New Age Islam News Bureau
26 Aug 2014
Syrian girls return from an informal class in Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan, Aug. 14, 2014. Photo by Mishelle Shmulovich
• Dh1, 000 Fine For Applying Makeup While Driving in UAE
• In Jordan Refugee Camp, Early Marriage Often Trumps School
• Girls’ Summit Wants Women’s Issues on the G20 Agenda
• First Ever Muslim Lady called Rizana, Joins Sri Lankan Army
• 400 Saudi Women Graduate in Mobily’s Training Program
• 28 Saudi Women Work At Cleaning Materials Plant
• Women Take Afghan Army Oath
• 6 Women Killed In Single Day as Violence against Women Soars in Afghanistan
• Rwanda: World Bank Praises Rwanda on Girls
• Social Media Backs Turkish MP’s Threat to Throw Her Shoe to Discipline Other MPs
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Abu Dhabi Legal Expert Explains the Three Divorce Rule
26 Aug, 2014
ABU DHABI // A legal expert from the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department has clarified Sharia rules on divorce after a case last week where a couple sought to divorce for the third time.
Muna Al Raeesi, head of legal aid at ADJD, said that when a husband and wife divorced for the first time, there was a waiting period known as “Idda”, which is designed to give the couple time to reconcile without finalising the divorce procedure.
The waiting period lasts for three of the wife’s menstrual cycles to ensure she is not pregnant.
If she is pregnant, it lasts until the child is born.
If the couple decide to reconcile during “Idda” then the marriage contract is restated.
During “Idda” the woman is not allowed to marry another man.
When seeking a second divorce, or “Baynoona Sughra”, a new contract is required along with a dowry if the couple decide to reconcile.
A third divorce, or “Baynoona Kubra”, is considered final.
The exception to this rule is if the woman marries another man and that marriage ends, either by divorce or his death, at which point she is permitted to return to her former husband and can then – if desired – go through the three divorce procedures again.
Ms Al Raeesi said there were instances where couples had tried to seek a fatwa allowing them to return to each other after the third divorce.
She gave an example of a Saudi woman who came to legal aid, who had returned to her Emirati husband after their third divorce.
The couple had obtained a fatwa from Saudi Arabia that said the third divorce happened in anger and therefore did not count.
But under UAE laws, which follow the Maliki school of Fiqh, this was not recognised as legitimate grounds to ignore the third divorce.
The couple took their case to the courts of First Instance, Appeals and Cassation. All ruled that their third divorce counted and they could not remarry.
Ms Al Raessi clarified that in cases where someone states to their partner, “I divorce you three times” or “you are divorced, divorced, divorced”, it is only considered one divorce.
She said the three divorces must take place in separate incidents.
Dh1, 000 Fine For Applying Makeup While Driving in UAE
26 Aug, 2014
Women motorists who are caught applying makeup or combing hair while driving will be fined, according to a circular issued by the UAE Ministry of Interior.
Colonel Saif Muhair Al Mazroui, Deputy Director of the General Department of Traffic of the Dubai Police, this violation would be considered as seriously as driving in a dangerous manner.
As under the UAE federal traffic law, such motorists would be fined Dh1,000 each and their vehicles seized for a month. The motorist would also get 12 black points. Applying makeup or combing hair while driving is more dangerous than using mobile phones, he said.
Colonel Al Mazroui also confirmed that the fine for using mobile phones at traffic signals, intersections which have signals and roundabouts would be Dh200. The police would also impose four black points on such motorists.
“Some motorists have misunderstood this clause. They think that they are not supposed to be using mobile phones only when the vehicle is moving and not at the traffic signals. Motorists cannot stay focused on the road and traffic movement while using mobile phones even at the signals, and they could interrupt traffic or move in a wrong way and cause an accident,” he said.
“Any motorist who needs to use mobile phones should stop the car at a safe place or wait to reach his/her destination, or talk using hands-free microphones, but never talk holding the phone in hand,” he explained.
