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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 27 Nov 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Egypt's Oldest Festival Makes Room for Women Directors

New Age Islam News Bureau

27 Nov 2018

The members of the women’s branches of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) party Sunday held simultaneous rallies across the country to show their support to an international UN day on violence against women.



 Pakistani-American Woman Used Bitcoin to Finance IS

 Outstanding Woman Geneticist Named First Rhodes Scholar from Saudi Arabia

 Syrian Kurdish Women March to End Gender-Based Violence

 60% Of National Library of Iran’s Members Are Women

 Women March against Violence across Turkey

 UAE Expat among 5 Female Scientists to Win Dh83, 400 Unesco Fellowship

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Egypt's Oldest Festival Makes Room for Women Directors

Youssra el-Sharkawy

November 26, 2018

The Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) celebrates women directors this year with a special section featuring films by Arab women and screenings of films by non-Arab women from around the world.

“Big Dreams,” the 40th edition of Egypt's oldest film festival, runs Nov. 20-29. According to festival director Mohammed Hefzi, this year's event will screen more than 160 movies from 59 countries, with 15% of the films directed by women.

“It is not a small percentage compared to European festivals,” Hefzi told the Al-Watan newspaper. “For example, in the Venice film festival, there is only one film by a female director in the official competition with 19 films for male directors.”

CIFF organizers said that the Arab Female Directors section was developed with the aim of making the presence of women more visible. The directors featured are Hala Khalil and Hala Lotfy from Egypt, Mai Masri and Annemarie Jacir from Palestine, Haifaa Al-Mansour from Saudi Arabia, Kaouther Ben Hania from Tunisia, Nujoom Alghanem from the United Arab Emirates and Sofia Djama from Algeria.

“Highlighting the works of women filmmakers is important,” Magda Morris, a veteran film critic, told Al-Monitor. “They do a great job, and it’s time for them to claim [recognition]. People, filmmakers, actors and producers should know these great works, so women directors can get more opportunities and enrich Arab cinema. All the movies in the special section are critically acclaimed and important movies.” Morris pointed out that most of the films in the section had already received international awards.

It is not the first time that CIFF has shone a spotlight on women or women's issues. Last year's festival hosted a seminar on fighting violence against women, which Morris moderated.

“I see that this year there are more efforts exerted in the festival [to focus on women filmmakers],” Morris remarked, adding that women are staking more rights not only in Egyptian cinema, but internationally as well.

The movies featured in Arab Female Directors mostly look at women’s issues, drawing realistic portraits of women from different walks of life. Hala Khalil’s “Nawara” (2015) tells the story of a young woman who works as a maid in the villa of a former minister during the 2011 revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Menna Shalaby won Best Actress at the 2015 Dubai International Film Festival and the 2016 Malmo Arab Film Festival for her portrayal of Nawara.

Hala Lotfy’s “Al-Khroug lel-Nahar” (“Coming Forth by Day,” 2012) portrays the struggle of a poor family living in Cairo. Lotfy won Best Director in the Arab World for it at the 2012 Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

Another notable movie being screened at CIFF is “3000 Nights” (2015) by Mai Masri, who won the Audience Award at Spain's Valladolid International Film Festival the year it was released. The film is about a Palestinian schoolteacher who is detained in an Israeli prison for a crime she did not commit, and under pressure, becomes an informant against her fellow prisoners.

Annemarie Jacir’s “Wajib” (2017), which won the Festival Director's Award at the 2018 Cinetopia Film Festival in the United States is a disturbing, but often-funny family drama, while Haifaa Al-Mansour’s Wadjda (2012) tells the story of a schoolgirl’s effort to buy a bike.

The controversial Tunisian film “Beauty and the Dogs” (2017), directed by Kaouther Ben Hania, is also among the films in the Arab women's section. Tunisia selected it as its 2018 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign-Language Film. Based on a true story, the film opens with a rape and goes on to dissect efforts by the police, the society at large and at times even the victim herself to cover up the crime.

