New Age Islam News Bureau
24 Aug 2012
• Iran Barring Women From Atomic, Oil Fields Draws Rebuke
• 'Perpetual' power cuts leading to 'painful' divorces in Egypt
• Gaza 'not consulted' over reforms to divorce law
• Pak told of India's concern over abduction of Hindu girls
• Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy denied meeting with lawyer
• President attributes UNESCO literacy award to women empowerment
• Lipscomb speaker addresses Americans' misconceptions about Islam, women's rights
• World Bank MD Sri Mulyani on Forbes’ Most Powerful Women List for Fourth Time
• Abduction of girl: Court orders arrest warrants for Chiniot DPO, SHO
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Photo: 'Perpetual' power cuts leading to 'painful' divorces in Egypt
Iran's War on Female Doctors and Male Nurses
Shirin Sadeghi Host, New America Now, ex-BBC and Al Jazeera journalist
The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has always been wary of women. The reasons vary, of course, though the predominant belief is that the attitude stems from sexism rooted in religion and tradition. There is, as well, a more practical reason for it: a government that has from its very beginning demanded and exerted control of the people's lives is naturally resistant to those who acquire any measure of independence.
And that is exactly what Iranian women have done in the last 33 years: they've found a way to be independent in a country that is very tightly controlled, particularly if you are female.
Education has almost always been the key to that success -- the one sure ticket to independence.
This week's announcement that 36 universities across Iran have banned 77 fields of study to women is just the latest example of the Iranian government's particular disdain for the progress that women have made in education. While it is true that the universities made this decision on their own, the government has not opposed this decision and the universities are not facing any legal action by the government for having done so.
It is not, clearly, a violation of Iranian law to segregate in education, and therein lies the heart of the problem.
For Iranian women, this is a double blow: it is not only their fields of study that are limited but also their avenues for financial and personal independence. The fact is that Iranian women are the most educated women in the world -- according to UNESCO, Iran has the highest ratio of female to male university enrollment in the world. And the Iranian government has been overtly acting to change that statistic by placing quotas on women university entrants, particularly in specific fields, such as the most prestigious ones: medicine and engineering.
One of the first moves the fledgling Islamic Republic government made was in the education of those who treat women. It began just after the new government fell into place in 1979: with bans on all male gynecologists and obstetricians. Both fields and their practitioners suffered. But what suffered more were Iranian women: when you're in pain or when your water has broken, you're very unlikely to care about who exactly can help you. Even the most pious Iranians understand that in matters of life, death and health, segregation is hardly a priority.
Yet, the government moved forward with its plans to prevent women from seeing male doctors for their female health needs. Most existing male gynecologists and obstetricians closed down their practices and moved into general medical care or other fields. Those who were too senior to make drastic changes, quietly practiced, though lost many patients due to the fear and paranoia surrounding the issue and never fully recovered from the onslaught. And women suffered because they could be questioned or even arrested for seeing their long-time doctors. Or, they had to join the long lines of other women waiting in line at the few medical practices where the doctor was female.
This was at the beginning of the Islamic Republic, at a time when the government called for an increase in reproduction by eliminating the family-planning programs that the Shah had put into place, due to Ayatollah Khomeini's announcement that both Islam and Iran needed greater populations. The Islamic Republic has changed little when it comes to its understanding of the role of women: they are child-bearers first and foremost and, when they deign to pursue higher education, should be in fields that "women do," including fields that address women's needs. This year, the government has again eliminated its family-planning programs, including the mandatory birth control classes upon marriage.
In the intervening years, the Iranian government realized that doubling your population from around 30 million to more than 60 million in just one generation is a grand pressure on the nation's resources. It went on to build the only state-sponsored condom production factory in the Middle East ("45 million condoms a year, in 30 different shapes, colors and flavors").
It also went on to, grudgingly, look the other way at the existing male gynecologists and obstetricians who continued to practice despite the ban. However, no new male gynecologists and obstetricians have graduated since the post-Revolutionary ban: the residency programs in these two fields are limited to female medical graduates. Troublingly, the now limited knowledge that male physicians have about gynecology and obstetrics has impacted their ability to effectively treat female patients, particularly in rural areas where the number of female physicians is even more limited than in urban areas.
