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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 12 Nov 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Jordan’s Queen Rania Lambastes Islamic Extremism

New Age Islam News Bureau

12 Nov 2013

US First Lady Michelle Obama, right, hosts Jordan's Queen Rania in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House, April 2009 (photo credit: Samantha Appleton/Wikimedia Commons/White House)


 Teenage Pregnancies and Contraception Access under Spotlight at Global Summit

 Malala Named Glamour's Woman of the Year 2013

 Arab Spring Nations Backtrack On Women’s Rights, Poll Says

 Mahathir's Daughter or Not, Ultra Muslim Groups Fire Back At Marina

 Nearly 500,000 Teens Give Birth in Indonesia Annually

 Iraq Women Lament Costs of US Invasion

 Isra Almodallal, New Face of Hamas Out to Face the World

 Marked Increase in Qatari Women’s Participation in Various Sectors: Al-Sada

 Syrian Women Suffer Inside Their Country And Out

 World Economic Forum: ‘Opportunities Afforded To Women Are Not Many’

 Egypt Is Worst Arab State for Women: Survey

 Turkish Court Lifts Headscarf Ban for Attorneys

 Surgeon Gets Bronze Star for Improving Care for Afghan Women

 Sheikha Rima Al-Sabah among 117 Most Powerful DC Women

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Jordan’s Queen Rania Lambastes Islamic Extremism

November 12, 2013

In excerpts from a recent interview published by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Jordan’s Queen Rania called on Muslims to defend their religion from extremism and fanaticism, and urged for greater opportunities for young people across the Arab world.

The Kuwaiti-born daughter of Palestinians told al-Arabiya TV in late October that “Arab youth today live in two different worlds — the real world and the virtual world.”

In the virtual world “they develop a certain personality and identity for themselves, they communicate with others, they express themselves freely and comfortably,” she said. “When they leave their computers, they return to the real world, and they see that nobody cares about what they have to say, that they enjoy no freedom, have no real choices, and that their hands are tied.”

She called on the Arab world “to bridge the gap between the two worlds.”

In the interview, the queen, wife of King Abdullah II, cautioned against the prevailing global image of Islam as a religion of terrorism, saying that Muslims should highlight the positive nature of their faith.

“For the millions of Muslims worldwide, Islam is a religion of humanitarian values and of the principles of goodness. We need to try to highlight this image of Islam.”

Rania also took the opportunity to speak out against Islamic extremism.

“The religious discourse that we hear so loud today has fallen hostage to fatwas of takfir, of fanaticism, and of ideological closed-mindedness, as well as to calls for extremism, for hatred, and for sectarian strife,” she said.

“What ever happened to the language of compassion? With the discourse, we harm ourselves much more than the West harms us. We must return to the essence of our religion. We must speak loud and clear in defending our religion. When we see people distorting the image of our religion.

“A few months ago, for example, we saw a man who calls himself a Muslim killing an innocent man in Britain, grabbing his decapitated head, and saying: ‘This is for the nation.’ What nation?!

“We must renounce things like that. We must denounce this loudly, not cautiously. We should do so not in order to improve our image in the West, but because we owe this to our religion.”

The 43-year-old royal has championed numerous public initiatives in Jordan and beyond.

She has been a vocal advocate for cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue, but in 2010, she made headlines when she refused to have her bestselling children’s book published in Hebrew. Rania turned down several such offers, according to Haaretz, despite the fact that the book was about two girls getting over cultural prejudices to become friends.



Teenage Pregnancies and Contraception Access under Spotlight at Global Summit

November 12, 2013

Reducing the number of teenage pregnancies and ensuring young women have access to contraception will be the focus of the largest global summit on family planning, which opens in Addis Ababa on Tuesday.

The third international family planning conference aims to build on the momentum of last year's meeting in London, where donors pledged $2.6bn (£1.6bn) in new funding and committed to providing 120 million more women with access to modern contraceptives by 2020.

The Malawian president, Joyce Banda, Thai prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and Melinda Gates are among the thousands of political leaders, philanthropists, medical experts and women's rights activists expected to attend.

"These are exciting times," said Ketchie Obagwu, senior expert on family planning at the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), who wants governments to present clear action plans on how to fulfil their promises.

Obagwu praised the focus on young people and said there was an urgent need to ensure that they too have access to family planning information and services.

According to estimates from the UN agency, published in its Motherhood in Childhood report last month, the number of girls in sub-Saharan Africa giving birth before the age of 15 could increase by more than 1 million by 2030, if current trends continue.

Each day, approximately 20,000 girls in the global south give birth before the age of 18. Childbirth is a leading cause of death for girls aged 15-18, according to the report.

After decades of relative neglect, family planning has rapidly acquired greater prominence on the global funding agenda, with rich countries and large philanthropic foundations ploughing billions into the expansion of services and the development of contraceptives.

"The [London] summit last year really was a turning point for this issue," said Michael Holscher, director of international programmes at Marie Stopes International But it remains critical to ensure that broad commitments are translated into hard cash and concrete programmes on the ground, he said. "If we just walk away now, promises will not be kept."

Family planning is a political minefield, particularly around the question of abortion. Ensuring teenagers and unmarried women have access to contraception is also controversial in some places where sex before marriage remains taboo.

At the UN commission on the status of women this year, delegates faced strong but ultimately unsuccessful lobbying from some conservative governments and religious groups to remove references to reproductive rights, emergency contraception and sex education in its outcome document.

There is fear in some quarters that the global family planning agenda is being driven at least in part by those keen to stem population growth, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The world population, now at 7.2 billion, could exceed 9.5 billion by 2050 and climb to nearly 11 billion by the end of the century, according to UN estimates. More than half of the growth predicted between now and 2050 is expected in Africa, where the number of people is set to more than double, from 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion.

The UNFPA executive director, Babatunde Osotimehin, said it was critical that family planning be recognised as a human rights issue. "Family planning is not just a public health issue … women must be able to make choices about their lives," he said.

Estimates suggest that 222 million women who do not want to get pregnant are without access to contraceptives, information and services.

The Addis Ababa conference will take stock of how much progress has been made towards high-level pledges. A number of countries and donors are also expected to make new commitments.

Organised under the banner of "full access, full choice", the summit will highlight the importance of not only expanding access to contraceptives but also ensuring women have the choice of a full range of methods. How to fund these ambitions and ensure efforts are sustainable remain critical questions, however.

There is concern, for example, that moves by some aid donors – including the UK – to pull out of middle-income countries like India and South Africa could damage efforts to ramp up services. Holsher believes investments by national governments will be critical. "The big wins will be in these transition and middle-income countries, when national governments show a commitment to family planning and investing in women," he said.

