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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 9 Nov 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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‘Tudung and Hijab’ - Personal Decision or the Religious Authorities'

New Age Islam News Bureau

9 Nov 2013

Scene from the Dubai Women’s Run at the Meydan Race Course in Dubai on Friday.— KT photos by Grace Guino


 Kiss Sparks Debate in Iraqi Kurdistan

 For Saudi Women in Kansas City, Driving Isn’t ‘A Big Issue’

 New Pakistani Taliban Leader Blamed For Schoolgirl Shooting

 Fewer teenagers value virginity

 Morocco MPs Drafts Bill against Sexual Harassment

 Yemen Police 'Stop Child's Wedding'

 Maternal Deaths: A 30-Rupee Medicine Could Be Potential Lifesaver: Pak Aid Agency

 Over 5,000 Women Take Part in Fourth Dubai Women’s Run

 Women More Prone To Anxiety Disorders

 Thousands Turn Out To Support Breast Cancer Awareness at Pink Polo Event in Saudi Arabia

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





‘Tudung and Hijab’ - Personal Decision or the Religious Authorities'

 Nov 09 2013

The question is raised in neighbouring Singapore whether Muslim women in public services should put on Tudung (headdress).

In Malaysia this is not an issue at all. In the current context, only not wearing Tudung will evolve into a severe issue in addition to mounting pressure from the society and co-workers.

But in a secular island state where Muslims are a minority--almost 15% of the population--and where religion and politics are very distinct entities, Tudung has all this while been barred in schools, hospitals, military forces and among public services frontline personnel.

Tudung is supposed to cover the hair, ears and neck of a Muslim woman with fabric. In the Middle East, other than the headdress, which is called Hijab in Arabic, women must also cover their entire bodies, including hands and feet with chador, In more conservative societies, even the face is covered, leaving only the eyes exposed (Niqab). And in even more fundamentalist Afghanistan, everything, including the eyes, must be covered with Burqua.

Muslim women in Malaysia mainly cover parts of their bodies with Tudung and Hijab while in more secularised Muslim states such as Turkey, Egypt and Indonesia, many Muslim women don't even put on headdress.

Whether a person should put on a Tudung depends on individuals and peer pressure, how she apprehends and accepts the religious teachings as well as social and family needs and pressure.

Of course, we are not here to talk about the attire of Muslim women, but the controversies in Singapore have exposed a number of things. For one, the trend of Islamisation in a Muslim-minority secular state; and for another, contradictions and frictions between religion and politics.

The same speaks for the controversies surrounding the use of the word "Allah" over here in Malaysia.

The controversies started with an online campaign to urge the Singapore government to allow Muslim women in public services sector to put on tudung at workplace. The proponents claimed that putting on tudung is part of the Islamic teachings and it reflects the sanctity of a woman. The government ban is consequently construed as an impediment to religious freedom.

The online campaign was instantly echoed by several Malay organizations and Islamic bodies while non-Muslim society has viewed the incident with completely opposite perspectives.

Singapore is a religiously sensitive society and such differences put the government on a taut nerve. Ethnic Malay representatives in the ruling party initially defended that Muslims should try to step up communication with other communities in the island state, and the wearing of tudung could aggravate the sidelining of the Muslim society.

Later, PM Lee Hsien Loong clarified to the Malay reps that although Singapore is a champion of religious freedom, the accommodation and equilibrium of the entire society must also be taken care of.

Lee's statement did not offer a clear direction so long as Singaporeans would compromise for the sake of social harmony.

The headdress controversy happens in other countries as well, notably France, whose government barred female Muslim students from putting on headdresses in schools in the pretext of preserving the characteristics of the French society while trying to avoid religious segregation.

Perhaps on the backdrop of highly intricate religious and political factors, there wouldn't be a definite answer at all whether a person should or should not put on a tudung.

Moreover, in a male-dominant society, it is not up to the women to decide whether or not they should put on tudung.