This week, in addition to the bans on certain fields of study for women, the government announced a renewed attack on healthcare providers (and thus healthcare recipients). As before, it is heavily tinged with gender issues. The national Nursing Association has banned male nurses. Nursing, the Iranian government seems to believe, is a woman's job, not a man's. This is no doubt also an attempt to absorb the growing number of Iranian female students who, though highly qualified, will be rejected from medical school and other prestigious fields of study because of quotas and prohibitions on female students.
What's ironic is that under the Islamic Republic, more Iranian women have become educated at institutions of higher learning than they had under the monarchy. Many observers attributed this to the fact that religious families finally acquiesced, in the post Revolutionary Iran, to allowing their daughters to go to university because of segregated university options, required hejab, and a curriculum that mandates religious studies and practice.
But what is also true is that in a society run by a sexist government, girls and women, mothers and sisters have learned all too well that their only hope for independence is an education -- a good one. A woman with a degree is less likely to get a job than a man with the same degree, but she is more likely to get one than a woman who has no degree at all. Further, the very process of getting the degree -- going to university -- is itself an act of independence and a chance for Iranian women to enter new avenues of social and intellectual exchange which they would not get if they were stuck at home.
Medicine and health are the two fields that are most sought after, because they provide the greatest job security and independence. For this reason, in the last decade, women's medicine entrance test scores have been consistently higher on average than men's. And for that reason, the government placed a quota on how many women could be accepted to medical school.
There is this saying in post-Revolutionary Iran that when the government tries to show some muscle, it is the women who are targeted first. The saying is based in quite some truth: when times are tough, politically, the morals police take to the streets in greater droves to harass and insult girls and women for their mandatory hejab. This scarf is too bright. This coat is too short. This makeup is unacceptable. And so on.
During this time of heightened fear of war and horrible economic conditions brought about by financial mismanagement, corruption and US sanctions, the Islamic Republic government is in a political quagmire. It is not surprising that they are going after the women again. It is another power move on the marginalized gender, no doubt, but it is also a show of ignorance by a government that has now cemented a culture of sexism in a society where women -- the strong, talented and intelligent women of Iran -- are in fact essential to the nation's growth.
Iran Barring Women From Atomic, Oil Fields Draws Rebuke
By Jonathan Tirone - Aug 21, 2012
Iran’s decision to forbid women from studying dozens of subjects including nuclear physics and oil engineering threatens to wipe out one of the last vestiges of gender equality in the country, a Nobel Peace laureate said.
The Islamic Republic’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology has barred women in 36 universities from 77 fields of study, according to state-run media including the Mehr news agency. Female students learned of the curbs when they received their registration letters in recent weeks.
The new rules “demonstrate that the Iranian authorities cannot tolerate women’s presence in the public arena,” Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi wrote in an open letter to the United Nations dated Aug. 17. “They are trying to push women back to the private sphere of their homes so they may abandon their opposition and legitimate demands.”
The restrictions follow gender-segregation guidelines that Science Minister Kamran Daneshjou tried -- unsuccessfully -- to impose last year. While the government requires women to cover their hair and bodies in line with religious values, they had been eligible to study on equal terms with their male counterparts. Improved female literacy and gender equality were key elements in human development gains after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
About 52 percent of Iranian university students who graduated in 2009 were women, according to the latest data published by the UN Education Scientific and Cultural Organization. Sixty-eight percent of science graduates were women, Paris-based UNESCO said.
High unemployment among women graduating from science-based degree programs is a justification for the ban, the chancellor of the University of Isfahan, Mohammad Hossein Ramesht, told Mehr. About 98 percent of women who graduated from mine- engineering programs are without jobs, he said, citing surveys.
“We do not need female students at all,” said Gholamrez Rashed, head of the University of Petroleum Technology, Mehr reported today. Difficult working conditions in Iran’s oil industry is the main reason for not admitting women, he said.
Iran, the third-biggest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting, is pumping less crude than Iraq for the first time in 20 years, OPEC said in an Aug. 9 report. The country is under international sanctions over its atomic work.
The feminist movement “has witnessed significant growth in the past two decades,” wrote Ebadi, an Iranian human-rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 and lives in exile in the U.K. “The government is seeking to bar women’s access to education and active presence in society.”
Iran’s leaders are “pushing them back to into the house in the hope that they abandon their demands and leave the government alone to pursue its wrong policies,” she said.
Other subjects restricted to male study when universities open next month include English literature, hotel management, computer science and accounting, according to local media.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who opposed Daneshjou’s push to segregate male and female students because it was “unscientific,” hasn’t commented publicly on the decision to ban women from coursework.
