New Age Islam News Bureau
24 Oct 2014
The First International Seminar under the banner of ‘Muslim Women’s’ viewpoints’ to be held in London with Head of the World Forum for Proximity of the Islamic Schools of Thoughts
• In West, ISIS Finds Women Eager to Enlist
• Saudi jails 4 women for preparing sons to "wage jihad, backing Qaeda"
• Pakistan: For a Majority of Rape Victims, Justice Is Still Awaited
• Saudi to Deal ‘Strictly’ With Female Drivers
• Malawi Muslims Fight Sex Customs Fuelling AIDS
• India: Chennai Public School Celebrates Malala Day
• Award winner cites ‘unsung heroes’ in Pakistan press
• Iran Acid Attacks: Authorities 'to Blame for Involving Islamic Law in Women's Lives'
• Yazidi Female Fighter Recalls Horrifying ISIS Massacre
• Egyptian Woman Arrested For 'Anti-Police' Facebook Page
• Pak SC urges govt to protect lady health workers
• As insurgency burns, revival of Thai south script points way to peace
• 1st “Muslim Women’s’ Viewpoints” Seminar to Be Held in London
• Women, Children Caught in Deadly Firefight near Tunis
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
3 Denver Girls Played Hooky from School and Tried To Join ISIS
October 24, 2014
(CNN) -- The first indication that something was wrong was a phone call from his daughter's Denver area school to let Assad Ibrahim know that she had not come to class.
He dialed her cell. And she answered. But, officials say, she didn't tell him that she was on her way to Syria to join ISIS.
She was just late for class, that's all, Ibrahim's daughter told him on Friday, according to the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, which filed a runaway report.
The American girl of Sudanese descent also kept quiet about her two girlfriends, Americans of Somali descent, who were flying with her to Turkey by way of Germany.
Two more girls, sisters
Those two had told their father, Ali Farah that they were going to the library.
But when Farah got home from work, a visitor came calling, according to the documents. Apparently, it was Ibrahim.
Farah should check to see if his daughters' passports were missing, the visitor told him -- just like his daughter's passport was.
Sure enough, they were gone, along with $2,000 in cash.
The two families called the FBI. They said they thought the girls were on their way to Turkey.
The agency put out a notice on their passports.
German authorities intercepted the trio, ages 15, 15 and 17, at Frankfurt airport and put them on a plane back to the United States, where they were greeted by FBI agents.
The three girls were questioned and released. Two U.S. officials say they had planned to join militants with ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
A former jihadist speaks out
Out of the blue
The girls' parents say they had no idea their children planned to travel. None of them had ever run away before.
Their disappearance hit them out of the blue, the way other ISIS related incidents are popping up in the Western world. Two more turned up in tandem with the girls' runaway attempt.
On Monday, a radical convert to Islam in Canada ran down two soldiers in his car, killing one of them. Martin Rouleau Couture, 25, then led police on a chase before his car rolled into a ditch in the town of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, southeast of Montreal.
He exited the car, and police shot him dead.
Back in July, Couture, too, had tried to join foreign jihad, and Canadian police arrested him on his way to Turkey. But they could not charge him and had to let him go.
And this week, a video turned up of a 17-year-old Australian boy standing with ISIS fighters and threatening to behead Western leaders, including President Obama, then fly the ISIS flag over the White House.
Colorado teen pleads guilty in plan to join ISIS
ISIS has, for an anti-Western organization, been surprisingly attractive to young recruits from the West, as well as to some young women.
More than 100 of the foreign fighters have come from the United States, according to intelligence estimates; hundreds more from Europe, which is geographically closer to the fight.
Every week, five more people from the UK alone join ISIS, a British police commissioner said Tuesday. And that's a conservative estimate.
"We know that over 500 British nationals traveled to join the conflict," said Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe from the Metropolitan Police.
"Five a week doesn't sound much, but when you realize there are 50 weeks in a year, 250 more would be 50% more than we think have gone already," he said.
To put things into perspective, though, thousands more come from the Middle East and Africa. More than 3,000 have joined from Tunisia.
Sense of belonging
It's more than just a radical interpretation of Islam that is drawing teens to the extremely bloodthirsty militant group, a former CIA officer says.
"They're often times searching for an identity, because what the jihadis are actually pushing is a specific narrative, which is: Your people (Muslims) are being oppressed in this place called Syria; your government is doing nothing; we're the only ones who are actually going to help you out," said Aki Peritz. "Why don't you join the fight?"
Richard Barrett of The Soufan Group says many of the teens lack a sense of belonging where they live, and they believe ISIS can give it to them.
"The general picture provided by foreign fighters of their lives in Syria suggests camaraderie, good morale and purposeful activity, all mixed in with a sense of understated heroism, designed to attract their friends as well as to boost their own self-esteem," he says.
And ISIS constantly cranks the PR machine, making expert use of slick videos and social media.
Echoing back West
ISIS' global digital reach has terror experts in the United States worried about security at home as well.
There are terrorist groups in Yemen and in Syria with stated ambitions of striking on American soil, but another threat is more probable, says counterterrorism expert Matt Olsen.
