In 2013, violent crime against women in Afghanistan reached a record high (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
First Saudi Woman Appointed To a Top OIC Post
Saudi Women Prefer To Hire Female Expats to Drive Them
Sweden Championed Gender Equality to Raise Birth Rates - and it Worked
Kenyan President Signs Marriage Bill into Law, Legalising Polygamy
Muslim, Sikh Groups File Complaints over Head Scarf Policy at OC Theme Park
Meet Wazhma, the Reason Afghanistan Needs More Female Lawyers
Maldives Parliament Passes Sexual Harassment and Sexual Offences Bills
Saudi Man and Bahraini Woman Jailed For Selling Drugs, Illicit Relations
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Police Fear Jihad Girls Held By Radicals In Turkey
01 May, 2014
Advocates of Jihad have been accused of manipulating the social media accounts of two teenage girls from Austria to make it seem as if they were fighting in the holy war in Syria.
School friends of Samra, 16, and her friend Sabina, 15, confirmed that they had become radicalised after attending a local mosque and learning last summer about the duty of every Muslim to take part in the holy war.
They confirmed that the two girls had run into difficulties at school, talking to fellow pupils about Jihad.
The head of their school in the Austrian capital Vienna, Peter Slanar, said: "I would have said a year ago that they were perfectly normal teenage girls, but then the older, Samra, started sending pictures of herself in the Muslim headscarf to fellow pupils and was trying to convert everybody to her point of view. They were vandalism incidents in which tables and walls had the words "I love Al Qaeda" written on them.
"We had to act when they started saying that America was to blame for the September 11 attack. That was simply going too far. When there were several attempts at intervention that didn't bring a result, we invited Samra's mother for a conversation and she was very annoyed about what her daughter was doing, and took her out of the school in January."
That culminated with the pair taking their passports and leaving the country, travelling to Turkey where they later posted messages together with photographs claiming that they were on the front line and fighting with their new husbands as part of the Jihad.
But the pictures were quickly shown to be a fake and now Interpol working together with police in Turkey and Austria say that they have managed to confirm that the girls are not in Syria, and are in fact still in Turkey. They believe that whoever helped them to leave the country are manipulating their social media accounts to turn them into pin-up girls for the call to join in the Holy War.
The fact that they are still in Turkey was revealed after it turned out that one of the girls, Samra, had called her sister from a telephone that was traced to a landline based in Turkey. Police were not prepared to say more for fear of jeopardising the mission to find the pair. She told her sister simply: "Don't worry about me, greetings to everyone."
The first their parents knew that the teenagers had even gone was when they started getting messages posted on social media networks saying that they had gone to fight in Syria. The family said right from the start that they did not believe the messages were written by the girls, and authorities suspect that the impressionable teenagers had been tricked into leaving the country.
They come from Bosnian refugee families who settled in Austria after the ethnic wars of the 1990's and were born in the Alpine Republic. The faked photos on their Facebook pages show them brandishing Kalashnikov rifles – and in some cases surrounded by armed men. It also showed them announcing their marriage plans so that they could become holy warriors and added: "Death is our goal".
In Vienna the family admitted that the two had started going to a local mosque last year run by a radical Imam, Ebu Tejma. They were close friends, and lived together in the same block of flats in Vienna's Favoriten district.
Austrian Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck said that the girls were some of hundreds from the West who had made their way there. He said: "These were people that did not become extremists from nowhere, somebody was responsible."
First Saudi woman appointed to a top OIC post
01 May, 2014
JEDDAH — Maha Akeel, a Saudi journalist who was the managing editor of OIC journal, has been appointed the Director of Information and Public Relations at the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
The appointment of a woman as a Director of a department is a shot-in-the-arm for women empowerment.
Speaking to Saudi Gazette she said that her new duties are to keep the public informed about OIC and its activities, to promote objective and strategies of the organization and to shed light on different initiatives of OIC.
She described the new position as “challenging” and a “big step” for women in the Islamic states and Saudi women in particular. “I have big responsibilities, however, with the support of the secretary-general and the help of my colleagues I will be able to do my duty.”
