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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 27 Dec 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Marriage Age 18 to Restrain Dowry-Hungry Saudi Dads

New Age Islam News Bureau

27 Dec 2014

Saudi women attend the Janadriyah Festival of Heritage and Culture on the outskirts of the Saudi capital Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (AP)


 Malawi Muslims Fight Divorce with Qur’an

 The Trail-Blazing Muslim Teens of UK

 Morocco: Women Recruit for Islamic State

 Wives of Dead Saudi Fighters Want Families to Take Care of Their Children

 Aafia Siddiqui: 'Lady Al Qaeda to Lady Islamic State'

 Egyptian Convict, Asmaa Hamdy, Launches ‘Made In Prison’ Collection

 First Winter Camp for Sharjah Girl Guides

 Tanzania: Early Marriages Increase Health Risks

 Bajrang Dal to Launch 'Bahu Lao Beti Bacho' Campaign to Counter 'Love Jihad'

 A Daughter’s Plea: Free My Father from Prison in Iran

 Kurdish Female Fighters Named ‘Most Inspiring Women’ Of 2014

 Chilling Tales of Brutality Unleashed By IS On Yazidi Women Documented In Amnesty Report

 Disturbing Finding: When First Born Is Female, Sex Ratio of Second Child Falls

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Marriage Age 18 to Restrain Dowry-Hungry Saudi Dads

Dec 27, 2014

Saudis are eagerly awaiting the approval of a new draft law by the Shoura Council which prevents women under 18 from getting married. The draft law pending approval sets the age of adulthood at 18 and allows women under that age to marry only upon procuring a court order.

The move comes in the wake of recent reports of girls as young as 10 being married off to men in their 70s which sparked a nationwide debate in Saudi courts compelling critics to denounce the practice. They called upon religious and legal authorities in the country to rule against the phenomenon which, they feel, is dangerous to society.

The Ministry of Justice released in its recommendations that marriages of girls below 18 could only take place upon a court approval in writing. Currently, the Qadi, (person who solemnizes marriages) has the authority to marry girls off at any age.

According to the draft law, the court order is governed by three conditions for allowing girls under 18 to get married. First, the custodian needs to request the court to make an exception for his daughter to get married before reaching 18. He also needs to provide the court with a medical report that marriage will not cause the girl physical or psychological harm and that report will be issued by a specialized committee comprising a gynaecologist, physiologist and a social expert stating that the girl is mentally and physically fit for marriage.

Secondly, the court’s judge has to document the approval of the girl and her mother, particularly if the parents are divorced. The final condition is related to a period of waiting after signing the contract enjoining upon the couple to wait for a while before finalizing the marriage procedures. This will give the girl enough time to prepare herself for the new life.

Besides the official ruling, the draft law also has a media plan, which aims to educate society, especially parents.

A sociological expert in the psychiatric hospital in Asir, Lutfiya Salman said that most cases of early marriages occur in remote areas among poverty-stricken families who are often uneducated and prone to following customs.

She advised parents to be sensitive to their daughters’ feelings and provide a supportive environment, which would prevent them from running away from home.

The new law aims to reduce the high rate of divorce cases among Saudis. Supervisor of the Human Rights Commission in Asir said that the marriages of minors are a crime against women where custodians exploit their Shariah right to marry off girls at a young age in exchange of a dowry.

“This draft law also gives the women the right to ask the court to overturn the marriage decision if they weren’t consulted in the matter,” Al-Yami said.



Malawi Muslims Fight Divorce with Qur’an

Dec 27, 2014

LILONGWE – In an attempt to reduce soaring rates of divorce, the Muslim community in Malawi has intensified efforts to use teachings from the Holy Quran in order to safeguard the sanctity of marriage.

“Islam considers marriage as bedrock of faith. And in one of his Hadiths, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) exalts marriage as one of the dictates for a believing Muslim,” Sheikh Muhammad Uthuman, a marriage Counsellor at the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) told

“Revelations, therefore that there is a rise in divorce rates among married couples in the country are quite disturbing to us as believers.”

“As a Muslim community, we have therefore valued the sanctity of marriage basing on the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. It is on this premise that we intensify our teachings for a stable family. And these findings will reinvigorate us to intensify our efforts towards cementing marriages.

“A family is a building block for a successful society. If we therefore let the rate of divorce to remain as high as it is been reported, our society will have no values to be proud of and in the end, the fabric of our society will be destroyed.”

Recently, there have been media reports that the country was registering one of the highest divorce rates in Africa.

In a step to fight the worrying trend, Muslim leaders, like sheikh Uthuman, started using the Holy Qur’an as a weapon to reach out to troubled families.