"I would say the most likely types of attack is one of these homegrown violent extremists or lone offenders in the United States, and (with) the rise of ISIS and the number of people going to Syria...the likelihood does go up."
Self-styled attackers like the Boston Marathon bombers could be the result.
The use of the Internet makes terrorists more vulnerable to tracking, but that has become more difficult since Edward Snowden revealed secret U.S. surveillance programs.
Opinion: What lures Americans to Syria fight?
Girls' online activities
In Denver, the 17-year-old girl was apparently the instigator of the trip, having planned it for months, two U.S. officials said.
But all three researched the plan online, visiting websites where extremists discuss how to get to Syria. The online activity didn't set off any tripwires the FBI typically uses to flag possible jihadist sympathizers, the officials said.
The FBI is combing all of their communications to see if anyone was helping them. Their parents think ISIS was behind the trip.
Investigators are also not sure the girls had even worked out the final goal for their travel.
As was the case with the Canadian, Couture, the investigation into the travel will probably not lead to charges, especially because the girls are minors, the two U.S. officials said.
On Monday, Sheriff's Deputy Evan Driscoll visited the two girls of Somali descent in their home and had a conversation with them.
"The girls explained that they stole the $2,000 and their passports from their mother," he wrote in the runaway report.
They wouldn't tell Driscoll why they flew to Germany.
The deputy called dispatchers and had the girls' runaway listing removed.
In West, ISIS Finds Women Eager to Enlist
By STEVEN ERLANGER
October 24, 2014
LONDON — The young Western Muslims trying to join radical Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq now include increasing numbers of young women who are seeking to fight or to become the wives of fighters. It is a new twist on a recruitment effort that has led several thousand men from Europe and beyond to flock to the battlefield.
In the past week alone, the authorities reported two instances of women and girls trying to get to Syria or take part in jihad. On Wednesday, the British police arrested a 25-year-old woman north of London on suspicion of preparing “terrorist acts” related to the fighting in Syria. Over the weekend, three teenage girls from the Denver suburbs — two sisters of Somali descent and a friend of Sudanese descent — were intercepted as they tried to travel to Syria.
Those were the latest in a series of cases of young Muslim women from the West trying to join militant groups like the Nusra Front or the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, which is waging a campaign to create a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. The largest numbers of Western recruits have come from France and Britain, but others have come from Austria, Belgium and Spain.
For several months, the Islamic State has been making a concerted effort to enlist women and girls. It is deploying female recruiters, producing new publications and creating online forums.
The precise number of women seeking to join the groups is unclear, but some analysts estimate that roughly 10 percent of recruits from the West are women, often influenced by social media networks that offer advice, tips and even logistical support for travel.
These networks often portray life under the caliphate as a kind of Islamic paradise that offers a religious alternative to what can often be a second-class life of struggle and alienation in the West. Female recruits often find the reality is far different from that ideal.
While some women are attracted to the idea of marrying a fighter, others “are joining I.S. because it provides a new utopian politics, participating in jihad and being part of the creation of a new Islamic state,” said Katherine E. Brown, a lecturer in defense studies at King’s College London who studies the phenomenon.
She cited images on social media of female recruits cooking, chatting, caring for children and meeting for coffee. At the same time, there are images of women carrying automatic rifles, wearing suicide belts and even displaying severed heads.
The “combination of violence and domesticity” is important, Ms. Brown said, adding that the women were politically engaged and often felt alienated by Western life, mores and politics.
Just 10 days ago, an all-woman jihadist group calling itself Al Zawraa announced its establishment on the Internet, saying that it sought to prepare women for jihad by teaching them Shariah, weapons use, social media and other online tools, first aid, sewing and cooking for male fighters (“the heroes of the religion”).
Al Zawraa appears to be affiliated with the pro-Islamic State group Al Minbar Jihadi Media Network, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activities.
Continue reading the main story
Historically, women make up about 25 percent of the members of terrorist organizations as diverse as the Irish Republican Army, Chechen fighters and the Tamil Tigers, Ms. Brown said. But in the case of the Nusra Front and the Islamic State, the figure is about 10 percent, more in line with the gender makeup of far-right movements, she added.
Over the past two years, “a maximum of 200 women” have traveled to Syria or Iraq from Europe, she said. At least a quarter of those women traveled with members of their families — husbands, brothers or fathers.
While figures vary, at least 60 of the women are believed to be British, and more than 70 are French. A majority are thought to be 18 to 25 years old.
Kamaldeep Bhui, a professor of cultural psychiatry and epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London, said that young Muslim women were as likely to be radicalized as men. “There is an increasing epidemic of girls” wanting to join jihad, he said at a briefing organized by the Science Media Center in London.
He found that women with the highest risk of radicalization were most angry about injustice and most tolerant of even violent forms of protest against it.
“The group who sympathized were younger, in full-time education” and more middle-class, Professor Bhui said. “They were more likely to be depressed and socially isolated.”
Recent migrants who were poorer and busier were less likely to have radical sympathies, he said, in part because they remembered the problems of their homelands.
Dounia Bouzar, a French anthropologist, is the founder of the Center for the Prevention of Sectarian Excesses Linked to Islam. In most cases, she found, young women who seek jihad do not come from particularly religious families but are good students who want to go to Syria to marry a devout Muslim or provide humanitarian aid.
