New Age Islam News Bureau
19 March 2015
Way to go. Emirati friends and The Courts founders Maryam Al Omaira and Amna Al Mansouri, Image Credit: Supplied
• Cambridge Muslim Mothers Monitor Girls
• Ban Muslim Headscarf in Universities, Says Former French President Sarkozy
• • Uyghur Democracy Leader Ms. Rebiya Kadeer's Tenth Anniversary Of Freedom
• 72,494 Women-Owned Businesses in Riyadh
• Yemeni Tribesmen Free French Woman Kidnapped Last Month - Tribal Sources
• What a Houthi-Controlled Yemen Means For Women
• Yemen Celebrates Female Photographers on International Women’s Day
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
‘The Courts’ Roll Out Plan to Get Saudi Women into Sport
MARCH 18, 2015
ABU DHABI Two Emirati friends have launched a community sport development initiative called ‘The Courts’ in Abu Dhabi to get more women into sport.
Amna Al Mansouri and Mariam Al Omaira, both in their 20s, told XPRESS they want to develop a sports culture among women. “We want women to take sports seriously – both as a hobby and a career, ” said co founder Amna.
Self-confessed fitness freaks, Amna and Mariam play for the UAE National League and work for a government entity in the sports sector. They met on a football pitch and it was their passion for fitness that gave birth to The Courts. “As young Emirati women growing up in Abu Dhabi, we understood how challenging it is for females in the region to participate in sports and fitness activities,” said Amna.
She said they were prompted to start The Court after seeing young women leading unhealthy lifestyles.
Mariam said The Courts is a social entrepreneurial venture that has three focus areas. “Court Eleven will engage with the community and organise awareness programmes and sports events.” They are also planning to start prenatal and special classes for the elderly and children between the ages of six month and two years.
A sports centre will be opened under Court Active while Court Nine will see the will see the launch of their own collection of stationery and accessories where design meets sport.
Cambridge Muslim Mothers Monitor Girls
18 March 2015
CAMBRIDGE – In their fight against radicalization, Cambridge Muslims have launched a new campaign targeting the strong bond between mothers and daughters to prevent girls from trying to join the militant groups in the Middle East.
"We do occasionally talk to our daughters about this,” Rashel Mohammed, 35, of Arbury, a Muslim father of young daughters, told Cambridge News on Wednesday, March 18.
"Children that age are open and vulnerable and can be exposed to such things on the internet. But like most parents we monitor their time on the internet although as most parents will know that is also difficult."
The new initiative was suggested after many girls and women were reported missing across the UK over the past year.
Devastated families and police forces highlighted fears that their disappearance might be related to their decision to join militant groups overseas, including the so-called Islamic State (ISIL).
Though none of disappearing women and girls come from Cambridgeshire, Cambridge's Muslim community has welcomed the police's efforts with the new campaign.
The new initiative encourages mothers to have open discussions with their daughters about the situation in Syria and about what they are viewing online.
"Youngsters can easily be swayed by different interpretations of the Qur’an,” Mohammed, a taxi driver added.
“My friends in the wider Muslim community in Cambridge are deeply shocked by these young girls who have gone independently to Syria and just cannot believe it, especially in the Bangladeshi culture.
"The Bangladeshi community is not associated with terrorism and I think these girls must be second or third generation people."
The new campaign was widely supported by the Muslim community.
"I think this is a good thing and something we are all aware of as parents,” Mehboob Khan, of Cambourne, who has a teenage daughter and 12-year-old son and is a journalist working with United Nations Radio, said.
“This is a very important issue for all of us. We all think this is a very silly thing to do to go to Syria and we are engaging with our children to look at this in a rational way. I welcome what the police are doing.”
The campaign suggested supporting mothers as most the capable of spotting changes in behavior of their children.
Leaflets supporting the campaign are also being provided to police forces to distribute locally by Prevent officers and partners.
"I fully support this campaign which delivers an important message around the risks of travelling to Syria,” Chief Inspector Matt Thompson, regional Prevent coordinator, said.
"I would encourage family members and friends to highlight concerns at an early stage so that we can work with them and partners to safeguard people who may be thinking about travelling to Syria, which as a consequence could be putting themselves in danger and out of reach of help and support."
Helen Ball, senior national coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, said: "This advertising campaign is part of our sustained efforts to continue to raise awareness around this very serious issue."
