weightlifter Kulsoom Abdullah Oh and she has
PhD (Picture: Associated Press)
Burqa Gets Modern Touch with Calligraphy, Poetry And Art
Celebrates Anti-Triple Talaq Bill; Husband Divorces Her
Muslim Woman, Kulsoom Abdullah, Is Not Only an Olympic Weightlifter; She Also
Has an Engineering PhD
for Women: Turkey's Star Hijabi DJ Leads Dance Revolution
Preparing Women To Participate On The Front Line Of Future Endeavours
Reacts to Video of Saudi Minister Comforting Christchurch Victim’s Wife
Political Marginalization of Palestinian Women in the West Bank
Girls Under 15 In Hamadan Became Mothers In 2018
by New Age Islam News Bureau
Arabia Women's Rights Reforms May Still Be Thwarted By Custom
Rashad, Stephen Kalin
(Reuters) - Saudi officials have hailed as “historic” new rights granted to
women in Saudi Arabia that further dismantle its heavily criticized
guardianship system, but male relatives could still find ways to thwart these
of Saudi women took to social media to celebrate royal decrees on Friday that allow
women above 21 to travel without permission as of the end of August. Women also
now have the right to register births, marriages and divorces, to be issued
official family documents and be guardians to minors.
however, say male relatives can still obstruct women defying their wishes
through legal avenues or informal routes in the ultra-conservative kingdom,
where it will take time to change views on gender and social customs.
need enforcement of these laws and the establishment of reporting mechanisms
when these policies are not being upheld, as well as watchdog organizations,”
said Hala al-Dosari, a U.S.-based Saudi women’s rights expert.
guardians can still file cases of disobedience and absence from home against
women, Dosari said. The government recognizes filial disobedience as a crime.
two cases, punishable by imprisonment and flogging, are representative of the
wider legal control of women’s autonomy by men that still needs to be
dismantled,” she added.
would be especially important to see how Saudi courts deal with challenges by
male guardians, said Tamara Wittes, senior fellow at Brookings Institution.
has long endured international censure over the guardianship system that
assigns each women a male relative - a father, brother, husband or son - whose
approval was needed for various big decisions throughout a woman’s life.
a codified system of law to go with the texts making up sharia, or Islamic law,
the Saudi police and judiciary have long cited social customs in enforcing
prohibitions on women.
aspects of the guardianship system remain intact, including requirement for
permission to marry, a legal necessity in many Gulf Arab states for Muslim
Saudi women still have doubts.
culture and upbringing will prevent us from traveling without our guardian
approval even if it is our right,” Riyadh resident Bodoor, who declined to
provide her surname, told Reuters, motoring her mother around the capital after
a ban on women driving was lifted last year.
new envoys to the United States and Britain hailed the decrees as a signal of
the kingdom’s will to reform at a time of heightened scrutiny of its human
rights record after last year’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi
agents caused an outcry and strained ties with Western allies.
Reema bint Bandar, ambassador to Washington, tweeted that this was “history in
may seem like a small step but it is, nonetheless, transformative for Saudi
women,” Prince Khaled bin Bandar said in a statement issued by the embassy in
facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was praised abroad and at home
after coming to power in 2017 for loosening social restrictions and opening up the
economy. He reined in the religious morality police, allowed public concerts
and cinemas and eased restrictions on gender mixing.
his image has been tarnished by Khashoggi’s killing and the detention and
alleged torture of almost a dozen women’s rights activists arrested last year
shortly before and after the lifting of the driving ban. He has also arrested
scores of clerics in a crackdown on dissent.
Rights Watch and Amnesty International said long overdue reforms were a
bittersweet victory since women who championed them remain imprisoned or facing
unfair trials. Saudi officials deny the allegations, including those of
charges have been made public but those against at least some of the activists
relate to contacts with foreign journalists, diplomats and human rights groups.
and reform go hand in hand in Saudi. Women activists represent a major threat
to his (prince’s) rule, they speak the language of rights,” said Madawi
al-Rasheed, visiting professor at London School of Economics’ Middle East
crown prince wants to take all the credit, he is presenting these reforms as a
gift to the Saudi citizens not as their rights,” she said, adding that
authorities need to ensure new regulations will not be reversed or abandoned
contrast to large media coverage of the lifting of the ban on driving, neither
state TV nor the news agency announced Friday’s decrees, which were published
in the official gazette.
member of the kingdom’s advisory Shura Council, Hoda al-Helaissi, said there
will likely be resistance by some.
like all changes and reforms that have taken place in the Kingdom, this too
will become matter-of-fact,” she said.
emirate also has a specific design for burqa.
Emirati women are reviving the tradition of wearing and designing a burqa by
giving it a modern twist.
artist Ghaya Khalifa Almarar, 27, recently led a group of female participants
at a workshop titled 'The Art and Heritage of Burqa Printing', organised by the
Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Centre (HHC).
told Khaleej Times that one can add calligraphy, cut-out designs, or even
quotes or verses from a poem to give the burqa a more personal and modern
to be confused with the head-to-toe covering used in Afghanistan or some parts
of Pakistan - where one sees only through a mesh screen over the eyes - the
burqa (pronounced as 'burga' in the local dialect) in the UAE and other GCC
countries covers only a woman's forehead and lips, Almarar explained.
emirate also has a specific design for burqa. The 'Zabeel cut' is followed in
Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with its narrow top and curved, broad bottom, while the Al
Ain design has both a narrow top and bottom.
