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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 20 May 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Welcome To the War on 'Vulgar, Western Education' In Balochistan

New Age Islam News Bureau

20 May 2014

Parents, students and residents of Panjgur protest against threats to schools. — Photo by author


 Islamic Dress As Bar To Female Education in Tajikistan

 Chibok Girls - Boko Haram Soft-Pedals, Drops Demand for Release

 Single, Female Refugees in Australia Shunned By Muslim Families, Harassed By Boys

 Prayer Vigil for Nigerian Girls Connects Mothers, Daughters

 KSA A Transit Point for Expat Nurses, ‘Leaving In Droves ‘To West

 Syrian Woman Sends Message to Ayman Al-Zawahiri

 Some Hospitals Have 100 Percent Saudi Nursing Staff

 Bring Back Girls, but Don't Forget Syria Situation

 Cisco Saudi Arabia Empowers Young Women to Break Into ICT

 UN Women Chief Supports Nigerian Girls' Education

 Bangladesh: Pregnant Women Need Friendly Home Atmosphere

 Lebanese Turn to Online Matchmaking Services

 Textile Merchants, Govt Harden Stand On Feminisation

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Welcome To the War on "Vulgar, Western Education" In Balochistan

May 20, 2014

Wearing her traditional Balochi dress, Rabia stood tall with great poise and confidence, in a hall filled with teachers and students, at a local high school in Richmond, Virginia.

This was her twelfth presentation in one week and, by now, she was visibly confident in speaking to a foreign audience in her Balochi-accented English.

Mahnoor spoke about her hometown of Turbat and the culture and life of the people of Balochistan. Sixteen-year old Mahnoor is an exchange student in the US. In just one year, Mahnoor has made a mark for herself and her country; she has been on the honour roll twice already.

Zeenat is a 19 year old female student. After returning from a one-year high school exchange program in the US, she is now working towards bringing change in the lives of young girls like her in her hometown of Gwadar, Balochistan.

An excellent writer, who blogs regularly, Zeenat dreams of becoming a lawyer. In addition to working towards her undergraduate degree, Mariyam is also helping the women in her community learn the English language and gain some basic computer skills.

Both, Rabia and Zeenat, can credit their achievements to their early schooling experience in Makran.

While the government wholly ignored the education sector, there were many young, often self-driven and educated, individuals from the region that moved forward to fill-in the gap.

The youth of the area has remained actively involved in community service and, most impressively, established an indigenous network of private schools and English language centres.

Although these schools are run on nominal fees, they provide the youth with their only life-changing opportunity to acquire basic education, computer and modern language skills.

Panjgur, a district of Makran bordering Iran, is home to beautiful palm trees and is an exporter of the largest variety of dates found in the region. Panjgur has a reasonably large network of small private schools imparting education to girls and boys.

The entire private education network is run by local teachers and administrators. The schools generally cater to both girls and boys, although in some schools the genders are taught separately in two shifts.

With the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa affronted by militant attacks on girl’s education facilities, Balochistan, until now, had been spared the senseless violence that has engulfed educational facilities in the north.

Balochistan’s education-based hardships have traditionally been confined to a lack of government support, access and quality issues.

While the region of Panjgur has remained at the centre of the Baloch nationalist insurgency and serves as the battleground for military offensives, girls’ education system and allied facilities have never been targeted by any group.

Tragically, it seems, all of that is about to change forever.

Terror in a letter

Recently, all the private schools of Panjgur received a letter from a previously unheard extremist group called Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan.

The letter, addressed to the owners and administrators of all private schools, accuses them of corrupting the minds of young girls by exposing them to a ‘western education’.

It goes on to state that ‘all private schools must immediately disallow girls from seeking an education regardless of them being at a co-education or an all-girls facility.’

It also includes a message for van and taxi drivers in the area, ‘warning them of dire consequences if they continue to transport girls to schools’.

The note goes onto warn parents as well. It asks them to keep their daughters away from English language centres and schools.

Not surprisingly, their threat warns that ‘the mujahedeen of Al-Furqan are ready to brace martyrdom to stop the spread of vulgar, western, education in Balochistan’.

The letter ends with a list featuring names of all prominent owners of private schools in Panjgur.

To assert their writ and spread fear, the group carried an attack on a school immediately after sending out the letters.

Schools in Panjgur remained closed for several days. Soon after their reopening, unidentified gunmen set a school van, transporting female students and teachers, on fire on 14 May 2014.

Although there were no major casualties, the gunmen, belonging to this newly claimed extremist group, ensured the owner of the private school received their message loud and clear.

The owner in this instance was driving the van at the time of the attack. According to eye witnesses, to spread fear and panic, the gunmen fired multiple gunshots in the air - just meters away from a nearby stationed Frontiers Corps (FC) convoy that simply chose to ignore the proceedings.

Interestingly enough, the entire Makran region, particularly Panjgur, is a heavily guarded and militarily-fortified area. Convoys and check-posts of the FC can be seen placed at all district entry and exit points and on every major road and intersection across the locality.

The security forces, who carry with them an abysmal human rights record (they have been accused by local and international human rights organisations of regularly attacking political activists, journalists and student workers), have yet to arrest any individual from an extremist group or a banned organisation.