Kiss Sparks Debate in Iraqi Kurdistan

November 9, 2013

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq — A photo of a couple kissing in the city of Sulaimaniyah in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, while standing on the charred remnants of the Statue of Love, won wide local acclaim. The photo was a protest against the vandalism targeting the statue — which had been destroyed — and the grave of poet Shirko Bekas, both in Azadi Park. The latter is one of Sulaimaniyah’s largest parks, and its name means “freedom” in Kurdish. The details of the vandalism and its perpetrators have yet to be revealed. Fingers are pointed, however, at Islamist extremists.

On Oct. 12, 2013, unidentified individuals set the statue on fire, destroying it. In addition, dozens of trees surrounding the statue were scorched. Days later, this was followed by an attack on the grave of the well-known Kurdish poet Shirko Bekas.

The famous photo showed a Kurdish man named Karaman Najm kissing his Dutch girlfriend, Jantine Van Herwijnen. Najm told Al-Monitor, “We were passing by the ruins and ashes, and spontaneously thought about protesting against the vandalism. We decided to imitate the statute and convey a message of love. A photographer who happened to be there took our photo. Then, we posted it on Facebook so that it could be disseminated on social media and in the news.”

Regarding the consequences of a potential lawsuit against them on charges of violating public norms, Najm said, “I do not regret it at all. This is my way of protesting, which apparently was wrongly interpreted.”

Opinions on the photo were divided between support and strong condemnation of this violation of social norms. Supporters saw the photo as challenging extremism and a triumph for liberation and secularism.

What is interesting is that his girlfriend, who appeared in the photo, is Dutch and has been living in Sulaimaniyah for about three years. “I would have done it, even if my girlfriend was Kurdish. I would choose the girl who thinks the same way as me, even if she was Kurdish,” Najm said.

When asked what he would do if a lawsuit is filed against him, he said, “I have the right to defend my own way of protesting against some behaviors that have nothing to do with humanity.”

A number of intellectuals and journalists staged a protest, expressing their resentment at the vandalism targeting cultural landmarks in Sulaimaniyah. They saw these attacks as targeting the Kurdish liberal spirit and undermining the freedom of creativity and thought.

For his part, Sarkout Mohammed, spokesman for the Sulaimaniyah police, stressed that they have not yet arrested any suspects for burning down the Statue of Love and vandalizing the grave of the Kurdish poet, and the investigation is still ongoing.

Author Khaled Suleiman told Al-Monitor that accusations were not randomly directed at Islamists; rather, they placed themselves at the center of the event. In the beginning, the demonstration was not directed against any specific party. However, when Najm kissed his girlfriend on the charred remains of the statue, Islamists suggested removing all statues from the garden and replacing them with statues of martyrs. This sparked a debate between them and the intellectuals.

“The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Kurdistan Islamic Union urged one of its members to file a lawsuit against Najm and his girlfriend. They believe that this protesting kiss is in direct contradiction with public decency,” Suleiman said.

He added, “The shrine of Shirko Bekas was vandalized because Islamists harbor a great hatred against the poet, as they had threatened to kill him during the 1990s.”

Perhaps Islamists have been accused of these acts of vandalism in light of what happened previously, when they attacked nightclubs, shops selling liquor and massage centers in the Kurdistan Region on the grounds that these locales have a negative impact on ethics and contradict Islam.

The sister of the late poet called on the security apparatus to protect cultural monuments from this “fierce” attack at the hands of “hatemongers.”

Bekas died of cancer at the age of 73 in a hospital in Sweden. He is seen as one of the leading innovators in contemporary Kurdish poetry.

The vandalized statue was seen as a very daring monument, for it represented two lovers who are about to share a kiss. It has been standing there for more than a year.

According to social and religious norms in Iraq, public affection between couples is offensive and indecent. Lovers avoid showing affection in public, and religious characteristics are prominent in this small city, the second-largest in the Kurdistan Region, where most women wear the Hijab. The city’s population is about 1 million.



