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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 7 Feb 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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NYC Schools Suspend Black Girls 10x More Often Than Whites

New Age Islam News Bureau

7 Feb 2015

Children holding up anti-FGM pictures they drew at a school in Assiut, Egypt, on 1 February. Photograph: Christina Rizk/UNFPA


 Iranian Actress Golshifteh Farahani Poses Nude for French Magazine

 Amnesty Calls for Moratorium on Flogging in Maldives

 Malala Most Admired Woman in India

 Africa: Birth Registration Helps Keep Girl's Dream Alive

 Africa Will Benefit From Bringing an End to Child Marriage

 In Egypt, Social Pressure Means FGM Is Still the Norm

 S. Sudan Fighters Carried Out A ‘Month of Rape:’ U.N.

 UN Calls for FGM Zero Tolerance after a Year in Which the World Woke Up

 Preacher Who 'Recruited Austrian Jihadi Poster Girls' Is Linked To Disappearance Of ISIS Supporting Family

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





NYC Schools Suspend Black Girls 10x More Often Than Whites

07 Feb, 2015

American schools need to talk about race and gender at the same time.

Last August, a 12-year-old Georgia student named Mikia Hutchings faced expulsion from school and criminal charges in juvenile court. Her offense? Writing the word “Hi” on a locker room stall with a friend. Eventually she was ordered to spend a summer under probation, but not before her grandmother filed a discrimination complaint and a state senator called out the punishment as unjust—Hutchings is African American, while the caucasian student who graffitied with her paid a small restitution.

“What kid needs to be having a conversation with a lawyer about the right to remain silent?” her lawyer told The New York Times. “White kids don’t have those conversations; black kids do.” In Georgia, black female students receive suspensions five times more frequently than their white counterparts, a school district spokesman told the Times.

Georgia isn’t an anomaly: Nationally, black girls and other girls of color are six times more likely to be punished in school than white girls, according to the U.S. Department of Education. That’s even higher even than the disciplinary disparity between white and black boys, who are punished three times more often.

The problem in the east coast’s major cities is particularly acute, where black students often outnumber white students by two or three times. A new report published Wednesday by Columbia Law School and the African American Policy Forum, Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected, reports that in New York, where there are twice as many black kids as white kids, African American girls are subject to punishment 10 times more often than caucasian girls. For boys, the number is six times the amount of their white counterparts.

 “If this is a problem of racial disparity, not only should girls not be excluded from that conversation, they should be front and center because something is happening to black girls that actually is more of a risk factor than what’s happening to boys,” says Columbia Law Professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, who led the report’s research.

A few hours away, in Boston, for every white girl punished in school, there are 11 cases of black girls being disciplined, and black boys are eight times more likely to get in trouble than white ones. There are three times as many black students in Boston as white kids.

The egregious cases are frequent and their headlines stand alone as horrifying: “School Guards Break Child’s Arm and Arrest Her for Dropping Cake.” “8-year-old Special Needs Student Handcuffed, Arrested for Tantrum at School.” In Florida, a 12-year-old was threatened with expulsion for not cutting her natural hair, which her private school claimed was a violation of dress code.

This punishment disparity even reflects shades of skin color. “The odds of suspension were about 3 times greater for young African American women with the darkest skin tone compared to those with the lightest skin,” the authors of a 2013 study from Villanova University wrote. It cites a study from two years earlier that examined the disciplinary cases for African-American females and found most of them were punished under a subjective set of descriptors: “disobedience,” “defiance” and “improper dress.”

“The challenge is how to talk about race and include girls in it and how to talk about girls and include race.”

Because the total number of boys suspended and expelled is higher, the focus has largely been on them. Addressing this disparity was central to President Obama’s 2014 legislation called My Brother’s Keeper, which promotes educational opportunities to keep youth of color out of what is often called the “school-to-prison pipeline.” This initiative is singularly focused on keeping boys and young men of color from “slipping through the cracks in our society.” With a handful of reports showing even worse statistics facing girls of color, where’s My Sister’s Keeper?