It is also worth noting that just recently Atta Shad Degree College in Turbat was raided by FC personnel during a book fair. Masterpieces, like the autobiographies of Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Che Guevera, were brandished by the FC in front of the media – the works were labelled as ‘anti-state’ literature.

Surprisingly, the activities of many religious madrasas, suspected to be recruiting centres and training grounds for extremist forces, have never been disturbed let alone investigated.

With religious intolerance and sectarian violence - an unheard of phenomenon for the secular Baloch populace - now mysteriously at an all-time high, it is alleged that the state is playing that dangerous game of curbing nationalism by stoking religious fanaticism once again. And in doing so, re-asserting its historic (and myopic) doctrine of ‘strategic depth’ – by providing tacit support to non-state actors for short-term strategic gains.

The alleged strategy, or rather the folly, has already wreaked havoc in Kashmir and KPK and resulted in Pakistan’s increased international isolation and condemnation.

Madrasas, madrasas everywhere

While it is becoming increasingly difficult for private schools to function in Balochistan (government schools are either non-existent or non-functional in most parts), the numbers of madrasas continue to increase exponentially.

According to the latest figures there are 2,500 registered and 10,000 unregistered madrasas in Balochistan.

It is pertinent to ask, if the national economy is still nudging at a sluggish rate and abject poverty haunting the average man, then where exactly are these funds coming from?

Housed in impressively built fortress-like structures and ably providing lodging and boarding facilities to hundreds of thousands of students, how exactly are these Madrassas sustaining themselves financially?

Where are the funds that are leading to their mushroom growth across Balochistan (a historically secular and pluralist society) flowing from?

These are some mysterious, not to mention uncomfortable, questions – the answers to which the government and the establishment both appear unwilling to divulge.

The Balochistan public education scenario reflects a grim picture and the future outlook, worryingly, remains equally bleak. Years of administrative negligence, insufficient funding, systemic corruption, dysfunctional curricula and poor teaching conditions have resulted in a collapsed provincial education system.

According to the latest figures, the current literacy rate in the province stands at 56 percent, this also includes people who can barely write their names.

The female literacy rate, at 23 percent, is one of the lowest in the world.

According to the British Council Pakistan’s Education Emergency Report, ‘with the existing pace of growth, Balochistan will not be able to reach the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals for Education in even the next one-hundred years’.

It was just last year in June when the Sardar Bahadur Khan University was attacked by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi killing 14 female students.

With the culprits still at large, and rising suspicion amongst the local populace of the state’s complicity in those attacks, the people’s confidence in the government’s ability to deliver at any level stands shattered.

Since the recent warning by Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan, parents of female students in Panjgur have decided they have had enough. They have marched onto the streets and expressed solidarity with the schools and their owners, urging the local administration to take immediate action against the militants.

The district teachers association has also asked the provincial and federal government to intervene in the matter. But for now, it looks like female education is not really on the priority list of the provincial or federal government.

The prime minister, since taking charge of his office, has been busy signing deals with China on siphoning Balochistan’s natural resources to the rest of the country and beyond. His government’s grand designs include a $12 billion economic corridor extending from the Gwadar deep seaport in Balochistan to the southern-belt of China and parts of Central Asia through spanking new road, rail, air and fibre links.

Local development in Balochistan, especially in Gwadar, is heavily assisted and influenced by the security forces. It almost always excludes locals under the pretext of security concerns and instead utilizes labour and expertise from other parts of the country.

The Baloch people and their welfare is seldom discussed, let alone ever addressed. The functioning private education system, one of the last straws of hope for the girls of Makran, now also stands to be plucked and destroyed by extremist forces and their benefactors.

 In the centre, former Oasis School student and teacher, recipient of prestigious fellowship who would be attending Harvard Kennedy School this fall.

With little trust in the government or the law-enforcement agencies to protect their lives and property, the local private schools association in the area has decided to shut down schools for an indefinite period.

If this current downward spiral in women’s education continues across Balochistan, disenfranchised and impoverished districts like Makran will not be able to see anymore Rabias and Zeenats in the coming future.

That would not only be a loss for Makran but, more importantly, for the province’s human development and socio-economic progress.

With not much having gone in its way, the last thing Balochistan needs is to have its girls forced to sit at home instead of the classroom.

Hina Baloch  is a former 2012-13 Hubert Humphrey Fellow who has completed her professional affiliation with The Brookings Institution’s Center for Universal Education in Washington DC. She is an avid political and social commentator and can be reached at She tweets @hinabaloch.



Islamic Dress as Bar to Female Education in Tajikistan

Government seems to equate headscarves with security threats posed by militant groups.

By Humairo Bakhtiyor - Central Asia

May 20, 2014

Last summer, Bibinisoi Badriddin, now 19, was prevented from enrolling at Tajikistan’s leading university on the grounds that she chose to wear a Muslim headscarf.

Admission officers at the National University in the capital Dushanbe refused to accept Badriddin’s application documents after they saw her wearing a headscarf, part of the costume known as “Hijab” adopted by many devout Muslims.

