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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 5 Oct 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Foreign Men And Women Can Now Share Hotel Rooms In Saudi Arabia

New Age Islam News Bureau

5 Oct 2019

Zarifa Ghafari, who at 26 became one of Afghanistan’s first female mayors, has said that she fully expects to be assassinated.


Pakistan: Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Distributes Burqas Among School Girls

Afghan Town’s First Female Mayor Awaits Her Assassination

Saudi Tourism: Women Allowed Accommodation In Tourism Facilities Without A Mahram

‘Packing A Punch’: More Girls In Saudi Arabia Take Up Combat Sports

Emirati Women Flaunt Own Jewellery Designs At Sharjah Expo

Bahrain’s Nourah Sultan Wins Women’s Bowling Championship

Job Fair Promotes Saudi Women’s Role In Labour Market

“Blue Girl” Spotlights Iran’s Women’s Rights Movement

This Italian Woman Took Her Muslim Fashion Business From Facebook To Storefront

Pakistani Woman Gets Indian Citizenship After 35 Years

Pakistani Differently-Abled Groom’s Wedding Reception In Oslo Goes Viral

Australian Woman Recounts Her Mental Anguish In Syria

Female Houthi Cell Busted for Planting Mines in Yemen

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Foreign Men And Women Can Now Share Hotel Rooms In Saudi Arabia

October 5, 2019

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is allowing foreign men and women to rent hotel rooms together without proving they are related after the conservative Muslim kingdom launched a new tourist visa regime to attract holidaymakers.

Women, including Saudis, are also permitted to rent hotel rooms by themselves, in a break with previous regulations.

The moves appear to pave the way for unaccompanied women to travel more easily and for unmarried foreign visitors to stay together in the Gulf state, where sex outside of marriage is banned.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage confirmed a report on Friday by Arabic-language newspaper Okaz, adding: “All Saudi nationals are asked to show family ID or proof of relationship on checking into hotels. This is not required of foreign tourists. All women, including Saudis, can book and stay in hotels alone, providing ID on check-in.”

Saudi Arabia threw open its doors last week to foreign tourists from 49 countries as it tries to grow that sector and diversify its economy away from oil exports.

As part of the move, it decreed that visitors need not wear all-covering black robes but should dress modestly. Alcohol remains banned.

Saudi Arabia has been relatively closed off for decades and until recently unrelated men and women, including foreigners, could be severely punished for mixing in public.

Strict social codes have been relaxed in recent years and previously banned entertainment has flourished.

But an influx of tourists – the authorities are aiming for 100 million annual visits by 2030 – could push boundaries further and risks conservative backlash.

The kingdom ended a heavily criticised ban on women driving last year and in August granted women new rights to travel abroad, chipping away at a guardianship system that assigns each woman a male relative to approve important decisions throughout their lives.

The changes are part of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious economic and social reform agenda.

His plans have received international praise, but his image has been tarnished by the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a crackdown on dissent, and a devastating war in Yemen.

Until now, foreigners travelling to Saudi Arabia have been largely restricted to resident workers and their dependents, business travellers, and Muslim pilgrims who are given special visas to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.



Pakistan: Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Distributes Burqas Among School Girls

Oct 5, 2019

ISLAMABAD (PAKISTAN): The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has distributed burqas among female students in a girls' model school in Cheena village of Rustam Valley.

The authorities here, with the help of funds provided by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) former district council member, Muzaffar Shah, distributed 69 burqas among students in the girls' school, The Express Tribune reported.

"I had decided to purchase chadors for the female students, but after consultation with local leaders, I bought the burqas," Shah was quoted as saying.

He said all the burqas were worth Rs 100,000, adding that they were distributed free of cost to students of Government Girls Middle School, Cheena.

The village councillor also said that his action was inspired by the recent notification by the adviser to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister on Elementary and Secondary Education, Ziaullah Bangash, directing girls to observe 'purdah'.

"I took the decision after the recent notification issued of our adviser on education to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister and the act is purely for the providing a secured education environment to the female students in the area," he said.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government had made it mandatory for female students of government-run schools to cover themselves up in the province's educational institutions, Bangash had earlier said in mid-September.

The order was first circulated in Haripur district, where the district education officer asked all principals and headmistresses of public schools to ensure that girl students wear an abaya, gown or chador.

However, hours after the administration made it mandatory for female students of government-run schools to cover themselves up, chief minister Mahmood Khan issued directives to withdraw the notification, saying it was issued without the government's consent.



