New Age Islam
Thu Aug 13 2020, 01:03 AM

Islam, Women and Feminism ( 14 Feb 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Pakistan Puts Asia Bibi in ‘No Fly’ List















Christian labourer Asia Bibi is not only being barred from leaving the country, authorities have already put her in ‘no fly’ list

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Property Loans for Saudi Women Approved

40 Years of Crimes against Iranian Women

Meet Sadaf Jaffer, America’s First Female Muslim Mayor

Muslim Women’s Network Calls for Legal Change to Allow Muslim Women to Divorce Husbands More Easily

Swedish Female Swimming Chairwoman Unseated for Calling Muslim Veil 'Oppressive'

To Write, To Protest: 8 Female Egyptian Writers Who Broke Barriers

Women Recall the ‘Hell’ Of Soviet War in Afghanistan

Stadium Gates Gradually Open For Iranian Women

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/pakistan-puts-asia-bibi-in-‘no-fly’-list/d/117756

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Pakistan Puts Asia Bibi in ‘No Fly’ List

February 15, 2019

Smriti Sen Gupta

Despite being acquitted from capital punishment by Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Christian labourer Asia Bibi is not only being barred from leaving the country, authorities have already put he in ‘no fly’ list, fearing if she is allowed to leave Pakistan, Asia Bibi may disclose lots of secrets about Pakistani society’s ugly attitude towards the religious minorities.

This step was taken secretly following suggestion from country’s intelligence agencies.

Earlier, the Guardian reported, Bibi, who spent eight years on death row, was transferred from a location near the capital to a house in the southern port city of Karachi, her friend Aman Ullah told the Associated Press. She and her husband are locked in a single room in a house where the door opens only “at food times”.

It further said, Canada has offered her asylum and she wants to join her daughters there. Pakistani authorities have said she is free to travel, but Bibi, 54, says she is being prevented from going.

“She has no indication of when she will leave,” said Ullah, who added that Bibi was frightened and frustrated. “They are not telling her why she cannot leave.” He spoke to her by telephone, after the threats from extremists angered by his assistance to Bibi forced him to flee the country on Friday.

A construction labourer, Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010 in what swiftly became Pakistan’s most infamous blasphemy case. She had been accused by Muslim villagers of insulting the prophet Muhammad in a row over a cup of water. She always insisted she was innocent.

Blasphemy is a highly inflammatory issue in Pakistan, where even unproven accusations of insulting Islam can spark lynching. Human rights activists say blasphemy charges are frequently used to settle personal scores.

After the Supreme Court overturned Bibi’s conviction, cities across Pakistan were paralyzed for several days by violent demonstrations with enraged extremists calling for her beheading.

In a deal to end the violence, the government, led by the prime minister, Imran Khan, struck a deal allowing the petition seeking an appeal against the supreme court’s judgment. Khan was accused of capitulating to the extremists’ demands.

https://www.weeklyblitz.net/news/pakistan-puts-asia-bibi-in-no-fly-list/

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Property Loans for Saudi Women Approved

February 14, 2019

JEDDAH: Saudi women will be able to get property loans from the Real Estate Development Fund (REDF), following a decision from its board of directors.

The move aims to support Saudi women in purchasing property, as well as increase the proportion of home-owning Saudis to 60 percent by the end of 2020 and to 70 percent by the end of 2030.

The REDF decision came during its first board meeting of 2019.

The board reviewed the updated number of people who have benefited from the mortgage loan program since early 2018, with the figure currently at 62,841.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1452401/saudi-arabia

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40 Years of Crimes against Iranian Women

On Feb 14, 2019

For 40 years, Islamic fundamentalism in Iran has placed enmity with women at the core of its crimes, intimidating the entire Iranian society through the repression of women. The 40 years of crimes against Iranian women under the mullahs’ rule were not a matter of expediency but of security and are totally ideological.

In the eyes of the Velayat-e Faqih, the “woman” is inadequate and marginal, and must be a submissive and obedient slave. The political and ideological evidence of this misogyny can be clearly seen in the letter that Khomeini wrote to the Shah on October 9, 1962, 16 years before the usurpation of sovereignty:

Your Majesty,

After sending salutations and prayers, as it is published in newspapers, the government has given women the right to vote. As your majesty is aware, the interests of the state are better served by preserving the religious teachings of Islam and calmness of the heart. I urge you to order it (women’s right to vote) to be eliminated from Government and Party programs in order to receive the praise of the Muslim nation.