For Saudi women in Kansas City, driving isn’t ‘a big issue’

The Kansas City Star

November 9, 2013

When she recently obtained a Missouri driver’s license, college student Shrouk Alburj wasn’t thinking of liberation.

She was thinking: I need the wheels.

Her native Saudi Arabia is the world’s only country that bars women from driving. But as a movement quietly builds back home to issue licenses to women, Alburj and other Saudi women studying in Kansas City say they’re puzzled by the attention that Americans have given the subject.

“It’s not a big issue for us,” said Alburj, 25, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public affairs at Park University. “Driving, for many women, is a social need. But I think we really need other rights more than driving.”

Her sentiments are shared by University of Missouri-Kansas City undergraduate Samaa Gazzaz. She is driving now, too, but has been conflicted over the years on whether Saudi custom must change.

American friends tell Gazzaz “it’s crazy” for a culture to forbid women from getting behind the wheel. “I’m not sure why they’re angry about it,” she said, “since I’m not angry...

“I think when you live with something for a very long time, and life is good, you don’t see the need to change,” said Gazzaz, 21. “Though I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before this does change.”

She added: “You can’t apply all the same rules here as there. It’s a really different culture. And it’s OK for people to be different.”

Experts said the ambivalence expressed by many Saudis, both within the kingdom and at U.S. universities, speaks to the power of Saudi traditions and to annoyance that Western societies ridicule their social codes.

“It’s not that they don’t care about driving,” said Ann E. Mayer, a scholar on women’s international rights at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “They may be upset about this patronizing American attitude: ‘Oh, you poor, backward people.’”

On Oct. 26, a few dozen women in Saudi Arabia defiantly got into their family cars and drove. Some posted videos of themselves behind the wheel.

Madiha al-Ajroush, a psychologist in the capital of Riyadh, has been pressing her government to issue licenses to women since 1990. News reports of the modest demonstration suggested the cause has gained little traction within a society deeply loyal to the 89-year-old King Abdullah.

“This is not a revolution,” Ajroush told The New York Times. She said the campaign merely seeks to enable her and other women to “do something as small as get myself a cappuccino or something as grand as taking my child to the emergency room” without the need for a male driver.

In Kansas City, the need to drive independently strikes many Saudi students within weeks of their arrival.

“In this city, I have to drive,” said Park graduate student Najlu Alkhalifa, who is single and would prefer not owning a car. Before coming here, she spent three years at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse “without even thinking of driving. Public transportation took care of me.”

Alkhalifa, 29, and other students interviewed by The Star insisted that their defense of Saudi driving customs was not fueled by Islamic beliefs; if so, they wouldn’t be driving in another country.

In fact, no other Islamic country denies women driving privileges.

“Even the Saudis will tell you it’s not an Islamic thing, it’s a Saudi thing,” said Ibrahim Hooper of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. “But this driving issue gets lumped into a mass of information that Muslim-bashers keep repeating.

“I don’t know why the king doesn’t just call for issuing licenses to women and move on,” Hooper added. “It’s not so much about the issue of driving as it is about Saudis not wanting the West to tell them how to run their culture.”

Human-rights advocates consider the driving issue much more serious, entwined in a larger culture that subjugates women of Saudi Arabia — a key U.S. ally — to second-class citizenship.

Against the wishes of strict Muslim clerics, the kingdom in recent years sent female athletes to the Olympic Games and appointed 30 women to the top advisory body, the Shura Council. But that body doesn’t legislate and its male-dominated chamber has not taken up requests of female members to discuss the issuance of driving permits.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, meeting in Riyadh this month with Saudi officials, downplayed America’s diplomatic role in securing rights for motorists.

“We embrace equality for everybody,” Kerry told reporters. “But it’s up to Saudi Arabia to make its own decisions about its own social structure.”

