New Age Islam
Wed Aug 12 2020, 06:17 AM

Islam, Women and Feminism ( 12 Nov 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Activists, School Kids March to Parliament to Stop Child Marriage in Malaysia

















Over 50 people gather outside the Parliament building to protest against child marriage.

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FMG: Culture and Religion in Malaysia See Millions of Girls Undergo Cut

Saudi Women to Drive Family Taxis Soon

'They See No Shame': 'Honour' Killing Video Shows Plight Of Syrian Women

Digital Assaults ‘A New Form of Violence against Women’ In Turkey

Muslim Woman Sues WalMart for Religious Discrimination after Being Fired From Knoxville Store

Kurdish Women Pedal, Dunk, Spike as Iraq’s Top Athletes

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/activists,-school-kids-march-to-parliament-to-stop-child-marriage-in-malaysia/d/116866

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Activists, School Kids March to Parliament to Stop Child Marriage in Malaysia

Nurul Azwa Aris

November 13, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: A group of people comprising activists, representatives of child rights organisations, and schoolchildren marched to Parliament today to demand an end to child marriage in the country.

The group of more than 50 people was led by the organisers of several movements including #PelajarBukanPengantin, #SchoolNotSpouse, #WhenIwas11, and #EndChildMarriage. These movements were initiated by the Women’s Aid Organisation, Sisters in Islam, The Body Shop and the Association of Women Lawyers.

They began gathering at about 8.30am before marching to Parliament to hand over a memorandum and a petition with over 156,000 signatures to the government.

Some of the children, dressed in their school uniforms, chanted slogans such as “Hey hey ho ho! Child marriage has got to stop!”

Lawyer Robyn Choi, who runs the #PelajarBukanPengantin movement, said it was a platform to allow students a say in matters which concern them.

“With things like child marriage, if the kids are old enough to get married, they are old enough to say something about it,” she added.

She said a survey conducted at schools since July showed that most schoolchildren were in fact not ready to get married.

Several government representatives were present to receive the memo and petition, including Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Fuziah Salleh, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Hanipa Maidin, Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching, Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah and Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil.

Yeoh said the government would continue to fight for an end to child marriage.

“The government hears you. Even if you only have 10 signatures, we will still do what needs to be done. We also want to end child marriage,” she said.

Fuziah agreed that there should be an end to child marriage which she said did more harm than good.

She also said Putrajaya would consult various authorities on the issue.

“We will table an amendment to the law which requires a special guideline in approving child marriages in the shariah courts by the end of this Parliament sitting,” she said.

The issue of child marriage came under the spotlight in July, following reports that a 41-year-old man in Gua Musang had taken an 11-year-old girl as his third wife.

This was followed by reports of another marriage in Tumpat, Kelantan, where a 15-year-old girl married a man nearly three decades her senior after the union received the go-ahead from the Shariah Court.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/11/13/activists-school-kids-march-to-parliament-to-stop-child-marriage/

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FMG: Culture and Religion in Malaysia See Millions of Girls Undergo Cut

November 13, 2018

Fa Abdul was nine years old when she found out she had been circumcised when she was just a baby.

She was among the millions of girls across Malaysia whose families believe that female circumcision protects young girls from committing "sins".

"Many Muslims in Malaysia will tell you that circumcision will protect girls from growing up and becoming wild," Ms Abdul said.

Ms Abdul spoke to the ABC about her experience after a new documentary — titled The Hidden Cut — was released last week.

Chen Yih Wen, a senior producer from the group behind the documentary R.AGE, said the team started making the documentary after Malaysia was criticised at a United Nations forum in February.

The UN's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, held in Switzerland, slammed the country over continuing to practice female circumcision, or female genital mutilation.

The documentary makers discovered that the procedures are widely performed in private clinics and are not regulated.

"The Government said they were developing guidelines in 2012, but none of the medical practitioners that we interviewed said they received it," Ms Wen said.

Ms Abdul — who is a journalist and works at online news publication Malaysiakini — gave birth to her first child, a girl, at the age of 20.

Due to religious and family pressure, her daughter was subjected to female circumcision.

"The doctor pulled away the labia and used something that looked like a needle to slit the clitoral hood," she said.

A decade later, Ms Abdul's viewpoint on female circumcision changed dramatically, after she found out that there was no medical benefit and that it was simply a religious ordain.

"We were already born into the culture and that society expected us to do it," she said.

"Doing it becomes automatic, you just follow and stop asking questions.