“There is a mix of indoctrination and seduction,” Ms. Bouzar said. “They upload photos of bearded Prince Charmings on Facebook.”
The propaganda and messaging of the Islamic State are positive, a contrast to the negative message coming from anxious governments, Ms. Brown of King’s College London said.
“The Islamic State offers a positive image and says: ‘You’re welcome here. Come join us in the formation of an ideal state,’ ” Ms. Brown said. “But from Western governments, it’s very negative, so they feel demonized constantly and alienated.”
Some of the British women are reportedly running a sort of all-female religious police force to monitor un-Islamic behavior in Raqqa, a Syrian city held by the Islamic State. Other women have been posting on Twitter images of food, restaurants and sunsets clearly intended to lure more recruits.
In Colorado, friends and relatives of the three teenagers who were detained over the weekend were struggling to understand why, according to federal officials, they left the Denver suburbs to join Islamic State fighters in Syria.
Last Friday, the two sisters stayed home from school and told their father that they were heading to the library. The parents soon discovered that the girls were gone, with their passports and $2,000 in cash.
The reality of life inside the radical groups is often different, of course, from the cheerful images on screens. The Islamic State is run by men and is strictly patriarchal, with recruits separated by sex.
Ms. Bouzar said some young women had found themselves confined to the home. “Some see the massacres, the bombs, and understand that they’ve been had,” she said.
Others, Ms. Brown pointed out, “find that life there is as mundane as in Birmingham or Glasgow — except for the electricity blackouts and communal toilets and beheadings.”
nce inside Syria, they are married off to jihadists. Several who have tried to return have found themselves prisoners, analysts said. They are forced to wear head-to-toe robes with a niqab, a head scarf that covers the face.
According to numerous interviews with Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria over electronic services including email and Skype, women play an important role, with wives — Syrian, Iraqi or foreign — often accompanying their husbands as they move from post to post. Married fighters receive higher pay and holiday bonuses, members say.
There have been cases of men taking multiple wives, as well as accounts of rape, forced marriage and women being sold into slavery.
In an article in Foreign Policy, Aki Peritz and Tara Maller wrote that male jihadists were “committing horrific sexual violence on a seemingly industrial scale,” citing reports from the United Nations and Amnesty International.
The Syrian government has long said that women are being recruited for “jihad al-niqah,” or “sex jihad,” as some sheikhs argue that it is religiously permitted to have sex with fighters to help them in their duties.
Several female Islamic State supporters said that was a myth, and that women were joining the group to provide substantive help such as medical treatment, social media advice and cooking.
“I know some sisters who emigrated to Syria a couple of times to help the holy warriors,” said Umm Fatimah, a Tunisian woman who said she hoped to join two brothers fighting with the group. “And not for jihad al-Nikah.”
The family of one young French girl in Syria, Nora el-Bathy, 15, said she was desperate to come home. Her brother, Fouad, said that she had expected to work in a hospital but that instead she was babysitting for the children of jihadists.
The family, which lives in Avignon in the south of France, had no idea that she had become radicalized, or that she would leave her home dressed as usual, only to change into a full-length covering on the way to school.
“We were completely unaware,” said Fouad, who has since seen pictures of Nora fully veiled that were taken by her friends. “We did not know that she had a double life.”
Reporting was contributed by Suzanne Daley and Rukmini Callimachi from New York; Jack Healy from Denver; Maïa de la Baume from Paris; Ben Hubbard, Hwaida Saad and Anne Barnard from Beirut, Lebanon; and Alan Cowell and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura from London.
Saudi jails 4 women for preparing sons to "wage jihad, backing Qaeda"
24 Oct 2014
Four women in Saudi Arabia have been jailed for preparing their sons to wage war and for supporting Al-Qaeda, official media said, in the kingdom's latest "terrorist" convictions.
They were sentenced to between six and 10 years in prison, the Saudi Press Agency reported late Wednesday following the verdicts.
It said a court convicted the women on charges including "preparing some of their sons to fight in conflict areas believing that it is required by Islam".
They were also found guilty of "supporting Al-Qaeda", accessing blocked Internet sites, and downloading "audio-visual material related to fighting."
It did not say when the offences occurred or give the nationalities of the accused, although three were issued with travel bans, suggesting they are Saudi nationals.
The kingdom's top cleric, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, has urged young Muslims not to be influenced by "calls for jihad... on perverted principles".
He has described Al-Qaeda and IS jihadists as "enemy number one" of Islam.
Authorities in 2011 established specialised tribunals to try Saudis and foreigners accused of belonging to Al-Qaeda or of involvement in deadly attacks in the kingdom from 2003-2006.
The latest convictions come with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbours participating in US-led air strikes against Islamic State group extremists in Syria.
King Abdullah in February decreed jail terms of up to 20 years for citizens who travel abroad to fight, after the conflict in Syria attracted hundreds of Saudis.
Pakistan: For a Majority of Rape Victims, Justice Is Still Awaited
October 24, 2014
ISLAMABAD: The tiny village of Rampur Awal in Mirwala, Punjab, is a cauldron of shame. Its residents can’t seem to shake off the stigma of the repeated rape of fourteen-year-old R* by her stepfather, who allegedly also forced her to abort twice.