'Perpetual' power cuts leading to 'painful' divorces in Egypt
Aug 22 2012
Cairo : An Egyptian woman has filed for divorce from her husband after he refused to relocate from their district, which was hit by frequent power cuts.
The mother of two said in her lawsuit that their home had become unsuitable to live in because it was located in a densely populated area, comprising ex-cons and unlicensed hawkers, reports Gulf News.
According to the woman, when she insisted on moving to another house, her spouse insulted and beat her up in front of their children. She said her husband was financially capable of affording a new house. The court is yet to rule on the divorce request, the paper said.
This summer Egypt has been plagued by unprecedented power outages, which the government has blamed on soaring consumption rates and high temperatures.
Angry Egyptians have taken to the streets in several parts of the nation and blocked major roads in protest. President Mohammad Mursi''s government has promised an improvement in the situation after new generation plants are launched into operation this year.
Gaza 'not consulted' over reforms to divorce law
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Religious authorities in the West Bank failed to consult their counterparts in the Gaza Strip over proposed changes to divorce laws, the head of Islamic courts in Gaza said Thursday.
The chief Islamic judge in the West Bank Sheikh Yusef Ideis announced Thursday that the Islamic supreme court would meet Monday to discuss a new law granting women the right to initiate divorce.
The law will come into effect in September, Ideis said in a statement.
But the head of Islamic courts in Gaza Hassan al-Juju told Ma'an there had been no coordination on the new law. "No one consulted us on this issue."
Al-Juju said Islamic authorities in Gaza would be happy to study the new law if it was discussed with them, but as they had not been consulted it would only apply in the West Bank.
He added that personal status laws should be unified across the West Bank and Gaza.
Meanwhile, member of the Secretariat of the General Union of Palestinian Women Khawla al-Azraq welcomed the reform which she said would protect women suffering from domestic violence.
The new law follows a rise in incidents in which women were killed by their relatives and husbands in the West Bank, al-Azraq noted.
She told Ma'an that rights campaigners were waiting for the Palestinian Authority to adopt a new set of personal status laws, drafted by women's groups, to protect women from domestic violence.
Laws in the West Bank and Gaza are drawn from several legal systems as a result of various foreign occupations. Jordanian law is applied in the West Bank, and Egyptian laws are in force in Gaza.
Both legislative systems discriminate against women, allowing men to divorce far more easily than women.
Efforts to unify the legislative framework and enact Palestinian laws have been hampered by Israel's occupation and detention of lawmakers, and the internal division which led to separate governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Pak told of India's concern over abduction of Hindu girls
Aug 23 2012
New Delhi : India has expressed its "serious concern" to Pakistan over abduction, forced conversion and marriage of Hindu girls against their will to Muslim men in that country.
A demarche was made to Pakistan in this regard on May 8 to convey India's expectation that the Government of Pakistan will look after the well-being of its minority communities and discharge its responsibilities in that regard.
Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahmed today told Rajya Sabha that the government has from time to time come across reports on the problems faced by members of the minority communities in Pakistan.
"According to reports, a Pakistani TV channel, ARY Digital, telecast a programmee on July 26 during which a person, reportedly a Hindu, was converted to Islam," he said in a written reply.
Full report at:
Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy denied meeting with lawyer
Aug 24, 2012
ISLAMABAD: A lawyer for a young Pakistani Christian girl arrested on blasphemy charges in a poor suburb of Islamabad claimed Thursday he had been refused a meeting with her.
Police arrested the girl, Rimsha, who reportedly has Down’s Syndrome, in a low-income neighbourhood of the capital last Thursday after she was accused of burning papers containing verses from the Quran, and remanded her for 14 days.
Rimsha, aged between 11 and 16, is being held in a jail in Islamabad’s twin city Rawalpindi, and her case has prompted concern from Western governments and fury from rights campaigners.
“The lawyers are facing difficulties to see the accused girl. The jail authorities have told them to get permission from the top authorities,” Shamaun Alfred Gill, a spokesman for All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), told AFP.
Her legal team said they had approached the higher authorities in Punjab province but could not get a go ahead for the meeting.
“I myself contacted the inspector general (of prisons) by phone and he told me that he will call me back, but I am still waiting to speak to him,” Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, one of Rimsha’s lawyers, told AFP.
Full report at:
President attributes UNESCO literacy award to women empowerment
Bagus BT Saragih
August 24 2012
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says that Indonesia was able to win UNESCO’s top literacy prize because of the country’s comprehensive education programs, particularly its women empowerment programs.