God blessings,

Rouhollah Al-Musavi (Khomeini)

Khomeini began violating his promises right from the beginning of his rule 40 years ago, by depriving women of their human rights.

On February 26, 1979, two weeks after the revolution, Khomeini’s office announced that it would abolish the Family Protection Law. The law provided women with limited privileges in family rights. The next day, on February 27, women’s social services were abolished and, three days later, on March 2, 1979, women judges were deprived of judging and engagement in the judiciary.

Khomeini believed that, “the equality of women and men is in fundamental violation of some of the most crucial rulings of Islam and in defiance of some of the explicit commandments of the Quran. The duty of believers towards such a thing has been determined by Islam.” (The state-run Ressalat daily newspaper – October 22, 1997)

He also wrote in his book, Tahrir al-Vasileh, that, “In the case of divorce, it is not necessary to inform the woman, let alone to have her consent.” (Tahrir al-Vasileh, Volume II – Page 327, Issue 8)

Khomeini imposed his misogynistic ideology on women with the motto of “either the veil or a hit on the head.” This was the main focus of the subsequent repressive measures undertaken by successive governments of Rafsanjani, Khatami, Ahmadinejad and Rouhani during the regime’s 40 years of rule.

In May 2010, the parliament passed a law entitled, “The Law on the Extension of Options to Implement Chastity and Hijab,” and tasked 26 government institutions with the responsibility of cracking down on women.In the next stage, the recruitment of vice patrols opened the way for club-wielding forces to harass women on the streets. October 2014 saw the rampage of organized government-backed gangs attacking Iranian women by stabbing or splashing acid on them.

According to most women’s rights experts and advocates, Iran is the only country in the world where thousands of women have been executed or subjected to torture because of their political dissent.

In the 1980s, tens of thousands of PMOI women, including teenage girls, pregnant women and elderly mothers, were executed for exercising their right to freedom of expression. They comprise one third of the total number of victims of executions on political grounds in Iran.

The regime’s criminal practices and misogynistic policies have continued throughout the past 40 years.  In a statement issued in December 2018, the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, announced, “Only last year, nearly one thousand women were arrested and detained in prison for their involvement in anti-government protests.”

87 women have been executed since Rouhani took office.

The regime’s parliament has renamed the bill on the Elimination of Violence Against Women as Provision of Security for Women and has removed 40 of its 90 articles. But the bill has not been ratified yet, some 13 years after being proposed. The regime thus continues its misogynistic policies by postponing the bill under various pretexts.

Another example is the bill on increasing the age of marriage for girls, which has been stalled by the parliamentary Judiciary and Legal Commission under the pretext of it being “unnecessary.”

Violence against women and early marriages of girls in Iran have had drastic consequences in Iranian society including 24,000 divorces under the age of 18 and a growing number of women heads of household the majority of whom do not enjoy any government support. These in turn have led to numerous forms of social ailments and feminization of the face of poverty in Iran.

Iranian women, however, never remained silent over the past 40 years.

They joined the struggle against the mullahs’ religious tyranny in step with men. Today, they hold the leadership of the main opposition force to the mullahs’ regime, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). With such role models, we can see Iranian women in the streets, participating in most protests against the regime, speaking out for their rights, and paying the price for freedom and turn the page of history in their homeland.

https://women.ncr-iran.org/2019/02/14/40-years-crimes-against-iranian-women/

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Meet Sadaf Jaffer, America’s First Female Muslim Mayor

February 14, 2019

Simran Jeet Singh

(RNS) — Last month, Sadaf Jaffer was sworn in as mayor of Montgomery Township, N.J., a bucolic, if rapidly growing, municipality of about 25,000 just north of Princeton. In that moment, Jaffer became the country’s first female Muslim mayor, first female Pakistani-American mayor and first female South Asian-American mayor.

She might also be the first American mayor with a doctorate from Harvard who specializes in Islam, gender studies and South Asian history. Mayor Jaffer also serves as a postdoctoral research associate in South Asian studies at Princeton University, where she teaches courses on South Asian, Islamic and Asian-American studies.

I had the opportunity to speak with Jaffer about her journey, including what it means to be a political trailblazer and how her unique academic background contributes to her new role. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you decide to run for mayor?

I decided to run for public office because I didn’t see my values reflected in my elected officials. I’ve been a scholar and activist for some time. If you keep advocating to people who just don’t share your values, you eventually hit a wall. I also believe we shouldn’t ask others to do something we’re not willing to do ourselves. If I want people from diverse backgrounds to run for office, I should also be willing to do it myself.

