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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 3 March 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saudi Women Demand End to 'Absolute Male Authority'

New Age Islam News Bureau

3 March 2014

A Saudi woman takes part in a day of protest against the kingdom's ban on female drivers. Reuters


 One Divorce in Malaysia Every 10 Minutes

 "Heavily Indoctrinated” French Teenage Girl Caught Heading For Syria Jihad

 Central African Republic: Genocide of Muslim Women/Children

 International Women's Day Conference Sees Spread of Misogyny

 Niger State Passes Sharia Law That Criminalises Marriage to More Than Four Wives

 GCC Citizens Top List of Foreigners Married to Saudi Women

 Harvard Picks Saudi Woman for Ph.D.

 Emirati Teen Ready for Antarctica Expedition

 International Conference in Paris on International Day of Women

 Indian Muslim Mass Marriages in Warangal

 Pakistan Grapples With Discontent over Rape Prosecutions

 Kyrgyzstan Tries To Solve Domestic Violence Problem

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Saudi Women Demand End to 'Absolute Male Authority'

March 03, 2014

Saudi Arabian female activists have delivered a petition to the country's consultative council to demand an end to the "absolute authority" of male guardians over women in the Islamic kingdom.

The petition, which was signed by 10 female activists, also calls for Saudi women to be able to drive.

Saudi Arabia imposes a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, which forbids women from working or travelling without the permission of their male guardians.

The Islamic kingdom is the only country in the world that bans women from driving, and females are also forbidden from obtaining an identification card without the consent of their male custodians.

Last year, three female members of the Shura Council recommended that women be allowed to drive, but the proposal was blocked by the male-dominated 150-member assembly, which is appointed by the Saudi king and advises him on policy.

Aziza Yousef, one of the female activists who signed the latest petition, told the AFP news agency: "Rights activists have petitioned the Shura (consultative) Council on the occasion of International Women's Day (on 8 March), demanding an end to the absolute authority of men over women."

She said regulations such as having to obtain permission from male guardians to leave university campuses during study hours are "not based on religious teachings".

Yousef cited a recent case in which a pregnant student had to give birth on campus after a women-only university in the Saudi capital Riyadh denied access to paramedics.

In February, a university student died after paramedics were refused entry to her campus because they were not accompanied by male guardians.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia suspended a notification programme introduced in 2012 which alerted male guardians if women under their custody left the country, even if they were travelling together.

Watch Saudi women driving cars in a day of protest against the kingdom's ban on female drivers on YouTube, below:



One Divorce in Malaysia Every 10 Minutes

March 03, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: Civil servant Jamilah Baharuddin (not her real name) and her husband divorced in 2012 after 12 long years of conflict with his family who did not approve of their marriage.

The 35-year-old woman, who earns about RM6, 500 a month, says they likely would not have split up if she wasn’t working because she would have been forced to rely on her husband to support her and their three children financially.

“That’s one of the reasons why a lot of Malay women in rural areas are scared to step forward and get a divorce when they are abused ― they can’t survive without their husband’s assistance,” Jamilah told The Malay Mail Online recently.

The number of divorces in Malaysia has more than doubled in just eight years from 2004. In 2012, a whopping 56,760 divorces were recorded, which is equivalent to a marriage breaking down every 10 minutes.

According to statistics provided by the Syariah Judiciary Department Malaysia (JKSM), the number of Muslim couples getting divorced rose by 2.3 times from 20,916 in 2004 to 47,740 in 2012, and to 49,311 last year.

The number of non-Muslim marriages, however, broke down at a slightly higher rate from 3,291 divorces in 2004, increasing by 2.7 times to 9,020 cases in 2012, the most recent year where statistics are available from the Statistics Department.

While couples are increasingly splitting up, the number of marriages, however, is also going up.

A total of 112,262 Muslim couples tied the knot in 2004, a number that has risen steadily in general over the years to 148,806 marriages in 2012, according to the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim).

But the pattern for non-Muslim marriages is more erratic.

A total of 57,530 non-Muslim couples got married in 2004, a number that declined the following year, after which the figure rose and fell until 65,993 marriages were registered in 2012.

The Statistics Department, however, does not have the marriage or divorce rate per population.

In the United States, the divorce rate more than doubled from 1940 to 1981, before plunging by a third in 2009 when the 18-month recession ended June that year, according to a report by Bloomberg last month.

As the economy improved, however, the number of divorces in America increased for the third year in a row to about 2.4 million in 2012 said the business newswire.

In Singapore, the crude divorce rate dipped slightly to 1.9 divorces per 1,000 residents in 2012 from 2.0 in 2011, according to a report by Today Online last July.

Most of the four syarie and family lawyers The Malay Mail Online interviewed recently said that the rising divorce rate is due to women becoming more financially independent.

