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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 31 May 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Female Shoura Council Member Hails Saudi Measure Criminalizing Sexual Harassment

New Age Islam News Bureau

31 May 2018

The magazine’s first-ever issue dedicated to Saudi Arabia sees Princess Hayfa sitting in a cooler-than-cool red convertible. (Photo courtesy: Vogue Arabia)


 Concern over Saudi Arrests of Women's Rights Activists

 Vogue Arabia Puts Saudi Princess in Driving Seat for Dedicated KSA Issue

 Leading Muslim Fashion Designer Jailed In Indonesia Fraud

 Russia’s Islamic State Women and Children Should Be Returned Home

 Afghan Officials Flout Women’s Protection Law, Says UN

 Iran: 500 Women Held In Prisons for Undeliberate Crimes

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Female Shoura Council Member Hails Saudi Measure Criminalizing Sexual Harassment

30 May 2018

Saudi Shoura council member Lina Al-Maeena hailed a measure criminalizing sexual harassment approved weeks before a decades-old ban on women driving is set to be lifted.

In an interview with Al Arabiya, Al-Maeena said the step is part of exerted efforts to keep up with the social changes which are in line with the kingdom’s Vision 2030.

“The Shoura Council has approved a measure on Tuesday criminalizing sexual harassment in the Kingdom in right before of a royal decree allowing women to drive goes into effect next month”

Al-Maeena described the timing of great significance, to protect women in Saudi Arabia who are yet to start driving, and are expected to play a bigger role in the workforce as part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030.

“Thankfully, the law has finally seen the light.”

“The new law is inclusive of harassment cybercrimes as well, which will fall under the general definition of harassment, as any physical and verbal gestures in this regard.”

“The law aims to safeguard the individual’s privacy, dignity and personal freedom which are guaranteed by Islamic law and regulation.”



Concern over Saudi Arrests of Women's Rights Activists

by Arwa Ibrahim

May 31, 2018

Human rights organisations voiced their concern over the detention of women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia, a month before the kingdom removes a ban on female drivers.

The lifting of the ban on women drivers is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's reform programme.

"It is shocking that Saudi Arabia is detaining prominent women's rights defenders - the real champions behind the lifting of the driving ban - just before they allow all women the right to drive," Human Rights Watch's Rothna Begum told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

The comments came a day after the United Nations called on Saudi Arabia to provide information about nearly a dozen prominent activists - mostly women who for years urged reforms that are now being implemented - arrested this month.

The UN human rights office said the government should ensure the women and other campaigners in custody receive due process.

Amnesty International voiced similar concerns.

"We are extremely worried about the overall human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, despite the women's driving ban being lifted in less than a month," Kareem Chehayeb, the group's Saudi Arabia researcher, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

"The recent sweeping crackdown on human rights activists this month is sadly not an anomaly. Amnesty International has documented continued arrests and harsh prison sentences of human rights activists for their peaceful activism.

"We fear these activists will be given trumped-up security-related charges."

Riyadh announced the arrests last week and accused the activists of "suspicious contact with foreign parties", as well as providing financial support to hostile nations and attempting the undermine the kingdom's "security and stability".

Those detained were also branded traitors and "agents of embassies" by state-affiliated media.

The activists, who represent several generations of Saudi feminists, could face up to 20 years in jail if found guilty.


With the crackdown on women's rights activists coming weeks before the much-hyped lifting of the driving ban, doubts about Bin Salman's approach to reforms in the kingdom have been revived.

"While Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues to present himself as a reformer, peaceful human rights activism that calls for reforms continues to be criminalised. It simply doesn't make sense," Chehayab said.

Begum agreed. "It's not real reform if rights defenders are locked up for asking for simple basic human rights."

Speaking at a Geneva briefing on Tuesday, UN human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell said six women and three men are known to remain in custody and face serious allegations that "could lead to draconian sentences".

Their exact whereabouts are unknown and most of them have only been permitted to make a single telephone call to their families since they were arrested.

Throssell called on Saudi authorities to reveal their locations and ensure their rights to due process are guaranteed.

"If, as it appears, their detention is related solely to their work as human rights defenders and activists on women's issues, they should be released immediately," she said.



Vogue Arabia Puts Saudi Princess in Driving Seat for Dedicated KSA Issue

May 30, 2018

DUBAI: Vogue Arabia has unveiled its June cover star as none other than Princess Hayfa bint Abdullah Al-Saud in celebration of the month that women in the country will be able to drive. 

The magazine’s first-ever issue dedicated to Saudi Arabia sees Princess Hayfa sitting in a cooler-than-cool red convertible in a series of photographs shot by Boo George.

“Her royal highness is a generous woman with a truly elegant and noble presence…  A mother of three, the princess dedicates her life to her family and her art. I was deeply honored when she accepted our invitation to grace our June cover,” Vogue Arabia’s editor-in-chief, Manuel Arnaut, said, according to the magazine.