“They handed my documents back to me and said that wearing Hijab made it impossible to attend the university,” Badriddin told IWPR.

Hijab and other overt signs of religious observance are frowned on in Tajikistan, a country with an overwhelming Muslim population. Since 2005, education ministry regulations banning Hijab from universities and schools have been in place.

Headscarves worn in the traditional Tajik manner – generally colourful and tied behind the head are deemed un-religious and are hence acceptable.

When Badriddin was at school, she was excluded for wearing the Hijab-style headscarf, but she was reinstated after her parents complained.

Now she is re-applying for university.

The rules on Hijab form part of wider government restrictions on Islamic practice. In the last five years, two laws have been passed, tightening up the rules for setting up new mosques, and penalising parents who allow children to attend mosques in school time.

Officials interviewed by IWPR acknowledge that some restrictions on dress apply in the education system, and say they are worried about what they see as “foreign” aspects of Islam.

Marifat Shokirova from the government Committee for Women’s and Family Affairs said Hijab was an alien import.

“Tajik women should adhere to our national traditions and hold them in higher regard than foreign ones,” she said.

Education ministry spokesman Mahmudkhon Shoev said similar dress-code restrictions applied to miniskirts, sparkly dresses and glitter-covered headscarves.

“Young women are allowed to wear Hijab outside their places of study,” he added.

The one exception to the Hijab ban is religious schools and Tajikistan’s only Islamic university. But local analysts say there are only six such schools, compared with around 4,000 secular ones around the country.

The authorities are concerned about the influence of Islamic radical groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir, Jamaat-e Tabligh, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. But experts like Parviz Mullojanov say the government fails to draw the correct distinction between genuine extremists and people who choose to lead lives of religious observance.

Mullojanov argues that there can be no possible security threat from women who cover their heads in the workplace or in education.

Oinikhol Bobonazarova, head of the Perspektiva Plus NGO, warns that heavy-handed prohibitions tend to drive people away from the state.

“Restrictions and obstacles of this kind will force women to look for alternatives to a secular education. Such actions by the authorities will lead to the further radicalisation of society,” she said.

Outside the education system, some employers bar their female staff from wearing Islamic dress.

A 28-year-old Dushanbe office worker who gave her first name as Surayo said she was about to lose her job because of her appearance. Her previous manager allowed her to come to work in a headscarf as long as she tied it behind her head while in the office. But he has now left, and her new boss has made it clear he does not want to employ someone he sees as excessively religious.

“He’s now given me an ultimatum – either I stop covering my head or I’ll be fired,” Surayo said. “I don’t know what to do, since it wouldn’t be that easy to find a new job.”

Source: Institute For War and Peace Reporting



Chibok Girls - Boko Haram Soft-Pedals, Drops Demand for Release

May 20, 2014

LAGOS--Boko Haram, which abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in Borno a month ago, has backed down on its demand for a release of its top commanders by government before the abducted girls could be released.

It has also emerged that President Goodluck Jonathan has banned all his ministers and presidential spokespersons from commenting on any issue relating to the campaign by the Federal Government to rescue the girls. This came as the Defence headquarters warned against unauthorised visits to the areas of operation by tourists and journalists, saying such venture was risky.

The Telegraph of London, in an exclusive report, quoted sources close to the militant Islamist group as saying that the sect has abandoned its demands for its top commanders to be released that could see "gradual" release of the schoolgirls as early as next week.

In a significant concession, the group was said to have abandoned demands for its top commanders to be released, seemingly aware that this would be politically impossible for the Federal Government.

The Telegraph first reported details of Boko Haram's offer of an imminent prisoners exchange last Tuesday, when sources close to some of the militants' families said that a senior Islamic cleric from the northern part of the country would be appointed to mediate on its behalf with the government.

According to the Telegraph, the cleric has since been joined by a former aide to one of the group's founders. No man has been named, possibly for their safety. While the Federal Government has insisted that it is not willing to enter prisoners swap negotiations, the source claimed that dialogue had already been going on in secret for several days.

"Contrary to the public rejection of any swap deal by the Nigerian government, there are some on-the-ground talks taking place," the Telegraph quoted its source as saying adding that "an agreement was reached about two or three days ago in principle to start releasing some prisoners."

He said that among the prisoners that the group wanted released would be wives and families of Boko Haram fighters, some of whom have been taken into custody by the Federal Government in order to exert emotional pressure on the fighters. "The group also has a list of lower-level fighters that it wants released as well, but they are not high-profile ones," the source added.

He said that in exchange, Boko Haram was willing to start a "gradual" release of around 100 of the girls - possibly beginning as early as the coming week. "Depending on how the other side responds, the girls will be released in small groups. They will be left at a certain safe location, and the authorities will then be told as to where they can pick them up from."

Details of the offer emerged as officials investigated reports that Boko Haram was responsible for the kidnapping of up to 10 Chinese workers in neighbouring Cameroon, where the group now also has a presence.

On Saturday, Nigeria and its neighbours, including Cameroon, Benin, Chad and Niger declared "war" on Boko Haram after an international summit in Paris hosted by the French President, François Hollande.