The conference will highlight the importance of national leadership, and particularly the role of female leaders in championing family planning and gender equality. "Success ultimately depends on the sustained commitment of national leaders," Banda said.

More than 100 countries will be represented at the conference, according to organisers, and dozens of African ministers are expected to attend a high-level meeting on young people and family planning on Tuesday.

Delegates from large pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer will also be in attendance. Whether new investments in family planning should go through the public or private sector remains a subject of debate.



Malala named Glamour's Woman of the Year 2013

November 12, 2013

Teenage activist Malala Yousufzai was named a 2013 Glamour Woman of the Year, the magazine’s website reported.

Malala was shot by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) gunmen last year for promoting girls’ education. She now lives in the UK after she was flown there for medical treatment.

With this announcement, the magazine will kick off a yearlong campaign to raise support for the Malala Fund, which helps programs that directly impact the quality and accessibility of education for girls.

Malala is one of the 12 trailblazers, entertainers, influencers, and game changers who – according to Glamour magazine – shaped the year 2013.

This is not the first time Glamour has honoured a Pakistani woman. Rape survivor and international icon Mukhtara Mai was named Woman of the Year in 2005, while Academy Award-winning film-maker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and acid burn survivor Zakia jointly received the award in 2012.


This year, Malala was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, however she did not win it. The news came as a shock for most people as no one had anticipated the Organisation for Prevention of Chemical Weapons would be honoured – the little-known organisation was not even named in the top possible winners.

Malala first rose to prominence with a blog for the BBC Urdu service chronicling the difficulties of life under the rule of the Taliban, who controlled Swat from 2007 until they were kicked out by the army in 2009.



Arab Spring nations backtrack on women’s rights, poll says

12 November 2013

Reuters, Cairo

Arab women played a central role in the Arab Spring, but their hopes the revolts would bring greater freedom and expanded rights for women have been thwarted by entrenched patriarchal structures and the rise of Islamists, gender experts in the countries say.

Almost three years after popular uprisings toppled autocratic leaders in one of the most conservative corners of the world, a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll on 22 Arab states showed three out of five Arab Spring countries in the bottom five states for women's rights (for the methodology behind the poll, please see

Egypt emerged as the worst country to be a woman in the Arab world today, followed closely by Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Egypt scored badly in almost every category, including gender violence, reproductive rights, treatment of women in the family and their inclusion in politics and the economy.

Arab Spring countries Syria and Yemen ranked 18th and 19th, respectively - worse than Sudan, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and insurgency-hit Somalia, which scored better on factors such as political and economic inclusion, women's position in the family, reproductive rights and sexual violence. Libya and Tunisia came in 9th and 6th.

But while the situation is dire, some activists saw reasons for optimism. For one thing, the revolts led more poor women and those on the margins to be aware of their rights.

Women's rights have traditionally been a concern of the “intellectual elite” in Egypt, where many are illiterate and live below the poverty line, said Nihad Abul Komsan, head of the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights.

“We used to suffer from the fact that talk of women's rights came across as talk ... limited to the creme-de-la-creme ladies of society,” she told Reuters.

“But the big challenge women faced led to women's issues being discussed on the street by ordinary women and illiterate women.”

Surprise result

The questions to 336 gender experts invited to take part in the poll were based on key provisions of the U.N. Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which all Arab Spring states have signed or ratified. The polling took place in August and September.

Egypt's ranking below Saudi Arabia, where women are banned from driving and need permission from a male guardian to work or travel, reflects widespread concerns about harassment, which was mentioned by almost every respondent as a major issue.

A U.N report on women in April said up to 99.3 percent of women and girls in Egypt are subjected to sexual harassment.

Samira Ibrahim, a pro-democracy protester who was subjected to an invasive virginity test while in detention when the military council was in power after Hosni Mubarak's ouster, said “harassment is the biggest problem facing us now”.

But the ranking also indicates a surge in violence and a rollback of freedoms since the 2011 uprising, experts said.

The Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power in Egypt, culminating with the election of President Mohamed Mursi, angered many prominent activists who say the Islamist group infringed on women's rights.

A year into office, Mursi was toppled in a military takeover after mass protests against his rule.

While there is a slight improvement in political participation for women under the army-backed interim government, there is still a long way to go, some analysts said.

“The whole image of women during Mursi's rule was that a woman is a mother who should be bearing children and that is the most important thing,” Fatma Khafagy, who heads the Ombudsman office for gender equality in Egypt, told Reuters. “The whole discourse was against women's rights and gender equality.”

The Brotherhood warned that a U.N. declaration on women's rights could destroy society by allowing a woman to travel, work and use contraception without her husband's approval and letting her control family planning.

“Things changed after Mursi was removed - for the better. At least these threats were not there. However, I do not see much increase in women in decision-making,” Khafagy said.

Cost of conflict

In Syria, ranked fourth-worst in the poll, women's rights have been hit badly in a country torn apart by 2-1/2 years of civil war that has killed more than 100,000.

“Women are suffering the most,” said Susan Ahmad, an opposition activist who works in Damascus. “Many men died and women are playing the role of men to take care of their children.”

Many Syrian women worry about the influence of militant Islamists who have taken control of some rebel-held areas.

“The only thing women want now is to be safe,” said a woman who was a student in Damascus University when the revolt first broke out in March 2011 and who had joined some of the first protests that took place in the capital.

“I feel like I have to wear a headscarf,” she said. “We are scared of what Islamists will do ... The Islamists want women to cover their lives, not just their bodies.”

Women in Yemen are pushing for a minimum quota for representation in parliament in discussions at national reconciliation talks in a country still longing for stability nearly two years after a revolt ousted the president.

Yemeni women in particular face an uphill battle for rights in the largely conservative country where child marriage is still common in rural areas. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which espouses an extremist view of Islam, is also a threat.

“There are voices that are trying to suppress women as in other Arab countries,” said 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman from Yemen, which ranked 18th out of 22 in the Thomson Reuters survey.

“They are trying to obliterate ... her participation in the revolution and in building a mature civil society,” she told Reuters by telephone from Sanaa. But she added conservative voices were “decreasing day by day”.

Rollback of rights

Tunisian activist and blogger Lina Ben Mhenni, who has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize, said she was worried about women's status under the Islamist-led government.

“The status of Tunisian women is worse under the Islamist-led government,” she said. “Islamist extremists are playing the role of religious police and exerting pressure on girls.”

Last April, hardline Islamists threw stones and bottles at young women in a student hostel in Tunis to stop them staging a performance of dance and music.

In Libya, two years since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, tribal and Islamist leaders are embroiled in a struggle over the post-revolution spoils.

“I am worried that those who exploit Islam will come to power and want Libya to be like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia,” said Dina Razzouk, a Libyan rights activist. “It's a very fanatic and traditional society.”

The Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights's Komsan said momentum continued to build for improvements, however.

“Advocacy for women's rights is much more active than before,” she said.

Amal Abdel Hadi, head of the board of trustees of the New Woman Foundation in Egypt, said it was important not to feel defeated.

“These days it's very depressing, so if you don't push yourself to see the positive aspects that we are working for in the longer term, you die,” she said.

“The revolutions have not failed women because they gave women the chance to be there and to see that if they don't force themselves into the space, they won't achieve. We have to force it.”



Mahathir's Daughter Or Not, Ultra Muslim Groups Fire Back At Marina

November 12, 2013

Marina Mahathir has come under fire from Muslim groups for threatening legal action for being labelled a “mastermind” behind human rights coalition Comango, with one pressure group challenging her to resign from Sisters in Islam (SIS).

In a statement, National Muslim Youth Association (Pembina) expressed doubt that being on the board of directors, Marina could truly be ignorant of such a “big decision” by SIS with regard to its involvement in Comango.

As such, Pembina president Ibrahim Mohd Hasan said, if Marina's claim was true, she should resign from that post to prove her claim.

"We urge Marina to resign from SIS if she is not involved in Comango. This action will be consistent with her threat to sue Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) for saying she is behind the Comango demand," Ibrahim said.

"We are puzzled as to why she, as an SIS board member, said she was not involved in such a big issue like Comango and how she can still remain in it. We also ask what Marina's job is, as a board member."

If Marina is not involved in Comango, Ibrahim added, "we challenge her to resign from SIS".

Marina Mahathir has come under fire from Muslim groups for threatening legal action for being labelled a “mastermind” behind human rights coalition Comango, with one pressure group challenging her to resign from Sisters in Islam (SIS).

In a statement, National Muslim Youth Association (Pembina) expressed doubt that being on the board of directors, Marina could truly be ignorant of such a “big decision” by SIS with regard to its involvement in Comango.

As such, Pembina president Ibrahim Mohd Hasan said, if Marina's claim was true, she should resign from that post to prove her claim.

"We urge Marina to resign from SIS if she is not involved in Comango. This action will be consistent with her threat to sue Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) for saying she is behind the Comango demand," Ibrahim said.

"We are puzzled as to why she, as an SIS board member, said she was not involved in such a big issue like Comango and how she can still remain in it. We also ask what Marina's job is, as a board member."

If Marina is not involved in Comango, Ibrahim added, "we challenge her to resign from SIS".



Nearly 500,000 teens give birth in Indonesia annually

The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

By Bambang Muryanto

November 12, 2013

JAKARTA - As many as 1.7 million local girls and women under the age of 24 give birth annually, with nearly a half a million of them being teenagers, a representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Indonesia has said.

"Young people account for 37 per cent of all births annually in Indonesia," UNFPA Indonesia chief representative Jose Ferraris said during the launch of the 2013 World Population Situation Report.

Citing research by Iwu Utomo of the Australian National University, Ferraris said Indonesian teenagers who fell pregnant mostly lived in rural areas, had a low level of education and came from low-income families.

He said that UNFPA's approach to addressing adolescent pregnancy focused more on upholding the rights of every girl and empowering her to exercise her rights.

"We also seek to eliminate conditions that contribute to adolescent pregnancy, such as societal and community conditions, norms, values and structural forces that result in gender inequality, poverty, child marriage and negative attitudes towards sexual and reproductive health and rights," he said.

Of all the measures, according to Ferraris, education was the most effective in helping to prevent pregnancy among teenagers.

He also expressed concern about the Marriage Law, which allows 16-year-old females and 19-year-old males to marry.

"This is at odds with the development agenda of ICPD and MDGs and Indonesia's commitment to the human rights framework of CEDAW [Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women] and the Convention of the Rights of the Child," he said.

Separately, National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) head of population control Wendy Hartanto acknowledged that the government had been urged by many parties to amend the Marriage Law.

Yet, he said, amendment of the law would not automatically guarantee that underage marriages would not happen.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (PKBI) executive director Inang Winarso said that no comprehensive solution had ever been found to deal with problems related those aged between 15 and 24 years, including premarital sex.

He blamed the condition on a lack of attention by the state to this particular age group. "Is there any fund allocation or policy specially for teenagers? The answer is no," he said.

As a result, teenagers are modeled by companies that make them their market target. "Indonesian teenagers become consumeristic and individualistic," Inang said.

A local teenager, Ichsan Masyhuri, said that casual sex was common among his peers.

"They would be surprised to find a teenager who had never had sex," said Ichsan, who is also an activist of Jari Mulia, an organisation that deals with issues on reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.

In the 2013 World Population Situation Report entitled "Motherhood in Childhood, Facing the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy", the UNFPA also noted that some 7.3 million girls under the age of 18 in developing countries had given birth.



Iraq Women Lament Costs of US Invasion


November 12, 2013

Baghdad: One year after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, then-President George W. Bush told a gathering at the White House: "Every woman in Iraq is better off because the rape rooms and torture chambers of Saddam Hussein are forever closed."

A decade on, that statement rings hollow for many Iraqi women.

Although few miss Saddam's iron-fisted rule or the wars and sanctions he brought upon Iraq, women have been disproportionately affected by the violence that has blighted the lives of almost all Iraqis.

Domestic abuse and prostitution have increased, illiteracy has soared and thousands of women have been left widowed and vulnerable. Many women also rue the political leaders that came to power after Saddam was overthrown and the growing social conservatism that has diminished their role in public life.

Once at the vanguard of women's rights in the region, Iraq ranked 21st out of 22 Arab states in a poll of 336 gender experts released on Tuesday by Thomson Reuters Foundation (

The survey, conducted in August and September, asked questions about violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman's role in politics and the economy.

Ibtisam, 40, was injured by an iron bar as she fled shelling in the U.S.-led invasion and was forced to have her uterus surgically removed. During the sectarian carnage that followed, a Shi'ite militia kidnapped her husband and killed him.

"If the 2003 war had not taken place... at least my husband would be still alive and I would not live in such humiliating circumstances," said Ibtisam, who now works on date farms near her home in eastern Baghdad to provide for her two young daughters.

Seated in the living room of her home in Baghdad, Sana Majeed, mother of two, reminisced about the "golden times" during the 1970s, when she went to parties, galleries and restaurants, and was free to dress as she pleased.

The reality of the new Iraq struck her in 2005, when she got out of a taxi and was accosted by a group of men in black who chastised her for wearing inappropriate clothing and told her to go home and cover her hair.

"Islamist parties started to control Iraq and that was the worst nightmare Iraqi women have ever faced," said Majeed, who now wears a black abaya and head scarf. "Religious parties and militia have stolen free life from Iraqi women."

