New Age Islam News Bureau
25 Apr 2019
Farida Shenga, 40, is pictured in the tutk-tuk she operates in Kibokoni, Mombasa County. PHOTO | JOHN MARIO | NATION MEDIA GROUP
• Sri Lanka Plans to Ban the Burqa After Easter Attacks. Does it Solve the Terror Problem?
• Saudi Woman Granted Refugee Status In NZ Because Of Persecution
• Kenya: In a Man's World, Muslim Woman Defies Odds as Tuk-Tuk Driver
• Lebanese Female Author Wins Arabic Fiction Prize
• Report Highlights Online Abuse Experienced By Women Activists in Pakistan
• KP Assembly Resolution for Raising Marriage Age To 18 Lauded
• German Woman, Parents-In-Law Indicted For Aiding ISIS
• Kosovan Women Returned From Syria Face House Arrest
• Syrian Woman In Wheelchair Tells UN Disabled Are Invisible
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
‘Let Us End Hate And Fear In The Country’, Urges Gujarat Pogrom Survivor Bilkis Bano
April 24, 2019
By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: “It’s not about the money, it is about the message that “no citizen of India should have to suffer violations by the State and let us end this hate and fear.” This is what the Gujarat pogrom’s gang-rape victim Bilkis Rasul Bano said at a crowded Press Conference at the Press Club of India here on Wednesday after the Supreme Court yesterday ordered the Gujarat government to compensate her with Rs 50 lakh and a government job with accommodation.
While thanking the apex court for this historic verdict which has set a new precedent and would discourage the State from taking side in communal violence, Bilkis Bano said with wet eyes that it has been a very painful period of 17 years for me who had sought exemplary compensation from the state government, refusing to accept its offer of Rs 5 lakh.
“I kept my faith in the constitution and in my rights as a citizen, and the Supreme Court has stood with me. For that I am truly grateful to the honorable Judges.’
On April 23, while passing severe strictures against the BJP- led Gujarat government in its ruling, the apex court directed the state government to pay a compensation of Rs 50 lakh as well as a government job and accommodation as per rules to the victim.
It is to recall that during the Gujarat pogrom -engineered allegedly by the ruling party- while feeling from the violence on March 3, 2002 Bilkis Bano was sexually assaulted in Randhikapur village near Ahmadabad. She was then 21 years old and five month pregnant. She was gang-raped and 14 members of her family, including her 3 and half year old daughter, murdered. Several female members of her family also raped and murdered. Bilkis is the only adult survivor and eyewitness to the horrific massacre who stood like a solid rock to fight her case despite all odds and continued intimidations to withdraw the case. As many riots victims buckled under the alleged pressure of the state and perpetrators of the crime and withdrew their cases. Zahira Shaikh’s case was prominent among them.
Speaking about her 17 year long struggle for justice and seeking accountability from the State, she said, ‘It has been a journey of a million steps, first seeking criminal conviction of those who destroyed my life, my child, my entire family.
“But today the State has been convicted in a court of morals and constitutional principles. The Supreme Court’s order to me is not about the money. It is about the signal it has sent to the State and to each citizen of this country. We have rights that no state can be allowed to violate,” she added.
When asked what she planned to do with the money, Bilkis Bano said she wanted to finally give her children a stable life. Perhaps see her eldest daughter grow up into a lawyer who can defend others.
Flanked by her husband and her advocate Shobha and other activists, Bilkis Bano said it is historic day for women’s rights and state accountability as it is for the first time in India compensation of this magnitude has been awarded to a survivor of gang-rape and mass murder during communal and targeted violence.
When asked whether she was contented with the apex court’s the judgment? she quipped she was not after the money but wanted a respectful and fearless life.
“I always maintained that I want justice not revenge when you people asked me whether you want convicts get capital punishment”.
On the occasion, here Advocate Shobha paraphrased portions of the Special Leave Petition seeking action against the convicted Gujarat Police officials, and listing multiple, horrific counts of violation of constitutional rights for which Bilkis sought exemplary compensation from the State of Gujarat:
* ‘For damages to her Constitutional right to life; right to bodily integrity; right to be protected by the State; and right to seek justice for wrongs suffered by her.
* For damages to her Constitutional rights, not merely those inflicted by perpetrators of murder and gang-rape, but in the Constitutional scheme far worse, because these violations were willfully and criminally and with malafide intent with support of State actors who went to the criminal extent of orchestrating beheading of bodies and burying them in hidden graves to deny the petitioner means to seek justice.