University of Kansas law professor Raj Bhala said that while nothing codified in Saudi or Islamic law prohibits women from driving, Saudi Arabia’s refusal to grant licenses to women flies in the face of international law with respect to equal rights.

“It seems so obvious” even if the United Nations is mum on whether driving is a human right, Bhala said: “Women are entitled to equal dignity and equal protection. That’s like asking me if rain is wet.”

He said the reluctance of Saudi women studying in the United States to criticize the custom may be partly due to their reliance on scholarships funded by their government.

UMKC student Gazzaz and her friend, Reham Bamusa of Park University, said their mothers back home — both teachers, one retired — seldom complain about needing a male relative or paid driver to take them places.

The professional drivers are provided in-home accommodations.

The two students, who came to this country with their husbands, have thus far taken different approaches to motoring around Kansas City.

Gazzaz learned to drive a Toyota RAV4 and obtained her license shortly after arriving last year.

“It was exciting, a new experience,” she said. “I’ve changed a little seeing this whole new world. I don’t know if that’s because of the culture here or me just developing” as a young adult.

Bamusa, however, is holding off the driving experience. She rides the bus if she needs to go to the supermarket and her husband is off to class.

“I like to be with my husband when in the car,” said Bamusa, 28. “That’s just more comfortable...

“And I like to be pampered. I’ll tell him, ‘Please, please, will you take me?’”



New Pakistani Taliban Leader Blamed For Schoolgirl Shooting

November 9, 2013

The new leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Mullah Fazlullah, is perhaps best known for being the man behind the shooting attack on Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl who courageously campaigned for girls' education.

Fazlullah, who was elected Thursday as head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, rose to prominence in Pakistan's Swat Valley earlier through his fiery religious radio broadcasts, which earned him the nickname "Radio Mullah."

Attack On Malala

Malala, as you may recall, was the schoolgirl who documented life under the Taliban in the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan. She was shot in the head outside her school in October 2012. The Pakistani Taliban said it targeted her for spreading "anti-Taliban and 'secular' thoughts among the youth of the area."

Sirajuddin Ahmad, a spokesman for Fazlullah, later told Reuters: "We had no intentions to kill her but were forced when she would not stop [speaking against us]."

The shooting sparked worldwide condemnation. Malala received a serious head wound and received medical treatment in Britain, where she now lives and attends school. She's become a prominent voice for girls' education and was seen as a contender for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Fazullah's Rise To Prominence

Fazlullah was the leader of the Pakistani Taliban in the Swat Valley. For two years, starting in 2007, he and his men spread fear among the residents of the once-popular tourist destination.

They enforced a rigid form of Islam and conducted public beheadings and floggings, as well as set fire to schools. A Pakistani army offensive in 2009 drove the group out of the valley, and Fazlullah is now believed to be living across the border in Afghanistan.

In a story from the region in 2009, NPR's Philip Reeves reported:

"He is an Islamic cleric with a long beard and an even longer list of atrocities against his name, committed by his men as they sought to assert their control over Pakistan's Swat Valley. His fiery religious radio broadcasts to Swat's beleaguered population, relayed via transmitters strapped to the backs of donkeys, earned him the moniker 'Radio Mullah.' "

The Death Of His Predecessor

Fazlullah succeeds Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike last week. Mehsud is believed to be behind the failed 2010 car bombing in New York's Time Square.

The killing came as the Pakistani government and the Taliban were working to hold peace talks. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan called it "a conspiracy to sabotage the peace talks" with the Taliban, which were due to start a day later.

Fazlullah, as the Dawn newspaper notes, is considered a hardliner even within the Pakistani Taliban, which could prove difficult to relaunch any peace efforts.

"There will be no more talks as Mullah Fazlullah is already against negotiations with the Pakistan government," said a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban.



Fewer teenagers value virginity

Nadya Natahadibrata

November 09 2013

The latest government survey has found that the number of Indonesian teenagers who think virginity is important is declining.