The process has proved very effective in promoting reconciliation and tolerance in families.

“One of the challenges affecting the stability of our families is lack of tolerance towards each other. By using the Qur’an we have managed to preach on the value of tolerance and need for reconciliation. Families shouldn’t at all cost depart from the teachings of the Holy Quran if there are to live life to its fullness.”

Gender Based Violence (GBV) has been singled out as one of the challenges fuelling divorce rates in the southern African nation.

“Escalating levels of domestic violence has robbed marriages of comfort and love. As a result, homes have been turned into battle fields, where a wife and a husband become sworn bitter enemies. As a result, they can’t continue staying under one roof. This has been a worrisome trend both to Muslims and non-Muslims alike,” Fatima Ndaila, National Chairperson of Muslim Women Organization (MWO) told

Ndaila, whose organization has been in the forefront fighting GBV in Malawi said through intensified families have been saved from breaking up.

“We are reaching out to families with an all embracing approach. Through our approach, Muslim couples have been able to appreciate the value of a stable family ad what it means to Islam and the society. While we are working to minimize escalating levels of GBV, we are also at the same time saving marriages.”

Stable Marriage

Other sections of the Malawian society stressed need for more efforts towards cultivating stable marriage relationships.

“The current situation in the country has put marriages on the rocks. Husbands are going through pain in meeting the needs of their immediate and extended families. This has created a fertile ground for conflicts within the families,” Psychologist Dr Chiwoza Bandawe of the University of Malawi, College of Medicine, told

“There is therefore need for religious leaders to take a leading role in normalizing the situation.

Dr Bandawe noted that the prevailing socio-economic challenges, the country was experiencing, has impacted negatively on the stability of marriages.

“Marriage means a lot to nay society and religion. Instability in marriages affects the success of nay society and how people can worship God. Stable families mean a lot. Both Muslims and Christians should value what a stable marriage is before the eyes of God and every effort must be made to safeguard the sanctity of this institution,” said Bandawe.

Concurring with Bandawe, Senior Chief Kadewere, from the Muslim dominated south, said settling disputes among married couples from a religious perspective as been a “rewarding experience.”

“Settling disputes using teachings from the Holy Quran has brought peace and tolerance among rocky families. There are soaring levels of divorce in our villages. But through talking to them about what the Qur’an teaches about marriage, we have managed to restore the dignity of marriage and at the same time brought peace  and mutual co-existence,” Chief Kadewere told

“It is a fact that divorce rates are hitting a record high. Therefore, both traditional and religious leaders have a huge task to correct this bad image. God values marriage, we should at all cost respect this.

“For us to fight rising rates of divorced, we need to adopt a religious approach. Unless, we take this stand, it will be a tall order to have stable families in our community,” he added.

Malawi is officially a secular state where Islam is the second largest religion in the country after Christianity. Muslims account for about 36% of Malawi’s 16 million people.

“We can’t claim to be religious, if we don’t respect the sanctity of marriage. We should therefore safeguard the value of a stable family to the society,” said Uthuman.

“Both Muslims and Christians should intensify efforts to drastically bring down soaring levels of divorce rates.”



The Trail-Blazing Muslim Teens of UK

Dec 27, 2014

In London’s Hyde Park this summer, a horde of Hijab-wearing teenage girls mobbed the latest YouTube sensation, Muslim-American Adam Saleh. Famous for his video pranks on unsuspecting New Yorkers, he was mobbed by adoring fans who ripped off his hat, posed for selfies and ultimately forced him to escape to safety inside a police car.

Whatever your opinions about such high jinks, one thing are clear: Muslim teenage girls are not behaving how we expect them to. In the spectrum from conformist to rebel, they are challenging global assumptions about what it means to be a young Muslim female today.

Self-identifying as Muslim and holding a fierce pride in their Islamic faith, Muslim teenage girls believe they have every right to embrace the opportunities the world offers. They are not content to shut up and accept their lot. While social pressure to adhere to stereotypes of submissiveness and obedience often plagues them, they prefer to take matters into their own hands and their faith plays a strong role in this. How they interpret their faith, of course, determines how they determine their choices.

This year, the world was confounded by educated, middle class Muslim teenage girls running away from home to join ISIL. Why were girls joining up? The global assumption is that Muslim girls are oppressed, so the idea that they might determine their own choices, even if they are particularly horrific and misguided is incomprehensible.

Girls fleeing western countries were a particular enigma, with commentators puzzled by the abandonment of “liberation” from Islam, instead migrating into it. They were blind to the fact that it is the very climate of hatred that they have created in countries constantly portraying Muslim women as submissive and oppressed women, which pushes them to a cause which promulgates that core identity.

Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Prize. The world’s best known Muslim female teenager, she is a far cry from the wannabe jihadist wives of ISIL or the adoring hijab-wearing teen fans of Adam Saleh. Her stance promoting education, while expressing her inspiration from her Muslim faith, challenges global assumptions. She’s controversial and many Pakistanis and Muslims see her as a puppet of the West. But the bottom line is that this girl is not quiet, submissive and accepting of her lot. Society is challenged by teenage girls who break convention.

When Muslim teenage girls challenge stereotypes, instead of giving them the encouragement all teenagers deserve, they are too often shouted down. At the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Zahra Lari represented the UAE in ice skating. What an achievement. Yet she was criticised for what she wore instead of being encouraged for pushing boundaries and highlighting that Muslim girls should pursue their ambitions.

The juxtaposition of the ordinary with the smashing of assumptions means that these Muslim female teenage phenomena will pave the way for a new kind of powerful Muslim women’s agenda. Watch out world, here come the Muslim teen girls.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and blogs at



Morocco: Women Recruit for Islamic State

Dec 27, 2014

Moroccan and Spanish security forces on Tuesday (December 16th) dismantled a terror cell that recruited women for the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq.

The two leaders of the cell were arrested in Fnideq. Another man and four women, including a minor, were detained by Spanish authorities in Ceuta, Melilla and Barcelona.

The group sought young women willing to become suicide bombers or brides of jihadists, Morocco’s interior ministry said.

According to Mohammad Okdad of the Directorate General of National Security, ISIS is “trying to play some of the new cards that make it distinct from al-Qaeda”.

“They are betting on attracting girls and women by promoting their entrance to heaven through marriage to mujahideen,” he said.

And when it comes to persuading potential recruits, female elements are “more influential”, the security analyst told Magharebia.

The terror organisation thus began using “female operatives trained in attracting volunteers and new partisans to ISIS in northern Morocco and in the south of Spain”, he said.

Daesh recruiters are taking advantage of social networking and extremist websites to reach young women, Okdad added.

One prominent female recruiter for ISIS is Fatiha Mejjati.

The widow of Abdul Karim Mejjati, a Moroccan al-Qaeda leader killed in Saudi Arabia in 2005, is very active online. She is trying to give ISIS a women’s face, in order to lure Moroccan girls and women to Iraq and Syria.

Security services, however, are tracking every new account she opens on Facebook and Twitter.

As criminologist Rachid Almanasfi explained, women serve a specific purpose for the terror group.

“The engineers of ISIS know very well that they have thousands of men who want to fulfil their sexual needs,” he said. “Therefore, they have to ensure the supply of girls and women to provide sexual services for the fighters, satisfy their whims, and raise their morale while in the arena of war.”

Meanwhile, the Islamic State’s focus on recruiting women has sparked outrage in Morocco.

Islamist imam and former MP Abdelbari Zemzami told Magharebia, “That deviant and corrupting group called ISIS is trying to sow discord and strife within the Islamic Nation. We cannot allow them to take our children to die in the land of killing and blood.”

“They are targeting immature young girls who do not have an in-depth knowledge of religion and then try to play with their emotions and make them comply with their deviant ideas of traveling to ISIS and marrying its fighters, the Kharijite shedders of blood,” the cheikh said.

“Scholars must line up as one man to face this cancer,” Zemzami added.

Parents are also concerned. “Our sons and daughters have become at risk even when they are inside their homes,” said Abdel Moneim Oulily, the father of two teen girls.

“The threat of ISIS has become close to us in a frightening way. They know how to use the internet to attract young girls, which makes us truly fear for our daughters,” he added.



Aafia Siddiqui: 'Lady Al Qaeda to Lady Islamic State'

Dec 27, 2014

KARACHI: From Algeria to Iraq to Yemen, one name crops up again and again in the demands of Islamist hostage-takers: Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani scientist jailed in the United States for attacking American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Militant groups from Al Qaeda and its offshoots to the Islamic State (IS) have sought the 42-year-old's release in exchange for captives, most recently the US journalist James Foley, beheaded by IS in August.

In an interview with AFP in Karachi, Siddiqui's family protested her innocence and despaired at the horrors associated with her name.

Siddiqui's story, one of the most intriguing of the “war on terror” era, began in March 2003 when Al Qaeda number three and alleged main 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was arrested in Karachi.

Mohammed, often referred to by his initials KSM, was handed to the Americans and transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he was repeatedly waterboarded and “rectally rehydrated” as part of interrogations, according to a Senate report on CIA torture.

