Bjorge, pictured left with her female ski students, headed out to Bamyan in central Afghanistan in 2013 to teach skiing
Afghanistan's First Female SKIERS, Learning To Snowplough
Iranian Policewoman Scolds Girl for Not Wearing Hijab ‘Properly’
Nigeria: 46 Women, Kids Freed From Terrorists
Iran: 65 Per Cent Illiterates in Khuzistan Are Women
Violence against Women Hotline Posters Displayed Across Turkey
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
70,000 Indian Muslim Women Protest against Triple Talaq Bill
Feb 16, 2018
MUMBAI: A large throng of approximately 70,000 women, mostly clad in hijab, stepped out of their houses in Malegaon to join a silent march protesting against the Centre's Triple Talaq Bill. Holding placards, they stated they did not want any interference in Sharia (Islamic law) by the government. This is the biggest gathering so far of Muslim women in the country joining voice against the imposition of a new law on triple Talaq.
The protest march was organised by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and supported by all sects of Muslims, apart from NGOs and social workers. A nondescript town on the national map, Malegaon is a textile hub. It has a population of 4.71 lakh (as per the 2011 census) -- and around 350 mosques.
All the roads in Central Malegaon were cleared for the protest. “As per our estimate around 60,000 to 70,000 women participated in the silent rally. Not a single untoward incident was reported. We had deployed mostly women police personnel, and additional staff was called in from outside Malegaon to maintain law and order,” said Gajanan Rajmaney, the deputy superintendent of police of the town. Unofficial estimates put the figure at well over a Lakh.
Rajmaney added that besides police cameras, over two dozen CCTV cameras were installed especially for the procession at various locations. “We did not allow even any bicycle along the entire stretch of the rally. It was a peaceful bandobast,” he said.
Well qualified women including teachers, lawyers and doctors were among those who chose to make themselves heard. "We participated in the rally to oppose the triple Talaq Bill. We don’t want any interference in our Sharia law,” said Aafiya Kaleem, a homemaker who travelled two kilometres to join the march.
Gazala Nasir Royal, a doctor who attended, said that India is a democratic country and everyone has the right to follow his/her religion. “The government should not interfere in anyone's religion. We will not tolerate this. To register our protest, we carried out a silent and peaceful march,” she said.
Rizwana Hamdani, a schoolteacher, said she participated to register her protest against the hypocritical discourse around gender equity. “Why is there no talk of 22 lakh abandoned Hindu wives? Why shed crocodile tears for Muslim women alone? I am completely opposed to the criminalisation of instant triple Talaq,” said Hamdani.
Dr Saiqua Jabeen, a gynecologist, said, “We love Allah and his Prophet and cannot tolerate any interference in our Sharia. Islam has given maximum freedom to women. We don’t want any change in Sharia and that is why we protested.” Dr Arshiya Malik Ambar, an eye specialist, stated that the triple Talaq bill be rejected.
Ulema from different sects including Maulana Umrain Rehmani, general secretary of the AIMPLB, handed over a memorandum to the additional collector in Malegaon requesting that it be sent to senior officials.
Afghanistan's First Female SKIERS, Learning To Snowplough
17 February 2018
'In 2013,' said ski instructor Henriette Bjorge, 'women in Afghanistan had no idea what skiing was.'
MailOnline Travel is listening to the Norwegian speak at Expedition Finse, a sort of festival for adventurers in Norway. She is explaining how she went about introducing Afghan women from an impoverished rural community in a former Taliban stronghold to snow ploughing and parallel turns.
At first she had to do all of this while her students were dressed in completely inappropriate gear because they didn't have access to technical kit. For their first lesson, a group of Afghan women turned up armed with handbags, their best dress coats, chic sunglasses and silk hijabs looking like they were more ready for a Paris catwalk than for high-speed thrills.