The offensive will involve co-ordination of surveillance efforts aimed at finding the girls, the sharing of intelligence, the tightening of border controls, and a regional counter-terrorism strategy with Western help.

The Telegraph source said Boko Haram leaders had been upset by the declaration of "war" at the Paris summit, and that this could encourage it to withdraw its offer.

At the summit, the countries agreed to forge a regional counter-terrorism strategy with expertise and training support from Britain, France, the European Union and the United States.

Britain will host a follow-up meeting to discuss the Boko Haram crisis next month. It is thought that the kidnapped schoolgirls are being held somewhere in either North-East Nigeria or across the border in Cameroon.

China confirms abduction of 10 nationals

The Chinese embassy in Cameroon confirmed that 10 of its workers had gone missing on Friday at a site near the town of Waza, 12 miles from the Nigerian border and close to the Sambisa forest, a Boko Haram stronghold.

Lu Qingjiang, the embassy's political counsellor, said that one Chinese worker was also injured in the attack, China's Xinhua state news agency reported.

Ten vehicles belonging to China's state-run construction company Sinohydro, which is repairing roads in Cameroon, were also taken, Xinhua said.

Mr Lu called on the Cameroonian authorities to "not put the lives of Chinese nationals missing in danger in case actions of liberation be launched", Xinhua said.

Jonathan bans ministers, aides

Meanwhile, President Jonathan has asked all ministers and presidential spokespersons to stop commenting on any issue relating to the campaign by the Federal Government to rescue the school girls.

Sources told Vanguard that Jonathan gave the directive following alleged uncoordinated responses or comments by some ministers and special advisers to criticisms by some Nigerians over government alleged poor handling of the terrorist activities in the North-East with particular reference to the abducted students.

Jonathan has, however, directed the formation of the National Information Centre with the Director General of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, Mr Mike Omeri as chairman.

According to sources, the ban on the ministers and special advisers from speaking led to the alleged stoppage of two press conferences which were to be addressed by the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku recently by the Department of State Services, DSS.

The DSS also reportedly stopped another news conference which the President's Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, reportedly organised on the Chibok matter.

In compliance with the Presidential directive, the National Information Centre now meets every day to exchange ideas and take common positions on issues to be addressed by Omeri who is the spokesman.

Members of the committee include Omeri, the Information minister as well as the spokespersons for the military (Maj.General Chris Olukolade);DSS (Marilyn Ogar); Frank Mbah (police) as well as their counterparts in other sister services.

However, the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki; Service Chiefs, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar as well as the United States Ambassador and his UK counterpart are allowed to interact with the committee with a view to sharing ideas or privileged information with the committee. Others include the Director in the Federal Ministry of Information, Peter Adamu and his foreign affairs counterpart.

Military warns against visit to operation areas

A statement signed by the Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade reads: "The Defence Headquarters has noted the presence of a large number of tourists, journalists and adventurers of diverse interests moving about in areas where security operations are currently ongoing especially in Adamawa and Borno states without the necessary security cover or clearance.

"This trend constitutes unnecessary risk to the persons especially the foreigners involved. It is also an undue obstruction to operations".

IG orders strengthens security around schools in Makurdi

Also, following an alarm by authorities of the Government College, Makurdi, that Boko Haram plans to attack the school and abduct its students, Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar has ordered the strengthening of security in all boarding schools in and around Makurdi, the capital of Benue State.

A statement signed by the Force Public Relations officer, CSP Frank Mba said: "This is coming on the heels of recent threat letter purportedly issued by elements claiming to be Boko Haram members to two all-boys Secondary Schools-Government College, Makurdi, and Mount Saint Gabriel College, Makurdi."



Single, Female Refugees in Australia Shunned By Muslim Families, Harassed By Boys

May 20, 2014

"Zahra" is a 19-year-old woman living in Brisbane who is a top student at her high school and would like to study medicine.

She is also an Afghan refugee who is socially isolated and only able to pay her rent thanks to local Christian charity group Helping Hands International.

However, Helping Hands is running short of money to help her and without a new source of sponsorship Zahra could soon be homeless.

The teen, who asked that her real name not be used, is one of a small number who came to Australia as so-called unaccompanied minors - child asylum seekers who arrive here without any family members.

They are given substantial support, including supervision and accommodation, until they turn 18.

Upon reaching legal adult age they have hopefully found somewhere to live, and are paid the basic welfare benefit and wished the best of luck.

Young asylum-seeker or refugee men often get by on welfare payments by sharing accommodation.

But young women, particularly from ethnic minorities, can find it far more difficult.

Shunned by Muslim families, harassed by boys

Zahra says she has been shunned by local Muslim families because she is young, single, female and on her own.

She says she has been harassed by Afghan boys for the same reason.

Despite this, Zahra says one housing agency wanted her to live in a house with five Afghan boys, some of whom had bothered her at school.

"There were boys, like a lot of boys were there," she said.

"Some of them were from my culture, my background, but they don't respect girls.

"Men in my culture, they don't respect girls that much.

"They think that I'm not a good girl, that they can do anything to me."

Zahra lost her government-supported care when she turned 18, after living in Australia for six months.

She spent the next six months living in a house with two non-Muslim women where she could not cook and felt uncomfortable about the household alcohol consumption.

