New Age Islam News Bureau
17 Aug 2018
Ayah, 37, a wearer of the niqab, weeps as she is embraced by a police officer during a demonstration against the Danish face-veil ban in Copenhagen on Aug. 1, 2018. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters) (ANDREW KELLY/Reuters)
• Saudi Female Artist Depicts Hajj Journey on Ihram Clothing
• Early Marriages of 35 Girl Children under 13 in Just One Iranian Town
• Bans on Full-Face Muslim Veils Spread Across Europe
• Chinese Buddhist Woman Who Complained Of Loud Azan Could Be Convicted On Blasphemy Charges
• Stop Dehumanising Muslim Women for Political Gain
• Millennium Celebrates 3 Outstanding Female Employees for Emirati Women’s Day
• Afghan Women Key to Sustainable Peace in Afghanistan
• Female Athletes in Iran Lack Sponsors Regime’s Ban On Broadcast Of Women’s Tournaments Has Deprived Them Of Financial Backing
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Muslim Women Poised To Change the 116th U.S. Congress
August 16, 2018
One is a Somali immigrant who came to the U.S. at age 12, knowing no English. The other is the eldest daughter of Palestinian immigrants who worked her way through college and law school.
But both women felt called to serve their communities and were elected as representatives to state legislatures: the one in Minnesota, the other in Michigan. Now both have a strong chance of serving in the 116th U.S. Congress.
On Tuesday (Aug. 14), Ilhan Omar won the Democratic primary in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, and last week Rashida Tlaib beat a crowded Democratic primary field in Michigan’s 13th District.
With those two wins, Omar and Tlaib have made history not only for their faith but also their gender. Omar and Tlaib are poised to become the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress.
Only two Muslims, both men, currently serve in Congress: Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana. Tlaib, running without a Republican opponent for her seat, will almost certainly join that chamber.
Omar’s chances are nearly as good. She is running to fill the spot now occupied by Ellison, who is leaving Congress to run for state attorney general, and her district runs deep blue.
“Rashida and Ilhan’s wins are huge for the Muslim American community,” said Wardah Khalid, founder and president of the Poligon Education Fund, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to getting Muslims more engaged with Congress. “As a fellow Muslim woman, I am inspired by them and know millions across the world feel the same.”
And although both women are seasoned organizers who have won over voters in their districts for their dedication to their communities and progressive issues such as Medicaid for all (Tlaib) and canceling student debt (Omar), their wins may also be a response to the larger political climate.
“This is a response to the current political environment and Trump specifically,” said Todd Green, professor of religion at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and an expert on Islamophobia. “In many ways, these two political candidates, should they be elected in November, are Trump’s worst nightmare.”
Trump, in his bid for the presidency, called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” He publicly feuded with the Muslim parents of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq and said “Islam hates us.” Since becoming president, he has issued a travel ban from several Muslim-majority countries and severely curtailed the number of refugees coming into the U.S. He has criticized the Muslim mayor of London and appointed advisers and Cabinet secretaries who have been associated with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists.
“It’s the best example of positive response to hardship — dehumanization and xenophobia and Islamophobia — that has driven many to increase their civic participation,” said Wa’el N. Alzayat, CEO of Emgage, a civic education and engagement organization. “Rather than cower, hide, run away and disengage, many are stepping up and responding by being more engaged, whether they’re running for office or voting at a higher rate or joining nonprofits.”
At least 90 Muslims across the country ran for local, state or national public office in the lead-up to November’s elections, said Shaun Kennedy, co-founder and executive director of Jetpac, a nonprofit group that helps train Muslims to run for elected office. They include Abdul El-Sayed, a former Detroit health director, who lost in the Democratic primary for Michigan governor.
That’s a sea change from years when Muslims did not engage as actively in the political system.
Muslims have been underrepresented in Congress compared with other minority faiths. Hindus, who like Muslims make up 1 percent of the U.S. population, have three representatives in Congress. Jews, who make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, hold 30 congressional seats.
