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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 8 March 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Lebanese women defy Hezbollah, demand justice

For Turkish women the killing never stops

A woman leading change in Yemen

Don’t try to control our lives, say Saudi women

Saudi women follow developments in Libya with concern

The 'Arab Spring': A new era of change, risk

The way forward: True gender equality

Istanbul Modern Cinema celebrates Women’s Day with special film program

Women's employment and conservatism

Something rotten about the state of press freedom in Turkey

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Lebanese women defy Hezbollah, demand justice


Mar8, 2011

Some say female demonstration is a sign of weakness rather than strength

Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, hundreds of Lebanese women defied Hezbollah and demonstrated over the weekend in downtown Beirut in support of an international tribunal investigating the assassination of former premier Rafiq Al-Hariri.

The women, all backers of the liberal March 14 Movement led by caretaker Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the slain primer, formed a human chain Sunday stretching from Hariri’s grave to the spot where his car exploded in February 2005, killing him and 22 others.

“The people want to drop the arms,” chanted the women, a takeoff on the pan-Arab call “the people want to topple the regime.” The arms in question are those maintained by the Shiite Islamist movement Hezbollah, which has refused to give them up claiming they were legitimately used in their fight against Israel.

Hezbollah vociferously opposes the UN-commissioned Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) which is rumored to have indicted senior members of the Islamic party for involvement in Hariri’s assassination. On January 12, Hezbollah walked out of Saad Hariri’s unity government, bringing it down. Prime Minister-designate Najib Miqati is in the process of forming a new government, expected to comprise mainly of technocrats and Hezbollah members.

“This demonstration symbolizes the weakness of the March 14 Alliance,” Hilal Khashan, a political scientist at the American University of Beirut told The Media Line. “They want to portray this as a grassroots movement, but in fact it isn’t. They don’t want to directly confront Hezbollah on the street because they know they’ll lose, so they use women who they know Hezbollah won’t hurt.”

One of the participants in the demonstration was May Chidiac, a Christian TV journalist and outspoken critic of Syria’s presence in Lebanon. She was severely injured in a 2005 blast blamed on Syria which severed her left arm and leg. The attack on Chidiac was only one in a series of attacks against anti-Syrian Lebanese figureheads throughout 2005, including politicians George Hawi and Gebran Tueni, and journalist Samir Kassir.

On Sunday Chidiac was steadfast in her defiance of Hezbollah, speaking to a mixed crowd of veiled Muslim women and bare-headed Christians.

“We have not yet tired or despaired,” the London-based Arab daily Al-Hayat quoted her as saying. “We have grown accustomed to torment, but (Hezbollah’s) treacherous weapons will not scare us, nor will their black shirts.”

Ranya Ghanem, wife of slain politician Antoine Ghanem, told the newspaper she came to demand the exposure of “those who deprived us of our loved ones.”

March 14’s main tour de force is planned for Sunday, March 13, marking the sixth anniversary of the Cedar Revolution — a series of mass demonstrations that took place in Lebanon following Hariri’s assassination and calling for the full withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. The organizers told Lebanon’s Daily Star that the demonstrations were brought forward to Sunday so as “to allow the highest level of participation” and prevent the loss of a work day. But Hilal Khashan said demonstrations would only further destabilize an already volatile situation.

“Protests in the Arab world are leaving Lebanese upbeat and feeling they can achieve anything by taking to the streets,” Khashan said. “But this will only further escalate the situation, since Hezbollah will be forced to respond. Lebanon is not Libya — the political situation here is much more complex.”

Meanwhile, some 8,000 demonstrators protested in Beirut on Sunday against Lebanon’s sectarian system and political corruption. Standing outside of Lebanon’s Electricity Ministry, which has become a symbol of corruption and mismanagement, the protesters called for a “secular and democratic country.”

