New Age Islam News Bureau
11 October 2020
• Shayara Bano, Muslim Woman Who Fought Against Triple Talaq, Joins BJP
• Rajasthan Women Who Dropped Out Due To Eve Teasing Begin School Again As Police Keep Watch
• Saudi Arabia Appoints Princess, Sara Bint Musaed Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to Family Affairs Council
• Saudi Education Minister Opens Two Digital Colleges for Women
• Egypt Court Starts Sex Crimes Trial Of Student In #MeToo Case
• Women Can Register As Presidential Candidates: Guardian Council
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Female Delegate at the Afghan-Taliban Peace Talk, Fatima Gailani, Wants To Make Peace with the Taliban
Fatima Gailani, one of only four women at crucial peace talks with the Taliban,
Coming face to face with the enemy is still a rare occasion. In Doha, only a few leaders from the warring parties are still doggedly discussing the rules and procedures that will later apply to all delegates to the Afghan peace negotiations. But for female delegate Fatima Gailani, direct contact with the Taliban has already occurred.
"During dinner we had a long, long conversation," says Gailani. "And when we see each other in the corridor, we stop to ask about each other's health. And because I came from such a serious illness, most of them stop and show their sympathy, they show their happiness that I am well and that I have joined."
42 years of war in Afghanistan
When referring to the Taliban, Gailani does not use the term "enemy" despite an acrimonious history. "Really, I haven't seen any reaction that I didn't like. But when it comes to serious talks in the future, of course, we will have our differences. But my hope is that we will resolve these differences because we have a very ugly option in front of this peace, and that's war."
Gailani is part of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan's negotiating team, which was established through international efforts following the overthrow of the Taliban regime. "For me it was like a dream come true," Gailani told DW via a WhatsApp call from the luxury hotel that is hosting the historic peace talks in Qatar's capital. "The last 42 years of my life was dedicated to seeing peace one day in my country."
Twenty-one people are representing each side at the negotiating table in Doha, for a total of 42 delegates — one for each year of the war.
Frontwoman in Doha
Fatima Gailani was only 24 years old when Afghanistan sank into chaos in the late 1970s. At that time, a conflict over communist and Islamist ideals broke out in Kabul, culminating with an invasion by the Soviet Union in 1979. That was followed by an explosion of violence that has unfolded across five chapters of the country's modern history and continues to this day:
— The war of the Islamic mujahedeen against the Red Army, largely supported by the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia
— The fratricidal power struggles among the mujahedeen after Soviet troops, humiliated, withdrew in spring 1989
— The rapid rise of the radical Islamic Taliban, which established an emirate in 1996
— The overthrow of the Taliban regime by the US and their allies following the 9/11 attacks
— The Taliban's fight against Western intervention, through which an Islamic republic with a democratic constitution was created in Afghanistan
Gailani is now 66 and is suffering from cancer. She has returned from retirement, after three major operations, to be present in Doha. She is one of only four women involved in the talks.
To the question of whether she is a feminist, the humanitarian replies: "Well, if someone is working for women and the future of women is important to them and the name for that is feminist, then maybe I am. But I have equal passion for other things which are not right in my country. So maybe I am an activist for whatever goes wrong in my country."
Gailani hails from an influential religious family with connections to the former Afghan monarchy. She studied Persian literature, Islamic Studies and Islamic law. She grew up in peace under the reform-minded King Zahir Shah, Afghanistan's last monarch, who in the 1960s initiated reforms that created opportunities for women to participate in public life.
"But we did lose it, didn't we?" asks Gailani without expecting an answer. "Most of the young generation, they have never seen peace — and that especially makes me want to put my steps forward very carefully."
Every wrong word can have consequences — even on the battlefield.
From the mujahedeen to the Red Crescent
Gailani left her homeland during the Soviet occupation and lived in London, where she appeared at the time as the young female face of the Afghan mujahedeen. Her father was one of the leaders of the "holy war" against the Red Army.
In late November 2001, after the Taliban was overthrown, she was present in Bonn, Germany, where negotiations toward a democratic Afghanistan were held in great haste.
She then returned to her homeland after more than 20 years of exile and became a constitutional commissioner, helping to write the new Afghan constitution, before serving as president of the Afghan Red Crescent for 13 years until 2016.
"I saw the human tragedy happening on both sides. The misery which happened in Afghanistan, it doesn't recognize name or territory."
After a moment of silence, she adds: "No one was an angel, really. So, I don't allow myself to blame one side or the other."