The first piece of legislation Iraq's new leaders sought to change was the personal status law, which enshrines women's rights regarding marriage, inheritance, polygamy and child custody, and has often been held up as the most "progressive" in the Middle East.

Although that first attempt failed, efforts to bring the law in line with Islamic dictates and put family affairs in the hands of religious authorities still continue.

Nadje Al-Ali, a professor of gender studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, said women were often used symbolically to reject the previous political order.

"There has been this increase towards greater social conservatism where women are concerned," said Al-Ali, who co-authored the book "What Kind of Liberation? Women and the Occupation of Iraq".

"I think one has to understand that in a context of reacting against the previous regime and also reacting against Western imperialism. Overall, it has been devastating."

The erosion of women's status in fact began before 2003, when the international community imposed punitive sanctions on Iraq in response to Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

With the economy crippled, the government was no longer able to afford services such as child care and maternity leave that had enabled women to enter the workforce as part of Saddam's drive to industrialise Iraq.

"After Saddam was toppled, I had a feeling the good old days would return," said Majeed. "Saddam was gone, the blockade will be lifted, and that gave me a big hope to be a free woman again."

It was a hope shared by many women after the invasion. Sidelined from politics under Saddam, women successfully lobbied for a quarter of seats in parliament to be set aside for them.

But the quota has not translated into meaningful participation, according to several women lawmakers, who said most female MPs did little more than rubber stamp the decisions of their party leaders, all of whom are men.

"Women are not effective in political or government decision-making processes despite the wide participation of women in the political life after 2003," said lawmaker Alia Nussaif Jassim.

In the first government formed after the invasion, women held six cabinet posts, but the number has now fallen to one: the minister for women's affairs, a largely ceremonial department with a meagre budget and few employees.

"Believe me, if Iraqi culture, tradition and mentality would accept a man to have this post, the men would not even give that to a woman," said lawmaker Safia al-Souhail, one of 21 women who won enough votes to enter parliament without the quota.

Souhail lamented that women were also denied a single seat on key parliamentary committees such as security and defence, and reconciliation.

Within the parliament, women's efforts to cooperate across the political spectrum have been stymied by disputes between Shi'ite Muslim, Sunni and ethnic Kurdish factions that have all but paralysed the Iraqi political process.

"This term, women were not able really to work together," Souhail said. "This fight between political parties and blocs and the division reflects on the women MPs as well."

The invasion has been kinder to women living in Iraq's Kurdish north, which bore the brunt of Saddam's authoritarian rule, but is now prospering.

The autonomous region has largely managed to insulate itself from the violent instability that afflicts the rest of the country and has even become a refuge for many Arab Iraqi men and women alike.

The region's government won praise in 2011 for passing a law that criminalised domestic violence, honour killings and female genital mutilation, but activists and women's rights groups say there is still work to be done.

Back in Baghdad, Majeed said women must not give up.

"Women in Iraq must not quit trying to reclaim their freedom," said Majeed. "I think we should keep our voice loud, if not for ourselves, for the sake of our daughters."



Isra Almodallal, New Face of Hamas Out to Face the World

November 12, 2013

GAZA CITY – The Hamas government of the Gaza Strip has for the first time appointed a woman to represent it to the world.

The hiring of Isra Almodallal as a spokeswoman for the territory’s conservative rulers is part of a long-running push by the group, which has at times sought to curb women’s freedoms, to present a newer friendlier face both to its own citizens and internationally.

Almodallal, a 23-year-old who speaks fluent British-accented English, has assumed a post normally held by tough-talking men who voice Hamas’ bitter opposition to Israel. She will be responsible for the Gaza government’s communications with the international media.

“We are looking forward to having a different and unique language,” said Almodallal in an interview in her Gaza City office, on her first week in the job. “We will make the issues more human.”

The change in policy began six months ago when a new head of the government media department, Ihab Ghussein, took over. He hired younger media people, started a new official government website, began rampant use of social media and started conducting seminars and workshops.

Ghussein said he appointed Almodallal in an effort “to be more open to the West.” He said many women were among the dozens of applicants considered for the position.

“Women are partners in our society,” Ghussein said.

Almodallal, a divorced mother of a four-year-old girl, does not have her roots in the Hamas movement. Unlike many other Hamas officials, her office does not bear a photo of Gaza’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. She keeps a book on American history there.

She was raised in Gaza and spent five years in Britain as a teenager, studying at Grange Technology College, a high school in Bradford in the UK. Upon returning to Gaza, she studied journalism at the Islamic University, and worked as a TV reporter for a local station and an English-language satellite channel, which she said taught her how to present herself on camera.

Her appointment is the latest step by Hamas to manage its image.

“Hamas, as any other government in the world, want others to listen and believe in them,” said Moean Hassan, a lecturer in media at Gaza’s Palestine University.

Since the group overran the territory in 2007, it has cautiously attempted to enforce its deeply conservative version of Islam and has at times placed some restrictions on women’s behavior. But it has refrained from passing sweeping Islamic legislation, apparently fearing a public backlash, despite criticisms form ultraconservatives who say it is not implementing Islamic law quickly enough.

Under Hamas, there has been mounting social pressure on women to cover up in the traditional Islamic dress of long robes and headscarves. The Hamas government has also banned them from riding on the backs of motorbikes and from smoking water pipes, but these rules have not always been enforced. Earlier this year, the Hamas government barred girls and women from participating in a UN-sponsored marathon, prompting a UN aid agency to cancel the race.

At the same time, women are permitted to work, drive and hold public office, with one female minister and six female deputy ministers serving in the Hamas government. Some 20 per cent of public servants working for Hamas are women.

Almodallal asserts that women in Gaza are finding their way into politics, medicine, education and media. “Every day, women’s footsteps can be seen advancing more in society,” she said.

Almodallal takes a slightly different line than many Hamas spokesmen. She refers to “Israel” rather than the “Zionist entity.” And she does not consider herself a Hamas loyalist, saying she would be equally willing to work as spokeswoman for the rival Palestinian government in the West Bank.

But she does believe — in line with the Hamas position — that the Palestinians should control all of historic Palestine, or the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, including what is now Israel.

She speaks primarily about Gaza government affairs: education and social programs or the Israeli blockade of the territory.

She will not discuss Hamas suicide bombings and other attacks, which have killed hundreds of Israelis over the years. Not will she be handling the sensitive reconciliation attempts with the rival Palestinian government in the West Bank. Spokesmen for the Hamas movement, as opposed to the Gaza government, deal with those subjects.

“I am not Hamas. I am a Palestinian activist who loves her country,” Almodallal said.