Afghan Town’s First Female Mayor Awaits Her Assassination

By Fatima Faizi and Rod Nordland

Oct. 4, 2019

MAIDAN SHAR, Afghanistan — Zarifa Ghafari, who at 26 became one of Afghanistan’s first female mayors, has said that she fully expects to be assassinated.

Not that she is keeping a low profile.

After taking office in March in Maidan Shar, a town of 35,000 in Afghanistan’s Wardak Province, she had a banner hoisted with her name, a picture of her wearing a bright red head scarf and the slogan of her anti-littering campaign: “Let’s keep our city clean.”

Ms. Ghafari is well aware that she is on the front lines of the struggle for women’s rights in Afghanistan, at a time when recent American peace talks with the Taliban have Afghans thinking about what might happen if the ultraconservative insurgents ever take part in running the country again.

“My job is to make people believe in women’s rights and women’s power,” she wrote on Twitter.

Ms. Ghafari is not the first woman to take over a traditionally male job in Afghanistan’s patriarchal society. But she has one of the toughest imaginable positions.

Women have been appointed as governors of Daikundi and Bamiyan Provinces, which are culturally tolerant areas by Afghanistan’s standards. For two years, Nili, a town in Daikundi, had a female mayor. She eventually moved to the United States.

But Wardak is a particularly conservative province, where support for the Taliban is so widespread that many major highways are not safe for civilians.

Maidan Shar’s only high school for girls had just 13 graduates last year. Before Ms. Ghafari became mayor, the only woman in town to have held a government job other than teacher was the head of Wardak’s women’s ministry, and she did not dare live in the city, instead residing in Kabul, the country’s capital. Ms. Ghafari also commutes from Kabul for safety reasons.

Ms. Ghafari was actually appointed in the summer of 2018 by Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani. But after a disastrous first day as mayor, her term was delayed for months.

After she arrived for work that July day, her office was mobbed by angry men brandishing sticks and rocks. She had to be escorted out by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate for Security, which sent a squad of paramilitary officers to her rescue.

“That was the worst day of my life,” she said.

“Don’t come back,” protesters jeered as she left. Among them, she said, were supporters and aides of Wardak’s governor, Mohammad Arif Shah Jahan, whom she accused of orchestrating the protest because he opposed the appointment of a woman. Attempts to reach Mr. Jahan for comment were unsuccessful.

Ms. Ghafari left town, but not quietly. “I was screaming so much I lost my voice,” she said. She went straight to the presidential palace in Kabul and told the officials there she would not give up easily.

“I told them I will claim my right to office if I have to set myself on fire in front of the palace,” she said. “It was not an idle threat.”

It took nine months, but Ms. Ghafari finally managed to return — after Governor Jahan resigned, and after she had made a social media pest of herself with the hashtag #IWillFightforRight. But that did not mean that her troubles were over. Far from it. That became quickly evident on a visit to Maidan Shar to see Ms. Ghafari in action.

She started by convening a meeting of 20 municipal officials, all men. Or trying to. Some came in late. Many refused to look up from their cellphones. Several talked among themselves, ignoring Ms. Ghafari, until she finally shouted at them. “This is a formal meeting,” she said. “If someone has personal business, he can leave.”

With that, they settled down and listened for a few minutes.

“Get back to work and do your jobs,” she said as she adjourned the meeting. Loud laughter could be heard from the room after she left.

Out on the street, she took a group of municipal cleaners and mayoral aides to distribute plastic trash bags for her Clean City Green City campaign. She was reluctant to let a reporter come along. “I don’t have any bodyguards,” she said. “According to policy I should have two. It’s not safe out there.”

The reason for her concern was immediately clear. At the bazaar, a crowd of men and boys gathered as soon as she appeared, pressing closely around her.

Most refused to take a trash bag. Garbage was strewn all over the streets. Ms. Ghafari held her ground, often yelling at the top of her voice, demanding that people take the free bags and use them. “It’s our city, we should keep it clean,” she said. “I can’t do this without your help.”

Some laughed at her. But others accepted the bags. Only one woman was at the scene, wearing a head-to-toe burqa.

Ms. Ghafari later apologized to a reporter for her aggressiveness. “When a lady wants to work in a very conservative society, she has to hide her real personality,” she said. “She must be harsh, or no one will listen to her. I need to prove to them that women are not weak.”

A member of the Pashtun ethnic group, like most people in Wardak, Ms. Ghafari is the daughter of a high school teacher and a colonel in the Afghan special forces. She is single, although 26 is considered a late age to be unmarried in Afghan society.

She said she had already received death threats from the Taliban and the Islamic State. “I know I will be assassinated, but it’s not them I’m afraid of,” she said.

Much more worrisome, she said, were criminal syndicates on the government’s side of the war, involved in the highly corrupt and lucrative trade in land.