The challenge, she said, are less intense as she has been familiar with the work in the OIC having worked in the media department for seven years. “Women have been working in the OIC since 2006 when I first joined. We are now about 7 in number, and the secretary-general is looking forward to employ more women.”
The newly appointed OIC secretary-general is Iyad Madani, who is the former Saudi minister of information.
Maha denied that her new position has been given to her based on her nationality. She added, “I had to fight for this!”
Maha, during the OIC celebration of International Women’s Day recently, had remarked: “Unfortunately, there is a general misconception about the status of women in Islam and her rights and duties, not only by non-Muslims but also by Muslims themselves.
“And the media plays a critical role in propagating these ideas and stereotypical images of Muslim women abroad, and some of the misunderstandings of Islam, policies and inherited traditions in our societies confirm these images, whereas Islam has preserved the rights of women and raised her status.”
Saudi women prefer to hire female expats to drive them
01 May, 2014
JEDDAH — A large number of Saudi women said they prefer to recruit foreign female drivers to transport them and their families instead of being left alone with an expatriate male, a study has said.
The study, a doctorate thesis on the origins of education by Manal Al-Dhiyab, said 52.19 percent of the surveyed women said they prefer to recruit female drivers from foreign countries, while 38.93 percent were undecided and 8.88 percent did not mind be driven by men.
Asked if they prefer to drive their own private cars, 58.72 percent of the respondents answered yes, while 37.32 percent said they agree sometimes and 3.96 percent said they totally refuse to drive.
According to the study, 66.74 percent of the women said they stay at home and never dare to go out alone when their drivers go back home on an annual vacation.
Al-Dhiyab said her study, titled “Awareness about Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia”, aimed to assess how aware female university students are about women’s rights in the Kingdom.
She said the study also aimed to enable working Saudi women to be enlightened about their rights and ensure they are well informed about the problems facing women in the Kingdom, especially the right to work.
The study tackled many issues facing Saudi women, including adhl (prevention of marriage by male guardians), tribal compatibility, underage marriages, domestic abuse and driving.
Sweden Championed Gender Equality to Raise Birth Rates - and it Worked
01 May, 2014
In industrialized countries, especially the United States and countries in Europe, the birth rate has been consistently declining. In the United States, this decline has been seen for decades. According to data from The National Center for Health Statistics, the birth rate in 2013 is second lowest only to that of 1997, and is down in almost every demographic category, with the exception being among women over 30 years old.
This is great news for teenagers, as this means that teen pregnancy is at an all-time low, but it's not such great news for those worried about a rapidly aging workforce and a declining population that will not only be unable to replace retirees but will not make up enough in Social Security to ensure its continuation.
However, this declining birth rate shouldn't surprise anyone. Women are gaining degrees at a higher pace than men, and with those degrees, they are starting careers they hope to be able to keep throughout their entire lives. Gone are the days when women would marry and have children shortly after high school, foregoing college and career in favor of family. Now, women want degrees, and they want to put those degrees to use, which is no surprise, either, especially considering the cost of higher education.
Furthermore, women who do have careers are worried that a pregnancy will work against them in the workplace. Yes, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against women because of a pregnancy, but it tends to happen anyway. Women with children are often passed up for promotions in favor of men — even if those men have children. Our society still sees women as primary caregivers in their homes and, therefore, it is assumed that a woman will need more time off or will not be as focused as a man. To make matters worse, paid family leave is a benefit of some jobs rather than a right for every job, making it difficult for families to take more time off than necessary for the birth of a child.
It's no wonder, then, that women are deciding either to have fewer children, no children at all, or to wait until they are established enough in their careers to have children at all.
This has concerned policymakers for quite some time. However, policymakers have often taken a conservative approach, stating that feminism is to blame for declining birth rates. On the surface, this seems to make sense to many people: women are more educated and empowered, therefore women aren't having as many children. However, the answer to the problem of a declining birthrate might be to champion feminism and empower women more. For that possibility, we turn to Sweden as an example.