* For loss of her first-born 3½ year old daughter whose body was never found and to whom the petitioner and her husband could never fulfill their duties as parents, and perform her last rites, and bury her in a grave with basic human dignity because of criminal action by State police officials.
* For moral damages include the physical suffering, mental anguish, loss, shock to the petitioners and society’s moral compass … more so because it was enabled by the State actors mandated to protect her, and the petitioners expectation as a citizen was to be protected by them.
* For the physical damage to her body in suffering brutal aggravated gang-rape, and rape and murder of members of her family, for which State actors should have protected and helped her seek justice.
* For mental trauma and a lifetime of depression, anxiety, loss, fear, to have to live with the unspeakable trauma of watching her first born child murdered in front of her eyes by her head being smashed on a rock, while the mother is helpless to protect, and is being gang-raped.
* For financial loss, that she and her husband suffered, in their permanent internal displacement of fleeing their home, and losing all sources of income; and for 15 years of bravely seeking justice; for having to shift over 20 locations, and homes with all their children.
* For loss of her fundamental and human right to love, affection and emotional support system – she lost 14 family members including all women members of her immediate family. Her children have grown up, denied all female nurturing and support from extended family.
* For, this she seeks an exemplary compensation that signals restitution of her constitutional, familial, social rights as an equal citizen of this country who deserved and still deserves full protection of the State and of this Hon’ble Court.”
The Press Conference was packed with citizens from all walks of life, including women’s rights and human rights activists who said they were there to salute Bilkis’ courage, and at this dark time in India, when hate crimes and hate speech were on the rise, to celebrate this historic moment of hope for equal justice for ALL citizens of India, and for the victory of constitutional values.
The press conference was organized collectively by many concerned citizens including Farah Naqvi, Dipta Bhog, Gagan Sethi, Madhavi Kuckreja, Malini Ghose, Huma Khan.
Sri Lanka Plans to Ban the Burqa After Easter Attacks. Does it Solve the Terror Problem?
April 24, 2019
The Sri Lanka government is initiating a ban on the burqa after a detailed investigation revealed that several burqa-clad women were associated with the Easter attacks which resulted in the death of over 300 people. The Islamic State has also claimed responsibility for the devastating attacks.
A probe has also revealed that the burqa wasn't technically a part of the traditional attire of women residing in Sri Lanka till extremist groups insisted on it back in the 1990s. The government is currently consulting with mosque authorities for the same.
According to reports, there has been a significant rise in the number of terror attacks where terrorists have used the niqab or the burqa as a method of disguise. This, as a consequence, has led to a phenomenon known as the "burqaphobe."
Around the world, there have often been cries for banning the burqa, on grounds that it leads to marginalization or isolation of Muslim women. Some have even claimed that it stands in the way of integration of Muslim women into society. In some places, the burqa is believed to contribute to security problems. In fact, in our own country in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, instances of "burqaphobe" have been witnessed. A BJP MLA had alleged that burqa clad women were indulging in fake voting in the Amroha district, although these charges were denied by the district magistrate.
Let us remind you, this is simply a product of communal hatred and Islamophobia that has become deeply ingrained in the minds of people.
For example, in the case of France, the use of any garment that fully covers the face has been banned since 2011. When the motion was proposed by the France government, the public unanimously agreed with it. France claims to be a secular country where religion is considered to be a private matter, where each individual has the right to practice any religion of their choice, in any way they deem fit.
Unfortunately, this is not restricted to France. UK Independence Party leader Paul Nuttall had called for a ban on the burqa, claiming that it made impossible for CCTVs to identify the women. However, an enquiry by Channel 4 showed otherwise. It revealed that based on statistical evidence, burqas had the same impact on CCTVs as large hats or hoodies.
Then why the discrimination?
In simple terms, banning the burqa is NOT a responsible or a justified solution to terrorism. This is simply because the number of women partaking in such terrorist activities is far less as compared to men. Of course, there have been numerous incidents of men using the burqa as a disguise, but even that's rare.
Leaving aside statistics, it has to be remembered that the decision to wear the burqa or not is a personal one. One may raise objections on a number of grounds, even claim that it keeps Muslim women in shackles. But the truth remains, it is a personal choice and must be respected. Moreover, the Sri Lanka government is pursuing the ban on burqas, but does this guarantee a terrorism-free country in the future? No.