“With the rat race, better education, economic independence, influence of multimedia and the women having access to legal advice, and better understanding of the laws, they know their rights and they are not as tolerant as the last generation was,” said syarie lawyer Rafie Mohd Shafie.

He said that based on his observation, marriages generally last between five and 10 years before breaking down.

Family lawyer Honey Tan similarly said women are now more aware of their rights, but pointed out that the law still discriminates against women as they generally end up with a lesser share, especially homemakers, when matrimonial assets are divided during a civil divorce.

“In the past when women were uneducated or poorly educated, getting married was just about the only option open to them to survive,” said Tan.

Tan added that although the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 takes into account the non-monetary contributions of women who quit their jobs to look after their children, their husband will always receive a greater share of matrimonial assets in a divorce.

“The ability of men to earn income is still valued more than the ability of women to look after the home and the family, especially the children,” said the lawyer.

Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, an anthropologist from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), said that the stress of modern life in the city is one of the factors behind the rising divorce rate.

“Financial instability will cause a lot of problems,” he said.

Another university lecturer trained in anthropology, Dr Julian Hopkins, observed that a rising divorce rate in general is linked to industrialisation, pointing to women’s increased financial independence and greater social acceptance of divorce.

“Over the second half of the 20th century, there is a correlation between more women being in the labour force and more divorces,” Hopkins told The Malay Mail Online.

Sisters in Islam (SIS) programme manager Suri Kempe noted that there is increasing pressure for Muslim youth to marry young in order to legalise sex.

“Many get married because they are in love with the partner and pressure from parents and relatives, but without fully understanding the implication of marriage,” the Muslim women’s rights activist told The Malay Mail Online.

Suri also pointed out that Muslim women often face difficulties when they initiate divorce, while Muslim men can easily divorce their wives outside the court.

“This is substantiated by a 2005 study by Jabatan Kehakiman Syariah Malaysia which reveals that states that apply low fines to divorces outside of court have a high frequency of ‘pengesahan cerai’ (validation of divorce when pronounced without the court’s permission),” said Suri.

“The existing Islamic Family Law must be amended, with a return to the original 1984 provision that mandated divorce take place only in court,” added the programme manager with the Muslim women’s rights group that handles 50 divorce cases every month through its legal clinic.



"Heavily Indoctrinated” French Teenage Girl Caught Heading For Syria Jihad

March 03, 2014

A deceived 14-year-old French girl is in a care home after being stopped at Lyon airport, apparently heading for Syria to wage jihad. She is the third French minor to be found trying to fight the so-called holy war against Bashar al-Assad's government.

Earlier this week the girl, from the French city of Grenoble, told her parents via text message that she had been selected to join the jihad war in Syria and had run away from home.

She was detained before boarding a plane bound with a one-way ticket for Istanbul, from where she intended to go to the Syrian border.

Investigators describe her as "heavily indoctrinated" and say that she keeps repeating that she was going to Turkey as a tourist.

After being picked up on Monday, she was placed in the home on Tuesday but managed to run away, only to be caught and returned there.

Anthropologist Dounia Bouzar, author of the book Defusing radical Islam, says the indoctrination of vulnerable teens has increased through the use of social networks and the internet .

In her book, she explains how youth indoctrination linked to Islamism (Wahhabisms) is a growing phenomenon in France

"I’ve been working on indoctrination techniques by radical Islamist for 10 years new," she told RFI. "They used to affect only young and rather fragile people. Today they affect individuals from any social and family environment, people of any religion, atheists, agnostics, whether they practice their religion or not, poor, rich, privileged, educated ... Anyone, really."

About 700 French nationals are believed to have gone to fight in Syria.

Two teenagers were brought back to France from Turkey in January.

"French society and politicians have failed to differentiate sect-like indoctrination and brainwashing by radical Islamists and Islam as a religion," comments Bouzar. "That has led to many errors in appreciation and interpretation which have only been to the religious radicals’ advantage."

The government is drawing up measures to tackle jihadi networks and intends to establish a for families to notify the authorities if their children seem to be becoming radicalised, so that they are prevented from leaving the country without their parents' permission.