The Dubai Traffic Department has registered 26,533 cases of motorists using mobile phones while driving this year.
In Jordan Refugee Camp, Early Marriage Often Trumps School
26 Aug, 2014
MAFRAQ, Jordan — Rahaf still giggles when she talks about her husband. Newly married to another resident of Zaatari, the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp, the 16-year-old from Daraa carries a picture from their wedding day under her dress, “just above her heart,” she says.
“I’m lucky. He’s Syrian, too,” she gushes. Her husband, Gassem, is 25 and the couple hopes to have children soon.
Such is the case for other Syrian girls living in Zaatari: The path of marriage trumped the option of going to school.
“I wanted to go to school,” she says, “but my father didn’t let me. He didn’t think it was safe. He’d say, ‘What’s the use? It [the degree] will be useless when you go back home.’”
But with the Syrian civil war in its fourth year, the fleeting promise of returning to Syria any time soon dwindles each day.
Zaatari is no longer temporary. It’s home.
Today, 80,428 people live in Zaatari, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which administers the camp in conjunction with the Jordanian government. Unofficial sources put the number of Zaatari residents higher, closer to 120,000.
According to UNHCR, approximately 57% of the camp’s population is under 18 — and that percentage is growing. On average, 11 babies are born at one of the camp’s medical clinics each day, and Syrian families with children continue to pour across the border seeking safety in Jordan.
To cope with the ballooning numbers of children in the camp, the Jordanian Ministry of Education, together with UNICEF and partner agencies, opened three schools, which run double shifts — girls come in the morning, boys in the afternoon. Hind Omer, a UNICEF education specialist, told Al-Monitor that three more are set to open in the fall.
Last year, 18,000 children enrolled in Zaatari’s schools. With school set to start Sunday, UNICEF is expecting an increase of 4,000 children — to 22,000 students — according to Omer.
That number is a victory, because it would mean that two-thirds of the school-age population in Zaatari goes to school.
The trends within the overall Syrian refugee community, however, are not as positive. Today, some 3 million Syrian children aren’t going to school or are at risk of dropping out, according to UNICEF.
Much of Zaatari’s success is thanks to aid agencies that have poured millions of dollars into education programs, both formal and informal, for Syrian youngsters living in or outside Zaatari. For example, the European Union, UNICEF’s biggest partner on the issue, has invested more than 30 million euros into Syrian educational programs in Jordan since the crisis began, UNICEF specialist Miraj Pradhan told Al-Monitor.
Yet, many families, like those of the newly married Rahaf, still shy away from sending their daughters to school in Zaatari, and it’s not only due to stigma.
Zaatari, which sits on arid, unforgiving enclosed terrain, has been prone to violence, theft and assault.
More than 90% of Zaatari residents are from Daraa and its neighboring villages, which was home to a conservative and devout Sunni population. Some parents worry they can’t control their daughter’s environment as well as they did in Syria. Living far from the camp’s schools adds to the danger that their daughters can be harassed along the way, one family told Al-Monitor.
Another indirect obstacle to youth education in Zaatari is that 42% of the families in Zaatari are female-headed households. In some cases, the mothers are widows; in others, the men are still fighting the regime in Syria. Especially in this context, boys are viewed as potential breadwinners for the family, making school more of a luxury than an immediate necessity.
But for Manal, a mother of four in her early 30s who was an English teacher before the war, there’s no other option besides school.
“In Syria, most kids go to school. But the classrooms here are so crowded!” she says. Still, she insists that her children must continue their education because the other alternatives, such as boredom or idleness, are even bigger threats.
“We can’t just sit here, not being allowed to leave the camp, without having anything to do,” she says. “My kids would go crazy.”
Amne, 18, has been living in Zaatari for 1½ years. During the day she goes to school — she’s finishing 12th grade this year — and then comes home to rest for two hours before heading to work at one of the camp’s reception centers.