“The land mafia are the ones who really scare me,” she said. “One of them came up to me and said he would put a bullet in my head if I didn’t leave here.”

Ms. Ghafari had never expected to work in government. She earned her bachelor’s degree in India and was studying for her masters in economics when, during a visit home last year, her family encouraged her to sit for a competitive civil service exam. President Ghani had instituted the exams to bring merit-based hiring to appointments.

In addition to her studies, Ms. Ghafari was an entrepreneur, having started a popular radio station aimed at women in Wardak. She was back in India working toward her degree when a friend called. She said Mr. Ghani’s office had announced on Facebook that Ms. Ghafari had been named mayor of Maidan Shar.

“I didn’t believe I could get this job, because I am a person with neither political power nor gold,” she said. “But when I did, I knew I wanted to be here and try to change society.”

Ms. Ghafari’s doggedness has won her some grudging respect, despite the contempt she often encounters. After her humiliating municipal meeting, she seemed unfazed.

“Sometimes it seems that everybody is just against women, and when a woman is active in society, they can dismiss you as an immoral woman,” she said.

But in a later meeting at the governor’s office, about a road project that Ms. Ghafari had championed, there was a glimmer of support for her.

“Give her some credit,” one of the men present told the other. “That project was stopped for 12 years, and she is here for a month and it’s restarted. She may be a woman, but she is powerful.”

Follow Fatima Faizi and Rod Nordland on Twitter: @FatmaFaizi and @RodNordland.

Fatima Faizi reported from Maidan Shar, Afghanistan and Rod Nordland from Kabul. Fahim Abed contributed reporting from Kabul.



Saudi Tourism: Women Allowed Accommodation In Tourism Facilities Without A Mahram

October 4, 2019

JEDDAH – The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has recently approved a new regulation that allows women, who arrive in the Kingdom for tourism, to stay in tourism accommodation facilities on her own without the need of a mahram, Okaz said it has learned.

Mahram is a person whom the women cannot marry. The woman can also secure admission to these accommodations without her guardian (father, husband) in tow, Okaz said.

The new SCTH directives make it compulsory for the woman to present her original national identity card or family register and for the expatriate women their passport when they apply to stay in the tourism facilities.

In this decision, SCTH has asked tourism accommodation facilities not to provide accommodation to women who do not hold identification papers, unless they are accompanied by a male relative, whose data ought to be registered.

The SCTH has abrogated the condition for the need to present identification papers or family register if the male accommodation seeker is accompanying his family on arrival.

Earlier this was a compulsory requirement. It applies to Saudis, expatriates, foreign visitors or tourists.

The SCTH has stressed that it is compulsory for the facility licensed to provide tourist accommodation to have a direct link with the SCTH in order to provide it with the data and information via the National Tourism Monitoring Platform.

Furthermore, these facilities should be committed to provide the SCTH with whatever additional information or data it asks, through any means the SCTH sees fit and within a maximum period of 48 hours from the time of requesting the information.



‘Packing A Punch’: More Girls In Saudi Arabia Take Up Combat Sports

October 05, 2019

JEDDAH: While combat sports are still deemed as masculine sports by some Saudis, they have started to become a regular pastime for women too. Halah Al-Hamrani, 41, opened a gym called FLAG, an acronym for the popular slogan “fight like a girl” that has been used in pop culture to insult girls, to help empower women.

“I am feminine in my own way, but I also like hitting things,” Al-Hamrani said.

She has participated in panel discussions across the Kingdom to show that it is possible for women to practice combat sports, feel strong and empowered and still be a woman.

As the country is moving toward its Vision 2030 reform plans, health and welfare is an important goal for Saudi Arabia, and girls have started to lead their lives toward fitness and strength.

“With the empowerment of women, people have started to enjoy and support women in these fields,” she said.

Mental health

Nowadays, people understand that women do not necessarily need men to protect them.

According to Al-Hamrani, this mentality is helping people who promote combat sports. “It is making our job easier,” she added.

“I promote combat sports for ladies, because they are very good exercises. It is highly skill-based and it works your mind and your body. For ladies, in general, it is a very empowering sport,” Al-Hamrani said.

She told Arab News that fighting sports require a lot of self-motivation, self-control and help support mental health.

“I find that it is the first requirement that woman should have toward a sport. It is the mental gains and power that you can develop.”

Boxing training proves an all-body workout, giving fighters lots of strength. The body of the boxer changes aesthetically — it becomes proportionate and toned.

“It’s important to learn self-defense. It helps to build the confidence,” said Reham Kamal, a coach at RK fitness and Al-Hamrani’s student.