Sofia Djama's “The Blessed” (2017), which received three awards at last year's Venice International Film Festival, examines life in the 1990s during the Algerian civil war. The only documentary in the Arab women's section, “Sharp Tools” (2017), by Nujoom Alghanem, focuses on the controversial Emirati artist Hassan Sharif.

In addition to providing space for female Arab directors, CIFF is also highlighting woman directors from around the world in the International Competition, which features 16 films. A week before the festival opening, organizers included two more entries in the category to boost women directors’ participation to seven movies.

“Mamang” (2018), director by Denise O'Hara of the Philippines, narrates the story of a woman struggling against aging. “Crystal Swan” (2018), by Belarus director Darya Zhuk, shows how a typo interferes in a young woman's attempt at achieving the American dream.

“The main standard for choosing the movies was the quality,” Marwa Abu Eish, a film critic and CIFF program coordinator, told Al-Monitor. “Our aim is not just to increase the number of women directors. We want to screen high-quality films directed by women.”

Abu Eish noted that while the special section focuses on Arab women who have already achieved success, the International Competition highlights new works by women.

“If there are no movies by Arab female directors in the International Competition, that is because there were no new good works that could be shown in the competition for this year,” Abu Eish explained.

Other films directed by women in the International Competition include “Birds of Passage” (2018), co-directed by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra and co-produced by Colombia, Denmark, Mexico and France. The film looks at drug trafficking in Colombia.

“Euphoria” by Italian director Valeria Golino, “One Day” by Hungarian director Zsófia Szilágyi, “Pause” by Cypriot director Tonia Mishiali and “The Third Wife” by Vietnamese director Ash Mayfair, all released this year, are also competing for awards.

Will Arab women directors have a lasting impact on the region’s film industry? That will be the topic of a Nov. 28 panel discussion, “Wonder Women: How Can Female Filmmakers in the Arab World Have a Lasting Impact on the International Festival Circuit?”.



Pakistani-American Woman Used Bitcoin to Finance IS

Nov 27, 2018

A Pakistani-American woman has admitted in a federal court to using Bitcoin to finance the Islamic State terror outfit through fronts in China, Pakistan and Turkey.

Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, made the admission before Judge Joanna Seybert in the Central Islip federal court in New York state on Monday.

In an agreement with prosecutors, she admitted to committing credit card and loan fraud to raise money that she converted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to send to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which is designated as a terrorist organisation by the US government, law enforcement officials said.

She faces up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced.

An accused person can make an agreement with the prosecutors -- known as a plea deal -- to admit to guilt usually in exchange for leniency in order to avoid a lengthy trial and risk possibly stiffer sentences if found guilty.

Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are virtual computer-generated currencies that are difficult for governments to monitor and can be exchanged for cash beyond borders.

An intriguing fact that emerged in court filings by US authorities is the mention of IS front organisations or individuals in China, a country tightly-controlled by a government that is currently carrying out a massive campaign against Muslim separatists in Xinjiang region.

Shahnaz was arrested in July 2017 by the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) as she was getting ready to go from a New York airport to Pakistan and travel from there to Syria via Turkey.

“In the interest of empowering and enriching a terrorist organisation whose aim is to harm America, Zoobia Shahnaz turned her back on her country and her fellow citizens,” said William Sweeney, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Assistant Director-in-Charge.

She came to the US on a visa meant for relatives of US citizens, according to Home Security Department spokesperson Tyler Houlton, and later became a US citizen.

According to court filings, Shahnaz, who was a hospital technician in New York, got a fraudulent loan of $22,500 and raised money through more than a dozen credit cards obtained through fraud to buy Bitcoin and crytocurrencies worth $62,000.

She then wired over $150,000 to individuals and shell outfits in the three countries that were fronts for the IS, according to court papers.