Sharjah, the top of the burqa is inclined forward, while in Fujairah, the burqa
has a broader top that goes beyond the forehead.
burqa is a traditional accessory that protects a woman's face from the
scorching sun and dust. In the UAE, the design of burqa is said to be
symbolising the features of a falcon, which is know for its strength and
grace," Almarar noted.
added: "To the uninitiated, the burqa might appear to be made of metal but
it's actually from a cloth imported from India and dyed in a special ink."
also debunked the connotation that burqa is a symbol of women's subjugation.
has been made and women are actually now given an equal voice with men in
running the affairs of the country," she explained.
UAE is home to many cultures and influences. There should be no debate in
wearing a burqa because it is always a personal choice, and we are reviving it
because we want to preserve our tradition," she added.
used to be part of daily wear - in olden days, girls usually wear a burqa after
their engagement or when they hit puberty - but now, donning it is a dying
practice," she lamented.
the workshop led by Almarar and attended by 16 female participants, including
students from the Zayed University and American University of Sharjah, was
aimed at promoting the art of designing a burqa among young female Emiratis and
student Alia Mohammed, 19, who is in her second year of studying arts at the
Zayed University in Dubai, said: "My grandmother used to wear burqa. That
is why promoting burqa is very much part of our history and heritage. In the
workshop, we explored the materials and how we can make beautiful artworks to
make burqa more appealing to the younger generation."
have welcomed different cultures in the UAE, but we also have a duty to
preserve our own traditions," she underlined.
expat Loretta Grey, who has been working as a make-up artist in Dubai, said she
has always been mesmerised by the burqa.
want to immerse myself in the Emirati culture, that is why I attended the
workshop to learn and understand more of the local culture," she noted.
you come to understand what it is (culture, and particularly the donning of
burqa), the stigma that you used to have will go away."
her part, Hind bin Demaithan Al Qemzi, director of events at the HHC, said:
workshop was organised to shed light on activities related to life in the UAE,
both social and practical, such as interactive workshops in local arts
Qemzi added: "We have various events and activities at HHC promoting
Emirati heritage, such as the use of burqa, which is still being used by senior
for Almarar, the rich Emirati culture is bound to thrive.
am very passionate about our culture. At the workshop, I found a great deal of
participation and I look forward to developing and discovering more Emirati
artists preserving and promoting our heritage, she said.
burqa means for UAE
is a traditional accessory that protects a woman's face from the scorching sun
and dust. In the UAE, the design of burqa is said to be symbolising the
features of a falcon, which is known for its strength and grace.
emirate has a specific design for burqa.
'Zabeel cut' is followed in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with its narrow top and curved,
broad bottom, while the Al Ain design has both a narrow top and bottom. In
Sharjah, the top of the burqa is inclined forward, while in Fujairah, the burqa
has a broader top that goes beyond the forehead.
it is made
The most important part of the burqa is the cloth lining, called Al Sheel or
Kashf Al Mah'atta. The quality of this lining material is based on how
lightweight it is and how well it absorbs sweat, essential to maintaining the
lustre of the burqa
Al Seif is a small piece of palm, bamboo or other local wood that serves as the
bridge of the burqa over the nose
Al Shubuq refers to the red wool or cotton string, or yellow or silver buttons
used to tie the burqa together at the back of the head. For weddings and other
special occasions, gold or silver thread is used for the al shubuq, instead of
Circles and stars made of gold are used to decorate a bride's burqa
The artisan begins with a square piece of the al sheel material that is big
enough to cover the whole face.
Al Seif piece of wood is then placed in the centre of the fabric, in the
location of the nose, thereby making clear the proper location for the eye
holes, which are then cut out.
The front of the burqa is then covered with cloth and the different pieces are
sewn together. Embellishments are then sewn on.
(UP): Displeased by his wife celebrating the approval of Anti-triple talaq bill
passed by the parliament, a Muslim man gave instant triple talaq to his wife
and removed her from his house in Fatehpur district, newspaper reports said.
Khatun, a resident of Jungi village under Bindki police station of Uttar
Pradesh celebrated the passage of the Anti-triple talaq bill.
angered her husband Shamsuddin who removed her from his house on August 3 after
giving her instant triple talaq,” said Bindki’s circle officer Abhishek Tiwari.
police have registered a case against Shamsuddin on a complaint registered by
her complaint, Mufeeda said her husband reached her home and divorced her
instantly by saying ‘Talaq’ thrice in front of her parents.
parliament on July 30 had approved the bill that makes instant Triple Talaq a
Sabha had passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) bill last
a woman in a male-dominated field is no easy feat, particularly where physical
capabilities are concerned. And Kulsoom Abdullah is bossing one of the biggest
male-dominated industries – weightlifting. The Pakistani-American is one of the
very few Muslim women in the profession and is the first to represent Pakistan
at the World Championship. She is also the only Muslim woman to compete in an
international weightlifting event while wearing a Hijab. Kulsoom has been
competing in Olympic weightlifting competitions since 2010, after taking an
interest in taekwondo. Just in case that wasn’t enough, Kulsoom also has a PhD
in engineering (putting us all to shame).
journey to the World Championship, which takes place in Thailand this
September, has been a long one for Kulsoom. She was denied entry into the
national weightlifting championship in 2010 because she wore a headscarf. But
she wasn’t willing to lie down and take this, so challenged the rules and was
able to enter the following year. ‘It was very disappointing and affected my
training even though I was used to some discrimination,’ she explains to
Metro.co.uk. ‘I had already been training and competing at the local level, so
this was a jarring feeling. ‘In retrospect, it was all a life-changing
experience. Being told no, then getting support and media attention was very
surprising and sudden. I did my best to take advantage of being given this
voice and platform.’
