in New Delhi's Shaheen Bagh neighbourhood stand out for leading protest against
'anti-Muslim' citizenship law.
Leave': Women Lead Protest in India Capital's Muslim Area
Woman in Denmark Leads Challenge against Government’s ‘Ghetto List’
When Women Leaders Left the Men Far Behind
Fast Food Worker Says Boss Sent Her Home for Turning Up To Work In Hijab
State Accused Lisa Smith Released From Prison on Bail
Al-Ruwaini named ‘Business Woman of the Year’ by Arabian Business Magazine
Outlaw Was the First African American Woman to Be Portland's Police Chief, Now,
She's Philadelphia's First Black Female Commissioner
Hopes To Secure Africa Women's Volleyball Olympic Ticket In Cameroon
Sharjah’s Answer to Women’s Economic Empowerment
Tales of Women, Babies’ Trafficking By Islamic State In Greater Sahara
Compiled By New
Age Islam News Bureau
Leave': Women Lead Protest In India Capital's Muslim Area
Delhi, India - As Shahin Kausar steps down from the makeshift stage set up in
the Muslim enclave of Shaheen Bagh in the Indian capital of New Delhi, it is
difficult to hear her speak.
words are no longer amplified through a sound system, and the man now holding
the microphone is drowning her out with boisterous slogans.
doesn't help that Kausar herself is also on the verge of losing her voice from
weeks of shouting. But she is clear why she is in Shaheen Bagh.
I saw in front of my eyes, the passion in the people here, they were
outraged... That's why I had to come and join," says the 44-year-old
more than two weeks now, protesters, such as the ones in Shaheen Bagh, have
taken to the streets across India to oppose the passing of the contentious
Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which critics say discriminates against
Muslims and violates the country's secular constitution.
led by women
the Indian capital, the protesters of Shaheen Bagh - especially women such as
Kausar - have stood out.
16 days now, these women have occupied a part of the main highway, blocking
traffic between the capital and Noida, a satellite city. And they don't plan on
are here to fight for our rights, our concerns," says 53-year-old Tarannum
Begum at the sit-in. "Until they take back their [policies], this will go
from the limelight of protests in Central Delhi - dominated largely by
English-speaking protesters from higher socioeconomic backgrounds - Shaheen
Bagh has become a symbol for more vulnerable communities on the fringes of the
have cracked down brutally on many protests, particularly in Muslim areas and
universities, vandalising homes, using tear gas and batons even on children,
and opening fire on peaceful protesters.
least 26 people have been killed across India, with most deaths reported from
Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state governed by Prime Minister Narendra
Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
majority, if not all, of those killed were Muslim. Thousands have been
detained, mostly in Uttar Pradesh, whose hardline chief minister had vowed
revenge on the protesters.
the demonstration at Shaheen Bagh has remained peaceful, even as protesters
remain resolute in opposing Modi's Hindu nationalist government.
the heart of the unrest is the CAA, which provides a path to citizenship to
refugees who arrived in India before 2015 from three neighbouring countries, as
long as they are not Muslim.
fear the CAA is a precursor to a nationwide National Register of Citizens
(NRC), as repeatedly indicated by India's powerful Home Minister Amit Shah.
the NRC process in the northeastern state of Assam excluded 2 million people,
many of them Muslims, effectively rendering them stateless. They now fear
either detention or deportation.
several detention centres operate and are in the works across Assam and in
other parts of the country to detain undocumented migrants, triggering fears
among Muslims of mass incarceration.
nationwide NRC would force all Indians to prove their citizenship with
documentation, something India's mostly impoverished people of all religions
women say they are particularly vulnerable.
don't have a husband, and us ladies don't even get property papers," says
Begum, a widow. "Everything is in the name of the husband, so how will a
woman prove [citizenship] through her papers?"
at Jamia Millia Islamia
Shaheen Bagh, the chilly air caused by New Delhi's record winter has a mix of
both anxiety and determination.
16 days and despite biting cold, crowds have gathered here non-stop, with a
legion of volunteers running the show. Protesters huddle over bonfires with
free snacks and tea, while women sit in an enclosure next to the stage.
are particularly busy, with a variety of activities taking place - candlelight
vigils, late-night singing, spirited slogans and speeches by activists.
women, mostly housewives such as Kausar and Begum, say they have not gone home
been wearing the same set of clothes for the past three days… I have only
managed to go home once," says Begum.
Bagh is barely 2km (1.2 miles) from Jamia Millia Islamia, a predominantly
Muslim university, which was the site of a brutal police crackdown on December
100 students were injured when police stormed the campus with tear gas and
batons following clashes at an area close to the university.
ransacked the campus, broke windows in the library and even fired tear gas
inside a reading room. Many of the students injured and detained had not been
involved in the protest.
Jamia crackdown catalysed the protest at Shaheen Bagh, with a large number of
its students having links to the community.
protests also take place at Jamia, but they generally end up moving to Shaheen
Bagh by the end of the day.
protest started the day female students at Jamia were brutally attacked and
beaten up. Their hair was pulled," says Kausar.
light of the Jamia crackdown and similar attacks in Muslim enclaves elsewhere,
protesters in Shaheen Bagh worry that with every passing day that their sit-in
might also get broken up.
authorities are rattled because they are facing problems because of us. Almost
150,000 cars [usually] pass through here every day," says Kausar.