How does your faith inform your work?

Growing up as a Shia Muslim, I always had this sense that we should fight injustice wherever we find it. Since I decided to pursue research on Islam in South Asia for my Ph.D., I’ve also come to see the ways in which religion and culture have always been intertwined and I find much hope in how cosmopolitan societies have functioned in the past. They certainly weren’t perfect, but I see the Islamic past as one of great beauty and cultural efflorescence. That inspires me for the future.

It’s rare for someone in U.S. politics to have your academic background. Can you talk about how your training as a scholar of Islam, gender and South Asia might bolster your work?

I think the greatest challenge we face in the United States right now is the fraying of our social fabric, so my background in arts, literature and cultural studies has proved especially useful in bringing people together. When an anti-Muslim bias crime happened in my town, I was able to tap into my experience teaching a course on South Asian-American literature and film to provide resources to government officials about Islamophobia as racism.

I’ve also started a monthly discussion group called Montgomery Mosaic, which is affiliated with the national Not in Our Town movement. This has been very impactful in bringing people together in order to understand our common humanity.

You’re not the only Muslim woman to be blazing a trail this year in politics. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are now the first Muslim women to serve in Congress. What does it mean to you to be the first female Muslim mayor in the U.S.?

I’m proud to be an example of what is possible for Muslim women in our political system. We stand on the shoulders of generations of activists who have made these opportunities possible. I hope my example helps provide a different vision of what it means to be a Muslim woman in America today and the diversity of perspectives and skills we bring to the table.

I would also say that I hope this helps people understand the importance of getting involved at the local level. Too often, people are so focused on the national and the international that we forget about the local. I hope more people will volunteer and run for local office. We all win when more members of our society are informed and active in their communities.

https://religionnews.com/2019/02/14/meet-sadaf-jaffer-americas-first-female-muslim-mayor/

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Muslim Women’s Network Calls for Legal Change to Allow Muslim Women to Divorce Husbands More Easily

14 February 2019

A charity is calling on the UK government to make it easier for Muslim women to divorce their husbands, The Times reports.

The Muslim Women’s Network (MWN) said Sharia councils could be made redundant with a simple amendment to an existing law that lets Jewish women demand instant divorce.

By simply adding Muslim women to the provision, they would no longer need to apply to Sharia councils.

Secondly, the charity said that Islamic weddings should be registered under civil law, giving Muslim women recourse to the courts. Many Muslim couples only have an Islamic wedding and do not hold a separate civil ceremony.

MWN believes it should be “made illegal for anyone to conduct a religious wedding ceremony without a prior civil marriage”.

Shaista Gohir, head of the MWN, said such changes would “diminish the power of Sharia councils and will eventually do away with the need for them”.

Under Sharia law, a man can divorce a woman immediately but a woman must apply to Islamic scholars.

A review last year found a man could “demand excessive financial concessions” from his wife before agreeing to a divorce, among other things.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “We are exploring changes in the law to avoid situations where a marriage is not legally recognised, leaving individuals without legal rights or protections. Detailed work on this will commence in April.”

https://www.scottishlegal.com/article/charity-calls-for-legal-change-to-allow-muslim-women-to-divorce-husbands-more-easily

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Swedish Female Swimming Chairwoman Unseated for Calling Muslim Veil 'Oppressive'

15.02.2019

Swedish Swimming Federation chairwoman Ulla Gustavsson has been labelled an "Islamophobe" and has had to step down for calling the Islamic veil oppressive and suggesting it could be interpreted as a symbol of honour culture, genital mutilation, and child marriage.

Ulla Gustavsson has been forced to step down from her post as Swedish Swimming Federation chairwoman after she called the Islamic headdress a sexist garment that normalises oppression.

Commenting on the National Sports Association's decision to use a photograph of a young veiled Muslim girl brandishing an air gun to promote "inclusion", Ulla Gustavsson argued that this was a wrong step to take.

According to Gustavsson, such images encourage honour-based oppression and violence, genital mutilation and child marriage, which, according to her, goes against the values that Sweden champions, such as gender equality.

The air gun in combination with the veil also sent a wrong signal, she concluded.

Gustavsson went so far as to argue that the veil, which, she ventured, was a religious expression, shouldn't be worn by small children altogether.