To successfully compete and win, Muslims must be able to convince people of other faiths and no faith to vote for them.
“The success of Ilhan and Rashida, and everyone else who has ran — regardless of whether or not they won — shows more about the solidarity being shown by other groups in the electorate,” Kennedy said.
Of course, it helps that Omar and Tlaib are running for the House, and representing their particular districts, rather than for the U.S. Senate.
“If this were a Senate race it might be a different story,” said Green. “Those are harder races to win because you have to convince people across the state.”
The two wins are also an important victory for women, regardless of their faith, argues Engy Abdelkader, a lawyer and scholar who teaches graduate seminars on international human rights law at Rutgers University.
“Ilhan and Rashida’s wins are really representative of electoral victories for women around America, more generally,” she said. “Across the country, we’ve seen this political empowerment and ascension of women of color — from Native Americans to African-Americans — as part of a larger movement of resistance to the current administration’s regressive politics, policies and tactics. So, Ilhan and Rashida’s success is part of this larger trend.”
And for Muslim women, there’s one more opportunity on the horizon. Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, a lawyer in Springfield, Mass., is challenging incumbent Rep. Richard Neal in the Sept. 4 Democratic primary in that state.
“Muslim Americans are not going to sit back and take it,” said Green. “They’re going to organize and they’re going to put candidates out there and they’re going to make headway, and they did.”
Saudi Female Artist Depicts Hajj Journey on Ihram Clothing
16 August 2018
Artist Maram al-Wateed used Ihram clothing as a canvas, challenging herself and her audience with pushing the limits of canvas painting, using new material in which she found a religious and social depth.
Tawaf of pilgrims
On the painting titled “Farada”, al-Wateed told Al Arabiya English: “In this painting I used the idea of Ihram and repetition, expressing the feeling of unity you get when you see people during Tawaf. People gather from around the world to perform the Hajj, sharing the purity of hearts and chastity of souls. Nationalities and ages vary between them, but they unite in their purpose: worshiping.”
She added: “If you look carefully, you will find that the movement and the rotation in the piece prove that the act of Tawaf is a really inspiring source from which you can derive great deep works of art. Each piece represents a unique world, a small unit, and when combined together they form yet another world.”
Ihram: making the painting
Maram al-Wateed chose to use non-traditional materials to present her work. She used 35 pieces of pilgrims’ Ihram cloth, and drew on it with a paint that she made out of Musk.
What makes her work special is that every piece is a completion of the other. When put next to each other, they form a sort of movement in rotation similar in concept to the “Tawaf” of the pilgrims.
Together, the paintings make one world which can be looked at differently depending on the angle and the reflection of light on it.
Early Marriages of 35 Girl Children under 13 in Just One Iranian Town
16 August 2018
There have been 35 cases of early marriages of 10 to 13-year-old girls in only one town in Markazi Province in central Iran.
An expert in charge of the Health Center of Markazi Province announced that the town of Khondab has special conditions for early marriages of girl children compared to other towns in the province, with 35 cases of early marriages of 10 to 13-year-old girls being reported.
In a meeting on early marriages in Markazi Province, Akram Hamzeh-Loiyan noted: “In this province, 35 cases of early marriages of girl children between 10 and 13 have been recorded. If there is no quick intervention in this regard, we will witness consequences such as running away from home or child divorces under the age of 15.” (The state-run ISNA news agency - August 15, 2018)
According to official government statistics, 180,000 early marriages occur annually in Iran, accounting for 24 percent of all marriages.
In the past years, according to recorded data, the largest figure of registered marriages of 10 to 14-year-old girls was in 2014 which amounted to 40,229. The number of girl children under 10 who have gotten married was 220 in 2011; 187 in 2012; 201 in 2013; 176 in 2014; and 179 in 2015. These figures are probably higher because of unregistered marriages.
Mostafa Amani, general director of the Registrar of Lorestan Province, said that there were 1,126 marriages of girls under 15 in Lorestan over the past year in that province.
