Photo: Germany's ‘Jihad Cheerleaders,’ Running Off To Marry Islamist Terrorists
14 Year Old Egyptian Girl Dies from FGM
Protest in Kolkata Over Nude Photos of Women with ‘Allah and Muhammad’ Texts
Mother Can Exclude Father from Delivery Room, N.J. Judge Holds
HRW Says New Iraqi Law Would Also Legitimise Marital Rape Also
Volunteers Needed To Protect Jewish Girls on Purim
Blue-Collar Saudi Women Are Role Models
Women Representation in Balochistan Cabinet Demanded
Women in Iran Must Not Give Up Hope That They Can Bring Change
Lebanon at Bottom of Rankings of Women in Parliament
Ann Osman Balances MMA, Religion as Muslim Female Athletic Pioneer
Iran Models Seek ‘Porn Star’ Look: Photographer
Initiative worth SR10bn Aims to Train and Employ Saudi Women in Garment Sector
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Germany's ‘Jihad Cheerleaders,’ Running Off To Marry Islamist Terrorists
March 13, 2014
BERLIN — Sonya* disappeared during the fall school vacation in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The 16-year-old high school student, the daughter of an Algerian and a German, left her family’s house in Konstanz and never returned.
Sonya’s parents called the police fearing the worst. Had their daughter been kidnapped? Was she possibly the victim of some other crime? Neither turned out to be the case: Sonya had left Konstanz to fulfill a dream — to become the wife of an Islamic “holy warrior.”
The young Muslim girl had packed her bag and headed for Stuttgart. At the airport, she presented a phony parental letter of authorization that gave the under-age girl permission to travel alone. Then she boarded the plane and flew to Turkey. From there, Sonya is believed to have headed for Syria.
Via Facebook, the teenager had been in contact with German Islamists in Syria who urged her to leave school and join the jihad against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Their propaganda apparently radicalized her so much that she decided to migrate to the war-torn area, leaving behind baffled parents who feared for their daughter’s life.
Sonya’s case confirms a trend that Germany’s inland security forces are currently monitoring. Muslim women and girls are increasingly travelling from Germany to Syria, inspired by the wish to join the “Holy War,” marry a jihadist and become the widow of a martyr.
According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), some 300 Islamists have already left Germany. Among them at least 20 women acting on their “own jihadist motivations” — as Germany’s domestic intelligence service describes it — have sought their way to Syria.
At first glance this may seem surprising, because the concept of jihad is pretty much regarded as a male domain. But experts say that has been changing for some time now. Women are increasingly taking on important roles in the radical Islamist scene, particularly in the areas of propaganda, fund-raising, logistics and networking.
And today’s radicals of the fairer sex often emulate female role models from early Islamic times — Aisha, for example, the Prophet Mohammed’s youngest wife, who is said to have accompanied warriors astride a camel into battle in what is present-day Iraq in 656 AD. Many Islamist women today obviously believe this image of the fighting Muslim woman, the “Mujahida” (holy female warrior), is considered worthy of imitation.
“Islamist women see themselves in the role of supporters,” a BfV agent explains. “They support the men’s fight morally and with propaganda work. They urge them on and sometimes also have a radical effect. They’re almost like jihad cheerleaders.”
Just how active women are within the radical Islamist scene is clear from the Internet. Within the anonymous forums, blogs and social networks, there’s a kind of “jihadist emancipation” going on. Here, Islamist women discuss, comment and act often as men’s equals. “We’ve noticed that some of the women have a profound knowledge of theology,” the BfV agent confirms. “They frequently know more parts of the Koran and more of the utterances of the prophets than most men. They know exactly what’s allowed and what isn’t.”
On Facebook and various Islamist Internet forums, meanwhile, several German-language women’s groups have been created. Here, intense discussions revolve around emigration and jihad, and the role of Muslim women. “Nowadays most men aren’t real men. They hold back from practicing jihad and instead sit on the sofa watching TV,” a woman writes on one of these Facebook pages. “The result is that women are increasingly becoming more masculine in that they are taking over the duties of their husbands.”
Women consider those men who did find their way into battle, and were eventually killed, heroes. “He was a lion of this Ummah [community]!” one woman wrote about a terrorist killed in Syria. “Where are the lions to follow in his path? Where are the real men?”
Perhaps German Islamist women — either at their husbands’ side, or on their own — are making the trip to war zones because there is so little approval and moral support from elsewhere. In accordance with the rules of the Koran, their hope is for a life in a Muslim country as the wife of a “holy warrior.”