Gustavsson's verbal attack was met by a forceful counterthrust from human rights NGOs, who branded her an "Islamophobe".

"What Ulla Gustavsson does, drawing links between the veil and serious forms of honour-related violence such as genital mutilation and child marriage, is not only ignorant and improper, but also Islamophobic", Kristina Wicksell of the NGO Make Equal and Maria Henriksson of the Shift campaign wrote in a joint opinion piece published by SVT.

In support of women's right to wear the veil as they please, they started a petition called "Don't render invisible women who want to do sports veiled". To further back their cause, they launched the hashtag #sportaslöjan ("sport in the veil").

Newly-minted Swedish Democracy and Culture Minister Amanda Lind, who sparked outrage her very first day in office by hailing a party colleague who had to step down amid Islamist accusations, called it a "matter of fact" that all children playing sports in Sweden should be shown on photograph, Aftonbladet reported.

Some debaters, however, chose to side with Gustavsson.

"It is not possible to discuss the veil without its context; When this is ignored, even the lack of freedom that many women experience is. How many women would voluntarily choose to wear a veil if there were no social expectations, punishments, and religious rewards for wearing it?" bachelor of social services Devin Rexvid wrote in an opinion piece in Göteborgs-Posten called "The veil shows contempt for women".

Nevertheless, following the uproar, Gustavsson had to resign. Swedish Swimming Federation vice chairman Stefan Persson lauded Gustavsson's work and contribution to swimming on both the national and international level, but stressed that there was a universal consensus that there was no opportunity for her to continue her work.

"The Swedish Swimming Association takes the recent debate very seriously, and we have come to the conclusion that there are no longer conditions for Ulla Gustavsson to successfully lead the association", Stefan Persson said in a statement. "Her personal perceptions and statements contrast with the Swedish Swimming Federation's strategy and basic view that all children should fit in our activities on equal terms".

In Sweden, the right-wing Sweden Democrats have long championed a ban on comprehensive religious veils, which their leader Jimmie Åkesson called a "symbol of a militant and anti-democratic political ideology". In 2018, however, the party softened its stance and is now seeking to limit the possibilities of forcing religious garments on children.

https://sputniknews.com/europe/201902151072442661-sweden-islam-veil-oppression/

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To Write, To Protest: 8 Female Egyptian Writers Who Broke Barriers

MIRNA ABDULAAL

FEBRUARY 14, 2019

We often hear of names like Naguib Mahfouz, Tawfiq Hakim and Taha Hussein, yet the names of female Egyptian writers never quite reach the same iconic status as the male ones. For centuries, Egyptian women were using the pen as a weapon of change; addressing critical issues using their own female voice and own experiences, and hoping that the public would listen to them.

In a time where the Arab world is experiencing great political and social changes, the act of writing for women is in itself a liberating and powerful act because it puts her back in the public sphere. It completes and paints an accurate image of society, as it integrates the critical social problems that are often excluded from the picture.

This is not to say the Egyptian or Arab women writers were never celebrated for their works. In fact, there have been many Muslim women scholars, such as Al Sayyida Nafisa, who played a important role in educating Muslim scholars in Egypt and was known among scientists as the ‘precious realm of science’. In ‘Women and Gender in Islam’ by Leila Ahmed, Ahmed argues that the status of women declined in status with the emergence of urban centers and city-states, as urbanization gave rise to military competitiveness, the patriarchal family, and the exclusion of women from most of the professional classes

However, the question primarily is not which period of history led to the rise or decline of women’s status, as each period can contain many diverse and dissimilar societies. What can be known for a fact, however, is that in each period there has always been a tide going against the desires and hopes of many women, and there always needs to be a counter-reaction.

As shown in the list below, there has always been a counter-reaction in each period of Egypt’s history by women who used the power of thought and writing to create change.

1. AISHA TAYMUR (1840 – 1902)

When we think of feminist movements in Egypt, we usually start with the period when Egypt was colonized by Britain, yet Aisha Taymur is a symbol of how women were already fighting for their position in society in the Ottoman era without any Western influence. She was a social activist, poet, novelist, and feminist, whose writings came out in a period where many women during the Ottoman era were realising that they were deprived of the rights that Islam gave them. Her most famous work, “Mir’at al-ta’ammul fi-l-umur (The Mirror of Contemplation) reinterpreted the Quran to suggest that it was not patriarchal in its requirements of Muslims than was traditionally thought.