Addressing the issue goes deeper than racial disparity and suspension numbers. Low-performing schools in risky areas are already often run like jails, replete with metal detectors and police officers. Many have zero-tolerance policies that expel students for single infractions. Crenshaw’s study found both high-achieving and low-achieving girls were similarly affected by the harsh environment. Some schools she found were issuing arrest warrants for late students whose parents hadn’t paid a fine. “On one hand we’re trying to encourage greater investment in school but were using policies that actually push girls out of school. They view schools as places of order and discipline other than learning,” Crenshaw says.

“These were things that when I went to school would happen—girls getting into fights and having beefs—[but] never led to incarceration,” she adds. “Now it does.”

While there has been an international push for attention on girls’ education—think Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai and the brave girls attending school in Chibok, Nigeria—scant attention is paid to the issue in the United States. And when it is, it the focus is either on race—with boys front and center—or on gender, with white girls and girls of color lumped in together.

Crenshaw says there’s a history of ignoring racial issues when it comes to girls. “We have a discourse on race and inequality that largely focuses on boys and even larger, on men,” she says. “Our gender equity discourse doesn’t deal with race and our race equity discourse doesn’t deal with women and girls. The challenge is how to talk about race and include girls in it and how to talk about girls and include race.”



Iranian Actress Golshifteh Farahani Poses Nude for French Magazine

07 Feb, 2015

Exiled Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani has sent a message of defiance again to the ruling Ayatollahs in Tehran by appearing completely naked on the cover of French magazine Egoïste, French media reported.

“France has liberated me,” the 31-year-old actress told the magazine, according to the daily 20 minutes daily newspaper.

Paris "is the only place in the world where women do not feel guilty. In the East, you are that [guilty] all the time. As soon as you feel your first sexual impulses," she added.

The winner of Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and Best Narrative Feature at Tribeca Film Festival in 2009 was reportedly informed by Iranian authorities in 2012 that she was not welcome home anymore.

Days after the video was released an official of the supreme court of the Islamic Republic reportedly called her family in Tehran and shouted at her father, telling him, according to The Guardian, that she would be “punished, that her breasts would be cut off and presented to him on a plate.”

Her ban from returning to Iran came after she revealed her right breast in a black-and-white video with 30 other French cinema "young hopes" to promote the Césars, considered the "French Oscars." Farahani had been nominated for her role in "Si Tu Meurs, Je Te Tue" (If You Die, I'll Kill You). The Iranian actress has also posed nude for French magazine Madame Figaro.

"I was told by a Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guide official that Iran does not need any actors or artists. You may offer your artistic services somewhere else," Farahani said, according UK daily The Telegraph.

Farahani is known for her role opposite American stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe in “Body of Lies” and is the first Iranian woman who starred in a major Hollywood movie since the country’s 1979 revolution.



Amnesty calls for moratorium on flogging in Maldives

By Minivan News | February 7th, 2015

Amnesty International has called upon the Maldives to establish a moratorium on flogging, and to annul all convictions for the crime of fornication.

The human rights NGO has made the recommendations as part of its submission for the 60th session of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women later this month.

“Laws criminalizing ‘fornication’ or ‘adultery’ can act as a deterrent to women and girls reporting rape because they fear being prosecuted if their allegations are not believed,” reads the submission.

The committee is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

In its submission for the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, released last month, Amnesty argued that human rights in the Maldives in general had deteriorated over the past four years.

While having ratified CEDAW in 1993, the Maldives has maintained reservations to any provision which may contradict the principles of Islamic Sharia enshrined in the country’s Constitution.

“As frequently highlighted by UN treaty bodies and UN Special Procedures, including CEDAW, flogging constitutes a cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and the criminalization of fornication is a violation of the rights to privacy and bodily autonomy,” said Amnesty.

The NGO reported that attempts to gain statistics of the incidence of flogging from the Prosecutor General’s Office had been unsuccessful.