Also, while one is entitled to personal opinions, one cannot really ban everything one opposes to.
Moreover, one must take into account the aftermath of imposing such a ban as well. According to Washington Post, the ban in France took a negative toll on the lives of Muslim women. While the ban was supported since it apparently encouraged Muslim women to better fit in with the rest of the women, stats show that Muslim women who wore a niqab chose not to step out after the ban was declared.
In other words, such a ban is an attack on their personal liberation and only further clipped their wings.
Saudi Woman Granted Refugee Status In NZ Because Of Persecution
Apr 25 2019
A Saudi Arabian woman has been granted refugee status in New Zealand because she fears persecution and even death in her home country due to the way women are treated there.
The Immigration and Protection Tribunal said the un-named woman was a follower of the Shia faith. She married a Pakistani man in a religious ceremony some years ago, but the marriage was not recognised legally in Saudi Arabia or in Pakistan.
In its just-released judgment, the tribunal said the woman's religiously conservative extended family thought her relationship was "a serious crime against Islam and a matter of family shame".
"The appellant claims that if she were to return to Saudi Arabia she would be at risk of being physically attacked, killed or otherwise treated cruelly by her family. The Saudi Arabian police are aware of the relationship and may also take further action. Further, she claims that the guardianship system and other discriminatory laws in Saudi Arabia prevent her from ever legally marrying her partner or travelling to meet him without restriction."
The tribunal said family and domestic violence against women was "recognised to be a widespread and entrenched social issue in Saudi Arabia".
"The religious context and male guardianship system creates an environment where family violence against women is easily dispensed, protection is difficult to access and punishment for the abuse is rarely enforced."
The tribunal found the woman had a "well-founded fear of being persecuted if returned to Saudi Arabia".
"The reason for her predicament is her membership of a particular social group which is severely marginalised on a religious, legislative and social level in Saudi Arabia. That particular social group is 'women'."
The tribunal found that if the woman was returned to Saudi Arabia, she would be denied the right to "physical integrity", to freedom of movement, to marry and form a family and the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of age and sex, in violation of international human rights.
"Such treatment would amount to a violation of the appellant's international human rights."
The woman arrived in New Zealand in January, 2018, and was initially denied refugee status, before successfully appealing to the tribunal.
The tribunal found that the cumulative effect of the breaches of fundamental human rights likely to be experienced by the woman was "sufficiently grave to amount to a finding of persecution in the sense of serious harm arising from a sustained or systemic violation of a multiplicity of her basic human rights".
"Put briefly, the harm faced is in the form of violence and religious, legislative and social discrimination through the enforcement of gender-based norms against women as a group in Saudi Arabia. The tribunal finds that there is a real chance this harm will occur.
"As to the question of whether the appellant can access state protection, the short answer is 'no'. The evidence establishes that the state itself has created and maintained the legislative framework which, to a large extent, is the source of the serious harm faced by her."
As an example of the threats she faced in Saudi Arabia, the tribunal said the woman's family responded to news of her marriage by verbally abusing her, threatening to kill her and by stating that they would never again provide her any financial support. "The appellant's mother threatened that the appellant should be physically harmed and, during one conversation, said that she should be burned alive for bringing such significant shame on the family."
Kenya: In a Man's World, Muslim Woman Defies Odds as Tuk-Tuk Driver
24 APRIL 2019
By Farhiya Hussein and John Mario
She operates on her own terms in a conservative community where reservations, mainly as a result of her religion and job, put her at odds in getting clientele.
Forty-year-old Farida Shenga, a tuk-tuk driver, is beating the odds to put food on the table for her family.
'Mama Farida' as she is commonly known in her circles, especially in Kibokoni, Mombasa County, has found a way to make money in a traditionalist society in which women shy away from male-dominated roles.
The predominantly Muslim region frowns upon women who take up certain roles, mostly because of religious biases, but the mother of three has been in the business for the last 13 years.
"I decided to venture into the sector in 2005 when my husband Mohammed Juma was laid off. This rendered us homeless so we had to seek refuge at his relatives' home. That is when I decided to get into this. Providing for the family became my responsibility," Shenga says on a drive in the town centre.
"I used to fear driving tuk-tuks because I did not know how people would react. Many people in Mombasa are used to seeing men driving the three wheelers. I have been able to surmount criticism by some family members and friends and educate my children."