“In conservative Muslim tradition, a woman shouldn’t actually be traveling unaccompanied by a husband or male relative,” the BfV agent explains. “But now there are scholars whose interpretation of the Koran makes it acceptable for a woman to travel alone when jihad is at stake.”
Targeting women with German passports
And they are. Just like Sonya from Konstanz, some 20 other Islamist women once living in Germany have gone on jihad — one of them published regular daily entries from Syria on her blog last year.
In the blog, she was philosophical about the alleged oppression of Muslims in Europe, and about the 9/11 terror attacks. “And now I’m here. In the land of jihad, the land of honor, in Syria,” the anonymous woman wrote. “I am the wife of a Mujahid.”
The woman goes on to write that the feeling of being in Syria is indescribable. “I can finally be free, wear my Niqab [face veil] as I want to without being made fun of. If I feel like it, I wear a further two or three Niqabs. Nobody can do anything to me here.”
This is kitschy jihad romanticism addressed to Muslim women who have stayed in Germany. Yet the idea of an ideal Muslim life under Sharia law is appealing to many Muslim women. Some of them openly seek jihadists to marry on the social networks, and online mail-order marriage agencies have started to crop up.
“Jihad marriages” is how the BfV characterizes these unions. “We’re even seeing marriages being arranged on Facebook,” says one analyst at the inland intelligence service. It’s a phenomenon that worries the intelligence community because there is the possibility that it is a targeted strategy on the part of Islamic terror groups — jihadists with no previous access to Germany acquiring wives with German passports. “Pregnant, the woman may return to Germany. And then at some point there’s a family reunion,” says a BfV agent. “That’s when the husband, a jihadist with fighting experience, turns up in Germany.”
To avoid such scenarios, the police and intelligence service have adopted a policy of direct communication. If there are indications that somebody is planning a trip to Syria, that person is contacted so that they know they are on the police radar and that their travel is being monitored. And it is made clear to the person that supporting a terrorist organization in Syria is a criminal offence in Germany.
The tactic is in many cases extremely successful. But the Islamic scene continues to recruit intensively for Syria. Fund-raisers across Germany collect money for Syria, and the BfV agents suspect that much of what’s collected goes to support Syrian rebels.
There is another such event soon happening at a Berlin mosque — “for women only.”
*Not her real name.
14 Year Old Egyptian Girl Dies From FGM
Nehad Abouel Komsan (center), of the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, speaking at a 2012 panel
Photo Credit: Egyptian Center for Women's Rights
More than 90 percent of Egyptian women have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also referred to, misleadingly, as female circumcision. A 14 year old Egyptian girl just died from it.
The numbers had begun to recede from an all time high of 97 percent of Egyptian women genitally mutilated. But all that changed when the Islamists came to power after the ouster of former Egyptian president Hosnai Mubarak.
Although FGM is not required under Shariah, the reduction in oppression of women was viewed as a vestige of the Mubarak era, and the Islamists reversed any forward movement on that front.
According to an article in AlAkhbar, the unnamed 14 year old girl died after being genitally mutilated by a doctor to whom her father had taken her for the procedure. Both the father and the doctor are facing criminal charges.
The practice of FGM was officially banned in Egypt in 2008, but it is widespread and continues to be practiced, especially in rural areas, according to Nehad Abul Komsan, the head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Health.
The reason women are forced to undergo female genital mutilation is that it is believed by its proponents to “purify” women from sexual temptation. That would be because the women are so badly and brutally injured, that going to the bathroom or even sitting down can be painful for the duration of one’s life. And the lifelong discomfort which is often a side effect of FGM certainly would dissuade those who have had it to avoid anything that might cause further pain.
According to a World Health Organization 2014 update, there are no health benefits to FGM, only harm to the rights and health of girls and women upon whom it is performed.
Although, according to the WHO, no religions require FGM, there are cultures in which the practice is believed to be required by the religion.
FGM is practiced most widely in more than two dozen countries throughout Africa. Countries in which it is currently estimated that more than 80 percent of all women have undergone FGM include Egypt (91.1), Somalia (97.9), Sudan (90), Sierra Leone (94), Guinea (95.6), Djibouti (93.1), Eritrea (88.7) and Mali (85.2).
Although all of the collected evidence suggests that FGM is most prevalent in Africa, and is nearly non-existent in the Middle East, in a 2007 article published in the Middle East Quarterly disputes that. The authors in that article emphatically state it is inaccurate to suggest that FGM is not widespread, despite the absence of reported evidence, in the Middle East. The absence of evidence has more to do with women and girls being forbidden to report the practice, especially to foreigners. This same article argues that FGM is considered by certain established authorities on Islam to be strongly encouraged by the Muslim faith.