Since the turn of the century, Sweden has had population policy as an important issue. In the early 1900s, Sweden's birth rate was around 4, but fell to 2 in the 1930s and reached an all-time low of 1.7 in 1935. Gunnar and Alva Myrdal, however, were able to wrestle the issue away from conservatives and promote a more feminist approach:
In the course of time, the stated goal of population policy in Sweden was largely superseded by the quest for full gender equality. Policies favoring gender equality helped sustain a relatively high birth rate. The rhetorical emphasis shifted from population policy to gender equality, but the two goals were really one...
This makes perfect sense. Help women maintain their education and career while they have a family, and they will be more likely to have one — or a larger one — in the first place.
Much attention has been paid to comprehensive family leave policies (or a lack thereof) in industrialized nations. It's time we follow Sweden's example and provide women as well as men with the time off and flexible policies that make having a family both desirable and possible. Sweden has proved it can work, and we should follow in their example.
Kenyan President Signs Marriage Bill Into Law, Legalising Polygamy
01 May, 2014
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday (April 29th) signed into law a marriage bill that allows men in Kenya to marry as many women as they want, despite widespread criticism from women lawmakers and non-governmental organisations.
A statement from the presidency confirmed that the bill, which "consolidates various laws relating to marriage", had been signed into law.
The Marriage Act 2014 defines various types of marriages -- including monogamous, polygamous, customary, Christian, Islamic and Hindu -- and also provides procedures for separation and divorce and the custody and maintenance of children in the event of separation and divorce.
"Marriage is the voluntary union of a man and a woman, whether in a monogamous or polygamous union," the presidential statement said.
The initial bill had given a wife the right to veto a husband's choice, but male members of parliament overcame party divisions to push through a text that dropped this clause.
When parliament passed the bill last month, female members of parliament stormed out of the session after a heated debate.
The Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA) has said it would mount a legal challenge against the law.
The National Council of Churches in Kenya, an umbrella organisation for more than 40 churches and Christian organisations from across the country, has also spoken out against the bill.
"We know that men are afraid of women's tongues more than anything else," lawmaker Soipan Tuya said when the bill was passed, AFP reported.
"But at the end of the day, if you are the man of the house, and you choose to bring on another party -- and they may be two or three -- I think it behoves you to be man enough to agree that your wife and family should know," she said.
Many have said the legislation merely acknowledges something that is already widespread.
"When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way, and a third wife... this is Africa," lawmaker Junet Mohammed told the house during debate on the bill.
Women are not allowed to marry more than one man.
Muslim, Sikh Groups File Complaints Over Head Scarf Policy At OC Theme Park
01 May, 2014
ANAHEIM (CBSLA.com) — An Orange County amusement park faced allegations Tuesday that Muslim and Sikh park attendees wearing religious headgear were denied access to riding Go-Karts due to “safety concerns”, according to court filings.
The complaints were filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) against Boomers!, which is owned by Newport Beach-based Palace Entertainment. A complaint against the Irvine location was filed last month.
Officials with the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) and UNITED SIKHS say one alleged incident in March 2013 involved two women who went to the Boomers in Irvine with their four daughters and two sons.
“The children waited a half-hour in line, but when they got up to the front the attendant told them they were not allowed to ride on the go-cart with a scarf around the neck,” said CAIR-LA’s civil rights coordinator, Sammar Miqbel.
According to Miqbel, the children “tried but failed to assure the employee that they had never had a problem before riding the go-carts with the religious head-dress.”
Another alleged incident took place last June when Muslim girls on a field trip from a local elementary school were told at the Irvine location they could not wear hijabs – which are Islamic headscarves – on the go-carts, Miqbel said.
Female Muslims are required to wear hijabs in public for “modesty” reasons, according to CAIR officials.
According to the company’s website (PDF), all types of headgear – ranging from hats and bandanas to scarves, turbans, and yarmulkes – are strictly forbidden due to choking hazards and other risks. The policy even extends to cancer patients or others with a medical condition resulting in hair loss and the subsequent wearing of a head scarf.
“Our stance is safety is our number one priority,” said Michele Wischmeyer, vice president of marketing and sales for Palace
Entertainment. “It is not a matter of race or religion. It’s a matter of safety.”