Shy yet sharp, Amne worries about how she’ll continue her education. “I want to go to university, but it’s very difficult for us to do that here in Jordan,” she says, fixating her sky-blue eyes on the swinging tarpaulin that serves as the front door of her neighbor’s home.
For Amne and other college-age Syrians in Zaatari, university often seems like a faraway fable.
With Jordanian universities filled to capacity, and competition from other foreign nationals — such as students from the Gulf countries — for the non-Jordanian spots, Syrian refugees seeking a higher education can easily fall through the cracks, an official from the Ministry of Education told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.
UNHCR’s DAFI program was created to address this very need: The program offers more than 2,000 scholarships annually so refugees can study in other countries.
But the demand for higher education among Syrian refugees continues to grow, and for young women like Amne, leaving her family to go study alone in another country isn’t really socially acceptable.
Yusuf, a soft-spoken 20-year-old originally from Daraa, was enrolled in a mechanical college in Damascus before the war broke out, which put his studies on hold indefinitely.
“I applied to the university here in Jordan,” he says, speaking from his father’s dress shop in Zaatari’s open-air market, “but I wasn’t accepted. And now I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to finish the degree.”
Even if he were accepted, the task of trying to transfer credits between Syria and Jordan isn’t seamless, Jordan’s Ministry of Higher Education acknowledged.
The ministry told Al-Monitor there is no quota on the number of Syrian students allowed to attend Jordan’s universities, but it doesn’t have any special programs for Syrian refugees either.
The cost of university tuition in Jordan, which is higher for foreigners, and the complications of leaving Zaatari — Syrian refugees need a Jordanian sponsor guaranteeing financial support to move out of the camp — in addition to the myriad costs of daily life (another problem as Syrians aren’t given work permits) make going to university in Jordan seem unrealistic, if not impossible, for Amne, Yusuf and countless others.
It wouldn’t be hard to imagine the young generation of Syrian refugees giving up on their hopes and plans when daily existence is a struggle riddled with pain and unknowns.
But that’s not the case for people with passion, says Amne. “I know there’s a way,” she says, and it’s that hope that keeps her going.
Girls’ Summit Wants Women’s Issues on the G20 Agenda
26 Aug, 2014
Cynthia Sularz was only a child when a man told her that “little girls shouldn’t worry about politics.”
Now 20, Sularz has not taken that lesson to heart.
The diplomacy student at Seton Hall University in New Jersey decided to work toward building up girls’ confidence through political advocacy, so that more “little girls” could worry about politics.
Sularz is taking that goal to Sydney, Australia for the 2014 G(irls)20 Summit beginning Aug. 25. At G(irls)20, young women representing different countries gather to compile a list of crucial women’s issues for G20 leaders to address — this year, the girls are turning a keen eye to how to actually solve those problems.
This year also brings three new faces to the table. For the first year ever, G(irls)20 has delegates representing Pakistan, Afghanistan and the MENA Region (Middle East and North Africa).
“It’s really important to have those voices at the table for two reasons,” says G(irls)20 founder Farah Mohamed. “One, when you’re having conversations about these countries, we need delegates from those countries. Two, a lot has happened there — we could use best practices. Rather than do this for them, we want to do this with them.”
That means that rather than just drafting a list of ideas for G20 leaders to merely consider, the delegates — all aged 18 to 20 — are brainstorming ways in which the G20 Summit can better the lives of women and girls through concrete education and empowerment initiatives.
“I have to tell you, it’s only been in the last two years that we’ve seen leaders pay attention to the role of women,” Mohamed says. “And now it’s been put on the agenda. So now we’re saying, ‘Okay, you’ve identified it as an issue, let’s see some action. We want to see some tools.’”