Sports and fitness are also perceived by people as a method of becoming fit and looking good, according to Kamal.

“For me, in the beginning, it was only to have a nice body shape, then it became a lifestyle. I wanted to learn more about it. So, I decided to educate myself by taking courses and workshops. After that I decided to help others to reach their fitness goals by coaching them.

“Boxing for me is not just to learn self-defense, it also challenges me to learn a new skill every time and improve my focus. It helps to improve my physical and mental health,” Kamal added.


In Saudi Arabia, boxing is still frowned upon by some people.

“I have received many comments on social media from people that are not as open-minded toward the idea of women in combat sports. I have received comments like ‘she probably beats up her husband’ or ‘she is probably more of a man than a woman.’ There are many comments like that coming my way and it is obvious that they are uneducated,” Al-Hamrani said.

Embarking on her journey, Al-Hamrani received unconditional support from her friends and family.

“You are going to want your daughters and sisters to defend themselves if a bad situation ever occurred,” she said.



Emirati Women Flaunt Own Jewellery Designs At Sharjah Expo

October 4, 2019

Emirati Designers' Pavilion has served as springboard for many entrepreneurs aspiring to enter jewellery industry

A stunning collection of gems and jewellery designed and carefully handcrafted by 10 Emirati female designers has caught the eyes of jewellery enthusiasts visiting the 47th Watch and Jewellery Middle East Show organised by and held at Expo Centre Sharjah. The pioneering Emirati entrepreneurs showcased their talents in jewellery design, while participating in the Emirati Designers' Pavilion, initiated by the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry to support and promote young entrepreneur projects in all exhibitions.

Emirati designer Khadija Al Sinani, from Harf w Nagsh Jewellery, lauded the Sharjah Chamber's efforts to nurture young Emirati talent to reveal their exquisite exhibits in one the most important and most prominent jewellery shows.

Her compatriot, Fatima Al Bannai from Baguette Design, who is participating for the first time, hailed the Sharjah Chamber's support extended to Emirati talent and thanked Expo Centre Sharjah for allowing her and her colleagues to introduce their unique designs.

Abdullah Sultan Al Owais, chairman of the Sharjah Chamber, said: "Since its launch five editions ago, the Emirati Designers' Pavilion has served as a springboard for many Emirati entrepreneurs including ladies, aspiring to enter the jewellery trade and design industry in the UAE."

Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, CEO of Expo Centre Sharjah, said: "What we have seen in the show is promising and gives us great hope with a generation of Emirati entrepreneurs capable of developing unique designs and enhance the UAE's position in the jewellery industry."



Bahrain’s Nourah Sultan Wins Women’s Bowling Championship

October 05, 2019

JEDDAH: Nourah Sultan from Bahrain won the eighth Women’s Single Bowling Championship in Alkhobar on Friday, picking up the top prize of SR4,000 ($1,066).

Jennis Ecalnir from the Philippines came second, with Saudi bowler Amani Al-Ghamdi in third place. Three more Filipinos — Loretta Santos, Janett Castello, and Beth Dankanan —  placed fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, followed by Saudi Arabia’s Mariam Al-Dosari and Mica Ecalnir from the Philippines. 

Dr. Razan Baker, a member of the board of directors at the Saudi Bowling Federation, said she was very happy and proud of the women’s significant progress in the championship. “Even though she joined the team not long ago, Amani was able to achieve (third place). We congratulate her and wish her more victories.”

Al-Ghamdi said: “This is my first (podium placement) after 18 months of practicing. The competition was extremely tense but I am so happy and proud of my achievement. I was able to meet the expectations of my coaches and bring Saudi bowling a victory and my family great joy.

“I am looking forward to achieving more victories with my team in the sixth GCC championship that will be held in Kuwait at the end of this month,” she added.



Job Fair Promotes Saudi Women’s Role In Labour Market

October 04, 2019

RIYADH: “A Step Ahead Career Fair 2019,” a job fair for women, concluded on Thursday after attracting women and female graduates.

The fair showcased job opportunities and programs presented by more than 83 local and international governmental and private bodies.

Supported by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, the Saudi Human Resources Development Fund, Saudi Aramco and Takamol Holding, the three-day fair aimed to empower Saudi women with job opportunities, educational qualifications and practical experience.

The event contributed to promoting the presence of women as effective members in the Kingdom’s labor market through enriching their chances to find jobs and promoting their skills.



“Blue Girl” Spotlights Iran’s Women’s Rights Movement


OCT. 4, 2019

TEHRAN —  Sahar Khodayari understood the law: Women in Iran are forbidden to enter sports stadiums. But the 29-year-old wanted to watch a soccer match — a benign activity hundreds of thousands of women around the world enjoy.