New regulations for flogging introduced by the Supreme Court last October noted that the offender must be of sound mind, must not be pregnant, and must not have an illness that could endanger his or her life due to flogging.

Moreover, a sentence for flogging must be implemented after the convict has either exhausted the appeal process or declined to appeal the verdict in the specified period.

Previous information made available by the Department of Judicial Administration showed that, while applicable to both men and women, flogging is largely discriminatory against women in practice.

“In 2013, the office of the Prosecutor General told Amnesty International that convictions were primarily based on confessions, and that if the accused denied the allegations, the charge of ‘fornication’ would normally be dropped,” read the report.

“The office said men usually denied such allegations, and were therefore not charged. This was also true for some women, unless they had become pregnant or were under pressure from their communities. In such cases they admitted to the allegations and were charged.”

Additionally, Amnesty’s submission to the committee recommends that the Maldives bring laws on rape and other forms of sexual violence into line with international human rights standards.

Amnesty also called upon government to investigate and prosecute all allegations of rape and other forms of sexual violence and ensure that anyone who reports rape or other forms of sexual violence is provided with appropriate support services.

While polls conducted in recent years suggest that two thirds of Maldivians would support a moratorium on the practice, public criticism of the practice has caused unrest.

After UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for a moratorium while speaking in the People’s Majlis in 2011, protesters gathered outside the United Nations Building in Malé, calling for her arrest.



Malala most admired woman in India

07 Feb, 2015

ISLAMABAD – On the list of India's most admired women, Pakistani education activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai bagged the first spot followed by Indian politician Kiran Bedi.

According to British market research company who conducted a survey in India asked who is the most admired personality both women and men. After Malala and Bedi, American actor Angelina Jolie stood third on the list of India's most admired women, followed by former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Bollywood actor Katrina Kaif and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Quartz India reported.

On the world list of admired women, Malala ranked second, while Bedi did not feature in the top 20. Instead, Congress' Gandhi ranked 13, and the only Indian to feature in the top 20. Jolie took the top spot.



Africa: Birth Registration Helps Keep Girl's Dream Alive

07 Feb, 2015

Irene is in class 7 at Kikumini primary school in eastern Kenya. She loves going to school and wants to study hard to become a doctor. But her dream was in jeopardy because she was unable to sit the national exam needed to move on to class 8. The reason? She had not had her birth registered and therefore was ineligible to take the test.

Irene's parents never registered her birth because they didn't realise that doing so gives a child the means through which to obtain a legal identity so they can prove who and how old they are. So Irene's grandmother made the gruelling journey 50 kilometres to the nearest registry office. But there she was met with long queues and only one government official in charge of getting everyone registered. This meant people were sleeping overnight to keep their place in the line. Frustrated, she returned home empty handed.

Missing out on school

Kenyan children who are not registered are usually unable to enroll in school or take national exams. Unregistered children are also at greater risk of being forced into early marriage or child labour. Although government policy requires every child to be registered at birth in Kenya, the registration rate is still only about 60%, with people in remote and rural areas the ones who most often miss out, while well-meaning policies can often leave vulnerable children further excluded.

"I could not go to school and prepare for my final exams. My teacher said I have to repeat because I was not registered. This document was taking away my dream of wanting to become a doctor," said Irene.

Through its Count Every Child programme and advocacy work, Plan International worked in collaboration with the government to train local officials to give them the skills needed to better serve their communities. Plan also organised mobile registration drives to bring services to communities like Irene's.

Making everyone count

Irene was one of the 1,161 beneficiaries of a mobile registration event held in Kikumini, meaning she was registered and able to finally sit her exams without a problem.

But providing services is only half the solution. Communities also need to be aware of the importance of registration and how it can impact children's rights to services like education, healthcare and more.

Since April 2014 Plan Kenya working together with civil registration department has improved birth registration for marginalised and vulnerable children, helping 35,000 girls and boys get their birth certificates while training 1,500 registration agents.