While some might be surprised to see the girls in such western-style garb, Bjorge, 38, explains that they're from the town of Bamyan which is populated by Hazaras - one of the more liberal groups in Afghanistan - and burkas aren't enforced.
She adds: 'If they go to the bazaar they might wear a burka, but it is mainly the older generation who dress like this.'
On the religious front, Hazaras are primarily Shia Muslims while most Afghans follow the Sunni branch of Islam. And when it comes to mixing with men, usually things are kept separate but again, it's not as strictly policed as other ethnic groups. Topping things off, Bamyan is also famed for having the first and only female governor in Afghanistan with Habiba Sorabi appointed in 2005 until 2013.
The province of Bamyan is famed for its gaping hillside niches that once sheltered ancient Buddha statues that were blown up by the Taliban, who aren't in the area anymore.
Another big draw for visitors is buzkashi, the country’s national sport.
Thousands flock to the area to watch athletes on horseback as they attempt to throw the corpse of a decapitated goat - instead of a ball - into a scoring circle.
Commenting on the scenery visitors can expect in Bamyan, Bjorge said: 'It's an amazing place to visit. There's unlimited things to see and explore, from historical sites along the Silk Road to places of natural beauty.'
Hitting the slopes for the first time
Bjorge's female students - more seasoned at cooking, cleaning and staying at home - had apprehensively signed up to hit the slopes surrounding Bamyan - which has no ski lifts - after getting permission from their families and religious leaders, and they had no idea what was in store.
'I went there with a mission to teach skiing and show people how much joy it can bring,' Bjorge says of her endeavour to introduce her favourite sport to Afghan women.
The Norwegian had been working for the Afghanistan embassy in Oslo when she first visited the war-torn country back in 2009.
She said the pristine, untouched mountains left a big impression on her but, because of the security situation, she put any wacky ideas about skiing in the region to bed.
However, in 2013 Bjorge decided to quit her job and make her dreams come true.
After doing a season in the snow in Chamonix she headed to the middle east to help out at the Bamyan Ski Club.
The club, located in central Afghanistan, was founded by Swiss journalist Christoph Zuercher in 2011 and Bjorge signed up with the aim of getting more women involved.
She said her family thought she was 'crazy', after she sold her apartment and other possessions but they soon realised the value in what she was doing.
The town of Bamyan, which has a population of about 100,000 people, is located around a five-hour drive from Kabul, but Bjorge says the roads aren't safe so it's better to travel by air.
The region is known for its vast mountain ranges, which cover around 90 per cent of the province, and its long harsh winters, which produce perfect skiing conditions.
Many of the slopes are easily accessible from the town centre and the gently-sloping terrain is great for beginners.
Before Bjorge went to Bamyan she organised a crowdfunding campaign.
The money she raised enabled her to take ski poles, goggles, a camera and other pieces of winter sports equipment locals didn't have access to.
Bjorge started out by teaching around 25 to 30 boys how to ski from Christoph Zuercher's new academy.
She said the majority wore skis that had been donated by tourists or humanitarian aid workers in the country. They were often joined by children with skis that they had made themselves out of wood.
Instead of boots, they nailed ordinary shoes to wooden planks.
Skiing in Afghanistan has apparently been going on for centuries but traditionally the men use the means of transport for moving through the snow to hunt for animals or collect livestock, not for fun.
After adjusting to life in the area and feeling comfortable with the terrain, Bjorge set her sights on teaching Afghan women how to ski.
Offering insight into life as a woman in the Bamyan area, Bjorge said: 'Afghanistan is among the worst countries to grow up in as a woman and the culture is extremely conservative. They normally don't do any kind of physical activity or sport and lots of things are forbidden.'
Firstly, to be able to tutor the Afghan women, Bjorge had to seek permission from the ski club and a non-governmental organization called Aga Khan Foundation, which was involved in the ski project at the very beginning. Then a local tour operator by the name of Gull Hussein helped seek advice from religious leaders.