"They want us to give way to one side of the road."
woke us up, we were sleeping'
with New Delhi currently in the midst of an unusually cold spell, Kausar has
I am concerned about are the women and children, they are on the road in this
biting cold. Some have kids who are 2-3 months old. If something happens to
them, who will take responsibility?"
not a small thing to sit on these highway roads… [But] until someone comes and
convinces us that our demands have been heard, we aren't going anywhere."
is equally adamant. "They woke us up, we were sleeping," she says.
is better to die here [protesting] than be put in detention camps."
many in this Muslim neighbourhood remain fearful of what lies ahead.
the night wears on, the crowd gathers around a projector to watch a documentary
about what the government's citizenship policies mean for them.
clip from one of Modi's recent speeches beams from the screen.
who are creating violence can be identified by their clothes itself," says
the prime minister, his voice booming across Shaheen Bagh through loudspeakers.
in the crowd are wearing traditional clothes - men in skullcaps, women in
burkas. Modi is speaking in innuendo, but he is talking about people like them.
is one of the many comments made by BJP leaders and government officials,
suggesting Muslims do not belong.
48-year-old Maqsood Alam, it couldn't be further from the truth. "We were
born in India. India is our soil. We love India," he says.
having to prove that he belongs is a frightening thought for Alam. Like many
Muslims in this part of the capital, his status as a migrant worker only makes
documentation more complex.
a result, the father of five seems resigned to a fate of not passing a
potential citizenship test.
future of our kids is at risk. We went to such lengths to allow them to study.
Now where will they live, where will we live?" he asks.
child is like a tree, it takes time and effort to grow," says Alam,
breaking down as he finishes his sentence.
are asking for papers that go back years. I have nothing to prove [my status],
I am just a poor man."
woman in Denmark leads challenge against government’s ‘ghetto list’
Muslim woman in Denmark and her three friends are spearheading a campaign to
have their district removed from the country’s so-called “ghetto list”.
Safi, a 19-year-old of Afghan origin, and her three friends from the Tingbjerg
housing project on the outskirts of Copenhagen launched a petition to protest
against the annual list, saying it discriminates against them.
the list," the Tingbjerg locals wrote in an open letter to Denmark’s
Housing Minister Kaare Dybvad. "Please do not tell us once again that we
are a problem."
to the German newspaper Deutches Welle, the petition against the list of
underprivileged districts, which has so far gained over 9,000 signatures, was
launched in conjunction with the NGO, ActionAid Denmark.
highlighting Tingbjerg, it is the campaigners’ hope that the list will be
scrapped in its entirety.
ghetto list stigmatises us," Ms Safi said. "We feel like second-class
citizens. Tingbjerg is such a great area, but we constantly have to defend
ourselves because of our address."
be included on the list, housing areas must have more than 1,000 residents and
meet three out of five criteria. These include high levels of unemployment, low
income, high conviction rates for violent and drug crimes and, controversially,
more than 50 per cent of residents must be of non-western heritage.
criteria are discriminatory. Tingbjerg is also on the list because of the high
proportion of non-western immigrants and descendants," Ms Safi, whose
parents come from Afghanistan, said.
I feel more Danish than Afghan. I was born and raised in Denmark, and I think
and dream in Danish. I am very ambitious with my studies and feel a huge
responsibility to contribute to Danish society," she added.
2019 three districts were removed from the list, but Tingbjerg has remained and
is categorised as a “hard-core ghetto” after appearing five years in a row.
list was first introduced in 2010 but was criticised by experts as
Soei, a sociologist and author, has shown residents from Tingbjerg face
negative and lower expectations from their surroundings compared to students
from a neighbouring area. He fears that such designations by the government may
simply continue the cycle of deprivation.
am worried that these negative expectations and prejudices turn into a
self-fulfilling prophecy, and young people start to believe they are doomed to
failure because they live in a so-called ghetto," he said.
response to the letter from Ms Safi and her friends, Mr Dyvbad defended the
list as a means to an end.
ghetto list is a tool to reduce the difference between the vulnerable
residential areas and the more well-functioning residential areas. Therefore,
we must create mixed cities and neighbourhoods throughout the country,” he
When women leaders left the men far behind
year 2019 will generally be remembered for its supine political leadership,
broken promises, compounded race/religion rhetoric, incitement and provocation,
and shattered hopes.
all this dust and depression, 2019 will surely be remembered as the year when
women led the way — whether in sports, politics, administration of justice, law
enforcement or national unity.
year marked the graceful retirement of Nicol David from competitive squash. Her
seamless transition from the world‘s greatest female squash player into the
role of an enabler, motivator, ambassador and most of all, a young “elder
stateswomen” of her sport may be taken as a guide for those who overstay their
positions in the mistaken belief that they and only they can “do the job”.
the political front, female ministers have also shown the way. Teresa Kok
showed the rest on how to focus on one’s own ministry; to understand the
challenges and to attempt to overcome the obstacles in its path.
a home has been a great challenge to Malaysians generally. A roof over one’s
head is becoming increasingly unattainable while housing developers are making
inordinate profits. For long, housing developers have been abusing the phrase
catch-phrase has been used even where prices were well out of the reach of the
common man. I recall in one instance where houses costing RM600,000 were
described as “affordable housing”.
this scenario marched Zuraida Kamaruddin. In one fell swoop, the ceiling price
on “affordable housing” was brought down to RM300,000. In fact, she caused
shivers within the developers’ community when she stated that it was possible
to provide reasonable houses at not more than RM150,000.
knew that most state governments owned tracts of land on which really
affordable houses could be constructed. This would be possible if state
governments took a more “egalitarian”, rather than a “business-like”, approach
in their dealings. Lamentably, many state governments conduct their affairs as
if they are profit-oriented bodies.