Birth registration is an important development topic in Africa as it forms part of the wider spectrum of civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) - the registration of all major life events, from birth and marriages to deaths. Reliable data gives governments the means through which to plan for the present and future needs of a population while ensuring rights are protected.

This February 9-13, the region's governments and development partners will be at the the 3rd Conference of African Ministers responsible for CRVS in Yamoussoukro, Cote D'ivoire. Co-organised by Plan International, the conference will foster opportunities to sharer experiences and plan for the future. To find out more visit:



Africa will benefit from bringing an end to child marriage

07 Feb, 2015

AFRICAN leaders have put "women’s empowerment and development" at the top of their agenda for the African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa. For this, they must be warmly commended, but few have spelt out what that will mean in practical terms.

We would like to offer a suggestion. Implementing national action plans to end child marriage would empower millions of girls and women and remove a major hindrance to our continent’s future prosperity and wellbeing.

It should no longer be a revelation that sub-Saharan Africa has some of the highest rates of girl child marriage in the world. Of the 20 countries with the highest prevalence of this deplorable practice, 15 are in Africa.

Here in SA, cases of ukuthwala — a practice where girls are abducted into marriage — still occur. These unions contravene both United Nations (UN) conventions and the African Charter on the Rights of the Child. They break the law in almost all African countries. Yet overall, 40% of women in sub-Saharan Africa were married as children — roughly a quarter of them by the time they were 15.

Child marriage is not based on religion or ethnicity. It occurs among Christians, Muslims, Hindus and numerous other ethnic and religious groups. We have met imams and priests who preach against child marriage and secular leaders who defend it. The greatest drivers of child marriage are poverty and tradition, which often manifest as social pressure to conform. It is also deeply rooted in the low social value placed on girls, who are often perceived to be a burden or a commodity.

In many societies, marriage may also be seen as a safer option for daughters, to protect them from rape or sexual assault. In fact, the opposite is the case. Married girls are more vulnerable to forced sex and domestic violence than their unmarried peers.

It is also not sufficiently understood that complications in pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19. As very few married girls stay in school, child marriage also perpetuates illiteracy, poverty and disempowerment among women.

It is only in the past few years that the world has woken up to the scale and impact of child marriage. Around the world today, about 700-million women were married as girls. These vast numbers of girls and women represent an enormous waste of human potential that we simply cannot ignore.

As more data are collected, African leaders are waking up to the facts too. They realise that policies and interventions that help girls to complete school and delay marriage can deliver significant development benefits and boost national economic plans.

But leaders also need to understand that the time to act is now. While there is a gradual decline in child marriage, it is not fast enough. If we don’t accelerate the process of change, population growth means the number of child brides in Africa could double by 2050.

Several African countries are taking action. The government of Egypt has developed a national strategy to prevent child marriage and promote young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Ethiopia has included ending harmful traditional practices, such as child marriage, in its national transition plan to achieve middle-income country status by 2025.

In the Southern African Development Community, Zambia has launched a three-year national campaign against child marriage, spearheaded by the ministry of chiefs and traditional affairs.

The Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS has also been consistently urging the continent’s leadership to revise the age of marriage to 18 for all girls, and to instigate a range of policies that would provide appropriate sex education, empowerment and rights for them. The AU has launched a two-year campaign, encouraging all African governments to develop national strategies to raise awareness and address the harmful effects of child marriage.

We have singled out a few countries and institutions whose leaders have shown vision and courage in addressing child marriage. Unfortunately, they are relatively few.

As we begin 2015, we call on all Africa’s leaders to make the best investment they can in the future. They can do this by developing and implementing national action plans to end child marriage. Such plans should include protecting girls’ rights, enforcing or reforming laws, supporting girls to stay in school and working with families and communities to persuade them of the benefits of delaying marriage, they will recoup their investment many times over.

