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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 29 Dec 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saudi Police Pounce On Woman Defying Drive Ban: Activist

New Age Islam News Bureau

29 Dec 2013

A Saudi woman sits behind the wheel of her vehicle, defying a ban on women drivers. PHOTO: REUTERS


 'Every Single Female in Egypt Has Been Harassed’

 Depriving Women of Inheritance ‘Unjust’: Grand Mufti of the Saudi Kingdom

 ‘Taliban Must Respect Women’s Rights’ - Sarah Ahmadi, Former Afghan TV Personality

 Runaway Saudi Women: Reasons and Remedies

 Saudi Women Students Start Adult Literacy Program

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Saudi Police Pounce On Woman Defying Drive Ban: Activist

 Dec 29, 2013

Saudi police on Saturday pulled over a woman minutes after she got behind the wheel in the Red Sea city of Jeddah after activists called for a new challenge to a driving ban.

"Only 10 minutes after Tamador al-Yami got behind the wheel police stopped her," activist Eman al-Nafjan told AFP, adding that Yami carries an international driving licence and was with another woman who was filming her in the car.

Tamador's husband was called to the scene and she was forced to sign a pledge not to drive again without a Saudi licence, said Nafjan on her Twitter account.

Women are not allowed into driving schools in the ultra-conservative kingdom and are not granted licences.

Elsewhere in Khobar, in Eastern Province, another woman drove for two hours, accompanied by her husband, without being stopped, Nafjan said.

Activists say Saturday was chosen as a "symbolic" date as part of efforts first launched more than a decade ago to press for the right for Saudi women to drive.

The call for action is a "reminder of the right so it is not forgotten," activist Nasima al-Sada had told AFP.

The absolute monarchy is the only country in the world where women are barred from driving, a rule that has drawn international condemnation.

Saturday's action is a continuation of a campaign launched on October 26, when 16 activists were stopped by police for defying the ban.

In addition to not being allowed to drive, Saudi women must cover themselves from head to toe and need permission from a male guardian to travel, work and marry.



'Every Single Female in Egypt Has Been Harassed’

Cairo, December 29, 2013

As soon as the beat started, the young veiled woman bobbed her head to the rhythm, raised her hands to get the crowd clapping and then unleashed a flood of rap lyrics that tackled some of the biggest social challenges women face in the Arab world.

With the Middle East’s hit TV show "Arabs Got Talent" as her stage, 18-year-old Myam Mahmoud rapped about sexual harassment, second-class treatment of women, and societal expectations of how a young religious woman should behave.

The Egyptian teenager didn’t win the programme, she crashed out in the semi-finals, but she did succeed in throwing the spotlight on something bigger than herself. "I wanted to tell girls in Egypt and everywhere else that they are not alone, we all have the same problems, but we cannot stay silent, we have to speak up," Mahmoud said.

In Egypt, a country where politics have grabbed most of the headlines for the past three years, little space has been dedicated to addressing social problems.    So Mahmoud, who is a first-year student of politics and economics at a university in a western Cairo suburb, decided to draw attention to women’s rights through rap.

One of the biggest problems for woman in Egypt is sexual harassment. A UN report released in April said the issue had reached "unprecedented levels," with 99.3% of women in the country reporting that they have been subjected to sexual harassment.

"There are no single women in Egypt who has not been harassed, regardless of her looks," Mahmoud said. "As soon as a girl is born in Egypt, she is repressed with many pressures."



Depriving Women Of Inheritance ‘Unjust’: Grand Mufti Of The Saudi Kingdom

  December 29, 2013

RIYADH — Chairman of the Board of Senior Ulema and Grand Mufti of the Kingdom Sheikh Abdulaziz Abdullah Al-Alsheikh warned against depriving women of their inheritance and said and it was a cause of corruption. He added that there is injustice and wrongdoing against women, something which denies women their rights. The comments were made during a Friday sermon at Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Mosque in Riyadh.