May 2019, our first female chief justice was appointed. The legal fraternity
welcomed her with joy and great relief; we just could not take any more of the
“same old, same old”. Even from her days in the High Court, Justice Tengku
Maimun Tuan Mat had displayed the qualities of judicial courage and
independence, reminiscent of a forgotten era in our administration of justice.
her elevation, Tengku Maimun remarked that she wished to improve the image of
the judiciary. Truth be told, she does not have much to do except to continue
to be herself. As they say, morale filters from the top. It would surely take
some time but given the probable length of her tenure, the administration of
justice in our country is headed for better days.
top it all, for the first time, we now have six women as judges in our apex
court. They have already begun deciding cases without fear or favour; a clear
example being Justice Nalini Pathmanathan’s lucid judgment on the extent and
ambit of “the public servant”.
appointment of Latheefa Koya as head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption
Commission was yet another high-water mark. Her detractors tried very hard to
derail her: finding fault with the manner of her appointment right down to the
manner she wore the rank badges and ribbon bars.
nation was not impressed with her critics and the tough-as-nails Latheefa was
undaunted. Her public pronouncements on the war on corruption sent shivers down
the spines of the guilty.
it must be admitted that Latheefa has a most unenviable job. It is not easy to
undo a culture of corruption that has ingrained itself into the national psyche
over the last three decades. Despite the massive challenges and knowing that
the ordinary reasonable Malaysian is with her, Latheefa has continued in her
mission with fearless consistency, in a manner and style that has put other
enforcement bodies in the shade.
may want to persuade the government to pass legislation in the nature of the
British-like Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) to compel disclosure of unexplained
wealth, where the issuance of such orders would have to be by the High Court
and the subsequent seizure of the unexplained assets, if at all, would also
have to be by way of a court order.
UWO has two great advantages: the information obtained in the context of a UWO
cannot be used in criminal proceedings and, in any event, at all stages, there
would be judicial supervision.
would be remiss if I fail to mention Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali in this
appreciation of women leaders. Though she had served as wife of the prime
minister before, some did not fully appreciate her role then. Our recent
experiences have taught us well.
Hasmah has reminded, indeed re-educated, everyone on the dignity and respect of
the person (not “office”) of the spouse, our prime minister. Her leadership
lessons have not been lost on us.
the icing on the collective cake of all Malaysians must surely be our current
Queen, Tunku Azizah Maimunah Iskandariah. In our country, over which the threat
of being torn asunder by politicians hangs, she has been a beacon of hope.
frank sharing of her Chinese heritage, which was courageous, must have irked
the political beings who seek to divide and rule. Her simple, down-to-earth
style, from her dance moves through her Twitter to her train ride, have earned
the affection and respect of most Malaysians.
song of praise would not be complete if I did not address the leaders of my
gender. Other than a few exceptions, our male leaders have failed our nation
miserably. There is so much to be done to improve the state of our nation but
positive energies seem to be expanded on negative undertakings. The real state
of our nation needs no reminder or repetition.
this is not designed to be a battle between the sexes, the men have to get
their act together and show greater will, desire and gumption to keep up with
New Year Malaysia.
Peters, a lawyer for more than three decades, is a reader of FMT.
fast food worker says boss sent her home for turning up to work in hijab
31 Dec 2019
Muslim fast food worker has shared a video she claims shows her boss sending
her home for turning up to work in a hijab. Folake Adebola shared the 45 second
clip on Twitter Monday of a confrontation with her boss at a Chicken Express
restaurant in Fort Worth, Dallas. She can be heard remonstrating with her boss,
saying: ‘It’s a part of my religion. ‘I felt like if i work here y’all could be
able to (accommodate) my religion.’ But Adebola’s unnamed boss answers by
telling her the headscarf is ‘a different thing…that’s a part of your personal
life out there.’
insists that asking her not to wear her hijab is ‘nothing to do with religion.’
The clip ends with Adebola failing to reach a resolution with her boss, as she
tells him that she will continue to wear the head covering. She later shared
another, harder to hear, clip where a man can be heard insisting that the hijab
is ‘not part of the uniform.’ Both videos have since been viewed tens of
thousands of times. He adds: ‘The job requires a specific uniform. That is not
part of the specific uniform. ‘You as a paid employee cannot wear it.’ She later
wrote: ‘I converted to Islam not too long ago and I started wearing my hijab, I
went to work today and was kicked out because my hijab was not apart the “
dress code” apparently and I wasn’t allowed to wear it. Don’t come to the
chicken express in Fort Worth!! ‘This is discrimination at its finest ! I will
not tolerate this at all.’ Chicken Express refused to comment when contacted
about the videos.
State accused Lisa Smith released from prison on bail
former Irish soldier accused of membership of the so-called Islamic State group
has been released on bail from prison in Limerick.
Smith, who is a convert to Islam, was located in a Syrian refugee camp and
brought back to Ireland last month.
was arrested and questioned for three days before being charged with membership
of an unlawful organisation, which she denies.
38-year-old from Co Louth has been held in Limerick Prison while relatives have
cared for her two-year-old daughter.
solicitor Darragh Mackin, of Belfast-based Phoenix Law, confirmed that Ms Smith
was released from prison yesterday after a sitting at Dublin District Court
during which a surety was accepted.
is understood she was later met by relatives outside the prison.
bail was granted last month, a Co Louth man who offered the surety was rejected
by the court after it emerged he had several convictions going back 40 years.
included an assault on Tyrone referee Martin Sludden after the 2010 Leinster
football final for which he was fined.
media have been banned from publishing Ms Smith's address, but permitted to
report she will reside at a location in the north east.
last month's bail hearing Mr Justice Robert Eagar granted the request on strict
was set in Ms Smith's own bond of €500 which has to be lodged and the judge
required an independent surety of €5,000.
must sign at a Garda station twice daily.
Justice Eagar also told her she would have to remain indoors from 8pm until
cannot leave the jurisdiction or apply for new travel documentation and must
provide gardaí with a contact mobile phone number and answer if rung by
also banned her from accessing the internet or using any social media.