So, in March when her favorite team was playing, Khodayari did what other Iranian women have done in order to watch live sports events: She disguised herself as a man. Donning a blue wig and long overcoat, Khodayari made her way toward Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, but she never made it inside. A security guard caught her and arrested her. When she found out in early September that she faced six months in prison, Khodayari set herself on fire outside the courthouse where she had been summoned. She died in a Tehran hospital less than two weeks later.

Khodayari’s death has made her the face of a social media campaign pressuring authorities to officially end their long-running ban on females entering stadiums. To many, the young woman has also become a symbol of the Islamic Republic’s restrictive laws governing women. Using the hashtag تا_نیاد_نمیرم#, which means “until she comes I won’t go,” Iranians have flooded social networking sites with messages of outrage, heartache and despair.

Where men determine women’s fate and deprive them of their basic human rights, there are women who help men in their tyranny, all of us are responsible for detaining and burning girls like this in the country,” reformist lawmaker Parvaneh Salahshouri wrote on Twitter.

Women’s rights activists in Iran said international condemnation after Khodayari’s death casts a spotlight on the country’s burgeoning women’s rights movement spearheaded by young Iranians who are leveraging the power of social media to advance their cause. That movement, activists say, is being fueled by generations of Iranian women who, over the last eight decades, faced repressive laws imposed on them by both the Pahlavi dynasty and Islamic Republic.

The pressure to change the law and address the patriarchy is from the grass roots. Women will find their way to emancipate themselves,” said Shahla Lahiji, a writer and director of Roshangaran, a publication company that focuses on women’s issues.

Khodayari’s troubles began after she was arrested for trying to watch her favorite soccer team, Esteghlal, play against a team from the United Arab Emirates. She was released on bail and charged with “harming public decency” and “insulting law enforcement agents” for not wearing a hijab, judicial authorities said, according to Iranian state media outlet Rokna News.

Although there’s no law that bars women from watching sporting events in stadiums, it’s been the de facto policy pushed by Iran’s hard-line and religious forces since the revolution in 1979. The reasons for the ban vary — with some politicians claiming such a space is not “suitable” because of the lack of facilities for women, such as bathrooms and segregated women-only seating.

Khodayari was told she faced six months in prison after she was summoned to court Sept. 2. Overcome with emotion, she doused herself in gasoline and set herself on fire, her sister told Rokna News. Khodayari died several days later at Tehran’s Motahari Hospital.

Kasra Naji


The photos of "the blue girl", Sahar Khodayari, the Iranian football fan, who died this week after setting herself on fire protesting a ban on women entering stadiums.

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3:01 AM - Sep 12, 2019

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Her death struck a chord in Iran, and it didn’t take long before she was turned into an icon and nicknamed Blue Girl — a reference to the uniform color of her favorite soccer team.

From lawmakers and activists to concerned citizens, Iranians from all walks of life took to social media to express their outrage.

Iranian women behind the Open Stadiums movement — an online campaign that has advocated for the lifting of the ban on women entering stadiums since 2005 — were quick to respond, using their Twitter account, with its more than 3,000 followers, as a platform to spread information and engage in discussions about how the Islamic Republic restricts women’s lives.

This is an issue that symbolizes how difficult it is to be a woman in Iran and how we lack freedom of movement,” Open Stadiums’ founder said. She asked to remain anonymous because of safety concerns.

It wasn’t long before Khodayari’s death drew international headlines, including comments from professional soccer players and FIFA officials, generating broader conversations about how women in Iran are treated and making the issue difficult for authorities to ignore.

Our position is clear and firm. Women have to be allowed into football stadiums in Iran. Now is the moment to change things and FIFA is expecting positive developments starting in the next Iran home match in October,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement in September.

In the wake of his statement, women were granted some seats to watch an Oct. 10 soccer match against Cambodia, according to social media posts of women showing their tickets.

FC Barcelona


FC Barcelona is very sorry to hear about the death of Sahar Khodayari, may she rest in peace. Football is a game for everyone - men AND women, and everyone should be able to enjoy the beautiful game together in stadiums. …



Our dear Sahar burnt herself to death, when she was charged to 6 month in jail for ... going to the stadium to support her #Esteghlal.

She supported us despite the politics made it illegal for her, but what we do can do to support her? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

We are cowards.

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7:42 PM - Sep 11, 2019

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More than 60% of Iran’s 80 million people are younger than 30, according to CIA World Factbook statistics. And although Facebook and Twitter are technically banned in Iran, most young people know how to bypass censorship by using virtual private networks. There’s also the potential for a large audience; 60% of Iranians use the internet, according to the Washington-based Freedom House 2018 study on internet freedoms in Iran.