While she was sending money to the IS, she was also looking up its propaganda “at various violent jihad-related websites and message boards, and social media and messaging pages of known IS recruiters, facilitators and financiers”, officials said.

In December Shahnaz’s lawyer Steve Zissou told the National Public Radio, a broadcaster partially financed by the US government, that she had volunteered with the Syrian American Medical Society and “witnessed the suffering of the refugees firsthand.”

He added: “Her humanitarian efforts then and since were motivated by her commitment to helping alleviate the plight of the people in the Middle East.”



Outstanding Woman Geneticist Named First Rhodes Scholar from Saudi Arabia


JEDDAH — For the first time, a student from Saudi Arabia has been selected as part of the global Rhodes Scholar class. Majd Abdulghani, 23, will join a total cohort of 100 Rhodes Scholars who will travel to Oxford in October next year.

The Rhodes Scholarships are postgraduate awards in all fields of study to develop exceptional people from all over the world, who are impatient with the way things are and have the courage to act. They provide full funding for two to three years (depending on the academic route taken) of study at the University of Oxford.

Muhammad Alagil, co-founder of Jarir Bookstores, has generously funded the annual Rhodes Scholarship for Saudi Arabia.

The Rhodes Scholarships aspire to create “leaders for the world’s future” and are achievement-based awards open to students with proven intellectual and academic attainment of a high standard who show exceptional character, leadership, achievement in extra-curricular activities and a commitment to serve for the public good. The rigorous Saudi selection process included three rounds of reviews before the final in-person interviews of eight shortlisted candidates with an international selection committee.

Majd Abdulghani is a geneticist currently working in the Cheung Lab at the University of Michigan. Her podcast, “Majd’s Diary: Two Years in the Life of a Saudi Girl,” aired on NPR and received two prestigious radio awards. The podcast reflects Majd’s missions of dismantling stereotypes associated with Muslim, Saudi women and inspiring girls across the globe to pursue science.

Majd has a blue belt in karate and has won a show-jumping competition. During her Master’s at Iowa State University in the Tuteja Lab, she proposed her own research project and uncovered genes that may play a role in pregnancy disorders. Majd believes that her identity as a Muslim and Saudi woman are key to pushing scientific and stereotypical boundaries.

Dr. Elizabeth Kiss, CEO of the Rhodes Trust, said: “Our aspiration is to identify and support innovative, energetic and ethical young leaders worldwide, and we are delighted that this year we could extend the Rhodes Scholarship to Saudi Arabia. Cultural diversity is a core value of ours and one that we see benefit our cohort of scholars every day, as they learn from each other in profound ways.”

Kiss said they increased the number of scholars from all around the world in recent years and they all contributed significantly to Rhodes House. “We are confident that scholars from Saudi Arabia will do the same, sharing their skills, experiences and energy with their peers at Oxford, and we look forward to welcoming Ms Majd Abdulghani to Rhodes Housw,” she concluded.

The Rhodes Scholarships, which were started in 1902, include all university and college fees for two years, an annual stipend, and travel expenses to the University of Oxford before the start of the program and a return ticket following the course of study.

The applications for the next round of admission for the Rhodes Scholarship, in partnership with Muhammad Alagil, for Saudi Arabia will open in June 2019. More information can be found at: — SG



Syrian Kurdish Women March to End Gender-Based Violence

25 November, 2018

Hundreds of female protesters took to the streets of the Syrian Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli on Sunday to call for an end to violence against women.

Some banging large drums and others ululating, they marched through the streets, an AFP correspondent said.

"Underage marriage is a crime," said one sign held up by a protester, on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Another demonstrator held up the picture of a woman with a swollen eye, her mouth covered with one hand.

"We must take part in this day in large numbers," said Hanifa Mohammed, 47, wearing a green jumper and a dark-coloured headscarf.

"Women must organise and reach decision-making positions," she said. "They must determine their future."