Smith has been remanded to appear before Dublin District Court again on January
Al-Ruwaini named ‘Business Woman of the Year’ by Arabian Business Magazine
Al-Ruwaini, CEO and board member of Pyramedia Group, was selected by Arabian
Business Magazine as the Business Woman of the Year for 2019, during an event
held on Thursday at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. The award ceremony was
attended by a select group of Saudi businessmen, VIP personalities and company
representatives. Receiving the award on behalf of Al-Ruwaini was journalist
received the award for her success as an entrepreneur who has played a
significant role in the advancement and empowerment of women, which has been
highlighted in different projects done by Pyramedia Group and its multiple
subsidiaries, including: Al-Joude Advertising Agency, Al-Joude Investment,
Delma Medical Center, Nashwa Jewellery and Nashwa’s Charity Foundation.
am extremely delighted to be chosen as a representative of Arab women who work
hard and put in immense effort and determination despite difficult conditions,
and continue playing an important role in contributing significantly to the
world of entrepreneurship,” Al-Ruwani said.
Outlaw Was the First African American Woman to Be Portland's Police Chief, Now,
She's Philadelphia's First Black Female Commissioner
Elizabeth Wolfe and Saeed Ahmed, CNN
police chief of Portland, Oregon, Danielle Outlaw, has been announced as
Philadelphia's next commissioner of the police department, the first African
American woman to hold the position.
has served as Portland's chief of police since 2017 and is the first African
American woman to have acted in that role, as well.
Mayor Jim Kenney announced Outlaw's appointment Monday as the new head of the
city's police department.
said he appointed Outlaw because he sees a need for change in the department.
I have tremendous respect for our officers, the Philadelphia Police Department
needs reform," he said in a statement Monday. "I am appointing
Danielle Outlaw because I am convinced she has the conviction, courage, and
compassion needed to bring long-overdue reform to the department."
at Philadelphia City Hall on Monday, Outlaw acknowledged her position as the
first female African American commissioner.
do not take lightly that I am a first here. I understand what I represent, I
understand who opened the doors for me and I understand it's my obligation to
hold the doors open behind me to ensure that we're not in 2020 still talking
about firsts," she said.
she will focus on as commissioner
mayor said his office will support Outlaw in tackling "a host of difficult
issues" including racism, gender discrimination and instances of sexual
assault within the department.
are issues that too often negatively impact women -- especially women of color
-- within the department," Kenney said. "Commissioner Outlaw will
implement reforms with urgency, so that racial, ethnic, and gender
discrimination are not tolerated."
also expressed a pointed focus on reducing gun violence and supporting
community members equitably.
will work relentlessly to reduce crime in Philadelphia -- particularly the
insidious gun violence that plagues too many communities," she said.
"And I will do so in a way that ensures all people are treated equitably
regardless of their gender identity, race, ethnicity, or sexual
commitment to building community relationships
speaking Monday, Outlaw emphasized the importance of rebuilding the
relationship between Philadelphia police and the residents they serve.
am convinced there can be humanity in authority; they are not mutually
exclusive," she said. "That was true in Oakland and in Portland, and
I know it is true here in Philadelphia."
her more than two decades serving on police forces, Outlaw has frequently
advocated for her idea of humanity in authority. In 2018, she discussed the
topics in a TEDxPortland talk, "Policing in America: The Road to
has also spoken at multiple venues about building community relationships after
controversy, as well as topics such as investigating use of force, race and
policing, and women in law enforcement.
is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Human and
Civil Rights Committee, as well as the National Organization of Black Law
is expected to begin her new role with the Philadelphia Police Department in
hopes to secure Africa women's volleyball Olympic ticket in Cameroon
Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Kenya has settled on a young team to compete in the Africa
women's volleyball Olympic qualifiers, which will be held in Yaounde, Cameroon
from January 5 to 9.
team is due to jet out on Friday with head coach Paul Bitok promising to end
the country's 15-year jinx and reclaim the Africa ticket to the Tokyo Olympic
total of five teams have confirmed participation: host and African champion
Cameroon, Kenya, Egypt, Botswana and Mauritius.
scaled up over the past few weeks, getting more tactical and intensive by the
day. Each player displayed great improvement in their respective roles. While
improvement is greatly noticed in each player, only a 14-member squad shall be
retained," said Bitok on Tuesday in Nairobi.
coach has since axed Janet Wanja, Pamela Masasai, Caroline Serengo, Linsey
Jeruto and Esther Mutinda.
the players that won't be selected, I urge them to keep their heads high and to
continue working hard as they stand a great chance in future competitions like
the Tokyo 2020," added Bitok.
had failed to win the International Olympic Qualifying tournament in Italy in
September and has only the continental route to secure the ticket to Japan. The
last time Kenya was at the Olympics was back in 2004 in Athens, Greece.