Central African Republic: Genocide of Muslim Women/Children

March 03, 2014

The Women of Hizb ut Tahrir Announce Campaign Highlighting the Genocide of Muslim Women and Children in the Central African Republic (CAR)

The Women’s Section of the Central Media office of Hizb ut Tahrir has launched a series of actions to raise international awareness about the horrific plight facing the Muslim women and children of Central African Republic (CAR). It is part of a global campaign organized by the party entitled, “Who Will Support the Muslims of Central Africa”. Since 1st of February 2014, a diabolical and systematic campaign of genocide has been unleashed upon the helpless Muslims of the region whilst the media and international community place a virtual blanket over the true extent of the violence faced by those identified as being Muslim. Female and minor members of the Muslims living in the areas of Bangui have been the target of unspeakable acts of barbarity. UNICEF officials in the region "are horrified by the cruelty and impunity with which children are being killed and mutilated" On the 14th of February, a UN report stated that 133 children have been murdered and maimed. On the 3rd of January 2014, international news agencies reported the beheading of 2 children amongst the numerous documented accounts of similar acts against Muslims. UNICEF officials have stated children are being “directly targeted because of their religion in atrocious revenge attacks,” (as reported by Manuel Fontaine, Souleymane Diabate). Human Rights Watch Emergency Director Peter Bouckaert informed the BBC World Service on the 9th of February that entire neighborhoods have been “completely emptied of their Muslim population. Their homes are being systematically taken down… the very evidence of their existence in this country is being erased." Amnesty International reported a massacre on the 10th of February in Bouguere, west of Bangui where an 11 year old Muslim girl was found. Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International explained “The girl was crouching in a corner….terrified and could barely speak……she had not drunk or eaten anything (for four days)……she was the only Muslim survivor in the village.” According to estimates, women and children make up the largest percentage of people affected in this crisis, which increased in intensity in the Central African Republic.

Muslim world leaders in typical historical fashion have abandoned all sense of moral duty to protect innocent Muslim civilians, as was the case in Bosnia, Myanmar, Syria and others. Their consistent lack of political will reveals their status as slaves of Western interests and reflects the titanic divide between the thoughts and sentiments of the international Muslim population and the despots that rule them.

The women of Hizb ut Tahrir will not stay silent to these great crimes against our sisters and their families. Over the coming weeks the Women of the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir will be engaging in an intensive media campaign to expose the crimes against the Muslim women and children of CAR and will call to account the current invalid Muslim leaderships for their negligence in the matter of acting decisively and swiftly in their responsibility to protect the blood of Muslims internationally. We, women of Hizb ut Tahrir, will reinforce our firm message that it is only with the re-establishment of the Khilafah – the Islamic political system – with it alone that Muslims can be saved from bloodshed and systematic abuse. The Khilafah led by an independent just Khalifah, free from the shackles of Western servitude will not have armies standing idle while the Muslim Ummah bleeds. Such was the rule under the Khilafah of Uthman (ra) who unified and mobilized the vast resources of the Muslim world to protect the previously unstable North African region that was prone to attack and exploitation by the colonial ambitions of the Byzantine and Persian Empires. It is the re-establishment of this Khilafah alone, in its return which will provide a safe sanctuary to all oppressed and persecuted Muslims in the entire world.

“…if they seek help from you in the matter of the religion, then it is your duty to help (them)…” [TMQ 8: 72]



International Women's Day conference sees spread of misogyny

March 03, 2014

International conference on the occasion of International Women’s Day: Warning on the spread of misogynic Islamic fundamentalism by mullahs ruling Iran

On Saturday, March 1, participants in an international conference in Paris on the occasion of the International Women’s Day warned of the role of the Iranian regime in spreading the Islamic fundamentalism throughout the region and the globe.

The conference was held at the presence of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, and a great number of prominent political and social figures and artists, as well as human rights and women’s rights activists from five continents and delegations representing dozens of Iranian women’s associations and organizations throughout Europe and the United States.

The speakers underscored that misogyny is one of the principal and unchangeable aspects of the religious fascism ruling Iran that has only worsened in three decades. During the Presidency of Rouhani, the misogyny of the regime remains unchanged. They added that women are twofold the victims of the illusion of moderation in a regime that misogyny is intertwined with its mindset and practice.

Speakers underlined that this regime is the central banker of terrorism and fundamentalism in today’s world threatening the global security and peace. They added that confronting this threat demands a firm policy not just in the nuclear negotiations, but also in the face of savage and systematic misogyny and the barbaric violation of human rights in Iran, as well as against destructive warmongering that has drenched the region in blood.

In this conference that was inaugurated by Ms. Sarvnaz Chitsaz, Chair of Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the speakers stressed: In the very volatile situation surrounding the Islamic countries, women’s rights has been one of the main challenges that is always threatened and aggressed against. Therefore, support for the broad front against fundamentalism where the movement of the Iranian Resistance led by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi plays a decisive role, is a historical exigency both for the equality movement and for securing global peace and security. Women are the principal force and dynamism in this front.

Addressing the conference Mrs. Maryam Rajavi said: Indeed, the ideal of equality is alive, but not just because of depravations, humiliations and oppression; rather, because a generation of women has arisen to overthrow dictatorships in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq; women who are intent on toppling the religious dictatorship ruling Iran.

She told the audience: Indeed, rest assured that ultimately, these oppressed women will overthrow the ruling theocracy in Iran.