Ban Muslim headscarf in universities, says former French president Sarkozy
Mar 19, 2015
By SCOTT CAMPBELL
The opposition leader said he "does not see the consistency of a system where the headscarf is forbidden in primary and secondary school, and in high school, and allowed in universities".
A 2004 France banned religious symbols from public schools including the Islamic veil.
He added: "It does not make sense."
Sarkozy has previously been outspoken about the burka.
In 2009 he said the garment reduced women to servitude and backed an official probe to look at banning the veil.
France's parliament the passed a burka ban in 2010, leading to protests from Islamic groups who said it was discriminatory.
Speaking to TF1, Sarkozy also said French schools should stop serving alternative meals for religious reasons.
"I am opposed to the so-called alternative meals where, depending on the origin of the children, the parents' religion, we choose different meals," he said.
"The republic has an identity. France is a republic not just a democracy.
"In a democracy, everyone does what he wants as long as it does not harm others.
"A republic demands more than that," he added. "If you want your children to have a faith-based diet, you go into private education."
Uyghur Democracy Leader Ms. Rebiya Kadeer's Tenth Anniversary Of Freedom
March 16, 2015
The Uyghur American Association (UAA) honours the human rights work of Uyghur democracy leader Ms. Rebiya Kadeer on the tenth anniversary of her release from notorious Chinese prison Liudaowan. UAA also recognizes the tireless efforts of the United States government and human rights organizations in securing Ms. Kadeer's freedom.
Ms. Kadeer served as UAA president from 2006 to 2011 and is the president of the World Uyghur Congress. After her release, she founded the International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation and has travelled worldwide communicating Uyghur human rights concerns.
"Ms. Kadeer is a symbol of the Uyghur people's peaceful resistance to China's iron-fisted repressive rule in East Turkestan. She has faced down the formidable authoritarian state that is China to tell people from presidents to university students about the brutal repression of the Uyghur people. In order to silence Ms. Kadeer, Chinese officials have targeted her family, put her in prison and labelled her a 'terrorist;' however, she still continues to speak truth to power. The treatment of Ms. Kadeer shows the kind of contempt the Chinese government has for peaceful dissident Uyghur voices," said UAA president Alim Seytoff.
Mr. Seytoff added: "Although we observe Ms. Kadeer's ten years of freedom, Uyghurs still experience terrible human rights conditions in China. China has made a fanfare about so called 'Uyghur terrorism' without providing much evidence. This spin the Chinese government has put on the tensions in East Turkestan is to convince the international community that repressive measures against Uyghurs are justified. At this perilous time, governments and multi-lateral agencies must strengthen their support for Uyghur rights by treating China's terror allegations with utmost skepticism and challenging Chinese officials on their appalling human rights record in East Turkestan."
Uyghurs are routinely imprisoned for the their peaceful advocacy aimed at improving human rights conditions. Professor Ilham Tohti and webmaster Gulmire Imin were jailed for exercising their freedom of speech. Professor Tohti was particularly outspoken on a number of economic, social and cultural issues facing the Uyghurs through his Uighurbiz website. The detention of HIV/AIDS activist, Akbar Imin is a further example of the limited space the Uyghurs have to raise social problems with the state.
The case of Uyghur author, Nurmuhammet Yasin shows the tight constraints placed on artistic freedom. The jailing of Abdukiram Abduweli and Alimjan Yimit are demonstrative of the curbs place on religious rights in East Turkestan.
Brief biography of Ms. Rebiya Kadeer
Ms. Rebiya Kadeer is the mother of eleven children, a human rights leader and former businesswoman. She established a multimillion-dollar trading company and a department store in Urumchi. To provide assistance and opportunities to disadvantaged Uyghurs, especially women, Ms. Kadeer started the "Thousand Mothers Movement" in December 1997, to empower Uyghur women to start their own businesses.
Ms. Kadeer served as a delegate to the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, as well as a delegate to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. Originally held up as a model of Uyghur success and philanthropy, Beijing's attitude toward Ms. Kadeer changed when she criticized China's treatment of her people during a National People's Congress session in March 1997. In her speech, she demanded that the Chinese government honor the autonomy conferred on the Uyghur people and respect their human rights. She also criticized China's harsh crackdown of a Uyghur demonstration that had taken place a month earlier in Ghulja.
