New Age Islam News Bureau
30 Oct 2013
A protest against the practice of Swara was organised by non-governmental organisation Khwendo Tolana in Mingora Bazaar. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ/EXPRESS
• Women Now Taking on Key Men’s Jobs in Saudi Kingdom
• ‘Afghan Girl’ Photographer Tells Stories Behind Images
• Turkish Govt to Offer Loans For Newly Married Couples
• Saudi writer who opposed ban on women driving held
• Women Gain As Gender Gap ‘Narrows’: World Economic Forum
• New Court Documents Detail Abuse of Pregnant Woman in UK-US Libya Renditions
• Islamic World Should Empower Women for Economic Advancement: Malaysian PM
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Pakistan: Second Grader Married Off To Settle a Family Dispute
October 30, 2013
MINGORA: Samia*, 8, has four years to go before she is married off to settle a family dispute.
A resident of Paklai, Madyan valley in Swat, Samia studies in second grade at Government Primary School Paklai and hopes to become a doctor one day; but she was given in swara three months ago. She is now to be married to Mehmood*, a man from a rival family, when she turns 12.
“My schoolmates mock me every day. They started making fun of me after they found out I had been given away in swara,” she said, her voice heavy with sadness.
A few years ago, Samia’s father Kamran Ali had eloped with a girl who was already engaged elsewhere and the couple had gone into hiding. The elopement resulted in a dispute between the two families, which was resolved three months ago when it was decided that Ali’s family would give two girls to his rival’s family in swara. Samia said one girl from her family, Sarah*, 18, has already been married off to the rival family.
Last week, Samia’s mother approached the police to save her daughter from the custom. Police has arrested all those involved in the decision, including the girl’s father.
Although swara was declared unlawful in the last government, the oppressive custom is still practiced in the tribal areas and all provinces under various names such as vani or sang chatti. The custom also prevails in rural areas of Swat, where according to legal experts and social activists, a majority of cases go unnoticed.
“The problem is that swara is mostly decided between two families with mutual agreement due to which most cases go unnoticed, while the few that do come to light are the ones someone reported to the police,” said Iqbal Biland, a social activist in Mingora.
As many as five swara cases have surfaced from Swat in the past three months. Police have arrested all those involved. “Whenever we come across any such case we take prompt legal action against the violators and show no laxity,” said Swat Assistant Commissioner Farrukh Ateeq.
Human rights activists demanded the government ensure the practice is eliminated from all remote areas. “The government should tell us clearly when the bleak tradition of swara will end in our area. It is inhumane to sacrifice innocent girls for the crime of a family’s male members,” said Tabbasum Bashir, the chairperson of the first female jirga in Swat.
*Names have been changed to protect identity
Women Now Taking on Key Men’s Jobs in Saudi Kingdom
October 30, 2013
MADINAH — Social and financial conditions have forced many women to accept jobs traditionally dominated by men that they would in the past not consider.
Today, many women have shown extraordinary capability to adapt and excel at these jobs and prove that they are as good as men.
Umm Nawal is one of those women. Being divorced and having five children did not stop her from taking on a job that was difficult for women.
She said she found herself having to accept the job after her father refused to let her children stay with her in his house.
After she got divorced, she moved to her father's house and took her children with her. But her father gave her two options: either to stay in the house without her children or leave with them.
She chose the second option and rented an apartment for her and her children. When she started searching for a job, her friend told her about an opening for a saleswoman at a clothes shop.
"I didn't like the idea because this is a predominately male job. I kept searching for other opportunities in order to provide for my children but I didn't find any other job."
She accepted her friend's offer and worked for the shop. In the beginning, she felt embarrassed about it and was worried that one of her family members or that of her ex-husband's would see her working for the shop. However, she worked her way up until she was promoted to a manager’s position.
Bari'ah Ali had a difficult time convincing her family that there was nothing wrong with working as an event organizer for a hotel.