President-elect of the Resistance explained the role of the clerical regime as the epicenter of fundamentalism and stated that the ruling theocracy in Iran is responsible for the massacre of 140,000 innocent people of Syria. Similarly, the bombing and the massacre of Iraq's defenseless citizens are commanded by the Quds Force and carried out by Iraqi forces. There is hardly any country in the Middle East and in the Islamic World that has been spared the Iranian regime’s provocations and terrorism.

Maryam Rajavi added: Despite the fact that the mullahs have turned Iran into the epicenter of fundamentalism, owing to the Iranian people’s history of struggle and their culture, and by relying on five decades of perseverance of the People’s Mojahedin, Iran is the epicenter of liberation from fundamentalism and, at the same time, the epicenter of women’s emancipation and equality.

She added: The Islamic fundamentalism thrives on inequality while continuously causing oppression and discrimination. Therefore, if the regime were to abandon misogyny, the ruling theocracy would collapse. Thus, neither Khatami nor Rouhani, who launched a charm offensive of reform and moderation, did not and do not even get close to easing the oppression and subjugation of Iranian women. Because doing so would mean the beginning of the end of the regime.

The very bills which Ahmadinejad had submitted to the Majlis to intensify gender inequality are now being declared as law by Rouhani. Amongst these laws are the shameful bill that allows men to marry their adopted daughters; setting quotas and applying gender segregation in the universities; and prohibiting women from studying in dozens of fields of study at the universities.

Mrs. Rajavi emphasized: Defending the pioneering women in Camp Liberty who in the past two decades have played a unique role in the struggle against fundamentalism is a crucial duty of the equality movements. They, along with the men fighting alongside them, are not only deprived of security and protective requirements against consecutive missile attacks, but the proxy government in Iraq has deprived them of the least humanitarian, medical and hygienic standards. She called on all activists of the women movement throughout the world to call on the United Nations and the U.S. government to adhere to their commitments to secure the protection of Camp Liberty residents. In particular, they should put the release of the seven Ashraf hostages, including six women, on their agenda, and refer the file of the September 1st crime against humanity in Ashraf to the Security Council.

In addition to Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, other speakers to this conference were: Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada; Michèle Alliot-Marie, former French Minister of Defense, Foreign Affairs, Interior and Justice; Rita Süssmuth, former President of the Bundestag; Ingrid Betancourt, former presidential candidate in Colombia;Carmen Quintanilla, Chair of the Spanish Parliament Women’s Committee; Linda Chavez, former White House Director of Public Liaison; Edit Bauer, member of European Parliament; Els Demol, member of Belgian Parliament; the Italian delegation, including Gianna Gancia, Governor of Cuneo, and Elisabetta Zamparutti, former member of parliament; the delegation from Iceland, including Ragnheiður Ríkharðsdóttir, chairwoman of Iceland’s Independent party, and Ásta Ragnheiður Jóhannesdóttir, former speaker of the Parliament; Naayem Al-Ajaremeh, Chair of Jordanian Parliament Women's Committee; Najima Thay Thay, Rhozali, former Moroccan Minister; Aude de Thuin, founder of International Women’s Forum for Economy and Society;Dr Kiran BedifromIndia, Advisor to Un Secretary General; Anissa Boumedien, Lawyer and former Algerian First Lady; Meredith Bergman, former President of the Senate in New South Wales, Australia; Sara Chandler, Chair of the British Law Society's Human Rights Committee;Mariane Pearl, French journalist; Phumla Mandela, women’s rights activist in South Africa and daughter to late President of South Africa Nelson Mandela; Nontombi Naomi Tutu, human rights activist from South Africa; Dr. Kristian Snow, women's rights advocate; Zinat Mir-Hashemi, member of NCRI, Editor in Chief of Nabard-e-Khalq, and representatives of Iranian communities



Niger State passes Sharia law that criminalises marriage to more than four wives

March 03, 2014

WorldStage Newsonline-- The Niger State House of Assembly has passed an executive bill seeking for the establishment of Sharia Penal Code for the state such that any man that professes Islam as religion and marry more than four wives could be imprisoned for three years with a fine.

The state government had sponsored the bill following its inability to prosecute the Bida based Octogenarian mega polygamist Islamic cleric, Alhaji Bello Muhammadu Masaba, who married 98 wives for lack of existing laws of the land.

Section 407 of the law which took effect from Wednesday 26th of February, 2014 provides for three years imprisonment with fine for anyone convicted for marrying more than four wives.

Aside the jail term, the law says that convict shall choose only four out of the women as allowed by the law while marriage to other women shall stand dissolved forthwith.

The law also prescribed 21 years jail term for any sex randy person convicted of rape case.

