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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 28 Dec 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

I Congratulate Improvement of Iranian Women: Rita Subowo, First-Ever Woman to Lead Asian Volleyball Confederation


New Age Islam News Bureau

29 December 2020

 • Chand Bibi, From Swat on A Mission To Educate Pakhtun Children In Rawalpindi

• Kuwaitis Wonder Why Even the Women Voted For Men

• 8 Pakistani Women among World’s 100 Outstanding Nurses and Midwives

• J&K Waqf Board to Have 2 Woman Members, As Mandated By the Central Waqf Act

• Lebanon's Interior Minister, Mohammed Fahmi, Says Women Unable To Do Interior Ministerial Job

• Acquittal In Assault Of Christian Woman Casts Pall Over Christmas For Egypt's Coptic Community

• Yemen: Anger As Newly Sworn-In Cabinet Excludes Women For First Time In 20 Years

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  https://www.newageislam.com/islam-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/i-congratulate-improvement-of-iranian-women-rita-subowo-first-ever-woman-to-lead-asian-volleyball-confederation/d/123917

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I Congratulate Improvement of Iranian Women: Rita Subowo, First-Ever Woman to Lead Asian Volleyball Confederation

December 29, 2020

 

President of Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Rita Subowo

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Subowo made history in late October after she was elected as the first-ever woman to lead AVC.

A key figure in the Olympic Movement in Asia and an Honorary Life Vice-President of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), the Indonesian lady praised the Iranian girls pursuing the sport in an exclusive interview with Tehran Times.

Tehran Times: You are the first woman in history to lead the AVC. It shows that the continent’s associations have bestowed upon you. I think it will be a challenging job for you since volleyball has been always headed by men in Asia.

I have worked with AVC more than 30 years with the five AVC Presidents and also worked with three FIVB Presidents until now. It is a greatest honour for me to be elected as AVC President by 65 AVC affiliated federations and my greatest challenge to lead volleyball in Asia to compete with the other four continents. As my long experience as FIVB and AVC Vice Presidents as well as IOC Member, I will try my utmost effort together with all the members of AVC Board of Administration to develop and promote volleyball in Asia.

Women’s volleyball in Asia has progressed over the past years and some teams such as Thailand and South Korea have joined China and Japan. Do you have any plan to support the teams to strengthen more?

Women volleyball in Asia is now one of the most popular sports and are among the top teams of the world. I am very pleased to see that not only China, Japan and Korea are the top teams of Asia but also Thailand, Kazakhstan, Chinese Taipei and Iran have joined them. The gap among top eight women teams of Asia is closer, the fans are more excited with the matches of the mentioned teams. I expect to support more Asian women teams like Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippines to improve their teams close to the top eight teams of Asia by organizing more women’s events in order for them to have more opportunity to get more experience with the top teams of Asia. I also expect to have more Asian women teams among the top 10 of the World Ranking.

Volleyball is a gender balanced sport by nature but the men’s competitions are being held at a higher level. Do you have any plan to narrow the gap?

It is not true that the men competitions are being held at a higher level than women competitions. It depends upon the countries like in Iran, the level of men competition is higher than women. But women competitions are higher than men in many countries like in China, Japan and Thailand. Each federation has to try to balance if the gap of men and women is much different.

Iranian women have started to make their way to the forefront of Asian volleyball. Do you have a message for the Iranian girls pursuing the sport?

I sincerely congratulate the improvement of Iran women teams, the women teams of Iran at all levels have been improving very fast and now are among the top eight of Asia. I am confident that the Iran Women Team could be among the top teams of the world like the Men soon.

Iran men’s team have established themselves as one of international volleyball's leading powers. The Persians are looking forward for podium in Tokyo Olympic Games. As a person who has served as the Executive Vice President of the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), what’s the secret behind their success?

The secret behind the success of Iran Men Team is the greatest contribution and very hard work of the key persons of Iran Volleyball Federation together with very well-supported and excellent cooperation of all concerned, the government authority, sponsors, especially Iran volleyball’s fans.

The Iranian players including Amir Ghafour, Shahram Mahmoudi, Saeid Marouf, Mohammad Mousavi and Milad Ebadipour have stolen the show in the past decade. They can be the role model for the grassroots in the continent and the world.