Leading Muslim Fashion Designer Jailed In Indonesia Fraud

May 30, 2018

\R Jakarta, May 30 (AFP) An Indonesian fashion designer who shot to global fame with her Muslim-themed collection was sentenced to 18 years in prison today for a multi-million dollar fraud and money-laundering.

A court near Jakarta convicted Anniesa Hasibuan, 31, and her husband of cheating customers who booked pilgrimage trips to Islam's holiest city Mecca through a travel agency they operated.

The pair were accused of bilking thousands of clients out of at least 848 billion rupiah (USD 60 million), a steep fall from grace for Hasibuan who had become a household name in the world's biggest Muslim-majority country.

In 2016, Hasibuan's collection was shown at New York Fashion Week where all her runway models wore hijab head scarves and Muslim-inspired designs, a first for the prestigious event.

Hasibuan and her husband Andika Surachman established Jakarta-based First Travel in 2009 to operate trips to Saudi Arabia. But it had not sent any clients to Mecca since early last year despite being paid for them, the court heard.

The court fined Hasibuan 10 billion rupiah and sentenced her spouse to 20 years in prison. He was slapped with the same fine. Prosecutors had demanded 20-year prison terms for both.

"(The defendants) have been proven legally and convincingly guilty of committing a criminal act together," said presiding judge Sobandi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

Hasibuan's works have also been featured at shows in London, Istanbul and Cannes, but New York Fashion Week cemented her status as a rising star in the fashion world.

She is also well-known for her lavish lifestyle, regularly posting pictures of herself and her husband travelling abroad and wearing expensive clothing. (AFP) HMB HMB



Russia’s Islamic State Women and Children Should Be Returned Home

May 30 2018

Madina, a stalwart woman in her late fifties with dyed blond hair and deep bags under her eyes, works at a roadside food stall on the outskirts of Nalchik, a provincial capital on Russia’s border with Georgia.

She sells beer, soft drinks and cold cuts of meat laid out on the counter on plastic trays. Madina looks calm, but her hands tremble as she pours me tea.

“At the end of December 2017,” she says, “I got a text message from an unknown number with just one sentence: ‘He’s in Iraq.’ It’s the last I’ve heard about my son.”

Russian jihadists have been joining the armed conflict in Syria since its early stages, but recruitment spiked in 2014, after the emergence of Islamic State, a banned terror group in Russia. By the spring of 2016 the Interior Ministry estimated the number of Russian citizens fighting for IS at 3,417.

Madina’s only son Nodar, his pregnant wife, Aisha and their 2-year-old daughter left for Syria in the spring of 2015. Madina says that her grandson was born in Syria in April 2015, the year Nodar’s family left Russia.

The day after Aisha gave birth, she was sent home: the hospital area had been heavily bombarded. It was not long before Nodar and Aisha understood that leaving home for the Middle East had been a mistake.

“Nodar asked me for money to send Aisha back to Russia with the kids,” Madina told me. “But soon after he said that it was ‘Too late.’”

“They had gone to Iraq,” Madina said. “IS took their documents, the roads were closed. Later, when we talked on Skype, Aisha whispered: ‘Mama, I’m looking for ways to escape.’” 

On Aug. 28, 2017, Madina’s son and his family surrendered to the Peshmerga, Iraqi-Kurdish fighters, near the town of Tal-Afar, not far from Mosul. She shows me a video: a long line of bearded jihadi men taken captive. The camera moves from one face to another. The last one is Nodar.

After they surrendered, Nodar was separated from Aisha and the children. She is currently in Baghdad prison facing a life sentence for joining IS; the children are with her. Nodar's whereabouts are not known.

Madina is one of hundreds of desperate Russian mothers praying that the Russian government will help find their children and grandchildren, and bring them home from Syria and Iraq.

IS attracted thousands of Russians with its promises of an Islamic utopia and what it called “five-star jihad.” Hundreds of men seduced by the terror group’s slick propaganda left with their wives and children to start new lives in “the lands of Islam.”

Often husbands lied and blackmailed women into leaving. “He told my daughter Seda they were going on vacation in Turkey,” says Malika, a Chechen mother, who has not heard from her daughter since July 2017.

“She took her bathing suit, perfume and epilator. When they got to Turkey, though, he told her they would be resettling in Syria.”

“In Islam, women have to follow their men,” Malika explained to me. “Soon after their resettlement, Seda tried to escape but her husband demanded that she left their daughter behind. ‘The girl will remain in the Caliphate,’ he said. So Seda also stayed.”  Now, that IS has been all but defeated, hundreds of Russian men and women have surrendered or been captured by paramilitary groups or government forces in Syria and Iraq.

Their small children, having already lived through the horrors of war, are incarcerated with their mothers in miserable conditions of overcrowded jails where they are sick, freezing, malnourished and subject to hatred and revenge from their captors – many of whom suffered savage violence at the hands of IS.

The precise whereabouts of many of these women and children are unknown. Information often leaks by chance, when women manage to bribe or charm their captors into letting them use their cell phones. 