The passage of the bill into law followed the adoption of the report of the house committee on judicial matters. Chairman of the committee Hon. Isah Kawu revealed that major stakeholders were invited for input while a public hearing was also conducted to do a thorough job on the bill.

In his remarks after the passage of the bill, the Speaker Barrister Adamu Usman commended his colleagues, especially the house committee for a thorough work done on the bill.

The Speaker maintained that the bill was in conformity with Section 36  of the 1999 Constitution as amended adding that the bill was also in line with the injunctions of the holy Quran and Haddits  (the sayings of Prophet Muhammad).

He said what the legislature did in the passage of the bill was to "codify the punishment for rape cases", adding that the law also specified penalties for those who drugged their victims before raping them.

Usman then urged parents to always monitor the movement of their children stressing that people should strive to report cases of rape to law enforcement agents in their localities for prompt action.

Asked if the controversial marriage of 98 wives by the Octogenarian Masaba would now be tried under the new law, the Speaker said, "our criminal laws do not have retroactive effect. It will be unconstitutional to prosecute anybody before now as the law now takes effect from the 26th of this month."



GCC citizens top list of foreigners married to Saudi women

March 03, 2014

GCC citizens topped the list of foreigners who married Saudi women in 2011, with over 1,600 marriage contracts, a local daily said.

According to data released by the Ministry of Justice, Kuwaitis ranked first among GCC nationals marrying Saudis, with 762 contracts, while 554 Qataris, 266 UAE citizens and 20 Omanis also married Saudi women that year.

Yemenis topped the list of other Arab nationalities to have married Saudi women, at 1,000 marriages that year alone.

A total of 269 Syrians, 173 Egyptians, 76 Lebanese, 19 Iraqis, and 14 Moroccans also married Saudi women the same year, the report said.

Hani Al-Ghamdi, a family and community counselor, said that there are no restrictions for Saudi women marrying GCC citizens or other foreign nationals.

He said that intercultural marriage between Saudi and GCC or other Arab nationalities is a widely accepted norm and wondered why certain Saudi families still insist on marrying their daughters off to men of the same tribe, rejecting even suitors from other parts of the Kingdom.

Abdullah Salih Sanaan, a marriage contract clerk, said that Saudi women require approval from their local governorate in order to marry foreigners and that intercultural marriages do not fall within the jurisdiction of clerks such as himself, even if the marriage is to a GCC citizen.



Harvard picks Saudi woman for Ph.D.

March 03, 2014

Nora Al-Amr is set to be the first Saudi woman in the Kingdom to gain a Ph.D. in health leadership after being selected by Harvard University to enroll in their doctoral program. Al-Amr specializes in general health.

Al-Amr was awarded the “Real Heroes” prize by the American Save the Children charity last January in recognition of her outstanding work in health care and patient care. The foundation had held the ceremony in California, with former US President Bill Clinton as guest of honor.

Adil Al-Jubair, Saudi ambassador to Washington, has sent his congratulations to Al-Amr for being selected for the doctoral program at the prestigious university.

Al-Amr has expressed her happiness over joining Harvard and said that this achievement would be added to a long list of accomplishments made by Saudi women.

“Saudi women have successfully put the Kingdom on the academic and scientific research platforms, notably in the areas of medicine and health,” she said.

She expressed her gratitude and appreciation to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Crown Prince Salman for their support and empowerment of Saudi women.

Al-Amr recently joined the Shoura Council as a researcher in health policy and legislation.



Emirati teen ready for Antarctica expedition

Kelly Clarke / 3 March 2014

The mercury is set to rise in Dubai on March 7, with highs of 30°C forecast for the weekend. But as most of us plan for a Friday get together with family and friends, 17-year-old Samia Khoshak will embark on an epic expedition, where temperatures are set to reach an unimaginable -46°C.

A stark change from the soaring heats of the Dubai desert, the ambitious teenager will be the UAE’s first Emirati to accompany environmental leader, Robert Swan, on a voyage to Antarctica.

Just days before setting off on the challenging journey, Khoshak opens up to Khaleej Times’ during a “rare 10 minute break”.

“My biggest fear is going and never coming back,” she says, adding that her family have been the best support team she could ask for.

“I think my mom is more worried than she is letting on. But they really have been my backbone. My dad has always pushed me to get my voice heard, so this is the perfect opportunity to do it.”

After hearing about the expedition through her mom’s workplace, Khoshak says she got a bit of heat off some family members when she first broached the idea to them.

“My aunts and uncles were shocked at the beginning. It’s not something they are used to, but they’ve come round to the idea now.”

Set to battle ferocious, icy winds and metres-deep snow, the inspirational student, who was recently chosen to be one of the ambassadors for the annual Earth Hour, will begin her journey to the Earth’s southernmost point on Friday.