Women of all ages carried the portraits of fighters in the Women's Protection Units (YPJ), the all-female branch of the Syrian Kurdish militia.

Syria's Kurds have largely stayed out of the country's seven-year war, instead setting up semi-autonomous institutions in areas they control in its north and northeast.

Local institutions are usually co-directed by a man and a woman.

Syria's Kurds pride themselves in promoting equality of the sexes even in combat, as the YPJ play a key role in the battle against the Islamic State group.

Some protesters lashed out at neighbouring Turkey, which considers the Syrian Kurdish  militia to be terrorists.

Ankara have led two campaigns inside Syria against the Kurds, most recently seizing the northwestern enclave of Afrin in March.



60% Of National Library of Iran’s Members Are Women

November 26, 2018

Women enjoy higher per capita rate of studying psychology books than men due to their responsibility for upbringing of the children, IRNA quoted Ashraf Boroujerdi, director of the NLAI as saying here on Saturday.

Although there exists no exact statistics about women’s studying rate at the society, however, the willingness of women on studying should be considered, said Boroujerdi.

Today many women prefer to study books for child breeding instead of using tablets or cell phone or watching TV programs which leads to increasing the per capita rate of book reading among women, the official concluded.



Women March against Violence across Turkey

November 26 2018

Thousands of women took to the streets across Turkey to mark the U.N. International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 26.

Rallies marking the day were held in many provinces, while Istanbul’s famous Galata Tower was illuminated in orange color.

Members of the women’s branches of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) gathered at the Saraçhane Park in Istanbul’s Fatih district, holding banners reading: “Nonviolent communication,” “Society grows stronger with women’s empowerment,” “Hear our voice,” and “Do not succumb to rage crossing the line.”

In Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district a group of women also gathered at the Tunnel Square, attempting to march towards Taksim Square in protest against gender violence. Their march was supported by deputies from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

But riot police reacted against marchers by firing tear gas at them. The police ordered the assembled crowd to disperse, to which protestors responded by yelling “We will not be silent,” “We’re not afraid,” and “We will not obey.” After a tense standoff with shield-wielding officers lasting nearly two hours, the marchers broke off into the side streets to shout their slogans before eventually leaving the area.

In the Aegean province of İzmir, as part of an event named “150 women, 150 rhythm,” several women played drums and wore purple scarfs in protest of violence.

In the northwestern city of İzmit in the Kocaeli province, gendarmerie units distributed leaflets on combatting violence against women during road checks on the İzmit-Kandıra highway.

In the Central Anatolian province of Sivas, members of a number of associations left flowers at the Atatürk Monument for women who lost their lives in domestic violence-related cases.

Violence against women is a recurrent issue in Turkey, where several hundred femicides are recorded each year.

Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu (We Will Stop Femicides Platform), an association that monitors cases of violence against women, counted 409 murders of women or girls last year and 328 in 2016.



UAE Expat among 5 Female Scientists to Win Dh83, 400 Unesco Fellowship

November 26, 2018

Sherouk Zakaria

Finding an early detection method for ovarian cancer, designing therapeutic treatments for mood disorders and depression, and using marine environment to produce natural pharmaceutical products are some of the projects female researchers will continue to pursue, thanks to a ?20,000 (Dh83,400) fellowship.

As part of the L'Oréal-Unesco 'For Women In Science Middle East Fellowship 2018,' five female scientists from four Gulf countries were granted Dh83,400 each for the PostDoc Researchers category and one PhD student was granted Dh33,360.

The programme, which aims to promote gender equality and encourage more girls and women to become scientists, honours five laureates internationally each year, one from each continent.

To date, the programme has supported 3,100 women, rewarding 102 laureates and granting doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships in 115 countries.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, the women said since scientific projects are too expensive to pursue, the fellowship brings them one step closer to making their ideas a reality that will benefit their societies. Here are the five outstanding women scientists and their research topics.