The “tools” portion is where G(irls) 20 delegates come in. Mohamed says the G(irls)20 agenda mirrors the G20 agenda so that the girls can present solutions plans for the specific issues that the G20 has decided are most relevant to its member countries from year to year. This year, the girls are addressing the dearth of youth employment opportunities worldwide and the effects of women’s entrepreneurial spirit on global agriculture.
The two-day summit culminates in a giant group gathering, where the girls finalize language to send to G20 leaders that will advocate for a greater spotlight on women’s issues that will help the G20 meet its 2 percent growth target.
Mohamed expects this latest crop of delegates to be most engaged around the issue of youth unemployment.
“It’s become quite a crisis,” she says. “We potentially have a lost generation here.”
The final day meeting is also the girls’ last chance to fight for their own projects, their own pet issues and, most importantly, their own countries’ interests. The best arguments and best teamwork win the top slots on the envoy sent to G20.
“In the past it’s ended at midnight — if we’re lucky,” Mohamed says. “They bring their A-game.”
Mohamed emphasizes that G(irls)20 is decidedly “not a big brother approach.” And, she asserts, it’s about more than “consciousness-raising” — that’s why so many of these rising stars apply to be delegates in the first place.
Those delegates include 19-year-old Seerat Zahra of the Roots School in Islamabad, the first to represent Pakistan at G(irls)20. While she admits the distinction is “a little overwhelming,” she says she excited to propose her own research interests, and also to get input from the other delegates so she can take her project home and lay the groundwork.
Her goal: to reduce the school drop-out rate of young girls from the lower socioeconomic segment of Pakistani society.
“Arguably the greatest obstacle to women and girls in Pakistan is the cultural misogyny and backward social norms that pervade the Pakistani society,” she said in an e-mail interview. “It is this extreme misogyny and gender-double standards that seep into the entire social—and therefore, political and economic—fabric of the society, and pulls women down.”
She says she’s attending the summit to make sure that perspective and viewpoint from her home country isn’t lost in the shuffle as 53 other girls — young, smart and sharp, just like her — push for their own projects to take center stage.
After a few rounds of public speaking practice, digital strategy camp and leadership training preceding the summit, they’ll be ready to hit the ground running when the time comes to prioritize their agenda as a group.
G(irls) 20 doesn’t accept any government funding, but Mohamed has found partners in places like the NOVO foundation, along with in-kind support from Bane Capital and Caterpillar (and even Jones New York, which is providing each of the delegates with a professional wardrobe). Not to mention the wealth of donations from past delegates, many of whom are still highly engaged in the group and its mission.
“You know the ‘old boys club?’” Mohamed says. “These girls are ‘the new girls club.’ If I’d had access to this when I was 18 or 19, it would’ve blown my mind.”
G(irls)20 alums created a Facebook group to keep in touch and pass along tips on grad school applications and job hunt struggles.
Full report at:
First Ever Muslim Lady called Rizana, Joins Sri Lankan Army
26 Aug, 2014
London, Sri Lanka Guardian) It is learned that a Muslim lady called Rizana has joined Sri Lankan army recently. This is the first time in the history of Sri Lankan Muslim a female Muslim joined the Sri Lankan army. Along with 35 Tamil ladies this Muslim lady has got army training and graduated with after three months of initial training.
I’m sure that this unprecedented event should have created some religious controversies among Muslim clerics in Sri Lanka. For some it may be haram for Muslim ladies in Sri Lanka to join armed forces and for some others it may be a despicable act for Muslim ladies to work in armed forces in Sri Lanka. For some others it may be OK for Muslim ladies to join and work with Sri Lankan forces. For some Salafi fanatics this may be clear cut religious innovation and an act of rebellion against religion. Yet, for some others it this event may be an eye opener to gauge the prevailing socio-religious and political conditions of Muslims living under Non Muslim environments. Muslim minorities should reconsider and revaluate many issues like this when they live under non- Muslim political environments.