If we want a prosperous and healthy continent, with equality of opportunity, we have to harness the talents of all our people. Girls as well as boys have the right to contribute and have much to offer. Let’s not stifle their potential. Let’s enable them to flourish and grow, and to take this magnificent continent with them.

• Tutu is former chairman of The Elders and co-founder of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage. Gumbonzvanda is the AU goodwill ambassador for the AU Campaign to End Child Marriage and secretary-general of the World YWCA.



In Egypt, social pressure means FGM is still the norm

February 7th, 2015

Awataf Mohamed Ali’s son lies fast asleep on her lap, but her 10-year-old daughter, Shahd, is very much awake. In fact, she looks horrified. Ali has just calmly explained that in just 18 months’ time, if she can find a doctor willing to help, Shahd will probably be subjected to female genital mutilation.

FGM has been illegal in Egypt since 2008. But Ali claims that adherence to the law will result in her daughter “being ill-mannered and doing bad things, and being badly behaved”. Sitting to her left, Shahd says nothing. In this remote village in southern Egypt, girls’ bodies are not theirs to control.

It is a similar story across much of the country: in 2008, Unicef estimated that 91% of married Egyptian women aged between 15 and 49 had been mutilated – 72% of them by doctors. In fact, the rate is so high in the country that “if we were able to eradicate FGM in Egypt, we could get rid of one-fourth of the cases worldwide”, says Jaime Nadal, the UN Population Fund’s (UNFPA) representative in Cairo.

Cases such as Shahd’s illustrate the uphill battle campaigners face to eradicate a practice that in poorer communities is still seen by many as a must. Ali has attended workshops run jointly by local NGOs, the health ministry and UNFPA – workshops that promote the religious, medical and humanitarian arguments against FGM. But while she admits she finds some of the arguments convincing, Ali says she cannot contend with the social pressure to conform, not least from her own family.

“My husband strongly feels that she should be circumcised,” she says. “It’s an inherited process, something that’s been going on for a very long time, and basically they want to continue it.”

There is no set age at which FGM occurs. Some are mutilated as toddlers, others as they reach puberty. But most operations take place in the summer and the process is often the same: relatives hold down the girl’s limbs to allow a midwife or doctor to cut her with a blade. A doctor may use anaesthetic, but a midwife often will not.

For the family, the mutilation is sometimes cause for celebration, with the daughter’s hands painted with henna. But for the daughter herself, FGM usually brings about severe physical and psychological trauma: humiliation, bleeding for several days, and, at worst, death.

Mansoura Mohamed, 33, remembers being mutilated before dawn, the first of three cousins to be cut that day. “There was a lot of blood, they had to get a lot of towels,” says Mohamed, who recalls the midwife as “an old lady, dressed in black. She was very violent, sometimes hitting me. Four people had to hold me down.”

Interviewed beside her husband and daughter at their home in another of southern Egypt’s poorest areas, Mohamed has come to terms with the experience. But it has taken her years.

“I used to have a lot of nightmares in which the lady who made the circumcision appeared in black,” she says. “I was psychologically traumatised because of it. On our marriage day, it brought back memories.”

FGM has reached such epidemic proportions because its proponents believe it stops women from becoming adulterous in later life. Some Muslim families also wrongly believe it is a religious requirement, and Christians practise it for cultural reasons. Doctors also exacerbate the problem, as some see FGM as a useful source of extra income. And since the dangers of FGM were only recently introduced to the curriculum at Egyptian medical schools, many also still believe it is a necessary procedure.

“It gives the girl more dignity to remove it,” one doctor in northern Egypt, Ahmed Almashady, told the Guardian last year. “If your nails are dirty, don’t you cut them?”

Iman Abdallah, a recent medical graduate, was educated about the medical risks of FGM by a UNFPA programme, but wasn’t taught about it at university. “There was no training, but out of personal interest I used to ask senior doctors in the university,” she remembers. “But not all of them gave clear replies. Some of them said it’s not mandatory, some of them said it’s not that big a thing, implying that it’s fine.”