Kolkata: Several Muslim groups led a protest in Kolkata angered by photographs published in a Bengali Daily of women protesting in nude, with Arabic texts, including names of Allah and Prophet Muhammad.
The tabloid supplement of the Bengali Daily `Khabor 365 Din' published photographs of women protesting in nude that irked some Muslims groups calling for a protest on March 11 from morning. Angry protesters set ablaze few copies of the newspaper `Khabor 365 Din' and blocked the road at the Park Street Junction in Park Circus Area for what they termed as an attempt at “hurting the sentiments” of Muslims.
Protesters carried in their hands the copy of the picture printed in that newspaper at Park Street Mallickbazar Junction and surrounding area. Protesters sat on dharna outside the office of the newspaper.
`Khabor 365 Din' carried their cover page of the tabloid entertainment supplement `Bibi' with the lead heading `Nari Nirjataner Pratibade' ( In protest against women torturing) with the sub heading `Bari Dibase Biswa jure Pratibad' (Protest worldwide) and also published the caption `Pariser Luvor piramider samne femener pratibad' (In front of Louvre Pyramid). The Cover story of the Tabloid was continued in pages 4 and 5, with more photographs of women protesting naked with Arabic texts of their bodies.
Police immediately swung in action and took stock of the situation. Within minutes the news reached the state administration office as well as the Chief Minister Office at Nabbana. Protesters demanded the arrest of the Editor of the Bengali Daily. Source said, Police Head Quarter at Lalbazar called the Assistant editor of the `Khabor 365 Din' Mr Abhijit Majumder and their Crime reporter to meet the higher police officials.
`Khabor 365 Din' is seen as pro-TMC paper and publication of such “anti-religious” photographs that is seen as “hurting the sentiments” just before the elections, may affect the elections’ outcome, many TMC insiders feel. According to source of CMO, Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee is herself looking at the situation.
State Urban development Minister Firhad Hakim and Fire Protection Minister Jawed Ahmed Khan have been deputed to ease the anger of the protesters.
`Khabor 365 Din' is a Bengali newspaper running since 2011, owned by the Rose Valley group, that was involved in the chit fund scheme. Rose Valley also has Bengali TV news Channel `News Time' and both are known in the state for their TMC stand.
The protesters were still sitting on dharna outside the office of the Bengali daily the time of filing this story in evening. Urban development Minister of West Bengal Firhad Hakim and Imam of Nakhoda Mosque Maulana Muhammad Shafique had meanwhile reached the spot and tired to mollify the crowd.
Mother Can Exclude Father From Delivery Room, N.J. Judge Holds
A putative father has no right to be notified that the expectant mother is in labor nor to be present in the delivery room if the mother objects, a New Jersey judge says in an apparent case of first impression nationwide.
Ruling in a dispute between estranged, unmarried parents, Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed held that a woman's right to privacy and to control her body during pregnancy allows her to shut the father out.
"A finding in favor of plaintiff for both notification and forced entry into the delivery room would in fact be inconsistent with existing jurisprudence on the interests of women in the children they carry pre-birth," he wrote in Plotnick v. DeLuccia.
"It would create practical concerns where the father's unwelcomed presence could cause additional stress on the mother and child. Moreover, such a finding would also lead to a slippery slope where the mother's interest could be subjugated to that of the father's."
Mohammed said in his opinion, published March 10, that according to his research, "the issues of whether a putative father has a right to be notified when a woman enters labor, and whether a father has a right to be present at the child's birth over the mother's objection, have never been litigated in New Jersey or the United States."
Steven Plotnick and Rebecca DeLuccia began a relationship in late 2012. Soon after DeLuccia learned she was pregnant in February 2013, Plotnick proposed marriage and DeLuccia accepted, but their engagement ended by September. They each retained counsel, who negotiated over Plotnick's request to be involved in the pregnancy and in the child's life afterward. In November, as the date of delivery neared, Plotnick filed for an order to show cause seeking the right to be notified when DeLuccia went into labor and to be present at delivery, among other relief.
Mohammed, who sits in Passaic County, held a hearing Nov. 19, 2013, in which DeLuccia participated telephonically from the hospital, where she had gone into labor. He denied the relief from the bench. DeLuccia delivered the child later the same day.
Mohammed cited the doctrine of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), that women have the right to control their bodies during pregnancy. He also cited Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), which struck down a state law requiring married women to notify their husbands before having an abortion.
In addition, the New Jersey Supreme Court held in Kinsella v. NYT Television, 382 N.J. Super 102 (2005), that disclosure of a patient's hospital admission to the would violate the New Jersey Hospital Patient Bill of Rights.
Plotnick also sought the right to sign the birth certificate on the day of the birth, to have the child bear his surname and to obtain an order granting him parenting time.