When asked her opinion on Hamas’ history of suicide bombings against Israelis, she did not answer directly but said Israel’s unfair media coverage had given Hamas a bad reputation. “This is because of the Israeli media, which is a smart media. They change the truth and show the opposite picture of Palestine and the Palestinians,” she said.

She takes up the job at a challenging time for the movement. Hamas lost a key ally with the downfall of its parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, in neighboring Egypt after a July 3 coup. The group remains a pariah to many nations in the West.

“I know it’s a big responsibility and it’s not easy to speak on behalf of a government in normal situations, whereas I am working in unique situations,” she says.



Marked increase in Qatari women’s participation in various sectors: al-Sada

By Joseph Varghese/Staff Reporter

November 12, 2013

There has been a greater participation of Qatari women in various sectors of society in recent years, HE the Minister of Energy and Industry Dr Mohamed bin Saleh al-Sada has observed.

He was speaking at the fourth annual Qatar International Business Women Forum, which started yesterday.

Organised by the Qatari Business Women Association (QBWA) in partnership with Interactive Business Network (IBN), the forum is welcoming more than 1,000 delegates from 39 countries around the world. The two-day event, which will discuss issues pertaining to promoting women in business, is being held under the patronage of HE the Minister of Economy and Trade Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohamed al-Thani. The theme of this year’s event is “Arab business women as change makers”.

Aisha Alfardan, vice-chairperson of QBWA; Barton Cahir, president of Exxon Mobil Qatar; Wael Sawan, managing director and chairman of Qatar Shell; and Raed Chehaib, CEO of IBN, also addressed the gathering during the opening ceremony. Datin Seri Rosmah binti Mansor, First Lady of Malaysia; Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, founder of Isha Foundation (India); HE the Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage Dr Hamad bin Abdul Aziz al-Kuwari; ambassadors from various embassies in Qatar and a number of distinguished guests were present on the occasion.

HE Dr al-Sada said education has opened up several opportunities for women in Qatar. “HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the chairperson of Qatar Foundation, who is a role model for the new generation of Qataris, has contributed to the empowerment of women by supporting many women’s issues, especially education. Qatari women have outnumbered men in high school and university education for so many years and the trend still continues,” he said.

HE the Minister of Energy and Industry stressed that Qatar has worked to integrate women’s issues in the various components of national strategies and plans. “Qatar has taken a push from a national roadmap to a better society under Qatar National Vision 2030. This vision concentrates on education and social development as the main tools helping women play a very important role in all fields of society, taking economic and social decisions. Qatar has done its best to include women in all national development and strategic plans,” he added.

The QBWA vice-chairperson said the forum aims to help Qatari, Gulf and Arab women. “We will discuss the obstacles they face in the Arab region and how we can work together, hand in hand, to overcome these and find solutions. It is about co-operation and working together to advance the role of women in business throughout the world,” she said, adding that it was an opportunity to act as a unified voice representing the interests of all women in all sectors of business.

Cahir, on his part, said: “There is far greater recognition of the value diverse teams bring to improving business results and sustaining success. The growing rate of women in business and leadership roles proves that we are making progress. We need to foster a work environment that enables all employees to grow and thrive, with a specific focus on women.”

Sawan said it was the right time to discuss such a critical issue concerning women. “In the region, we have invested in education and training, unleashing the talent of not only our men but also our women. Investment in education and training regionally has empowered a generation of women to take an active part in shaping the changing world around them. Increasing women’s role in the workplace will help us achieve progressive change and make improvements towards closing the gender gap,” he noted.

HE Dr al-Sada, Qatar University president Prof Sheikha Abdulla al-Misnad, the first lady of Malaysia, Dr Maryam Matar (chairman and founder of the UAE Genetic Diseases Association) and Haifa al-Kaylani (founder and chairman of Arab International Women’s Forum) were honoured during the ceremony.



Syrian women suffer inside their country and out


November 12, 2013

(Reuters) - Some Syrians say outrage over the sentencing of a teenage girl was a spark that started the country's two-and-a-half year revolt.

A month before protests started in March 2011, Tal al-Mallohi - a 19-year-old who blogged about wanting to shape her country's future - was sentenced to five years in jail on charges of spying.

Having already been imprisoned for over a year, Mallohi was brought to the court chained and blindfolded. Her mother, who was waiting in the courtyard, burst into tears.

A Syrian court granted Mallohi amnesty last month as part of a three-way hostage swap. When she emerges from prison, she will find her country radically changed.

Women in Syria have been targeted by Syrian security forces during the revolt and civil war, rights groups say. Thousands have survived rape and torture and Syrian jails have filled with women and girls.

But forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are not the only enemy to women in Syria - hard-line Islamists are stripping them of their rights, too. Outside Syria, refugees say desperation is forcing some to marry off their daughters as child brides and aid workers report an emerging sex trade in camps.

Syria ranked 19th out of 22 Arab states in a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll on women's rights (, slightly better than Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt.

The survey of gender experts carried out in August and September was based on key provisions of a U.N. convention against gender discrimination that almost all Arab states, including Syria, have signed.

Experts rated Syria badly in most categories, including gender violence, reproductive rights, economic inclusion, treatment of women within the family and attitudes towards women in politics and society.

They also said the war had had a devastating impact on women's rights, putting millions of women and girls at risk of trafficking, forced and child marriage and sexual violence.


A Syrian lawyer, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity from the capital, said that female detainees she visits in jails have bruising, open blisters on their feet, skin and eye infections and dried blood on their bodies.

Another Damascus-based rights lawyer, Anwar al-Bunni, said women were often imprisoned without charges. Some are held because they smuggled food through army checkpoints. Others had photos of anti-Assad rallies on their phones.

"None of them have carried weapons and fought against government troops," he said, estimating that 3,000-4,000 female prisoners still live in detention in Syria.

He said many died due to torture, lack of medical care or asphyxiation. He said they were often kept in underground dungeons that have no sunlight, and some with small children.

In one of his cases, an entire family with six children was detained, Bunni said. Some women are also imprisoned as hostages to be traded with their male relatives wanted by the state, he said.

"There's the added humiliation of being tortured by men, and the women sometimes are forced to be nude," he said. "There are cases of rape while in detention, and if she's not raped, she's probably been threatened with rape."

Bunni has a pregnant client who says she was raped in jail.


New York-based Human Rights Watch has documented accounts of sexual assault in jail and during army raids - one on a girl as young at 12 - in what it says is a tactic "to humiliate and degrade".

Sema Nassar, a Lattakia-based activist documenting rights abuses against women, says that because the government doesn't acknowledge that these abuses occur, it has been hard for her to openly reach out to survivors.

"For example, we have a system in place to help raped survivors to test for pregnancy and diseases and offer psych help. And we help if they want to abort and we even have a shelter for children who are the result of rape, all funded by Syrian expatriate doctors," she said.