Cease-fire a top priority
Gailani follows one guiding principle, and it applies to the whole of Afghanistan, she says: the killing must stop. "Whoever is responsible for it — it has to stop. That's why for me, a cease-fire is the number one priority. The people of Afghanistan have put a tremendous hope in this peace talks."
But fighting, bombings and killings continue relentlessly in Afghanistan — even as US and NATO troops prepare to leave. Washington wants to end its longest war as soon as possible and has single-handedly negotiated the terms of the Western withdrawal with the Taliban, without involving the Afghan government.
It is an approach Gailani criticizes. "This will be wrong because it is always wrong. In Bonn, only a few people were put in the driving seats. And to again be put in driving seats by someone else, this would be wrong," she says.
Nineteen years ago, US officials prevented Taliban representatives from taking part in the Afghan peace conference in Germany. But the tide has now turned. The US still holds all the cards, as diplomatic sources in Kabul and Doha confirm — but with the big difference that direct contact with the Taliban is now the new norm. The US policy shift has the Afghan government feeling threatened.
The key question: The role of Islam
Gailani warns outsiders against unilaterally taking sides in the complicated Afghan peace process. Back in 2001, she emphasizes, "everyone thought that [the Taliban] would vanish. But how could a part of the country vanish?" It did not happen then with the Taliban, nor will it happen now with the people she represents.
"We will not vanish. We are part of this country. These young people are part of this country. These women are part of this country. We are there. And we have our values," she says.
Indeed, values are a key question in the Doha talks. The main focus is on the future role of Islam in the country: How modern does Afghanistan want to be, how democratic, how equal, how gender fair, how Islamic? Will the country remain a republic or can it only find peace as a theocracy — for example as an Islamic emirate? And who defines the social values that also depend on the interpretation of the Quran and Sharia law?
These key questions have remained unresolved for decades, and not only since the rise of the Taliban.
Is the US an honest broker?
What does a possible power-sharing deal with the Taliban look like? Peace researcher Mariam Safi is also concerned with this question.
Safi was born in Kabul in 1983 during the Soviet occupation. In 1988 she and her family fled first to Pakistan, then on to Canada. The 37-year-old has been living in her home country again since 2010 and founded the Kabul-based Organization for Policy Research and Development Studies, or Drops for short.
"Afghanistan as a whole in terms of its culture, traditions and as a society has changed. But I don't think any of us have an actual understanding of how we have changed," Safi says.
Women's rights are still very controversial, and not just among the ranks of the Taliban. "These are laws that still require a lot of work and a lot of time in terms of their cultural implementation on the ground," she says. Two-thirds of the population live in abject poverty, and hundreds of thousands of men earn their living as fighters.
The Taliban and their supporters consider the new constitution to be un-Islamic, even if it prescribes that no law may contradict Islam, says Safi: "They have reiterated consistently that Islamic Sharia law is what will guide their decisions on the development of a new constitution and a new political system. So, it means that their interpretation of Sharia law is what will be returning."
Social trust in the democratic state and its government has also eroded on the part of the Taliban's opponents due to repeated election manipulation, corruption, appalling abuse of power along with a general lack of security. Afghanistan has remained a favorite destination for Islamist terrorists. Would the end of the Afghan attempt at democracy be too high a price for peace?
The return to "the Islamic emirate does not reflect the new Afghanistan that has emerged in the last 20 years of international engagement," Safi believes. Moreover, "it will topple and trample all over the struggles and the achievements that we have so far. It might be a few. It might be limited. But there have been some achievements in democracy, in ensuring freedom and rights," the peace researcher adds.
It will take honest and patient brokers to balance the maximum demands on both sides of the negotiating table. Can the US play this role if it is primarily concerned with the withdrawal of its own soldiers?
As Safi puts it: "Where the United States is going to sway their support in this process, is going to determine how this process is going to unfold — and whether it will represent or reflect the needs of the people of Afghanistan, who will have to live this agreement afterwards."
Failure 'should not be an option'
Thousands of kilometers away, at the negotiating site in Doha, Fatima Gailani sees herself as an envoy of the Afghan people. "For the last 19 years, I never went into the government. I chose to go into humanitarian work because I couldn't deal with all these wheels and deals. I could have never dealt with it," she says.
As to the question of what her personal red lines will be in the talks with the Taliban, she says: "For me, the red line is really the failure of this discussion. This should not happen. It should not be an option. And when it comes to defending the values: we can defend it from the Islamic point of view, from the humanitarian point of view."