"I was young and naive and I actually didn't know what I was doing — the question I asked myself was: 'if it's pointless, then why do we do it?'"

'We are confusing it with Islam'

A women's rights group based in Kuala Lumpur — called Sisters of Islam — told the ABC that female circumcision is widely accepted in Malaysia because of a rising conservative movement.

In countries where Islam is the majority religion, according to Sisters of Islam, there is a tendency to "Islamise everything".

"People have fear to question the practice, as if they are questioning God," Syarifatul Adibah, a senior program officer from Sisters of Islam, said.

"[Female circumcision] is not prescribed by the Koran or the Hadiths [a collection of Prophet Muhammad's sayings]," Ms Adibah added.

In 2009, the National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs (JAKIM) in Malaysia ruled that female circumcision became obligatory, moving from recommended, but if harmful must be avoided.

As result, three years later, a study conducted by Dr Maznah Dahlui from Department of Social and Preventive Medicine University of Malaya discovered that 93 per cent of Muslim women surveyed had been circumcised.

More than 80 per cent of respondents said religious obligations were behind the reason, while 16 per cent said to control sexual drives.

Ms Abdul said that society often does a lot of things that copies behaviours from African and Arab countries and defend it as having a religious origin.

"We are confusing it with Islam and we think whatever they do is Islamic," she said.

She also said regardless religion or cultural tradition, parents have no rights to do whatever they wish to do to their children.

"Not only women, but every human being has the right to their own body," she said.

The ABC contacted Malaysia's Ministry of Health, Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia, and Penang Medical College, but they did not respond to requests for comment.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-13/female-circumcision-is-still-happening-in-malaysia/10473640

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Saudi Women to Drive Family Taxis Soon

2018-11-12

DAMMAM — Qualified Saudi women drivers will start driving family taxi cabs in the Kingdom after a week, according to the Public Transport Authority (PTA).

The authority›s special chart organizing the activities of the family taxis is aimed at further enhancing the transport services being extended especially to women and children, the Dammam-based Al-Yum newspaper has reported.

According to the chart, the family cabs must be owned by an establishment, which is authorized to transport families within city limits.

The chart, which was published by the official Um Al-Qura newspaper, makes it imperative that the drivers should be qualified Saudi women who have valid category A driving licenses.

The drivers should be free of any contagious diseases, should not be drug addicts, should have no criminal records and should have passed all the training sessions organized by the authority.

According to the chart, the passengers should consist of at least one adult female. The male passengers and children should sit in the back seat and should not be left alone in the car.

The establishment involved in the family transport activity should have a fleet of 10 vehicles at least, the car should not be more than five years old and should have a minimum of seven seats including the driver›s seat.

The car should also have cold and warm air conditioning system and should also be supplied with GPS navigation.

It should also have a screen projecting all the required data such as the driver›s name, the name of the establishment with all its contact numbers and the plate number. The car should have a spare tire and should be clean from inside and outside.

http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/547869/SAUDI-ARABIA/Saudi-women-to-drive-family-taxis-soon

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'They See No Shame': 'Honour' Killing Video Shows Plight Of Syrian Women

12 Nov 2018

Kalashnikov in hand, the man looks into the camera. He stands over a terrified girl, who is pleading for her life.

“Make sure we can see both your faces,” a voice orders.

Behind the shaky camera, another one goads the gunman: “Go ahead, Bashar – cleanse your honour.”

Without another word, a flurry of bullets is fired into Rasha Bseis’s body. It takes nine agonising seconds for her to die.

Rasha had been murdered on camera by her brother, Bashar Bseis, condemned by rumours that she had committed adultery, for which the punishment – in her brother’s eyes – was death.

Even in a war as long and bloody as Syria’s, the execution, shared thousands of times on social media, shocked the Syrian community. The events unfolded after a scorned suitor had posted images of Rasha online. She was dragged from her home in a camp just 2km from Turkey’s border and shot by a soldier it trained and equipped – a fighter enlisted in the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army.

“What [Bseis] did was not an ethic of the Free Syrian Army and is contrary to the principles of our revolution,” Mustafa Sejari, a spokesman for the FSA, told the Guardian, adding that an investigation was under way and that a military court in Jarabulus had issued a warrant for Bseis.

Weeks later, however, an arrest has yet to be made, and there are fears that, as an FSA fighter, Bseis will never be held to account.