According to the 2012 Indonesian Health and Demography Survey (SDKI), which was released in September, only 77 percent of female respondents and 66 percent of male respondents said it was important to keep their virginity before marriage.

The figures are much lower compared to those in the 2007 survey where 99 percent of female and 98 percent of male teenagers interviewed said they valued virginity.

The National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) said the findings were alarming, highlighting the fact that most Indonesian teens had limited knowledge of sex and reproductive health.

The 2012 survey on reproductive health among youth was jointly conducted by the BKKBN, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) and the Health Ministry. It involved 8,902 female and 10,980 male teenagers aged between 15 and 24.

It found that female teenagers (38 percent) who had sexual intercourse did not know why they did it, saying “it just happened”. Meanwhile, most of the male respondents (57 percent) said they were driven by curiosity.

“The youngsters’ knowledge on puberty and reproductive health is inadequate. This is shown by the fact that more than 38 percent of teenage girls in the survey stated the reason why they had sexual intercourse was that ‘it just happened’,” BKKBN deputy for prosperous families and family empowerment Sudibyo Alimoeso told reporters on Thursday.

“The rising fertility rate among teens was most probably caused by a lack of knowledge on reproductive health, which of course affects the rising maternal mortality rate as well,” he added.

Flourisa Juliaan, BKKBN’s head of research and development, said it was necessary to provide teenagers with adequate sex education.

“Not only because teen’s biological conditions aren’t ready for child birth, but also because having a child at a very young age affects their futures, especially teen girls,” she said.

The SDKI survey also found the number of mothers aged between 15 to 19 years had risen to 48 per 1,000 women in 2012, from 35 per 1,000 in 2007.

“It’s very shameful to see the data as most teens have not received the right information on reproductive health from their mothers. Moreover, the era of free information can easily shift teens’ views on puberty and reproduction,” she went on.

According to the data, 61 percent female respondents said they received information on reproductive health from their teachers, 29 percent from their friends, and only 18 percent from their mothers. Male respondents said they mostly received such information from their peers (48 percent), followed by teachers with 46 percent.

“This shows how information on reproductive health within the family is still considered taboo, when in fact parents hold the key to guiding their children to tell them the right information on the issue,” she said.

Sudibyo said for four years the agency had initiated a program that provided reproductive health counseling centers for high school students in 12 provinces, including Jakarta, Central Java, West Java, East Java, Banten, North Sumatra and West Nusa Tenggara.



Morocco MPs Drafts Bill against Sexual Harassment

 8 November 2013

Moroccan lawmakers have drafted a bill threatening jail terms for sexual harassment that will soon be submitted to parliament, media reported on Thursday.

The proposed law would affect the author of “any unwelcome act against a third party in public spaces, whether an act, remark or gesture of a sexual nature, or intended to obtain a sexual act,” said Arabic-language daily Al-Massae.

Prison terms ranging from two months to two years and fine of between 1,000 and 3,000 dirhams (90-270 euros/$122-365) are envisaged.

The jail sentence could be extended to five years if the victim is “a work colleague” or “under the supervision of the person responsible for the incriminating act,” the paper reported.

At its weekly meeting on Thursday, the government indicated that a commission chaired by Islamist premier Abdelilah Benkirane would “revise this bill before re-submitting it to the cabinet.”

It would not become law until approved by both chambers of parliament.

Former family and social development minister Nouzha Skalli hailed “the arrival of this long-awaited bill,” when contacted by AFP.

“I regret that women's rights groups have not been involved in drafting the bill,” said the MP, adding that marital rape was not covered by the text.

As in numerous other Arab countries, notably Egypt, sexual harassment of women is commonplace in Morocco, despite the adoption of a new constitution in 2011 which enshrines gender equality and urges the state to promote it.



Yemen police 'stop child's wedding'

By Sebastian Usher

 Nov 09 2013

The human rights ministry in Yemen says that one of its officials has managed to stop the wedding of a nine-year-old girl, due to take place on Friday.