Lebanon’s sectarian system regulates power sharing in key positions between its main religious sects: Maronite Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and Druze. Political parties are often established along confessional lines. But Nadim Shehadi, an expert on Lebanon at Chatham House, a London-based think tank, said that anti-sectarian demonstrations would not amount to a full-fledged revolution.

“This is not a revolution the kind of which we have seen in Tunisia or Egypt, simply because there is no regime to topple” he told The Media Line. “Calls to change the sectarian system have been a constant theme in Lebanese politics for the past 50 years. Even in the 2005 demonstrations many of the slogans were anti-sectarian.”


For Turkish women the killing never stops

March 7, 2011

This file photo shows Turkish women celebrating the International Women's Day in Istanbul's Kadiköy.

Every day, a woman is killed in Turkey in the name of “honor,” something that should be stopped immediately, the United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA, said in a statement for International Women’s Day.

“Four out of 10 women are facing violence ... and this should be stopped urgently,” said the formal statement, which was issued by Zahidul Huque, the UNFPA Representative in Turkey.

In Turkey ...

- 1 million girls are not going to school

- 4 million women have no formal education

- 4 out of 10 women face violence in their daily lives

- 1 woman dies every day in an ‘honor killing’

In Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia last year...

- 72 women were murdered, including 10 under the age of 18

- 113 committed suicide, including 28 minor girls

- 73 attempted suicide, including 10 minor girls

- 9 women were raped or harassed by security forces

- 7 women were forced into prostitution by family violence

Figures reported by the Turkish press recently show that an average of five women are killed each day in Turkey. Last year, 72 women – including 10 under the age of 18 – were murdered in Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia, according to a report released for Women’s Day by the Human Rights Association, or IHD’s, branch in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir. In the same region, 113 women, including 28 minor girls, committed suicide and 73, including 10 minor girls, attempted to take their own lives in 2010, according to the same IHD statistics, the Dogan news agency, or DHA, reported Saturday.

The IHD’s Diyarbakir branch also reported that nine women were raped or harassed by security forces, while seven women in the region were forced into prostitution by family violence last year.

Almost 1 million girls in Turkey are not going to school and 4 million women have no formal education, according to the UNFPA report. The organization said it was working intensively with Turkish stakeholders to promote an enabling environment for women-friendly communities. “This would be done by mainstreaming gender into the planning process of local authorities through local dialogue with women’s NGOs, grassroots organizations and governmental institutions at national and local levels. We expect some private philanthropic organizations to join this innovative program,” its statement said.

The UNFPA’s Turkey office is working in close partnership with the Turkish government, civil-society organizations, other U.N. agencies and the media to fulfill Turkey’s commitments to the Millennium Development Goals, the International Conference on Population and Development, or ICPD, Program of Action, Turkey’s EU accession and the ratification of the Optional Protocol to Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, or CEDAW, the organization said


A woman leading change in Yemen

March 7, 2011


With two presidents unseated in Tunisia and Egypt and highly publicized protests across Libya, the recent demonstrations in Yemen are catching the world’s attention. The escalating violence is worrying and only time will tell if it will lead to a quick overthrow of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh or whether change will take much longer in Yemen. But one thing is different in Yemen: the international face of the Yemeni pro-change movement is a woman.

Profiled in high profile outlets including The Washington Post, The Toronto Star and Time Magazine, journalist and human rights activist Tawakkul Karman represents a positive image of Yemeni women. Long before she was photographed leading February’s protests against the government, she was called a brave defender of freedom of expression and human rights in Yemen.

In a January 2010 interview with Al-Jazeera, she spoke of detained journalists, a sheikh’s tyranny against villagers in Ibb, a governorate south of the capital, the lack of justice for the family of a murdered doctor, and – long before January’s WikiLeaks revelations – even went so far as to accuse the government of being “in alliance” with al-Qaeda. Today, she continues to protest, demanding peaceful change.

Finally a refreshing change from the “over-sized post box” image of the Yemen’s women in the niqab (a face veil worn in addition to the headscarf), or the photos of child bride Nujood Ali that have fuelled Yemen’s early marriage debate since April 2008.