Soon after his arrest, Siddiqui — suspected of Al Qaeda links by the US — disappeared along with her three children in Karachi.

The few US media reports about the incident described her as the first woman to be suspected of links to Osama bin Laden's terror network — earning her the moniker “Lady Al Qaeda”.

Plot claims

Five years later she turned up in Afghanistan, where she was arrested by local forces in the restive south-eastern province of Ghazni.

According to US court papers, she was carrying two kilos of sodium cyanide hidden in moisturiser bottles, along with plans for chemical weapons and New York's Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building.

The Afghans handed her to US forces who began questioning her. During her interrogation she grabbed a rifle and opened fire, according to witnesses, at US agents while screaming “Death to America” and “I want to kill Americans”.

The soldiers escaped unhurt, but she was injured.

From Afghanistan, Siddiqui was put on trial in the US and sentenced in 2010 to 86 years for attempted murder — and not for any Al Qaeda links.

Much about the case remains unclear — where was Siddiqui between her disappearance in 2003 and reappearance in 2008?

Even the US trial judge Richard Berman acknowledged in his verdict that it had “never definitely been established why Dr Siddiqui and her son were in Afghanistan”.

Her supporters claim she was the victim of a secret Pakistan-US plot.

According to her family, Siddiqui and her three children — Ahmed, Mariam and little Suleiman, then six months old and today dead — were about to leave their house in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal district of Karachi for the airport when they were apprehended by Pakistani and US agents.

“When Aafia left, couple of hours or so later, there was a knock at the door. My mom walked to the gate and asked 'who is it?'” Fowzia Siddiqui, Aafia's sister told AFP.

“He... said something like: 'If you say anything or report this to the police, you will have four dead bodies'.”

At her trial in New York in 2010 — her only public appearance since 2003 — she said she was detained for a “long time” in a “secret prison” in Afghanistan.

Her supporters said she was the “ghost prisoner” in Bagram, serial number 650, but this is denied by the US.

'If Aafia knew...'

There was little in Siddiqui's upbringing in an elite family to suggest her life would pan out as it has.

After a childhood split between Pakistan and Zambia, the 18-year-old Siddiqui travelled to Texas, where her brother lived, before studying at Boston's prestigious MIT and doing a PhD in neuroscience at Brandeis University.

In the 1990s, her family arranged a marriage for her with Amjad Khan, a Karachi doctor who joined her in the US.

Between her studies, she devoted herself to charities and distributing Qurans at her university.

From 2001, the couple appeared on the FBI radar for donations to Islamic organisations and the purchase in the husband's name of $10,000 worth of night vision goggles, books on warfare and other equipment.

The following year they returned to Pakistan and Aafia asked for a divorce.

American officials suspect she has remarried Ammar Al-Baluchi, KSM's nephew, though her family deny this.

Some US officials believe Siddiqui was with Al Qaeda since her time in America and spent 2003-2008 in Afghanistan with the family of Baluchi, who was arrested in 2003 and interned in Guantanamo.

Her family deny this, while former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf said he would not have handed a Pakistani over to the US.

“Our views were clear: no Pakistani will ever be handed over to anyone — that was our policy and we followed it very strictly,” Musharraf told AFP.

As the “war on terror” winds its way through its second decade, Siddiqui risks going from “Lady Al Qaeda” to “Lady Islamic State”, after the Foley episode.

“If the US isn't doing anything about it, if the Pakistanis don't do anything about it, people like Daish (the Islamic State) will exploit” the case, her sister says.

“If Aafia knew about this the way her name is being used, she would be devastated. “



Egyptian Convict, Asmaa Hamdy, Launches ‘Made In Prison’ Collection

Dec 27, 2014

An Egyptian student who was jailed for supporting ousted President Mohammad Mursi has launched a new “Made in Prison” handbag line, UK’s daily The Guardian reported Thursday.

Asmaa Hamdy, who is supposed to serve a five-year term, started her collection by selling to family and friends before reaching out to other prisoners.

Hamdy’s line, which can be ordered online through a Facebook page, includes scarves, bracelets and knitted pencil cases.

The dentistry student sells a bag for around $9 and said she is considering making the activity her full time profession.

The prison authorities insist she removes the “Made in Prison” label from all her articles before she sells them.

“They don’t want to admit she’s in prison,” her mother, Manal Saber, said.

“They think she’s in a garden or something,” she added.



First winter camp for Sharjah Girl Guides

Dec 27, 2014

BU DHABI // The Sharjah Girl Guide troop has finished its first wintertime camp.