“I don’t want to live anymore. Repeated rape and later abortions brought shame upon me,” R told The Express Tribune via phone.
Six months have passed but the local police have failed to arrest the 49-year-old culprit, Shah Nawaz, who is a landlord in the village.
A senior police officer, who was investigating R’s case at Jatoi police station Muzaffargarh, confirmed the case, adding that it ‘looked genuine’. “But an influential local landlord is a stumbling block in the proceeding of this case,” he said, while requesting anonymity.
R is the latest addition to Mukhtar Mai Shelter Centre for Rape Victims in Mirwala, Muzaffargarh.
“Nobody listens to rape victims now residing in my shelter,” said Mukhtar Mai, a social worker, who was herself subjected to gang rape in 2002. She asked as to how the rapist in R’s case managed to elude the police for six months.
“The chief justice is the only hope for R and other rape victims living here in my shelter,” she said.
However, ‘R’ and other inmates of Mukhtar Mai’s centre are not the only rape victims seeking justice. According to statistics provided by Ministry of Interior, more than 14, 583 rape cases were registered in the country during the last five years but only 1, 041 (7%) rapists are convicted by courts so far.
Punjab province witnessed 12, 796 (88%) rape cases during this period while 1, 077 (7%) cases were registered in Sindh, said the official figures available with The Express Tribune.
The stats reveal that more than 458 (3%) rape cases were registered in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), 92 in Balochistan, 60 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), 11 in Gilgit-Baltistan and 90 cases were registered in Islamabad Capital Territory.
Last year, the figures of rape victims shot up as compared to previous years. Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Sughra Imam also raised this issue in the Senate.
More than 222 rape victims got registered their cases with various police stations while only three accused were convicted in Sindh last year. In 2012, 143 rape cases were registered but only six accused were convicted in the province.
Over 108 rape complaints were lodged in K-P last year while police registered only 54 rape cases in the province. Interestingly, not a single accused was convicted by courts in the province.
Since 2008, only one accused was convicted in federal capital, which witnessed 28 rape cases last year. Three rapists were convicted by the courts in the AJK while five persons have been convicted in the G-B in last five years.
Farkhanda Aurangzeb of Aurat Foundation – who has also served at the senior most post in women development ministry – said unreported rapes are a silent shame for the state where majority of cases are still pending with the courts.
She stressed on promptly addressing the loopholes in existing laws dealing with such crimes. “Rape victims can’t get justice until laws are amended. Rapists must be punished and process of implementation on amended laws must be enforced by the government,” she said.
“Waderas and landlords are usually involved in such crimes and no one dares to pursue cases against them,” she observed.
Saudi to Deal ‘Strictly’ With Female Drivers
October 24, 2014
Female drivers in Saudi Arabia will be dealt with “strictly”, authorities said on Thursday before a right-to-drive campaign culminates at the weekend.
The kingdom is the world’s only country where women are not allowed to operate cars.
Activists said in early October they were revving up their campaign using social media.
But the interior ministry said it will “strictly implement” measures against anyone who “contributes in any manner or by any acts, towards providing violators with the opportunity to undermine the social cohesion”.
The statement was carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
Activists have encouraged women to post pictures of themselves driving on Twitter under the hashtag #IWillDriveMyself, as well as on Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp.
More than 2,700 people have signed an online petition.
Activists told AFP that every day “two or three” women have shared pictures of themselves driving via WhatsApp.
But they say nothing special is expected for the campaign’s peak on Sunday.
“We just ask the ladies who need to drive, to drive as usual on the 26th” or on another day, said one activist, Nasima al-Sada.
Aziza al-Yussef, who says she runs errands in her car two or three times a week, said the campaign was about “raising the voice” and making their demand heard -- but not by doing anything illegal such as a demonstration.
Activists argue that women’s driving is not against the law.
Tradition and custom are behind the prohibition, which is not backed up by an Islamic text or judicial ruling, the online petition states.
Last year, activists also focused their demands on October 26 -- which they simply call a “symbolic” date as part of efforts to press for women’s right to drive.
At least 16 were fined for taking the wheel on that day.
Saudi women still need permission from a male guardian to work and marry, while restaurants are divided into “family sections” and separate areas for single men.
The ultra-conservative Wahhabi Islamic tradition is predominant in the kingdom, where it applies to both religious and political life.
Malawi Muslims Fight Sex Customs Fuelling AIDS
October 24, 2014
LILONGWE – As HIV and AIDS pandemic continues to wreck havoc in Malawi, Muslim traditional leaders in the southern African nation have ganged up to “eradicate” some cultural practices which are said to be fuelling the spread of this deadly disease in the highly impoverished country.
“There are some cultural beliefs and customs which we have allowed to take root in our societies since time immemorial,” Senior Chief Kadewere from a predominantly Muslim south told OnIslam.net.
“These include forcing teenage boys who are straight from initiation ceremonies to sleep with teenage girls after puberty. These girls are also forced to have sexual intercourse with older men after puberty or after going through initiation ceremonies,” he added.