“These are people who see no shame in killing the girl, but actually believe it’s what washes away the shame she has brought on the whole family,” says exiled Syrian writer Loubna Mrie. “An innocent girl is dead because some guy posted her pictures on Facebook.”

While not unique to the Middle East, “honour” killings are a problem deeply rooted in Syrian society, “and not exclusive to one area or sect or faction”, says Mrie.

Even before the war began in 2011, women’s rights groups in Syria estimated that 300 women were killed each year by male relatives, and numbers have escalated during the crisis. Until 2009, killers were allowed to walk free if they justified the act as motivated by honour. The government repealed the law, replacing it with a mere two-year maximum sentence.

“I remember I was nine years old the first time I saw a video of a guy smashing his sister’s skull with a stone while the whole village watched and cheered,” says Mrie.

Such killings are meant to seal the matter, never to be spoken of again – perpetuating a culture of silence that functions to protect the killer.

Women on all sides of Syria’s war are targeted. When violence broke out in 2011, a campaign of mass rape by Assad’s soldiers was perniciously effective in both oppressing communities and provoking defections to the loosely formed Free Syrian Army.

Today, institutional protections for women in rebel-held territories are still severely lacking.

“It’s anarchy – the only rule is by traditions and customs, and the factions,” says Ola Marwa, head of protection at Women Now for Development, which operates in northern Syria.

A culture of shame means Syrian women rarely feel safe to report sexual violence. Even if they do, there are few avenues of support because “there’s no real authority or law to stand on,” Marwa says. “It’s difficult to raise awareness about empowering women to combat sexual violence because even discussing it is seen as incitement for people to go against their culture.”

Rasha’s killing in Jarabulus adds to a host of concerns plaguing Turkey’s allies in northern Syria, and raises questions over the future rule of law in the areas its military has intervened.

Turkey has made significant investments into rebel-held Syria – training its police force, building roads, hospitals and even branches of the Turkish postal service. By managing FSA groups, officials say they seek to bolster rebels more in line with its values, while sidelining extremist elements.

“We condemn this incident very clearly and explicitly,” says Leyla Şahin Usta, human rights chair of Turkey’s ruling AK Party.

“We are making efforts to correct mistakes made – the FSA has their own police force and their own courts. As the observer country, we advise them on the norms of human rights – but at the end of the day, the FSA is in charge.”

In June, a UN report raised concerns about sexual harassment and other human rights violations endangering the rule of law in Turkey’s newly conquered territories.

“Turkey has, at least publicly, tried to professionalise their rebel allies inside Syria – but they have not invested heavily in doing that,” says Haid Haid, research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation. “That’s why you still have rebel groups committing atrocities, attacking civilians, preventing courts from arresting people, which allows some to violate the rights of others with immunity.”

A senior commander in the Turkey-backed rebel coalition adamantly denied reports of fighters committing sexual assault against local women, and vowed those who did would face a military court. “These crimes are unforgivable, and anyone who commits them will face their fair destiny,” Colonel Haitham Afisi told the Guardian.

Bashar Bseis nonetheless managed to flee to his hometown, Kastoon in Hama, outside FSA control. By the laws of the Islamic sharia courts that operate there, if he finds four witnesses to testify that Rasha committed adultery, he will be exonerated in her killing.

“Turkey definitely has a responsibility to hold its allies accountable when it comes to courts,” says Haid. “They don’t have the force yet to enforce their decisions, especially on rebel members.”

Still, “honour” killings may not be an issue the FSA is able or willing to solve, Mrie says. She questions the FSA’s motivations for starting the investigation and issuing the arrest warrant.

“I don’t know if they are doing this because they believe this guy should be held accountable, or just because it went viral on social media.”

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/nov/12/they-see-no-shame-honour-killing-video-shows-plight-of-syrian-women

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Digital assaults ‘a new form of violence against women’ in Turkey

November 12 2018

Digital violence has added to traditional forms of violence against women, requiring new methods to apply to fight this, says a woman activist. Migrant women also subjected to violence have been added as a challenge for women’s rights movements as they are not prepared for this, according to Gülsun Kanat Dinç from Purple Roof Women Shelter Foundation.

Q: Tell us briefly about Mor Çatı.

A: After the first march in 1987 by women on violence against women, feminist women founded the Purple Roof foundation as a women’s shelter. The first women’s shelter was set up in 1995, and thanks to campaigns by women’s movements, law number 6284, which was an important achievement in terms of legal framework, was passed by parliament.