2. HUDA SHAARAWI (1879 – 1947)

In ‘Harem Years’ by Huda Shaarawi, the feminist icon recalls the private experiences of a woman in a ‘harem’ in the Ottoman era, which refers to domestic spaces that were reserved for women only and prevented her from engaging with the public outside. Sha’arawi protested against such restrictions and also started organizing lectures for women on academic subjects, which brought them out of their homes and into public places for the first time.

3. LATIFA AL – ZAYYAT (1923 – 1996 )

MIRNA ABDULAAL

FEBRUARY 14, 2019

We often hear of names like Naguib Mahfouz, Tawfiq Hakim and Taha Hussein, yet the names of female Egyptian writers never quite reach the same iconic status as the male ones. For centuries, Egyptian women were using the pen as a weapon of change; addressing critical issues using their own female voice and own experiences, and hoping that the public would listen to them.

In a time where the Arab world is experiencing great political and social changes, the act of writing for women is in itself a liberating and powerful act because it puts her back in the public sphere. It completes and paints an accurate image of society, as it integrates the critical social problems that are often excluded from the picture.

This is not to say the Egyptian or Arab women writers were never celebrated for their works. In fact, there have been many Muslim women scholars, such as Al Sayyida Nafisa, who played a important role in educating Muslim scholars in Egypt and was known among scientists as the ‘precious realm of science’. In ‘Women and Gender in Islam’ by Leila Ahmed, Ahmed argues that the status of women declined in status with the emergence of urban centers and city-states, as urbanization gave rise to military competitiveness, the patriarchal family, and the exclusion of women from most of the professional classes

However, the question primarily is not which period of history led to the rise or decline of women’s status, as each period can contain many diverse and dissimilar societies. What can be known for a fact, however, is that in each period there has always been a tide going against the desires and hopes of many women, and there always needs to be a counter-reaction.

As shown in the list below, there has always been a counter-reaction in each period of Egypt’s history by women who used the power of thought and writing to create change.

1. AISHA TAYMUR (1840 – 1902)

Aisha Taymur, Egyptian social activist, feminist, poet and novelist

When we think of feminist movements in Egypt, we usually start with the period when Egypt was colonized by Britain, yet Aisha Taymur is a symbol of how women were already fighting for their position in society in the Ottoman era without any Western influence. She was a social activist, poet, novelist, and feminist, whose writings came out in a period where many women during the Ottoman era were realising that they were deprived of the rights that Islam gave them. Her most famous work, “Mir’at al-ta’ammul fi-l-umur (The Mirror of Contemplation) reinterpreted the Quran to suggest that it was not patriarchal in its requirements of Muslims than was traditionally thought.

2. HUDA SHAARAWI (1879 – 1947)

Huda Shaarawi, Egypt’s feminist icon

In ‘Harem Years’ by Huda Shaarawi, the feminist icon recalls the private experiences of a woman in a ‘harem’ in the Ottoman era, which refers to domestic spaces that were reserved for women only and prevented her from engaging with the public outside. Sha’arawi protested against such restrictions and also started organizing lectures for women on academic subjects, which brought them out of their homes and into public places for the first time.

3. LATIFA AL – ZAYYAT (1923 – 1996 )

Latifa Al Zayyat – Egyptian feminist and writer

Founding member of the Rabitat Fatayat al jami’at wa al ma’ ahid (The League of University and Institutes’ Young Women, Latifa Al Zayyat wrote one of the most famous novels in Egypt that pioneered women’s rights, ‘The Open Door’, which was later turned into a film that stars popular actress Faten Hamama. It symbolized a break from traditional Arabic literature with its use of colloquial Arabic, and was bold for its depiction of the main character’s political and sexual awakening preceding the 1952 revolution.

4. SALWA BAKR (1949 – present)

As an excellent short story writer, Bakr’s work often dealt with lives of impoverished women in poorer social classes. Her first collection of short stories, Zinat at the President’s Funeral, was published in 1985, and she has since published six additional short story collections, seven novels and a play. In ‘The Wiles of Men and Other Stories’, Bakr spoke about women struggling to provide for themselves with the basic necessities of life, exploring the pressures to conform and the limits of self-awareness. “I write about women who are rarely seen by others,” she one said. “My characters are women who remain unobtrusive and for whom no one has any use.”