Of course, all is not rosy for Yemen’s women. Yemeni parliamentarians (one out of 301 is a woman) still have not agreed on a minimum age for marriage to prevent girls like Nujood, nine years old at the time of her divorce, from being married before they finish school. Illiteracy among women is still a whopping 67 percent, women are typically the first victims of food shortages (one in three Yemenis suffers from severe malnutrition according to the U.N.) and many have difficult and limited access to healthcare. Women’s participation in politics is minimal and, despite two female ministers, Yemen has consistently ranked at the bottom in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index since it was first included in the ranking in 2006.

But there is hope.

Karman and fellow female human rights activists, such as journalist Samia al-Aghbari, are on the frontline of protests in the Yemeni capital. They may not be representative of Yemeni women in general, but they are indeed inspiring. In fact, one Yemeni man was so impressed by al-Aghbari’s courage during the protests of 13 February when she was knocked onto the pavement by a member of security, that he wrote her a poem, “Revolution of the Green Hijab... To Samia al-Aghbari and all the other revolutionaries,” which was published the following day on the Nashwan news website.

Although they are not all out on the streets, there are a number of inspiring women in Yemen. In addition to Karman and al-Aghbari, Yemeni women are human rights activists, journalists, doctors, educators, members of civil society, academics, wives of political detainees, photographers, and even Tweeters.

Dozens of brave women have run against all odds and lost in local council and parliamentary elections. According to Nadia al-Sakkaf, female editor-in-chief of the independent Yemen Times, winning is difficult without the support of a political party, and most politically ambitious women at the moment are waiting to see how the current situation develops.

Then there are the women who quietly start their own revolutions. In May 2010, a literacy eradication course inspired women in rural Dhamar, a governorate south of Sana’a, to go home and ask their husbands and brothers for their rights to education, inheritance and political participation. Course organizers received phone calls from confused male family members asking what they had been discussing. Participants also rallied together and prevented a man from marrying off his 12-year-old daughter.

When Karman was detained by security for organizing protests on Jan. 22, she made the most of a bad situation by chatting to her fellow female detainees about their rights. "I was happy to discover the prison and talk to the prisoners," she told The Yemen Times after her release.

But perhaps the most inspiring thing about Karman is that she is not speaking up only for Yemeni women, but for Yemeni society as a whole, addressing national grievances such as unemployment and corruption.

It may be too early for a female president in Yemen, but Karman adds a new, welcome dimension to the media coverage of a country usually associated in the Western mind with al-Qaeda, poverty and oppressed women.

* Alice Hackman has recently returned to London after two years as reporter and Features Editor for The Yemen Times in Sana’a, Yemen. This piece first appeared on the Common Ground News Service.


Don’t try to control our lives, say Saudi women


Mar 8, 2011

JEDDAH: Young Saudi women are calling for more freedom and liberty in their own country. On International Women’s Day, university students claim that women in Saudi Arabia need more independence because their daily life is filled with restrictions.

Arab News spoke to young Saudi women about their thoughts on the future.

“One of our simple rights is to be able to drive to college. I don’t understand why it’s prohibited for us to be in the driving seat,” said 22-year-old Zakeyya Ghulman. “I’m sick and tired of the driver being late and busy with all the work my family is giving him — dropping my mom off at the doctor,  picking up my sister from school. I keep waiting for him for hours.”

Traveling without a male guardian and having to wait for his approval creates problems for  20-year-old Kholoud Mamoon. “My parents are divorced. My mother is from Egypt, and she lives there. My problem is that every time I want to visit my mother I face a lot of resistance from my father before I finally get him to take me to see my mom,” she said. “I want to just pack my bags and book a flight for the weekend to visit my mom whenever I need to.”

Under Saudi law, women require their guardians’s permission to leave the country — either by escorting them to the airport and signing an exit waiver or by obtaining single-use or multiple-use permission forms that women keep with their passports.