Here at the Purple Roof Foundation [“Mor Çatı” in Turkish], we show solidarity to women who want to stop the violence they face or want to get away from it.

When they come here they can be listened to without any prejudice. They first recount what they have been subjected to, and if they decide on what to do, we try to help them. We try to support them in cases when they do not know what to do or if they are not aware of the means they have.

If they are in need of a shelter and if there is space, we send them to our shelter. Or we tell them about how they can secure a decision for a restraining order, talk about the legal support they can get from the bar, and explain the state’s means in terms of shelters.

Q: Do you have only one shelter?

A: We just have one. We did not want to open a second one, because our aim is not to open shelters.

Our aim is to show how women can be empowered by feminist methods and how solidarity among women can stop violence against women.

Q: What have your observations been throughout the years on violence against women?

A: In 2001 there were only nine shelters. Today there are around 130. No one knew about the law that enables the restraining order. But thanks to all the campaigns we have done, women, lawyers, police officers, judges, all know about the law. There have been many changes in favor of women in the civil code and criminal law.

But obviously there is also some backpedaling, such as on the issue of abortion. The legal period for abortion has been decreased from 12 weeks to 10 weeks.

Especially in certain cities, it has become very difficult for a woman to have an abortion in state hospitals. There is pressure on private clinics too.

Q: What do you think about women murders? There is a debate on whether they are on the rise or whether they have become visible.

A: They are on the rise, but they have also become visible. The rise in women murders is also the result of the empowerment of women. Women who say “I don’t want to go on like this anymore” take action, but it is exactly at that point that they jeopardize their lives.

But then the murderers gets reduced sentences, violence against women is still internalized in the society.

Q: In the course of the past 20 years, what are the things that have changed and those that have remained unchanged when you think of the personal stories?

A: When you look at the stories of violence, you see that not much has changed. At the end of the day, the vicious circle continues to reproduce itself in the society. We are not taking radical steps to disrupt that cycle. While there are some efforts to raise awareness, there is still the normalization of violence in songs and TV series.

But the means to fight violence have developed and diversified. The new law has taken a prominent role in our lives and the women’s movement has strengthened. It became easier to access the necessary information. But there is a rise in digital violence.

Q: Is this a new form of violence?

A: It is incredibly intensive and a violence form that is very speedily applicable. It provides also a means to control and monitor women: Where did she go, where is she hanging out? Men tell women, “I have to know where you are going,” he tries to follow her via certain mobile apps, etc.

When a woman wants to escape a man, he makes use of the digital means to trace her. Men try to reach out to women via her friends and acquaintances on social media. Women are insulted and threatened via social media. There are also cases in which pictures of a woman can be taken and used to blackmail her.

Digital violence has increasingly become a very frequently used tool in the past decade unfortunately.

And we have to develop our own way to respond to this new type of violence. One of the first things we ask the victim of violence is to whom their phone belongs and how they use social media. We have to include this dimension as well in our security plans.

Q: What do you think is the one most important issue that needs to be tackled in order to improve the fight against violence against women?

A: If we could solve the problems pertaining to the judiciary the situation can improve much faster. Access to legal means and the implementation of legal rights remain problematic. And also if we could have the right understanding at the top, then this could reflect itself from top to bottom in all stages.

Q: Are you talking about the impunity of violence?

A: Not just that. First we need to take preventive action in the legal sphere. A woman gets a decision for a restraining order but it is not properly implemented. For example, a woman places a complaint about a potential perpetrator, the prosecutor listens to the guy and then lets him go. But then she ends up as invalid with five bullets in her body. If the man was put in jail or his gun was apprehended maybe the result could have been different. Men go through these kinds of examples and end up thinking, “nothing will happen to me.”

Q: When you listen to the stories, what is it that you find to be the most common aspect?

A: Access to justice remains insufficient and the state’s misguided policies in the shelters turn out to be like prison for women. The shelters are not women-friendly. They face prejudice there as well. This prejudice — the conviction that if a woman was a victim of violence it was most probably her fault — prevails in shelters, in police stations or even in bars among lawyers. A woman can have bad intentions, she might lie, and if you don’t like that attitude, you just go away; if you resort to violence you are to blame. Wherever they go they can face some approaches based on “if you had not behaved like that, you would not have ended up like this.”

In the state’s shelters for instance, women are under constant control and treated as individuals who have taken the wrong decisions. They are not treated with respect.

Q: What is the situation with migrant women?

A: This is a huge challenge for us.