Meet Wazhma, the reason Afghanistan needs more female lawyers
01 May, 2014
Wazhma, 25, is a lawyer in Afghanistan on a mission to defend women who are victims of violence. But in a country where women made up about 20 percent of lawyers and 8 percent of judges in 2013, it's not easy. She recalls one case in which a husband sexually and physically abused his wife, which was sent to a court where all the judges were men.
"None of the judges took her seriously, and they were just trying to convince her that a woman should obey her husband's orders," Wazhma, who who works for the Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan, tells The Week. "They even told her as an Afghan woman she should tolerate these things and be careful of [her] husband and her own reputation."
The U.S. may cut its military footprint in Afghanistan to less than 10,000 troops by the end of the year, following a general election that the international community largely deemed to be free and fair. But as the U.S. prepares to draw down its forces, human rights activists have noticed a troubling trend. Opponents of women's rights have taken this opportunity to erode advancements that women have made.
Women in Afghanistan face pervasive violence, including acid attacks, stoning, sexual assault, and domestic abuse. In 2013, violent crime against women in the country reached a record high, Reuters reported, with some women resorting to self-immolation to escape household abuse.
Against this backdrop, Afghan lawmakers recently rolled back female quota requirements in provincial council seats. And in February, parliament passed a law that would have made it near impossible for many female victims to win abuse cases in court, because it banned relatives of an accused man from testifying against him in a criminal case. (President Hamid Karzai ultimately blocked the law, after an international outcry.)
"These are worrying trends," says Cristina Finch, managing director of the women's human rights program at Amnesty International USA. "There is a lot of work to do in Afghanistan to ensure not only women's human rights, but also their access to justice. We need to make sure women can report in a safe environment and those reports are taken seriously...There's a long way to go before that happens."
The International Development Law Organization (IDLO) recently surveyed female legal professionals in Afghanistan's main cities, reporting that many said they faced sexual discrimination, educational obstacles, and threats to their safety. One female judge reported that when she got her job, the male judges told her that her votes would only count for half.
Wazhma has also faced some of these obstacles. While attending Kabul University, she had no female professors, and her classrooms were gender-segregated. And the case that she's most proud of involved threats to her personal safety. Her client was a 20-year-old woman forced to marry her cousin, who had ties to the Taliban. Wazhma says that the woman's husband "beat her badly" and imprisoned her in a room. The court blocked the woman from immediately going through with a divorce, and when Wazhma pursued the case, the woman's husband threatened her. But Wazhma pushed forward, and the woman ultimately won and is now pursuing an education.
Wazhma says that the U.S. has played a key role in creating opportunities for female lawyers in Afghanistan, but she'd like to see more support for improving women's rights in the country. (Last year, Congress included provisions that funded programs for women in Afghanistan in the National Defense Authorization Act.)
"The number of female officials should be increased so that women can have more of a share of justice," Wazhma notes. "[When women] refer their problems to a male...their cases won't be taken seriously because in our culture there is strong male domination. So it is easier for women to refer to females to solve their problems."
Maldives Parliament passes sexual harassment and sexual offences bills
01 May, 2014
Parliament passed the sexual harassment bill and sexual offences bill.
Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Rozaina Adam – chair of the committee that evaluated the sexual harassment bill – told Minivan News that while the passage of the legislation was a positive step, there was still a lot of work to be done on combating the internalised effects of sexual harassment.
The sexual harassment bill was submitted in January 2013 by Rozaina, and aims to ensure gender discrimination is made illegal at workplaces, educational institutes, and other service providers such as hospitals.
“Previously there was no law or any regulation from which they could seek help. I think now the women have a place to go,” she explained.
If ratified by the president, the new law would mandate the creation of a committee to investigate sexual harassment complaints at all workplaces with more than 30 employees.
The committees shall be chaired the by the head of the respective offices and must include at least one female members.
If the committee finds an employee guilty of sexual harassment at the workplace following an inquiry, it will be empowered to advise the offender verbally or in writing, suspend him, demote him, or dismiss him based on the severity of the offence.