Having the freedom to choose her future husband is what 25-year-old Amal Al-Ali really wants. “I come from a family that controls young women and does not give them the option to even choose their future,” she said. “Our generation is new and out there, we see and mix with men more than my mother and grandmother did when they were my age,” she said.

Amal added that her father decided when she was a baby that she was going to marry her cousin. While Islamic custom grants fathers the right to reject male suitors, it does not permit fathers to arrange marriages against the consent of their daughters. However, going against a father’s will can prove to be a formidable challenge for daughters and sons alike.

Some jobs and college studies are prohibited to Saudi women, especially if they’re perceived by parents to be inappropriate for women.

“I always wanted to study journalism, but my father was so against it that he controlled my high school certificate study, my college study; and I’m sure he will control my job options,” said 19-year-old Nora Al-Harthy. “His argument was that journalists have to mix with men in the office and talk to them by phone or even interview them. This act in our family is taboo.”

As for sports, stadiums are no-go zones for women — something that irks the Kingdom’s many female football fanatics. “This is nonsense,” said 20-year-old Mona Bokhary. “I have a passion for football and it doesn’t make sense that women are not allowed to watch football live and always have to watch it on big screens. I want to attend a football match and hear people cheering for their favorite team and feel the game. What’s the harm in that? Why isn’t it allowed for women to go there? Why not make women’s only sections at local stadiums?”


Saudi women follow developments in Libya with concern


Mar 8, 2011

ABHA: The demands of Libyan women during the ongoing revolution in the country are no different to those of men.

“We aspire for freedom, democracy and rule of law,” Libyan political activist Saud Al-Wahidi, who lives in France, told Arab News from Paris on Monday.

She said Libyan women are part of the revolution and are out every day with their men as they rise against Col. Muammar Qaddafi.

Al-Wahidi said Libyan women were more concerned with the immediate stoppage of the bloodbath and the protection of their sons from African mercenaries hired by Qaddafi to kill his own people.

“Have you ever seen a leader bringing in mercenaries to slaughter his own people? Is there any bigger treason than this?” she questioned.

She said this very fact refuted Qaddafi's allegations that his opponents were calling for foreign intervention. “It is him (Qaddafi) who called for foreign intervention by hiring African mercenaries to kill the Libyan people,” she said.

Al-Wahidi said the young Libyan protesters were facing Qaddafi's war machine unarmed and added that they were blessed by Allah and supported by angels as they were able to liberate large areas of the country.

“The Libyan people want an honorable and dignified life away from the dictator who made their lives meaningless.”

Al-Wahidi lauded the protesters who, unlike other revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt, were not calling for the downfall of the system, but instead for the establishment of a system which Libya did not have under Qaddafi's rule.

She asked Saudi people who lived close to the two holy mosques to help the Libyan revolution by praying for those involved.

She also asked them to provide the Libyan people with medicines and vaccinations.

“Diabetic and high-blood pressure patients are in need of medicines. The children need vaccinations, especially in the eastern region of Libya that is currently under siege by Qaddafi's forces. Food is also decreasing,” she said.

Full report at:


The 'Arab Spring': A new era of change, risk


The start of 2011 marked rapid and important changes in North Africa and the Middle East that have far-reaching implications. International businesses in the region have had to keep a close eye on events, in some cases evacuate staff, and must now come to grips with a new and rapidly changing risk landscape.

The Middle East and North Africa has long represented a socio-economic time bomb for risk analysts. We see this tsunami of unrest as a convergence of several factors: economic crisis, state violence, and rising Internet literacy among the youth. Unemployment rates are very high, large numbers of people live on the poverty line, and commodity prices and living costs have soared. These factors, coupled with lack of basic services and housing, and a visible wealth gap between the public and elite, has made hardship intolerable for many.