She says there were also frequent visits from men who did not respect her privacy or her need to cover up before they saw her.

Zahra says her studies and her mental health have suffered as a result.

Ros Myers from the small Brisbane Christian charity Helping Hands International says it is a situation that has confronted other young refugee women.

"I have a daughter and I would hate to see my daughter in this situation," Ms Myers said.

"They were just so traumatised by their accommodation and their living arrangement."

Islamic Asian discrimination 'horrendous'

Brisbane community liaison worker Hassan Ghulam, himself an Afghan Hazara, says while Zahra's case is uncommon, persecution of young women is a persistent problem.

"Every culture discriminates against young women to a different degree, and the Islamic Asian culture can be a horrendous version of that," he said.

"They [Afghan families] will be putting a question mark in front of her name, in front of her character.

"Emotionally, that could really disturb a young woman."

Zahra was only able to leave the house and move into her own house because Helping Hands found her a one-bedroom unit.

A private donor paid the rent for a time, but the charity has since taken over.

"Having my own house, like you can study, you can do anything you want," Zahra said.

"I'm so grateful."

However, the money for Zahra's rent is running out and she could soon be forced to move.

"I have to leave this house. I need to go to somewhere else," she said, crying.

"I don't know where, with whom. I'm so full of stress."

Helping Hands chief executive Ken Myers told the ABC it has become increasingly hard for the charity to raise the money for Zahra's rent.

"They [young Muslim women] find it difficult to share accommodation with other people because of their cultural background, so the cost is high," he said.

"They are just so vulnerable and so isolated because of their circumstances.

"There are other agencies that do a great job for them and the government systems and set-ups that are there, they're absolutely needed, but there's just a big gap."

Unaccompanied minors get special care: Scott Morrison

The office of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says there are about 130 "unaccompanied" asylum-seeker girls in Australia at the moment.

The Minister's office has released a statement saying the care received by underage girls is designed to help them become independent adults.

"The UHM [Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minor] program has a strong focus on settlement and is designed to develop skills and knowledge to assist minors' transition to independent living in the Australian community, including linking minors with mainstream services and emphasising the importance of education and employment," the statement said.

But when the girls turn 18 they could be affected by the changes to Centrelink payments mooted in the federal budget, as it is Government policy to treat them the same way as other welfare recipients.

Thus charities fear cases like Zahra's will no longer be an anomaly, and that they will have to provide the extra care.

"They'd be living a bit rough [without charity support]. They'd be maybe disengaged from school," Mr Myers said.

"I don't know what they would do - they're vulnerable enough as it is."



Prayer vigil for Nigerian girls connects mothers, daughters

May 20, 2014

Five-year-old Jordin Ross-Belmar held a colorful handmade sign that read "Bring Our Girls Back Home" on both sides.

Jordin and her mother, Ebony Belmar, were among about two dozen people Monday assembled at the City Hall rotunda to support the international effort to seek the safe return of hundreds of female students abducted by Islamic militants from a school in northern Nigeria.

"I'm a mom; I have daughters," said Belmar, who works for the Schenectady school district. "I can only imagine the pain and how scared those mothers are, and I want (Jordin) to be the person that cares for other people." Belmar has two other daughters, ages 3 and 23.

The schoolgirls were kidnapped on April 14 by Boko Haram, a group that gets its inspiration from al-Qaida.

Marva Isaacs, president of the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association, said she wanted to organize the prayer vigil because she has children and grandchildren and can't imagine having them snatched away by strangers.

"We need the Nigerian government to do more than they're doing to get these kids home," she added.

City Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said the girls' parents were realizing a "parent's worst nightmare that they send their children to school only to have them not return."

"Children are our future, and they should not be used as pawns of war," Porterfield said. "There's a name for people who use children in order to get what they want, and that should not be happening today."

The Rev. Felicia Collins of the Bethel AME Church prayed for the girls to make it home safely and in good health.

"We want our girls back home. Not tomorrow; we want them back now," Collins said.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said the world needs to continue to shine the spotlight on the kidnapping.

"It's so devastating and so scary that this type of thing could happen anywhere in the world," McCarthy said.

The abductions have gained international attention with everyone from the first lady Michelle Obama to Salma Hayek holding up signs with the Twitter hashtag #bringbackourgirls.



KSA A Transit Point for Expat Nurses, ‘Leaving In Droves ‘To West

May 20, 2014

DAMMAM — Officials in the nursing sector have said expat nurses are leaving their jobs to join employers outside the Kingdom in record numbers.

The flow of nurses out of the Kingdom affects the stability of the nursing sector. Despite efforts to retain nurses, who are often offered salaries and benefits that exceed those offered to Saudi nurses, they continue to leave the country, Makkah daily reported.

Consultant at the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCHS) Dr. Sabah Abuzinadah said the turnover of expatriate nurses reaches up to 20 percent in some hospitals. She pointed out that those who remain behind do not necessarily want to stay in the Kingdom and may have failed the required technical exams that allow them to win employment contracts outside the Kingdom.