Fifty girls from all over the country joined the Future Leaders Camp to learn about leadership skills as well as enjoy the outdoors.

Girl Guides between the ages of 12 and 15, and Brownies between 7 and 11, took part in a variety of activities and camping skills. On the four-day camp, they learnt how to create a temporary shelter, set up a tent, prepare food in an outdoor environment as well as apply first aid.

They also learnt how to listen to each other and learn about leadership during an activity. The girls were each given a rope strand that was knotted at the end and asked to untie it using only one hand.

Shaikha Al Shamsi, assistant manager at the guide camp, said camping teaches the girls how to operate independently and as part of a team.

She said the camp provided the girls with skills, leaving them feeling more empowered and inspired.

“Camping is a fantastic way to introduce young girls to leadership. It teaches them how to be independent and self-sufficient,” she said.

“It is also a fundamental activity in scouting, which is a non-profit movement that supports the youth in their physical and mental development so that they may play constructive roles in society.”

After the camp the girls were awarded with the Guiding badge.

The troop offers five programmes under its badge system, allowing them to earn badges in personal development, health, global awareness, community and international guiding.



Tanzania: Early Marriages Increase Health Risks

Dec 27, 2014

COORDINATED sensitisation against early marriage could remove Tanzania from the list of the 20 countries worldwide with the highest prevalence rates.

Members of the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) and other stakeholders have called on the health sector to prepare a comprehensive plan for sustained dissemination of information to the public on the negative health consequences of early marriage.

Mary Nsemwa from TGNP informed the 'Daily News' in Dar es Salaam recently that apart from the increase in maternal and infant mortality rates, early marriage denies girls the right to education.

"Studies have revealed that in marriages where the wife is much younger than the husband, the union is frequently marred with violence. Child marriage occurs more frequently among girls who are least educated, poorest and reside in rural areas.

There is room for improvement," Mary sounded optimistic Educating the girl child, she added, is a critical factor in increasing the minimum age of marriage especially in developing countries, adding continuous advocacy through the media, research work, community meetings and change of contradictory laws will make a difference.

"Girls with higher levels of schooling are less likely to marry at an early age," Mary observed. The observation tallies with the 2012 report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that says, sometimes girls are used as commodities as parents use their daughters to support the rest to raise income through bride price.

"In Ethiopia and some areas of West Africa, some girls get married as early as age nine years. In Bangladesh 45 per cent of young women between 25 and 29 were married by the age of 15.

In Mozambique, at least 60 per cent of girls with no education are married by the age of 18, compared to 10 per cent of girls with secondary education and less than one per cent of girls with higher education A seasoned human rights activist based in Dar es Salaam, Sophia Malimbo said:

"Deliberate allocation of resources coupled with intricate coordination of activities between the public and private sectors becomes necessary for the country to make a difference, Malimbo said, Adding:

"The practice continues to cause apprehension among girls as families take advantage of the December festive season to forcefully marry off young girls and force them to undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)," she sadly explained.

She said among other consequences, the nation will continue to register people lacking skills with no access to labour market.

"This must be accorded serious attention as rural communities cannot be left to fight alone," she insisted. Dr Stanley Lyimo from Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) said the consequences of early marriages cannot be overstated as lives have been lost unnecessarily.

"Child mothers are more likely to suffer from health complications such as fistula and maternal death as their bodies are not ready for child bearing," Lyimo clarified.

While child marriage is common in Tanzania, prevalence is highest in Shinyanga - 59 per cent, Tabora - 58pc, Mara 55pc, Dodoma 51pc, Lindi 48pc, Mbeya 45pc, Morogoro 42pc, Singida 41pc, Rukwa 40pc ,Ruvuma 39pc and Mtwara 37pc.

UNFPA has produced a list of countries leading in child marriage worldwide (girls under 18) and Tanzania is ranked the 20th with 41.1 per cent prevalence rate.

With the exception of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Nicaragua, the rest are African countries. Leading is Niger 74.5 per cent, followed by Chad 71.5pc, Mali 70.6pc, Bangladesh 66.2pc, Guinea 63.1pc, Central African Republic 57pc and Mozambique 55pc.

Others include Burkina Faso 51.9pc, Nepal 51.4 pc Ethiopia 49.20pc, Malawi 48.9pc, Madagascar 48.2pc, Sierra Leone 47.9pc, Cameroon 47.2pc, Eritrea 47.0pc, Uganda 46pc, India 4.5pc, Nicaragua 43pc, Zambia 41.6pc and Tanzania 41.1pc.