“This achievement proves that Indonesia’s literacy program has successfully enhanced educational quality and eradicated illiteracy through entrepreneurship, reading, culture and training that reached 3 million women,” he said during a meeting at the State Palace in Bogor, West Java, on Friday.
On Wednesday, UNESCO announced that Indonesia would receive the King Sejong Literacy Prize, along with Rwanda, given its achievements in reducing the illiteracy rate in the country.
The United Nations’ organization will also honor the literacy programs of Bhutan and Colombia.
According to UNESCO data, Indonesia had a 93 percent literacy rate in 2009, on a par with neighboring countries Malaysia and Singapore, which had literacy rates of 93 percent and 95 percent, respectively.
“This achievement means that UNESCO recognized that Indonesia was ready to compete globally,” said Yudhoyono.
UNESCO will present the awards during a ceremony at its Paris headquarters on Sept. 6, as part of the celebrations for International Literacy Day on Sept. 8.
Lipscomb speaker addresses Americans' misconceptions about Islam, women's rights
Aug 24, 2012
For Jihan Abdulla, hearing Maha ElGenaidi speak about the misconceptions regarding Islam and the treatment of Muslim women Thursday night was refreshing.
“I think she showed everyone that no matter what religion we follow, we are more alike than we are different,” said Abdulla, an international relations major at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.
“I think a lot of people see my (head scarf) and assume I’m oppressed, have no life and have no say, but it’s the complete opposite. I actually feel like I have more rights than American women. I don’t have to live by the standards of beauty. This is just me.”
Abdulla, who was raised Muslim and moved to the United States from Kurdistan at age 2, was one of about 350 people who attended ElGenaidi’s presentation, “Women and Shariah,” at Lipscomb University. The event was organized by the Family of Abraham, a group committed to providing learning opportunities in an effort to combat religious-based hatred.
During her presentation, ElGenaidi, who is president and CEO of the national education outreach organization Islamic Networks Group, contrasted how Muslim women are treated, both in America and beyond, with what Islam actually teaches.
“The vast majority of Americans know very little about Islam,” she told the crowd. “They think women are veiled, stupid and have very little rights.”
Full report at:
World Bank MD Sri Mulyani on Forbes’ Most Powerful Women List for Fourth Time
August 24, 2012
Forbes has once again included World Bank managing director Sri Mulyani Indrawati on its World’s Most Powerful Women list.
Released on Thursday, the magazine’s 2012 edition of the list placed the former finance minister of Indonesia at number 72, down from her 65th place ranking last year.
This is the fourth time Sri Mulyani has been present on the list. Forbes first included her on it in 2008, ranking her 23rd. She was mentioned again in 2009, although her ranking dropped considerably to 72nd.
Sri Mulyani, 49, served as the Indonesian finance minister from 2005 to 2010. She started serving as one of the three managing directors of the World Bank during May of 2010.
“The most senior woman” at the bank — as Forbes referred to her — oversees its operations in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
“Indrawati’s ongoing attention at the World Bank to middle-income countries such as Indonesia and the BRIC nations as a source of power and needed reform draws from her experiences as the Indonesian Minister of Finance from 2005 to 2010,” Forbes has commented.
Full report at:
Abduction of girl : Court orders arrest warrants for Chiniot DPO, SHO
August 24 2012
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Chiniot District Police Officer (DPO) Shahzad Akbar, SHO Muhammad Younis and ASI Mazhar Iqbal for not recovering an abducted girl and also not appearing before the court.
The court ordered the deputy inspector general to recover the missing girl and produce her before the court on August 27. On the previous hearing, the court had postponed the case after the DPO assured the court that he would recover the girl, but neither he turned up on Thursday nor the girl was produced.
Hafiz Muhammad Aslam, father of the missing girl, had moved the petition for recovery of his daughter.
The petitioner’s counsel alleged that influential people of the area raped his daughter and on a complaint, the Chiniot Sadar Police Station had lodged the case against them. He said that a few days after the incident, SHO Muhammad Younis, ASI Mazhar Iqbal along with Mehdi Hassan and Shaukat came to his house and took his daughter with them to conduct her DNA in Lahore.
He alleged that since then his daughter had not retuned home and he contacted police time and again but they gave no satisfactory answer about her whereabouts. He sought directions for the recovery of his daughter.