There is a language barrier. We are not prepared at all. We do not have a translator. This is a tremendously vulnerable community. Their access to the state’s means is not easy. Their status as refugees is not clear. The law on the rights of the refugees is not properly implemented. There is a lot of domestic violence. If the husband is Turkish, he knows everything and deliberately leaves the women outside of the legal processes. Syrian women remain isolated. They have a lot of legal problems and we are not well equipped for that. We had a few staying in our shelter, and even if other women suffer from the same problems you can still see a certain degree of racism. We have experienced this problem in the shelter as well.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/digital-assaults-a-new-form-of-violence-against-women-in-turkey-138805

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Muslim Woman Sues WalMart for Religious Discrimination after Being Fired From Knoxville Store

Nov. 8, 2018

A Muslim woman fired last year from a Knoxville Walmart is suing the retail giant in federal court for religious discrimination and retaliation.

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, attorneys for Fadumo Sardeye accused her managers and coworkers of harassing her for the religious accommodations she requested.

Those incidents listed in the federal complaint include initially denying her vacation request during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and demanding she show where in the Quran it says she could not touch pork products or alcohol.

"She lost her job simply because she was a Muslim who was born in Somalia," said Jerry Martin, an attorney with Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison representing Sardeye.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Tennessee, also accuses Sardeye's managers of retaliating against her after she contacted Walmart's corporate office to report the discrimination. A corporate investigator reprimanded the Knoxville store's management.

Afterward, Sardeye faced scheduling issues, according to the lawsuit.She was repeatedly penalized for working the shifts her supervisor told her to report for, although they did not match the times listed in the store's computerized scheduling system, the suit said. Walmart fired Sardeye on Nov. 15, 2017, citing too many attendance issues.

Walmart spokesperson LeMia Jenkins said in a statement that Sardeye was fired for work attendance reasons. 

"We do not tolerate discrimination or retaliation," Jenkins said. "Ms. Sardeye was terminated for repeatedly violating our attendance policy. While we haven’t been served with the complaint, we intend to defend the company against this litigation."

Sardeye, 54, is suing Walmart for violating the federalCivil Rights Act. She isseeking an unspecified amount in damages, including back pay, lost compensation and job benefits.

Religious accommodations not an issue at Memphis store

Sardeye, who was born in Somalia and moved to the U.S. in the early 1990s, spent about 18 years working at Walmart stores in Tennessee. 

The lawsuit describes Sardeye as a devout Muslim who wears a hijab, areligious head covering. She believes her religion prohibits her from consuming or handling pork products or alcohol and requires her to take off work to observe religious holidays such as Ramadan and Eid al-Adha. 

She spent the vast majority of her tenure with the company working at a Memphis store whose management had no issue accommodating Sardeye's religious restrictions, the lawsuit states. Thoseincluded not scheduling her to work as a cashier or in the Memphis store's grocery department so she could avoid handling pork products and alcohol. 

"Plaintiff was able to be a model employee for fifteen (15) years at Store 1561 while still practicing her religion and complying with its restrictions," the lawsuit states.

Transferring to the Knoxville store to be closer to family

In 2014, Sardeye moved to Knoxville in order to be closer to her daughters who live in the East Tennessee city. She transferred to the Knoxville store located at 8445 Walbrook Drive, where a human resources employee assured Sardeye that the Knoxville store could accommodate her religious restrictions, the lawsuit said.  

But, in the spring of 2015, her request to take vacation days during Ramadan was initially denied, the lawsuit said. The next year, the store's manager told her she could not return to work until she provided textual proof from the Quran about being unable to touch pork products and alcohol.

Her colleagues complained that she did not have to stock shelves in the grocery department as they did, according to the lawsuit. She also faced complaints questioning why she could not act like her Iraqi Muslim coworkers, who did handle pork products and alcohol. 

Sardeye's daughter helped her write a complaint to Walmart's corporate office. A corporate investigator issued a verbal reprimand to Knoxville store managers, who pledged to accommodate Sardeye going forward.

"After this intervention, Wal-Mart continued to treat Plaintiff differently than her colleagues. Notably, Wal-Mart reduced Plaintiffs hours of work and assigned her to work alone, with no support, more and more frequently," the lawsuit said.

In 2017, she took off work for Ramadan and was no longer on the schedule when she returned, the lawsuit said. Eventually, the scheduling system listed her shift as 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., but her supervisor told her to work 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. with the rest of her team.She was penalized for not working in accordance with the computerized scheduling system.