lack of representation of Muslim women in sports also hindered the idea that
she could enter such spaces. ‘I did not know what weightlifting was when I was
a child. Not having any role models or thinking that I could be athletic, I
never pursued a sport. ‘I got interested in weightlifting later in life when I
was in graduate school. ‘I started taking taekwondo and worked up to the black
belt. To supplement it, I started to build up my endurance and strength. ‘At
the time, it was difficult to find resources on women and strength training so
a lot I did on my own. I enjoyed being active and wanted to keep working on my
strength even after finishing my PhD. This ultimately led me to weightlifting.’
engineering might be considered a lucrative career, weightlifting was somewhat
an unorthodox choice for Kulsoom’s community. But her family is supportive, she
adds: ‘I was encouraged to compete. ‘[At the gym] I’m usually asked if I am hot
due to being covered up. The answer is yes, I usually am when it is summer, and
there is no air conditioning but in the winter I am just fine. ‘I think because
I tried my best to find positive environments to learn and train, and was
focused on it, I did not pay attention or find out what people thought about me
course, all of that requires a lot of discipline and a serious amount of hard
work. But Kulsoom always manages to lift her spirits (see what we did there?).
While getting her PhD in Electrical/Computer Engineering at the Georgia
Institute of Technology, Kulsoom began balancing the sport with her studies.
‘It was a challenge. When I was in graduate school, and taking taekwondo, I was
basically sleeping, eating, studying, working, training, then sleeping again.
on, with weightlifting, I enjoyed the sport and wanted to keep doing it at
least for my own mental and physical health. I tried to make sure I took care
of myself, and take breaks during the holidays so I could re-energise. ‘Today,
working in the industry is more flexible than at university, so I just find
weightlifting a part of my routine to take care of myself.’ Kulsoom adds that
seeing the positive reaction from people and showing young Muslim girls that it’s
possible for them to do the unthinkable too has been one of the biggest
highlights. We expect many more highlights from her career.
has been an increasingly popular trend in Turkey and among Turkish expats in
Europe: DJs in headscarves who entertain at alcohol-free parties that are
ladies-only in both staff members and audience.
is a complicated issue, especially as a woman,” writes Erel Eryurek, who played
her own first professional set in 2007. In an industry where there are few
women, a veiled DJ breaks additional stereotypes. By enhancing their visibility
and taking space, they confidently claim a role in Turkey’s entertainment
sector. The veiled DJs in particular smash perceptions of what visibly Muslim
women can or cannot do.
everyone approves. Conservative Muslim men have claimed that veiled DJs playing
music or doing any job at all is haram, or inappropriate for a pious woman.
Some popular conservative writers have gone so far as to criticize the entire
Turkish middle class: “From hookah cafes to baby shower parties, from Instagram
hijabi influencers to tea romanticizing, a world of weirdness has infiltrated
our lives,” wrote Yeni Safak’s Ismail Kilicarslan. He went on, “The
conservative middle class and the secular middle class, hand in hand, went clearly
the demand for women DJs at ladies-only parties has only increased in the last
few years. Some of them have expanded their services and founded their own
event companies — becoming players in the ever-growing entertainment sector.
Some veiled DJs take part in not only Turkish weddings but also those of Arab
or Iranian clients who reside in Turkey.
of the most popular veiled DJs in Turkey works under name DJ Safir (DJ
Sapphire). She told Al-Monitor that she choose the name “because it is one of
the most precious stones in the world, and its blue color symbolizes trust,
responsibility and honesty.”
is her fifth year as a professional DJ, but music has been part of her life
since childhood. She often sang at family gatherings, before learning to play
and then teaching guitar. In 2015, she was invited to DJ an event as an amateur
in Istanbul. She liked it so much that she signed up for courses in a DJ school
in Istanbul and immediately started work upon finishing. From the very
beginning, she chose to invest in the best technological equipment on the
through media appearances, a social media presence and magazine interviews, she
has become a trend-setter in the sector. “People didn’t use to know what being
a DJ means,” she explained to Al-Monitor. “We have introduced in Turkey the
meaning of the profession and the kind of performance it can entail.”
manager Huseyin Melikoglu clarified that there are hundreds of women DJs in
Turkey today, but their quality can be questionable. “This job cannot be done
with a laptop alone,” he said. “Otherwise, everyone could be DJing at home.
There needs to be a training process, to get to know the technical aspects of
it and music as well, to master stage performance, tone, diction, etc.