I’m not here to issue religious verdict on this issue rather I would like to provoke thoughts of Muslims to see and gauge this issue practically and viably rather than debating this issue dogmatically and academically. This event tells us the ground reality of Sri Lankan Muslims.
Some questions are relevant in this regard. Why did this lady join the army? What make her to join the army? Is it poverty that made to take this path? Or is it her democratic right or is it her patriotic feeling that made her to do this? Is it something else made her to join SL army? What are consequences of such act? Will others follow her? Is it an isolated incident? What does Sri Lankan government’s special provision to meet religious needs of such Muslims joining the Army? Do they have Halal food provisions? Do they have other religious facilities for Muslim ladies in the army and how could they preserve their religious rites and identities. These are some of the questions that we should clarify on this issue. Can we blame her for her decision or our community should take responsibility for issue. It is communal duty and responsibility to deal with issue like. Can our politicians make some special provision for Muslims who want to join in the forces
There are nearly 400 hundreds thousands armed forces in Sri Lanka and yet, Tamil and Muslim represent less than % 3 of all these forces. It is high time that Muslims and Tamils reconsider this issue and fully participate in the services of armed forces. It is a democratic right of Tamil and Muslim to do so. Of course, Sinhalese might have some still physiological fear of Tamil joining for Sri Lankan forces and yet, there is no reason why Muslim should not join the armed forces.
Today, social reality of Sri Lankan is totally different Muslim boys should have courage and bravery to join army and represent Muslims in all forces. Muslim leaders should encourage them to do so. Firstly it is a collective duty of Muslims to defend the country and show our loyalty to the nation and secondly, this would create employment opportunities for Muslims in Sri Lanka in general.
This lady has really opened the eyes of Muslim leadership and I hope that this would create vigorous debates among Muslim leadership. While 60% Muslims are languishing in poverty this lady should have opened the eyes of Muslims and has given an impetus to Muslim women to wake up Muslims to render a wonderful service to our mother land. This should be an exemplary precedent for all others and to show our loyalty and parasitism to our mother land for the Muslims who are born and brought up in this Island.
In the past we Muslims have made tremendous contributions in the defence of this great nation and this lady has come forward to show our loyalty to Island and should be encouraged and welcome by all.
400 Saudi women graduate in Mobily’s training program
26 Aug, 2014
SAUDI Minister of Labor Engineer Adel bin Mohammed Al Faqih visited Mobily's Female Contact Center in Jeddah recently. Engineer Khalid Al Kaf, MD and CEO of Mobily and a number of company executives welcomed him.
The minister listened to a thorough explanation about the center and how female employees perform their work conveniently in an easy process which takes into account the women's nature and the suitability of their work as being compliant to the Islamic terms and conditions.
Al Kaf explained the role played by Mobily toward the female community through the provision of all necessary means to create a distinctive and convenient work environment that suits the nature of women and meet their requirements. He added that Mobily already recruited more than 700 Saudi woman and about 320 of them work in customer service.
A brief explanation on the customers service representatives program for women to operate from home, which was launched by Mobily and seeks to overcome all the difficulties hindering women to get engaged in the labor market through providing the possibility of working from their homes.
The Minister of Labor was briefed on Mobily's program to train the girls on the maintenance of mobiles.
Al Faqih sponsored earlier the graduation of the first batch of 400 girls in the program, in collaboration with the National Institute Specialist Training for Women in Jeddah. The program is targeting to train 1,000 Saudi girls on the programming and maintenance of mobile phones over the next three years.
Mobily is keen on empowering female employees to work in different sections taking into account the suitability to their nature and privacy. They are currently working in different sections like collection, companies, customer care, quality control, social communication, technical support, work from home and contact center 1100.
28 Saudi women work at cleaning materials plant
26 Aug, 2014
JEDDAH — Twenty-eight Saudi women have started working in a factory manufacturing cleaning materials to provide for themselves.