She said the town elders were 'quite positive' about letting the women ski but they worried about what they would be wearing.
These men were reassured that the women could remain covered up and eventually Bjorge was given the green light.
Opening up about the chain of events, Bjorge mused: 'I thought, "How do you get women into skiing?" They didn't even know what it was!'
In a bid to spark interest among the women, Bjorge and the Bamyan Ski Club team started off by running 'picnic days' for families on the ski slopes as meeting as a group to eat was something familiar to them.
After three such days, around ten brave young women signed up for ski lessons from the 60 or so who had been turning up so far.
Reciting the scene, Bjorge said: 'They all showed up in their nicest clothes, they were so motivated. We tried to make them feel comfortable.'
Taking things to the next level, the women were invited to train towards a female version of the annual contest known as the Afghan Ski Challenge.
This is a backcountry ski race that is organised by the Bamyan Ski Club and takes place every spring.
The course features uphill and downhill sections, covering around 1.8 miles, and the rules stipulate that there are 'no weapons allowed' and 'everyone must start at the same time'.
Since its inception in 2011, the race had not included girls but Bjorge was determined to get them involved.
She believed that by signing up to the race they would have a goal to work towards and it would encourage them to refine their skills.
Ten Afghan women put their trust in Bjorge said 'yes'. Turning up for their first lesson with their handbags, best coasts, scarves and hijabs, they took to the slopes for the very first time.
For lunch, they'd packed a hearty spread of stew, stacks of naan bread and bowls of boiled eggs.
Revealing what happened from there, Bjorge said: 'I spent at least a week just teaching the girls how to stop. It was difficult.
'They weren't used to physical activity so they had to work on building muscle and balance.
'I found it very physically demanding too as the women kept falling over and I continuously had to help them up.
'It took a long time for them to learn the basics and it was extremely frustrating. I had to channel my inner-patience!'
After days of hard work, ten young women were up to scratch and they stood ready at the start line at the 2013 first female Afghan Ski Challenge.
Bjorge said the women did well and there were tears at the finish line, not because of injury, but because they were overwhelmed by the sense of achievement.
Fast-forwarding, the women are said to be making good progress.
Due to other work commitments for Bjorge, a Slovenian ski instructor, Ana Tasic, has taken over the torch in teaching skiing to the Bamyan women.
Over time they have ditched their bags, coats and scarves for more apt skiing gear. Much of this has been provided to them free-of-charge through various sponsorship and fundraising efforts.
Along with learning how to ski, the women have also had tutorials on avalanche risks, how to look after their gear and how to wax up their skis.
On the male front, two members from the Bamyan ski club - Sayed Alishah Farhang and Sajjad Husaini - recently made headlines with their bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Unfortunately the accomplished skiers didn't quite make the cut but they will soon be on their way to attend the games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as special guests.
Husaini, 26, told the AFP of his dreams: 'We wanted to represent Afghanistan in a different way, to show the other countries that Afghanistan is not only war.' Now they are looking ahead aiming for the next Winter Olympics, determined that Afghanistan will be represented.
Summing up her work in Afghanistan, Bjorge said: 'It's not just about skiing. The Bamyan Ski Club project has created a lot of jobs and the boys and girls are more optimistic about their future.
'Winter was often seen as a time of year when there was nothing to do because of the cold weather but now they have a new hobby.
'Boys and girls now go skiing together, something that was completely unthinkable a few years ago.'
Bjorge, who currently works as a communications officer for the United Nations, concluded: 'The value of sports for women is highly underestimated in developing countries. It creates self-esteem, team spirit and leadership skills, which nurtures an environment where women can speak up for themselves.
'I have seen the difference it has made. They are more active in the local community and more confident.'
The Bamyan Ski Club is currently working towards building a permanent ski centre in the area and installing the first mountain lift.
It appears Afghanistan is moving towards a brighter future, with a spot of skiing setting the pace.