In 2015, 3,944 girls between the age of 10 to 14 were married, which, according to research, most of these marriages were in the country’s counties and villages. In 2016, the early marriage of 10 to 14-year-old girls rose up to 4,165.
A social expert revealed that at present, 41,000 early marriages under the age of 15 take place in Iran every year.
Amir Taghizadeh, deputy for cultural and youth affairs in the General Department of Sports and Youth in East Azerbaijan Province, said that girl children between 10 and 15 years of age are forced to get married. He said, "In 2015, some 4,000 girls between 10 and 15 years old got married but this year, this number increased to 4,164."
Bans on Full-Face Muslim Veils Spread Across Europe
17 August 2018
Washington: Earlier this month, Denmark became the fifth country in Europe to introduce a ban on face coverings in public places. The policy is widely viewed as being targeted at Muslim women who wear veils such as the niqab.
Despite protests in the capital, Copenhagen, police have started enforcing the law in earnest. On August 3, a 28-year-old wearing the niqab, which covers the entire body except the eyes, was attacked by another Danish woman who tried to pull her veil off, the Guardian reported. Police fined the Muslim woman $US156 ($214).
Legislation around full-face veils has grown increasingly common in Europe, particularly in the past three years. Six countries have now passed nationwide laws that partially or fully ban face veils in public places. The latest is the Netherlands, which voted in June to partially ban face veils in locations such as schools and hospitals, but not on public streets.
Several other European countries, including Spain and Italy, have banned them in individual cities and towns, and even more have reviewed proposals for bans at a local or national level.
Widespread calls for legislation outlawing face veils in public places started in France, which in 2011 became the first European country to introduce a nationwide ban. At the time, French President Nicolas Sarkozy argued during a state-of-the-nation address that the burqa -- a head-to-toe covering with mesh screening the eyes, mainly worn in Afghanistan -- was a "sign of subservience and debasement."
"I want to say solemnly, the burqa is not welcome in France. In our country, we can't accept women prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity. That's not our idea of freedom," Sarkozy said to rapturous applause from lawmakers, the Guardian reported.
Another common justification for the ban is that face veils conceal the wearer's identity, posing a security threat.
In Latvia, for example, where just three women among the country's population of 2 million are estimated to wear the burqa, debates around a proposed ban on face veils have frequently featured concerns over security. In 2016, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the former president of Latvia, told the New York Times that "covering one's face in public at a time of terrorism presents a danger to society.. . . You could carry a rocket launcher under your veil. It's not funny."
Politicians also frequently contend that face veils are inconsistent with existing "European values," mounting what experts describe as a "clash of cultures" argument.
In 2017, Germany's then-interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, called for a nationwide ban on face veils in an editorial that stated: "We are an open society. We show our face. We are not burqa." Earlier this year, while Denmark's Parliament debated the face-veil bill that would later become law, Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen contended that a person concealing her face was "disrespectful" to others and "incompatible with the values in Danish society."
Regardless of the justification, policies governing head veils are likely to grow more prevalent, experts said, particularly as European governments try to stave off the growing influence of right-wing leaders in their countries.
Countries having nationwide or partial bans are France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands. Spain and Italy have some local bans in cities or towns. Legislation is pending for local or national bans in Germany, Latvia, Finland, Switzerland and Luxembourg.
The percentage of women who wear the niqab or burqa is tiny in most European countries, said Akbar Ahmed, chairman of Islamic Studies at American University, but their veils are visible markers of the Islamic community that right-wing leaders point to as evidence of the "Islamisation" of Europe.
And as right-wing groups gain more traction, even moderate or liberal administrations may feel pressure to make a strategic choice to ban face veils, explained Asma Uddin, a senior scholar and faculty member at the Religious Freedom Centre of the Newseum Institute. Perhaps more importantly, she added, governments in Europe now feel like they have license to take such steps because of the legal precedents set by their neighbours.
In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the French ban on face veils, ruling against a 24-year-old Muslim woman who argued that she wanted to wear her burqa as a matter of religious freedom. In 2017, the court issued similar decisions against two Belgian women, ruling that the country's ban on face veils does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights.