But in pockets of Egypt, campaigners reckon the tide is turning, ever so slightly. In a crowded classroom near Assiut in southern Egypt, 60 schoolchildren – many of whom have themselves been mutilated – chant songs about the dangers of FGM. One of around 150 communities to be targeted by the government’s National Population Council (NPC), girls here say they are now convinced their younger sisters shouldn’t be mutilated, and speak with unusual candour about their own experiences.

After a class on the dangers of FGM, Nora Ahmed, 14, says she persuaded her parents not to inflict on her younger sisters the practice they recently put her through. “Based on my experiences with FGM, I discussed with them how it was a very bad practice,” she says, speaking frankly in front of her classmates. “And they agreed.”

For the NPC, Nora is an example of how there has been an increased willingness to debate the merits of FGM in the areas where they have established programmes. They also see signs that couples are more prepared to acknowledge how FGM leads to problems in their sex life.

“There is definitely a shift on the ground in terms of the openness of people,” says Mona Amin, who coordinates the NPC’s FGM campaign. “Young girls don’t feel embarrassed to talk about the problems of the practice in front of their parents. Previously even women who didn’t circumcise their daughters didn’t want to say. It’s a very important shift in attitude.”

The change has also been reported in the religious sphere. Mohamed Suleiman, a leading imam in Awataf Mohamed Ali’s province, claims the number of imams who support FGM in his network has fallen from an overwhelming majority to a significant minority in the space of just a decade.

According to Suleiman, this is because liberal-minded imams have become more vocal in their criticism of the practice. For years, FGM’s proponents used a vague saying attributed to the prophet Muhammad to justify their actions. But imams such as Suleiman and Mahmoud Abdel Samir, who wrote a PhD tackling this claim, say it is unlikely Muhammad advocated it.

“FGM has no reference in the Islamic religion,” says Samir, an influential government-appointed imam in a neighbouring province. “It refers back to pharaonic or African habits and doctors do it for their personal financial benefit.”

The medical profession is also undergoing gradual change. The health ministry and the UNFPA are retraining 1,000 doctors a year about the dangers of FGM. This is a small cohort, given that another 9,500 new clinicians will graduate this summer. But it has had at least one significant effect.

The landmark recent conviction of an Egyptian doctor for practising FGM was thanks in part to the testimony of a local health official who had been trained under the new scheme. “He was the hero of the case,” says Dr Vivian Fouad, a spokeswoman for the NPC’s FGM programme. “He said he saw an injury in the area of the clitoris. The conviction was because of this.”

The conviction was shockingly only the first since FGM was banned seven years ago. But while it was a long time coming, the case is also an important staging post. The local media coverage it sparked was unprecedented, while the strength of the prosecution’s case was also partly derived from the recent training that prosecutors have received about how to tackle FGM cases.

Their work has led some campaigners to hope that the results of a forthcoming survey will show that FGM prevalence has fallen since 2008. But UNFPA officials caution that the children of those most won over by counter-arguments to FGM may not have yet reached the relevant age range to be taken into account. And FGM’s opponents are still counting the cost of the Muslim Brotherhood’s brief moment at the helm of Egyptian politics between 2011 and 2013, when Islamist MPs proposed legalising FGM again, and the then-president, Mohamed Morsi, refused to condemn the practice.

“The problem in 2011-13 was that those [in favour of] the practice had the loudest voice in the community,” says Amin. “There was a strong attempt to empower the regressive voices that said, no, you need to circumcise your daughter.”

As a result, says her colleague Fouad, to end FGM “we need another generation. In a good political atmosphere.”

But if you know where to look, there are hints of a brighter future. After Mansoura Mohamed was so traumatised by her experience, she and her husband, Rageb, agreed not to mutilate their 14-year-old daughter, Ghada.

The pair were criticised for it, Rageb remembers. “They said the girls would become ill-mannered,” he says. “But what counts is their upbringing.” And 20-odd relatives, crammed into Rageb’s front room to hear him talk, nod in agreement.