Unfortunately, in Turkey, so-called DJs who have set playlists, go to wedding
and salons and work like that. Calling them DJs is one’s choice, but
eliminating them would leave DJs who do the job in the real sense of the word.”
a thriving online presence including a popular hashtag #kizlarhazirmiyiz
(#girlsareweready), a phrase the audiences say together at her performances, DJ
Safir has built a brand of her own. Her performances in Turkey usually last
three hours, while events in Germany or elsewhere in Europe, where the Turkish
diaspora is concentrated, can go for five hours of non-stop music. She uses no
playlists but creates unique sets depending “on the flow and the energy” from
the audience. Usually, the clients — who may range from private companies and
municipalities to women staging bachelorette parties — can suggest songs or
genres, but the general agreement is that DJ Safir holds reins. She has a
couple thousand songs stored in a few flash drives and carefully organized
based on genre and time period. She plays both foreign and local music,
including a wide array of beloved hits from the previous decades as well as new
ones. Rihanna is popular among young Turks, who enjoy dancing to foreign pop
Safir is in high demand. The performance she has booked for Aug. 23, for
example, was arranged 18 months earlier. Her record for one month was 23 shows
and she has sometimes done two in a single day. The month of March is usually
very busy because of numerous Women’s Day celebrations. But she is enthusiastic
and happy about keeping busy, explaining: “Our country is so rich in culture,
it is delightful for me to learn so much — not just about different kinds of
foods, but about traditions, music, dances. It is my pleasure to reach out to local
people wherever I perform.”
Safir said she is grateful for the freedom that visibly Muslim women in Turkey
now have “to do the job they want, to walk where they want, to recreate
themselves and have fun wholeheartedly and with ease.” Throughout the
interview, she emphasized her open-mindedness and inclusivity and the necessity
for solidarity among women regardless of one’s culture or political ideology.
repeated several times that women come up to her and profess their initial
prejudices to the idea of a veiled DJ, and these ideas are wiped away by the
end of the night. “Music is really something else. It is universal, it brings
people together, makes them whole. I don’t like bigotry and I always try to
interact with people while trying to understand them and their background. Only
then can we deal with our shortcomings,” she said.
also underlined that music is not forbidden to women under Islam. “In the time
of the Prophet Muhammad, women also had fun among themselves. Then, they used
tambourines. This is human natural need. Some people find leisure and release
in reading books, some in walking, some in singing, some in dancing to music.
Everyone likes different things,” she added.
explain as much as we can, but some people’s perceptions cannot be changed no
matter what,” said Melikoglu.
women-only shows are not limited to pious groups and events, as many women who
pay to come to the all-female parties claim to feel freer and more comfortable
to dance and relax in such environments without men.
Safir said she would love to make her own music in the future, though right now
she just does not have the time — her energy is devoted to making sure that
people who hire her remember their big days — be it a company event or a
bachelorette party. “It needs to be nice, beautiful; people should be left
happy at the end of the night.”
of the Iraqi Intelligence Forces Abu Ali al-Basri claimed to the Iraqi Arabic
language newspaper Al Sabaah that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)
have been preparing and training women to participate in future battles after
the overwhelming defeat they suffered at the hands of coalition forces.
women fighters are being trained in Iraq, mainly in the area of Mosul, as well
as in Syria and Tunisia, in order to take a more active role in the organization's
upcoming terrorist aspirations.
to the report, the Iraqi intelligence commander relayed news of the recent
death of an ISIS commander, who was responsible for Western, Northern and
Eastern Syria, and who was close to the leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,
subsequently collapsing the regime.
added that ten of ISIS's top-ranking commanders have all been eradicated from
the battle field, including al-Baghdadi's defense minister Ali Khalifeh, his
deputy Abu Yahya al-Araqi as well as the jihadist group's Saudi religious
authority Abu Abdulrahman al-Tamimi.
years ago, Iraqi forces were able to retake Mosul from ISIS, largely defeating
the organization on the ground. The US announced the defeat of Islamic State in
Syria earlier this year; twelve hours later, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
also declared the “total elimination of the so-called caliphate.”
lost 100% of the territory it once held in Syria, which book ended a grueling
two months of battle and siege in which a massive humanitarian crisis developed
as the jihadist group's members sought to surrender in their last bastion.
ISIS no longer holds any territory or villages, the United States estimates
there are around 15,000 of its supporters still present in Syria and a large
presence still in Iraq - mainly consisting of sleeper-cell fighters.
Monday, a video circulated on social media of the Saudi Minister of Islamic
Affairs, Sheikh Abdullatif Al al-Sheikh, comforting a female Hajj pilgrim whose
husband died in the Christchurch mosque attack earlier this year.
the video, Sheikh Abdullatif is seen talking to reporters before kissing the
woman’s forehead and comforting her while she is crying.
user Fadila Al Jaffal posted the video to mixed reactions, with some calling
out the minister for what they claimed was inappropriate behavior under Islam
and others praising him for his humanity and compassion.
many see it [as] a human touch but it also symbolizes a new era back to Islamic
moderation in Saudi Arabia,” Al Jaffal remarked in her tweet.
minister of Islamic Affairs trying to calm down a woman pilgrim crying in
Mecca, may be many see it a human touch but it also symbolizes a new era back
to Islamic moderation in Saudi Arabia
PM - Aug 5, 2019
Ads info and privacy
people are talking about this
minister is loyal to his religion and homeland,” wrote Twitter user Abital
Alayah in the comments section of Al Jaffal’s post. “His critics are the
enemies of the success of the reforms.”
PM - Aug 5, 2019
prohibits any physical contact with women unless wife, sis,” a user countered.
“What he did is wrong.”
prohibits any physical contact with women unless wife, sis...etc
stop lying about it!! What he did is wrong.
PM - Aug 5, 2019
user took a neutral stance. “The minister’s act is wrong, but we do not know
what is in their hearts and we have to improve our intentions,” he wrote.