As Uddin explained, "We can say all these things about them violating freedom of religion, but over there, their own highest court is saying to them, 'You're not. You're justified in what you're doing.' "
Chinese Buddhist Woman Who Complained Of Loud Azan Could Be Convicted On Blasphemy Charges
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – An ethnic Chinese Buddhist woman resident in Tanjung Balai (North Sumatra province) could get of 18 months in prison for "offending Islam".
Meiliana (pictured), 44, is accused of blasphemy. In 2016 she complained that the azan (the Islamic call to prayer) at a mosque near her home was "too noisy" and "harmful" to her ears.
In the world’s most populous Muslim country, any comment on Islam is a delicate issue and the consequences can be dire.
In their case before the District Court in the provincial capital, Medan, prosecutors called for a conviction of the accused woman, citing a fatwa issued by the local chapter of the Council of the Indonesian Ulema (MUI), which described her remarks as "blasphemous".
When she complained in July 2016, one of the worst episodes of sectarian violence in the Tanjung Balai regency followed.
Claiming to be offended, groups of Islamic extremists burnt at least six Buddhist temples and houses of prayer. Seven of the attackers were tried and sentenced but only to a few months in prison.
Andreas Harsono, a member of Human Rights Watch, criticised the "excessive flexibility" of the rules governing religious defamation, like Article 156A of the Penal Code of Indonesia.
The latter “dates back to 1965,” Harsono said. “For almost 40 years or five presidential terms, it was used only eight times. However, during the Yudhoyono administration (2004-2014), the law was enforced in 89 cases, with 25 people sent to prison. Under Widodo, who was elected in 2012, there have been 22 cases, including the trial of the former governor of Jakarta and that of Meiliana."
The activist calls on the Indonesian government to repeal or modify the existing legislation in order to reduce the possibility that other people might be punished by "unjust rules".
Located a six-hour drive from Medan, Tanjung Balai is a small town where several, mostly Muslim ethnic groups live. They include indigenous Melayu, Javanese migrants from Central and East Java, Batak from the North Sumatra, and finally Nias, from the homonymous island. Ethnic Chinese Buddhist are a minority and have experienced episodes of intolerance in the past.
In 2011, a Muslim filed a complaint after a large statue of Buddha was erected at the Tri Ratna prayer house. Rallies and protests followed during which Islamists claimed that the sculpture would "damage the image of Tanjung Balai as a Muslim city".
Stop Dehumanising Muslim Women for Political Gain
August 16, 2018
Boris Johnson’s comments about burqas and niqabs are another entry in a litany of racist gaffes, followed by controversy and a demand for an apology. That is how ‘post-racial’ politics works: excessive racist speech acts repudiated publicly so that the routine activities of racist statecraft may continue. Theresa May slaps the hand of indecency and intolerance, pundits tut at naughty BoJo’s colourful language and the ‘hostile environment’ continues.
So, is Boris Johnson’s latest race-baiting just another episode of run-of-the-mill hard-right posturing followed by some hollow centrist reproach? Is it just business as usual? Well it is, but it is also more.
Boris Johnson’s useful idiocy
Johnson is a populist, and despite his jocular persona there is nothing uncalculated about his actions. A political speculator (he only made his mind up on Brexit once Cameron had staked his claim to Remain), Johnson’s political strategy is single minded in its objective to secure his role as Prime Minister. Indeed, the only thing that is consistent in his approach is his opportunism. His resignation was an attempt to out-macho May at the EU negotiating table over the Chequers deal (capitalizing on the chaos of Brexit and knowing that decisiveness, or at least the illusion of it, carries sufficient cache). The timing of his resignation coincided with Trump’s visit to the UK and most recently he has been cosying up to Bannon. Even Johnson’s buffoonery serves his opportunistic purpose; it is part and parcel of appealing to ‘the people’, while his louche Etonian swagger endows him with the requisite gravitas to lead a nationalist project, simultaneously (re)assuring the mob that he is their class superior. In this swagger he incorporates the thuggish nationalism of Tommy Robinson, the stock-broker-cum-gent corporate capitalism of Nigel Farage, the shock jock bravura of Katie Hopkins and the authoritarian coldness of May. And amid these different positions, the phantasma of the veiled Muslim woman offers him a convenient symbol through which to unite the different camps to which he appeals.
