-death-forced-to-give-birth-with-her-legs-chained-9451088.html

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Drive-by targeting Muslim women may be hate crime

May 29, 2014

OTTAWA — Cops are investigating the possibility a drive-by shooting that targeted a family of five Muslim women Friday night was a hate crime or an attempted honour killing.

“We’re certainly considering it,” Acting Staff Sgt. Kenny Bryden said of the possible motive.

The women, all of whom were wearing hijabs, were shot at while travelling east along Hwy. 417, near the Rochester exit, shortly before 11 p.m.

Two shots hit their car in what was initially thought to be a case of mistaken identity.

No one was injured.

Police are examining traffic camera footage.

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Crime/2014/05/26/21697206.html

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Female Pioneers in the UAE Urge Women to Play a Role in Society

May 29, 2014

ABU DHABI // Education, wise leadership and a fair constitution are the key reasons for women’s empowerment in the country.

Female pioneers in politics say they are equal partners in UAE life and that is the reason for their success.

Dr Nidhal Al Tenaiji, general manager at the Zayed Cultural Foundation and a former Federal National Council member, said the huge development of the UAE in a short period of time was down to this equal partnership.

“Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan was a wise man and he worked hard in the transformation of the country and that is the main key in the success of Emirati women,” she told the Women Empowerment March symposium in the capital on Wednesday.

“And today, the vision is reflected in the leaders, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, in setting clear steps for women, with clear goals to develop the country.”

She said having a fair constitution using Islamic Sharia had allowed all people in the country to be equal.

Dr Al Tenaiji added that women’s participation in politics was important to “preserve women’s advancement”.

“We are required to preserve this achievement. A woman must balance her role [in politics] and conserve her identity as an Emirati.

“A woman is like the spinal cord in the society – she is a sister, a mother and an employee. Her presence in society is vital,” she said.

She stressed the importance of women’s participation in the FNC.

“A woman knows what other women want, she knows everything that affects women and their affairs and she has the ability to highlight certain points,” she said.

FNC member from Umm Al Qaiwain, Dr Shaikha Al Ari, said being part of the council was a journey that added to her experience.

She said she reached the council because the community was convinced a woman’s participation was necessary.

“Where we got to, we did not get to easily. We have passed through a tough life, where men had to travel to make a living. They have left the management of the household and the family to the woman and that speaks of trust,” she said.

Dr Al Ari praised the Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed, for his vision and leadership and said he was the reason for the country’s development.

“He believed in women. He built schools and universities for both men and women. The education I received was the same one my brothers have received. And we worked together in the same positions and received the same pay. That is because the leadership has pushed us,” Dr Al Ari said.

She told the audience that any woman was able to have a role in politics and society but she must give herself the chance to learn.

“Ask yourself, are you a leader? You must have the ability to develop your skills; no one will do it for you.”

Being a member of the council, she said her role was to “interact, help and love” the community she is surrounded by.

The symposium took place at the General Women’s Union in Abu Dhabi.

aalkhoori@thenational.ae

http://www.thenational.ae/uae/government/the-equal-partnership-female-pioneers-in-the-uae-urge-women-to-play-a-role-in-society#ixzz336Gv9M4w

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Women’s Rights in Brunei Are Highly Threatened – ASEAN Women’s Caucus

May 29, 2014

Brunei’s new Syariah Penal Code Order 2013 has provisions that clearly infringe on universal human rights and will open up women, children and sexual minorities to more violations. With the harsh Shariah law embraced, what will happen to the fate of women in Brunei? Asean needs to take action.

The Southeast Asia Women’s Caucus on Asean (hereafter Women’s Caucus) condemns the implementation of the new Shariah Penal Code Order 2013 by Brunei Darussalam, making it the first country in Southeast Asia where such a harsh interpretation of the Islamic legal system is enforced at a national level. Parts of the code came into force from May 1, 2014, despite huge outcry from the international community.

The Women’s Caucus hereby, with grave concern, calls upon the Asean Member States and Asean human rights bodies: Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and Asean Commission on Promotion and Protection of the rights of Women and Children (ACWC) to immediately hold talks with authorities in Brunei Darussalam to recall the implementation of the Shariah Penal Code Order 2013.

Punishments like fines and jail terms, which are now in effect under the first phase, for missing Friday prayers and for out-of-wedlock pregnancies, violates one’s basic right to Freedom of thought, right to Religion,  and right over one’s body. This could also invite violence against unmarried women who end up being pregnant.