In 1997, Ms. Kadeer was stripped of her membership in both the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and forbidden to travel overseas. She was arrested in 1999 while on her way to meet with a U.S. Congressional delegation that was visiting East Turkestan to investigate the human rights situation there. She was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment in March 2000, following a secret trial. Forced to spend two years in solitary confinement, she witnessed brutal torture and abuse carried out on her fellow prisoners.
Ms. Kadeer's case received wide international attention as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch publicized her case and aggressively pursued her freedom. In 2000, Human Rights Watch honored Ms. Kadeer as a human rights monitor. In 2004, Norway's Rafto Foundation honored her with the Rafto Award. Then, on March 17, 2005, three days before an official visit to Beijing by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, she was released from prison, ostensibly on medical grounds, and sent to the United States, where she was given refugee status. In retaliation for her human rights advocacy, Chinese authorities have frequently persecuted Ms. Kadeer's children and other family members.
Ms. Kadeer has actively campaigned for the human rights of the Uyghur people since her arrival in the United States and for her work has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. In September 2005, Ms. Kadeer founded the International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation in Washington, D.C, which works to promote human rights for Uyghur women and children in East Turkestan. In May 2006, she was elected to the presidency of the Uyghur American Association. In November 2006, she was elected as president of the World Uyghur Congress, which represents the collective interests of the Uyghur diaspora, both in East Turkestan and in countries throughout the world.
72,494 women-owned businesses in Riyadh
RIYADH — According to the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the number of registered businesses owned by women in the city reached 72,494.
The Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Women’s Committee, the British Embassy and the British Cultural Council organized the Women and Entrepreneurship Forum where foreign embassies and other committees at the chamber engaged in dialogue on the future and opportunities of women businesses in Riyadh.
Head of the chamber’s Women’s Committee, Nouf Al-Rakan, said the event was sponsored by Princess Nourah Bint Mohammad Al-Saud and Prince Faisal Bin Bandar.
“Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry was the first chamber in the Kingdom to have a women’s committee. The forum presented strategic economic ways to support women-owned businesses in the Kingdom,” said Al-Rakan.
Yemeni tribesmen free French woman kidnapped last month - tribal sources
March 19, 2015
SANAA — Yemeni tribesmen on Thursday freed a French and a Yemeni woman kidnapped last month in the capital Sanaa, tribal sources told Reuters.
Frenchwoman Isabelle Prime, a consultant to Yemen's Social Fund for Development, and her Yemeni translator Shereen Makawi were abducted by gunmen in downtown Sanaa while the pair were on their way to work. — Reuters
What a Houthi-controlled Yemen means for women
March 19, 2015
Houthis published a circular in January 2015, pertaining to women in the city of Amran, banning them from going out following the Maghrib prayer, prohibiting them from bringing male bands or singers to their gatherings or parties, banning the use of cameras at women's gatherings and parties, including mobile phones with cameras. These new rules are being implemented in Amran, and the people there have been adhering to these rules to avoid punishment.
The circular stirred controversy in Yemeni society, especially among women who feel that the next phase will bring in many unpleasant surprises regarding hard-won gains they had achieved. Some women have concerns about Houthis since they are so dogmatic when it comes to women’s rights.
Women in Yemen suffer from discriminatory laws. The country has the largest educational gap between men and women: the illiteracy rate among men is 30%, and 67% among women. But the popular movement that erupted in February 2011 witnessed a heavy participation of women, drawing attention to women’s issues, and following the revolution, the National Dialogue Conference in March 2013 brought about new legislation, some of it related to the quota system and underage marriage. These were considered a victory for women.
Houthis are not the only political grouping in Yemen to target women. Yemeni women used to work on the land alongside men in rural areas. But when Ali Abdullah Saleh took power in 1978, the state policy started to tighten the noose around women’s freedoms and rights, because of the political alliance between Saleh and the Muslim political movements to confront communists in the south. This reflected on the education curriculum and women started covering their faces, which hides their identities and decreases their role in the public sphere. Some political parties used women's rights as a card to show off their modernity, but they didn’t adopt women’s issues seriously, as their actions did not exceed mere media propaganda. On the other hand, religious political parties claimed that women's rights are something alien to our society and an attempt to Westernize society. But they showed a hypocrisy of sorts during elections, encouraging women to vote while not putting forth female candidates.