All the volleyball stars of Iran and other distinguished players of Asia shall be the Idols and the sample for the young generations of our continent. I will try to recommend them through our media as soon as possible.

And the last question. Iran was chosen to host FIVB Volleyball Boys’ Under 19 World Championship by the FIVB and it’s an opportunity for the county to show the world how strong Asia is. Do you intend to travel to Iran for the competition?

If I have no important activity during FIVB Volleyball Boys’ U19 World Championship in Iran, I will join this important championship.  

https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/456290/I-congratulate-improvement-of-Iranian-women-Rita-Subowo

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Chand Bibi, From Swat on A Mission To Educate Pakhtun Children In Rawalpindi

12/28/2020

SWAT: Chand Bibi, who belongs to Mingora city in Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, works as a social activist for the last 10 years and runs a trust named ‘Chand Bibi Trust' which runs several schools on self-help basis.

'My only wish is to teach young girls the skills and basic education,' Chand Bibi said in an interview with TNN.

Chand Bibi said she went through hard times and passed grade 8 from a non-traditional school, then grade 10 and FSc, and started an open air school on her home terrace with a mission to fight illiteracy of girls in Swat.

'Then we were displaced by the militancy and subsequent military operation in Swat in 2009 and we shifted to Rawalpindi,' she said.

'In Rawalpindi slums, I found those Pakhtun children and young girls who were deprived of education. I took an initiative and our school was opened in just a one-room house,' she said.

'Time was hard but we kept our work flow up and now we have about 300 students, both male and female,' she said.

Chand Bibi said the government has still not recognised any of her activity. 'Mostly we arrange our funding by making schoolbags, pouches and shirts through our students. I also get funds from my family members who have government jobs,' Chand Bibi said.

'Now we are a bit stable and our school system is going well, and we have two to three rooms rented for our teachers who teach in our school. Our teachers are very enthusiastic and they don't get any salary for teaching with us,' she said.

Chand Bibi appealed to the Pakhtun mothers and sisters to get education at least up to matriculation and also learn home jobs like handicrafts, as with educated women, our children will also have easy choices about their education choices and society will develop with a rapid pace. She said no one can deny importance about education, and girls' education is even more important. She said the dream of educated girls can be realised if everyone play their part. She said she is confident she will accomplish her mission and others will follow her.

https://menafn.com/1101351910/Pakistan-Woman-from-Swat-on-a-mission-to-educate-Pakhtun-children-in-Rawalpindi

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Kuwaitis Wonder Why Even The Women Voted For Men

07/12/2020

KUWAIT – The curtain has fallen on the legislative elections in Kuwait. Preliminary results show that women gained no new seats in the new parliament and that the only female incumbent, Safa al-Hashem, failed to win re-election.

While 29 women ran for office in Saturday’s race, none were elected — a blow to the status of women who have fought hard in recent years for more representation in the oil-rich emirate after winning the right to vote just 15 years ago.

This leaves the National Assembly without any female representation, although women constitute 52% of eligible voters.

In 2005, the National Assembly gave women the right to vote and to run for office. Out of 15 women who ran in the 2016 election, only one, Safa al-Hashem, won a seat (she was first elected in 2012).

Women turned out to vote in large numbers in Kuwait’s parliamentary elections in many electoral districts. News websites and media covering the polling documented high female turnout in five districts.

There have been striking videos circulating on social media accounts, including by some accounts reputed to be close to the Muslim Brotherhood. There was praise for the strong participation of fully-veiled women who some described as “invading the polling stations at the last minute, in an attempt to change the outcome of the vote.” One reporter described the niqab-clad women  as “the black army.”

Some people on Twitter celebrated the participation of conservative women. “Those who will alter the balance in the election game have just arrived,” said Bassam Al-Shatti, a professor in the Department of Faith and Da’wa at Kuwait University. He tweeted: “#National Assembly elections 2020.. A heart-warming view of the women of Kuwait. They have voted in the elections… Theirs was a demonstration of chastity, concealment and decency of Kuwaiti women …”

Tweets from individuals affiliated with religious ultraconservatives used emotional rhetoric and lachrymose nostalgia describing “Islam that has been lost” and repeated improbable fatwas by some so-called scholars.