The punishments under the second phase, which will come into force in April/May 2015, include whipping for offences like drinking alcohol or other intoxicating drinks. Additional punishments include amputations of hand or foot in cases of theft are not only cruel but infringes one’s right against torture.

The punishments under the third phase scheduled to be in effect from end of 2015 shall introduce capital punishment include death by stoning for a number of offences and crimes that include adultery, rape, abortion, sodomy and insulting the prophet Muhammad. Personal freedoms and the right to freedom of religion, opinion and expression are under threat.

Furthermore, several UN studies reveal that in countries where these laws are practiced, women experience grave injustice as women are at a higher risk of being found guilty of adultery and extra-marital affairs. Thus women are more likely subjected to these inhumane punishments. Women also face more difficulty to gather evidence to prove their innocence [1], especially in cases of rape or adultery where four male witnesses are required and a woman herself cannot be a witness as she is not an equal in the eyes of this law – the Shariah Penal Code Order 2013.

Thus the new Shariah Penal Code Order is a major regression for human rights in Brunei Darussalam, and in Asean. By enforcing this new code, Brunei mocks its own commitments to international human rights standards and Asean Charter and Asean Human Rights Declaration. Asean’s adherence to “respect for fundamental freedoms, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the promotion of social justice” is clearly laid down in the “purpose” and “principles” of the Asean Charter. Specifically the Shariah Penal Code Order violates the following articles of the Asean Human Rights Declaration:

Its commitment “to respect for, and promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance” as mentioned in the Preamble.

General principles 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. [Which generally refer to right to effective remedy, enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms without impartiality, objectivity, non-discrimination, etc.]

Civil and Political Rights 11, 14, 22 and 23.[Article 11 particularly states ‘one’s inherent right to life’, while Article 14 states ‘no one shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.]

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 29(1) and 30 (3). [Which affirms one’s right to reproductive health.]

Brunei like all Asean member states has ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw). The Cedaw Convention is the basis for all Asean members’ international legal obligations on gender equality and women’s human rights.  Brunei will report to the Cedaw Committee in October 2014. At this time, it will have to justify its actions on codifying this extreme version of the Shariah code, when there are other global examples of more just, fair, scholastically-supported and progressive forms of the Shariah being practiced in other Muslim countries [2].

This step by Brunei is a setback towards Asean’s move towards one community. Hereby, the Women’s Caucus urges Asean and its sectorial bodies, particularly AICHR and ACWC, to refer to the Asean Human Rights Declaration, and particularly article no. 39 which calls for inter alia cooperation to fulfil commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedom in accordance with the Asean Charter. Asean cannot justify its silence by invoking non-interference in this grave situation.

The Women’s Caucus reiterates its commitment in supporting Asean and its mechanisms in protecting and promoting the human rights of women in the region.

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/sideviews/article/womens-rights-in-brunei-are-highly-threatened-womens-caucus

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Second season for Abu Dhabi sports awards for women

May 29, 2014

ABU DHABI // A competition that awards prizes of up to Dh200,000 for the best female athletes will be reinstated for a second year.

The Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Award for Women Athletes will crown five women from Arab countries and four sports organisations as winners on May 4 next year.

Nominations for the prizes began on Wednesday and will continue until the end of the year.

The awards for individuals include prizes for best female athlete, disabled athlete, coach, media presenter and sporting administrator. Each winner will receive Dh200,000.

“The main objective is to encourage Arab women to become athletes, especially ones with disabilities,” said Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, general manager of Abu Dhabi Educational Council and member of the award’s supreme committee.

“We want to motivating women to develop their capabilities in leadership and accomplishment.”

The organisations, which are competing for a prize of Dh 100,000, can win in categories including excellence in media work in women’s sports, the development of junior sports, sponsorship and marketing and the development of national teams.

There is also the female sports personality of the year award, which has two winners – one Emirati and one Arab. This award has no cash prize.

The UAE Women Football Committee won last season’s award in the development of junior sportswomen category. Amal Abu Shallakh, a member of the Arab Federal Football League who represented the foundation, said since 2009 it had established 23 centres for women’s football and registered 1,500 players.

“We even developed 40 junior female referees, two of whom were accredited with an international badge,” she said.

Recently, their players competed in the under-14 regional tournament in Qatar.

“We won the bronze medal and our girl referees were part of it.”