"I believe that nurses who remain in the Kingdom are the worst and those who leave are the best. Since the nursing sector is governed by supply and demand, expatriate nurses should be offered better packages to retain them, otherwise the Kingdom will continue to be a transit point for training expatriate nurses," she said.

Abuzinadah added that the Human Resources Department at the Ministry of Health is negligent. "There are no plans to develop it and allow it to recruit qualified medical personnel," she said.

Abuzinadah pointed out that nurses from India and the Philippines do not have the required qualifications to train newly-graduated Saudi nurses and it is clear that their main purpose is to gain enough experience so they can win employment contracts in the US or Europe.

"Despite our need for expatriate nurses, we should not however forget the rights of Saudi nurses. Nurses from Europe, the US and South Africa are paid twice as much as Saudi nurses," she added.

The head of nursing at the Support Services Department at the Ministry of Health, Ilham Sindi, said expatriate nurses account for 45 percent of a total of 83,000 nursing personnel in the Kingdom. She said the department is constantly trying to recruit nurses who have at least four years of experience and have the required permit from the SCHS.

"There is no doubt that citizenship is one of the luring factors used by employment companies to recruit nurses for jobs outside the Kingdom," she said.

She pointed out that the department is planning to offer expatriate nurses better housing in all parts of the Kingdom and increase their salaries and benefits.



Syrian Woman Sends Message to Ayman Al-Zawahiri

May 20, 2014

Syrian activists distributed the picture of a woman said to be from the Syrian province of Deir Ezzur where opposing terror militias have fought for control with a message for terror chief Ayman Al Zawahiri.

The message, which she carried in the picture, reads, "I am a Muslim woman from Deir Ezzur in Syria. You have killed my family and you bombarded my children with utmost brutality." The woman added that none of the people of Deir Ezzur would ever bow to radical Islamists even if it meant their complete annihilation, Islam Times reported.

So far Al Zawahiri has been unable to broker a lasting truce with rival militia ISIL. Al Nusra Front which recognizes Al Zawahiri as their chief has been locked in a violent battle for control against ISIL.



Some hospitals have 100 percent Saudi nursing staff

May 20, 2014

Many public hospitals in Jeddah now have Saudis making up 100 percent of their nursing staff, a doctor said here Wednesday.

Ahmed Jaber Al-Harbi, director of the Ministry of Health’s maternity and children's hospital in Aziziah, said his facility has 80 percent Saudi nurses, and hopes to have a full complement soon.

Al-Harbi said many other hospitals have 100 percent Saudi nursing staff.

He was speaking at an event to celebrate the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) annual Nursing Day.

“The GCC Nursing Day gives us an opportunity to recognize our nurses and the important contributions they are making to deliver excellent care and improve the health of our patients.”

He praised Saudi women for taking up the profession and serving patients in a professional manner.

Al-Harbi said the Health Ministry was making every effort to enhance the performance of Saudi nurses including providing periodic training.

He said nurses are as important as doctors at hospitals, and are getting the respect they deserve in the workplace. However, more needs to be done to ensure they are widely accepted, because many Saudis still consider the profession to be taboo.

Al-Harbi said nursing training institutions in the Kingdom must ensure that they keep up to date with the latest technical and scientific developments.

He said the Health Ministry is replacing expatriates with Saudi nurses.



Bring back girls, but don't forget Syria situation

May 20, 2014

Three hundred young girls have been taken by Muslim terrorists, and according to our defense secretary we are doing everything possible to get them back right now.

You will see some very important people on Twitter and Facebook wanting them back. I find no fault about trying to get them back.

My only question is why isn't our first lady and others on social networks demanding something being done about Syria and more than 250,000 men, women and children killed and many poisoned by their own government. What about red lines or arms to help them fight for themselves? Our government responds zero, nada, nothing. Not our problem 250,000 human beings and counting.



Cisco Saudi Arabia empowers young women to break into ICT

May 20, 2014

RIYADH — Cisco Saudi Arabia saw a strong turnout at its annual Girls in ICT Day held at its offices in Riyadh, with young women learning about the innovative technology-related careers of tomorrow.

The event is an annual day of activities organized by the International Telecommunications Union to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of ICT.

At Cisco Riyadh offices, 27 girls and young women aged 18 to 22 learned from female role models about the vital role that ICT plays in employability and how its “Internet of Everything” technology will create the technology-related jobs of tomorrow.

The young women who attended the event were drawn from different universities across Riyadh including King Saud University, Prince Sultan University, Princess Noura Bint Abdulrahman University, Al-Yamamah University, Al-Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University and Alfaisal University.

Buthayna Al-Wehaibi, network consulting engineer at Cisco KSA, said: “Saudi Arabia has the high quality of education and supportive entrepreneurial environment that is fueling women’s participation in the country’s bright ICT future, especially with the country’s telecommunications sector facing a turning point in boosting speeds and unlocking the knowledge-based economy.

“The Internet of Everything (IoE) is the networked connection of people, process, data and things, with Cisco predicting 50 billion objects connected to the Internet by 2020.

“As a result, the IoE is set to create unprecedented disruption across global industries — and enhance and create a wide range of ICT-related careers.”