Given that the number of Muslim women that wear the burqa in the UK is less than 1% we need to pay attention to the disproportionate work the image is doing for Johnson and his allies.
In his recent article in The Telegraph, he uses the figure of the Muslim woman to draw together a series of tensions consistent with his broader politics, and instructive of wider far-right and nationalist discourses. The article positions European abandon and freedom (set in Denmark and against the backdrop of its ruling to ban the burqa) against the veiled Muslim woman, and therefore Muslims in general. The veiled Muslim woman is presented as anathema to European individuality and civility, as responsible for its decline, and in this way, she is used to stoke deeply held fears that Europe’s innocence is being eroded.
This mourning is satisfied through strong appeals to the nation, economic protectionism and security. The Danes are lauded for protecting national ownership of property, and by implication for their hard stance at the border. The backdrop for this is a country with a ruling coalition that includes the far-right Danish People’s Party and one that has overseen one of northern Europe’s more draconian responses to migration and migrants. For example, the Danish government approved plans to strip refugees of their assets at the beginning of the ‘migration crisis’, and recently announced plans for the forced integration of ‘ghetto children’.
For Johnson and the far-right the veiled Muslim woman in her hyper-visible invisibility works as a powerful metonym for a much wider set of racial fears and desires, that together mobilize support for their nationalist and authoritarian agendas.
Cashing in on islamophobia
In dehumanizing Muslim women through the language of letter boxes and bank robbers Johnson denies the many ways in which Muslim women wear the veil, as an expression of spiritual devotion, as an act of resistance, as matter of liberal choice, obfuscating the need to think that under the veil are women with voices, opinions and emotions.
In describing the circumstances he would demand Muslim women to unveil he taps into long-held Orientalist and colonial fantasies; fetishes charged with desire for both sexual and imperial conquest. This is underpinned by Eurocentric/liberal ideas of individuality and freedom, which demand that brown women be saved by white men in an exercise of muscular liberalism which does nothing other than maintain the patriarchal status quo. As Johnson’s nod to Jack Straw reminds us, these are not just the politics of the far right, nor even just of the right. And it is perhaps worth reflecting on the role of liberal Islamophobia which has enabled the right to garner more support and respectability. After all, as the free speech warriors argue amongst themselves about the right to offend and make jokes about religion, the reality remains that Muslim women continue to be the targets of anti-Muslim violence.
Johnson’s legitimacy is therefore gained on the back of broader anti-Muslim racism, in which Muslims have increasingly become the key figures of fear and threat post-9/11. This can only be understood in the context of the global war on terror, and its consequences for millions of people displaced by those and other associated wars. Accordingly, anti-Muslim racism has increasingly incorporated a host of longer standing British bigotries: anti-black racisms (against displaced African Muslims for example) and xeno-racisms, such that while the Brexit referendum ostensibly focused on freedom of movement for EU migrants (some of whom would of course have been black and/or Muslim) much of the scare mongering centred on the prospect of increasing numbers of Muslims from outside the EU, whether through Turkish entry to the EU or the arrival of Muslim refugees, as was most clearly illustrated in UKIP’s Breaking Point poster.
Johnson’s comments are the rough edge of a much more widely held politics, through which it draws its legitimacy. There has been a continued oscillation over the last decade or so between the far-right and what Richard Seymour succinctly captured as being ‘the soft racism of the hard centre’ – each doing the other’s work.