Shenga has had to work twice as hard as she is her family's sole breadwinner. Her working hours are fixed to allow her time with the family.
"I always wake up at 5 am to prepare the children for school. I then start my daily routine and finish at 7pm," she says.
The fruits of Shenga's labour are clear for all to see but she has been criticised by people who wonder how she could fit into a man's shoes.
Despite the visible fruits sprouting, being a Muslim driver has been accompanied by criticism from her sisters of the same faith who condemn her for fitting into a man's shoe.
Ironically, it is her male clients who have kept her going as they identify with her courage and determination to provide for her family.
"I am motivated by male colleagues and customers. Most of my male Muslim clients encourage me every time I carry them, saying they are happy with what I am doing. They even give me tips," she says.
However, Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa, Organising Secretary of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya says that according to Islamic laws, a woman is only allowed to drive a tuk-tuk if her passengers are women.
If the passengers happen to be men, Sheikh Khalifa says, they must be in her family circles.
He adds, "As seen in Saudi Arabia, women are allowed to drive around the town only if well-covered in Hijabs."
These requirements present Shenga with some of her biggest challenges, alongside stiff competition from men who are more aggressive in wooing customers.
"I understands the conservativeness of the community but I am happy that it hasn't put me down. My children have to eat, get clothed and be educated. I appreciate the fact that most of my clients are men who appreciate what I have to go through to make ends meet for my family," she says.
"It is sometimes hard to find customers. This forces me to work extra hours to put a meal on the tabble, but my children are now understanding."
To the children, Shenga is more than a mother - she is a hard working role model ensuring they have a strong foundation.
"She motivates me a lot. She has already taught me how to drive the tuk-tuk so I occasionally help her,"says her son Aboud Juma.
Shenga encourages women to get out of their comfort zones and work harder regardless of the fields they are in.
"We need to inculcate the attitude of hard work because you will enjoy more what you make, as opposed to what you borrow," Shenga says.
Three wheelers are popular in Mombasa because they are cheaper than ordinary taxis and reach areas inaccessible to matatus.
The county has about 6,000 tuk-tuks which provide employment for at least 30,000 drivers.
Lebanese Female Author Wins Arabic Fiction Prize
April 24, 2019
Abu Dhabi: The best in Arab fiction were awarded in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday with this year’s International Prize for Arab Fiction (IPAF) going to Lebanese author Hoda Barakat for her novel The Night Mail.
Supported by the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi in partnership with the Booker Prize Foundation, the IPAF was first launched in 2008 with the goal of promoting Arab fiction both regionally as well as globally, and has since become one of the Arab world’s most coveted literary awards. This year’s edition received 134 submissions from 19 countries across the Arab world.
The six finalists included four women for the first time, with the shortlisted writers coming from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Morocco. A cash prize of $10,000 (Dh36,729) is awarded to all finalists, with the winner receiving $50,000 (Dh183,645)
“I am very happy to win this prize, as a writer it’s always a happy feeling to win any prize because of my writing. The fact that I write in Arabic and I am awarded this honour because I write in my mother tongue makes this recognition more important than any other prize,” said Barakat during her acceptance speech at the award ceremony.
“I have read all the other shortlisted novels and they are all excellent books. I believe the artistic movement when it comes to Arabic fiction is going through a very important and significant time,” she added, praising her fellow finalists.
“In certain circumstances Arabic novels are not easy to write, but I believe we should encourage more writers, authors and publishing houses to develop Arabic fiction,” she said.
Professor Yasir Sulaiman, chair of IPAF’s Board of Trustees praised the six finalists and their writings, and said they highlighted the creativity and talent of the Arab world.
“This is a truly excellent list, it provides readers with a set of engaging works that will excite discussions and debate among readers young and old.
“Readers will enjoy the linguistic virtuosity and technical accomplishments displayed in the shortlisted works, as well as exquisite narration that carries the reader effortlessly through the end,” he added.
“The fact that four out of the six shortlisted authors are women is a first in the history of the prize,” he said, commenting positively on the involvement of women with this year’s prize.