‘Taliban Must Respect Women’s Rights’ - Sarah Ahmadi, Former Afghan TV Personality

December 29, 2013

Former Afghan TV personality Sarah Ahmadi, who was forced to flee her country, shares her story and her fears for Afghanistan’s future

We often hear politicians, academics and “experts” talking about women’s rights in Afghanistan. But the most authentic voices are of the Afghan women themselves. A woman with a truly compelling and moving story is Sarah Ahmadi, a former TV presenter and producer in Afghanistan who had to flee her country when the Taliban made it too dangerous to for her to stay there. She now lives in the northeast of England, where with great courage and perseverance she has rebuilt her life to the point where she now helps others who flee to the United Kingdom to escape the desperate circumstances in their home countries.

Ahmadi, who started in radio at age 8 as a presenter on a children’s programme in her home city of Kabul, went on after university to become a well known face on national Afghan TV. For sixteen years all went well with her life and career until the early 1990s, when the Mujahideen took over Kabul. They moved immediately to destroy the TV station and Ahmadi, like her terrified colleagues, stayed at home fearing her safety. Then a Mujahideen missile hit her apartment block; she and her husband raced to help their upstairs neighbour, a doctor.

“My hands and my husband’s hands were covered with his blood,” she recalled. They rushed him to hospital but he died leaving a widow and two young children. “I will never forget that — he died in front of my eyes,” she said.

Ahmadi and her husband, sitting shell-shocked with their small children in their partially destroyed home, realised that it was no longer safe to remain in Kabul. They couldn’t even find food in the city. “My husband used to go out and stand in a queue for two hours just to buy bread — there was nothing else to buy,” she recalled. “We didn’t eat for days — we just gave the bread to our children,” she added.

They decided to try and leave Afghanistan. They hired a bus and headed north with four other families; the intention was to go to Tajikistan and make their way to Russia and then onwards to Europe. But when they got to Baghlan Province in the north-east, they were recognised by the authorities in the north — as Ahmadi was a well-know TV personality. They were persuaded to stay by Said Mansoor Nadiri, a prominent leader in the province, who offered them a place to live and provided for their needs. Ahmadi had the opportunity to continue her work as a TV producer and presenter. She presented a programme on local TV channel, Pulikhomri TV, called “Woman”, which proved very popular.

“Baghlan was a small province and people welcomed me as a well known national TV presenter. It was a very positive experience,” she remembered.

Then, six years later, fate caught up with her family again: the Taliban captured the capital of Baghlan. They set about imposing their ruthless control over society. “They burnt down the TV station and we stayed at home for four days. We were scared — day by day and street by street came the Taliban,” she recalled. “All men were ordered to grow beards; women were not allowed to go to school; TV was banned,” she said. Once again the family was in jeopardy and had to find a way out.

Ahmadi was especially vulnerable as she was a strong advocate for education of women. “If I had stayed there they would have killed me,” she said.

In desperation, her husband turned to people smugglers. The family had savings of about $18,000 (Dh66,060), which they kept at home because there were no banks. But they didn’t have enough money to get all family members out of the country. So they decided that Ahmadi would try to get out, to be followed by her husband and three children.

“I covered myself in a Burqa and with nothing but the clothes on my back, said goodbye to my family and stepped into a car driven by two male smugglers. I had been told beforehand not to ask them any questions. They warned me that if I asked questions, they would kill me,” she said.

After a long and exhausting journey, she ended up stepping out of a lorry outside the Home Office in London. When she got out, she was told that she was on her own and must find her own way. She was pointed towards the door and she went into the Home Office building and stood with hundreds of other people seeking help. She knew no English and signalled her plight through sign language.

Ahmadi was then interviewed through an interpreter and put up in a hotel in Croydon, South London. “When I arrived for a few days I couldn’t eat and I cried and cried and cried. I missed my children — my youngest child was just two years old,” she recalled.

She stayed at the hotel until she was told that she and 25 other women were to be sent to Sunderland in the North-East of the country. She had hoped to stay in London where she thought there would be more work opportunities but was told that this was not possible. So on February 28, 2002, she found herself on a bus making her way to Sunderland where six weeks later she received a visa and began to rebuild her life.

She said that she was lucky as some people wait years to have their cases resolved and some of the women who travelled with her to Sunderland were deported.