An official told the BBC it was the first such intervention to stop a child marriage in Yemen.

The child, Hiba, was due to have been married on 8 November in the southern city of Taiz.

The issue of young Yemeni girls being married off by their families has drawn growing international concern.

Some of the families are motivated by the traditional dowry system.

Hiba's story is not unusual in Yemen.

She is looked after by her father, who married again after Hiba's mother died.

An official from the local office of the human rights ministry heard about the planned wedding. The ministry has put the issue of child marriage at the very top of its agenda.

The official contacted the police station near where Hiba lives, and the police decided to intervene.

They spoke to Hiba's father and persuaded him not to marry his daughter off.


Fuad al-Ghaffari, a senior official in the office of the Human Rights Minister, Hooria Mashhour, said he was proud of the action taken by his colleague, as well as the police.

He told the BBC that it was the first time such an intervention had taken place.

The women's rights group, Equality Now, has listed the stories of some of the young girls who have been through this experience.

Wafa, it says, was married at 11 to a 40-year-old who raped and tortured her. A lawyer hired by the group and the Yemeni Women Union managed to arrange her divorce.

Another 11-year-old, Fawziya, died in childbirth.

Salwa, a 12-year-old girl, killed herself by throwing herself off a roof.

A recent, widely-reported case, which was not officially corroborated, of an eight-year-old girl said to have died of internal injuries after her wedding night, prompted renewed calls for action.


The Yemeni Human Rights Ministry is trying to build pressure at every level of government to bring in a legally-sanctioned minimum marriage age to stop such abuse.

Officials there say they are making some progress, suggesting that the minister of legal affairs may soon propose a draft law.

There have also been moves to try to enshrine in the new constitution being drafted a clause to end child marriage and make the minimum age 18. But powerful traditional elements, including religious clerics and tribal leaders, remain opposed and say they will block this.

As for Hiba, her fate still remains in the balance.

Without any legal sanction, human rights officials say there is nothing to stop her still being married off at a later date.



Maternal deaths: A 30-rupee medicine could be potential lifesaver: Pak aid agency

 November 9, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Figures in Pakistan have soared to an estimated 276 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births recorded and Mercy Corps Pakistan says it cannot be slashed until drastic measures are taken to educate parents.

Mercy Corps, a global aid agency, have urged provincial governments to reach out to communities and ask mothers to use Misoprostal — Rs30 drug used to prevent and treat postpartum hemorrhage (PPH).

Addressing a group of journalists on Friday, Mercy Corps Project Officer Dr Farahnaz said 65 per cent of births in Pakistan take place at homes out of which an alarming 27.2 per cent of maternal deaths are caused by PPH.

With 52 per cent of home births attended by traditional midwives, there is a dire need for skilled birth attendants to reduce maternal health morbidity and mortality, she said, adding that the lack of expertise often ends up in the mother losing blood while giving birth.

“At that critical point, if the right drug — Misoprostol — is not given to the mother, she bleeds excessively and can even lose her life,” she said.

The drug was included in the World Health Organisation’s essential drugs list in 2011 and a year later, Pakistan had also followed suit by including it in its own list.

Despite three pharmaceutical companies producing it, the gap between demand and supply of Misoprostol still remains a challenge.

Shoaib Ahmed, another Mercy Corps official, said the training of midwives at the community level was still a challenge that needed to be addressed on an urgent basis.

“There are not enough doctors. Even those studying to become doctors would not work at the community level and that is where the main problem lies” he said. “That is why clinics in remote areas need to have trained midwives as their integral part.”

While the Millennium Development Goals focus on “improving maternal health” by reducing the maternal mortality ratio and achieving universal access to reproductive health by 2015, it seems Pakistan, with third highest estimated number of maternal deaths, is still far from meeting its targets.

Every year, globally, more than 350,000 women die from preventable complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.