The six finalists
■ Hoda Barakat, Lebanon, The Night Mail, Dar Al Adab — Winner
■ Adel Esmat, Egypt, The Commandments, Kotob Khan
■ Inaam Kachachi, Iraq, The Outcast, Dar Al Jadid
■ Mohammad Al Maazuz, Morocco, What Sin Caused her to Die?, Cultural Book Centre
■ Shahla Ujayli, Syria, Summer with the Enemy, Difaf Publishing and Al Ikhtilef
■ Kafa Al Zou’bi, Jordan, Cold White Sun, Dar Al Adab
Report Highlights Online Abuse Experienced By Women Activists in Pakistan
April 25, 2019
KARACHI: Fifty-five per cent of women journalists, social media activists and human rights defenders in digital spaces surveyed have been subjected to online abuse or harassment. Ninety-one per cent felt the abuse was gendered and mostly personal in nature. Eighty-five per cent said the online abuse hurled at them often originated from apparently fake accounts.
These are the key findings of the report Fostering Open Spaces in Pakistan — Combating Threats to Women’s Activism Online, released on Wednesday by the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), an organisation working on online violence against women and online free speech issues.
The report draws its findings from the experiences of 60 women from across the country who have witnessed or been impacted by online abuse.
“The framework of intimidation against women ranges from misogyny to harassment and from stalking to surveillance. The cumulative impact of this is threatened freedom of expression, privacy and activism of women online through threats, harassment and rejection,” states the report which is available online. “While these risks to women are fairly well documented, there is little focus on analytical examination of the impact of these risks on rights activism by women in online spaces in Pakistan.”
DRF’s Nighat Dad said in a press release: “It is fairly common to see how women information-practitioners are targeted online because of their activism. Women’s opinions are not heard in online and offline spaces and we see how they are a constant target of harassment and online abuse.
“Women also do not feel safe enough to file complaints of the online abuse they face because of lack of support from law enforcement bodies. This needs to change.”
Besides highlighting challenges, the report also put forth recommendations to combat them, such as accountability mechanisms for treatment of harassment cases by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
It calls for more representation of women and members of the transgender community in the discourse surrounding digital safety and privacy of vulnerable groups. Regulation of online spaces, often suggested by official authorities, was disapproved by 66.7 per cent respondents who said they did not support it.
“With growing evidence of online abuse, and an increasing backlog of cyber harassment complaints, the authorities must look inwards instead of pinning the blame on social media companies. The lack of trust expressed in FIA by the participants of the study further leads credence to this fact,” said Ramsha Jahangir, the author of the report.
KP Assembly Resolution for Raising Marriage Age To 18 Lauded
April 25, 2019
PESHAWAR: Various civil society organisations (CSOs) have applauded the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly for unanimously passing a resolution urging the provincial government to raise the minimum marriage age to 18 years and make legislation to end domestic violence.
Civil Society Networks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Partners for Prevention and Response (P4PR), the provincial alliance to end early child and forced marriages, KP civil society joint working group and Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN) in a joint statement here on Wednesday urged the lawmakers to play their role for an end to violence from the society.
The resolution moved by chairperson of the women parliamentary caucus Maliha Asghar was also signed by women parliamentarians of various political parties, including Nighat Yasmin Orakzai, Ayesha Bano, Sumaira Shams, Ayesha Naeem and Shagufta Malik.
Child rights activists believe that child marriages had a devastating impact on the lives of the children, particularly girls.
Qamar Naseem, provincial coordinator of the Alliance to End Early, Child and Forced Marriages, appreciated the women legislators for introducing this resolution. He said that Pakistan had committed to eliminating child, early and forced marriages by 2030 in line with the target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. He said that ending child marriages was critical for girls’ rights, health, wellbeing and ability to survive into adulthood.
“Ending child marriage lessens the burden on health infrastructure, reduces human suffering and enables girls and women to effectively contribute to the global human development,” he added.
Taimur Kamal, coordinator of Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network, said that child marriage constituted a grave threat to the lives, health and future prospects of young girls. Sana Gulzar, chairperson of Chapairchal, an organisation working for girls’ rights, said that child marriages potentially exposed the girls to violence.
German Woman, Parents-In-Law Indicted For Aiding ISIS
24 April 2019
German prosecutors say they’ve indicted a 21-year-old woman on suspicion of membership in ISIS and keeping three Yazidis as slaves in Syria.
Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that the German-Algerian woman, identified as Sarah O. for privacy reasons, traveled to Syria as a teenager in 2013, joined ISIS, and married a fellow German ISIS recruit.
Both allegedly received firearms training and conducted “guard and police duties” in ISIS-controlled areas. They also forced a Yazidi girl and two Yazidi women to work in their household and convert to Islam.