5. NAWAL AL SAADAWI (1931 – present)

Subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) at a young age, Nawal Al Saadawi’s experience led her to believe that this practice is a product of a patriarchal system and that it needed to change. In 1972, she published ‘Women and Sex’, confronting various aggressions perpetrated against women’s bodies, including female circumcision. The controversy of the book led the dismissal of her position at the Ministry of Health and positions as chief editor of a health journal. She went on to focus on her creative writing career, publishing other works like The Hidden Face of Eve and Woman at Point Zero. She is known as “the Simone de Beauvoir of the Arab World”.

6. MIRAL AL- TAHAWY (1970 – present)

Coming from a conservative Bedouin background, Miral Al Tahawy was described by The Washington Post as “the first novelist to present Egyptian Bedouin life beyond stereotypes and to illustrate the crises of Bedouin women and their urge to break free.” In her first novel ‘The Tent’ in 1996, Al Tahawy traces the lives of Bedouin women whose lives are subject to the will of one patriarch and his brutal mother. Other important works by her include Al-Badhingana al-zarqa (Blue Aubergine) in 1998 and Naquarat al-Zibae (Gazelle Tracks) in 2008.

7. ALEXANDRA KINIAS (1987 – present)

Graduated as a mechanical engineer in 1987, Alexandra Kinias is also a screenplay writer, novelist, and blogger. Her first published novel Black Tulips reveals the hardships faced by women living in male dominant societies in Egypt. She also co-wrote the movie Cairo Exit, which was censored in Egypt though received international acclaim, including best non-European film in the European Independent Film festival. Kinias is also the founder of the popular Facebook page and website ‘Women of Egypt’, which tackles many of the issues women face in Egypt and features their work to act as a connectivity and networking tool for educational and business opportunities.

8. AHDAF SOUEIF (1950- present)

Ahdaf Soueif is both a novelist and political and cultural commentator, and is the author of the highly acclaimed book ‘In the Eye of the Sun’ which takes an intimate look into the lives of Arab women today. The protagonist, Asya al-Ulama, harbors the values of two different cultures; Arab culture and western culture and cannot integrate them into a coherent whole. Raised and educated in both Egypt and England, Asya faces contradictions and questions in her moral knowledge. Soeuif is also a political activist, and is the author of ‘Cairo: My City, Our Revolution’, she navigates her journey in Cairo  through the 25 Jan revolution in 2011 as an Egyptian woman.

https://egyptianstreets.com/2019/02/14/to-write-to-protest-8-female-egyptian-writers-who-broke-barriers/

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Women Recall the ‘Hell’ Of Soviet War in Afghanistan

February 15, 2019

MOSCOW: Sitting in her living room, 65-year-old Tatyana Rybalchenko goes through a stack of black-and-white photos from more than 30 years ago. In one of them, she is dressed in a nurse’s coat and smiles sheepishly at the camera; in another, she shares a laugh with soldiers on a road with a mountain ridge behind them.

The pictures don’t show the hardships that Rybalchenko and 20,000 Soviet women like her went through after they enlisted as civilian support staff during the Soviet Union’s 1979-1989 invasion of Afghanistan. Although they did not serve in combat roles, they still experienced the horrors of war.

As Russia on Friday marked the 30th anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, the memories are still fresh for the nurses, clerks and shopkeepers, predominantly young and single women who were thrust into the bloody conflict.

Rybalchenko enlisted on a whim. In 1986, she was 33, working in a dead-end nursing job in Kiev, the capital of Soviet Ukraine, and was going through a breakup. One day, she joined a colleague who went to a military recruitment office. The recruiter turned to Rybalchenko and asked if she would like to work abroad — in Afghanistan.

She recalls that she was fed up with her life in Kiev, “so I told him: ‘I’d go anywhere, even to hell!’ And this is where he sent me.”

Family and friends tried to talk her out of it, telling her that Afghanistan is where “the bodies are coming from.” But it was too late: She had signed the contract.

At least 15,000 Soviet troops were killed in the fighting that began as an effort to prop up a communist ally and soon became a grinding campaign against a US-backed insurgency. Moscow sent more than 600,000 to a war that traumatized many young men and women and fed a popular discontent that became one factor leading to the unraveling of the Soviet Union.

Rybalchenko, who worked as a nurse at a military hospital in Gardez, was stunned by the many casualties — men missing limbs or riddled with shrapnel. But there was so much work that she found herself shutting off her emotions.

“At the end, I did not feel anything anymore. I was like a stone,” Rybalchenko said, shedding her normally perky persona.

Friendships helped, and she befriended a young reconnaissance officer, Vladimir Vshivtsev.