Some said that the fact that no woman was elected despite strong female participation was “evidence that women themselves are not convinced of the role of women.”

Others said the matter was due to customs and traditions and that most female voters were obeying the orders of their husbands, fathers or male relatives on how to vote, stressing that “the true enemy of women is the social upbringing that has transformed their own feelings towards themselves.”

Lawyer Nevin Abdel Wahid Marafie said: “I have advocated for the women’s cause, the stability of the Kuwaiti family, and the provision of safe housing for women when I saw how they were evicted from their homes with their children. Unfortunately, women did not support their own cause and instead supported the men who abused them.”

Kuwaiti writer Abdul Aziz Alqenaei said that the absence of women from the National Assembly is “reason for great disappointment, and a reflection of utter intellectual and cultural decline.” He wrote on Twitter that women had not won seats in parliament because of  “the persistence of the view of women as inferior to men, and a direct failure to support the efforts to empower Kuwaiti women, at the level of education, society, political and civil currents, and associations of public interest.”

He added: “Democracy without secularism does not necessarily mean the separation of religion from the state, but rather depends on the choices of the majority of the people, which may support the integration of religion into the state, and thus keep the problems of citizenship, identity. This is bound to keep religion growing in Arab societies with deficient democracies.”

For her part, Professor of Literature and Psychoanalysis at Kuwait University Haifa Al-Sanousi said: “What is striking is that the Kuwaiti people decided to exclude women from Parliament in 2020. Kuwaiti women played a major role in the elections. It is clear that women — and not only men — have decided to exclude women from the assembly. This is a psychological indicator that greatly reflects the confidence of women in men as representing them in the assembly.”

Since 2006, only 6 women have won seats in parliament: Massouma al-Mubarak, Aseel Al-Awadhi, Rola Dashti, Thekra al-Rashidi, Salwa Al-Jassar, and Safa al-Hashem, despite the large number of female voters.

Some pointed out on Twitter that the time has come to implement a quota system. Kuwaiti writer Dalaa al-Mufti said “Congratulations to those who won … and better luck in the upcoming assemblies to those who lost …Our regret and sorrow is that we have delivered an assembly without Kuwaiti women. I think the ‘quota’ system has become necessary.”

While some welcomed the election results, others criticised them. One tweet read: “A National assembly … half of which is not represented! A parliament without women … it is a parliament that cannot represent the nation even if its members claim otherwise! National Assembly elections 2020.”

Saudi writer Abdullah Al-Alami wrote on Twitter that the “fear of the success of women in the Arab world is an intractable pathological condition.”

Other users said that women’s lack of success is due to women’s previous experiences in the National Assembly.

Some pointed to the alleged failure of Hashem, which sparked a wave of mixed reactions.

Hashem was prominent for her populist, anti-expatriate rhetoric, demanding that expatriates not be granted licenses to drive cars and be compelled to pay taxes for walking on the streets.

Hashem ranked 30th, receiving only 430 votes, placing her behind new female candidate Sheikha Al-Jassim, who lost her bid as she ranked 25th.

https://thearabweekly.com/kuwaitis-wonder-why-even-women-voted-men

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8 Pakistani women among world’s 100 outstanding nurses and midwives

December 29, 2020

Sana Jamal

Islamabad: Eight Pakistani nurses and midwives have been honoured in the global list of “100 Outstanding Women Nurse and Midwife Leaders” in 2020.

The recognition marks the end of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) year-long campaign to celebrate the incredible work of nurses and midwives, highlight the challenging conditions they face, and advocate for enhanced investments in the nursing and midwifery workforce. The list recognised 100 nurses and midwives from 43 countries for their contribution to raising healthcare standards, especially during the difficult times of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pakistani nurses and midwives acknowledged

All the eight nurses and midwives from Pakistan are either faculty members or alumni of the Aga Khan University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery (AKU-SONAM). The School’s Dean Dr Rozina Karmaliani has been honoured under the Board and Management category in appreciation of her efforts to improve adolescent health, strengthen research capacities and integrate research into education and practice. Dr Rozina, who received her doctorate degree from the University of Minnesota, has spent decades in the field of nursing, empowering others not only in Pakistan but also in Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt and East Africa.