The store fired her on her day off.

"She made complaints about how she was being treated in writing to Walmart's corporate office," Martin said. "Under the law, it's illegal to retaliate against an employee for invoking the rights under Title VII or questioning management for what you believe are discriminatory practices."

Sardeye, who does not have a high school diploma, was unable to find comparable work in Knoxville and was forced to move to Nashville to live with friends, the lawsuit said. She is currently enrolled in high school equivalency classes to improve her employment options. 

https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/religion/2018/11/08/knoxville-muslim-woman-sues-walmart-religious-discrimination-lawsuit/1928776002/

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Kurdish Women Pedal, Dunk, Spike as Iraq’s Top Athletes

November 12, 2018

IRBIL, Iraq: When Iraq’s female cycling team snatched bronze and silver medals at a landmark pan-Arab race, it was thanks to athletes from the autonomous Kurdish region.

The country’s toughest female competitors, its best-equipped facilities and most experienced coaches are not in the capital Baghdad, but in the Kurdish-majority northern region.

And the three medals won by the Iraqi female cyclists in September at the tournament in Algeria were seen as proof of this sporting prowess in a region that has governed itself since 1991.

The team earned a bronze in the relay race, where three of its four cyclists were Kurdish, and also scooped a bronze and a silver in individual events.

The silver-winning athlete, Mazda Rafiq, hails from the Kurdish region’s second city, Sulaimaniyah.

“Since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to represent Iraq in a cycling race, and today I was able to do that,” said the 20-year-old.

Rafiq, who trains in the region’s capital, Irbil, credits her victory to “the support of society and our parents.”

Decades ago, all of Iraq’s 18 provinces had thriving female athletic scenes, with active clubs in different sports.

But the 1980s saw a string of violent conflicts begin, followed by an international embargo that brought development projects to a screeching halt and the rise of militias.

Those factors, combined with growing conservatism in parts of Iraqi society, all chipped away at sports culture for women.

However in the north, relatively insulated from these trends, Kurdish women have enjoyed an athletic awakening — one that Iraq’s clubs and national teams are making use of now.

A female cycling team in the southern conservative city of Diwaniyah regularly poaches two Kurdish athletes from Sulaimaniyah — more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) to the north — for national and regional competitions.

“They are better, and the club knows they’ll help them get a better score,” said Sajed Salim, of Iraq’s Cycling Federation.

One reason for the success of Kurdish female athletes may be the relatively lax social norms in the autonomous region, said Iraq volleyball champion and club coach Randy Metti.

“Kurdistan is more open to women’s sports than the provinces of the south,” he said, where traditions and tribal customs restrict how much women and girls can do outside the home.

Metti coaches the Akad Ainkawa women’s volleyball team in Irbil three times per week, all year long.

Player Mirna Najeeb brings her seven-month-old daughter to every training session.

“I was advised not to exercise six months after giving birth but I told the whole world that I would start again,” she said.

Najeeb and fellow Akad players are regularly called up to Iraq’s national team to compete internationally.

“A player has everything here — modern training facilities, interested clubs, and great coaches,” she told AFP.

The clubs also enjoy widespread public support and are popular meeting places.

“The fact that they have restaurants and recreational spaces encourages families to come support the female athletes,” said Khaled Bashir, a member of Iraq’s Volleyball Federation.

That popularity often translates into material support for local clubs, allowing them to pursue more training and keep improving.

Elsewhere in Iraq, teams rely on funds from the ministry of youth and sports, which barely cover basic expenses.

“There are talented athletes everywhere, but they do not emerge in the other provinces because the structures are not the same as those in Kurdistan,” said Bashir.

The numbers speak for themselves.

This year’s national volleyball championship brought together “11 female Kurdish teams against four other female teams from the rest of Iraq — all of them from Baghdad,” he said.

Women’s basketball, too, has become a hit sport in Iraq thanks to Kurdish athletes — including all-girl teams in Dohuk, Halabja and Irbil.

The relative calm enjoyed by the region has contributed to their advancement, said the head of Iraq’s Basketball Federation, Hussein Al-Omeidi.

“That stability in the region’s towns when it comes to daily life and to security is vital to the athletic excellence of our female teams,” Omeidi told AFP.

Out of Iraq’s seven female basketball clubs, three of them are from the Kurdish region — a source of pride for female basketball federation member Wassen Hanoun.

“It’s an important proportion that really shows how much female Kurdish sports dominate,” she said.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1403621/sport

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