Malawi has one of the highest HIV and AIDS prevalence rates in the sub-Saharan Africa with women and children bearing much of the brunt.
Poverty has been singled out as the main factor aggravating the spread of the disease.
Nevertheless, outdated traditional customs have been a stumbling block in the face of efforts to eradicate HIV and AIDs.
“As times have evolved, we have discovered that these customs and beliefs are outdated and can no longer be entertained. These cultural practices are the ones aiding the spread of the HIV and AIDS pandemic in most of the societies in this country,” said Kadewere.
“We can’t allow these to continue particularly at this time when we are struggling with the pandemic. These beliefs have put the lives of women and girls at risk of contacting the pandemic.”
Therefore, Muslim traditional leaders decided to shoulder the responsibility of spreading awareness about the dangers of such practices, spreading true values of Islam.
“It is for this reason that as Muslim traditional leaders we have taken the lead to sensitize our communities on the dangers of these practices. As custodians of cultural values, we have taken this initiative to fight against these beliefs,” said Kadewere.
“We believe that as traditional leaders, we have a moral responsibility to guide our subjects on proper conduct and life styles particularly at this time, when the HIV and AIDs pandemic shows no signs of abating.”
The traditional leader said chiefs were being mobilized to hold sensitization meetings with their subjects and faith leaders who include Christians to raise awareness on the risks of these cultural beliefs.
“The traditional leaders and faith leaders are taking these messages to their followers through Mosques and Churches. Since we launched this initiative, we have not heard of much of these cases. Almost everybody seems to be aware of the consequences. This initiative has also reduced numbers of early pregnancies among girls. We are on course to rid our societies of these practices.”
Step in Right Direction
Muslim efforts have been praised by key stakeholders in the fight against HIV and AIDS in the country.
“This is a step in the right direction. The move Muslim chiefs have taken mean a lot in the fight against the pandemic.” Mara Kumbweza Banda, National Chairperson of the National AIDS Commission (NAC), told OnIslam.net.
“Chiefs have an influence over their subjects and therefore the importance of this initiative can’t be overemphasized. We highly commend this development.
“What’s quite pleasing is that these traditional leaders also have an influence in the Muslim community which means that we are tackling this problem from a religious perspective as well. As a commission, we stand in solidarity with them as we work to reduce risks of women and children and above all of the whole humanity,” said Kumbweza Banda.
“It is high time we shed off some of our beliefs and customs mainly those which are harmful to the young children and women. We need to take precautionary measures in our societies, if we are to minimize the spread of HIV and AIDS.”
Islam is the second largest religion in the country after Christianity. Muslims account for 36% of the country’s 16 million population.
The World Bank rates Malawi as one of the World’s poorest nations whose majority poor struggle to survive on less than US$1 a day.
“The resistance from some quarters is very strong. However, we are motivated by the level of support that we are getting from the communities,” said Kadewere.
“We are going to achieve what we are intending to do against all odds. We are not going to rest until the battle has been won.”
His counterpart, Traditional Authority Nkalo agrees that in the past, these practices were a “way of life” in his area.
“Before this in initiative was rolled off, these practices were a way of life. People would do this for fun. But in the long run, people have realized that of the harm this was causing to the communities, that’s why most of them are in support of this undertaking. These practices are slowly fading away,” Nkalo told OnIslam.net.
India: Chennai Public School Celebrates Malala Day
October 24, 2014
CHENNAI: A 17-year-old Muslim girl from Pakistan named Malala Yousafzai is celebrated across the globe today. Though young, she has an undaunted spirit and a strong conviction that made her speak out to make education possible for girls.
Chennai Public School, Thirumazhisai, acknowledged the work of Malala and celebrated her accomplishment by naming October 14 ‘Malala Day’. The whole exercise was to invalidate the myth that young girls cannot have international acclamation. Every child will not only draw confidence and inspiration but will learn to stand up for their convictions.
One thousand students from Classes I-X came together to make a human chain to symbolise Malala’s work. Students made a formation representing Malala holding aloft a book. The school aspires to develop more Malalas.
Conceived by school Principal Stella Pauline Punitha and ably coordinated by the coordinators Lakshmi Venkat, Radhika, Rachel Renuka and headmistress Dr Meenakshi, the day saw all the students, particularly girls, emulate Malala in their spirit and movement.
Award winner cites ‘unsung heroes’ in Pakistan press
24 October 2014
The Pakistani journalist honored for courageous reporting on Thursday spoke out against "brutality" against reporters in her country as she expressed hope for greater freedom for the news media.
Asma Shirazi, Pakistan's first female war correspondent and host of popular TV talk shows, made the comments as she accepted the 2014 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism.
Shirazi said she was encouraged by the recognition but noted that the country remains one of the most dangerous in the world for news reporters, with 99 journalists killed in the line of duty since 2000.
Journalists in Pakistan "are working in an environment where they could be killed anytime," she told the award ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington.
'I dedicate this award to the unsung heroes of journalism in Pakistan who sacrificed their lives for the cause of their profession."
She said this includes many working in remote ares who "are endangering their lives on every spur of the moment."
The situation is one of "extreme gravity," she said, noting that reporters have been beheaded, tortured, and killed in suicide bombings.