Role of nurses critical in healthcare systems

“It is an honour to be acknowledged by the international public health and nursing fraternity,” said Dr Rozina. “This year has been particularly challenging for healthcare providers, all of whom have showed incredible commitment in responding to the coronavirus crisis.” Appreciating the government and healthcare organisations’ support for nursing and midwifery education, practice and research, she said: “There is no better time than now to acknowledge the critical role of nurses in creating resilient healthcare systems.”

Other healthcare workers recognised in the list

Faculty members Yasmin Parpio and Samina Vertejee have been named in the Community Hero category for their services in community health nursing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Samina took up the challenge to improve the welfare of Pakistan’s aging population. Yasmin Nadeem Parpio is working to strengthen nursing curricula and is actively involved in chapters in Pakistan, Jordan and Lebanon as South Asia coordinator for world’s second-largest nursing organisation, Sigma Theta Tau International.

Nurse-midwife Marina Baig has been praised for leveraging mobile health technology to improve maternal health outcomes. Her work to improve antenatal care coverage and skilled delivery in rural settings “is exemplary and could serve as an innovative strategy in improving maternal health outcomes.” Saima Sachwani’s contributions in developing an impactful nursing curriculum have been acknowledged under the Human Capital Development category. Saima says her “mission is to enrich students with all the necessary knowledge, skills and competencies that improve the quality of life of the people at national and an international level.”

Three other Pakistani healthcare workers also recognised under the Community Hero category include Dr Shela Hirani for her efforts to promote, protect and support breastfeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic, Neelam Punjani for her work in improving access to sexual and reproductive health rights and Sadaf Saleem Murad for her contributions in the field of gerontology (aging) and nursing education.

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/pakistan/8-pakistani-women-among-worlds-100-outstanding-nurses-and-midwives-1.76167063

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J&K Waqf Board to Have 2 Woman Members, As Mandated By the Central Waqf Act

Mudasir Yaqoob

December 29, 2020

The new J&K Waqf Board shall be having at least two woman members, as mandated by the Central Waqf Act which has been implemented here after the abrogation of the special Constitutional position of J&K.

BJP leader and Chairperson of the Central Waqf Development Committee, Darakhshan Andrabi, said the process to implement the Central Act has been initiated. “At least two members appointed on the Board shall be women,” the Act reads.

The legislation provides that the Board shall consist of a Chairperson and not more than two members to be elected by each of the electoral colleges.

The electoral colleges consist Muslim members of Parliament from the concerned State or Union Territory, Muslim members of the State Legislature, Muslim members of the Bar Council of the concerned State or Union Territory.

Election of the members shall be held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote.

The legislation itself clarifies that in case there is no Muslim member of the Bar Council of a State or a Union Territory, the State Government or the Union Territory administration, as the case may be, may nominate any senior Muslim advocate from that State or the Union Territory.

Where the number of Muslim Members of Parliament, the State Legislature or the State Bar Council, as the case may be, is only one, such Muslim member shall be declared to have been elected on the Board.

In case there are no Muslim members in Parliament, State Legislature or Bar Council, the ex-Muslim members of these institutions shall constitute the electoral college.

No Minister of the Central Government or State Government shall be elected or nominated as a member of the Board.

The Act provides that in case of a Union Territory, the Board shall consist of not less than five and not more than seven members to be appointed by the Central Government.

https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/front-page-2/jk-waqf-board-to-have-2-woman-members/

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Lebanon's Interior Minister, Mohammed Fahmi, Says Women Unable To Do Interior Ministerial Job

29 December 2020

Lebanon's minister of interior, Mohammed Fahmi, said women cannot succeed in his job because they would need to stoop low in order to deal with certain parts of society.

Fahmi's predecessor, Raya al-Hassan, was the Arab world’s first woman interior minister, and her appointment was praised as a step forward for women in Lebanese politics.

Fahmi, in an interview on Al-Hurra TV channel, said he does not consider the experience of women in the interior ministry in Lebanon to have been successful.