Gailani speaks of shared responsibility for human values and looks to Mediterranean islands such as Lesbos and Samos where many Afghan refugees have arrived, looking for a better future in Europe.
"When I watch these reports from Greece and these refugees, I recognize the faces of Afghans," she says. "It breaks my heart [to know] why these young men and women will take such misery, only because they feel their country was worse."
Shayara Bano, Muslim Woman Who Fought Against Triple Talaq, Joins BJP
October 10, 2020
Shayara Bano said that she will try to shatter misconceptions about the BJP that it is anti-minority.
Shayara Bano, the Muslim woman who fought a long legal battle against triple talaq, has joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). She joined the party today in Dehradun in presence of Uttarakhand BJP leaders including state BJP president Bansidhar Bhagat.
In a tweet about her joining the party, the Uttarakhand BJP wrote, "Shayara Bano, the brave woman who raised her voice against triple talaq, joined the BJP and accepted its primary membership today at the party's state headquarters in Dehradun."
In 2016, Shayara Bano knocked the doors of the Supreme Court against the practice of triple talaq (or instant divorce), saying it was an "unfair practice" and demanded its abolition in India. Shayara Bano was the original petitioner in the case against triple talaq.
She said she was duped into accepting a letter that summarily broke her home. A marriage of 15 years was dissolved in minutes unilaterally with her husband dispatching a 'talaqnama' to her while she was at her parent's place in Kashipur, Uttarakhand recuperating from an illness.
Rajasthan Women Who Dropped Out Due To Eve Teasing Begin School Again As Police Keep Watch
11th October 2020
By Rajesh Asnani
Over 1,000 girls have already applied to complete their education under this progamme | EXPRESS
RAJASTHAN: It was a special Daughter’s Day for 17-year-old Aarshi living in the Karbala area of Jaipur. Three years back her father, who works in a courier company, made her drop out of school due to eve-teasing. The girl had her dreams shattered. Today, she has hope: Ramganj police have taken charge of her education.
She filled out her 10th grade form in the police station and was promised that she would be taken care of and that her education expenses will be borne by the Ramganj police.
“I will be able to study from home with the help of the police. I have two younger sisters who also dropped out and will be able to study again,” says Aarshi. Like Aarshi, 30-year-old Parveen Bano also filled the 10th grade form in the police station.
A mother of two children, she too had to drop out as the school in the Idgah area had shut down. “When I heard that the police would help many like us, I asked my husband if I could enroll in the 10th grade...I want to move forward.”
The police’s initiative has come from Jaipur Commissionerate (North) DCP, Rajiv Pachar. The plan is to help girls and women in 17 police station areas to complete their education.
It has received a great response from the Muslim-dominated old city. This drive began on Sept 25, with 300 girls from the Ramganj area, 100 from Brahampuri, 100 from Subhash Chowk and Shastri Nagar applying on the first day.
Besides, 500 girls have applied from women’s police station areas. Pachar says there’s hardly any girl in Muslim- dominated Jaipur North who is educated till 12th grade.
“After initial schooling, most of them are made to help in household chores and take care of their younger siblings. We want such women to resume their studies”, said Pachar.
Pachar directed his team to identify such women needing help. Religious leaders were also taken into confidence along with beat constables to help girls study further and make at least five other women educated in their colony.
“The police will bear their fees in 17 police station areas. We will also ensure that they get study material.
They can also take help of teachers in the open school. We’ll also pay their exam fees,” says Pachar.
It was Yusuf Khan, who runs an NGO ‘Missile Man’s Mission,’ who first hit upon the idea. During the Covid-induced lockdown, he thought since everyone was working from home, it was an ideal time for those girls to resume their studies through distance learning.
The State Women’s Empowerment Department runs a ‘Shiksha Setu’ programme in which the girls are taught at home for 10th and 12th grades through open schools.
The enrolment fee is only Rs 85 and the rest of the expenses are borne by the government. Yusuf went to seek help from many police officers.
It was Pachar who came forward to initiate the program. “This wasn’t possible without the DCP’s help,” says Khan. Together they want to take the initiative right up to the exams. “We’ll arrange to drop the girls to their exam centres and bring them back to their homes,” says Khan.
An idea to help women resume their eduction
Yusuf Khan, who runs an NGO ‘Missile Man’s Mission,’ first hit upon the idea. Khan thought that the Covid lockdown was an ideal time for girls who had to leave their studies to resume it through distance learning.