Whilst the shock troops of the far-right, confidently rallying the banner of anti-Muslim racism, can press the limits of what is politically possible, the traction of such politics requires a boarder consensus. And this should constitute an urgent reminder to the organized Corbyn-led left, that their hitherto cautiousness in more forcefully challenging the politics of race and nationalism will not suffice for much longer. The recent debates on national production, for example, cannot occur without a clear anti-nationalist and anti-racist position precisely because demands for national production can be so easily allied with the nationalist and racist politics of the far right.
This question of nationalism and anti-Muslim racism is not where the left should bide its time. It is instead the case, as we witness the partial unraveling of the neoliberal consensus, that the race-baiting far-right is rapidly positioning itself as the most likely heir to formal governmental power. To remain silent, to appease these demons for electoral gain, is to allow Johnson and his particular brand of politics to succeed.
Millennium Celebrates 3 Outstanding Female Employees for Emirati Women’s Day
August 17, 2018
DUBAI — To mark Emirati Women’s Day on Aug. 28, Millennium Hotels and Resorts here is celebrating three outstanding female employees. Paying homage to the annual celebration created by Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, chairwomen of the General Women’s Union, supreme chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation and president of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood.
Fateheia Fuzan Al-Khalidi is a graduate from National Institute for Vocational Education (NIVE) in 2018, holding a Bachelor in General Business. She also received a High School Certificate from Private National Charity School Dubai in 2010 and a Diploma in General Business from National Institute for Vocational Education (NIVE) in 2016. Currently working as the Millennium Airport Hotel’s Dubai Human Resources Officer, she joined the Millennium team in 2014 as part of the training team, and moved to Human Resources team in 2016.
Fateheia’s job responsibilities as Human Resources Officer include providing administrative support to Human Resources team, processing Government related documents for the team, developing and implementing safety programs for employees, organizing team building events and involving the hotel in Corporate Social Responsibility activities.
Fateheia said, “I am glad to be part of the Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai team and I am very thankful for this opportunity. This hotel is my first hospitality experience and that is why Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai has a special place in my heart. In future, I want to be an Assistant Human Resources Manager. Working with the team and being in this country has proved over and over again that the impossible is always possible. I have witnessed UAE grow from a harsh desert to what it has become today as a leading economy. I am very proud to be Emirati and I will always be.”
Aisha Abbas was born in 1988 and graduated High School in Sharjah, UAE in 2004. She began her career as a cashier in the Union Cooperative Society Dubai in 2014 and worked in the company for almost 2 years.
In 2015, Aisha decided to change her field, as she witnessed the fast changing environment of the whole city — and more and more nationalities visiting Dubai. One of Aisha’s dreams was to work in the hospitality industry, as she wanted to meet different people and explore hotels. She finally got her wish when she joined Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai in 2015 as a Security Officer.
Aisha is the only female member in the Millennium Airport Hotel Security Team, and her tasks are vital. She monitors and ensures on a daily basis the safety and security of the hotel guests, colleagues and property under the leadership of the Director of Security. Part of the hotel Emergency Rescue team, she offers first aid in times of emergency and fire equipment check list preparation. Her tasks also involve handling damaged hotel property cases, incident report compilation and monitoring the login and log-out of different suppliers who are visiting the hotel.
Aisha said “I am really happy with what I am doing now with the Millennium team. I love to serve people. I experience so much joy when every single guest in our hotel checks out peacefully and safely. Being surrounded by so many different nationalities, it’s hard to not be influenced by them. It’s about embracing others, whilst enjoying the lifestyle of being an Emirati. There are many opportunities for women here, but I prefer my career right now. It’s not easy but I love it. I am proud to be Emirati and I salute all the women who work in the same field as mine.”
Khloud Jamal Omar Ahmed Basuwaid joined the Millennium Hotels and Resorts team in November 2017 at their upscale Abu Dhabi hotel Bab Al Qasr. Currently working on a Bachelor of Psychology and Human Services at Zayed University, Khloud’s placement is part of her work experience arranged via Khebraty program of the Department of Tourism and Culture in Abu Dhabi. Working across the reservations, concierge, guest service agent and receptionist teams until December 2018 when she concludes her work experience module, Khloud has impressed everyone with her excellent attitude and confidence with the guests.