In January 2018, another Iranian woman became the subject of a social media campaign named #Where_Is_She after images of her removing her white head scarf and tying it on the end of a stick in Tehran’s crowded Enghelab Square went viral, prompting concerns over her safety and whereabouts.

Her act motivated other women to also remove their head scarves in public. During that time Iran was rattled by the biggest anti-government protests in nearly a decade.

Thousands of Iranians, including women alongside men, demonstrated in cities across Iran to protest high unemployment rates, a crumbling economy and the failure of President Hassan Rouhani’s administration to carry out his promise of relaxing social and political restrictions.

Dozens of women who removed their head scarves were arrested.

Women’s activists said that the fast dissemination of news on social media about Khodayari and the woman who removed her white head scarf highlights how young Iranians are increasingly using the internet as an outlet to express their frustrations and that it has proved to be a helpful alternative to protests when it comes to pressing for change.

Social media have been heaven for the younger generation. Over the last five years I’ve been seeing a new generation of women fight for their rights by using social media,” said the founder of the Open Stadiums campaign.

Even as women’s rights diminished greatly in the years after the 1979 revolution, women’s activists say significant gains in literacy and education over the last 30 years have helped raise women’s expectations about their role in society. History has also played a role in framing the women’s movement; since the early 20th century, Iran’s leaders have politicized and sought control over women in order to consolidate power, albeit in different ways.

In 1936, the pro-Western Persian monarch Reza Shah Pahlavi created a law that banned women from wearing head scarves — an act that many pious women saw as repressive — and outlawed segregation of the sexes in public places in an attempt to to mirror popular ideas of modernity.

When his son, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, returned to power after the U.S.- and British-backed coup of 1953 ousted democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, he followed in his father’s footsteps by pursuing a series of reforms known as the White Revolution in a bid to retain control and legitimacy.

Restrictions on women intensified after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. But this time, the slightest reminder of the West was shunned. Under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s rule, women were forced to cover their hair and they also lost the right to file for divorce and were required to wear loose-fitting clothes. Alcohol was banned as well as music and dancing in public places.

For some women’s activists in Iran, such drastic changes in laws have helped shape their goals. Mahjoub Marzie Rasooli, a 40-year-old women’s rights activist, said the difference in laws concerning head scarves between her generation and her mother’s has shown her the importance of fighting for the right of women to choose whether they want to cover their hair in public.

We must be free to choose whether we want to follow Islamic code of dress or not,” Rasooli said.

Back in the streets of Tehran, in the days after Khodayari’s death, people gathered for a candlelight vigil outside the courthouse where she had set herself on fire. Her favorite team also held a moment of silence before its practice session.

Step by step, trench by trench, women activists are advancing toward their goals,” Rasooli said.



This Italian Woman Took Her Muslim Fashion Business From Facebook To Storefront


Tucked away on a colorful street in northern Italy, a small shop playing Arabic music that smells of jasmine displays hundreds of colorful clothes and vibrant accessories behind a set of glass doors. Welcome to Fatima Shop, a fashion boutique for Muslim women.

Fatima Asmaa Paciotti, a 55-year-old Italian entrepreneur who converted to Islam in 2005, first began selling faith-influenced clothes on Facebook. The page now boasts over 33,000 followers and Paciotti has added a brick-and-mortar store to the mix.

The store’s rising profile is even more impressive because it is in Cantù, in the northern province of Como, where a far-right League party politician was elected mayor in the most recent elections. Another local League member, Nicola Molteni, has launched a battle against women who wear Muslim veils in public.

Fatima Shop’s one-of-kind merchandise has been designed to draw people in, regardless of their background. Nothing is left to chance: “This is a boutique, not a bazaar,” Paciotti told HuffPost Italy as she leaned behind the counter, revealing a strong Roman accent and a smile framed by her veil. She has created a unique ambience in the shop, which is decorated in a shabby chic style, featuring furniture and mirrors from all over the world.

“Coming into my store is a sensory experience,” she said. It’s not only clothes that embellish the boutique. There are perfumes (strictly alcohol-free) from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia in scents ranging from pink vanilla to black musk, which is “just like the one Prophet Muhammad used.”

Faith guides the designs of both the apparel and the store itself: Two editions of the Quran are prominently displayed on an empty piece of teak furniture upon which Paciotti intends to showcase a range of niqabs, the full veil that leaves only the eyes uncovered.