As well as the honour of winning, she said they were encouraged to register by the backer of the awards. “The name of Sheikha Fatima is well-known so everyone is keen on being part of it,” she said.

“After the first press conference [in 2012] to announce the award, we wanted to know which category we can register for, so we communicated with the Supreme Council and they were very encouraging and helpful.”

She said she was not surprised to win last year’s award, considering the efforts her members made promoting women’s football.

“This year we will apply for a different category, we will have an executive management board meeting and decide. Last year we entered the junior category so perhaps this year we will enter the development of national teams category.”

The terms and conditions of the awards have been amended to give the organising committee more of an idea about who should win.

“Some standards have been amended so the choice of winners is more accurate and so the winners will be truly deserved,” said committee member Major General Mohammed Al Romaithi, deputy commander general of Abu Dhabi Police.

He stressed that officials were keen for the awards to keep going for many years. “Many awards are launched and forgotten even before they kick off,” he said.

For a person to be nominated, they should have an honourable sporting record, have had no sanctions issued against them and not have committed any act that contravenes sporting ethics.

They also must have been involved in the sporting activity for two years and can only apply in one category they have not won before.

“This award not only targets Emirati women, but all Arab women to participate in athletics,” said Noura Al Kaabi, chief executive of twofour54, the commercial arm of the Media Zone Authority, and member of the award’s supreme committee.

hdajani@thenational.ae

http://www.thenational.ae/uae/government/second-season-for-abu-dhabi-sports-awards-for-women#ixzz336IMEuaw

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Pakistani female Judokas to help Indian athletes prepare for Commonwealth Games

May 29, 2014  

KARACHI: Pakistani women may not be catching a ticket to the Commonwealth Games themselves, but they can certainly help their Indian counterparts prepare for the Commonwealth Games’ Judo competition scheduled for next month.

The 10-women squad including South Asian Judo Championship gold medalist Humera Ashique, silver medalists Mariam Jabbar, Beenish Khan, bronze medalists Ambreen Masih, Shumaila Gul, Fauzia Mumtaz and emerging talent Aqsa Hussain, Rabia Babar and Iran Shahzadi will travel to Patiala in June.

According to Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF) secretary Masood Ahmed, the female squad received rave reviews at the South Asian Championship in Nepal in April.

Ahmed said that since Pakistan is not fielding a team at Commonwealth Games due to Pakistan Olympics Association and Pakistan Government conflict, the athletes will now help the neighbours to vie for the title in Glasgow in July.

“Since we can’t go, we’ll help them, we are South Asian nationss anyway, it’s a great deal for both parties,” Ahmed told The Express Tribune.

Ahmed said that the Indian official Mukesh Kumar invited Pakistani athletes to Patiala for the training sessions for 20 days.

“It’s going to happen next month, we’ve been invited to Patiala where the Indian squad is preparing,” said Ahmed.

“Kumar invited our female athletes because they are impressive, they’ve given a tough competition to the Indian, Nepalese and Sri Lankan judokas in the championship,” he said.

Furthermore, he proposed that Pakistani women can come to the Indian national camp in Patiala, where they have the best facilities for the sports. Ahmed said that the practice with Pakistani athletes will help the Indian women improve for Commonwealth Games.

“It will also be a great amount of exposure for our squad.”

Ahmed added that the invitation means more than just an opportunity.

“It is recognition of our talent by our counter-parts, and it’s welcoming. It’s an encouragement for our athletes that they are good enough and that their efforts are not going unseen. In many ways it is an honour and a great way to promote healthy relations between two nations,” said Ahmed.

He said that the team’s visas are in the process and hopefully they will get the documents for travel on time, as the Indian Judo Federation is cooperating with Pakistan.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/714442/pakistani-female-judokas-to-help-indian-athletes-prepare-for-commonwealth-games/

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Iranian Women's Magazine Zanan Makes Comeback

May 29, 2014

(WOMENSENEWS)--Shahla Sherkat, the award-winning journalist and one of the pioneers of the women's rights movement in Iran, is re-launching on May 29 her feminist magazine shut down by hardliners in 2008 after 16 years in operation. The magazine will reopen under the banner Zanan-e Emruz or "Today's Women," available in print and online.