When asked how her perception of the hotel industry has changed since joining the Millennium Hotels and Resorts team at Bab Al Qasr, she said, “I initially thought it was simply checking guests in and out, now I understand the complexity of the entire operations which has given me much more patience when checking in as a guest myself! As an Emirati woman, it has been amazing getting kind words of encouragement from other Emirati guests who always wish me the best. This acceptance has made me consider a career within the hotel industry.”
Kevork Deldelian, chief operating officer, Millennium Hotels and Resorts, Middle East and Africa said, “We are proud to be able to welcome team members from all over the world into the Millennium family, but it makes us particularly happy to work alongside UAE nationals. Khloud, Aisha and Fateheia are wonderful examples of the talent and tenacity of Emirati women and we are thrilled to be celebrating them for Emirati Women’s Day.” — SG
Afghan Women Key to Sustainable Peace in Afghanistan
For years, the United States has engaged in backchannel talks with the Taliban to little avail. However, news that principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice Wells, met with the militant group in Doha last month represents the latest wave of diplomatic efforts to address America’s longest running war. In this endeavor, the U.S. empowered one if its most experienced diplomats, at once forcing the Taliban to confer with a woman as a condition for dealing with the U.S. directly, while simultaneously demonstrating leadership in the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for incorporating women into all facets of peacebuilding processes.
These successive waves of women’s leadership in dialogue with the Taliban — and the latter’s acquiescence to participation — may signal a relaxation of their hardline positions toward women, and obviates a tacit recognition that women’s involvement creates more durable, inclusive peace agreements.
Indeed, some herald this high-level, female-led engagement on the heels of the Eid-al-Fitr ceasefire as a potential opening toward ending the long-running conflict. Those three days — the first peace in 17 years — demonstrated that regardless of internal ideological schisms, the Taliban’s central leadership maintains the ability to enforce commands throughout its ranks.
Nevertheless, skepticism that momentum toward peace truly exists should abound. Most evidently, the Taliban rejected the ceasefire's extension, killed 30 Afghan soldiers immediately after its conclusion, and has since orchestrated a spate of attacks.
Moreover, the Taliban consistently repudiate reconciliation overtures by Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and insist they will only participate in a peace process with the U.S. Despite reports Wells undertook “talks, not negotiations,” any exclusive engagement between the U.S. and Taliban undermines the embattled Ghani government’s legitimacy, capitulates to the militants’ demands, and belies American avowals that negotiations be “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.”
In light of this concession, it is worth reflecting as to whether the Eid ceasefire was merely a means to garner American favor and get the conversation — devoid of the Afghan government — for which they have long angled.
It is unclear as to why the Taliban would pursue diplomacy now. After years of gains, they maintain substantial territorial and population control and have effectively created a military stalemate; yet, the Taliban remains capable of conducting a sustained insurgency. With no tactical urgency, they likewise have failed to advance political priorities: they rejected multiple invitations to become a political party, called on Afghans to boycott the October elections, and continually attack voter registration centers. Indeed, the Taliban stands to gain by disrupting the elections and may use talks with the U.S. as a ploy to sow popular distrust in the government.
The peace marches across Afghanistan and the Eid ceasefire celebrations illustrated the people’s war-weariness. However, are the Afghan people ready to accept the outcome of a negotiated peace with the Taliban, as well as a government and security forces filled with former combatants?
Many Afghan women, who were disproportionately affected by Taliban tactics, see talks between the Taliban and government as a non-starter and dialogue between the militants and U.S. as a betrayal — particularly because the U.S. partially predicated its invasion on the empowerment of women. Women and girls have made phenomenal strides in exercising their rights since 2001, and any efforts to subvert that progress cannot be tolerated. The U.S. has an obligation to the Afghan government it supports and the Afghan people — specifically, its women and girls — to promote stability and prevent the country from descending back into bloody Taliban rule.