“If sisters decide to wear it, they should have the freedom to do so. I want everyone to find what they are looking for in my shop,” said Paciotti, who for three years wore her own niqab, despite insults and threats lobbed her way. She said she was once almost run over by a man who yelled at her to “go back to her country.”

The Muslim veil is controversial in Italy, as it has been in many parts of Europe.

But Paciotti, who has lived in Cantù since 1993, said she earned the trust of her neighboring shopkeepers in just a few days.

“They were worried that I would cause a commotion and that I would invade the area with people who eat couscous on the street,” she said. But the locals changed their minds once they saw the store, and a League councilor even welcomed her to the area; although there are the occasional passersby who turn up their noses and walk away.

Non-Muslim customers also visit the store and “fall in love with the colors and designs, which are so different from what they are used to,” Paciotti said. Wide Jilbab pants — reminiscent of those featured in “Aladdin” — are popular, as are knee-length colored sweatshirts and dresses made of lace. Some customers prefer their clothes in the traditional black, but Paciotti said younger Muslim women are asking for khimars, or cloaks that cover the body from the head down, in various colors. A long blue tunic, which was made by Syrian refugees, hangs in the shop window and often catches the eyes of people walking past.

Paciotti said her religious journey inspired her to open the shop, and that she thought it was important to find a way to blend beauty with faith.

“A few years ago when I decided to dress like a Muslim woman, I only found poor quality clothes that were also expensive. They didn’t last long, and sometimes they were uncomfortable,” Paciotti said, while positioning copper lamps around the store. She identified a need for beautiful, high-quality clothing.  

After all, she said, “as the Prophet Muhammed says, God is beautiful and he loves beauty.”



Pakistani Woman Gets Indian Citizenship After 35 Years

Oct 04, 2019

Thirty-five years after she applied for Indian citizenship, a Pakistani woman, married to a man in Muzaffarnagar city and residing in the country on a long-term visa, has been granted Indian nationality.

According to a local intelligence official, 55-year-old Zubeda had married Syed Mohammad Zaved, a resident of Yogenderpur locality here, 35 years ago. She had applied for Indian citizenship immediately after her marriage; however, it was not accepted on some legal grounds. Since 1994, she had been staying in the country on a long-term visa, and granted Indian citizenship early this week, the official said.

She can now apply for Aadhaar, ration card and voter ID.

The woman has two daughters 30-year-old Rumesha and Zumesha, 26, and both are married.

According to official data, about 25 Pakistani women married to Indian nationals are living in Muzaffarnagar district on long-term visa.



Pakistani Differently-Abled Groom’s Wedding Reception In Oslo Goes Viral

October 4, 2019

OSLO: A wedding reception of a Pakistani couple, recently held in Oslo, went viral on social media after it showed the differently-abled groom dancing with his friends to Punjabi tunes.

The wedding reception of Burhan Chishti and Fauzia was held in Oslo recently and was attended by nationals from thirteen different countries.

The video, posted yesterday, was shared on the social media website Facebook and has so far viewed by millions of people. It has also been shared thousands of times across different platforms.

Fauzia, who hails from Pakpattan in Pakistan, said that she loved Burhan and affectionately calls him Bobo.

She said that she inscribed Bobo’s name on her hand to express her  feelings.

Bobo also said that the feeling was mutual, and even enacted some of his favorite dialogues from  films before going off to dance to Punjabi beats with friends.

Bobo’s friends also shared their messages on the occasion, wishing the married couple utmost happiness in their marriage and recounting how they had traveled from different countries for the wedding reception.

Bobo, who suffers from polio, has an active presence on the social media. It is quite clear that he lives his life to the fullest.



Australian Woman Recounts Her Mental Anguish In Syria

Oct 5, 2019

Walking through Al-Hawl camp in northeastern Syria, the women pass in a sea of black.

Most women wear a niqab - the Islamic dress that covers everything but the eyes - either because they're affiliated with Islamic State, or afraid of the women who are.

One Australian woman emerged from the camp to talk to AAP wearing a coloured hijab, which shows the complete face. She is not wearing the black gloves required under IS, and she has nose and eyebrow piercings.

It's a brave move. A number of people have been murdered recently by women in the camp still who remain affiliated with IS, for not adhering to their radical form of Islam.

She had to move to a section of the camp monitored by cameras after being threatened with having her tent burnt down.

"I tried to escape ISIS for years and now I come here and I'm still not safe," the woman told AAP.

"It's a little Islamic State, you're still between the same people, they're still trying to imply their laws in the camp."

Though not wanting to declare her name, she appears to be Zehra Duman, the Melbourne woman who travelled to Syria in 2014.