Sharjah’s answer to women’s economic empowerment
Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and
Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), has taken forward
the global call to action for gender equity and women’s economic empowerment
with the launch of ‘Elevate’.
is a pioneering platform to support women in the low- and medium-income
countries in Asia, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean, a press release
a bid to accelerate progress and mobilise the global community to expand
women’s economic opportunities in these countries, ‘Elevate’ will draw upon the
active contributions of the private sector, government entities, and non-profit
organisations to achieve scalable and sustainable impact, in line with the
directives of His Highness Shaikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of
the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.
launch of Elevate comes in the backdrop of a pledge made by the Ruler of
Sharjah at the opening ceremony of the 2019 Women’s Economic Empowerment Global
Summit (WEEGS) where Shaikh Sultan extended support for a programme that would
help shift the needle on women’s economic empowerment across Asia, Africa,
South America and the Caribbean.
gender equity and women’s economic empowerment are at the heart of Elevate’s
core pillars,” said Shaikha Jawaher Al Qasimi. “At NAMA, we believe that
economic empowerment is a uniquely potent way to enable women to be dynamic
actors in the real economy and is also key to achieving inclusive and
will carry forward its mission of providing technical, professional and
knowledge-based support to female workers, women entrepreneurs, institutions
and organisations by integrating its work with the established regional and
international institutions in the field of women’s empowerment, and addressing
any gaps by working in close cooperation with them,” she said.
is founded on six core pillars (CPs) namely, promote the implementation of
effective laws and policies to promote gender equity; promote greater inclusion
of women in leadership and supply chains; enhance women’s access to finance and
other productive assets; promote initiatives that enable education, training
and capacity building for women; ensure regular measurement and public
reporting on progress and challenges; and create inclusive societies.
Elevate reaffirms our belief in the skills and abilities of women and
recognises the social and economic imperative of boosting their capacities to
deliver better outcomes,” added Shaikha Jawaher.
and men are equal partners and contributors in the nation-building process;
bridging the gender gap will enable them to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with
their male counterparts. Achieving gender equity is therefore an economic
necessity as it will boost productivity and growth while also supporting
will now take forward the overarching vision of WEEGS through the newly
launched Elevate to advance women’s economic agenda by their full inclusion in
will it work?
ensure that the transformative vision enshrined within the core pillars of
Elevate directly impacts the lives of women and helps in the building of
stronger, more inclusive economies, the platform will bring together its
strategic partners (SPs), chapter leaders (CLs) and chapter members (CMs) to
take action in realising its key goals.
advisory role of Elevate’s strategic partners will lay the foundation for its
regional and global strategies on women’s empowerment. Chapter leaders,
comprising of a network of policy makers, public and private sector entities,
non-profit organisations, academia and civil society, will draw on the most
robust evidence to create a positive impact in their respective communities
through several integrated programmes.
leaders will induct CMs and facilitate their capacity building initiatives,
while also exchanging learnings and practices, mapping progress and developing
strategies to increase the impact of Elevate.
head office led by NAMA will hold annual meetings with members and partners to
discuss the successes and challenges in promoting the platform’s core pillars
meet these goals, Elevate will impart technical assistance to chapter leaders
to enable them to provide education support to female employees, entrepreneurs,
and women-led SMEs in the targeted countries with the support of chapter
platform will also help create networking opportunities amongst target entities
and international organisations with global industry leaders and policymakers.
pledge taken by His Highness, the Ruler of Sharjah to enable women achieve
their aspirations will now be transformed into reality through Elevate as it
works by unifying the concerted efforts of international organisations and
engaging with them to usher in an economy rooted in the principles of gender
equity and equal opportunities,” concluded Her Highness Shaikha Jawaher.
Tales Of Women, Babies’ Trafficking By Islamic State In Greater Sahara
PHILIP OBAJI JR
Moussa prepared to hit the road for his Monday morning taxi business in the
Nigerién capital city of Niamey, the smuggler’s phone rang. The caller was
Alhassane, a Fulani herder in Tongo Tongo in South-Western Niger, who knew
Moussa during the days he did smuggling jobs for militants under the so-called
Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, an ISIS affiliated group operating along
Niger’s South-West borders. Alhassane helps migrants—smuggled into Niger by
ISGS militants—get on vehicles that will take them to Agadez in the central
region of the impoverished country. He had called Moussa to find out if he was
available to transport three Malian teenage girls from Tongo Tongo to the small
mud-brick desert town where thousands of men, women and children from
Sub-Saharan Africa seeking to reach Europe through the Mediterranean usually
take off from.
happened to contact Moussa in the same period to find out if he had any information
regarding movement of migrants in and out of Niger that he could share with me.
He quickly told me he was travelling the following week to Tongo Tongo to pick
up migrants whom Fulani herdsmen wanted to send to Agadez. I then told him I
was interested in visiting Tongo Tongo and asked if he would be willing to lead
me there. The commercial driver reluctantly agreed.
old Toyota Carina is registered with transport and government authorities in
Niger, and he belongs to the transport union in the country. So, the fact that
he's a legitimate transport operator means he's unlikely to face much security
checks on the highway, and it's the reason why most people in the smuggling
business are comfortable working with him.
took off very early from Niamey on a Saturday morning and arrived Tongo Tongo
before noon. While Moussa drove alone in his car, I followed closely behind in
the vehicle of another commercial driver I had hired for the trip.
village has virtually no government presence and is so remote, you can’t easily
find commercial transport vehicles plying the route. There are less than 200
huts and dwellings that inhabit about 2,300 people, many of whom make a living
farming millet and sorghum. Among Tongo Tongo’s very small population are
nomadic Fulani herdsmen and Tuareg pastoralists who feed their cattle around
the village's vast expanse of hills and plateaux.
drove straight into a busy settlement inside the village where he met two men
waiting in a pickup vehicle that had three young girls sitting on the bed of
the car. I told the driver who transported me to park 50 metres away, in a way
that I could have a good view of Moussa and the herdsmen without being
suspected by anyone.
of the men Moussa met was Alhassane, the same man he had spoken with on the
phone. The other was known as Ali, a young man who had cowries wrapped around
his neck and a bullet scar on his right hand. They had a brief talk in the
local Zarma language. When the conversation ended, the men handed some cash to
Moussa and asked the three girls to move into his vehicle before driving off.
migrants from one location to another is something Moussa is accustomed to, and
it was while in the act that I got to know him.