PM - Aug 5, 2019
الحبابي's other Tweets
Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz had ordered the hosting of 200 people from
the families of the Christchurch shooting’s victims to perform Hajj in the
Kingdom, according to SPA. The pilgrims arrived in Mecca on Sunday.
the decision, Sheikh Abdullatif said it was part of the Kingdom’s efforts to
counter terrorism and support the families of those who were affected by the
“abominable act that is contrary to all divine teachings and human values and
Palestinian women have always faced political marginalization, developments
since the Oslo Accords have caused them to endure perhaps even more formidable
challenges when it comes to political participation. Al-Shabaka Palestine
Policy Fellow Yara Hawari outlines these challenges and recommends ways for
Palestinian women and society to disrupt this process and revitalize the
Palestinian liberation struggle through feminism.
Palestinian women have always played a fundamental role in the struggle for
liberation from the Israeli settler colonial regime, they have faced consistent
political marginalization. This experience has become more multifaceted and
entrenched since the 1990s, when the Oslo Accords unleashed a myriad of changes
in the structure of Palestinian society and governance.
changes have included a newfound dependence on international donor aid among
Palestinian civil society, including women’s organizations, and the bolstering
of a corrupt and relentlessly patriarchal Palestinian Authority (PA) that
complements rather than confronts the Israeli occupation and its oppression of
the Palestinian population, both male and female. Such developments have caused
today’s Palestinian women to endure perhaps even more formidable challenges
when it comes to activism and political participation.
policy brief addresses these issues, providing a historical consideration of
Palestinian women’s political participation and then examining the reasons
behind their de-politicization with a particular focus on the West Bank. It
concludes by offering some potential avenues for Palestinian women and their
allies to disrupt this process and revitalize the Palestinian liberation
struggle through feminism.
Women as Political Actors
women have long been politicized individuals not just as wives, sisters, or
mothers, but also as fighters, organizers, and leaders with agency that is not
defined by their relationship to men. Looking back through Palestinian history,
women have always been present and active at crucial political and national
moments, though they have also had to navigate tensions among feminism,
nationalism, and anti-colonial struggle.
1917, Palestinian women took part in demonstrations against the Balfour
Declaration. Many women’s associations subsequently organized themselves under
the Arab Women’s Congress, which convened in 1929 in Jerusalem. The congress
created the Arab Women’s Executive Committee to carry out decisions, and this
served as the beginning of an organized women’s movement in Palestine. 1 Many
of the women involved in the committee were of the urban upper and middle
classes, particularly of Jerusalem, and were involved in community organizing
and charitable works. Still, the committee was also a political body, with
members boldly making speeches in spaces traditionally dominated by men, such
as the Haram al Sharif and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
the Palestinian uprising against the British in 1936, Palestinian women not
only participated in demonstrations en masse, but were also part of smuggling
operations delivering weapons and supplies to guerrilla fighters. Here, rural
and working class Palestinian women played a vital role. They hid guns in their
clothing or in the fields and traversed the terrain, sharing important information
with guerillas such as British troop locations and supply routes. 2
a decade later, the Nakba, or Palestinian catastrophe, of 1948 ripped apart
Palestinian society, devastating the social and institutional infrastructure
that the women’s movement had built in the preceding decades. The establishment
of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964 provided
centralization and an institutional home for many civil society organizations
established before the Nakba. The fervent institution building that followed
created many more employment opportunities for women. In addition, the General
Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW) formed in 1965 and brought many women’s
organizations under its umbrella, reviving the Palestinian women’s movement. These
organizations offered educational, medical, legal, social, and vocational
services to women, undertook advocacy, and created links with other women’s
organizations around the world.
the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, the GUPW began
responding to the most immediate needs of Palestinian women and children,
including by establishing health centers and orphanages. In the late 1960s
Fatah took over the GUPW, and has since dominated the organization. Unlike some
leftist political factions Fatah lacked an articulated stance or vision for
Palestinian women. Despite this, the GUPW succeeded in opening branches in the
diaspora, and has been particularly active in the Arab states with large
Palestinian refugee populations. Today, it continues as an institution under
the time of the formation of GUPW, Palestinian women were also involved in
armed resistance, and most major militant political factions established
training camps for female revolutionaries. A particularly well-known
revolutionary was Layla Khaled, a member of the leftist Palestinian Front for
the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who captured international attention for her
role as commander of the Dawson’s Field operation, which made her the first
woman to hijack an airplane. Khaled went on to become a speaker in the
international solidarity scene. Another member of the PFLP, Shadia Abu
Ghazaleh, was among the first Palestinian women to take part in military
resistance after 1967. She later died while preparing an explosive device.
Dalal Mughrabi, a Fatah member, was involved in a 1978 military operation that
resulted in her own death as well as the deaths of 38 Israeli civilians.
Abu Ghazaleh, and Mughrabi broke many traditional and nationalist conventions that
had limited women’s role in the liberation struggle to caregivers of sons or
husbands, whether fighters or prisoners. Although organizing and participating
in armed resistance helped challenge traditional assumptions about gender
roles, tensions between female emancipation and nationalism remained
entrenched. Indeed, many Palestinian leaders privileged national liberation
over the emancipation of Palestinian women, so much so that this stance became
decades later images of women and girls throwing stones, challenging soldiers,
and leading marches during the First Intifada showed promising signs of a
social restructuring. Women’s groups were solidifying their involvement in
social works and political organizing during this period. This allowed women
more movement outside of the home under the pretext of the struggle, bringing
them into spaces that had previously been male only, such as political meetings
and the front lines of demonstrations. This inevitably contributed to an
erosion of the familial patriarchal authority.
the First Intifada is also often romanticized in collective memory and writing,
not only in terms of resistance and community organizing, but of the role of
women in the struggle. It is important to note that some women faced societal
backlash for political participation. For example, although many women who were
imprisoned were glorified during their incarceration, soon after their release
they often faced social obstacles, including not being able to marry or find
employment. Furthermore, women were still often seen in relation to male
figures, such as mothers and wives, as demonstrated by many political posters
from the period.
years into the First Intifada, the Palestinian delegation at the 1991 Madrid
Conference included two women (Hanan Ashrawi and Zahira Kamal) out of 21
figures. Yet the Oslo Accords several years later did not feature any women.