"But we can't advertise it, or work in the open, because no one admits to it, starting with the regime itself."

Women have played an integral part in Syria's uprising-turned-civil-war, from supporting rebels to smuggling contraband and running underground networks of humanitarian relief in besieged areas.

The Syrian revolt started with peaceful protests that were met with gunfire by state security. After several months, the revolt armed itself and now more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced.


Although members of Assad's Alawite sect hold the most powerful positions in the country, Syria was run as secular state. Women say the misogyny and oppression they now face at the hands of the Islamists is a regression.

A Syrian woman from the east, who says she supports a secular peaceful opposition movement, told Reuters she prefers to stay on the government-held side of Syria because, although she faces dangers, she is not harassed because she is a woman.

"I don't trust our opposition in Syria. I don't think our lives will get better, especially for women," she said on condition of anonymity, adding that some rebels say women should reduce their role to household tasks and food shopping.

All-male courts run by rebel factions who say they are implementing Islamic law have been set up in opposition-held areas of Syria.

Islamists in one neighborhood of Aleppo issued an order in July banning women from dressing in what it considered provocative styles, angering some who accused the group of overstepping its powers.

One Islamist rebel told Reuters that women in the Syria he envisioned would only be able to work in female-only environments, such as non-mixed schools and hospitals.

Residents of eastern desert towns near the border with Iraq say that rebels are forcing women to wear veils.

More than two million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries as refugees but on the outside, women face further challenges.

There are reports of men from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries taking advantage of families' desperation to seek young brides among refugee communities, aid workers say.

Refugees and aid workers in Lebanon and Jordan also report that prostitution is rising in the camps.

(Reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut and a journalist in Damascus who cannot be named for security reasons; Editing by Tim Large and Sonya Hepinstall; For full coverage of Thomson Reuters Foundation's poll on women's rights in the Arab world, including interactive info-graphics, visit



World Economic Forum: ‘Opportunities Afforded To Women Are Not Many’

November 12, 2013

The World Economic Forum (WEF), an international NGO headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, issued its eighth annual report on the global gender gap at the end of October, ranking Yemen as the worst country out of 136 for gender equality. 

The 2013 statistics focus on four areas—education, health, economics and politics—where reductions in gender inequality have narrowed in countries throughout the world, However, Yemen as well as other low-ranking nations like Pakistan and Chad, failed to move up the list.  

A country's rank is based on an overall score in the four areas, which is expressed as a percent. According to the WEF’s website, “the Index is designed to measure gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities in individual countries rather than the actual levels of the available resources and opportunities in those countries.” For example, “the Index penalizes or rewards countries based on the size of the gap between male and female enrollment rates but not for the overall levels of education in the country.

According to the report, 86 countries reduced their political participation gender gap between 2012-2013. Despite what was seen by many as a turning of the tide during Yemen’s 2011 popular uprising when thousands of Yemeni women took to the streets to demand political reform, the country did not earn high marks in terms of closing a political gender gap in the nation.  Yemen remains one the few countries in the world with only one female member of Parliament.

However, Yemen is currently debating at its post-uprising, reconciliatory talks—the National Dialogue Conference (NDC)—whether it will enact a 30 percent quota for women when its new government is formed.    

Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s neighbor to the north, known for its restrictive gender-based laws, including barring women from driving, ranked slightly better than Yemen at 127. The WEF’s report founder and co-author Saadia Zahidi said in an interview with the BBC that Saudi is an example of a country that is investing in education and health but is not integrating women into its economy, preventing it from closing a wide gender gap.

 The Yemen Times asked some well-known Yemeni female political and social figures for their reactions to the most recent report, including weather they thought it was reflective of the country’s current situation. 

Nabeela Al-Mufti, human rights activist and NDC representative

“I agree with the results of the report. Developmental disparities [between men and women] are significant in every aspect. Opportunities afforded to women are not many. They are usually only granted these opportunities for political motives or partisan interests, not to boost education or improve health access.   For example, female enrollment in public schools is low, but there is no plan to do anything about this. So the situation persists, unchanged. This happens because there is no government financial backing to increase the number of females working, in comparison to males, in institutions. Women’s societal participation should be practical. This can be obtained by reinforcing legislation that guarantees women’s rights.”

Naderah Abdulqadus, writer and journalist 

“With regard to Yemen’s ranking in the report, it makes sense in a country that has low levels of education, [high] illiteracy and drop-out rates and a lack of law enforcement. Part of the problem happened after unity when many laws were changed.  There was a law in [former] South Yemen called the Family Law that was known for its protection of women and guaranteeing women’s social rights. But this law was annulled after the country unified [in 1990].  This has contributed to the spread of child marriages and negative consequences that come along with it.  How will Yemen ever rank at the top of international reports on freedoms and rights when women are not given the chance to be part of the decision-making process? We see a number of women in leading roles, but this not typical.  Two or three women in the government pyramid does not mean Yemen should be celebrating. There is only one woman in Parliament.” 

Amal Al-Makhdi, NDC representative for Ansar Allah, the political wing of the Houthis

“[I’m not surprised] that Yemen came in last in the report. Women in rural areas still work unpaid while men make money. So the gap is still big. Because of a lack of development, health and education services in rural areas, women will continue facing difficulties in pursuing their studies. Meanwhile, males [have opportunities] to go to cities [where options are greater]. Educational infrastructure should be provided so that women in rural areas can reach university levels. Saudi Arabia appeared ahead of Yemen in the report because of Saudi’s healthy economy. However, I believe Yemeni women are more politically active in comparison with Saudi women.  This is positive.”  

Asma Al-Zindani, a member of the Islah Party and lecturer at Al-Eman University

“I respect and trust the annual report of the World Economic Forum. What I am concerned about is the way women are not being perceived in accordance with Islamic Sharia [law], which guarantees women’s rights. People’s separation from religious doctrine has made women’s rights difficult to reach. Women are vulnerable because people, both those in power and not, do not reinforce Sharia. If Sharia law is followed, our scientific and economic situation will improve. We will then be able to achieve things. However, we have become unfamiliar with our religion.  Therefore, the solution is to create an institutionally Islamic civil state that treats everyone equally. Otherwise, Yemen will continue to appear at the bottom of the list for international reports on freedoms, rights and economics."



Egypt is worst Arab state for women: Survey

November 12, 2013

London: Sexual harassment, high rates of female genital cutting and a surge in violence and Islamist feeling after the Arab Spring uprisings have made Egypt the worst country in the Arab world to be a woman, a poll of gender experts showed on Tuesday.

Discriminatory laws and a spike in trafficking also contributed to Egypt's place at the bottom of a ranking of 22 Arab states, the Thomson Reuters Foundation survey found.