first met Moussa in the North-Western Nigeria city of Kano in January in 2017
when he came in an old Volkswagen Passat to the city’s main market to pick up
four teenage boys who had left the northeast, where Boko Haram operates, and
needed him to transport them—through smuggling routes—across the Nigerian
border into Niger, from where they’ll get into pickup vans and mini-trucks
headed for Libya’s coast.
before then, Moussa had built a rapport with militants in areas around Tongo
Tongo. He had been hired by ISGS militants to drive prospective migrants from
Mali into the village, from where they are transported in another vehicle to
times these migrants travel with nicely wrapped parcels containing narcotics
like cocaine and heroin which they deliver to militants on arrival in Tongo
Moussa’s relationship with the militants turned sour one afternoon after he
arrived with migrants from Mail. Both the driver and his passengers were asked
by the jihadists for a parcel the militants said contained cocaine but they all
denied they had seen anything like that. The ISGS fighters then beat up Moussa
and his passengers with horsewhips after claiming they stole and sold the
substance. The driver sustained injuries all over his body, including a cut
just above his left eye. He then fled to Maimoujia, a village on the border
with Nigeria, and began to transport traders and migrants travelling between
the two countries.
losing the trust of ISGS militants, Alhassane and Ali—both of whom had come in
contact with Moussa when he did jobs for ISGS militants—saw him as an honest
person they could count on when it came to transporting migrants.
the past, I took cows they had slaughtered to Markets in Niamey and brought
back the monies to them once these cows have been sold,” Moussa said. “I wasn’t
surprised when they called this time and asked if I was available to transport
Ramata and Kandia—the three girls on the journey with Moussa to Agadez—served
as maids to ISGS militants in a village called Akabar, located about 6 km
inside the Malian border.
girls used to live in the same compound just after Ansongo, a town in the Gao
Region of eastern Mali. When jihadists invaded their compound, they fled the
town by foot and hoped to get to Niger, but they ran into ISGS militants as
they tried to cross the border.
militants offered them a safe haven in Akabar and promised to pay them if they
agreed to work for them as maids. But, in the long run, they began to witness
the hostility of their hosts.
would shout at us and beat us with sticks if we woke up late or did something
they didn’t like,” Ramata, one of the three travelling girls, told Moussa on
their way to Agadez. “Some of them even forced us to have sex with them. We
were like slaves in Akabar.”
before jihadist groups sprung up, slavery was deeply rooted in the areas where
ISGS militants operate today. In South-Western Niger and in some areas along
Mali’s South-Eastern border, where the Zarma people are predominantly found,
slavery provided the main workforce in agriculture. At the start of the 20th
century, about three-quarters of the population (PDF) in southwest Niger’s most
important Department of Say were slaves. The practise of hiring
slaves—especially in farms—still continues till this day, and Rokia, Ramata and
Kandia are happened to be among those at the receiving end of this practice.
Akabar, the girls lived in a large compound alongside about 10 often armed
militants, who looked after cattle and did business with Songhai tribesmen from
northwest Mali. There were other girls in the compound but Rokia, Ramata and
Kandia—along with two others—were the ones helping to feed livestock and doing
most of the cooking.
and Ali, the two men making sure the girls are transported to Agadez, are close
friends of Doundou Chefou—code-named “Naylor Road” by U.S. intelligence—an
ethnic Fulani herder who led dozens of ISGS militants in an assault against
U.S. and Nigerién forces that led to the death of eight soldiers, including four
American Green Berets in 2017. But neither of them has seen face to face with
Chefou in more than three year.
most often in Akabar,” said Moussa, who has interacted with Chefou on numerous
occasions in the past. “He doesn't come to Tongo Tongo as often as he did in
is considered to be one of the leaders of ISGS. When he first acquired arms
over a decade ago, his motive was to protect his cattle from thieves. Many of
his tribesmen also saw the need to protect their livestock from rustlers, and
they acted in the same way.
every Fulani herdsman, including Alhassan and Ali, took up arms along with
Chefou,” Moussa said. “The rate of livestock theft was so high at the time.”
things changed in 2011 when Nigerién Tuareg tribesmen, who fought as
mercenaries for Muammar Gaddafi during the Arab spring in Libya, returned to
the country and began to target other ethnic groups including the Fulani.
November 2013, a Tuareg chief was killed by a Fulani herdsman after both had
engaged in a squabble. In revenge, Tuareg fighters murdered 46 Fulani herdsmen
along the Mali-Niger border in what is, till date, the deadliest attack carried
out by Tuaregs in the area. They then began to constantly steal camels and cows
belonging to the Fulani.
made Chefou very angry,” Moussa said. “He decided he was going to put a stop to
then began to build a force capable of fighting the Tuaregs, and many Fulanis
in areas around the Mali-Niger border signed up.
about the same period, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa
(MOJWA)—one of several insurgent groups fighting a campaign against the Malian
government for independence or greater autonomy for northern Mali—seized
several towns, including Ansongo and Ménaka, close to the Nigerién border, and
had begun to advance into Niger when French forces pushed them back later in
didn’t want to have anything to do with MOJWA because they were composed mostly
of Tuareg fighters,” Moussa, who is also a Fulani, said. “We were rather
prepared to fight them.”
didn’t quite succeed in its attempt to seize towns in Niger. Instead, it
started becoming fractured, and a section of the group, led by Western
Sahara-born Adnan al-Sahrawi, merged with al-Mulathameen—another al-Qaeda
affiliate group founded by Mokhtar Belmokhtar—to form al-Mourabitoun.
was composed primarily of Tuaregs and Arabs, but Sahrawi wanted an expansion of
the group to accommodate other local ethnic groups, including the Fulani,
especially in Mali in Niger.