Ali got divorced a year after her marriage and did not have children with her ex-husband. She went through financial problems and had to search for a job and live independently.
She landed a good job as an event organizer for a hotel. Her family opposed the idea because women rarely do such jobs. She said: “My family didn't like the fact that I would have to interact with male colleagues on a daily basis. They wanted me to work in a women-only environment."
However, Bari'ah kept improving her skills and got a raise. Today, she earns more than her sister, who has been a teacher for 15 years. Abrar Muhammad, social worker for a charitable organization in Jeddah, said some families believe women should only work in certain jobs and not venture into occupations predominately filled by men.
If a woman is divorced, she would have a hard time changing the way her family and society look at her if she takes on a male job, Muhammad said. "If a woman wears her hijab and follows Shariah rules, she can work in any place."
‘Afghan girl’ photographer tells stories behind images
October 30, 2013
PARIS — Photographer Steve McCurry remembers exactly how he got his famed 1983 shot of two Pakistani waiters passing a tea tray precariously along the outside of a moving train.
"I leaned out the window and someone was holding my legs but I was thinking, ‘Oh no this is not going to end well’," he said, recalling the photograph he took one morning three decades ago as breakfast was served between Peshawar and Lahore.
Hanging perilously from hand rails between the dining car and first class, the waiters dressed in white uniforms and green and gold turbans were passing the tray along the outside of the carriages because the connecting doors had been locked for security reasons.
McCurry, 63, whose many memorable images have earned him a reputation as one of the foremost photographers of his generation, says he weighed up the risk and decided it was worth it.
"I’d rather take the risk than not take the risk and then always wonder if I should have. I think there’s nothing worse than being timid," he told AFP in an interview in Paris.
"Sometimes you just have to evaluate the risk and say ‘you know what, I have to do this’," he said.
It’s just one of many stories behind the photographs recounted in McCurry’s latest book, "Steve McCurry Untold".
In it, he revisits not only some of his best-known images but also decades’ worth of notes, letters and other ephemera such as tickets and receipts.
Packed away and forgotten in drawers and cupboards after returning from assignments over the years, they give a sense of the planning and technical difficulties involved in capturing such pictures.
"It’s almost like archaeology, things, layers, stacks of things accumulated as years and decades passed," he said.
"Documents and pictures that were not part of the story, that were never published, but were still a piece of the puzzle," he said.
McCurry’s career has taken him all over the world but he says the majority of his time has been spent between Afghanistan and Burma and in Sri Lanka and Tibet.
Arguably his best-known image is that of the young "Afghan girl" he photographed in 1984 in a refugee camp in north-west Pakistan at the time of the Soviet occupation.
Camps had sprung up along the Afghan-Pakistan border and many refugees had been living there for years in conditions of great hardship. Between August and November 1984 McCurry visited most of the 30-odd camps.
It was on a visit to one of these that he encountered the girl, whose name he later learned to be Sharbat Gula, and whose photograph appeared on the front cover of National Geographic magazine in June 1985.
Coming across her in a class at a camp school, he immediately noticed her piercing green eyes and set about taking her portrait.
"For a few seconds everything was perfect, the light, the background, the expression in her eyes", he recalled in the book.
In fact, that photograph nearly did not make the front cover as another of the same girl had been selected.
But the magazine’s editor-in-chief made a habit of viewing the photographs that had been considered and discarded for the cover and was immediately struck by his other shot.
The image prompted an immediate reaction from readers and was later voted the most recognised photograph in the magazine’s history.
McCurry says he has always gravitated towards portrait photography. "I love portraits, I love examining the human face," he said.
In 2002, without even knowing her name -- the photographer went back to Pakistan with a film crew to try and find Gula.
In the intervening years her image had come to symbolise the suffering of the Afghan refugee but her life in Afghanistan had been hard and she was unaware of its impact.
The family did not ask for money but McCurry and the magazine made it clear they wanted to help.
Over the subsequent years they were able to ensure in various ways -- such as medical treatment and a pilgrimage to Mecca -- that she and her family also shared in photograph’s success.
McCurry said meeting people in such conditions of suffering or hardship and then leaving without being able help them materially or change their plight was something all photographers and journalists had to grapple with.
"It’s a terrible thing and it probably affects you deeply," he said. "But the only way we really know what is happening in the world is by people reporting on it... so I guess we just have to think ‘how can I contribute?’.
"And the way I can contribute is by photography and raising awareness so people are informed," he said. — AFP
Turkish govt to offer loans for newly married couples
World Bulletin / News Desk
October 30, 2013
The minister for family and social policy has said the government is working on plans to offer TL 10,000 loans at no interest to newly married couples.
Minister Fatma Sahin tweeted on Monday, “A TL 10,000 loan will be issued at no interest to newly married couples.” She further tweeted, “In the event of pregnancy or birth in the first year, the couple will be given the chance to delay payments.”
The government has been introducing new incentives it hopes will promote higher rates of childbirth as a measure against the country's ageing population.
Saudi writer who opposed ban on women driving held
October 30, 2013
Dubai: Human Rights Watch says a Saudi schoolteacher who supported ending his country's ban on women driving has been detained.
The New York-based organization said Tuesday, citing activists, that Tariq al-Mubarak was summoned by police investigators on Sunday and taken into custody.
In a column published in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat the day of his arrest, al-Mubarak says extremists are intimidating people from exercising their rights. He says freedoms "are not instilled in our culture, nor our interpretation of religion."
Over 60 women claimed to have gotten behind the wheel Saturday to oppose the ban. The campaign sparked protest by the kingdom's ultraconservative religious establishment.
Women Gain As Gender Gap ‘Narrows’: World Economic Forum
October 30, 2013
The gap between men and women has narrowed slightly in the past year in most countries, according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) report.
Iceland, Finland and Norway top the list of 136 nations, based on political participation, economic equality and rights like education and health.
The Middle East and North Africa were the only regions not to improve in the past year, with Yemen at the bottom. The WEF has produced the report annually for the past eight years.
Iceland’s position at the top of the WEF rankings was the fifth year in a row the country has been named the worlds most equal.
Report founder and co-author Saadia Zahidi told the BBC that since the WEF began compiling the index in 2006, 80% of countries had made progress.
She singled out the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia as countries that had invested in education and health, but had not integrated women into the economy.
Saadia Zahidi of the WEF said that by contrast many sub-Saharan countries had not invested in women, but through necessity they played a major role in the economy.
Nordic countries continued to lead the way because they had a long history of investing in people, she said.
Iceland, Finland (second), Norway (third) and Sweden (fourth) had all closed over 80% of the gender gap, where 100% would represent full equality.
The highest-ranked Asian nation was the Philippines (fifth), praised for its success in health, education and economic participation.
Asia’s major economies performed poorly, with China in 69th place and Japan 105th.
Among major world economies Germany ranked 14th (down one), the UK held its position at 18, with Canada at 20 and the United States 23rd.
On matters of health and survival, the report finds that 96% of the gap has now closed.
In terms of education, the global gender gap is 93% closed, with 25 countries now judged to deliver equal treatment to boys and girls at school.
It is a different picture on the core issue of economic equality, where the gender gap has closed by 60%.
New Court Documents Detail Abuse of Pregnant Woman in UK-US Libya Renditions
October 30, 2013
LONDON - As a High Court hearing on UK involvement in torture and rendition enters its third day, documents released detail the ordeal faced by the pregnant wife of a Gaddafi opponent during her 2004 ‘rendition.’
Fatima Boudchar and her husband Abdul-Hakim Belhadj are bringing a claim against the Government, MI6 and then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw over their role in the kidnap and forcible transfer of the couple to Gaddafi’s prisons – in what has been described as the secret counterpart to Tony Blair’s ‘Deal in the Desert’ with the Libyan dictator.
Court documents released today, prepared by the couple’s legal team and human rights charity Reprieve, describe how Ms Boudchar – who was heavily pregnant at the time – was blindfolded, taken to a cell and “chained to the wall by one hand and one leg,” before being “taped to a stretcher tightly making her fear for her baby” and forced on board a CIA jet.
“Upon arrival in Tripoli,” they go on to say, “the First Claimant [Mr Belhadj] was beaten again. The Second Claimant [Ms Boudchar] could no longer feel her baby move in her womb and was concerned that he had died. Both Claimants were taken to Tajoura prison, a detention facility operated by the Libyan intelligence services.”
The documents detail MI6’s part in the operation, noting that “On 18 March 2004, the Second Defendant sent a letter to Moussa Koussa, the head of the Libyan External Security Organisation, warmly congratulating him on the successful capture, kidnap and abduction of the First Claimant.”
MI6’s part in the operation is highlighted in a now-infamous fax from Sir Mark Allen (who is also a defendant in the case along with Jack Straw), which states that: “Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from [the First Claimant] through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing. The intelligence about [the First Claimant] was British. I know I did not pay for the air cargo. But I feel I have the right to deal with you direct on this and am very grateful to you for the help you are giving us”
The court documents, which set out the argument being made in today’s hearing by the couple’s lawyers, also point out that the Government’s attempt to get the case thrown out is “incompatible with the rule of law and has grave constitutional implications,” adding that, “If the Defendants are correct, it will leave anyone who is a victim of torture without any remedy if another state was involved in some way in the conduct.”
They also point out that the Government’s case contradicts claims ministers made when seeking to introduce new secret courts earlier this year under the Justice and Security Act: “The Defendants’ position is also incompatible with the Government’s recent programme of legislative reform. The Justice and Security Act 2013 included provisions for closed material procedures to deal with what was said to be the problem of claims such as the instant one. This was predicated on the basis that such claims would proceed. The Defendants now ask the Court to do what they did not seek to do in Parliament.”
Commenting, Reprieve’s Strategic Director, Cori Crider said: “Britain’s collusion in the kidnap and abuse of a pregnant woman shows just how far we strayed from our principles in the so called ‘War on Terror.’ It is now clear that the renditions of Abdul-Hakim Belhadj and Fatima Boudchar were the dark underside to Tony Blair’s deal in the desert, yet neither he, then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw nor the current Government are prepared to give our clients the apology they deserve. Instead they are running a specious and immoral argument that British Courts cannot judge British officials when they are said to have conspired with foreign torturers. Moussa Koussa was MI6's co-conspirator, not a get out of jail free card.”
Notes to editors:
1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 / firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Ms Boudchar’s treatment is detailed from paragraph 2.2.12 onwards of the skeleton argument, which is available via email on request or on Reprieve's website.
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Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.
Islamic World Should Empower Women For Economic Advancement: Malaysian PM
By Palash Ghosh
October 29 2013
The Islamic world should work to empower its women as a way to improve and maintain economic growth, said the prime minister of Muslim-majority Malaysia. In a speech delivered to the World Islamic Economic Forum in London on Tuesday, Najib Razak cited that higher participation of females in a nation’s economy uplifts economic growth and development. He also noted that the basic tenets of Islam endorsed the contributions of women to a society’s economic well-being. “The Quran and the Hadith [deeds and sayings of Prophet Muhammad] are clear: Learning is an honorable pursuit, regardless of gender,” Najib told the gathering.
The prime minister also pointed to the deep gulf between advanced Muslim nations like his own, which encourage women to study and work, and poorer Islamic states that severely restrict the rights of women. According to the World Bank, of the 20 countries on earth with the lowest rates of female participation in the economy, 19 are Muslim-majority. “The acquisition of knowledge is binding for all Muslims,” Najib declared. “Those who argue against educating women do so as a result of a cultural bias, one which frustrates the aspirations of Muslim women -- and holds back economies.”