While the only solution in Afghanistan may be political, the Afghan and U.S. governments must first ensure that the political will exists amongst the Afghan people to include the Taliban in peacebuilding efforts. This can be achieved through a national dialogue — one that is inclusive of women in both its facilitation and conversation.
While American women are leading current diplomatic efforts with the Taliban, Afghan women must be able to elucidate their concerns about the peace process and give voice to their traumatic experiences after bearing the brunt of the Taliban’s brutality. Women’s involvement must occur at the most nascent stage of peacebuilding to determine who should participate, reify gender inclusion in the process, establish their role in the state’s future, safeguard their rights, help shift entrenched cultural norms, and ensure their empowerment will be preserved and expanded before the peace for which they so desperately yearn can be attained.
Female Athletes in Iran Lack Sponsors Regime’s Ban On Broadcast Of Women’s Tournaments Has Deprived Them Of Financial Backing
August 17, 2018
No sponsors support Iran’s female futsal team that won the Asian Championships cup. Iranian female athletes are unanimous that this is one of the main problems they face.
Shahnaz Yari, the head coach of the female Sepidrood futsal team in Tehran, explains how the ban on the broadcast of women's games affects them. She said, "Sponsors want to be seen. Otherwise they would not fund (any team), and this is one of the most basic problems that have made things difficult for women's futsal teams.”
The lack of funds then leads to cancellation of games and participation of teams. Yari goes on, “The irregularities that occurred at the start of the league were mostly due to the teams. The matches would have started on July 27, if there were 14 teams in the league, but the number of teams first reduced to 12, and yesterday they said it might even be reduced to 11. Such incidents are caused by the existence or lack of sponsors who finance the teams." (The state-run ISNA news agency - August 8, 2018)
In another example, the head coach of the Sherkat Melli Haffari Futsal Club, Zivar Babaii, talked about the effects of the country’s bankrupt economy on the Premier League teams and said, "Economic problems affect all teams, and this year, too, we are grappling with these problems. Lack of sponsors and financial backing prevented many teams from competing in this year’s league. As a result, the start of the league had to be postponed. The economic situation of the society affects our country’s sports as well. If we continue in this manner, the teams will also face difficulties. Because they are granted a certain amount of credit, but when there is a steady increase in the rate of (foreign) currency every day, the credit would no longer suffice (for the team’s expenses)?"
No professional life for female athletes
Babaii also questioned the notion of professional league in Iran and said, "They call it the professional league, but nothing is professional. You can see this unprofessionalism in a wide range of issues including the stadiums where the games are held and the contracts. When we say professional, it means that this is my profession and this is how I earn my salary, but this is not what happens in Iran." (The state-run ISNA news agency - August 12, 2018)
Neda Shahsavari, an Iranian Ping Pong player, also raised the issue of livelihood of female athletes. She said, "In the present circumstances, no attention is being paid to the athletes in any of the provinces. Considering that athletes spend most of their time in national team camps, they end up having difficulties in their jobs. It is, therefore, necessary for the Ministry of Sports and Youth to find a solution. Unfortunately, we see that the people who are put in charge of sports, particularly in the Ministry of Education, do not have any specialty in any of the sports fields." (The state-run ISNA news agency - August 12, 2018)
Iran’s female athletes do not enjoy any form of government backing. The restrictions imposed on them by the regime --for example, the official ban on airing of women’s sports matches from the state TV-- further aggravate the situation for them as they cannot solicit funds from private sponsors, either. This situation has grave consequences for them. Sometimes, the teams are dissolved all together, due to lack of sponsors. At other times, the teams do not have the funds to travel to another city to take part in the tournaments.
Professional female athletes do not receive salaries and gold medal winners are abandoned to earn their living by peddling in the streets, selling pickles, and farming. Instead, the regime spends huge sums of money on enforcing the compulsory veil and depriving women of their social and economic rights.
Of course, the young women and girls of Iran have best responded to the ruling regime by actively participating in anti-regime protests all across the country and demanding regime change because this is the only way the rights and freedoms of Iranian women and men could be restored.
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