Iranian policewoman scolds girl for not wearing hijab ‘properly’
16 February 2018
Iranian activist and journalist Masih Alinejad has posted a video on her Twitter account showing an Iranian moral policewoman scolding a girl for not wearing her hijab ‘properly.’
Despite wearing a long headscarf, the woman claimed that she wore it improperly since she showed the front of her hair.
In the video, the woman is purportedly seen asking the girl to wear it as she has instructed. However, the girl responded by saying that this was “none of her business.’ Consequently, the policewoman sought to escort her out of the hall to arrest her.
In recent days, Iran’s morality police have stepped up their campaign against women since the symbolic protest against the hijab began weeks ago. The number of participants continue to increase dramatically.
Earlier, authorities announced that they have arrested at least 29 people involved in such protests in Tehran alone. Earlier this month a girl was seen in a video taking off her hijab in front of a Basij base.
Nigeria: 46 Women, Kids Freed From Terrorists
15 FEBRUARY 2018
By Ahmed Obafemi
Maiduguri — THE Nigerian Army has rescued more than 40 women and children held captive by the Boko Haram at a forest northeast of the country.
Some 19 women and 27 minors have been liberated from the Sambisa forest feared as a stronghold for the terrorists.
An unspecified number of suspected terrorists were killed during the breakthrough by the regiment of the Operation Lafiya Dole (Peace by Force) this week.
The Nigerian Air Force provided support.
Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, Deputy Director Public Relations Theatre Command Operation Lafiya Dole, said the troops shot dead some Boko Haram terrorists and captured major armaments, including a truck and a laptop.
They destroyed gun trucks, several makeshift accommodation and tents.
"The highly motivated troops remain dauntless as the operation continues," Nwachukwu said.
It is feared the Boko Haram is using Sambisa forest, located about 60 kilometres southeast of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, to hide thousands of civilians kidnapped over the past decade.
During the period, the Islamic militants have killed an estimated 100 000 people and displaced more than 2 million others.
The terrorists are involved in a brutal campaign to overthrow the government and establish a Muslim state in Africa's biggest country by population (over 190 million people). - CAJ News
Iran: 65 per cent illiterates in Khuzistan are women
15 February 2018
There are 150,000 illiterate women in Khuzistan which is 65 per cent of the total number of illiterates in this southwestern oil-rich province in Iran.
Moussa Sheikh, deputy director for literacy at the Department of Education, said there are 230,000 illiterates between 10 to 49 years of age in Khuzistan 35 per cent of whom, i.e. 80,000, are men and 65 per cent or 150,000 are women. (The state-run ISNA news agency – February 14, 2018)
According to a recent survey, there are 1.7 million women in Iran between 10 and 49 years who are absolutely illiterate.
Iran ranks 120th in the world with a total of 9.5 million illiterates in the country.
Violence against women hotline posters displayed across Turkey
February 08 2018
Posters displaying information on a free hotline offering counselling and help to women subjected to violence have been hung on 50 billboards across the country.
The role of municipalities in supporting this poster campaign, started by daily Hürriyet in 2007 and handed over to the Turkish Women’s Organizations Federation in 2015, is big, Canan Güllü, the organization’s head, said on Feb. 8.
“Working collectively is crucial in the work on violence against women,” Güllü said.
By accepting the organization’s request to display the helpline posters, the Ankara Municipality has taken an important step in this regard, Güllü added.
“Victims can get information on the judicial process and where to go [following the abuse] from the numbers 0212-656-9696 and 0549-656-9696,” she said.
Another goal the organization is working to achieve under the campaign is to get the municipality consultation lines to use the organization’s hotline.
“We carried out a similar project in Istanbul’s Beylikdüzü Municipality,” she said.
“We will be able to watch the rate of violence throughout the months [using this line],” Güllü added.
Turkey has a staggering reputation for violence against women. In 2017 only, a total of 409 women were killed in the country, most of them by their violent husbands, partners or male family members.
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