Mohammed held the request for parenting time was not ripe for judicial consideration, since the best interests of the child cannot be determined before birth, said. Entering a pre-birth order granting the father's application to be named on the birth certificate on the day of birth or his request for the child to have his surname, would be inappropriate because the mother did not consent to those actions, he said.
DeLuccia's application for counsel fees was denied, based on a finding that both parties advanced reasonable positions and neither acted in bad faith.
Plotnick's lawyer, Laura Nunnick of November & Nunnick in Glen Rock, said she "assumed [fathers] have equal rights to be there" at childbirth. She said the ruling was "a well-reasoned decision, although I was upset for fathers and their rights." Her client was eventually able to see the baby in the nursery.
DeLuccia's lawyer Joanna Brick, a Fair Lawn solo, says the ruling correctly focuses on the mother's privacy, noting that during childbirth, she was "partially naked. Why should she expose herself in the most personal, intimate moment of her life?"
Brick says the ruling is significant because there is scant case law on disputes among unmarried parents, even though such litigation is prolific.
Brian Schwartz, chairman of the New Jersey State Bar Association's Family Law Section, says the decision "clears up the issue for once and for all that the woman gets to make that decision" about who is present when she gives birth, and is a "good opinion for moms to know they have a safe haven in the hospital."
Full report at:
Statement from Human Rights Watch: Iraq's Council of Ministers should withdraw a new draft Personal Status Law and ensure that Iraq’s legal framework protects women and girls in line with its international obligations. The pending legislation would restrict women’s rights in matters of inheritance and parental and other rights after divorce make it easier for men to take multiple wives, and allow girls to be married from age nine.
The draft law, called the Jaafari Personal Status Law, is based on the principles of the Jaafari school of Shia religious jurisprudence, founded by Imam Jaafar al-Sadiq, the sixth Shia imam. Approved by the Council of Ministers on February 25, 2014, it must now be approved by the parliament to become law.
“Passage of the Jaafari law would be a disastrous and discriminatory step backward for Iraq’s women and girls,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This personal status law would only entrench Iraq’s divisions while the government claims to support equal rights for all.”
The draft law would cover Iraq’s Shia citizens and residents, a majority of the population of 36 million. It includes provisions that prohibit Muslim men from marrying non-Muslims, legalizes marital rape by stating that a husband is entitled to have sex with his wife regardless of her consent, and prevents women from leaving the house without permission from their husbands. The law would automatically grant custody over any child age two or older to the father in divorce cases, lower the marriage age to nine for girls and fifteen for boys, and even allow girls younger than nine to be married with a parent’s approval.
Justice Minister Hassan al-Shimmari introduced the draft law to the Council of Ministers on October 27, 2013. In December, the council said it would postpone considering the draft until after legislative elections scheduled for April 30, 2014, and after the supreme Shia religious authority (marji’iya) approved the draft, which it has not yet done. But the council went ahead and approved it on February 25 despite strong opposition from rights advocates and some religious leaders.
Iraq’s current Personal Status Law (Law 188 of 1959), which applies to all Iraqis regardless of sect, sets the legal age for marriage at 18, but allows for a judge to permit girls as young as 15 to be married in “urgent” cases. In December 2012, the Lebanese news outlet Al-Safir reported that rates of early marriage of girls had risen drastically in Iraq in the previous decade. In 2013, the Population Reference Bureau, an international organization, reported that “the decline in early marriage has stopped in … Iraq,” citing its own statistics that 25 percent of girls marry before age 18 and 6 percent before age 15. The draft law’s provisions would legalize, rather than try to reverse, Iraq’s growing child marriage problem, Human Rights Watch said.
The draft law violates the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Iraq ratified in 1986, by giving fewer rights to women and girls on the basis of their gender. It also violates the Convention on Rights of the Child, which Iraq ratified in 1994, by legalizing child marriage, putting girls at risk of forced and early marriage and susceptible to sexual abuse, and not requiring decisions about children in divorce cases to be made in the best interests of the child.
The draft law ignores article 2 of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women by legalizing marital rape, Human Rights Watch said. The CEDAW committee, the body of international experts who review state compliance with the convention, in its February 28, 2014 review of Iraq’s reports, urged the government to “immediately withdraw the draft Jaafari personal status law.” The law also appears to violate the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by granting fewer rights to certain individuals on the basis of their religion.
The draft law also starkly contrasts with article 14 of Iraq’s constitution, which prohibits “discrimination and distinction between Iraqis” and guarantees the equality of all Iraqis “without distinction to religion, faith, nationality, sex, opinion, economic or social status.” Article 13 of Iraq’s constitution stipulates that it is the “supreme law” in Iraq and that “no law that contradicts this Constitution shall be enacted.”