This unveiling comes at a most critical juncture, emblematic of an era of political in-fighting and ideological schisms in a leadership structure split between hardliners who continue to cling to antiquated notions and moderate factions who appear more amenable to granting more social freedoms.   The magazine is reviving at a time when a myriad of free-flowing photographs are being posted online by hijab-free women in Iran as part of the "Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women" campaign. This bold stance against an enforced dress code, created by London-based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, has been rapidly gaining momentum with over 350,000 followers on its Facebook page alone.   This demonstration of women's determination to break a ruling patriarchal cycle helps make Sherkat's re-emergence on the journalistic landscape after a six-year absence a defining moment.   For nearly two decades, Sherkat, who had mastered the art of survival, courageously deviated from the normative print media with a unique brand of journalism to cover a vast array of controversial topics, including some that criticized the Islamic Constitution.   Through vivid and exquisite prose, the magazine portrayed the bitter realities of everyday life for Iranian woman. Articles such as "Female Students Behind Invisible Fences," "Women's Issues Do Not Have Priority" and "Why Don't Women Get Paid as Much as Men" highlighted the biases of an Islamic state. While features, including "Article 1133 of the Constitution: A Man Can Divorce His Wife Anytime He Wants," "Feminists Do Not Have a Place in Tehran's Municipality" and "Man: Partner or Boss?," contested the premise of patriarchal laws in Iranian society.   Zanan's modernist interpretation of gender issues challenged Islamic codes of conduct by demonstrating the ambiguous nature of Quranic verses, thus rendering the text open for debate. For example, the law recognizes a man's right to take up to four wives as long as he is able to treat them all in an equal manner. In principle this undertaking is highly inconceivable, if not impossible for any ordinary man to have the ability to treat all four wives in exactly the same manner. This liberating medium was employed as a blueprint to expose manipulated "truths" and renegotiate a life of confinement authenticated by male-driven authority.

Onslaught of Allegations

Sherkat frequently faced an onslaught of allegations by Iran's Press Court including her questioning of an enforced religious dress code.   On Jan. 28, 2008, the magazine finally fell prey to the conservative climate of the era of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013). The Press Supervisory Board of Iran, backed by the Ministry of Culture, shut down Zanan for "endangering the spiritual, mental and intellectual health of its readers, and threatening psychological security by deliberately offering a dark picture of the Islamic Republic."   On many occasions, while she was publishing the magazine, Sherkat spoke of her daily struggle and the dilemmas associated with running a feminist publication in this environment: "There are many times when my writers ask me to put something in the magazine, and I sit down and measure the costs and benefits of printing something," she said during an interview with PBS in 2007. "Sometimes you print something that is of extreme value, meaning that it has a very positive impact on the reader, and that one piece does great work in society. I may even decide to do that, even if it leads to the closure of the magazine."   Since the demise of Zanan, Sherkat, who accepted a position as head of advertising for Samsung Corporation in Iran, kept hoping to make a comeback. In 2010, the divorced mother of two girls candidly spoke about her loss, comparing the magazine to one of her children. She toldthe Neiman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University: "Every day I arrive at work but a piece of the puzzle of my being has been lost. It has been two years since they have taken from our family my 16-year-old daughter Zanan. I have walked up and down many stairs and corridors to find my lost one. But have not had any success."   Today, Sherkat's new act reflects her passion and altruistic mission for advancing the rights of women in Iran. The pages of Zanan-e Emruz are vividly brought to life with a potpourri of passionate and inspirational pieces, including "Why Is It that Men are Unaware of their Violence and Aggression Towards Women?" and "Women's Absence from the Sports Arena." They showcase the harrowing and often disturbing circumstances facing women handicapped by legalized restraints.   Candid interviews with renowned women's rights activists in Iran, coverage of international women's issues and a variety of articles, including "Women's Voices in the Iranian Parliament Are Not Heard," "The Injustice Faced by Female Factory Workers in Iran" and "Unemployment Among Women Is Twice as Much as Men," shed much needed light on an ongoing affliction.   The future of Iran is hidden in a convoluted landscape. But what appears certain is that, despite all barricades, women's activism is resurging. And, in this respect, Sherkat has once again indisputably proven that neither she nor the objectives of women's rights will be silenced.   Nina Ansary,Ph.D., is the author of the book"The Jewels of Allah." She serves on the Middle East Institute Advisory Board at Columbia University and is an active member of various organizations dedicated to public policy, education, charitable and gender-related causes. For more information, visit: www.ninaansary.com.  

http://www.trust.org/item/20140528202132-hlfws/

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