Transport and accommodation costs incurred while reporting this article were paid by the UNFPA.



S. Sudan fighters carried out a ‘month of rape:’ U.N.

07 Feb, 2015

South Sudanese fighters carried out a “month of rape,” a top United Nations rights chief has said, warning that atrocities continue with a seventh ceasefire broken.

“Violations continue to take place,” said UN Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic, after visiting the “destroyed” towns of Bentiu and Malakal.

Simonovic, speaking after visiting areas that have seen some of the worst fighting in the past 13 months of war, said he had received the “simply appalling” report of fighters embarking on a campaign of rape.

“This is absolutely intolerable,” he said, without giving further details as to which of the multiple armed forces was responsible.

“It is essential to push for peace, this situation is not sustainable,” he added, in a statement released Friday.

Fighting erupted in South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused ousted deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup.

It quickly spread from the capital Juba, triggering a cycle of retaliatory massacres across the country.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon this week accused the leaders of putting their own interests above those of their people, after they agreed another ceasefire on Sunday but failed to reach a power-sharing deal.

Kiir and Machar have been set a March 5 deadline to strike a final full peace agreement, but similar previous deadlines have been repeatedly ignored.

UN aid chief Valerie Amos arrives in South Sudan Friday for a three-day assessment mission.

Half the country’s 12 million people need aid, according to the United Nations, which is also guarding some 100,000 civilians trapped inside UN camps ringed with barbed wire, too terrified to venture out for fear of being killed.

Simonovic also repeated calls for the African Union to release findings of its inquiry into atrocities, amid warnings that ignoring its recommendations would help the guilty to evade justice.

“Peace, if it is to be sustainable, needs to include justice,” Simonivic said.



UN calls for FGM zero tolerance after a year in which the world woke up

07 Feb, 2015

The United Nations has designated a worldwide day of zero tolerance on FGM, and called for concrete action to be taken against the cutting of girls and women. This follows 12 months of historic change and growing awareness of the practice.

The Guardian launched its campaign to end FGM a year ago, joining with activists, media organisations and committed politicians to shape laws, influence policy and transform social attitudes.

In the UK it worked with Bristol student Fahma Mohamed and her colleagues at Integrate Bristol to get information about FGM into schools, gathering the support of more than 230,000 people on her petition.

Inspired by Mohamed’s petition, Atlanta resident Jaha Dukureh took up the baton in the US, lobbying the government to carry out the first prevalence study into FGM for 17 years and set up a working group to tackle the practice on American soil.

In her home country of the Gambia, Dukureh held the first youth summit to fight FGM, while also confronting her father about the practice, and meeting the woman who cut her.

In Kenya, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon gave his backing to a joint Guardian-UNFPA project that will give reporting grants to African journalists to increase the coverage of FGM and its dangers across the continent.

There was much to celebrate, thanks to tireless campaigning by local and international activists. In London, global dignitaries gathered at the Girl Summit, hosted by prime minister David Cameron, and countries pledged to tackle the issue head on. There have been setbacks too: questions were raised when a doctor was found not guilty of performing FGM in a London hospital in the first UK prosecution, and the movement lost a lifelong campaigner with the death of Efua Dorkenoo. With 130m women and girls thought to be living with FGM across the world, and prevalence rates still high in many of the 29 countries in Africa and the middle east where FGM is still carried out, campaigners still have much work to do.

February 2014: International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. Working with Bristol student Fahma Mohamed, the Guardian launches a campaign which calls for FGM to be addressed in schools. Within days, Mohamed’s petition on gathers 230,000 signatures. The then education secretary Michael Gove quickly agrees to a meeting, and subsequently writes to all teachers in England and Wales about FGM. The campaign is given a further boost when it is backed by Pakistani schoolgirl and Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai, and Mohamed is invited to meet UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who calls her an inspiration.