When asked if he thought Hassan failed as interior minister, Fahmi said: "She did not fail, but we live in a jungle."

Pressed to expand on his reasoning, Fahmi said that the "culture" in Lebanon means women cannot lower themselves to some levels of society, including dealing with drug users and dealers, and others.

"A man can stoop to low degrees in society, a woman cannot," he told his interviewer. 

Fahmi has previously come under fire on social media when in November he suggested that women should cook under coronavirus lockdown on Sundays, when delivery services are suspended.

"Let women cook a little bit,” he said, in a response denounced as offensive and misogynistic.

Instead of addressing the backlash against his sexist comments, Fahmi doubled down in another interview that week, saying women could not be prime ministers because they are "too timid".

In October, Lebanese marked the first anniversary of Lebanon’s mass uprising against the corruption of the country’s ruling class.

Protests have stalled as Lebanese struggle with the pandemic, a devastating economic crisis, and the traumatic explosion in Beirut's port in August, which killed around 200 and left the city devastated.

Meanwhile, a stalemate in forming a government have only added to the country's growing woes.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/lebanon-mohammed-fahmi-women-interior-minister

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Acquittal in assault of Christian woman casts pall over Christmas for Egypt's Coptic community

Shahira Amin

Dec 28, 2020

A controversial court ruling acquitting three defendants — a father and his two sons — who had stripped naked and dragged an elderly Coptic Christian woman through the streets of an Upper Egyptian village four years ago, has sparked an outcry from rights groups and the country's Christian community.

The three men who had been sentenced to 10 years each in absentia by the Minya Criminal Court in January were acquitted Dec. 17 after turning themselves in. Over the course of the last 11 months, several judges had recused themselves from the case for unclear reasons.

On hearing the revised verdict pronounced by the judge, Soad Thabet, the 70-year-old Coptic Christian woman who had been assaulted at the hands of the extremists, burst out sobbing. “God will avenge me,” she cried.

The acquittal comes as Copts prepare for the Christmas holiday, which they celebrate in early January in accordance with the Julian Calendar.

The brutal assault, reminiscent of violent scenes from medieval times, occurred amid sectarian strife in the village of al-Karm in the southern governorate of Minya in May 2016 after a rumor had surfaced of a love affair between Thabet's son, who is Christian, and a Muslim housewife. Despite the latter's denial she had committed adultery, the gossip about her alleged extramarital affair with a Christian man provoked a violent backlash from Muslim residents in the conservative community.

Angry mobs looted and torched at least 10 homes belonging to Coptic Christian families in the neighborhood, including Thabet's home, calling on them to leave the village. Three Muslim men tore off Thabet's clothes before parading her through the village streets with the intent of humiliating her.

Minya, located 130 miles south of Cairo, is a hotbed for sectarian violence with sporadic unrest breaking out between Muslims and Egypt's minority Christian population. The tensions are part of a wider continuing crisis for Egypt's Christians — the Middle East's largest Christian community — whose members often face persecution at the hands of extremists.

Sectarian attacks against Orthodox Christians who make up an estimated 10% of Egypt's population have reportedly surged in recent years with increased instances of violence and threats from Muslim neighbors forcing local churches to shut down, according to an April 2019 article published in The Wall Street Journal.

Mob attacks on Coptic Christians similar to the assault on Christians in al-Karm have prompted members of the Christian community to flee their villages — and sometimes, the entire country — seeking refuge elsewhere.

It is not uncommon for perpetrators of such crimes to escape punishment nor for Christian victims of such assaults to be arrested alongside their attackers.

“The verdict is a clear example of the discrimination against Christians in Egypt; it demonstrates the deep-rooted bias within the judicial system against Christians,” Mina Thabet, a rights defender who works for the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, told Al-Monitor. “Christians who for long have fallen victim to sectarian violence often fail to attain justice because of the bias of the judiciary.”

Disputes between Muslims and Christians in Upper Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula are customarily referred to so-called reconciliation councils — informal alternatives to the judiciary, overseen by members of the security service and comprising village elders and Muslim and Christian religious leaders who act as arbitrators between the disputing parties. While reconciliation sessions at times do succeed in easing tensions, critics such as criminal defense lawyer Nabil Ghabrial insist they “undermine the rights of Christians.”