Despite hopes that women would be one of the prime beneficiaries of the Arab Spring, they have instead been some of the biggest losers, as the revolts have brought conflict, instability, displacement and a rise in Islamist groups in many parts of the region, experts said.

"We removed the Mubarak from our presidential palace but we still have to remove the Mubarak who lives in our minds and in our bedrooms," Egyptian columnist Mona Eltahawy said, referring to Egypt's toppled dictator, Hosni Mubarak.

"As the miserable poll results show, we women need a double revolution, one against the various dictators who've ruined our countries and the other against a toxic mix of culture and religion that ruin our lives as women."

The foundation's third annual women's rights poll ( gives a comprehensive snapshot of the state of women's rights in the Arab world three years after the events of 2011 and as Syria's conflict threatens further regional upheaval.

Iraq ranked second-worst after Egypt, followed by Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen. Comoros, where women hold 20 percent of ministerial positions and where wives generally keep land or the home after divorce, came out on top, followed by Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar.

The poll by Thomson Reuters' philanthropic arm surveyed 336 gender experts in August and September in 21 Arab League states and Syria, which was a founding member of the Arab League but was suspended in 2011.

Questions were based on provisions of the U.N. Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which 19 Arab states have signed or ratified.

The poll assessed violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman's role in politics and the economy.

Experts were asked to respond to statements and rate the importance of factors affecting women's rights across the six categories. Their responses were converted into scores, which were averaged to create a ranking.


Egypt scored badly in almost all categories.

Women played a central role in the country's revolution but activists say the rising influence of Islamists, culminating in the election of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Mursi as president, was a major setback for women's rights.

Mursi was toppled in a military takeover in July after mass protests against his rule, but hopes for greater freedoms have been tempered by the daily dangers facing women on the street, experts said.

A U.N. report on women in April said 99.3 percent of women and girls are subjected to sexual harassment in Egypt, which some analysts say reflects a general rise in violence in Egyptian society over the past half-decade. Human Rights Watch reported that 91 women were raped or sexually assaulted in public in Tahrir Square in June as anti-Mursi protests heated up.

"The social acceptability of everyday sexual harassment affects every woman in Egypt regardless of age, professional or socio-economic background, marriage status, dress or behavior," said Noora Flinkman, communications manager at HarassMap, a Cairo-based rights group that campaigns against harassment.

"It limits women's participation in public life. It affects their safety and security, their sense of worth, self-confidence and health."

Respondents also cited high rates of forced marriage and trafficking.

"There are whole villages on the outskirts of Cairo and elsewhere where the bulk of economic activity is based on trafficking in women and forced marriages," said Zahra Radwan, Middle East and North Africa programme officer for the Global Fund for Women, a U.S.-based rights group.

Female genital mutilation is endemic in Egypt, where 91 percent of women and girls - 27.2 million in all - are subjected to cutting, according to UNICEF. Only Djibouti has a higher rate, with 93 percent of women and girls cut. In Iraq, women's freedoms have regressed since the U.S.-led 2003 invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the poll showed.

A decade of instability and conflict has affected women disproportionately. Domestic abuse and prostitution have increased, illiteracy has soared and up to 10 percent of women - or 1.6 million - have been left widowed and vulnerable, according to Refugees International.

Hundreds of thousands of women displaced internally and across borders are vulnerable to trafficking, kidnapping and rape, the U.N. refugee agency says. In Saudi Arabia, ranked third worst, experts noted some advances. The kingdom remains the only country that bans female drivers but cautious reforms pushed by King Abdullah have given women more employment opportunities and a greater public voice.

Since January, 30 women have been appointed to the 150-member Shoura Council, the nearest thing Saudi Arabia has to a parliament - but the council has no legislative or budgetary powers.

Saudi Arabia's guardianship system forbids women from working, travelling abroad, opening a bank account or enrolling in higher education without permission from a male relative.

"Saudi society is a patriarchal society and all its laws pertain to the rights of men," said a Saudi legal advisor who defends victims of domestic abuse. "The woman is considered second class."


Syria's civil war has had a devastating impact on women at home and in refugee camps across borders, where they are vulnerable to trafficking, forced and child marriage and sexual violence, experts said.

Rights groups say forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have targeted women with rape and torture, while hardline Islamists have stripped them of rights in rebel-held territory.

"The Syrian woman is a weapon of war, subjected to abductions and rape by the regime and other groups," a Syrian women's rights campaigner said.

The poll highlighted a mixed picture for women's rights in other Arab Spring countries. In Yemen, ranked fifth worst, women protested side-by-side with men during the 2011 revolution and there is a 30 percent quota for women in a national dialogue conference convened to discuss constitutional reforms.

But they face an uphill struggle for rights in a largely conservative country where child marriage is common - there is no minimum marriage age - and the U.S. State Department says 98.9 percent of women have faced harassment on the streets.

In Libya, ranked 14th for women's rights, experts voiced concern over the spread of armed militias and a rise in kidnapping, extortion, random arrests and physical abuse of women. They said the uprising that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi two years ago had failed to enshrine women's rights in law.

Women in 12th-ranked Bahrain are more active in political life than in many Gulf states, but experts said sectarianism was a barrier to rights following the Sunni regime's crushing of a pro-democracy uprising by majority Shi'ites in 2011.

In Tunisia, ranked best among Arab Spring nations, women hold 27 percent of seats in national parliament, but polygamy remains widespread, contraception is illegal and inheritance laws are biased towards males.

Along with Syria, all Arab League member states except Somalia and Sudan have signed or ratified CEDAW. In the absence of full statehood recognition for the Palestinian territories, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas symbolically endorsed the convention on behalf of both the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority.

But protection offered by CEDAW is superficial, experts said. Signatories may raise reservations against any article that contradicts sharia (Islamic law), a country's family code, personal status laws or any piece of national legislation.

Comoros, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, is leading the way on women's rights in the Arab world, the poll found.

Women are not under pressure to give birth to boys over girls. Contraception is widely accepted and supported by state-run education campaigns, while property is usually awarded to women after divorce or separation, experts said.



Turkish court lifts headscarf ban for attorneys

November 12, 2013

The Council of State has approved the removal of the headscarf ban for lawyers, allowing lawyers to register at the Bar Association with a picture showing them wearing a headscarf.

Upon a lawyer’s complaint, the Council of State’s 8th Department halted the execution of the Turkey Bar Association’s (TBB) legal profession act, which stated that lawyers had to provide a picture of themselves without a headscarf in order to register at the Bar Association.

The 8th department said in its justification that the rights granted by the Constitution and international conventions should not be limited in a way that contradicts the spirit of the Constitution.