In 2011, Yemeni women took the streets to participate in the revolution. Many of them were subjected to defamatory campaigns, which culminated in Saleh's April 2011 speech in which he banned gender-mixing in the demonstration arenas.
The president’s statement caused a stir in a tribal conservative society, with a particular impact on the Islah Party, the Islamic party that was in control then. It was not long before the party started to set up checkpoints to ensure gender segregation, but failed to fully achieve its goals to impose segregation in the long term.
Although Islah seems to have been harsh about women’s issues, Houthis are much worse. They are not obsessed with imposing gender segregation, but they obstruct female movement by forcing women to return to their homes before the sunset. All Yemeni political forces are similar in their targeting of women. The victims of Islah are now suffering the same fate at the hands of the Houthis, but with greater harassment and fear given the absence of any accountability for such acts.
In the past, there was a weak state but with a space for the freedom of media and civil society organizations supported by foreigners, pressuring the Yemeni government and political forces. Today, however, Houthis are free of any responsibility toward the international community, having free rein to harass journalists.
Back in April 2011, the 1st Armored Division — a military group close to the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist movements — beat Arwa Abdo Othman, a woman who founded the House of Folklore institution, an organization working on the collection of Yemeni heritage pieces.
The attack came following Saleh’s speech as the group used it as an excuse to impose gender segregation, under the pretext that women did not abide by the segregation orders.
Othman is being subjected to a new harassment campaign by the Houthis, as she believes that all religious groups tend to restrict women's freedoms in general. However, Houthis have been the worst so far in their campaign, as they sent her several threats because she participated in the commemoration of the Sept. 26 Revolution — which brought down imamate rule in 1962 — while dancing and singing in defiance with a group of young men.
The Houthi group had taken control of Sanaa a few days before the revolution’s commemoration, on Sept. 21, 2014. Othman was then appointed minister of culture in the outgoing government in January, facing a relentless campaign by the Houthi media, dubbing the outgoing government "the government of dancing."
Similarly, Yemeni activist Samia al-Aghbari faced the same challenges, as Islah accused her in late December 2012 of being an infidel. Today, as the Houthis in power have been tarnishing her reputation, she is accused of being affiliated with the Islamic State (IS).
“With the 2011 revolution, we aspired for a better Yemen, and for Yemeni women in particular. However, when the 1st Armored Division joined in in March and started to violate women’s rights, we sensed the danger. We knew that the future would be worse. Today, things are truly much worse, and we are threatened by a replication of the Taliban rule in Yemen,” Aghbari told Al-Monitor.
“Houthis have more audacity than the Islah Party. While the latter sends its lower-ranking members to carry out all the slandering and threats, as Saleh’s cronies used to do, today, prominent Houthis jurists and writers are brazenly performing the same acts,” she added.
Student Hiba al-Zabahani, who shares the same opinion as Aghbari, believes that Houthis are more rigid than their predecessors, as they have threatened to strip her of her clothes if she continues to wear pants instead of the abaya, or cloak.
Just last Jan. 25, she took part in a student demonstration against Houthis in Sanaa University, where she refused to hand them her phone, with which she had captured attacks on students. She was beaten up along with her friend as a result.
“The most recent attack on Jan. 25 was the worst. We went out to protest the Houthi coup and the Houthis chased us with white arms [non-firearms]. We managed to escape them,” Zabahani said. “Nothing is the same again.”
However, a Yemeni activist and writer claims the Houthis will not succeed in cracking down on Yemeni women. She told Al-Monitor, on condition of anonymity, that the 2011 revolution was a turning point in her life.
Before 2011, she was a traditional housewife with six children coming from a socially and religiously conservative family. However, when her husband saw her great enthusiasm for the revolution, he allowed her to take part in it, which was her first contact with the public sphere. She was inspired by people such as Tawakkol Karman, who was awarded the Nobel Peace prize and was one of the female leaders who participated in the 2011 revolution, among others.
After the revolution she decided to make her own way to the public domain and started writing, which raised the ire of her husband. He prohibited her or at least tried to convince her to write under a pseudonym. She refused and insisted on her right to reveal her true identity.