In addition to its concern over the draft’s specific discriminatory provisions, the CEDAW committee concluded that, more generally, “identity-based personal status laws and customs perpetuate discrimination against women and that the preservation of multiple legal systems is in itself discriminatory against women.” The committee has previously said that the lack of individual choice relating to the application or observance of particular laws and customs exacerbates this discrimination.
A broad spectrum of Iraqi rights activists, Sunni and Shia religious leaders, and judges have criticized the draft law as discriminatory, violating religious texts, and, because the law would single out one sect, entrenching sectarian divisions in law. The Iraqi Women’s Network, an association of women’s rights groups, held protests on March 8, International Women’s Day, calling it a day of mourning in Iraq.
“Iraq is in conflict and undergoing a breakdown of the rule of law,” Basma al-Khateeb, a women’s rights activist, told Human Rights Watch. “The passage of the Jaafari law sets the ground for legalized inequality.”
In its review, the CEDAW committee had also recommended that Iraq repeal discriminatory legal exceptions to the minimum age of marriage for girls in the existing Personal Status Law. It said that legal exceptions to the minimum age of marriage should be granted only in exceptional cases and authorized by a competent court for both girls and boys, and only in cases in which they are at least 16 years old and give their express consent. It recommended that Iraq take the necessary legislative measures to prohibit polygamy, which is permitted in the current law under certain circumstances.
More generally, the committee expressed concern over the generally poor status of women’s rights in the country, which it attributed in part to the government’s “strengthening the role of the security sector” at the expense of the enforcement of the rule of law, since its initiatives “have not given due consideration to the establishment of accountability mechanisms and … have resulted in rampant impunity.” The committee said it “is particularly concerned that this situation, along with pervasive corruption, has contributed to an increase of violence against women by State and non-State actors, as well as to the reinforcement of traditional and patriarchal attitudes which limit women’s and girls’ enjoyment of their rights.”
“This draft personal status law flies in the faces of the Iraqi government’s legal commitments to protect women’s and girls’ rights,” Stork said. “Passage of this law by parliament may lead to further discriminatory laws. It is all well and good to have a good constitution on paper, but lawmakers need to respect its principles.”
The Jewish holiday of Purim will take place next week, amid typically boisterous celebrations. But one group is warning that young Jewish girls face a serious danger on the day of drinking and celebrating the Jewish people's rescue from destruction in ancient Persia.
Patty Kupfer, Director of Learn and Live, a group focused on saving Jewish girls from abusive relationships, notes one particularly drunk 17-year-old girl last Purim was nearly "helped" by two Arab men into their car.
"We intervened and took her to our ‘safe tent’ where female staff look after girls and let them sleep off the liquor till the morning. We save girls like this every year," reported Kupfer.
Kupfer notes that particularly in downtown Jerusalem, 15- to 18-year-old girls tend to take too far the religious imperative to drink and revel in the salvation back in the days of Queen Esther, becoming inebriated and unwittingly putting themselves in danger of being taken advantage of.
Those interested in volunteering with the group to patrol Jerusalem this Purim in two hour two-person shifts are invited to e-mail. The group emphasizes no dangerous activities will be required. Those interested in more information or donating can find more here.
Exploitation of Jewish girls -- not just for Purim
Knesset figures state that last year over 700 young Jewish girls were lured into relationships with Arab men, only to be confronted by abuse. Reportedly over a thousand calls from girls trapped in Arab villages are fielded by Israeli hotlines every year, with many others unable to call.
The group notes that Muslim legal authority Sheik Abu Humam Al-Athari announced in 2011 that Islamic law encourage Arab men to capture "infidel" (Jewish and Christian) women. Since the ruling, Learn and Live reports the number of Jewish girls who have "gone missing" more than doubled.
“This is a silent war and our daughters on are on the front line,” warns Kupfer. “Vulnerability and low self-esteem, combined with the Sharia law, has led to this disastrous state of affairs for the girls and for the Jewish people.”
Kupfer's group tries to help Jewish girls before they are taken to Arab villages, and is looking to raise funds for more counsellors, a new shelter, and an awareness program to warn school students of the dangers. Over 600 girls are on the group's list now, after parents or friends called for help.
The group's director notes "a girl doesn’t usually fall for wining and dining unless she’s in a lot of pain, lonely and searching for the attention and affection that’s missing in her life. We work with the girl, her family and friends to help get her life back on solid footing.”