didn’t want Fulanis in particular because he thought they would be hard to
control,” Moussa said. “Fulanis would not even have wanted to join them because
they had mostly Tuareg fighters.”
faceoff between Sahrawi and Belmokhtar grew thereafter. In May 2015, Sahrawi
declared al-Mourabitoun’s allegiance to ISIS, but Belmokhtar insisted that the
group was allied to AQIM. There were reports that Belmokhtar’s followers tried
to assassinate Sahwari after he pledged his loyalty to ISIS.
then left al-Mourabitoun to create ISGS (the Nigerien government rather refers
to it as MOJWA), and began to show his affection for Fulanis. He had met a
Fulani herder, popularly known as Petit Chapori, during his time at
al-Mourabitoun, and became close friends with him. Chapori had also been close
friends with Chefou since their youthful days—long before he met Sahwari.
was Chapori who introduced Chefou to Sahwari,” Moussa said. “Sahwari has
treated him [Chefou] like a brother since then.”
Chapori and Chefou became Sahwari’s lieutenants in areas around Mali and Niger,
and, in the past year, began to recruit fighters and servants for ISGS. They
equally have been portraying Sahwari to other Fulanis as “a man of great
now see him as one of them,” Moussa said of Sahwari who is originally Arab.
“His bond with Fulanis became stronger when he married a Fulani woman in
less than 100 fighters, according to Moussa, and with not much finances, it is
through businesses like drug trafficking and people-smuggling that ISGS uses to
fund terror. While it often takes money from prospective migrants hoping to
cross into Niger, it appeared as if the jihadists, on this occasion, were
spending their own cash to ensure that Rokia, Ramata and Kandia reached Agadez.
journey to central Niger took nearly 26 hours in total to complete, and was
filled with the same events common in Sub-Saharan Africa travelling routes.
the highways, policemen got what they wanted from commercial drivers. To avoid
checks, drivers could either give money or something valuable. One driver in a
vehicle overloaded with goods, gave T-shirts to officers to be able to proceed.
Oil in liquor bottles, reportedly stolen from Libya, is sold by the roadside in
areas close to Agadez, mostly at giveaway prizes.
Agadez, migrants—mostly from Nigeria, Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Malian, Senegal,
and Guinea—arrive in a ghetto, a shabby cluster of buildings on the outskirts
of the city known as “connection houses”, guarded by men holding daggers and
swords. Sometimes, the migrants had to wait for days until it gets to their
turn to cross the desert.
ago, Caravans brought salt, gold, ivory, and slaves to Agadez. But in recent
years, the ancient city—whose historic buildings are constructed from red
earth—has become a centre for trading drugs, arms and humans. Following the
overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011, men from the Tuareg and Toubou tribes in Niger
crossed into Libya and raided abandoned weapons depots in the south of the
country and sold stolen guns to insurgent groups in the Sahel. The smuggling
routes between Niger and Libya then reopened, and Agadez—with just over a
hundred thousand inhabitants in the desert city—became the hub of migration
trade in Africa.
May 2015, the Nigerién government criminalized the transporting of migrants
after the European Union offered financial inducements. The development led to
the police confiscating scores of pickup vehicles and arresting smugglers and
drivers. The city’s main source of revenue came under threat.
the crackdown didn’t end the trade. Many agents and drivers devised new ways of
beating security. Others found ways of bribing authorities to be able to remain
in the business. Regardless of efforts to put a stop to the migrant smuggling
trade, Agadez’s central location will always make it a transit point for
outside the city is a connection house owned by Abu Umar, where Moussa usually
drops migrants gotten from militants. Umar, a people-smuggling agent, has
accommodated hundreds of migrants since he first got involved in the business
in 2014 and continuing even after the government of Niger made the trade
illegal a year later. It is only through his help that the three girls will reach
the past, these migrants didn’t need to work, because their travel had been
paid for by militants. They were fed with good food and well protected until it
was time to travel across the Ténéré desert to Libya. But in recent years that
has changed. Jihadists no longer foot the travelling bills of migrants, rather,
they—as we later found out—use them as tools for child trafficking.
arrived on a Sunday, a day before drivers visited the ghettos to collect cash
from the connection men and load the travelling migrants into their pickup
trucks. Every Monday, a large number of migrants, in vehicles that carry
between 25 and 30 people on their beds, leave Agadez for Libya, and are
escorted by a Nigerién military convoy that ensures their safety until they get
to North Africa. Rokia, Ramata and Kandia will not be part of those travelling
the next day because ISGS militants had not paid their connection fees. Unknown
to any of us, including Moussa, the jihadists were working with Abu to use them
to do business.
connection house—located in the outskirts of city—is occupied by young girls,
most of who are in their teens. Unlike in typical Agadez connection houses,
where migrants—who have paid for their journey in full—only have to wait for
days or weeks before there are transported to Libya, those being catered for by
Abu have to wait for at least a year before making the journey north.
want them to first earn some money in Agadez before travelling so that they can
transport themselves to Italy,” Abu told me just in front of his own connection
house, after the girls had been handed to him. “I will find them jobs here
either as cleaners, hairdressers and salesgirls.”
female migrants who have made it to Agadez on their own have to do sex work to
cater for themselves and to be able to pay for the journey to Libya. They earn
about three dollars per client but have to spend much on renting rooms from
local madams and connection men.
said the girls in his connection house do only “decent jobs” and are never
exploited. But the more he painted his business in good light, the less
convinced I was, moreso because I could hear the cry of babies from the
building just metres away from where we stood.
connection man rejected my request to get inside the building, and it made me
more suspicious about what goes on in there. Even Moussa who, in the past,
regularly took migrants to the connection man, has never been allowed access to
are only women staying there,” Abu emphasised. “You could get in there and meet
some of them in a naked state.”
connection man then dismissed Moussa and I, and walked into the building. But
as we headed towards the vehicle, the building’s security guard walked up to us
and offered to take us inside the connection house once Abu departed the
leave anytime soon for a meeting,” Bello, as the security man is named, said to
us. “I’ll let you in so you can talk to the ladies.”
and I waited in our respective vehicles which we had reparked about a hundred
metres away from Abu’s connection house, in a way that we could get a clear
view of the entrance to the house.
about an hour, a woman walked into the building and re-emerged minutes later
with Abu, who walked beside her as they reached for the vehicle that had
brought her to the connection house.
they departed, Moussa and I walked up to Bello who took us inside the building.