He once confided to her that he was not afraid of losing a limb, but he would not be able to live with an injury to his eyes. She recalled that he said, “If I lose eyesight, I’ll do everything to put an end to it.”

In November 1987, the hospital was inundated with casualties from a Soviet offensive to open the road between Gardez and the stronghold of Khost, near the Pakistani border.

One of the wounded was Vshivtsev, and Rybalchenko saw him being wheeled into the ward with bandages wrapped around his head. She unwrapped the dressing and gasped when she saw the gaping wound on his face: “The eyes were not there.”

She convinced her superior to let her accompany him to a bigger hospital in Kabul, as part of a suicide watch. She stayed friends with Vshivtsev, and he later became a leading activist in the Russian Society for the Blind. Decades later, he briefly served a stint in the Russian parliament.

Alla Smolina was 30 when she joined the Soviet military prosecutor’s office in Jalalabad near the Pakistani border in 1985. It wasn’t until 20 years later that Smolina started having nightmares about the war.

“The shelling, running away from bullets and mines whizzing above me — I was literally scared of my own pillow,” she said.

She put her memories on paper and contacted other women who were there, telling the stories of those who endured the hardships of war but who are largely absent from the male-dominated narratives.

She is trying to raise awareness of the role the women played in Afghanistan, believing they have been unfairly portrayed in fiction and nonfiction written mostly by men, “where the female personnel were mentioned in a negative light or not at all.”

The deaths of Soviet women who held civilian jobs in Afghanistan are not part of the official toll, and Smolina has written about 56 women who lost their lives. Some died when a plane was shot down by the Afghan mujahedeen, one was killed when a drunken soldier threw a grenade into her room, and one woman was slain after being raped by a soldier.

In an era when the concept of sexual harassment was largely unfamiliar in the Soviet Union, women in the war — usually young and unmarried — often started a relationship to avoid unwanted attention from other soldiers.

“Because if a woman has someone, the whole brigade won’t harass you like a pack of wolves,” Rybalchenko said. “Sometimes it was reciprocal, sometimes there was no choice.”

She said she found boyfriends to “protect” her.

While the war grew unpopular at home, Soviet troops and support staff in Afghanistan mostly focused on survival rather than politics. While Afghans largely saw Moscow’s involvement as a hostile foreign intervention, the Soviets thought they were doing the right thing.

“We really believed that we were helping the oppressed Afghan nation, especially because we saw with our own eyes all the kindergartens and schools that the Soviet people were building there,” Smolina said.

After Rybalchenko came home, she could hardly get out of bed for the first three months, one of thousands with undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder.

When she asked officials about benefits for veterans and other personnel in Afghanistan, she faced hostility and insults. She said one told her: “How do I know what you were actually up to over there?“

In 2006, lawmakers decided that civilians who worked in Afghanistan are not entitled to war benefits. Women have campaigned unsuccessfully to reinstate them.

Rybalchenko eventually got an apartment from the government, worked in physiotherapy and now lives in retirement in Moscow, where her passion for interior decorating is reflected by the exotic bamboo-forest wallpaper in her home.

Smolina, who lives in Sweden, is wary of disclosing all the details about her own Afghan experiences after facing a backlash from other veterans about her publications.

“Our society is not ready yet to hear the truth. There is still a lingering effect from the harsh Soviet past,” she said. “In Soviet society, you were not supposed to speak out.”

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1452531/world

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Stadium Gates Gradually Open For Iranian Women

Saeid Jafari

February 14, 2019

Iranian women's relationship with sports events could hardly be more complicated. They are allowed to watch female competitions — but barred from most men's events (women have occasionally been granted permission to watch men's volleyball and basketball). The toughest taboo has always been men's soccer; this has drawn constant criticism from women's advocates, who have launched various campaigns to push for their right to see the sport played. The campaigns have been coupled with and backed up by international pressure as well.

During his March 2018 trip to Iran, the president of the world soccer governing body FIFA attended the popular derby between Tehran archrivals Persepolis and Esteghlal in the capital. Following the match, Gianni Infantino sat down with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. And back in Zurich the day after, the FIFA chief announced in a presser that his Iranian host had given his word that the ban on women's entry to men's soccer events will be lifted.  

“There are two ways to deal with this matter — either we criticize, we sanction, we condemn, we don’t speak and we cut relations," said Infantino in a soft warning to Iran and other states practicing similar bans. "Or we go there and have a discussion and try to convince the leaders of the country." The FIFA president said that Rouhani, while offering assurances, had also noted that the process would take "a bit of time."