Blue-collar Saudi women are role models
With regard to the article “Saudi women proud of blue-collar jobs” (Mar. 10), I say: ladies, don't pay any attention to anyone who makes silly comments about your work. You women are role models and will always be admired and respected for your services and dedication. One day you will be made managers and will have those who laughed at you working under you. So ignore them and keep up the hard work. Women in other countries work as plumbers, mechanics, etc. and they are still beautiful and are married with lovely families.
Women representation in Balochistan cabinet demanded
QUETTA: Speakers at a seminar here have urged the Balochistan government to ensure their representation in the provincial cabinet by inducting a female minister or adviser.The seminar was held by the Department of Women Development in connection with the International Women Day.
The provincial government is a coalition of three parties and the cabinet comprises of 15 ministers and five advisers. However, there is no woman in the cabinet.
All three political parties claim to be champions of women’s rights but even the women development portfolio rests with MPA Izhar Hussain Khoso, who presided over the seminar, while women MPAs and representatives of NGOs expressed concern at lack of their representation in the cabinet.
Mir Izhar admitted that no society could progress without the participation of women. “The role of woman cannot be ignored because men and women play their role jointly for the development of the society,” he said, adding that Islamic teachings also supported the role of women and suggested giving them rights.He announced that women’s centres would be set up in all divisional headquarters.
The Aurat Foundation’s Saima Haroon Durrani and MPAs Yasmeen Lehri and Samina Khan also spoke.
Ms Durrani demanded that a ‘commission for women’ should be set up in Balochistan, as had been done in two other provinces.
A spokesman for the Balochistan government, Mir Jan Muhammad Buledi, said the government was facing challenges in connection with women’s rights. “We are living in a tribal society in which boosting women’s role is a big achievement,” he said.
Women in Iran must not give up hope that they can bring change
International Women’s Day, celebrated last week for the 106th year, marks continued progress for women across the world, but that progress has been reversed in countries where Islamic fundamentalism has taken hold. And nowhere is women’s freedom more under official assault than in Iran.
Prior to the Islamic Revolution in 1979, women in Iran had significant personal freedom and protection under the law. One of the first changes the Ayatollah Khomeini made after taking power was to revoke the 1967 Family Protection Law, which governed marriage, divorce and family custody.
Today, women have less than second-class status in Iran. Their husbands may divorce them at will and take as many as four concurrent wives, and divorced women have no custody rights to their own children once the child reaches age 2. Women are denied the right to study what they choose and are forbidden from entering certain professions and from studying abroad unless accompanied by their husbands. Their testimony in court is devalued: Two women must testify to carry the same weight as one man.
The court system is an arm of fundamentalist Islam. Female victims of crime receive less justice than male victims. Punishment for harming or even killing a woman is less harsh than if the victim is a man. What we in the West might consider moral transgressions, such as adultery, incur the severest criminal penalties, including the stoning to death of female adulterers. Even minor transgressions, such as failing to wear the hijab, can result in beatings and imprisonment.
Last week in Paris, however, I joined a group of prominent women gathered to draw attention to the plight of women in Iran and under other Islamic extremist governments. The conference theme, “Women Leading the Fight Against Islamic Fundamentalism,” drew speakers including former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, former president of the German Bundestag Rita Sussmuth, South African activist Nontombi Naomi Tutu, and Mariane Pearl, journalist and widow of reporter Daniel Pearl, whose videotaped execution by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed became a symbol of the barbarity of al-Qaida.
Maryam Rajavi, the conference organizer and president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, described the outrageous misogyny that the mullahs inflict on Iran: an acid attack against a woman and her daughter in the streets of Tehran, forced marriages for girls under 15, and new laws (unopposed by the so-called moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani) that allow men to marry their adopted daughters at age 13.
But Rajavi’s message was not one of despair. “Iranian women and all women in the region must move from being hopeless to being hopeful. They have to move from simply being angry to becoming inspired to change and to bring about change.”
It was the same message Tutu invoked. Recalling her famous father, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, she described a visit he made to Alaska during the apartheid era where he met a woman who told him that she woke every morning at 3 to pray for the liberation of South Africa. “And he said, ‘What chance does the apartheid regime have when we were being prayed for at 3 o’clock in the morning in Alaska?’ … What chance does the regime stand when there are young women inside Iran leading protests on college campuses? What chance does the regime stand when the opposition is led by a woman named Mrs. Rajavi? No chance! No chance!”
Pearl spoke of resistance in personal terms. “The women that we talked about today are those ordinary women with a mighty heart — and they can defeat terrorism,” she said. “They also know that we have no choice but to win that fight.”