Ahmadi’s courage is truly inspirational. She went to a nearby church where she met an Iranian man who advised her about the steps she should take to apply for housing and government allowances. She enrolled in college and focused on learning English and also attended courses to gain computer skills.

She took a job washing dishes in a pizza shop so that she could be self-sufficient. As her English improved she attended university, and through her efforts found a new job using her newly acquired skills. Incredibly, she also found the energy to set up in 2004 an organisation, the Afghan British Association, to help other immigrants.

Her husband had fled with the children to Peshawar, Pakistan. “I sent money to support them, but for six months I had no communication with them because it was impossible,” she said.

Then in 2007 she founded United Community Action, a not-for-profit organisation supported by Sunderland Council, which works on behalf of asylum seekers. The family was finally reunited in the UK in 2011. Her children are doing well in their studies in the UK and her husband has found employment.

From her direct experience, Ahmadi has a clear message. No government should negotiate with the Taliban until they have secured from the Taliban leadership unequivocal agreements to respect the rights of women with regard to their access to education and work and other civil and personal freedoms.

“Their policy is no work, no study, no classes, all the people just going to study in the mosques to read the Quran, all men with beards, all women covered with Burqas and not allowed to go out without their husbands or brothers,” she said. “If governments want to negotiate with the Taliban they should ask the Taliban to change their policies and then we will see,” she said.

Ahmadi also sees it as imperative that a contingent of NATO forces should remain in Afghanistan after the drawdown of troops next year to provide a measure of security to people who fear that hard won rights could easily be trampled underfoot under the new regime.

She said that for women the situation has improved in Afghanistan in recent years but these gains could very easily be reversed.

– Denise Marray is an independent writer based in London



Runaway Saudi women: Reasons and Remedies

December 29, 2013

As our society is governed by the fundamentals of Islam, moral values and religious traditions, there is not a high level of anti-social behaviour among our young people. However, certain types of negative behaviour have become more evident over the past few years, forcing us to recognize the fact that there are risks and problems that threaten our young men and women.

One such problem is the strange trend of young Saudi women running away from home.

There are many reasons why some women do so. Sometimes they feel that they are forced to run away and are in fact encouraged to leave their families behind by a third party or for other psychological reasons.

Diagnosing the real problem is a crucial part of treatment. It is important to understand what provokes a young woman to run away from her home, leaving behind her family, and  ignoring the negative consequences of such behaviour on her and those around her.

According to studies and statistical reports, the most important reason for such a situation is weak religious values not only in the young women who run away but also in their homes. Apart from this, the severe psychological pressure and harassment faced by these women in their families is another important factor. This could prompt these women to establish illicit relations with people who are capable of seducing them with false promises. This may also lead them to accept the advice of bad friends who then encourage them to go astray.

Likewise, the tendency of some families to avoid expressing kindness and affection for their daughters or failing to provide them with a sense of security can be considered a major factor that compels them to search for these things outside their homes, even if it is dangerous to do so. Similarly, the invasion of TV serials and programs on satellite channels also has a negative impact on young women.

Perhaps one of the best remedies to address this behavioural problem and other negative behaviour is to stress the importance of religious values in society, especially among the younger generation, to enable them to confront these trends, because the religious element would work like a safety valve for them. Moreover, families should provide their girls with affection and feelings of security and tranquillity to ease their mental pressure and anxiety.

They should also encourage their girls to be more honest as well as to develop a better understanding with their family members and those around them, and not to resort to other parties who may exploit them and encourage them to behave negatively. Taking a positive interest in their matters in a rational manner would play a significant role in diagnosing and treating a lot of negative behaviour in the initial stage. The authorities as well as educational and societal agencies should actively cooperate and shoulder some of these responsibilities to protect young men and women from dangers in the form of  temptations, sedition and negative tendencies.



Saudi Women Students Start Adult Literacy Program

December 29, 2013

BAHA — Women students in the Volunteerism Unit at Al-Baha University have launched a project for getting rid of illiteracy by teaching elderly women how to read, write and Fiqh (jurisprudence) and other religious subjects under the title “We won’t forget you”. Deputy President of Al-Baha University Dr. Abdullah Al-Zahrani lauded the humanitarian role students were playing.