Palestinian women were not the only ones to be marginalized at Oslo, as
refugees in the diaspora and Palestinian citizens of Israel were also excluded.
Oslo created a framework, albeit a limited one, in which the exiled male
Palestinian leadership was empowered, rather than a framework for the
empowerment of the Palestinian people as a whole. This exclusion further increased
the tension between the national struggle and the women’s movement.
tension between nationalism and feminism has continued in the post-Oslo period,
and has been accompanied by the trend of Palestinian women facing multiple
forces that actively suppress their politicization and participation in
political spaces. The overarching force has been and continues to be the
Israeli regime, which has oppressed Palestinian women since the day it was
established through gendered forms of violence as well empowering patriarchal
structures through its relentless colonization and fragmentation of land and
communities. Yet it is also important to recognize the forces within the
Palestinian and international communities that contribute to the weakened
political role of Palestinian women.
NGO-ization of the Women’s Movement
Oslo Accords not only created a new framework for “peace” and “state-building;”
they also set in motion a fundamental transformation of Palestinian civil
society, including the women’s movement. Foreign aid flooded into Palestine and
created a situation in which civil society became dependent on external
patronage. Whereas before Oslo political parties mainly supported civil society
organizations, the post-Oslo era saw a deliberate weakening and breaking of
these ties. Many scholars have identified this process as “NGO-ization,” which
Islah Jad aptly describes as circumstances in which “issues of collective
concern are transformed into projects in isolation from the general context in
which they arise, without consideration of the economic, social, and political
factors affecting them.”
professionalization and bureaucratization of civil society organizations
created a distance between them and local grassroots communities. The focus
became centered on project deadlines, budgets, funding proposals, and annual
reports, all of which were answerable to the international donor community. The
shift to a donor-led agenda also distanced many organizations from the
politicized rhetoric of liberation and nationalism. Many groups and
organizations within the women’s movement were also subject to this
change is particularly noticeable in the post-Oslo lexicon of women’s rights
within Palestinian civil society. Many terms or buzzwords used to obtain
project funding have been defined by UN agencies and other international
organizations that place their own meanings and conditions upon them. For
example, the term “empowerment” is limited to socioeconomic empowerment and
participation in “decision-making,” rather than empowering women to resist the
occupation and build a vision for a postcolonial world. Indeed, many
projectsfocus solely on household economic empowerment, aiming to help women
become financially less dependent on male breadwinners. This stands in stark
comparison to the many female-led cooperatives established before Oslo that
attempted to gain economic independence from Israel and were articulated as a
form of resistance, such as the women’s produce cooperatives established by the
Palestinian Union of Women’s Work Committees in the West Bank and Gaza during
the First Intifada.
more recent example of this donor-led transformation can be seen in a week-long
campaign launched in early 2019 by UN agencies, international organizations,
and Palestinian NGOs. The campaign, called “My Rights, Our Power,” was meant
“to raise awareness on women’s fundamental human rights” and domestic violence
in particular. It focused on five areas of concern: the right to a life free of
violence, the right to achieve justice, the right to seek help, the right to
equal opportunities, and the right to make one’s own choices. The campaign
omitted the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well
as its overall structure of apartheid, as major contributing factors to rights
violations committed against Palestinian women. Indeed, the words “occupation”
or “Israel,” let alone “apartheid” or “colonialism,” did not appear in press
releases and campaign materials. This reflects a trend in the international aid
and donor community’s discourse in which “issues” and “barriers” to women’s
rights are spoken of in a political vacuum to avoid any Israeli discomfort.
This is a clear example in which dependency on the donor community rendered
organizations unwillingly complicit in the depoliticization of the Palestinian
this process of NGO-ization has demobilized many groups within Palestinian
society, women remain disproportionately affected due to institutional
patriarchal tendencies to exclude women from the political sphere.