The Women’s Empowerment Department runs a ‘Shiksha Setu’ programme where girls are taught at home through open schools. Khan sought help from police officers and DCP Rajiv Pachar came forward to initiate the program
Saudi Arabia Appoints Princess, Sara Bint Musaed Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to Family Affairs Council
October 8, 2020
The Saudi Council of Ministers on Tuesday appointed Princess Sara Bint Musaed Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as a member of the specialists in the governmental Family Affairs Council.
The Saudi cabinet said in a statement that it has also appointed Dr. Wafa Bint Ibrahim Al-Sabeel as a member of the specialists and those interested in childhood affairs in the same council.
According to the statement, Princess Sara has participated in events and initiatives on women’s affairs, while Dr. Wafa is an associate professor at Imam University in Riyadh and specialises in children’s literature.
In 2017, Riyadh established the Family Affairs Council which aims to address the social, cultural and economic challenges facing Saudi families.
Saudi education minister opens two digital colleges for women
September 17, 2020
RIYADH: Hamad Al-Sheikh inaugurated the first two digital colleges for women in Riyadh and Jeddah on Wednesday.
The ceremony was held in the presence of the governor of the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC), Ahmed Al-Fuhaid.
The colleges will provide specialized training programs for about 4,000 trainees in several fields. Programs on offer include network systems management, media technology, software, the Internet of things, smart cities, robotics technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Egypt court starts sex crimes trial of student in #MeToo case
October 11, 2020
Cairo - A former Cairo university student appeared in court on Saturday charged with blackmail and indecent assault of at least three women in a closely-watched case prompted by social media that opened up a rare public debate on sex crimes.
Ahmed Bassam Zaki, aged in his early 20s and a former student at the American University in Cairo, attended a closed session with the trial adjourned to Nov. 7, a lawyer from the defence team, Ahmed Ragheb, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
In September, the public prosecutor referred Zaki to the criminal court on charges of "sexually assaulting three girls under the age of 18 and threatening them along with a fourth girl with disclosing matters related to their honor". Zaki, who comes from a wealthy family, could face a life sentence or death sentence if the prosecution proved rape with evidence.
The case has attracted widespread attention from media, religious figures and women's groups in a country where rights defenders say sexual harassment or abuse often goes unpunished. A 2017 Thomson Reuters Foundation poll found Cairo to be the most dangerous megacity for women and 99% of women in Egypt interviewed by the United Nations in 2013 said they had experienced sexual harassment.
Allegations against Zaki were posted in previous years on a private Facebook group run by AUC students but authorities reacted this year after the accusations surfaced on an Instagram account named @assaultpolice. After Zaki's arrest, hundreds of women started to speak up on social media about abuse sparking at #MeToo Movement, exposing several men and also revealing a high-profile rape case that occurred in a Cairo hotel in 2014.
In August, the public prosecution arrested two suspects in that case and said seven others had fled the country and it was pursuing them. On Sept. 25, the public prosecution said Lebanon had handed over three men accused in the case while two others had fled.
Responding to the growing public debate over women's safety, parliament passed a law in August giving women the automatic right to anonymity in a bid to encourage more to report sexual assaults. "Zaki's case has been shocking as it put into debate a deeply-rooted tradition of accusing the victim not the harasser and justifying his actions," said lawyer Reda Eldanbouki, executive director of the Women's Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness.
Women Can Register As Presidential Candidates: Guardian Council
October 10, 2020
In response to a question of whether the council’s Faqihs (experts in Islamic law) have made changes to their definition of the legal term “statesman” to include women as well, Kadkhodaei told reporters that no changes have been made with this regard.
“In this regard, there are a series of cultural discussions going on in our country and it is not an issue that we resolve with merely a law,” he said, according to Mehr.
“First, this cultural issue must be resolved, and no changes have been made in this regard,” he remarked, adding, “Nevertheless, the registration of women in the presidential elections is permitted.”
Iran’s next presidential elections will be held on June 18, 2021.
In remarks in August, Jamal Orf, the deputy interior minister in charge of elections, said with the Guardian Council’s approval, June 18 was set for holding presidential, council and midterm parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections.
Candidates hoping to run in the next elections are to apply in early April for approval. The final list is to be announced by the Guardian Council in early June.
Under Iran’s law, an incumbent president cannot run for a third term if he has already served for two consecutive terms in office. Rouhani was first elected in 2013 and reelected four years later.
So far, no woman has been approved by the Guardian Council to run for president.
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