Dr Ashwag Albukhari, Assistant professor in biochemistry

(Treatment for ovarian cancer)

Dr Ashwag Albukhari, assistant professor in biochemistry, King AbdulAziz University, Saudi Arabia, said the fellowship will help her start developing the organoid system, derived from human tissues, to understand the progress of ovarian cancer, help in early detection and find new therapeutic strategies for ovarian cancer.

The molecular mechanism in the ovaries which is not well understood, hinders early detection of ovarian cancer, the sixth most common cancer in women with the highest mortality rates. Albukhari decided to build a human-derived fallopian tube organoids to study early carcinogenesis and understand the molecular mechanisms of the cancer.

"Now, removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes remains as the only effective prevention for women with high risk of developing the familial ovarian cancer. The model will prevent this and increase chance of survival," she said.

Dr Basma Radwan, Research associate in nueroscience

(Link between sleep, stress)

Dr Basma Radwan, 36, post-doctoral research associate in neuroscience at New York University Abu Dhabi, and an Egyptian expat in the UAE, is investigating the connection between stress and sleep to develop treatment for mood disorders and depression.

Through her research, Radwan is trying to understand the evolution and function of sleep among depressed individuals to further develop effective therapeutic solutions."We need a model to help manipulate the sleep stages and see if it can lead to changes in mood and depression to better understand the link between the two," she said.

Since the sequencing of gene expression is a process that cost ?50,000, the fellowship will help fund part of the project to understand how sleep processes lead to the maladaptive response to stress.

Radwan intends to examine the function of sleep of renormalising the synapses in modulating the brain capacity to adapt to stress.

Dr Saja Fakhraldeen, Assistant research scientist

(Drugs from marine resources)

Dr Saja Fakhraldeen, 31, assistant research scientist at Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, is researching on the use of marine resources to develop pharmaceutical products to reduce reliance on lab products.

Given that the Arabian Gulf is an untapped resource with huge potential for pharmaceutic applications, Fakhraldeen aims to identify local sources of biologically active materials for her study.

Through her research, she will tap into marine resources to find the compounds that develop bioactive compounds with therapeutic and pharmaceutic applications in an environmentally conscious manner.

Following completion of this project, the Kuwaiti institute will have a new and fully functional mammalian cell culture facility.

The proposed genetic database of organisms in Kuwaiti waters are expected to be a valuable resource to both Kuwaiti and international researchers.

Dr Lamya Al Haj, Molecular biology professor

(Products from algae)

Dr Lamya Al Haj, 36, assistant professor of molecular biology at Sultan Qaboos University (Oman), is developing high-value products from genetically-modified algae.

With the world moving towards cleaner energy alternatives, Al Haj aims to reduce the dependency on conventional petroleum in Oman with identifying alternative sources that will help diversify the economy.

She envisions the first microalgae bio-refinery in Oman to use algae in generating biofuels and high value products. Part of her research investigates the potential of utilising algae strains for the production of high-value products like antioxidants, superfoods, food supplements and drugs. The other part is focused on exploring second, third and fourth generation biofuels as sustainable energy sources. The research has made it to 10 publications, won several international awards and was the breakthrough in biofuel production in Oman.

Ghofran Othoum, PhD student

(Sequencing Read Sea strains)

The research of Ghofran Othoum, 28, a PhD student at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Jordanian expat in Saudi Arabia), centres around studying bacteria isolated from the Red Sea environment that can be used in different applications.

Her studies indicated that several of the isolated strains extracted from microbial mat and mangrove mud samples from the Red Sea represent promising candidates for the development of cell factories for enzyme production. "Red Sea species are promising as microbial cell factories, specifically with respect to their ability to thrive in saline water, eliminating the need for the environmentally and economically expensive costs of water desalination and sterilisation," said Othoum.

Her research also uncovered the richness of these species' genomes that have likely evolved in Red Sea Bacilli due to environmental adaptation.




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