Joining about 80 other people on the trek, including corporate leaders, environmentalists and entrepreneurs, Khoshak and her nine team members — who were selected for the trip by GEMs Modern High School — will be the youngest group to descend upon the South Pole.

The debut trip, which will bring together environmental crusaders from around the world, aims to extend a treaty, which is due to expire in 2041, that bans drilling on the continent, as well as promote measures to save the Antarctic from over exploitation and environmental degradation.

And Khoshak says environmental awareness is something that has been instilled in her from as far back as she can remember.

“My mum works for Dewa, so I have been exposed to sustainability and conservation awareness since I was a child. The seed was planted from a very young age.”

Set atop a barren, windswept, icy plateau, at an altitude of 2,835 metres above sea level, the South Pole will be just one stop along the team’s journey through the Antarctic Peninsula, and although slightly anxious, the young teen says she feels blessed to have been given such an opportunity.

“I have always been told to dream big. I want my voice to be heard and I want people to realise just how important it is to look after our planet.”

Bitter temperatures

Not one for cold weather, Khoshak jokes with Khaleej Times’ reporter about a previous trip to Switzerland.

“No matter how many layers I put on, I still felt the cold. That’s when I realised cold conditions are not for me.”

Having to wear four layers of clothing everyday, preparations have been quite costly, she says.

“I have bought so many clothes. We have to put on a thermal, then a fleece shirt and a fleece jacket, then a waterproof, high visibility jacket.”

A far cry from her comfortable surroundings in Dubai, Khoshak will first fly to Argentina where she and her team will board a ship, which will become their home for a fortnight.

From Argentina, the team will make a one and a half day trip to their final destination, where they will make daily trips onto land to participate in leadership skills and teamwork talks.

So how has the young teen been preparing herself for the trip?

“Me and my team meet up twice a week for physical training and mental conditioning. We’re going to be very isolated, so we need to prepare ourselves for that.”

Due to partake in several hiking expeditions and long-distance trekking on the trip, Khoshak’s active lifestyle, including being a member of a taekwondo, basketball and football team, is bound to bode well for her throughout the expedition.

And although the ambitious teen is keen to pursue a career in the medical field, she says environmental campaigning will always be a big part of her life.

“I want to set a great example to others and I will always volunteer for causes which look after our earth, no matter what job I do.” -



International conference in Paris on international Day of Women

March 03, 2014

Rouhani’s attitude toward women’s rights proves the hollowness of claims of his moderation

Women activists from around the globe joined with prominent women politicians and dignitaries from Europe and the US to reject the notion that Iran’s new President, Hassan Rouhani, is a moderate or has any moderate agenda. They pointed out that is especially valid when it comes to issue of women and women’s rights.

The international conference took place in Paris on Saturday in advance of the International Women’s Day in March 8.

A wide range of participants reiterated the need to support the Iranian Resistance against the religious dictatorship that rules Iran. According to the participants, preventing Tehran from supporting Islamic fundamentalists is necessary to guarantee the rights of women in Islamic countries.

Women with traditional and local attires as well as Western-oriented clothes filled the huge meeting hall.

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi was the keynote speaker of the event. Her speech summarized the decades-long experience of the Iranian Resistance in standing up to theocratic rule in Iran and its misogynist character. Her speech received a thunderous reaction from the audience. Dozens of Iranian women’s associations in exile from all over Europe, the U.S., and Canada had dispatched their delegates to the unique conference.

The speakers pointed out various aspects of Tehran’s systematic and institutionalized crackdown on women’s rights and reiterated that Hassan Rouhani is part of the establishment—and his only mandate is to maintain the clerical rule that has enslaved Iran. The women activists stressed that it is foolhardy to call Rouhani a moderate, and that he has sinister political objectives that will simply embolden Tehran in its ominous agenda.

The participants took a very critical attitude toward Western attitudes regarding Tehran in general and specifically toward the Rouhani administration. They described the Western attitude as “appeasement” that only plays in the hands of Tehran and its proxies in Islamic countries, to the detriment of moderate Muslims in general and women in particular.

Mrs. Rajavi, in a moving speech said the tentacles of the Tehran regime have reached many parts of the Muslim world. She called the Tehran regime the primary culprit in the massacre of 140,000 civilians in Syria, in particular women and children. Rajavi pointed out that few countries in the Muslim world have remained immune from Tehran’s intransigence and plots.

Ritta Sussmuth, the former President of the German Bundestag; Michele Alliot-Marie, who held such key positions as foreign and defense minister in France in several administrations; Linda Chavez, the former White House Director of Public Liaison; Ms. Kim Campbell, the former Prime Minster of Canada; and Ingrid Betancourt, the former Colombian presidential candidate who was held hostage for years, were among the speakers. They were joined by women politicians from old and new Europe.

Women activists from Syria, Palestine, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, India, Canada, and Australia also provided a wide range of perspectives on issues that women are grappling with in their societies.