Women make up more than half of the population of Iran. The mullahs may try to silence them, deprive them of their rights, even take away their children. But women will be the face of change in Iran. And it is time feminists in the West stood by their side in the fight against Islamic extremism.
Lebanon has come at the bottom of a ranking of women in the lower house or single house of parliament in The Women in Politics Map 2014, launched by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and U.N. Women.
The research, which was released on Tuesday, gave Lebanon a 3.1 percent of female representation, putting it 139th in the rankings.
There are only four women in the 128-member parliament in Lebanon.
At the bottom of the rankings are Micronesia, Palau, Qatar and Vanuatu without a single woman parliamentarian and 13 countries, with less than 5 percent female representation — Yemen, Oman, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Comoros, Lebanon, Iran, Belize, Tonga, Samoa, Haiti and Kuwait.
The research, showed the number of women parliamentarians at a record 21.8 percent globally, following a 1.5 percent increase in the past year.
IPU Secretary-General Anders Johnsson said 10 years ago he was predicting that even his children would never see gender parity in parliaments because progress was so slow.
But if the 1.5 percent rate can be sustained "we would reach gender equality, gender parity, in parliaments globally less than 20 years from now," he said.
In the ranking of women in the lower house or single house of parliament, Rwanda tops the list with 63.8 percent female representation followed by Andorra with 50 percent and nine countries with 40 percent or higher — Cuba, Sweden, South Africa, Seychelles, Senegal, Finland, Ecuador, Belgium and Nicaragua.
Source: Associated Press
Ann Osman balances MMA, religion as Muslim female athletic pioneer
An Osman won't be labeled. She won't let anyone put her in a category.
She's a Muslim Malay, a woman and a professional mixed martial arts fighter. But none of those three things define her as a person. In her mind, and in the minds of those closest to her, she's just Ann Osman.
Osman hasn't lost sight of that with all the attention she's garnered lately.
In November, she became the first Muslim female to compete at a high level of MMA when she fought Sherilyn Lim at ONE FC: Total Domination in Singapore in October. The two will meet again in a rematch Friday at ONE FC: War of Nations (the first bout was a razor-close win for Lim) and it will be even more significant. Osman will be the first Muslim woman to fight MMA in a Muslim country. She'll be home, in Malaysia.
Most of the feedback she has gotten has been positive. Osman, 27, is something of a media darling in Malaysia, which is pretty liberal in urban areas. ONE FC PR head Loren Mack says she's one of the most requested athletes on the roster despite having just one career fight.
There has also been some negativity. Nothing major, but Osman has haters different from most MMA fighters. Her critics question her devotion to her religion. Osman wore a sports bra for the first fight against Lim. She doesn't wear a headscarf. She does photo shoots for magazines.
"I have my own way," Osman told FOX Sports. "I don't eat pork. I pray. I don'??t cover up and stuff. People judge me for that. I'm like whatever. I know what I'm doing. I still think of God. It's not like I don'??t have a belief. It's my lifestyle."
The way Osman practices Islam is perfectly acceptable in Sabah, where she lives, and Kuala Lumpur, where the fight takes place Friday (Online PPV, 7 a.m. ET). That isn't the case everywhere in Malaysia or the region. Protests by radical Muslim groups in Jakarta forced out the Miss World beauty pageant last year. Osman could be teetering on the brink as she continues to get more and more popular.
"If she should really get major attention at some point, you might see a backlash," said Michael Buehler, a political science professor at Northern Illinois who specializes in Asian Studies. "I don't think she's reached that threshold yet. Should she get beyond that, then there probably is going to be a protest."
Osman has been in FHM Malaysia, a men's magazine, in workout clothes, but said she would draw the line at taking photos in a bikini, because that would violate her "own personal principles." The offers will certainly be there. Osman is extremely marketable -- young, attractive and charismatic.
ONE FC CEO Victor Cui is experiencing a little bit of what the UFC has with the rapid rise of women's MMA, led by Ronda Rousey. Lim, he said, is now the most famous athlete -- male or female -- in her home country of Singapore, which is also where ONE FC is based. Osman draws "swarms" at shopping malls when she does appearances.
"We're lucky in that not only do they like fighting, they are articulate, attractive and media savvy," Cui told FOX Sports. "Once in awhile you get athletes who put that all together and it makes a big difference."
This was part of Cui's plan all along. He said Osman's debut has "been in the works for awhile." Malaysia's minister of sport, Khairy Jamaluddin, is behind her competing and he'll be in attendance Friday at Stadium Negara.
"You have to imagine what a quantum leap from two years ago when nobody [in Malaysia] ever heard of mixed martial arts," Cui said.