She was arrested in September upon her return to Germany.
O.’s parents-in-law, 51-year-old Ahmed S. and 48-year-old Perihan S., allegedly helped their sons supply ISIS with equipment such as firearms magazines and scopes. They are indicted on suspicion of aiding ISIS.
Kosovan Women Returned From Syria Face House Arrest
April 24, 2019
PRISTINA: Kosovo prosecutors have requested the house arrest of 16 women repatriated from Syria, saying they are suspected of joining or taking part as foreign fighters there.
The women appeared on Wednesday in court in Pristina, a day after 10 other women were put under house arrest. None have been charged with a crime.
Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country.
The women and children were sent to the Foreign Detention Centre in the outskirts of Pristina but were freed to go home after 72 hours.
Ten women were seen entering Pristina Basic Court in a police escort on Tuesday. The court said in a statement later that they had been placed under house arrest on charges of joining foreign armed groups and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq from 2014 to 2019.
The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation and more of them are expected to appear in front of judges on Wednesday. The prosecution has yet to file charges.
After the collapse of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, countries around the world are wrestling with how to handle militants and their families seeking to return to their home countries.
Kosovo's population is nominally 90 percent Muslim, but the country is largely secular in outlook. More than 300 of its citizens travelled to Syria since 2012 and 70 men who fought alongside militant groups were killed.
Police said 30 Kosovan fighters, 49 women and eight children remain in the conflict zones. The government said it plans to bring back those who are still there.
International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
On Saturday, 110 Kosovar citizens — the four alleged foreign fighters, 32 women and 74 children — were returned to Kosovo with assistance from the United States, the first such move for a European country.
Authorities say there are still 87 Kosovar citizens in Syria.
Syrian Woman In Wheelchair Tells UN Disabled Are Invisible
By Edith M. Lederer
UNITED NATIONS — A 20-year-old Syrian woman with cerebral palsy told the United Nations on Wednesday that hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities already “were forgotten in times of peace” and are struggling to survive in her country’s long war as they “remain invisible.”
Nujeen Mustafa urged the Security Council at a meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria to ensure that the urgent needs of people affected by the conflict are met, especially the disabled. She said many struggle “to even get to sites where they can get aid.”
Seated in a wheelchair, she described how her siblings carried her out of the city of Aleppo which was under attack after relatives were killed in the bombing of a funeral in June 2015. After a harrowing 16-month journey, she arrived in Germany where she is now a student.
“The conflict has had a significant psychological impact, too,” Mustafa said. “Even in my case, I still jump and get startled when I hear a loud noise, a reminder of those hours hiding in the bathroom” in Aleppo.
Ursula Mueller, the assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the Security Council that Syrians “have lived through a litany of horrors” and the disabled are “among those people who suffered the most — and are still suffering today.”
They are “often excluded and highly vulnerable,” she said, and many lack access to health care and education and face a “heightened risk of violence and abuse.”
Mueller called Mustafa “an advocate for all those with disabilities in conflict settings, for women and for young people.” And she said the U.N. must do “our utmost to support and protect persons with disabilities, and to ensure that their specific and diverse needs are met.”
Mustafa said people with disabilities “seem to be an after-thought,” and their needs are largely overlooked in humanitarian efforts in Syria and neighboring countries where millions have fled.
Like many others, she said, accessing basic services such as sanitation, health care and education was difficult when she fled Syria. “On my journey to Germany, I didn’t find many accessible bathrooms along the way — and that’s especially hard for a woman,” she said.
“You need to address the needs of people with disabilities, particularly women,” Mustafa said. “This is not a favor. This is not charity. This is our rights.”
She said there is very little data on how many disabled people are in Syria and neighboring countries, which leaves them “invisible” when it comes to programs, policies and assistance.
“People with disabilities were forgotten in times of peace. What do you expect in times of war? But that doesn’t make it right,” Mustafa said. “You need to count us because we count, too.”
The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, estimates 1.5 million Syrians still in the country were disabled during the war, which is now in its ninth year, she said. Just in Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold, “there are more than 175,000 people with disabilities,” many of them as a result of the conflict, she said.
Mustafa said people with disabilities are a resource, not a burden, and should participate and be represented in all parts of the Security Council’s work because they know best the risks and challenges they face and their needs.
“Nothing about us, without us,” she said. “Otherwise, we continue to remain invisible.”
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