Despite the difficult nature of their jobs and the hardships of the daily commute, these women have shown a great deal of patience and endurance, Al-Madinah newspaper reported.
The women expressed hope that the factory would increase their SR3,000 monthly salaries out of recognition of their hard work.
The factory supervisor, Tahani Ahmad, is a high school graduate and her job is to supervise the attendance of women and distribute work schedules.
She said she works from 7 a.m. to 4 .p.m., and stressed that there is no dishonor in any job as long as it provides the worker with a legal source of income.
Middle school graduate Safrah Al-Salehi works as an assistant supervisor and she said she has become accustomed to the difficult nature of the work, especially since it provides her with a decent source of income.
Areej Hasan said she received training at an institute before she joined the factory three years ago. Hasan is planning to complete her college degree.
"Our determination has proved that women can in fact work at hard jobs that were previously limited to men, but we hope that the factory management would consider increasing our salaries," she said while adding that she works nine hours a day preparing 200 boxes.
Mariam Abdullah said she was glad when she heard of job vacancies at the factory. She noted that despite the hard working conditions, she and her women colleagues are holding their own.
Women take Afghan army oath
26 Aug, 2014
KABUL: Female officers from the Afghan National Army (ANA) take their oath of enlistment during a graduation ceremony at the Kabul Military Training Centre yesterday. The ANA is the main branch of the Afghan armed forces, which is responsible for ground warfare. It is heavily assisted by the United States and Nato and is divided into six regional corps.
6 Women Killed In Single Day as Violence against Women Soars in Afghanistan
Aug 26 2014
At least six women were killed in single day in western Afghanistan as violence as against women soars.
Local officials in Herat province have said at least five of women were killed in this province by relatives and unknown gunmen.
Provincial police spokesman, Abdul Rauf Ahmadi, said the women were murdered in the past 24 hours.
Ahmadi further added that two women aged around 30-year-old were murdered by their husbands; two others were killed by unknown gunmen while another was killed by a close relative.
He said a number of suspects were arrested in connection to the murder of the women and are in police custody for further questioning.
In the meantime, officials in western Farah province of Afghanistan said a woman was killed by a close relative in Khak-e-Safid district.
The officials further added that the woman was killed by her husband’s brother who managed to flee the area.
Khak-e-Safid district is among the volatile provinces in Farah province where anti-government armed militant groups are actively operating.
According to local officials, another woman was killed earlier in a similar incident in western Farah province of Afghanistan.
Rwanda: World Bank Praises Rwanda On Girls
26 Aug, 2014
The World Bank is featuring Rwanda among the success stories in implementing the Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) which ensures equal opportunities for girls and women and tackles gender-based discrimination.
The multi-donor trust fund administered by the World Bank Group is designed to unleash women's productive capacity and tackle poverty.
Its donors include the governments of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the Nike Foundation.
A report on the World Bank Group website describes how the Rwanda Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) was launched as a pilot program in 2012 to boost job skills and incomes among disadvantaged adolescent girls and young women, aged 15-24, in two urban and two rural districts of Rwanda.
It was noted that the country's large youth cohort--some 19% of the population is aged 15-24--faces major obstacles in entering the work force.
Adolescent girls also face the added burdens of widespread early childbearing, high fertility, and gender-based violence. They are also less likely than their male peers to complete secondary education, limiting their opportunities and ability to work their way out of poverty.
Under AGI, young women get six months of skills training in areas such as food processing, culinary arts, arts and crafts, and agri-business--complemented by life skills courses, social support, and mentoring. Participants also receive support to form cooperatives and connect with the private sector, including exporters: One public-private partnership is helping participants break into high-end US and Japanese markets.
According to the report, three cohorts of young women--2,007 in all--will have completed training in September 2014. While the project is still in the pilot stage, anecdotal evidence suggests it is having a positive impact on the lives of participants.
The report says 23 girls who studied food processing at the Gaculiro Training Center in Kigali have been placed in two-month internships with local industries.