Veneer of Institutional Inclusion
return of the PLO to the West Bank and Gaza Strip and its subsequent devolution
into the Palestinian Authority (PA) left many on the ground frustrated,
particularly women grassroots activists from the First Intifada who then lost
their leadership roles to predominately male politicians, highlighting once
again the tensions between the national struggle and women’s liberation. In
2003, in part to alleviate this tension, the PA established the Palestinian
Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and between 2012 and 2014 under Minister Haifa Al
Agha it createdgender units in all Palestinian governmental agencies. These
units are supposed to deal with gender issues, particularly female
participation in institutional politics, yet their implementation and outcomes
remain minimal. In reality, it is likely that they were established to appease
certain requirements, particularly those of funders, and respond to both
domestic and international pressures to create a more gender-balanced political
current inclusion of women within institutional Palestinian politics in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip remains very shallow. Although the Palestinian
Legislative Council has maintained a 20% quota of women since 2006 – a
development Palestinian activists and women’s organizations fought hard for –
the percentage remains low. Moreover, other bodies have even lower proportions
of inclusion. Of the PLO Executive Council’s 15 members, only one is female –
Hanan Ashrawi. Out of the 16
governorates in the West Bank and Gaza, only the governorate of Ramallah and El
Bireh has a female governor – Laila Ghannam. Similarly, the government as of
April 2019 headed by Mohammad Shtayyeh has a mere three female cabinet
ministers out of 22 – Mai Kaileh, Minister of Health; Rola Maayya, Minister of
Tourism; and Amal Hamad, Minister of Women’s Affairs. These women, with the
exception of Ashrawi, come from a Fatah background. This is unsurprising
considering the domination of Fatah over the Palestinian political scene and
the recent efforts by President Mahmoud Abbas to consolidate power within his
attempts to consolidate power are indicative of the politics inherent in the
PA, namely those of one-man leadership, rule by presidential decree, and a
failure to separate legislative, judicial, and executive powers. Furthermore,
the lack of democracy and democratic processes – Abbas is well into a decade past
his mandated term – has allowed for nepotism and patronage. It is thus
unsurprising that under the PA patriarchal tendencies have solidified.
PA attempted to elevate the status of Palestinian women in 2014 when it acceded
to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
Women (CEDAW) without any reservations. It was the first country in the Middle
East and North Africa to do so and was heralded by some, including those in the
international community, as demonstrating significant progress on women’s
rights. Yet several issues render the accession less significant than it might
seem. Firstly, the CEDAW text has not been published in the PA’s Official
Gazette and as such remains non-binding for domestic law. Secondly, a November
2017 decision by the Supreme Constitutional Court, which regulates the status
of international agreements in the Palestinian legal system, allows for courts
to not apply agreements that conflict with Palestinian law. This allows for
unregulated executive powers and for the legislature’s maintenance of the
overarching patriarchal authority.
fact that Palestinian women are often lacking the most basic legal protections
and political representation means that they are particularly vulnerable when
it comes to the weaponization of their bodies. Sexual harassment and violence
are sensitive topics in Palestinian society, and a social stigma is often
attached to those who have suffered them. The threat of sexual violence and the
use of sexual harassment are therefore particularly powerful weapons. Both the
Israeli regime and the PA have used such gendered violence to deter women from
being politically active.
its establishment the Israeli regime has systematically used gendered tactics
to oppress Palestinians. This has contributed to the enforcement of gender
stereotypes and patriarchal narratives, excluding women from the political
sphere or targeting those who are politically active. Targeting manifests
itself in a variety of ways and can include harassment, threats of sexual
violence, and imprisonment, the latter being the most effective way to curtail
political work. Indeed, female political leaders have been consistently
imprisoned by the Israeli regime, including legislator Khalida Jarrar.
imprisonment, Palestinian women are often subjected to gendered violence in an
attempt to “break” them. For example, Khitam Saafin, the leader of the Union of
Palestinian Women’s Committees, spent three months in Israeli administrative
detention. During that time she reported that Israeli soldiers took pictures of
her on their phones and subjected her to
unnecessary strip searches. The Israeli prison authorities are also known to
deny women sanitary towels and restrict their access to bathrooms when they are
by Israeli soldiers or security forces also often include sexual harassment or
threats of sexual violence to pressure women and girls to sign confessions or
give information. This was demonstrated in a leaked video of the December 2017
interrogation of the teenager Ahed Tamimi, who was arrested for slapping an
Israeli soldier who had invaded her home and had previously been part of a raid
that resulted in her cousin being shot in the head. Ahed was subjected to an
interrogation in which two male officers verbally harassed her and made
comments about her body.
recent years the PA has increasingly cracked down on activism and activities
that challenge its authoritarianism, using such brutal techniques as detention,
interrogation, surveillance, limitations on mobilization, and cyber attacks. It
has adopted gendered mechanisms similar to those used by Israeli forces to
deter female participation in political activities.
and protests have often been sites of gendered violence. PA security forces use
insults and insinuations that often amount to verbal sexual harassment, in
addition to telling women they should be at home and not in the streets. This
draws on misogynist and global notions of honor and shame, which can also be
mobilized against women’s families. PA security forces have been known to visit
women’s and girls’ fathers to “discuss” their activism. For some women, this
has serious repercussions and means they are prevented by their families from
taking part in political activities. There have also been cases in which
security forces have gone to a female activist’s place of work and have spoken
to her employer in an attempt to get her fired. This type of sabotage occurs
more easily via social media, as rumors and slanderous language can be spread
quickly and anonymously in ways that become nearly impossible to refute.
more severe cases physical sexual harassment occurs, with women grabbed and
groped at demonstrations. This was the case at a June 2018 protest demanding
the PA lift the sanctions on Gaza, in which Fatah loyalists harassed and
assaulted women at the behest of the PA security forces. The sexual harassment
of women in such spaces aims to punish and deter them from taking part, but it
also encourages male activists to deter female participation out of fear for
is important to note that Palestinian women have not been passive in the face
of gendered violence. They have, for instance, long confronted the weaponization
of their bodies through such tactics as recognizing their right to remain
silent during interrogations and remaining in groups or pairs at
demonstrations. Another tactic is to mentally compartmentalize. Indeed, one
activist told this author, “I mentally prepare myself before the demonstration,
I tell myself, ‘Today my body is not mine.’”