Bajrang Dal to Launch 'Bahu Lao Beti Bacho' Campaign to Counter 'Love Jihad'

Dec 27, 2014

New Delhi: Notwithstanding the fact that controversy over conversion issue is yet to settle, the Bajrang Dal – youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad – is now preparing the ground to launch another campaign 'Bahu Lao Beti Bachao', reports stated on Saturday.

According to reports in some national dailies, the Bajrang Dal will launch 'Bahu Lao Beti Bachao' campaign across Uttar Pradesh from February 17, 2015 onwards. The group also claims that the campaign will counter 'Love Jihad' and attempt to bring girls from Muslim or Christian communities as daughter-in-laws for Hindu families.

“Through Love Jihad they (Muslims) deceive our daughters, but with Bahu Lao Beti Bachao Andolan we will make sure that the girls from other communities are not duped into marriage. We will support such couples wherein a Muslim or Christian girl is willing to marry a Hindu boy” a senior Bajrang Dal leader was quoted as saying by newspapers.

The Hindu-outfit is also planning to launch the similar campaign in Karnataka and Kerala.

A controversy had erupted early this month when a right wing group had organised a 'Ghar Vapsi' campaign wherein it reportedly converted many people from a minority community in some states.

The incident had created a ruckus in the Rajya Sabha with the opposition demanding a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In its response to the Opposition over the conversion issue, BJP has demanded bringing of anti-conversion law.



A Daughter’s Plea: Free My Father from Prison in Iran

Dec 27, 2014

My father, an Iranian blogger, is being psychologically tortured and imprisoned—all for blogging about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

At this very moment, my father, Mohammad Reza Pourshajari, also known as Siamak Meher, is being detained in Karaj Prison in Iran.  He was arrested by security forces two months ago in Orumieh and was held in solitary confinement for 14 days by the Ministry of Intelligence.  He was subjected to harsh investigation and psychological torture. His interrogators repeatedly threatened him with the death.  Once transferred to Karaj Prison, he spent an additional 15 days in solitary confinement.  

For a month after his arrest, my family had no idea where my father disappeared to.  We were terrified.  My father is now awaiting a court trial for the following so-called crimes: acts against national security, propaganda against the system, attempts to leave the country illegally, contacts with Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on Iran, contacts with anti-revolutionary individuals and organizations and contacts with Zionist organizations and individuals.

My father is a blogger—not a criminal.  In March, my father, who suffers from cardiac arrest, diabetes and kidney stones, wrote, “When the intelligence agents of the Islamic regime first broke into my apartment they beat me to death and took me for interrogations. I was put in a solitary confinement completely cut off from the outside world without even enjoying basic prisoner rights. I was constantly threatened to death.”  He was taken into a room, blindfolded and led to believe he was going to be hanged.  

My father continued, “All these sufferings only because I tried to share articles 17 and 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with my fellow citizens; all these because I tried to make my fellow citizens aware of the rights reserved for them by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”  He rightly observed that, “My fate as a blogger and a prisoner of conscience is only one example of the thousands of the victims of human rights violations in Iran.”

What makes his current detainment even more heartbreaking this time is that he was recently released after serving four years in prison. He was arrested in September 2010 and sentenced prison for propaganda against the State, insulting the Supreme Leader and defamation of Islam.

During the first days of my father’s interrogation, security officials asked him to convince me to return back to Iran. They assured him that should this happen, many problems would be resolved. The majority of the questions they asked were related to my work and activities.

From prison, my father noted that he was jailed “as a result of voicing my criticism and concerns at the injustice and the violation of human rights and freedom violations in my country.”  He rotted in a 21-square-meter cell where he was kept with 40 other inmates “most of whom are murderers, rapists, child molesters, smugglers, robbers and psychotic patients.” 

My father’s voice has been silenced by a cruel regime and so I pass on his message to the world:  “The people of Iran are now ensnared in the hands of a religious, medieval and extremely backward regime that has no respect for the values the civilized world has been seeking out for the past four centuries,” he wrote.   “The totalitarian regime of the Islamic republic harshly represses the public so not even one single individual or the media can freely expresses their opinion on the conditions of the country and its people…”

The Iranian regime has refused to release any updated information about my father despite repeated requests.  My father and I always had a very close relationship.  He took care of me throughout my life.  I dream that one day he will be free.  He is always in my thoughts.



Kurdish female fighters named ‘most inspiring women’ of 2014

Dec 27, 2014

WASHINGTON DC—The women fighters of the Peoples Protection Units (YPG) and a Kurdish Yezidi parliamentarian were chosen by CNN this week as the most inspiring women of 2014.