"Despite these dangers and difficulties, Pakistani journalists continue unabated with the task at hand, to give voice to the voiceless, to speak truth to power and to tell everybody the everyday story of our life," she said.
She added that the prize offers "an opportunity to raise my voice against the brutality that journalists in Pakistan are subjected to."
"I expect this award to promote the true meaning of courage and ethical journalism in Pakistan," she added.
Pamela Constable, the Washington Post journalist who introduced Shirazi, praised the recipient for her dedication.
"Its not easy to be a woman in Pakistan, and it's not easy to be a journalist who is committed to speaking or writing the truth," she said. "It's especially hard to be both."
The award, named for the late AFP journalist Peter Mackler, is administered by Global Media Forum in partnership with AFP and Reporters Without Borders.
Shirazi reported on conflicts that include the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, Taliban violence on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in 2009 and General Pervez Musharraf's 2007 state of emergency.
She also hosted two popular television talk shows, including one on parliamentary affairs that Musharraf banned when he clamped down on independent news coverage.
Pakistan is currently ranked 158th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.
Shirazi is the sixth recipient of the award, and the first from Pakistan. Last year's winner was Sudanese journalist Faisal Mohammed Salih.
Iran Acid Attacks: Authorities 'to Blame for Involving Islamic Law in Women's Lives'
October 24, 2014
More than 2,000 people have taken to the streets of Iran to protest against a surge in acid attacks in the country. The protests were staged in the city of Isfahan where at least four women were disfigured with acid last week.
According to police Chief Gen. Ismaeil Ahmadi Moghaddam, eight episodes of acid attacks occurred in the area in the last few months.
Investigators said that the assailants used the same modus operandi of throwing acid at the women in cars while riding motorbikes. The authorities believe the similar nature of the attacks suggests that they were carried out by the same people, but added that the motive was still unknown.
However, local media and protesters suggested that the women were disfigured because they did not follow the dress code implemented in the country. According to Iranian Islamic law, women are required to wear the Hijab – a garment which covers head and chest, with the exception of the face – and to cover legs, arms and torso when they are in public.
London-based political activist and journalist, Professor Reza Moradi, said that the thousands of people who rallied demanded "an end to the involvement of the law in women's life in general and safety for women."
Speaking to IBTimes UK, he said: "Attacks took place in the street targeting random women who were not 'properly veiled'.
"Thousands of men and women protested and accused the authorities for the outrageous act; the government has been passing laws and urging police to tackle 'civil disobedience' (improper veiling and rejection of Islamic dress code). So it is normal to hold the authorities accountable for the actions and for not safeguarding the society against such attacks."
Acid Throwing Widespread Worldwide
Acid throwing is often carried out to disfigure people, not to kill them. The practice is not frequent in Iran, but it is largely widespread in Asian and Middle Eastern countries such as India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, and also some areas of South America and Africa.
A 2013 report warned about the surge in similar attacks in Italy. In one episode, a woman who was pregnant with twins was attacked and burned with acid while she was parking her car near a clinic in Milan.
Yazidi Female Fighter Recalls Horrifying ISIS Massacre
October 24, 2014
A Yazidi woman, who believes she has lost her family in a massacre in which Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants reportedly killed hundreds of the ethnic minority community in northern Iraq, has taken up a fight against the militants group and is determined to reclaim her land back.
“I will never forgive! I have promised myself that before I die I will return to Shengal,” Robjon told Kurdish journalist Khazar Fatemi in a video report published in the Huffington Post, referring to her hometown, from which she managed to escape before it was completely seized by ISIS.
She has taken up arms with YPG, the national army of Syria’s Kurdistan, and joined their fight against the group.
“They had killed some 600 men and kidnapped the women and kids,” Robjob said.
ISIS revealed earlier this month that it was selling Yazidi women, which were kidnapped earlier.
Recalling the horrifying events prior to the massacre that took place last August, Robjon said that she managed to escape with others to Mount Sinjar located west to Iraq’s Mosul, but her entire family was stuck in the town.
“When I got to the [Sinjar] mountain I called them. They said ‘we are surrounded we can’t get out!’... The next time I called they didn’t answer,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“A few days later we were informed that everyone in our village had been killed,” she added.
The young woman has been playing tough and trying to remain focused on her fight, but it was clear that her heart was burning just by the thought of her family.
“I always feel like crying. I hide behind a wall so my friends won’t see me, and I cry… I think about my little sister and wonder what ISIS did to her,” she said.
ISIS militants besieged about 700 Yazidi families in Mount Sinjar, where those who escaped had sought refuge, security sources told Al Arabiya News Channel last Monday.
Meanwhile, head of the spiritual council for Yazidis, Tahsin Ali Saeed, pleaded the international community to help protect his people from “extermination.”
Egyptian Woman Arrested For 'Anti-Police' Facebook Page
October 24, 2014
An Egyptian woman has been arrested for launching a Facebook page allegedly inciting “violence against the police and army,” Egypt’s daily al-Ahram reported.
The woman, who was the administrator of the page dubbed “The Revolutionary Alliance,” called on Egyptians to attack governmental infrastructures including banks, police vehicles and other public properties, al-Ahram and MENA news agency reported.