Over 5,000 women take part in fourth Dubai Women’s Run

November 9, 2013

“Once I’d crossed the 4 kilometre mark, there was a sudden surge of energy and it feels very empowering when that happens,” said 27-year-old Milna Antony, Indian national, who completed the Dubai Women’s Run on Friday.

“Every runner knows this. It’s addictive, it’s empowering, and once you’ve completed a run in a set time, you want to beat your own record,” she added. The race was run by several veteran runners as well as first-time runners.

A little over 5,000 women participated in the fourth edition of the Dubai Women’s Run, which took place at the Meydan Race Course.

The race was flagged off at 7am by three-time world half-marathon champion Kenyan Tegla Loroupe. Under the patronage of the UAE Athletics Federation and Dubai Sports Council (DSC), the race was held in two categories — 10km and 5km.

Race director Liesa Euton said that the race has gotten bigger over the last four years. “This race is one of the several things that are aimed at creating a nation of active women while making fitness in sports an integral part of daily living. While our core target is women and girls, it would give a much better sense of achievement to see the entire community being part of this initiative,” said Euton.

“The race is a special moment of all women as it brings about a sense of solidarity among participants. It is truly wonderful to see so many women belonging to different parts of the world, and different sizes run to the finish line... (You get) the feeling of empowerment as you’re about to accomplish what you thought you would never before. The exhilarating feeling as you are about to cross the finish line and people you don’t even know cheering you on. That will definitely make me run again,” said first-time runner and another Indian national Shermeen Pradeep Kumar (25).

Katie F. said: “This is my fourth race. I took part in the Standard Chartered 10km last year and I can proudly say that my time has improved since then.”

A part of the funds raised from the races will go to Breast Cancer Arabia, with winners in the 5km and 10km races walking away with a prize money of Dh10,000 each, while the second and third-place finishers took home Dh7,000 and Dh5,000, respectively.

Zsofia Erdelyi of Hungary and Elena Korobkina of Russia won the 10km and 5km races, respectively. Erdelyi clocked 33 minutes, 15 seconds ahead of Kalayu Yeshi Chekole of Ethiopia in the 10km run. Gladys Jemaiyo from Kenya came third finishing at 33 minutes and 54 seconds, and Natalya Popkova from Russia came fourth, finishing at 34 minutes and eight seconds. -



Women more prone to anxiety disorders

9 November 2013

The ratio is almost double in women than men.

Once anxiety goes beyond the limits or persists and interferes in the day-to-day functioning, the pathological anxiety starts, explains Reena Thomas, Clinical Psychologist, Aster Jubilee Medical Complex, Bur Dubai.

“One can feel anxious at school/office/home, irrespective of age, ethnic status,” she said.

“It is one of the most prevalent childhood psychiatric disorders that significantly impair current functioning and portend increased risk for various problems in adolescence and adulthood.”

The ratio is almost double in women than men. Depressive disorders are likely to accompany anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders as a collective entity are pervasive and include various types such as panic disorder (PD), generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), specific phobia (SP), social anxiety disorder (SAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Anxiety disorders present with a marked amount of psychological tension and distress and are accompanied by a range of bodily and cognitive symptoms such as:


Shortness of breath

Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet

Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet

An inability to be calm and relax

Dry mouth/nausea

Muscle tension


Digestive disturbance

Uneasiness in facing people/other social situations

Uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts

Ritualistic behaviours, such as repeated hand washing

Repeated thoughts or flashbacks of traumatic experiences


Sleep problems

Multiple factors play a role in developing anxiety. Risk factors for anxiety disorders include young age, female gender and familial history.

Genes and neurobiological mechanisms do play a dominant role and it runs in families. It is widely believed that anxiety disorders like other mental disorders  can also be triggered due to negative life events, familial problems (eg conflicts, abuses) considered as chronic stress-inducing situations, separation/role inversion during childhood, lack of social interaction, peer acceptance and rejection, poor life satisfaction etc.