Last August the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov returned the first Chechen child from Iraq. His Middle East aide, a Russian senator of Syrian descent, Ziyad Sabsabi, with support of the Foreign Ministry began to search for Russian women and children in detention facilities across Syria and Iraq. Since then 24 women and 74 children have been returned to Russia, according to the ministry.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed Kadyrov in his efforts to repatriate the children. Desperate relatives have flocked to Chechnya, where a pro-government NGO is tasked with collecting names and managing communications with the families. As of May 2018, its list contains the names of 1,521 women and children who still remain in Syria and Iraq.

Russian law stipulates that the voluntary surrender of armed groups exempts the members from criminal liability, unless other crimes have been committed. Therefore, most of the repatriated Russian women have been freed by authorities upon their return.

Returnees in Dagestan, however, have been arrested. Their voluntary statements of surrender have “disappeared” from their case files.

Several women have already been sentenced to terms of four to eight years in prison, which they can serve after their children come of age.

“I still can’t believe I’m alive, my children are fed and all of this fear and horror are in the past,” says Zagidat, a Dagestani mother of four who hopes her conviction will be reversed on appeal.

Victoria, is also Dagestani but left to join IS from Moscow and is awaiting her trial in a Moscow detention center. Her daughter, Fatima, born in Raqqa in 2015, now lives with her grandmother while her one-year old brother Zubair remains in Syria.

“Zubair’s father forced Victoria to leave the boy behind. He gave Zubair to his fourth wife and promised that if he was killed the child would be returned to my daughter,” Fatima’s grandmother explained.

In December 2017, the flow of returning women stopped. Alexander Bortnikov, director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), said the return of former IS fighters to Russia represented a serious threat.

Last April in Iraq at least 21 Russian women were sentenced to life in prison for joining IS, without due process or legal assistance. Another 42 women are awaiting sentencing. Iraqi authorities are reluctant to deport them to Russia, because its society, eager for redress, wants to see the women of IS punished.

The Russian authorities apparently remain committed to bringing the children back. It is more complicated with the women. Sources close to Foreign Ministry decision-makers say that Russian diplomats will try to ensure that no death penalties are given to women and that they may try to have them deported after sometime.

Women in IS were overwhelmingly non-combatants, segregated, not allowed to see other men and in the near constant cycle of birth and breastfeeding.

Bringing these women home, putting them through rehabilitation and deradicalization programs, reintegrating and rehabilitating their children rather than letting them languish in prisons in the Middle East is not just an act of humanity.

Their rescue and compassionate treatment would be a very effective mechanism of preventing violent extremism in Russia. Their stories and testimonies will be the most powerful counter-narratives to ultra-radical Islamist ideologies and the most effective vaccine against future waves of mobilization under jihadist flags.



Afghan Officials Flout Women’s Protection Law, Says UN

May 30, 2018

KABUL: A law meant to protect Afghan women from violence is being undermined by authorities who routinely refer even serious criminal cases to traditional mediation councils that fail to protect victims, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law, passed in 2009, was a centrepiece of efforts to improve protection for Afghan women, who suffer widespread violence in one of the worst countries in the world to be born female.

But its effectiveness has been weakened by continued reliance on mediation by local elders to resolve violent crime.

“The wide use of mediation when a woman or girl has been beaten, mutilated or murdered, or when she has been the victim of that awful concept of ‘honour killing’, normalises such violence and makes it much more likely to recur,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“To use mediation for such offences is at its core a human rights violation by the State,” Al Hussein said in a statement accompanying a United Nations report, entitled “Injustice and Impunity: Mediation of Criminal Offences against Women”.

In many remote parts of Afghanistan, where the formal legal system has no sway, mediation is the only form of justice, but the UN report focused on cases reported to the authorities.

No comment was immediately available from the office of Afghanistan’s attorney general.

Improving the situation of women in Afghanistan has been a priority for Western donors, who have pumped billions of dollars into the country. But more than 17 years after the overthrow of the Taliban, the report underlines the still-dire situation facing many women in Afghanistan, which ranks near the bottom of the United Nations Development Programme’s Gender Inequality Index.



Iran: 500 Women Held In Prisons for Undeliberate Crimes

30 May 2018

Some 500 women (out of a total 6,500 female prisoners) are detained throught Iran for undeliberate crimes.

The National Diyeh (Compensations) Headquarters announced the above and added, "These 500 women prisoners have committed undeliberate crimes. 70 per cent of them are heads of households and have children. Their numbers have increased several folds over the past year, increasing from 100 in 2016 to around 500 in 2017. Most of these women do not have any criminal record and they have been convicted due to financial problems, economic pressures, or guaranteeing their husbands or relatives." (The state-run - May 28, 2018)

Asghar Jahangir, head of the Prisons Organization, also remarked on consequences of prison for families in a ceremony on May 26. He said, "40 per cent of women prisoners do not have any visits and this leads to various mental and psychological problems for them." (The state-run Mehr news agency - May 26, 2018)




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