Around 72,000 people are now residing in Al-Hawl camp, according to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.

Among them are are about sixty women and children from Australia, who arrived from the last IS stronghold in Baghouz six months ago.

Now 24 years of age and the mother of two small children, the woman lit a cigarette - also forbidden under radical IS ideology - before telling AAP that she wants her story to be told.

She spoke hurriedly, knowing there was limited time to talk.

"Two weeks before I came here I was clubbing. I wasn't religious," she said.

The catalyst for her travelling to Syria was an ex-boyfriend in Australia who threatened and stalked her. Another friend of hers, who had travelled to Syria from Melbourne, took advantage of that vulnerability.

"This guy I used to like from high school, he was good looking and stuff, he said: 'Look, I'm in Syria and it's not what you think, come and get married to me and I can give you a nice life'," she said.

She understood at the time that IS was active in the region, but this man - previously reported to be Mahmoud Abdullatif - told her not to believe the news in Australia.

She arrived in Syria, and the pair married in November 2014 in the north of the war-torn country. A month-and-a-half later, her husband was killed in Syrian government airstrikes.

The woman claims she's wanted to leave Syria ever since his death.

"The first time I had balls to leave was after I gave birth to my son," she said.

She made contact with smugglers to try to leave of IS-held territory, but the group found the messages and placed her in home detention.

"Basically you come here willingly but if you want to leave, if you want to go back to your old life ... they ripped up your passport."

In order to get out of detention, she needed to remarry.

"My last husband had good intentions. He felt sorry for me, he knew I wanted to leave and they're oppressing me. So he married me," she said.

Her second husband was killed in January this year, just before the final battle against IS by coalition forces in Baghouz.

"I had a breakdown and a half, because I knew he was my only way out."

Just as a human corridor was opened up by the coalition and the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Australian woman gave birth to a girl through a cesarean section.

"I wanted to get out of there, there was really hard bombing ... not just then, always, but in the last days it was so intense."

She and her two children were some of the first people to leave Baghouz, surrendering to the SDF.

She explained the trauma of being under bombardment for so many years is unmanageable for her and her children.

"You know what happens when I hear a plane now, or even a garbage bin, automatically my body has diarrhea," she explained.

Her son is not only traumatised from seeing so much death, but also evidently has staphylococcus, as seen from the boil-like clusters all over his legs.

"You know what my son says when [my daughter] is sleeping, look Mummy [she's] dead. This is messed up, he's three years old, how can he know what death is?"

She hopes for her children's sake that Australia will take them back soon.

"Forget me, I just want my kids to see my family, to see hospitals, medication, psychologists, have a normal childhood," she said.

SDF Spokesperson Mustafa Bali told AAP no foreign governments are cooperating on the issue of women and children in Al-Hawl.

"Especially the Australian Government they haven't done anything so far," Bali said.

He pointed out that the SDF have limited resources to continue providing for families in the camps.

"None of the governments are providing any money [for aid]. We are paying from the food of our kids actually."

"When we talk about the foreigners, the first thing that comes to our minds is their countries need to have responsibility towards them, it means they need to take them."

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton's office did not respond to AAP's request for comment.

The woman understands there's no way out of the camp unless the government repatriates them.

She's aware she could face trial and prison, and says she would score a "triple A+" in a de-radicalisation program.

The woman repeatedly called herself an idiot for travelling to Syria.

"I want the Australians to know ... my intention right now is to show that we're not all the same. Some of us want help."



Female Houthi Cell Busted for Planting Mines in Yemen

5 October, 2019

A cell run by female loyalists to the Iran-backed Houthi militias was busted in Yemen for planting mines and explosives, revealed a security official in al-Jawf region.

The Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance, MASAM, quoted Abdullah al-Breir as saying: “Mines are a major challenge for security in the province and they are a great danger to the locals.”

The militias have deliberately and arbitrarily planted mines in densely populated areas, claiming several victims, mainly women and children, he added.

The security forces have defused and dismantled several explosives and mines the militias had planted on streets and in schools and markets, he continued.

They have also arrested several cells that have been recruited by the Houthis to plant these explosives.

Large quantities of explosives were found in the possession of the female cell, said Breir.

The Houthis have gained expertise in manufacturing and concealing mines from Lebanese Hezbollah party members and experts from Iran, he charged.

They have been dispatched to Yemen to train the Houthis on how to kill the Yemeni people with mines and bombs, he stressed.

“The Houthi project is built on death and destruction,” he added.

In contrast, the MASAM project has saved thousands of lives and secured several regions in al-Jawf, he remarked. This has allowed the displaced to return to their homes and safely carry on with their lives.




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