Since the fall of Presidents Ben Ali and Mubarak, Tunisia and Egypt are in a transformative phase moving towards democracy and elections, yet these transitions toward democracy are likely to be rocky and present significant security and political risks. Increased local security risks in both countries are unlikely to drop back to pre-revolt levels for some time. When a security and political situation is in flux, terrorists typically see opportunity. The new Egyptian and Tunisian leaderships also face the huge economic damage incurred from lost output, exports and tourism. Economic grievances, particularly inflation and unemployment, lay at the root of the uprisings.

Both new governments have blamed the old regimes for the parlous state of the economy and opened investigations to trace and confiscate the vast wealth and assets from the deposed presidents. It remains unclear what will happen to the vast commercial interests of the Gadhafi regime, but if he falls, a similar outcome is almost certain. As such, companies with stakes in the region would be wise to check their levels of exposure to the commercial interests of the former regimes.

In such an unprecedented and changeable environment, one of the few certainties is that companies must now reassess their exposure to new political and security risks and how they will manage them.

Full report at:


The way forward: True gender equality

Monday, March 7, 2011


Gender inequality continues to remain a major global challenge confronting humanity. However, it is no longer acceptable to live in a world where young girls are taken out of school and forced into early marriage, where women’s employment opportunities are limited, and where the threat of gender-based violence is a daily reality.

Equality for women and girls is indeed a social and economic imperative being one of the most important human rights. Empowered and educated women are a sine qua non for the robustness and sustainability of economic growth. Similarly, the equitable representation of women in political, economic, social and cultural spheres leads to societal peace and stability, not to mention a more responsive and responsible articulation of the needs and preferences for integration in the national, regional and local planning, programming and decision processes.

he neglect of women’s rights means the social and economic potential of half the world’s population is underused. In order to tap this potential, our world must open up places for women in political leadership, in science and technology and as heads of corporations.

To this end, the theme of this year’s March 8 International Women’s Day is “Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.”

Global figures testify that we must act fast and collectively if we want to create decent work opportunities for women, and thus make true gender equality a shared legacy of humanity in the 21st century.

Gender gap a global epidemic

Gender inequality in job opportunities and violence against women still haunt societies. While up to 70 percent of women are victims of violence during their lifetime, women make up nearly two thirds of the world’s 759 million illiterate adults. Women also dominate low-paid, low-status, part-time or contract work that offers limited opportunities for social security coverage.

Though women perform 66 percent of the world’s work and produce 50 percent of the food, they earn only 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the world’s property. 

In Turkey, although important achievements have been recorded, there are areas that still require improvement.

In Turkey, compared to the labor force participation rate for men, which was 70.4 as of November 2010, an estimated 27.5 percent of women were in the labor force. This falls far behind the global average rate of 52 percent.

Due to the prevalence of negative gender stereotypes based on social, economic and cultural barriers, women face serious difficulties entering and remaining in the labor market. This is clearly seen in the 19.6 percent rate of non-agricultural unemployment for women as of November 2010.

Violence against women and honor killings are also serious crimes.

There is a key gap in the participation of women in decision-making. The representation of women in politics at the parliamentary level is 9.1 percent (with only 50 seats held by women in the 550-member Parliament) and that of local government is less than 2 percent.

Full report at:


Istanbul Modern Cinema celebrates Women’s Day with special film program

March 7, 2011

To celebrate the March 8 International Women's Day, Istanbul Modern Cinema has prepared a special film screening program for the day. The program includes films from the world's silent cinema to Turkish cinema and will feature a number of important female filmmakers from around the world. The events will start with ‘Suffragettes in the Silent Cinema’

In this bold documentary, Marie Mandy asks the question: how do female directors film love, desire, and, especially, sexuality?

Istanbul Modern Cinema is celebrating March 8 International Women’s Day with a special film screening program “Cinema Purple: From Women to Screen.”

As part of the program, four films, chosen by Filmmor Film Festival team member Melek Özman and Tugçe Canbolat, will be screened. The world’s most important female directors and female filmmakers from around the world will be featured in the film program.