Radya al-Mutawakil, a human rights activist and the founder of Mwatana organization, shares the same view. “The Houthis will fail to further crack down on women, because they will not last long,” she told Al-Monitor.
Mutawakil, as well as all the other women Al-Monitor spoke with, agreed that the women’s gains came as a result of their struggle and defiance of political forces, which greatly undermine and neglect women’s issues, except as a show for the media. They believe that these political forces are not sincere or honest in their positions toward women, as they sometimes claim that they support them. Women hold senior positions in these parties’ ranks such as Aghbari in the central committee of the Yemeni Socialist Party, and Karman in the Shura council of Islah; these are prominent positions that influence in the decision-making process in the parties. But this doesn’t mean that the parties are struggling for women’ rights, as it is not their priority. Thus, including women in leadership positions is for show. Women are not given incentives to participate in the political process other than just to vote in elections.
They believe that the achievements of the National Dialogue Conference, including the decisions on the women's quota system and the minimum age of marriage, are merely for form’s sake, as nothing has been achieved on the ground and political forces can easily circumvent these new rules.
Nevertheless, the fear barrier was destroyed in 2011, and women continue to try to safeguard their gains and prevent any attempt to force them back to stay at home after having been part of a revolution that brought them substantive change.
Yemen Celebrates Female Photographers on International Women’s Day
9 March 2015
With the closure of embassies and the country’s few galleries, the prospects for finding a sponsor and host for an International Women’s Day event were looking grim. Despite Yemen’s serious political situation—the UN Envoy to Yemen has described the country as being on the “brink of civil war”—photographer and women’s rights activist Bushra Al-Fusail made it happen.
“I said, ‘Fine. We’ll celebrate at a coffee shop. That’s where everyone gathers anyway.”
She approached Nina Aqlan from the Dutch organization, SPARK, and the two women moved forward with their plans for a photo exhibit featuring the photography of Yemeni women. SPARK sponsored the event, which was attended by dozens of people and hosted at Coffee Corner Monday evening.
In the entrance, photos in black frames celebrating Yemeni women were displayed. The photos were by Al-Fusail, as well as Maha Senan, Arwa Al-Hubaishi and Rooj Al-Wazir.
“Supporting these initiatives is important because young people need a space to express themselves and be creative, especially during this chaos that the country is experiencing,” said Aqlan.
“These initiatives remind us that even when things are falling apart, there is still room to be expressive and to bring positive energy to shed light on what is hidden among the chaos: Like the amazing women we see in these pictures,” she added.
Al-Fusail says women are uniquely positioned to capture the 50 percent of society that are less seen and heard from than their male counterparts.
When the photographer is a woman, the woman being photographed is more likely, “to be open with [her] problems,” Al-Fusail says.
She has noticed that while many women in Sana’a are outwardly reacting to the takeover of the capital by the Houthis by veiling their faces, she also sees the small acts of informal rebellion throughout the city.
“Three years ago, I would approach women on the streets and not find anyone willing to have their photo taken. Now, many women agree.”
While International Women’s Day comes and goes once a year, the fight for women’s rights in Yemen is a year-round struggle. Complicating that fight is the political turmoil of the country, as well as the well-intentioned liberals who tell Al-Fusail that now is not the time.
“Do not tell us that because of this stupid situation that we are in, that it’s not the time to fight for our rights. There’s no convenient time, we have to always be fighting.”
Aqlan fights the good fight through SPARK by focusing on youth initiatives. “I really hope to see the younger generation come out of this strong and with constructive ideas.”
“For our generation, [some] of us can go abroad, we have other opportunities. But we need to be here and try as much as possible to remind people of what we can accomplish, even if things are really bad.”
One of those youth is Amani Yahya, a female rapper from Hodeida who performed at the International Women’s Day event on Monday.
“When you know that there are other creative, artistic women it leaves you feeling inspired,” Yahya said. “It feels good to be part of this day with other women.”
The support reminds her she’s not alone.
“I’ve gotten a lot of threats, people telling me to stop what I’m doing because I’m [projecting] a ‘bad’ image of Yemeni women. I’m not going to stop.”
Aqlan with her NGO, Al-Fusail with her photography, and Yahya with her music, are proud of the event they planned and performed at Monday, but for them, the fight for women’s rights is more than a once-a-year event. Every day is Women’s Day.