While ONE FC is promoting Osman-Lim, a 115-pound fight, hard, it remains a preliminary bout. It'll be just the second fight on a card headlined by a welterweight title fight between Brock Larson and Nobutatsu Suzuki. Osman and Lim, after all, only have one professional fight of experience apiece. Osman works full time as a business development manager.
Cui said the crowd reaction in October for the two women was one of the loudest of the night. It was a back-and-forth fight with Lim taking the decision. The third round was nominated for 2013 WMMA Round of the Year by Bloody Elbow.
"They're role models," Cui said. "They're inspirational. They are legitimately the every day woman who are challenging themselves to another level to improve themselves through martial arts."
Osman is still pretty uncomfortable with being a role model, but she hopes she can inspire other women, Muslim or otherwise. She said the amount of females at her Borneo Tribal Squad gym has tripled since her fight with Lim in October.
"MMA is kind of new here," Osman said. "It's just starting to grow. It's just great to actually make some contributions to the growth of the sport."
Malaysia actually has a long history of females in traditional martial arts and Osman is helping meld the worlds of the old guard and MMA. She's also helping to bring worldwide awareness -- not only to ONE FC but also her region and religion.
"She's a good ambassador," Buehler said. "She's young, she's attractive, she's successful. I could see how that's creating a kind of trend."
Just don't expect to pin Osman down as a stereotype.
Iran models seek ‘porn star’ look: photographer
In Iran, the girl next door is out; the porn star look is in, according to one prominent Iranian fashion photographer.
As the modeling profession skyrockets in Iran, girls hoping to enter the competitive market are increasingly altering their appearances to the ‘porn star’ look, states the photographer known as B.K, according to The Guardian.
Foregoing capitalizing on their natural Iranian-esque beauty, models are seeking the ‘porn star’ look, or one that looks highly doctored and surgically altered, the well-known photographer explains.
In an increasingly vanity-driven culture, plastic surgery has become the norm among Iran’s middle and upper classes, with one of the world’s highest nose surgery rate, The Guardian reported Wednesday.
Despite the expanding opportunities for models, those not wearing the hijab are legally banned from appearing in magazines, TV commercials or are catwalks. Even fashion shows that feature women wearing a hijab must first seek an official permit from the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance, a difficult task.
For female models seeking to work without a hijab, work must be conducted in secrecy under the radar of the authorities.
Since there are few catwalks in Iran and the fashion scene is much more about photo shoots, an Iranian model Mahya explains.
While she said being tall is not necessarily a plus for models, “They choose the women more often who have had cosmetic surgery – women with lip and cheekbone enhancements or nose surgery,” she explains.
While Mahya says she values her natural look and denies have plastic surgery, she does agree that models with less traditional Iranian features are more popular.
With competition running high between models, it is not uncommon for those starting out to work for free. Models who represent themselves struggle to gain the same traffic as those connected to a studio. Established models can make up to one million tomans – about £220 – for a TV advertisement, or 400,000 tomans per day for a fashion shoot.
However, women must walk a fine line between success and super-stardom.
Becoming too known is riskier for women than it is for men. Many thus prefer to work exclusively underground, finding acclaim within the elite north Tehran fashion community.
Others choose the hijab-only route, which allows them more public exposure.
Initiative worth SR10bn aims to train and employ Saudi women in garment sector
An initiative to establish an academy and a factory to train and employ Saudi women in the garment industry is being launched by 35 Saudi women fashion designers at a cost of more than SR10 billion.
Umaima Azoz, a Saudi fashion designer responsible for this venture said in a recent press conference held on the occasion that it is the first of its kind in the Kingdom.
“We aim to train women in the production line, with the participation of renowned local and international women designers. The production will target both Saudi and international markets,” she said
The press conference was held on the sidelines of the announcement of the first international exhibition for machineries and equipment of the textile and garment industry, which will be held on Mar. 25 and will last for six days at the Jeddah Center for Forums & Events.
Azoz said the initiative includes 35 major fashion designers, along with 60 sub-designers in efforts to unify and integrate the garment industry in Saudi Arabia. “This will achieve a quantum leap in the local garment industry,” she added.
She said that the need to establish an academy surfaced because of a dearth of local training institutes the Kingdom.
She said that the members of the initiative visited the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry to garner its support to complete the red tape for the establishment of the academy and the factory. “We intend to make the JCCI a strategic partner to support the garment industry,” she explained.
Muhyiddin Hakmi, assistant secretary general and general manager of information technology at JCCI said the chamber is considering forming a committee for fashion design which will include Saudi women fashion designers.
Hakmi said the garment industry is a great opportunity for productive families and small-and-medium enterprises considering that the industry will attract international companies that will display state-of–the-art textile and garment machineries.