Luckily due to the modern technologies, treatment of anxiety has become easy. The treatment can be performed in three ways:

Medication: which includes drugs which reduce anxiety and depression.

Psychotherapy (cognitive behaviour therapy): It is a series of therapeutic interactions with the doctor.

Use of complementary medicines, and modification of lifestyle such as physical activity, meditation and diet with avoidance of caffeine, chocolates, energy and soft drinks, alcohol, and nicotine.



Thousands Turn Out To Support Breast Cancer Awareness at Pink Polo Event in Saudi Arabia

Jennifer Bell

November 9, 2013

ABU DHABI // There were many shades of pink, from rose to salmon, adorning visitors to Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club on Friday, but they were united in purpose.

Thousands had arrived for the fourth annual Pink Polo match, to raise funds for research into breast cancer and awareness of a disease that is the UAE’S second-biggest killer of women.

The polo match and attractions including camel and pony rides, face painting, a roaming magician and a military skydiving show, gave the event its usual family feel.

For some, including English expatriate Judith Welling, it was also a time to remember friends and loved ones who had been stricken with the disease.

“Last year I lost a close friend to breast cancer and she died leaving one-year-old twins,” said Ms Welling, 42, in a pale pink, bobbed wig and purple dress.

It was her third time at Pink Polo, of which Abu Dhabi Media, publisher of The National, is a partner.

“I think it is so important that there is publicity raising awareness of breast cancer because early detection is just so important,” Ms Welling said.

Karen D’Souza, an English teacher wearing a pink dress, attended the event with her husband and her children Lucie, 9, and Sadie, 2. It was her first time at Pink Polo after a friend had recommended it.

“I think there is not enough awareness, maybe because of a cultural sensitivity about checking body parts,” Ms D’Souza said. “But publicity and awareness are so important.”

Other attractions at the free event included a hot-air balloon, henna tattoos, football tricks, a barbecue and a live DJ.

A Pink Clinic was set up for visitors to meet medical experts and breast-cancer survivors, learn self-examination techniques and have free screenings at a mobile mammography unit.

Dr Efim Afreen sat with women to explain how to feel for changes in their breasts.

Dr Afreen, 37, from Pakistan, said it was crucial that women knew how to carry out self-examinations.

“A lot of women are coming asking how they can perform a breast examination on their own,” she said. “Self-examinations are one of the vital steps of catching cancer early on.”

Manar Abrahim was among the mammogram screening staff at Tawam Hospital advising visitors about the importance of regular checks.

“It is very important that women, especially ladies over the age of 40, have regular mammograms,” the Jordanian said.

“Catching it early means we can act quickly. Treatment gets harder the more advanced the cancer.”

The blow of the whistle at 5.10pm signalled the start of the match, with a team of professional players sponsored by Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) taking on another supported by St Regis Hotels.

Players decked out in pink shirts took to the pitch, much to the approval of the cheering crowds.

Abdullah bin Dismel, a polo player for the St Regis team, has played in the event for its four years and said it had always been a close match.

For a tense hour all eyes were on the thundering hooves, mallets and a little white ball.

Within minutes, the ADCB team scored the first goal and by the end of the first chukka, Sheikh Falah bin Zayed, the chairman of club returning to the field after a 10-year absence, scored a second goal for ADCB to rousing cheers.

He scored another goal for his team in the third chukka to make the score 4-1 in favour of ADCB.

Despite a St Regis fight back, ADCB clinched the game with a 4-3 win.

The event concluded with “Best pink dressed” awards for adults, children and pets.

November is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

In Abu Dhabi, the disease accounts for 22 per cent of all cancers, and 41 per cent among women.

Last year, 380 breast-cancer cases were reported, including four in men. Of those, 54 people died.

All donations from the event, along with 20 per cent of the proceeds from sales, will go to Pink Caravan, which is part of the Friends of Cancer Patients UAE campaign.