Alanoud Al-Hudaib, another network consulting engineer at Cisco who was part of the team managing the event, said: “We were really delighted to have had such an intelligent group of young women with us at the event.

“We discussed different topics with them during the activity including the vision of the Internet of Everything, success stories of women working in technology and engineering, as well as introducing them to the Cisco’s TelePresence technology experience”.

The event also included a speech by the guest speaker Rasha Abu Alsaud, vice president of services risk and information security at NCB, who shared her experience with the attendees as a young woman working in the IT industry.

Alsaud also discussed the development of technology use in work and the threats of cybercrime and ways to prevent hacking.

During their visit to Cisco Riyadh offices, young women used Cisco’s collaboration platforms such as TelePresence to interact with fellow participants across the globe, female role models working within Cisco, its partners and customers.

Al-Wehaibi said: “At Cisco, we take our commitment to making ICT career opportunities open to all seriously.

“We understand the value of a diverse workforce and believe that many more young women would pursue careers in ICT if they were better informed about the many different types of jobs available within the sector.”

Cisco has been involved in Girls in ICT Day since it was founded in 2010.

In the 2014 edition, Cisco hosted 2,500 young women at almost 80 of their worldwide offices and across 37 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Russia.



UN Women chief supports Nigerian girls' education

IANS | United Nations May 20, 2014

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka assured the Nigerians of UN support for girls' education in the country during a recent visit, a UN spokesperson said Monday.

The visit is aimed at showing solidarity with the abducted schoolgirls and their families, Xinhua reported.

Mlambo-Ngcuka's visit came at a time when the education system in Nigeria falters amid fears of possible attacks on schools by Boko Haram, an Islamist group seeking to enshrine the Islamic Sharia law in the constitution.

During a visit to a girls' college in a Nigerian town of Abaji, Mlambo-Ngcuka assured that the UN would work together to ensure that there is no setback for girls' education in Nigeria, said Stephane Dujarric at a regular briefing.

About 270 girls from Chibok community in Nigeria's Borno State were abducted in April by Islamist group Boko Haram, who threatened to sell the girls in a video.

Specialist teams from several countries are searching for the girls, but scant progress has been scored so far.

"We are going to be here and we will work with you to ensure that when the girls return they are consoled, and with their families they get the support they need. The girls of Nigeria deserve the best education and the best care and support," Mlambo- Ngcuka said.



Bangladesh: Pregnant women need friendly home atmosphere

May 20, 2014

Sifat (not her real name) was an employee of a non-government organisation. When she conceived, her in-law’s family forced her to leave the job. She was not happy with the decision.

After three months of her pregnancy, the physician told her to continue regular life but the family took her sign on the resignation latter forcefully. She was too much depressed during the months, and for this, the physician told her and the family several times to change the home environment.

Unfortunately, she gave birth to an underweight premature baby after seven months, and later suffered a lot during the first six months of the baby boy.

Births of unhealthy babies with malnutrition have been rising in Bangladesh. In most cases, mental stress and disorder of their mother in pregnant period is responsible for this. Physician and researchers have no idea about the number, but they say the situation is grave. It may go beyond control if domestic violence cannot be contained.

Depression and anxiety are the most commonest that affect about 15-20 out of every 100 pregnant women, said gynaecologist Dr Fatema Akter. Women also experience many other mental health problems during pregnancy as they failed to get family support during the period, she added.

“Maternal Common Mental Disorder, which affects many pregnant women in Bangladesh, is an important determinant behind underweight child. Intervention to support maternal mental health is important for women’s own well-being and can contribute significantly to improving child health and nutrition,” she said.

About 87% of Bangladeshi married women are abused by their husband, according to a nationwide study conducted by the government, titled “Violence against Women Survey 2011” that involved a sample of 12,600 women. Only 8% of the respondents said they had never been abused by their partners.

Researchers say since the number of victims is too high malnutrition in children is a major concern in the country. Malnutrition passes from one generation to the next because malnourished mothers give birth to malnourished infants. If they are girls, these children often become malnourished mothers, and the vicious cycle continues.

Unfortunately, the conventional Bangladeshi society often labels psychological or emotional issues related to depression as “rich people’s disease” with a view to ignore the mothers’ concerns.

Mohammad Asif Khan, a psychotherapist, said: “Parents are still vastly unaware that the way they behave with each other during pregnancy can affect the child. It may hinder the child’s growth.”

Their psychological health would not only harm their own future but could also have a negative impact on the socioeconomic condition of the country, he added.

“Constant psychological pressure in the growing months of a child’s life can leave a strong sign on their minds, and it happens when a mother faces mental and physical pressure from her family,” he observed.



Lebanese turn to online matchmaking services

May 20, 2014

Based on research produced by nongovernmental organizations, a study by Radio Netherlands said that as the spinsterhood rate among girls at the age for marriage was 85% in Lebanon, one could only expect a social explosion to occur. It is no minor matter that only 15% of Lebanese girls can find a husband. The reason is that the age of marriage for men has gone up, given the current economic hardships and other issues.

However, rather than protests in the street to demand improved economic and social conditions, this social explosion is taking place on the Internet, where dozens of dating websites are addressing spinsterhood and delayed marriage by offering to help find the right match.