In her remarks, Mrs. Rajavi said that the mullahs’ regime will crumble if they put aside misogyny and the export of fundamentalism from their policies. That is why neither mullah Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s president in the late 1990s and early in this century, nor Rouhani, who had attempted to show signs of moderation and reform, made no moves to alleviate the suppression of and discrimination against Iranian women, since this would be tantamount to the beginning of the end of the clerical rule. She elaborated that this is why the same bills that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president, had introduced are being implemented as law by Rouhani.

Mrs. Rajavi underscored the need to defend the women of the Iranian Resistance who are among some 3,000 members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in Camp Liberty, near Baghdad Airport in Iraq. The residents do not have even minimal protection and security in the face of immediate and constant threats of missile and rocket attacks by Tehran’s agents, acting with the complicity of the Government of Iraq.

Mrs. Rajavi called on all women activists to urge the US government to carry out its commitments of safety and security for all of Camp Liberty’s residents.



Indian Muslim Mass Marriages in Warangal

March 03, 2014

Sadia Welfare Society of Warangal organized Muslim Mass Marriages function yesterday. Maulana Khusro Pasha, former Chairman of Waqf Board attended as Chief Guest. He advised the Muslims to avoid unnecessary expenditure and trivial rituals. He also told them to struggle against dowry system. Marriage should be performed without taking any dowry money from the bride’s family. He applauded the efforts of Sadia Welfare Society for arranging mass marriages of Muslim destitute girls.



Pakistan grapples with discontent over rape prosecutions

March 03, 2014

It seemed like yet another rape case, one of thousands that would remain unsolved. 

The family of a 13-year-old gang-rape victim in Ratta Amral, a shoddy neighborhood of single-room homes a few miles outside Islamabad, was pressured by police to settle out of court in exchange for money. But intense media attention prompted protests and the intervention of the Supreme Court, which ordered police to pursue the case and prosecute the officers that had facilitated the settlement.

Two years later, the rape case itself still languishes in a state court, but the hearing it earned in the Supreme Court produced a landmark set of reforms. As a result of the court's orders, police in Punjab, Pakistan's most-populous province, look for DNA evidence in every rape case. Sindh, the second-most populous province, passed legislation last year mandating the same.

While neighboring India has caught international headlines for brutal rape cases over the past year, rape is also a significant problem in Pakistan. Less than four percent of Pakistan’s rape cases result in a conviction, according to activist groups, who say that rape continues to go largely unpunished because of confusion about rape laws, a lack of resources for forensics analysis, and police skepticism of victims. The issue has taken on more urgency as Islamist political parties in parliament are pushing to make it harder to prosecute rapists.

Push back over landmark reforms

Last month, parliament held a heated debate over the country’s rape statutes and whether under Islamic law rape could only be proven if four eyewitnesses to the crime were furnished.

The debate underscored continuing resentment among some Islamists over reforms to laws governing rape and adultery enacted in 2006. These critics consider the changes unnecessary and un-Islamic.

“In our system anything can be made up,” says Senator Sajid Mir, who heads the ultra-conservative Ahle-Hadith movement and is a member of the ruling PML-N party, and has argued for the reforms to be repealed. “It's unfortunate, but without witnesses, you cannot prosecute rape in Islam.”

Between 1979 and 2006, rape was lumped together with laws criminalizing zina - extra marital sex and adultery - all of which carried a potential punishment of stoning to death if four male witnesses to the crime could be furnished. Without witnesses, rape and zina could be tried as lesser offenses under the criminal code, but police were often untrained and unwilling to collect forensic evidence that would prove force was used. Unable to prove their allegations, women were then often charged with zina based on their admission that they had had intercourse. While top courts threw almost all of the cases out on appeal, rights groups claimed thousands of women languished in prison for years awaiting the final verdicts.

In 2006, rape was moved back to the criminal code, to be prosecuted based on forensic evidence, and the practice of pursuing zina cases against women who could not prove rape was specifically prohibited.

Rights activists heralded the law as groundbreaking at the time, but it has been enforced sporadically ever since. Last April, a Karachi judge dismissed a rape case, saying DNA evidence and the testimony of the victim were not enough to convict three government workers accused of gang raping a woman at the tomb of Pakistan's founder.

“It is not fair to rely on DNA reports in such cases, as they only deal with medical facts without ascertaining exactly if someone was raped,” the court ruled.   In 2011, to the dismay of women's rights groups, the Supreme Court upheld the acquittal of all but one of six alleged rapists in the high-profile case of Mukhtar Mai, an outspoken women's rights activist who pursued a case against members of a powerful rival clan who gang-raped her on the orders of a village council.     A delayed investigation and a lack of DNA evidence meant Ms. Mai's claims were subjected to skepticism by the judges.