Graduates from the first cohort have formed 60 cooperatives, typically comprising 18-20 members, and several businesses. Several cooperatives have ventured into non-traditional farming such as mushrooms and beekeeping. In Bushoki, a rural village north of the capital, 22 girls have established a restaurant that is quickly becoming popular in the area.
Life skills, including social and behavioral skills, which enable trainees to deal effectively with the demands of everyday life, are an important part of the Rwanda AGI.
In addition, through a partnership with Girl Hub Rwanda, participants are provided with a designated space that is safe and supportive, aimed at helping girls make healthy choices.
"I thought my pain and sadness were mine alone but when I came to this program, I realised that there are many girls in similar situations," said Chantal Uwamariya, 20, an AGI participant forced to leave school in 2008 when her mother could no longer afford tuition.
"We have been trained how to live with other people and how to handle difficult situations. This... keeps me going."
Maria Nyiraminani, 20 and the youngest of eight children, had to leave school to help her mother at home after her father died in 2009. With AGI training, she said, "Now I am sure I can get a job and help my mother... I hope one day I will be able to help young girls in poor settings."
The Government of Rwanda plans to maintain designated training centres for young women after the AGI pilot ends later this year, while similar AGI programs appear to have impact in other countries.
In Liberia, participants in a similar program, Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women, reported a 47 percent increase in employment and 80% jump in average weekly earnings compared with a control group.
In Nepal, the Adolescent Girls Employment Initiative is helping young women find jobs in lucrative, non-traditional fields for women such as gadget repair and aluminium working.
Rwanda has made major strides over the last decade in boosting growth, reducing poverty, and tackling gender inequality. From 2001-2012, its real GDP growth averaged 8.1% while the poverty rate fell from 59% in 2001 to 45% in 2011. It also has the highest number of female parliamentarians in the world, with 63.8% of seats in the lower house occupied by women.
But numerous challenges remain, particularly for young women in this youthful, densely populated country in Africa's Great Lakes region. AGI was launched in 2008.
Social Media Backs Turkish MP’s Threat to Throw Her Shoe to Discipline Other MPs
26 Aug, 2014
In many regions in Turkey, mothers exasperated with a naughty child will take off a slipper and raise it menacingly toward the miscreant, shouting, “Look, the slipper’s coming!” That is the first warning. If the child — typically a boy — fails to stop misbehaving, the slipper soon flies through the air. This “slipper disciplining” usually bears fruit, with the kid either running away or getting hit and calming down. More often than not, the first warning suffices and the child behaves before the slipper takes off.
A similar scene unfolded last week in an unlikely place — the Turkish parliament. Aylin Nazliaka, one of the most active female lawmakers of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was making a speech about violence against women in Turkey when she got exasperated with colleagues from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who sought to sabotage her speech, hurling taunts of her being a “cheapo” and “having Botox.”
“The devil is tempting me to take off a shoe and throw it at you!” an incensed Nazliaka shouted. Yet, the experienced boys of yesteryear ignored the warning and went on with their taunting. “But you are not worth even a shoe,” Nazliaka replied before leaving the rostrum amid a hail of insults.
Nazliaka’s speech on gender discrimination was no doubt a stinging one. “We have come to a point where [the country] discusses what women should wear, what color their lipstick should be, whether pregnant women should go out in the streets, whether women’s laughing out loud is immoral or not and even whether women and men should perform the folk dances together. Even mixed-sex education is being questioned. And you are responsible for all this!” Nazliaka said, shouting at the AKP benches. “Three women are killed every day [in Turkey] and violence against women is up 1,400%, remember? The murderers are emboldened by those who attempt to dictate women how they should behave. Don’t look too far, it’s you I’m talking about! You are the ones emboldening those murderers!” she declared.