May: A US petition begun by mother-of-three Jaha Dukureh is relaunched with the help of the Guardian. Thousands begin signing the petition and more than 50 members of congress support the campaign, which calls on the Obama administration to carry out an FGM prevalence study – the first for 17 years.

July: UK David Cameron hosts the first Girl Summit in London to tackle FGM and early forced marriage. Jaha Dukureh and Fahma Mohamed are joined by dignitaries from around the world to hear the prime minister announce that the government will legally oblige doctors, social workers and teachers to report FGM if they become aware of it, while parents would be criminalised if they failed to protect their children from the practice.

Meanwhile, in the US, the Obama administration announces it will carry out a study to establish how many women are living with the consequences of FGM and how many girls are at risk. This has been a central demand of Jaha Dukureh’s campaign.

October: The UN backs a major new push in the Guardian’s global media campaign, as the UNFPA and Guardian co-fund five international FGM reporting grants and a reporting award that will be given annually to an African reporter who has demonstrated innovation and commitment in covering the subject. Jaha Dukureh holds the first youth summit on FGM in the Gambia, where hundreds of young people pledge to join the fight.

January 2015: A doctor becomes the first person in Egypt to be convicted of FGM, seven years after the procedure was criminalised in the country. Jaha Dukureh goes on a tour of the Gambia spreading the anti-FGM message.

February: Questions are raised about the decision to prosecute a doctor at the Whittington hospital in London after he is found not guilty of performing FGM by suturing a patient to stop her bleeding after childbirth. There has still been no successful prosecution in England and Wales since the practice was outlawed 29 years ago. Meanwhile, draft figures from the Centers for Disease Control reveal that more than half a million women in the US are estimated to be suffering as a result of FGM, more than three times more than previously thought.



Preacher Who 'Recruited Austrian Jihadi Poster Girls' Is Linked To Disappearance Of ISIS Supporting Family

07 Feb, 2015

An Islamic preacher accused of recruiting two Austrian Jihadi 'poster girls' is suspected of tempting yet more girls to Syria.

When Ebu Tejma was arrested by police in Vienna last year, prosecutors claimed he had recruited hundreds of young people alongside Samra Kesinovic, 16, and her friend Sabina Selimovic, 15.

It was alleged that he targeted young women in particular to become brides for Islamic fighters.

And now it has emerged that shortly after Tejma was detained an Austrian family with three daughters left the country.

Self-employed carpenter Enes Skalic, 35, his wife Michaela, 36, and daughters Sarah, 11, Ajla, nine, and Enisa, two, were reported missing by Michaela's sister after they disappeared from their home in Bregenz.

Police believe the family may have joined the terrorist group ISIS after uncovering the father's links to Islamic extremism.

According to local media, Skalic, who has Bosnian roots, is known to Austria's counter-terrorism agency, the BVT, for being part of a "West Balkans fighter" circle, which has links to Tejma.

Skalic's wife converted to Islam after they married and just before disappearing their daughter Ajla wrote an entry in her school diary about wanting to make a pilgrimage to Mecca and wear a headscarf.

Interpol has now issued an international arrest warrant for the family.

Security experts said that Tejma, 33, who lived with his pregnant wife and five children in a council flat in Vienna, specialised in targeting young women.

His name came to prominence when Samra and Sabina vanished from their homes in Vienna in April last year.

They later posted images online brandishing Kalashnikov rifles surrounded by armed men.

They left notes to their parents saying: "Don't look for us. We will serve Allah – and we will die for him."

The pair were then portrayed as 'pin-up girls' for the Islamic State regime and were used to inspire other young women to head to the region.

ISIS was said to be promising parents with daughters much better social security payments than they would get if they remained in Austria.

A security insider said that Tejma, whose real name is Mirsad Omerovic, not only recruited the two girls who became the public face of jihad, but was also involved in a further 166 defections of youngsters from Austria to fight in the 'holy war'.

In Spain a string of recent arrests centred around a group that specifically targeted young women in a bid to convert them into Islam terror brides.