Ever since that meeting in Tehran, several positive steps have been taken toward a settlement of the issue. On June 20, Iran's national team faced Spain in a key match during the FIFA World Cup in Kazan, Russia. In Tehran, the city's iconic Azadi Stadium hosted a screening of the game, which would up being a nail biter. This was the breakthrough. Authorities allowed women to enter the stadium and watch live video of the match on a giant 1,200 square-meter screen. Hours ahead of the game, rumors kept circulating that permission for women to attend had been revoked. But women ended up entering the stadium in relatively large numbers for the first time in nearly four decades of Islamic Republic rule.

Arameh Etemadi, a Tehran-based journalist, was one of the female spectators who made it into the stadium. "I was not actually watching a real soccer game [in person]. But even that was still a thrilling experience, which we as women had been deprived of for years," she told Al-Monitor. While bringing into question the logic behind the ban, Etemadi said she believes the recent small developments paving women's way into stadiums are the fruit of years of campaigning by Iran's civil society activists.

Not everything has gone smoothly after the Iran-Spain game. The country's hard-liners further sharpened their attacks, albeit to little avail as the next episode marked another victory for Iranian women. On Oct. 16, they once again found their way into the grand stadium, purchasing tickets this time for a friendly match between the national teams of Iran and Bolivia. Nevertheless, the women given permission to attend had to follow the game in a special section. They were the chosen ones, mostly journalists, family members of the athletes on the field as well as staffers of Iran's Ministry of Sports and the country's soccer federation. The ban was, therefore, still technically enforced on ordinary women.

Although women's entry was limited and of a handpicked nature, Iran's hard-liners immediately mounted more pressure. The prosecutor general was the first senior official to hit out at the Rouhani government's latest decision. "Women's presence at stadiums is social harm," Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said Oct. 17. "There is no religious justification for them to go there and watch men's half-naked bodies. By doing so, they are committing a sin," he added. The strongly worded remarks concluded with the warning that officials attempting a repeat will face the "harshest judicial action."

But the message was not taken seriously. On Nov. 10, women once again found the gates opened to watch the Asian Football Confederation's Champions League final pitting Iran's Persepolis against Japan's Kashima Antlers. Women were given space but again in a segregated stand and were barred from sitting among the male spectators. Still, this was considered another leap forward taken in the presence of Infantino, who watched the game from the VIP section.

Although their stadium attendance has been limited to those few instances, Iranian women seem to have succeeded in slowly bringing judicial authorities on board. Hadi Sadeghi, the cultural deputy of Iran's judiciary, said Dec. 23 that women's presence at stadiums was not counter to religious rules on the condition that "morality was observed" and the stadium atmosphere was controlled enough to prevent improper words shouted by male fans in women's presence. This significant reversal by the judicial authorities, who had earlier shown no willingness to compromise, could be interpreted as proof of Rouhani's remark that the issue can be settled in the course of time.

Iranian women's rights advocates and civil society members contend that the new achievements were earned thanks to their tireless campaigning. Some, however, are still unhappy. "One cannot disregard the progress made, but I think that's too little," women's rights activist Fahimeh Miri told Al-Monitor. "Besides, the selective approach which isolates women in a corner of the stands does not seem to be a solution." According to the senior journalist, the limited permission is only meant to do away with international pressure and to "fool" FIFA authorities. For a genuinely free entry of women, she said, "they must be given the chance to buy tickets just like men and choose their seats from any section in the stands, regardless of who sits next to them."

Although Iranian women are still far from where their European counterparts stand when it comes to watching men's soccer, developments in the past nine months have been fast-track and highly remarkable, breaking a decades-long deadlock. In a country where pressure from the powerful ultra-conservative institutions is always immense and effective in blocking social change, this is but pure success.

The gradual but steady strategy adopted by Iranian activists for change in this sector with a bottom-up nature seems to be of greater impact than the Saudi model, which was rooted in an official top-down order. In the Iranian version, the activists have to sweat it out for every single step forward, but this also encourages them to make sacrifices to safeguard the smallest achievements. In the top-down Saudi-style pattern, however, risks remain high that the older restrictions could be quickly restored by a new official's flip of a pen.

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/02/iran-stadium-ban-women-soccer-campaign-fifa-volleyball.html

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/pakistan-puts-asia-bibi-in-‘no-fly’-list/d/117756

 

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