But the Supreme Court ruling in the Ratta Amral case may make it easier to prosecute cases like Ms. Mai's. Along with the order to collect DNA in every case, the Supreme Court ordered measures to ease registering rape claims, like assigning more female police to investigate sex crimes.

Uncovering long-term challenges 

Violent crime goes largely unpunished in Pakistan – even cases tried in special antiterrorism courts net only an 18 percent conviction rate – but in the case of rape, a host of problems keeps the conviction rate in the single digits. Those include a lack of resources for DNA analysis, a dearth of female medical examiners, and a reluctance of victims to come forward.     A report presented to the Senate last October said 10,703 rape cases were registered in Pakistan since 2009.  According to War Against Rape (WAR), a Karachi-based NGO, less than four percent of Pakistan's rape cases result in a conviction.  Just convincing police to register a rape case is an arduous process, says Salman Akram Raja, the victim's lawyer in the Rawalpindi gang rape case.  “In our society, prosecutors and police think a crime is something to be settled among the parties.”

There’s also a lack of resources for forensic analysis. “DNA is always collected, unless the parties reach a compromise, or the woman refuses to be examined,” says Ghulam Abbas, a spokesman for the Deputy Inspector General of Punjab.  Because there are only two laboratories capable of DNA analysis in Pakistan, Abbas says, and it takes a month to get results.   Over the last five years, Karachi authorities conducted 1,482 medical examinations of suspected sexual assault victims, but only registered 387 cases. By law, police are required to always register cases.  Karachi, with a population of 20 million, has just six specially-trained female medical examiners. Three police stations are staffed by and dedicated to women, but only one is allowed to register cases. Rape victims are usually forced to deal with male officers.

Fareed Paracha, of the Jamaat e Islami party - which opposed the reforms in 2006  - decries the near impunity for rapists, but says that instead of passing new laws, Pakistan needs to enforce the existing ones.

"Rape is such a heinous crime, it should be prosecuted well and [the perpetrators] punished harshly."



Kyrgyzstan Tries To Solve Domestic Violence Problem

By Bakyt Ibraimov

March 03, 2014

Six years ago, 21-year-old Malika married a divorced man and eventually bore two children with him. They never registered their union at the Osh office of vital statistics.

“A ‘nikah’ [Islamic] wedding ceremony took place, after which we lived as husband and wife,” she said. “In recent years, my husband began beating me. Recently, he beat me so severely that he injured me, after which I decided not to go back to him.”

Malika was forced to return to her parents’ home. She doesn’t know whether she has a claim to the property that remains in the house of her unofficial spouse.

“Such cases occur quite often because many young married women don’t know their rights,” Orunbek Samidinov, an Osh attorney, told Central Asia Online.

Preventing domestic violence is becoming a government priority, and it is calling upon civil society to play a role in tackling the problem.

From the government and crisis centres’ point of view, it is highly important to increase the ability of local communities to fight domestic violence, Samidinov said.

“For women, especially villagers, it is essential to hold seminars and conferences to raise their legal awareness and to inform them of family law,” he said. “On such occasions, women can trade stories about building up their leadership skills.”

A problem that seldom reaches courts

Kyrgyz authorities recorded 2,351 cases of domestic violence in the first 11 months of 2013, only 120 of which became judicial matters, according to the Ministry of Social Development (MSR).

Physical beatings figured in 66.3% of those 2,351 cases, the MSR said.

Therefore, the government, along with civic organisations, intends in 2014 to implement a project aimed at launching a dialogue at national level and laying the foundation for helping women suffering from spousal abuse.

“In its 12 years of operation, 10,598 girls and women in difficult situations have come to us from throughout Kyrgyzstan,” Darika Asilbekova, director of the Ak Jurok (Kind Heart) crisis centre in Osh, told Central Asia Online. “All of them received psychological and legal assistance.”

Centre managers and Osh Oblast government officials in 2009 signed a memorandum of understanding, leading to the opening that year of a shelter with space for 12 individuals needing skilled medical and psychological-social assistance, she said.

“Оver the last five years, 205 women have stayed in this shelter,” Asilbekova said. “Violence against [them] took various forms – physical, sexual and emotional.”

Men to receive help too

This year, Ak Jurok intends to also help men with domestic problems, she said. The expansion of duties became possible after the MSR allocated 556,000 KGS (about US $11,000) to the crisis centre, which won a contest among purveyors of community projects in southern Kyrgyzstan.

“Last December alone, 11 men abused by their wives … appealed to our psychologists and lawyers,” she said.

Almost 90% of abused husbands become alcoholics and end up homeless, the MSR said.

“On January 30, men’s crisis centres opened in Chui Oblast and in Osh,” the MSR said. “They’ll give psychological and social assistance to men.”