Following her arrest, the 35-year-old reportedly admitted she was a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and that she was in contact with one of its member hidden in Turkey.
The suspect also reportedly said that the Brotherhood figure was giving her orders for attacks.
International and Egyptian rights groups have expressed alarm over an increasingly broad crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood members by authorities since then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seized power in July 2013.
Thousands of Brotherhood supporters are in jail and the state crackdown over the past year has expanded to include liberal and secular activists who played a leading role in the 2011 uprising that toppled Husni Mubarak.
Pak SC Urges Govt to Protect Lady Health Workers
October 24, 2014
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has directed federal and provincial authorities to ensure the protection of lady health workers (LHWs) and make sure no harassment incident takes place as the LHWs go from pillar to post to obtain their letters of job regularisation.
The court also directed the authorities to ensure that the job letters are dispatched directly to the residences of lady health workers, hence nullifying the chances of any illegal or unethical demand being made for the handing over of these letters.
The two-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, was hearing a suo motu case on Thursday regarding the regularisation of hundred and six thousand lady health workers.
The bench has also sought affidavits from federal and provincial secretaries of health that all the letters have been delivered to the lady health workers at their residences.
Justice Khawaja asked the representatives of lady health workers to lodge cases against officials, who are harassing them in government offices. Lamenting over the miseries of the workers, he asked Attorney General of Pakistan that for how long the poor people would be humiliated.
The bench has also taken notice over the delay in payment of salaries of 322 lady health workers in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).
On the last date of hearing, the court was surprised to know that lady health workers in ICT have not received the salaries even for the month of June so far.
The bench asked AGP that why the court was falsely informed that lady health workers in ICT got the salary of the said month. Justice Khawaja warned that the court will not spare anyone in fundamental rights issues. The hearing of the case was adjourned until November 21.
As insurgency burns, revival of Thai south script points way to peace
October 24, 2014
Saiburi (Thailand) (AFP) - A high-pitched chorus pours out from a Muslim nursery school in Thailand's insurgency-battered south, as girls in crisp, white Hijabs read aloud the curls and flourishes of a home-grown script virtually erased from public life.
Thailand annexed the Muslim-majority south more than a century ago and ever since has sought to railroad the distinctive local culture into accepting rule from Bangkok.
Resentment at the perceived assault on the region's identity has galvanised support for an insurgency that has left 6,100 people dead -- the majority civilians -- since 2004.
Jawi (pronounced Yawi by Thais), which deploys the Arabic alphabet to write the Patani Malay language, is used by elders and taught to youngsters at private Muslim schools in the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.
But repeated assimilation drives mean it is not on the curriculum in state schools while village names once written in jawi have been changed to Thai, leaving locals desperate to revive the writing -- and the cultural lineage it represents.
"We have to preserve our cultural uniqueness," says local historian Ismail Ishaq Benjasmith at the end of jawi classes at a tadika -- religious school -- in the coastal Saiburi district of Pattani.
"It is a small issue but it feeds into violence, because our history has been changed by the government and little by little people get angry."
Like many others in the mountainous, forested neck of land between Thailand and Malaysia, Ismail says years of cultural degradation have crystallised support for the rebellion.
In a move to restore the much-loved script he is leading a campaign to bring jawi names back onto village signposts.
After a slalom through barbed-wire topped checkpoints, the road reaches a fishing village on a palm-fringed beach.
A signpost reads 'Mengabang' in the romanised rumi script for Malay common across the peninsula, but the name is also written below in jawi and Thai.
It is a small, but deeply symbolic, victory for Ismail who with a local cultural group called PUSTA lobbied for 10 villages to get a jawi sign.
The former top Thai civilian official for the south, Tawee Sodsong, endorsed the pilot scheme in a rare nod by the state to the underlying causes of the conflict.
But Tawee was removed from his job shortly after the army toppled the elected government in May, taking with him Ismail's dream of seeing all 2,000 villages across the south given their jawi name.
The script, which has variations across the Malay peninsula, is far from simply a cultural relic, also functioning as a way into the Koranic language of Arabic for the poorly educated Sunni Muslim population.
But as children stream out of their language classes, the sea breeze sending their hijabs flowing behind them, Ismail says now only the old or very young have a grasp of the script.
"Our ancestors tell us about our history, our language, but the government wants to tell us a different story."
Colonial rule has seen several attempts to impose "Thainess" and the country's shibboleths of 'nation, religion and king' over the deep south -- once a proud sultanate and wealthy trading point.
Field Marshall Plaek Phibunsongkhram, Thai prime minister through the late 1930s and then again from the late 40s, made Thai language teaching compulsory on the school curriculum, parachuting Buddhist officials into key bureaucratic positions, at the expense of local Malay-Muslim leaders.
Jawi was gradually culled from public life and locals were told to take Thai names -- in addition to their own.
In the 1960s hard-line military ruler Sarit Thanarat went a step further, bringing all Muslim schools under the yoke of the national system.
To many the memory of those periods, which were accompanied by crackdowns on resistance, remains sharp.
"If you have something of your own and then someone takes it, it's natural to want to take it back," says Abdullah Bin Abdulrahman, 54, a local businessman involved in the renaming project.