“The female fighters have trained for many years but this year have become notable for their courageous role in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” reads the CNN posting on the Kurdish fighters.

The Kurdish female fighters who operate under their own unit (YPJ) have been recognized for their brave fight against the Islamic State and their role in defending the besieged Kurdish town of Kobane gained them worldwide respect.

The second woman on CNN’s list is the Kurdish Yezidi lawmaker Vian Dakhil whose emotional plea to world leaders last summer to protect her community against ISIS’s onslaught prompted an international relief effort to tends of thousands of Yezidis on Mount Shingal.

“Vian Dakhil -- Current member of the Iraqi Parliament and the only member of Yazidi origin. Dakhil won the 2014 Anna Politkovskaya Awardrun by human rights organization Reach All Women in War (RAW in WAR), for her campaigns to protect the Yazidi people from the terror of Islamic State,” said CNN.

Every year CNN asks readers, writers, and organizations to nominate and vote for women they believe deserve recognition and the winners are named the “most inspiring women” of the year.

The YPJ female fighters are 4th on CNN list of 15 women. Dakhil has taken the 11th place.



Chilling Tales of Brutality Unleashed By IS On Yazidi Women Documented In Amnesty Report

Dec 27, 2014

The Amnesty USA Report on “Torture and Sexual Slavery in Islamic State captivity in Iraq” makes for difficult and brutal reading. Amnesty spoke to some of the 300 women and girls, from the Yazidi community who had managed to escape the IS, and the accounts of systematic brutality, torture and rape of girls and women are laid out in a matter of fact manner, that makes it even more impactful.

Narrative after narrative focuses on the utter dehumanisation of prisoners and the treatment meted out to them.

A 15 year old girl Arwa, had this account:

“In Rambussi we were held in a house with five other girls. There they did to me what they did to many other girls. I was raped. My cousin was not molested; they wanted to take her to marry her to a man but in the end they left her with us and then we managed to escape. One of the girls said she was not raped but I don’t know if it is true; I hope it is true. Another did not talk about what happened to her. The others were raped. The men were all Iraqis. They said that if we killed ourselves they would kill our relatives.”

 A 16 year old, Randa, had this account:

“I was taken to Mosul and kept there all the time. First in a building which they called the maqarr (headquarters). We were about 150 girls and five women. A man called Salwan took me from there to an abandoned house. He also took my cousin, who is 13 years old; we resisted and they beat us. He took me as his wife by force. I told him I did not want to and tried to resist but he beat me. My nose was bleeding, I could not do anything to stop him. I ran away as soon as I could. Luckily they did not do anything to my cousin, did not force her to marry, and she escaped with me. I went to a doctor here, who said that I was not pregnant and didn’t have any disease, but I can’t forget what happened to me.”

Girls were raped, sold into slavery, sold into ‘marriage’ – the report is unclear as to what happened to the men. It is estimated that hundreds of men were killed in the battle, or forced to convert under the threat of death. The 300 women and girls who escaped, are the lucky ones. It is estimated that 1000’s of women and girls are still being held by the Islamic State and most are facing brutality and violence on an ongoing basis.  Most of the women were taken captive in August 2014 when the IS invaded the Sinjar regions of North West Iraq. According to Amnesty, most of the families in this region have at least one family member missing. 

The IS preferred women and girls who were ‘beautiful’, as they did girls who were virgins. One of the accounts by a girl who escaped : ““They kept bringing prospective buyers for us but luckily none of them took us because we are not beautiful and we were always crying and holding on to each other.”

Another escapee said,  “My sister and I told them we were married but they said they would bring a doctor to examine us and those who were virgins and had lied about being married would be punished, so we admitted that we were not married. If we had known that they were going to kill us we would have continued to lie but we were afraid that we would be raped....”

However, being married was no protection from being raped or sold:    “I had my little boy with me and my pregnancy was very visible already but one of the guards chose me to be his wife. He said that if I did not consent to marrying him he would sell me on to another man who would take me to Syria. I let him believe that I would marry him and managed to run away before he could carry out his threats ” is the testimony of 19-year-old Abla, who was pregnant when she was taken prisoner.   Many of the young women committed suicide rather than face a life of sexual slavery. The accounts of their death are chilling.

“Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself. She was very beautiful. I think she knew that she was going to be taken away by a man and that is why she killed herself.”

Not all suicide attempts were successful. Wafa, 27, talks about her unsuccessful attempt at suicide: “The man who was holding us said that either we marry him and his brother or he would sell us. At night we tried to strangle ourselves with our scarves. We tied the scarves around our necks and pulled away from each other as hard as we could, until I fainted. Two girls who were held with us woke up and stopped us and then stayed awake to watch over us. When they fell asleep at 5am we tried again, and again they woke up and stopped us. I could not speak for several days after that.”