All Palestinian People
aim of this policy brief has not been to romanticize the pre-Oslo period, but
rather to address how the political marginalization of Palestinian women has
accelerated with the entrenchment of the military occupation, the increasingly
repressive Palestinian authorities, and the weakening connection between civil
society and the grassroots. Moreover, the entire Palestinian liberation project
has been geographically, socially, and politically fragmented, resulting in a
situation of historic vulnerability. While discussions revolve around efforts
to revive it, the important question Palestinians must ask themselves is
whether they can reignite a path to liberation with half of their population
marginalized from the process.
this in mind, what follows are recommendations for disrupting this process of
political marginalization and revitalizing the liberation struggle through feminism:
Palestinian women, collectives, groups, and organizations pursuing women’s
rights and gender equality need to be restructured and revitalized into an
autonomous women’s movement that struggles for women’s liberation in all
spheres, including political, economic, and social spheres. The need for
women’s autonomy is imperative in a context of patriarchy, where male
domination is present in all areas. Organizational autonomy does not mean a
separation of struggles, but rather provides a space for women to think more
freely and collectively about liberation. Women’s rights must be both
individual and collective and must not be separated from the collective right
of indigenous Palestinians to be free of settler colonialism.
Women’s groups and organizations must find a way to reconnect both with the
grassroots and the liberation discourse. One way to do this is to return to
collectivism and tackle elitism within the NGO network by making processes more
democratic and representative. This also requires moving toward
self-sufficiency to weaken the grip of donors, which could include a
membership-based system, and pave the way for economic sovereignty.
Groups and activists must engage with the political marginalization of women.
In particular, men in these spaces need to be aware of the power dynamics that
prevent women from participating and support women in fighting against them.
For example, in meetings, discussions, and demonstrations, men should step
aside and create space so that women can take leading roles. Additionally,
rather than telling women not to stand on the front line out of fear their
bodies will be weaponized against them, men should join women in coming up with
tactics to tackle this weaponization.
While bearing in mind the specific context of settler colonialism, Palestinian
women should also examine recent examples of other women in the region who have
been part of processes of great political change, such as in Tunisia and Sudan.
It is equally important to rebuild historic solidarities, such as with the
Kurdish Women’s Movement, rather than looking toward the West, to learn and
develop by example.
Palestinian nationalism has long focused around macho imagery embodied in the
male fighter or prisoner, with women often only discussed in relation to men.
This has resulted in a liberation politics that is not only exclusive and
dominating of women but also oppresses men. There is therefore an urgent need
to incorporate feminism into the Palestinian political project through the adoption
of a new document of liberation, a document that would understand feminism not
only as a theory but also as a practice and way of life that works toward the
liberation of all people.
through such actions can the Palestinian leadership and civil society begin to
tap the strength of Palestinian women in the Palestinian struggle for freedom,
justice, and equality.
term “women’s movement” in this policy brief is used in a broad sense to refer
to the collection of groups and organizations working to further women’s rights
Abdul Hadi, “Adwar al-mar’a al-filastiniyya fi al-thalathinat 1930 –
al-musahama al-siyasiyya lil mar’a al-filastiniyya [The Role of the Palestinian
Woman in the Thirties, the Political Participation of the Palestinian Woman],”
Al-Bira: Markaz al-Mar’a al-Filastiniyya lil-Abhath wa al-Tawthiq, 2005, 84.
Hawari is the Palestine Policy Fellow of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy
Network. She completed her PhD in Middle East Politics at the University of
Exeter. Her research focused on oral history projects and memory politics,
framed more widely within Indigenous Studies. Yara taught various undergraduate
courses at the University of Exeter and continues to work as a freelance
journalist, publishing for various media outlets, including Al Jazeera English,
Middle East Eye and the Independent.
Director of Iran’s Census Organization in Hamadan Province stated that in 2018,
44 girls under the age of 15 were pregnant in Hamadan.
and pregnancy under the age of 18 increase maternal mortality as well as
physical and psychological harm to girls. Depression and sometimes suicide,
along with divorce, school dropouts, and sustaining the cultural and economic
poverty cycle are among those harms.
addition to the pregnancy of 44 girls under 15 in Hamadan, the Director of
Iran’s Census Organization in Kurdistan Province, Hassan Soumi also said, “4%
of divorces are for girls under the age of 18. About 16 percent of marriages
registered during the first four months of 2018 are girls under the age of 18.”
(The state-run IRNA News Agency – August 3, 2019)
justice ministry lawyer said, “Unfortunately, official and unofficial
statistics suggest that there are underage marriages, indicating that laws
related to this issue are insufficient. Child marriages in Iran have been on
the rise in recent years.”
marriages and child marriages are examples of violence against women and the
worst form of oppression against girls and the future of women in Iran.
According to statistics released by the regime, at least 43,000 girls under 15
and 180,000 girls under 18 get married in Iran every year. There are 24,000
widows under 18 and 15,000 widows under the age of 15 in Iran.
Sajjadi, special assistant for citizens’ rights in the directorate for Women
and Family Affairs, commented on the rejection of the bill proposing to ban
child marriages of under-13 girl children by the Legal and Judiciary Commission
of the Majlis (the mullahs’ parliament).
said, “When a 12-year girl is forced by her father to get married, the validity
of this marriage is under question both legally and religiously because of the
girl’s lack of consent.
am sure that members of the Legal and Judiciary Commission who opposed this
bill, none of them are willing to have their children quit school and get
married in young age.” (The state-run ILNA news agency – December 29, 2018)
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