Several rounds of peace talks fizzled out last year as focus turned to political turmoil in Bangkok. Now, junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha says he is ready to return to the table.
But trust is in short supply.
On Saturday the deep south will mark the 10th anniversary of the deaths of 85 anti-government protesters at Tak Bai, the majority of them by suffocation as they were stacked -- hands bound -- on top of each other in army trucks.
Thai security forces stand accused of widespread human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, abuses and extra-judicial killings.
For their part, rebels conduct near-daily ambushes or bomb attacks on security forces and terrorise civilians -- both Buddhist and Muslim -- with assassinations and arson attacks.
Teachers have been a particular target, with scores shot dead by insurgents who see them as agents of the Thai state.
A source close to the talks told AFP the rebels are "in principle" ready to talk, but have yet to formally agree.
Locals such as Abdullah Bin Abdulrahman say peace depends on the Thai military easing its grip on the region, but they are desperate for a resolution to the bloody conflict.
"We are ready for a change, ready for peace... but after so long I don't know if we will get it," he said.
1st “Muslim Women’s’ Viewpoints” Seminar to Be Held in London
October 24, 2014
The 1st International Seminar under the banner of “Muslim Women’s’ viewpoints” to be held in UK Capital City of London on Friday October 23 with Head of the World Forum for Proximity of the Islamic Schools of Thoughts, Ayatollah Mohsen Araki in attendance.
The seminar to be mounted and held by the cooperation of the Global Association of Muslim Women, the World Forum for Proximity of the Islamic Schools of Though and London Islamic Center.
It is worthwhile noting that the Global Association of Muslim Women which is titled, from now on, ‘association’ in this Statute, is a global, nonprofit and nongovernmental organization which aims at improving and enriching the participation of Muslim women so as to forward objectives in global peace arena.
Informing female thinkers and pundits and Muslim elites in addition to furthering understanding among them in the realms of religion, culture, society and politics Is of objectives this association tries to fulfill
The Global Association of Muslim Women also tries to utilize the potential and activated capacity of active female thinkers and pundits and Muslim women in the world to further unity and rapprochement among Muslims.
Women, Children Caught in Deadly Fire Fight near Tunis
October 24, 2014
Women and children were caught up Thursday in a police siege of a home near the Tunisian capital where security forces were fighting a gun battle with "terrorists" in which a policeman died.
The shootout came amid heightened security for fear of an upsurge in jihadist violence in the run-up to a parliamentary election on Sunday, the first since Tunisia's 2011 revolution.
At least two women and an unknown number of children were inside the house in the town of Oued Ellil on the outskirts of Tunis where a group was exchanging gunfire with security forces, the interior ministry said.
"There are at least two men, at least two women and children (in the house). We also have information on the presence of explosives," ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui said.
"We have asked that they send out the children and women," he said.
Police have been besieging the house for hours, exchanging fire with what authorities described as a "terrorist group".
One policeman was killed in the fire fight.
Aroui did not describe the women and children as hostages, saying one of the women was the "wife of one of the terrorists".
"Our agent died of a bullet wound in the eye sustained in clashes with a terrorist group," a police official told AFP at the scene.
With security beefed up ahead of the election, Aroui told Mosaique FM radio police had also clashed earlier Thursday with two "terrorists" in Kebili, 500 kilometres (300 miles) south of Tunis.
The suspects were arrested after killing a private security guard in the gunfight, he said.
The operation in Oued Ellil was launched based on information extracted from the two suspects, said Aroui.
The suspects had been "preparing operations in the area," he said, adding that two Kalashnikov assault rifles had been seized.
Elsewhere, two soldiers were lightly wounded in a roadside bomb blast in Sakiet Sidi Yussef near the Algerian border, defence ministry spokesman Belhassen Oueslati said.
The parliamentary election is seen as crucial to restoring stability in the North African nation, the cradle of the Arab Spring revolutionary movements.
Since the 2011 uprising that ousted veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has seen a proliferation of Islamists suppressed under the former autocratic president and the emergence of militant groups.
The jihadists have been blamed for a wave of attacks, including last year's assassination of two leftist politicians whose murders plunged the country into a protracted political crisis.
Jihadist groups have in the past three years killed dozens of Tunisian soldiers and police, especially in violence in remote mountain areas on the border with Algeria.
The government has ordered the deployment of tens of thousands of soldiers and police for election day.
On Monday, Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou said the authorities had foiled plots to bomb factories and attack foreign missions.
In an interview with AFP, the leader of Tunisia's moderate Islamist movement said the country's transition to democracy served as an example of how to defeat extremists such as the Islamic State jihadist group.
"The success of the Tunisian experience is in the international interest, especially in the fight against extremism and the fight against Islamic State and similar groups," Ennahda head Rached Ghannouchi said.
"The Tunisian model is the alternative to the Daesh model... This Tunisian model... brings together Islam and secularism, Islam and democracy, Islam and freedom for women," he said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group which has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria.
"One of the best ways to fight terrorism is to advocate moderate Islam because terrorism is based on an extremist interpretation of Islam," said Ghannouchi, whose party has emerged as the leading political force in Tunisia since the fall of Ben Ali.