‘Limitations cannot contradict Constitution’

“These limitations [on rights] cannot contradict the spirit of the Constitution, the secular republic and democratic society, according to the Constitution,” said the court in its jurisdiction. It also added that the limitation on photographs that lawyers can submit to the bar surpassed the aim of the law.

The said the rule would violate the right to work, and freedom of faith and religion, which were guaranteed by the Constitution and international conventions signed by Turkey.

However, the decision’s justification also said the photographs of lawyers on licenses must show their characteristics and allow them to be easily recognizable. It said women were allowed to provide photographs for their ID cards wearing a headscarf that leaves their face, forehead and chin open.



Surgeon gets Bronze Star for improving care for Afghan women

November 12, 2013

A Navy doctor earned a Bronze Star in May for her recent deployment to Afghanistan, where she spent much of her time caring for Afghan civilians — and vastly improving the quality of care available to nearby Afghan women.

Sometimes people ask Lt. Cmdr. Leah Brown how that could have been part of her job as a military orthopedic surgeon supporting a special operations unit. She always has her answer ready.

“I would ask them to define what my job is,” she told Navy Times. “My job is to take care of people, and if we can provide care, we can remind everyone that we’re all human beings and we all deserve care.”

Brown deployed from Naval Hospital Bremerton, Wash., from August 2012 to last May with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan to Forward Operating Base Tarin Kowt, about 90 miles north of Kandahar.

“I knew that I was going to be with a special ops team,” she said. “I didn’t know who, and I wasn’t sure where, but I knew I would be an orthopedic surgeon for this Role 2 billet — stabilize-and-transfer-type medical care.”

What Brown didn’t know was that the previous Tarin Kowt hospital team had treated local Afghans on a fairly regular basis.

“I don’t know if it was part of the mission of winning hearts and minds,” she said. “There’s a lot of secret stuff that we weren’t more aware of, but they started seeing local-national patients.”

Then, Brown said, the local Afghan orthopedic surgeon left the region just before her team arrived in Tarin Kowt.

“What we were finding is that, a lot of times, medical providers are threatened [by insurgents] and wind up leaving for safety purposes,” she said.

The administrator at the local hospital, who had previously worked with the base, started calling the FOB to ask if they had time to treat some of the broken bones and other injuries coming into his hospital. Thankfully, Brown said, they did.

“And that’s a testament to, at least, where we were in the war at that time,” she said. “We were not seeing a lot of coalition casualties, which was good.”

To get on base, patients arrived at the gate via Afghan vehicle and were submitted to a security search. They would then be transferred to a military vehicle and taken to the hospital.

“This was difficult, in that if the patient was critical, this all had to be done very quickly,” Brown said. “We got critical patients frequently.”

Move toward gender equity

Brown’s team started seeing boys and men pretty regularly, but the real breakthrough came when young and elderly women came to see the all-female team they put together.

Traditional Afghan culture dictates that women be treated only by female medical personnel. In the Tarin Kowt district, Brown said, the care available to women was less than ideal.

“When we got [to the hospital], we were just flabbergasted at the difference in the care provided,” she said. “There was definitely a different section of the hospital for the females. It was not as well stocked.”

Further, women were brought to the main ward only for certain surgical procedures, Brown said — doctors there usually saw them only if they were bleeding to death.

There were three female Navy medical personnel and one female Air Force nurse at Brown’s FOB. The women sold the idea of an all-female medical team to the local hospital.

Brown, an Atlanta native, said the local hospital administrator was concerned that insurgents might target his staff if they knew he was sending Afghan women to be treated by Americans, even if the caregivers were women.

But when the hospital began sending women of reproductive age to be cared for by the Americans, members of the medical team knew they had broken some barriers.

“We still faced quite a few cultural barriers, even with the females,” Brown said. “They were very hesitant for us to even treat them. We would have to try to expose their injuries, and it was just a really big deal to try to expose injuries, because they were so worried about being uncovered.”

The team managed to treat many female patients, and all but a few of them returned to the FOB for follow-up appointments, Brown said.

Because of her specialty, Brown treated a lot of broken bones and burns from vehicle and other accidents. Once, she recalled, she treated a woman whose steam-cooking appliance had exploded, severely burning her skin and nearly amputating her lower leg.

Brown received a Bronze Star for leading the female medical team, but she said it was a group effort.

“I think stories like these are lost when people continue to wonder, ‘What are we doing out there? What good are we doing out there?’” she said. “There’s still a lot of good being done out there.”



Sheikha Rima Al-Sabah among 117 Most Powerful DC Women

November 12, 2013

Once again, Sheikha Rima Al-Sabah, wife of Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah, ranked among the 117 most powerful women in the nation’s capital on Washingtonian magazine’s annual list of most influential women for her very strong presence in the humanitarian work. Sheikha Rima Al-Sabah, who topped the list in the category of “International Powers”, was recognized as a “fixture” on the Washington philanthropy scene through hosting the highly-coveted Kuwait America Foundation gala dinners for humanitarian causes in many fields. Al-Sabah made the list alongside other influential females in the area in government, business, health, media, law, education and the arts, such as First Lady Michelle Obama, national security adviser Susan Rice, senior adviser to President Barack Obama Valerie Jarrett and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, Sheikha Rima Al-Sabah is always grateful to her country Kuwait and the support it continuously gives her that she is able to do the philanthropic work she does.

She believes that the philanthropic work she does is a “continuation of a Kuwaiti tradition as Kuwait is a model for its philanthropic work and the assistance it provides to needy countries.” Over the last eight years, Sheikha Rima and Ambassador Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah have undertaken many philanthropic endeavors, the latest being a fundraiser that raised USD1.5 million to benefit Georgetown University and the establishment of an endowment fund at its Center for Contemporary Arab Studies that will provide graduate studies scholarships to women from the Arab World based on merit and need. Every year, Kuwait’s Ambassador Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al- Sabah and Sheikha Rima Al-Sabah hold a gala dinner to raise money for a different beneficiary.

The Kuwait gala dinners have raised nearly $13.5 million for causes ranging from microcredit loans to women in the Middle East, the care of America’s wounded, to establish schools and promote girls’ education in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, to benefit the fight against climate change in Indonesia and Brazil, to support the fight against malaria in Africa, to fund the Basrah Children’s Hospital in Iraq, to build schools for girls in Afghanistan and to assist Iraqi women and children refugees wishing to return home. Keynote speakers and special guests at the annual gala dinners have included former US presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, US Secretary of State John Kerry, former first lady Laura Bush, former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, Hollywood stars Ben Affleck, Leonardo Dicaprio, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones and Angelina Jolie. The Al-Sabahs’ gala dinners with their star-studded guest list have become one of Washington’s most sought-after and exclusive event.