The film screening program will start Tuesday at 2 p.m. with “Suffragettes in the Silent Cinema” and continue with “Shooting Women” at 3 p.m., “Filming Desire” at 4 p.m. and “70-80-90 Innocent, Insolent, Enticing” at 5 p.m. All film screenings will be free for museum visitors.

Full report at:


Women's employment and conservatism

March 4, 2011


Women want 275 female deputies in Parliament following the June 12 elections.

The Association for the Educating and Supporting Women Candidates, or Ka-Der, has appeared with the slogan “Half of Parliament are Women” for the March 8  [International Women’s Day] week.

Although the Chinese say, “half of the sky belongs to women,” this is not true for the Earth. We very well know that.

Especially if the country is Turkey, being the eighth from the bottom among 134 countries in the “Gender Gap Report.”

Having half of Parliament females is beyond a dream for Turkey.

This is a country where women’s employment stands at 22 percent and the number of female Parliament members remains at 9 percent. The rate of women murdered has increased 1,400 times in the last seven years.

Lawyer Hülya Gülbahar, former president of Ka-Der, was stressing the other night on a TV program about the murder of women that Turkey is rapidly being transformed into a patriarchal society.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s remark, “I don’t believe in gender equality” during a meeting with women’s organizations has spread in waves in the society, according to Gülbahar.

The reason for why the poor resort to violence

Çigdem Aydin, new chair of Ka-Der, makes a striking claim.

Women’s population was about 300,000 more than that of men until three or four years ago, but has fallen behind in present, Aydin says.

 “The number of women has decreased by murders,” she says.

“Why does the state not come to the fore and say, ‘We will protect women’s right to live?’” Aydin asks.

The murder of women is today one of Turkey’s most crucial social issues.

Nebahat Akkoç, president of the KAMER association, a women’s rights organization headquartered in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir, was one of the participants on the same TV program.

Violence and murder committed against women are multiplied by poverty, according to Akkoç.

Full report at:


Something rotten about the state of press freedom in Turkey

March 7, 2011


Apropos of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, we don’t know if something is still rotten in the state of Denmark, but it certainly is in Turkey as far as press freedom is concerned. The latest spate of arrests of well-known, respected journalists, for ostensibly being “members of the Ergenekon terrorist group,” has even the president of the Republic, Abdullah Gül, “concerned.”

And so he should be because - as he told daily Milliyet’s Fikret Bila over the weekend - the present state of affairs relating to the media and journalists in this country is not just bothering the public conscience, but also “harming Turkey’s image, which everyone has come to appreciate.”

Gül was naturally referring to the fact that many reforms have been made in Turkey in the name of democracy, a fact that is also the reason behind why Turkey is being pointed to as a “model” for countries such as Egypt as they try to democratize. All of this had, as Gül suggests, increased the country’s international profile in a positive manner.

But that situation now faces the risk of changing rapidly since Turkey is once again under international scrutiny for trying to prevent journalists from doing their job, and for incarcerating those who report about things unfavorable to the government or the authorities.

The prosecutor in charge of the investigation into the “Ergenekon terrorist group,” which is supposed to have conspired to overthrow the government by illegal means, argued in a written statement on Sunday that the journalists arrested last week - who by the way include Nedim Sener, an internationally renowned and awarded investigative reporter from Milliyet - were taken in not for what they wrote, but for their illegal activities.

He refused, however, to say what these illegal activities were, indicating instead that this was classified information. Those in the government-friendly media, who have clearly sold their sense of solidarity with their colleagues, as well as their professional commitment to the freedom of the press, down the river in an effort to propagandize for the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, are trying now to stand behind the prosecutor and the government.

But genuine journalists, who are more interested in carrying on with their jobs rather than being a spokesperson for this or that political or ideological group, are extremely doubtful about this claim of the prosecutor’s, given that even the president of the Republic is “concerned” about the latest developments. It appears from their strong reactions that international press organizations are also doubtful about the claims against the arrested journalists.

Full report at: