Members of "Team Afghanistan" international robotic competition (First Global Media)
My Name Is Muslim, Born To Sikhs, Eye Peace: Miss India Runner-Up
Female Afghanistan Students Denied Chance to Attend US-Based Robotics Competition, But Iranians Given Go-Ahead
How Female Migrant Workers Changed the Face of Their Village in Bangladesh
Germany Offers Unprecedented Police Protection to Woman behind ‘Liberal Mosque’
Woman in a Fix after Bangladeshi Husband Flees With Passports
Bangladesh Arrests Three Female Militants
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
‘Please brother, don’t kill me:’ Iraqi woman buried alive by her family
3 July 2017
One wintry night, a brown pick-up truck drove through the Kurdish highlands in northern Iraq with four men and a woman inside.
The oldest man in charge held a pistol to the woman’s right thigh, ordering her to be quiet as they approached a checkpoint.
After an hour of driving, the men arrived at a spring in the mountains where they beat the woman with sticks and forced her to walk for about a mile before stopping in an orchard.
“Please brother, don’t kill me, for the sake of Allah,” the woman — who asked to be identified as Lava to protect her identity — said she pleaded with her older brother Jamal on that night about two years ago.
But her pleas were ignored and she was forced to the ground, with her hands tied behind her back and her legs bound, while two of her other brothers dug a grave.
Lava knew well of the countless stories in the Kurdish press of women whose charred bodies are found in remote areas, suspected victims of so-called “honor” killings when women are strangled, stabbed or set on fire by their relatives and the authorities then notified of a suicide.
Once only common in rural areas, women’s rights campaigners are concerned the practice of murdering women for what some see as “immoral acts” has also become commonplace, and accepted, in Iraq’s cities and towns but the exact numbers are unknown.
Anecdotally it seems the numbers are rising despite increased awareness of the crime, educational policies and an expanded school system with campaigners calling for more action by the authorities to stop these murders.
“According to the official data from the government this year there were 24 cases of honor killing cases until the end of May,” said Khanim Rahim, director of the women’s rights group Asuda for Combating Violence against Women in Iraqi Kurdistan.
“But you need to bear in mind that there are cases that are not registered or reported to the authorities.”
In February 2015, figures reported from the Kurdistan Health Ministry showed in the last five years over 3,000 women had been killed as a result of domestic violence in the Kurdistan region. Campaigners say the real number is likely to be higher.
Crime and punishment
Lava, whose “crime” was to be seen in the car of a young man after leaving her job at a hotel in Dohuk in February 2015, said two of her three brothers and a cousin threw her into the newly-dug grave and covered her with soil so only her head stuck out.
“You dishonored us. This is your punishment in this world and you should expect worse in the other world,” she said her brother yelled before the men disappeared into the darkness.
The Iraq National Youth Survey in 2009 found 68 percent of young men accept the killing of a women for shaming a family.
Lava tried unsuccessfully to remove some soil off her chest to relieve the pressure on her lungs but believes she then must have fallen unconscious.
She was lucky, however, a rare case of a woman surviving such a murder bid.
Her brother-in-law, a respected lawyer, had heard her brothers plotting to kill her and managed to convince her father to reveal the location of her grave.
“It was evening of the following day when I saw my older sister coming toward the grave accompanied by her husband and my three brothers,” Lava told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a cafe in an undisclosed location in the Kurdish region.
“I never thought I would come out of that grave alive.”
Campaigners say Iraqi law is letting women down by not cracking down on those responsible for killing female relatives.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has taken some measures to protect women who fear for their lives by opening several protection centers and in 2009 launched the High Council of Women’s Affairs to promote and protect women’s rights.
In 2012, the KRG launched a five-year plan to combat violence against women which it described as an “urgent priority” to remove “violence against women and providing a quiet and a happy life for them in Kurdistan and preserving the stability of the community.”
Calls for legal changes
But in Iraq and Jordan, “honor” killings fall in a separate legal category with murderers getting lighter sentencing, although both countries are in the process of reforming the penal code that deals with violence against women.
The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner called on the Iraqi government in December 2015 to swiftly amend its Criminal Code that permit “honor” as a lawful defense in ciders against women and family members.
For while the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has repealed sections of the Criminal Code that permit reasons of honor as mitigation for crimes of violence committed against family members, these provisions remain in force in the Iraqi Criminal Code.
The US State Department said in a 2016 report on human rights practices that “honor” killings remain a serious problem throughout Iraq and this provision limited a sentence for murder to a maximum of three years in prison for such crimes.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq documented several cases of honor killings.
These included the murder in Basra of a 15-year-old girl who was decapitated, her head wrapped in a hijab, and thrown into a garbage can, and the case of a man never jailed after stabbing his 20-year-old daughter to death for dating a fellow university student.
Parwa Ali, a woman parliamentarian in Kurdistan who has dealt with a number of “honor” related cases, said the government has not done enough to stop these crimes.
“Unfortunately violence against women is deteriorating and most honor related cases are resolved through tribal agreement ... and not at courts,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Sulaymaniyah.
Ali said the problem was complex due to the tribal nature of political parties and their interference in the judicial process to satisfy the tribal electorate as well as a patriarchal and tribal code of behavior for women.
She also criticized the special amnesties issued by the KRG presidency which often allow such killers to go free.
“We have not seen a killer of a woman serve his full sentence because they often get out under various pretexts,” said Ali who was voted into parliament in 2013.
Rezan Sheikh Dler, a member of the Iraq parliament’s Women and Children Affairs Committee, said Article 409 still applies in Iraqi penal code and men who kill their wives for “honor” are often sentenced to one year in prison.
“As women parliamentarians in the Iraqi parliament we are trying to amend this article but it is not easy and it’ll take time,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“In Jordan they have similar provisions.”
Pakistan’s parliament last year passed legislation against “honor killings,” removing a loophole in existing law that allowed killers to walk free after being pardoned by family members, after the murder of an outspoken social media star. Her brother was arrested after her death.
Although Lava was one of the lucky ones to survive her attempted murder, she does not feel safe.
She was not allowed to leave the family house for 18 months after the night she was rescued but in September 2016, one of her brothers asked her to go and work in a hotel.
She saw her chance and planned an escape, fleeing earlier this year.
Her future is uncertain but she is convinced that she will be killed by her brothers if she does not escape Kurdistan.
“I know they will kill me one day but let me breathe freely while I am still alive,” she said.
My name is Muslim, born to Sikhs, eye peace: Miss India runner-up
Jul 3, 2017
JAMMU/ MAMUN: Sitting atop a T-72 battle tank at her father's armoured regiment in a tiny cantonment in north India, Sana Dua exercises caution as she ensconces herself on the left side of the turret. As she turns on the vehicle radio and rotates the 125-mm gun, there is thunderous applause.
"Encore!" scream, aviator-sporting captains and Lt Colonels in uniform as they fix their gaze on her. The 24-year-old beauty is after all the Miss India runner-up.
And, there couldn't have been a better homecoming than at the lawns where she grew up seeing projectiles, propellants, guns and yokes with her father, Col (retd) Amrik Singh Dua.
But Sana is quick with a word of caution, "Peace in my state first. It's time my triumph changed the face of the state". In fact, as the regiment brigade joined her at a felicitation lunch, she made it a point to spell out her secular beliefs.
"I have a Muslim name Sana. And at the pageant, when my friends and colleagues would ask me what religion I was, I said I am a pa'aji," she laughed. "Pa'aji because I am born to Sikh parents. But, after knowing my name's meaning and origin, my friends began to address me as bhaijaan. Yet, I felt proud that the modern India is secular," she said. Sana's elder brother Varun Dua, a software engineer with Infosys in Chandigarh, said, "All thanks to our father who served the Indian Army. We are proud of him. Both of us siblings worshipped Sikh gurus at home, went to Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu, and wish each other on Eid. We may be from a strife-torn area which has a religious divide but for us a secular India comes first."
According to Sana, her graduation in law was an eye opener. It made her explore and understand the extent of crime against women as also about labour laws.
"When I took up law course at Panjab University in Chandigarh, the desire was to be aware of my rights. But soon, I felt that I could change the life with the laws that women of this country not know of," she said.
Though she changed her course only after 2015, she insists it was only because like every man, a woman has a right to pursue her childhood dreams.
Female Afghanistan students denied chance to attend US-based robotics competition, but Iranians given go-ahead
2 July 2017
JEDDAH: A group of teenaged girls from Afghanistan have been left devastated after being denied visas to travel to the US to compete in an international robotic competition.
The six students were refused visas after twice traveling about 800km (500 miles) from the western city of Herat, to the Amercian embassy in Kabul.
Yet despite being denied the one-week visas, they were told they could still send the ball-sorting robot they have created, to compete in their absence in the US capital, Washington.
The girls will give their presentation via a video link.
Meanwhile students from Iran, Iraq, and Sudan have all been granted visas to compete in the event.
A team from Gambia is the only other team to have been denied travel visas.
The First Global Challenge is an annual contest for students from around the world.
The all-girl team had been put together by Roya Mahboob, Afghanistan’s first female technology boss.
Mahboob, who founded the software company Citadel, said the girls were “crying all day” after discovering they could not go to the competition.
Speaking to Forbes magazine, Mahboob said: “It’s a very important message for our people. Robotics is very, very new in Afghanistan.
The girls are still working on a ball-sorting robot which they will send to compete against 163 other machines at the First challenge in July, and they will appear at the event via video link from Herat.”
The girls received help with the programing of their robot from graduate students Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania.
However there was a moment when they doubted the robot could go, as customs officials carried out inspections on the raw materials used to build the device, amid fears Daesh could use robots to fight their battles.
Luckily Team Afghanistan now has permission to send the robot.
Fourteen-year-old team member, Fatemah said: “We want to show the world we can do it, we just need a chance.”
Girls in Afghanistan were denied education for many years when the country was under Taliban control. This changed gradually after the US-led invasion pushed the insurgents out of the towns and cities across the country.
But there is growing concern of a resurgent Taliban reversing the progress made since the allied forces withdrawal in 2014, once again preventing girls from attending schools.
Joe Sestak, First Global president described the girls as “extraordinarily brave young women.” He told Forbes he was disappointed they had been denied the chance to travel to the US.
How Female Migrant Workers Changed the Face of Their Village in Bangladesh
July 03, 2017
'But I did not listen to them. I was the first woman to leave my village and fly to the UAE. Now I am happy that I got to fulfil my dreams'
It would not be surprising, in this day and age, to find a number of expats from any of the villages scattered around Bangladesh. People have been trickling out of Bangladesh over to the Middle East for decades. However, inside the boundaries of Basotpur Colony in Sharsha Upazila of Jessore, the scenario is completely new. From being one of the poorest villages in the union, Basotpur Colony has turned into a place for educated and wealthy villagers. And the change can only be credited to its main workforce- the female expats.
Only 10 years ago, Basotpur Colony was one of the most impoverished villages in the union, according to information provided by Baganchara Union Parishad in Sharsha Upazila of the district. The agro-lands of the village would be underwater 8 months a year and people would catch fishes to survive. The men of the village did not have any jobs, with the majority of them working as day labourers.
Things started to change when Jahanara Begum, wife of Billal Hossain, left for the United Arab Emirates on 1991 as the first female expatriate. She worked as a house maid for several years before taking her husband, brothers, sisters and relatives to UAE. “I had never dreamt of good food and a house while I was in my village. The villagers led hopeless and frustrating lives. So one day, I made up my mind to go the United Arab Emirates. An Indian expat helped me with my visa,” Jahanara Begum told the Dhaka Tribune.
“At first the locals opposed my decision and tried to stop me from following my dreams,” she continued.
“But I did not listen to them. I was the first woman to leave my village and fly to the UAE. Now I am happy that I got to fulfill my dreams.”
Now the once poor village has turned into one of the richest villages in the union. Nearly 1,600 women and 600 men of the village are working in different countries in the Middle East, according to the information relied by Bangachara UnionParishad. These expatriates with their income earned abroad have changed the circumstances inside Basotpur.
“I had nothing to lose. At home I had four children, a sick mother-in-law and others to feed. But I had no income source. My husband made little money and could not support our large family. So I decided to risk everything and left for the Middle East. Now, nearly 2,000 people are working abroad and sending their money home,” said Jahanara Begum.
According to the locals, in 2000, the village faced the devastating consequences of a flood which caused terrible food crisis throughout the entire area. During the flood, the villagers survived upon government provided reliefs. After the flood, the women finally made up their minds and began migrating to the Middle East.
Rokeya Begum, a housewife from the village who has lived in the UAE for eight years, told Dhaka Tribune that she was forced to leave her two-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son because of the overwhelming poverty. After returning from the UAE in 2011, she built a fully furnished two-storey building in her village. Her daughter is now studying in a college in Dhaka and her son is a businessman.
The chairman of Baganchara Union Parishad, Ilias Kabir Bakul, said: “The expat women have changed the scenario of this village, turning it from the poorest to the richest. They are a blessing to us.”
He also said: “A total of 2,000 women and 800 men from my union have been working in the Middle East over the years. Among them, 1,600 women and 600 men hail from the Basotpur Colony.”
Rezaul Islam, the first ever person to study in Dhaka University from Basotpur, told the Dhaka Tribune: “People from my village never dreamt of pursuing higher studies. Their only thoughts were of food and survival. There were only two or three people in our village who had passed SSC. But now we have many kids from here studying all over the country, some even in Dhaka University.”
Rezaul’s elder sister has been working in Oman for the last eight years while his brother has been in Malaysia for seven years.
“Our women make us happy. They changed the financial state of the locality. They are the faces of women’s empowerment. I am proud that my sister is also an expat and has helped to expand the economy of the village,” he said.
Ismail Hossain, Jahanara’s brother and a teacher of Basotpur Colony Government Primary School, said: “Our women have changed the lifestyles of the men in our area. Now women from other villages are taking their lead and going to the Middle East to seek employment. But my sister Jahanara was the pioneer and flag bearer.”
Germany Offers Unprecedented Police Protection To Woman Behind ‘Liberal Mosque’
The founder of a liberal mosque in Berlin has been granted around-the-clock police protection after receiving more than 100 death threats in recent weeks.
Seyran Ates, a Turkish-born lawyer, opened the Ruschd-Goethe mosque in June to promote a liberal version of Islam. The mosque has banned the burqa and lets men and women pray side by side. The Koran is interpreted “historically and critically” and gays are welcome.
Ates says she has received about 3,000 hate emails per day, and more than 100 death threats since the mosque launched. Germany’s National Criminal Police Office (LKA) is now offering an unusual level of protection.
“I have received so many death threats on social media because of the establishment of the mosque that the LKA has reached the point of protecting me around the clock,” Ates told newspaper Welt am Sonntag Sunday.
Several Muslim governments have condemned the mosque. Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah, Egypt’s state-run Islamic organization, said the practice of men and women praying together is incompatible with Islam. Turkey’s religious authority, Diyanet, also criticized the mosque after instructions from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“This shows once again what a spirited child Erdogan is,” Ates told Welt. “[He] has never understood democracy and never wanted it. Erdogan does not have any personal freedoms.”
Woman in a fix after Bangladeshi husband flees with passports
July 3, 2017
PETALING JAYA: A Malaysian woman was reportedly abandoned by her Bangladeshi husband at the Chittagong Shah Amanat International Airport after the man went missing together with her passport.
Officer in charge of the Patenga police station Md Abdul Kashem told the Dhaka Tribune that Nur Sohafa, 45, was found wandering “aimlessly” around the airport.
“Immigration police took her aside for questioning and was told her passport had gone missing along with her husband,” Kashem told the paper.
According to the report, Sohafa was scheduled to return to Malaysia on June 30 after spending a month visiting the village of her husband, Md Lavlu, in Faridpur.
However, Lavlu disappeared from the airport together with Sohafa’s passport and other documents which he had been carrying.
Kashem said Sohafa did not know the address of Lavlu’s home in the village. He added that police were trying to locate Lavlu, and that Sohafa had been sent to court to seek directives regarding safe custody.
The couple have been married for five years.
Bangladesh arrests three female militants
2 July 2017
DHAKA: Bangladesh police have arrested three female members of an extremist group blamed for the deadly Dhaka café siege, officials said Sunday, as authorities continue to crack down on militant outfits a year after the attack.
The three women were arrested late Saturday following a failed suicide bombing after their hide-out was raided in western Kushtia district’s Bheramara town, 228 kilometers from the capital Dhaka.
Local police chief Nur Hossain Khandker told AFP that one of the suspects wearing a suicide bomb vest tried to blow herself up as she rushed toward authorities after being asked to surrender.
“She failed and we arrested her without any harm. Later she said she couldn’t find the trigger, or else, there would have been many casualties,” Khandker said.
Kushtia police chief Mehedi Hasan said the women were members of Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a local group blamed for the 2016 Holey bakery attack in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone where militants killed 22 people.
Police said one of the women, Tithi Khatun, 30, is the wife of acting JMB chief Ayyub Bacchu who is on the run and allegedly visited the hideout frequently.
“We conducted a clean sweep operation inside the den and found 10 kilos of gunpowder, two armed (suicide) vests and a loaded pistol,” Khandker said.
“Two minor children were also rescued from the hideout,” he added.
Bangladesh has been reeling from a spate of extremist violence in recent years, with dozens of foreigners, secular writers, atheist activists and members of religious minorities killed.
Many of those, including the café carnage, were claimed by Daesh or Al-Qaeda but the secular government of Sheikh Hasina denies the claims, blaming homegrown militants.
However, since the café attack, authorities have gunned down nearly 70 extremists across the country and arrested scores.
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