“The arbitrators are usually more concerned about restoring calm than seeking justice for those whose rights have been usurped,” he told Al-Monitor. “It is a crime that reconciliation sessions similar to the community-based sessions that predated the judiciary are still being held in this day and age."

Youssef Sidhom, editor-in-chief of Watani, a Christian news site, also criticized the customary reconciliation sessions. “In secular societies, all citizens enjoy equal constitutional rights and the rule of law is prevalent; reconciliation sessions undermine the hegemony of the judiciary as they put criminals on equal footing with the victims,” he told Al-Monitor.

Refusing to resort to reconciliation sessions to settle the conflict with her attackers, Thabet had filed a legal complaint against them, a rare move by a Christian woman in the conservative rural south.

Thabet's defense lawyer Ihab Ramzy, who is also a former member of parliament, denounced the decision to release the defendants as “shocking” and “totally unexpected.” In a video published on the Cairo 24 news site, he said, “Nothing has changed since the defendants were sentenced to 10 years in prison; no new evidence has emerged since, so the court's turnabout is a complete mystery.”

Speaking to the privately owned Youm7 news site on the situation of Coptic Christians in Egypt, Ramzy said, “It is unacceptable that private citizens are playing the role of the state by preventing the building of new churches.” He noted that recent unrest in several villages in Minya, such as Kom El Loufi and Abu Ya'acub, had been prompted by rumors that churches were being built in those hamlets.

The construction of churches has for decades been a contentious issue, sparking sectarian violence, particularly in the south of the country. Rumors that a church is being built often ignite sectarian clashes that in some cases result in fatalities on both sides. Due to the difficulty of obtaining permits to build churches, some Christians open their homes to worshippers to use them as prayer areas, a move that further fuels sectarian tensions.

Restrictions on the building of churches date back to the Ottoman era. In recent decades, it was necessary to obtain a presidential permit to build or restore churches. Amendments to the law on building churches introduced in August 2016 have done little to improve the situation and have been met with stiff opposition from the Coptic Orthodox Church that described them as a "threat to national unity."

An article in the law stipulating that the size of a new church must correspond to the number of Christians in the vicinity has stirred controversy with critics like Emad Gad, a member of parliament, calling it “restrictive.” The condition does not apply to Muslims who can build mosques anywhere, irrespective of the size of the Muslim community in the vicinity.

Coptic Christians, the majority of whom had backed Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in successive presidential elections since 2014, had hoped the military strongman would protect them from extremist attacks. But multiple church attacks in recent years and recurring incidents of assault on Christians have left many of them in fear for their lives.

Although Sisi lambasted the brutal assault on Thabet shortly after it happened, calling it “unacceptable,” he has yet to comment on the latest verdict.

Meanwhile, rights organizations such as the Virginia-based Coptic Solidarity, which seeks to help minorities, particularly the Copts of Egypt, have strongly condemned the ruling, calling it an “egregious miscarriage of justice.”

The semi-official Al-Ahram website meanwhile reported that the Public Prosecutor has asked prosecutors to review the court proceedings, a move that rights advocates hope may pave the way for an appeal.

In comments published via her official Twitter account, Maya Morsy, secretary-general of the National Council of Women, the state agency entrusted with protecting the rights of women, expressed her gratitude to the Public Prosecutor for his decision to review the case and offered to provide Thabet with the necessary legal support.

Many dismayed Christians have turned to social media to vent their anger at the ruling. Some directed their anger at the Coptic Orthodox Church for its “silence” in the face of such atrocities. Others like Khaled Montasser, a liberal thinker and writer, were bemused, seeing obvious contradictions in society's attitude toward women.

Speaking to Al-Monitor over the phone, Montasser said that Egypt's intellectuals should put secularism before democracy.

“The main challenge facing Egyptian society today is the growing religiosity; instead of calling for democracy, intellectuals should first lead the battle for a secular society. There can be no democracy without the separation of religion from politics.”