The women who escaped are so traumatised by their experience that relatives fear that they may never heal, and watch over them in case they commit suicide. The men who ‘purchased’ Yazidi girls and women, were Iraqis and Syrians and from other Arab nations. They were not necessarily fighters. And, the ‘marriages’ were registered at a shariah court.  One of the escapees said of her husband’s family “His wife was very nice to us and felt sorry for us. She cried with us and wanted to help but she couldn’t.” This is a tragedy on so many levels that it is going to take generations of sustained work to restore some form of rights to women in the region.

While the world collectively wrings its hands and wonders what can be done, the IS is cutting a swathe through the region with tactics like this, that spread fear. And, if we believe that this is against just the Yazidi , we would be  wrong. As the Amnesty report points out, the IS  kills everyone who is not like it and doesn’t support the Islamic state – which means pretty much all sane people. IS “ carried out a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq. It forced hundreds of thousands of members of ethnic and religious minorities, who had lived in the region for centuries – including Shi’a (who are a minority in northern Iraq),Assyrian Christians, Turkmen Shi’a, Shabak Shi’a, Yazidis, Kakai, and Sabean Mandaeans – to abandon their homes and villages”.

The report makes for hard reading. But, read it, we must, because if nothing else we owe it those who died, who are still in captivity, who are slaves in a modern world. What the IS has committed, is war crimes. But, how do you deal with a force that refuses to recognise the basic rules of the modern world, and is hell bent on burning and destroying everything that is  not in the image of its own distorted view of the universe?  In a world where most modern Nation States are bound by basic rules, which they may bend but not break, how do you deal with an entity that follows none? The more one reads on this, the great fear is that, the rest of the world has to sink to the same brutal levels to put an end to this



Disturbing finding: When first born is female, sex ratio of second child falls

Anahita Mukherji,TNN | Dec 27, 2014

How does a preference for boys over girls skew the child sex ratio? Does the neglect of a girl child result in a dip in the sex ratio? How does one quantify neglect? These are some of the issues explored in a recently released report, 'World of Indian Girls-2014', authored by academicians from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences for the NGO Save the Children.

The report, which draws from the latest available data, focuses on the girl child, a category that is rarely studied on its own, and is often lost in the general literature on either women or on children.

The report looks at some insidious trends that point to a lowering of India's child sex ratio. For instance, a Lancet study on trends in sex-selective abortion in India shows that when the first child in a family is male, there is no fall in the sex ratio for the second child, but when the first child is female, there is a decline in the sex ratio of the second child. The National Family Health Survey-3 also shows a dip in the child sex ratio along the birth order. The sex ratio for the last birth in a family was seen to be 26% lower than for all births in the family. The figure was 19% for NFHS-2 and 14% for NFHS-1. The data suggests that the last girl to be conceived is more vulnerable to sex-selective abortion than the first.

Research on India's disappearing daughters finds that higher levels of wealth and education do not result in a better child sex ratio, with wealthy parts of the country availing of sex-determination. However, India's Muslim population, which belongs largely to lower socio-economic strata, has a higher female sex ratio.

While India has outlawed the use of technology to determine the sex of a foetus, the report points to a study by the Public Health Foundation of India, which shows that the law is poorly implemented. The study looked at 15 case records and spoke of the difficulty involved in convicting a doctor for a crime that involved uttering a word or making a gesture to indicate the sex of a child.

After birth, too, neglect can severely affect a girl's chances of survival. While data shows the mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) at the neo-natal stage (1-28 days) is lower for girls than boys as girls are biologically hardier than boys, the trend is reversed at the post-neonatal stage. Mortality under the age of five is found to be 69.7 for boys and 79.2 for girls. "There are studies which show the biological advantage of the girl child," says TISS professor P Bindulakshmi, one of the authors of the report, adding that the increase in mortality in the post-neonatal period suggests non-biological factors.

Further evidence of neglect is seen in the fact that, for the same ailments, treatment is sought for a greater proportion of boys than girls. In case of acute respiratory infections, treatment was sought for 6% more boys than girls. In cases of diarrhoea, boys are 7% more likely than girls to be taken to a health facility. Worse still, the proportion of male children who are fully immunized is 4% higher than female children.

Bindulakshmi rues the fact that in the year 2014, there remains a preference for a male child in India, one that manifests itself in various ways. Despite a number of government schemes and policies addressing the needs of the girl child, she points to the fact that patriarchal norms have remained intact.