The hot and crowded connection house contained a number of rooms. Each room
accommodated at least three girls. There were two rooms reserved for anyone who
brought a male client for sex.
client pays around two dollars to the security man at the entrance (usually it
is Bello who collects the cash), and another three dollars to the girl before
the entire house, there were at least nine girls—most of them below 17—under
the care of Abu and his wife, Sonia, who had travelled earlier in the day to
Niamey and was expected back the following day.
of the girls were brought in from Mali in the same way Rokia, Ramata and Kandia
arrived Agadez. Three of them were visibly pregnant, and another three had
given birth the previous month to male children.
outsiders, Abu’s connection house is a mere transit home for women hoping to
reach the coast of Libya, but, in reality, he operates a baby factor where new
born kids are sold mostly to parents in other urban cities.
amount is two million CFA francs (about $3,620) for a boy, while a girl usually
goes for one million CFA francs (about $1,810).” Bello told me after I
persuaded him to disclose how Abu carries out his activities. “The babies are
mostly taken to cities like Niamey and Zinder.”
or weeks after birth, the baby leaves the connection house with someone who
works as a front for the child's new parents or who is a middleman in the baby
not clear whether babies born in Abu's connection house are also trafficked to
Libya, although his security guard suggested that may be the case for a few.
But it's less likely children just a few days or weeks old will survive the
extremely high temperatures and harsh conditions in the Sahara desert. That
doesn't mean smugglers wouldn't try.
Chirac, spokesperson for International Organization for Migration (IOM) in
Niger told me that she has “seen babies among the migrants rescued, but I don’t
have the breakdown by age.” She also mentioned that children rescued in the
desert by the organization "are usually accompanied, whether by their
mother or father, uncle, etc.”
it's in other urban cities in the West African nation that most of the children
from Abu's connection house go to.
of illegal adoption of children is rampant in Niger, where there is a stigma
attached to childlessness. Beneficiaries of the baby trafficking trade have
included persons highly influential in the country.
years ago, the country's opposition leader, Hama Amadou, was sentenced to jail
after he and his wife were alleged to be part of a conspiracy whereby newly
born babies were obtained from Nigeria and then sold to wealthy couples in
Niger. Amadou, a two-time Prime Minister of Niger, was accused of falsely
claiming the parenthood of around 30 children.
Agadez, where the baby trafficking business is shrouded in secrecy, Abu
encourages the girls in his connection house to talk to their clients against
using condoms so as to create an opportunity to get pregnant. Most times the
girls are successful in preventing the use of protection. Sometimes they are
not, but that rarely happens.
never used [a condom] before,” Fatou, one of the three mothers in Abu’s
connection house, told me. “I’ve never even seen it since I got here.”
gave birth to a baby boy—delivered by Sonia—right inside Abu’s house in
November. She isn’t sure of who the baby’s father is. In the month she took in,
she had had unprotected sex with four different men. She hasn’t come in contact
with any of them again since then.
baby would eventually be transported to an urban city where his future parents
have booked in advance and are expecting their new child to be delivered to
them soon after birth.
will be the fourth child to leave [the connection house] this year,” Bello told
me. “Two left in February, while the last one travelled last month.”
Fatou arrived Agadez from Tongo Tongo a year ago, she has seen three young
girls give birth to babies in Abu’s house, and their babies taken from them
within a month at least. It is only after their babies have been handed to Abu
and his wife that the girls can make the trip to Libya.
ladies aren’t sure of the exact place their children are taken to, and no one
is obliged to explain anything to them. When it is time for the baby to be
separated from his or her mother, Sonia would inform the child's mother a day
or two before. Sometimes she would walk up to the nursing mother, pick up her
child and ask her to prepare for her trip to Libya which could happen within
you ask her where the baby will be staying she’ll say ‘it’s not your
business,’” said Fatou. “She’ll then ask, ‘Do you think you can successfully
take care of a baby?’”
before Sonia travelled, she had informed Fatou that her baby would leave the
house very early in the morning the next day. Fatou had been thinking about it
since then. Not only was she worried that she may never see her son again, but
was also concerned about his well-being.
has been taking only breast milk here,” she said. “What if he becomes sick
because he doesn’t like the artificial food they are going to give to him?”
returned with my driver very early to Abu’s compound the next morning and
waited inside the vehicle—parked 50 metres away—to see how Fatou’s son would be
taken out of the house. At about 7:15 a.m., a lady arrived at the compound in a
Toyota Hilux pickup truck and waited in the car for the connection man to
minute later, Abu come out of the building carrying Fatou’s child. He had a
brief conversation with the lady, who was seated just behind the driver, before
handing the baby to her.
stepped out of the building and watched in sorrow as the vehicle drove off.
Tears rolled out of her eyes. An excited Abu turned and looked at her but
offered no consolation. He simply walked into the building. As the teenager saw
me walking up to her, her tears increased. She became uncontrollable as she
feels as if my life has ended,” she said. “My baby was everything to me.”
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