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/12/egypt-christians-muslims-abuse-attacks-justice-acquittal.html

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Yemen: Anger as newly sworn-in cabinet excludes women for first time in 20 years

27 December 2020

The swearing in of a new government in Yemen on Saturday has caused controversy and protests after no women were included in the 24-member cabinet, a situation that has not arisen for 20 years.

President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi swore in the new government, which was formed following a power-sharing deal brokered by Saudi Arabia last year, in Riyadh, where he is living.

The government is the first cabinet in which ministries are divided between the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) and Yemen's internationally recognised government.

Yemen has been mired in conflict since a Saudi-led coalition intervened there in March 2015 to restore the government removed from power in the capital Sanaa by Houthi rebels in late 2014.

The STC, formed in 2017, is backed by the United Arab Emirates, while Hadi's government is backed by Riyadh. Both are part of the Saudi-led coalition.

The cabinet, which was first announced on 18 December, includes five members of the STC as part of a bid to end a power struggle between Hadi loyalists and the secessionists.

Both sides appeared happy with their representation in the cabinet, considering it an important development towards resolving their differences.

However, women activists and their supporters have denounced the lack of female representation, describing the exclusion as illegitimate.

'Historic letdown'

The new government said the cabinet was formed on the basis of the Outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), a document drawn up in 2014, and the 2019 Riyadh Agreement.

The United Nations facilitated talks towards the Outcomes document, which included various Yemeni parties. They were concluded on 25 January 2014 and stipulated a roadmap towards the full transition of Yemen into a state that upholds democracy, freedom, rule of law, human rights and good governance.

Critics of the new government have pointed out that the Outcomes document states that women should represent 30 percent of the cabinet.

Female activists, former ministers and some serving MPs have expressed their anger at the lack of representation of women in a social media campaign, the issuing of statements and letters, and protests which took place on Tuesday.

The social media campaign highlighting the exclusion of women was launched on 11 December, seven days before the announcement of the new cabinet, under the hashtag #NoWomenNoGovernment.

Yemen's women's movement, which includes several women associations, forums and groups, also released a statement reading: "Although we support the creation of a government as a step towards a full implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, we strongly denounce the exclusion of women.

"This is a clear violation of the National Dialogue Conference's outcomes, the very outcomes claimed in the prologue of the cabinet decree, as one of its main references.

"It is regretful that such a political decision is taken, discarding the demands of the women's movement and its supporters from civil society pioneers.

"We will continue our movement demanding fair representation of women and youth in positions of power.

The statement held Hadi, the new prime minister, Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed, the leaders of all political parties and entities, and parliament as fully responsible for "this historic letdown".

Coup against the NDC

Dozens of female activists protested on Tuesday morning in Taiz city demanding women be given positions in the cabinet and pointing out that the cabinet was illegal without such representation.

Dalia Mohammed, a social activist in Taiz city who took to the streets on Tuesday, told Middle East Eye: "We can't accept the exclusion of women, and we demand 30 percent representation of women in the cabinet as per the Outcomes of the NDC."

The protest was organised by the Ma'akum Foundation for Development and was the result of a workshop for women supervised by the foundation.

"We are the cornerstone of the legitimacy, and we are victims of this war, and we sacrifice ourselves for the sake of the legitimacy and the country," said Mohammed.

"This exclusion of women from the cabinet is a coup by the government against the outcomes of the NDC, and it is a similar coup to what the Houthis did against the outcomes of the NDC."

Mohammed said she believed there were women qualified to work in any position in the cabinet, so she hoped to see such representation based on the outcomes of the NDC.

"We will continue to demand our rights, and women are stronger nowadays and we can get our rights," she said

She held the president Hadi and the political parties fully responsible for this exclusion as they nominated the ministers and no party had proposed a woman minister.

"My message is that countries can't be built without women, and the war proved that women are always there to support the community. So we demand representation in the cabinet based on the outcomes of the NDC," Mohammed added.

Lack of regional representation

On Monday, former information minister Nadia Al-Sakkaf tweeted : "Despite our strong campaign #NoWomenNoGovernment the government was formed without women. This encouraged Yemen's Women's movement to return to the drawing board and examine our work. We now have more people involved, a long term strategy and higher goals. Live and learn!"