Rozaina however suggested that women would “still not be complaining” despite the introduction of an internal mechanism to address complaints.
“People have come to accept that this is just something that just happens,” she said.
She however said that the legislation would “create awareness,” contending that not enough was done in implementation of similar laws such as the anti-domestic violence law.
“Police are not taking domestic violence seriously enough,” she argued.
Rozaina recalled the story of one woman – whose experiences reflect the reality for many – as she attempted speak out about the sexual abuses inflicted against her.
“She was waiting outside for me,” recounted Rozaina, “she told me she complained to police about ex-husband beating her, and raping her. When I went to case, they hadn’t even done anything about it.”
“They are not giving enough importance to these cases, we need to create more awareness.”
Cooperation from police seems to be “declining”, she added, “they don’t feel it’s an important issue.”
“I just hope that everyone cooperates and more women report these cases in domestic violence. The main issue is talking and reporting, so very few people report.”
The two bills – which support both men and women who are victims of sexual abuse – were submitted independently of each other.
The sexual offences bill – which called for recognition of marital rape as a crime – was first submitted in October 2012 and was vetoed by President Abdulla Yameen in January 2014.
“The bill contained some provisions that are contrary to Islamic Shariah and Islamic principles was among the reasons considered for returning the bill,” the President’s Office stated at the time.
The contentious bill was drafted and submitted in October 2012 by now-Progressive Party of Maldives MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed Nasheed.
Nasheed wrote in the draft legislation that it was not intended to replace Shariah, explaining that it did not preclude application of a Shariah penalty for an offence specified in the bill.
Previous reports of police apathy
Minivan News has previously spoken with foreign women from diverse nationalities working in Maldives who came forward and reported various attacks, ranging from verbal abuse to physical and sometimes sexual assaults.
Katie*, a 34-year-old American who has worked in Male’ for almost a year, was subject to a horrific incident last month when a local man sexually assaulted her while she was unlocking the door of her apartment.
Neighbours who heard her screams called the police, and around five to six officers arrived on the scene with a forensic team.
However, according to Katie, the police did not take her statement until three weeks later and then got the details of the attack completely wrong.
“The police had stated my necklace was stolen. It broke off during the attack, I still have it. The attacker must have known the necklace I was wearing was not gold because it was made of multi-colored beads,” Katie pointed out.
She added that she had later found out from CCTV camera owners nearby her house that the police had not requested the footage or interviewed neighbours for clues. Frustrated over the lack of police assistance, she called the US embassy.
“I don’t think they would have even taken the statement if the American Embassy had not called them,” Katie claimed.
The Police department was not issuing statements to Minivan News at the time of publishing.
Saudi man and Bahraini woman jailed for selling drugs, illicit relations
01 May, 2014
The Criminal Court in Dammam has sentenced a Saudi man and a Bahraini woman to prison terms and lashes for possessing and selling drugs, and having an illicit sexual relationship.
The city’s criminal investigation and anti-drug department had arrested the man and woman at a house in the old part of the city after receiving a tip-off from a source.
The investigating team had initially received information from the source that the Bahraini woman was selling hashish. The team had then used the source to enter the woman’s house to buy the drug.
When the source came out, he had 4.9 grams of hashish, and a Captagon pill as “a gift.” He also told the team that the woman had a man in the house unrelated to her.
The squad then raided the house with a policewoman and arrested the woman and the Saudi man who had been supplying her with the drugs.
The team seized sums of money, 143 Captagon pills, 18 pieces of hashish and 10 bottles of liquor.
The woman claimed the hashish was for personal use, and that the Saudi man owned the pills and liquor.
During his interrogation, the Saudi man confessed he was in a relationship with the woman and that the two planned to marry after she divorced her husband currently imprisoned in Riyadh. He said the woman sold Captagon and alcohol.
The prosecution had called on the court to punish the two severely.
The court sentenced the woman to five years in prison, 300 lashes in six equal parts, and a fine of SR10,000. She was also given an extra year in prison, 200 lashes for the illicit relationship, and would be deported once she completes her sentence.
The court sentenced the Saudi man to four years in prison and 400 lashes in eight equal parts.