Nazliaka’s two-minute parliamentary speech reverberated for days in the media and among politicians, including President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Don’t throw that shoe, you’ll need it,” Erdogan said, adding that the lawmaker’s remarks reflected her low “quality and breeding.”
Nazliaka retorted in even harsher terms. “He [Erdogan] would have certainly preferred a shoebox instead of a shoe. Had I thrown a wristwatch, his MPs would have leaped to grab it in the air,” she said, referring to a probe into alleged large-scale corruption among AKP members and cronies, including a bank manager who stashed millions of dollars in shoeboxes at home and a minister accused of accepting an ultra-expensive watch as a bribe.
Nazliaka’s speech took the social media by storm. Twitter users, mostly women, lent the lawmaker support with hundreds of tweets under a hashtag called “slipper’s coming.” In a message reflecting how deep-rooted the “slipper discipline” tradition is, one user tweeted, “I’m the grandchild of a grandma who never missed the target.”
The messages came complete with photos of women’s shoes of all styles, colors and sizes, including the now-famous high heels Nazliaka wore during the stormy parliamentary session. In the meantime, “slipper throwing” games hit the Internet and some shrewd footwear companies took the opportunity to advertise their products.
In fact, shoe-throwing — an Arab gesture of insult — has become a popular expression of protest globally since the Arab Spring. The world had first become acquainted with it after Saddam Hussein’s fall in Iraq when it watched Baghdad residents hit the strongman’s toppled monument with shoes and slippers.
In Turkey, however, things are a bit different, with the slipper used as an instrument of taming mischievous children. Ibrahim Ethem Basaran, a prominent scholar and an expert of Anatolian culture at Ankara University Educational Sciences Faculty, told Al-Monitor: “Slipper throwing in Turkey is not an act of insult or violence. A slipper is being thrown only to stop a naughty kid, when there is nothing else to throw around. Mothers would take a slipper and throw it, but not before warning ‘Look, slipper’s coming.’ The underlying intention is to discipline the child, but neither the slipper nor beating has a place in education. No teacher would throw a shoe at a child. The act is limited to exasperated mothers who are left helpless. The kids themselves would not care much. They would laugh and run away.”
In comments on Nazliaka’s behavior, Basaran said: “The lawmaker is likely to have witnessed slipper throwing in her childhood and remembered it while speaking in parliament. Just like a helpless mother, she could have felt the urge to throw a shoe.”
Despite the outpouring of support on social media, Nazliaka’s fury changed nothing in the parliamentary debate where the episode unfolded. True to style, AKP lawmakers voted en masse to reject an opposition proposal that would have enabled victims of violence staying in women’s shelters to cast their votes in elections. Anything about the session but the bill’s purpose made the headlines. No one knew why a basic democratic right was voted down. And Nazliaka, who was the lawmaker who submitted the proposal, wound up discussing her shoes rather than her bill.
Some 2,500 Turkish women currently accommodated in shelter houses are unable to vote on the grounds of “safety” since no legal arrangement exists on how they can cast their votes. Those victims of violence will be considered nonexistent in the general elections in 2015, just as they were in the municipal and presidential elections this year.
Though the bill was voted down, the click-clack of Turkish women’s heels reverberated across the world as many international media outlets covered the story and foreign women voiced their support on social media.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, Nazliaka herself sounded optimistic. “The shoe became a symbol around the world. Those who represent the dark mentality of medieval ages are seeking to push women out from all realms [of public life], but they will continue to hear the click-clack of our heels just everywhere. They will see how this will grow into a women’s revolution, taking its first steps in Turkey and spreading across the region. Turkish women are capable of moving mountains,” she said.
“I was greatly encouraged by the scale of reaction the incident generated on social media and expressions of support from all over the world. Female cyclists from Poland, for instance, posted a collective picture with their shoes, saying they were ready to come to Turkey in support. There is support pouring out from all over Europe and the foreign press is reporting the issue. An impulse that popped up as a motherly relic had a truly big impact,” she said.