A day earlier, Sakkaf had also pointed out the lack of condemnation from the international community over the absence of women in the cabinet.

In a tweet, he said: "Surprised at the international community silence towards the grave letdown of Yemeni women in the newly formed government. We recognise the importance of political progress but not at the expense of women and civil rights."

The exclusion of women is not the only issue that has led to anger towards the new government.

Last Sunday, four members of Yemen's parliament warned that they would vote against granting confidence in the new government both over its lack of female representatives and of representatives from the western Tehama region.

In a letter addressed to Hadi, lawmakers Sakhr al-Wajih, Abdul Karim al-Aslami, Mufaddal al-Abara and Shawqi al-Qadhi said they had been surprised by the marginalisation of the Tehama region and its exclusion from the new cabinet.

According to the Outcomes document, Tehama consists of the four governorates of Hodeidah, Hajjah, Raymah and Al-Mahwit, with the population making up 23 percent of Yemen's total.

Also pointing out there were 13 ministers from the south and only 11 from the north in the cabinet, Qadhi tweeted: "All that is against partnership and a blatant violation to the Outcomes of the NDC that the decision [is] based on."

'The government keeps silent'

Samar Al-Absi, a lawyer and human right activist, condemned the exclusion of women from the new cabinet, blaming Hadi, Saeed and leaders of the political parties for the move.

"I condemn the exclusion of women from participating in decision making and other political issues as it is a right for women and it is one of the outcomes of the NDC," Absi told MEE.

"The international agreements aim to fight any kind of discrimination against women.

"I can't say this cabinet is illegal as it was formed by a republican decision, but I can say this cabinet has lost the confidence of the majority of women or men who believe in the rights of women."

Absi stressed that people had the right to express their demands in any legal way, arguing the formation of the cabinet did not mean it was a final decision that could not be changed.

"The decision of the formation of the cabinet can be changed and reformed as a cabinet with women based on the outcomes if the NDC," Absi said.

Absi said that she expected women and their supporters to escalate their opposition in different ways until they achieved their purpose and lead some ministries.

"Although women and men have expressed their anger against the exclusion of women in this cabinet, the government keeps silent," she said.

'There are qualified women'

Hilmi al-Mulaiki, a social activist and peace building consultant, told MEE that women were excluded from the cabinet because the new government did not believe that women should be included in the decision-making process.

"There is a clear exclusion of women from the cabinet. The political parties did not adhere to the Outcomes of the NDC, and the parties who proposed the names of ministers are responsible for this exclusion."

Mulaiki said he thought that a lack of ongoing pressure from women in different provinces, and that only some activists were escalating their efforts, meant that no real pressure had formed against the government.

As a result, he believed that the government would keep silent on the issue and ignore the women's demands.

While some defenders of the lack of women have argued that qualifications are more important than appointing men or women, Mulaiki pointed out that: "Qualification should be the criteria, and I confirm that there are qualified women who can lead ministries."

'More important issues to work on'

Galal Shaibani, a resident of Aden, told MEE that he supported the new cabinet because he believed it had solved the major disagreements between the STC and the IRG.

"We should welcome the new cabinet as it is it comprised of different parties and both the STC and the IRG welcome it. That was a major development Yemenis waited a long time for," he said.

Shaibani said that Yemenis were looking forward to seeing the cabinet back in Aden to get back to their work and that should be the priority for now.

Regarding the lack of representation of women in the cabinet, he said it was a mistake that should be taken into consideration in the future, but he did not believes that it was a big problem.

"It was a mistake that women weren't included as ministers, but they can be included in this cabinet as deputies or managers of offices in the ministries," he said.

"I believe women should be represented, but I don't think that's a priority as the cabinet has more important issues to work on."

Shaibani stated that it was good that women activists had led a campaign to demand their rights, but he believed that was enough, and any more protests or any escalation might create obstacles for the cabinet to start its work.

"Yemeni women are educated, and I think they will stop any kind of escalation against the cabinet as their message was sent, and I hope women will be included in some high positions in the ministries.

"Men and women, we are all Yemenis, and we need solution of major disagreements and we need the cabinet to work on economic issues and some priorities that Yemenis need."

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/yemen-cabinet-excludes-women-anger

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