Though at first the phenomenon had been limited to a small number of agencies where the hopeful groom or bride could actually visit and talk about their criteria, hundreds of ads to find the right match and experience love, as the ads say, can be found on a daily basis on the websites and social networking sites in Lebanon. Are these agencies, either virtual or real, a truly effective solution to the problem in Lebanon, be it for men or women?

Virtual dating

A simple click on the link to dating and marriage site ads will lead you to a carefully designed website, with photos of young Lebanese men and women, or even Arab and foreign men and women, looking to find a Lebanese husband or wife. First, you are asked to log in and to create an account. Then, you start entering your personal information and the criteria upon which the potential matches are selected.

Criteria can include height, skin color, weight, nationality, hair and eye color, educational level and financial situation. On some websites, there are additional entries where sect and area of residence are specified, in line with the Lebanese reality. Upon completion of the form, you are directed toward the payment page to deposit a $20 file-opening fee. There are subsequent payments to be made once a match is found and the date to meet or communicate with the potential match is set. Although the services provided by these websites are said to be free, there is a fee ranging between $10 and $20 when the phone number or email of a person is requested.

Around 20 hours after the payment, you start receiving emails about potential matches. Surprisingly, a large part of the emails do not match the initial required criteria. According to the customer help center, these are the available matches so far. New emails regarding new persons will still come.

When you find any of the suggested matches attractive or a fit for your criteria, you can ask to communicate with him or her over Facebook or WhatsApp to set a date.

The role of the agency ends once a person is found acceptable and a marriage takes place. However, most of the subscribers to these sites affirm that the chances of success are slim, because some people provide false information and hide details such as their age and financial situation. Chances slip further because of the lack of communication from the very first date and the feeling that there are still other options and one should not limit oneself to the first person they meet.

“Traditional” marriage agencies

Compared with online dating and marriage agencies, agencies that you can actually visit have a special appeal and are more trusted by those interested in marriage. For instance, Samar, a matchmaker, contracts with almost five girls per day to help them find a suitable husband. Men, on the other hand, are reluctant to visit her, and send their mothers or sisters instead to find a woman suitable to the family’s living and social situation. Samar shared many success stories and talked about how she brings distant hearts and lovers together.

Samar sees her role and those of other dating and marriage agencies as pivotal in modern Lebanese society. Young men and women have become very preoccupied with their work and anxious about living conditions. They do not have time to meet people. Even if they do, they will not probably find a suitable partner as fast as the matchmaker can.

Samar asks a fee of only $100 to find a partner. Of course, the amount is nonrefundable, even if the the quest is unsuccessful. She gets an additional sum upon the marriage of two people she has introduced.

However, social researcher Nour Hamada views what these agencies, virtual or real, offer as nothing but the illusion of harmony and of finding the right partner. Her assumption is based on the superficial criteria determined by the person who resorts to using the agency. The criteria of values ​​and ethics are less easily summarized in words, Hamada said. It is hard for a marriage based solely on the partners' physical descriptions to succeed. Hamada warned of the dangers of a great deception that could take place in these agencies in order to urge customers to marry, just to make more money, without taking into account the many differences that might exist between them.

Thus, marriage agencies seem to be an option that has many drawbacks, and they are not as simple as they look in the ads. It is untrue that once you subscribe to the site, you are certain to find eternal love, understanding and support, because marriage is a great responsibility requiring more than simply meeting and getting to know each other.



Textile Merchants, Govt Harden Stand On Feminisation

May 20, 2014

Textile merchants dealing with women’s fabrics in Riyadh are intending to form an alliance to protest the Labour Ministry’s decision to feminize textile shops by the end of 2016 and are soliciting the assistance of a lawyer to litigate on their behalf.

However, the ministry stressed that it would not back down from its stand of feminizing these shops as it is an important national initiative and that those who refuse to implement the decision would face punitive action.

An owner of a commercial centre in Riyadh demanded a sum of SR1, 000 from the tenants of his shops to pay toward the lawyer’s fees for contesting the decision of feminizing the shops. “The Ministry of Labour’s decision to feminize shops that sell female items including textiles and clothing has affected us adversely as we were prevented from selling the merchandise or directly supervising our properties,” he said.

Fahd Al-Takhifi, assistant secretary-general for special programs in the ministry, iterated that the ministry would not offer any concession in this regard. “The decision has been made and will be implemented according to the announced dates,” he said adding that “we announced this decision after consultations with and the support of businessmen.”

Al-Takhifi said that businessmen in Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah had been notified of the future implementation of the project during the second phase of the decision. The ministry has published the draft law on the “Together” portal, to elicit opinions of businessmen and citizens. “The ministry will not go back on its decision as it is in the national interest,” Al-Takhifi said.

He said a letter had been dispatched to the Council of Saudi Chambers around the Kingdom informing businessmen who wish to discuss the decision to set a date for a meeting with the ministry’s officials. “However, we only received two applications from two chambers of commerce and those were not from textile merchants but businessmen,” he noted.

The third phase of the feminization project will include women working in shops selling female perfumes, maternity wear, Abayas, shoes, socks and bags, in addition to readymade garments and cloth.