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Women for First Time Will Recite Quran (Taraweeh) In Houston-Area Mosques

New Age Islam News Bureau

27 Jun 2014

Surrounded by students, Amina Meliani, center left, and Sofiyyah Abdulwahab, center right, recite sections of the Quran for teacher Zenab Hamdan.


 Bicycle a New Metaphor of Freedom for Afghan Women

 Women Don’t Need Mahram OK for Travel within KSA

 Iran MPs Give Backing to 'More Babies' Bill

 Sexual Harassment Allegations Rock Pakistan University Again

 Iranian Parliament Busy Debating Women's Dressing

 Doha: Karnataka MCA Holds First Ladies Day Celebration

 Filipino Students: Free Kidnapped Nigerian Girls

 Anti-Child Marriage Initiative: UNFPA, Swiss Embassy to Continue Campaign

 Madonna's Muslim Headgear Polarizes Fans

 Iranian LGBTs Hold Panel in Istanbul as a Part of Pride Week

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Women for First Time Will Recite Quran (Taraweeh) In Houston-Area Mosques

27 June, 2014

Zenab Hamdan, born in Chad, memorized the Quran's 114 chapters by the age of 12, then deepened her religious understanding in the Islamic schools of Saudi Arabia. Now, established in her Sugar Land home with her husband and four children, she's passing that knowledge on to a new generation of Muslim women.

In weekly sessions, she coaches her students - schoolgirls to young professional women - in reading and memorizing the Muslim holy book. During this year's Ramadan - a month long period of prayer, fasting and self-abnegation beginning Saturday - four of her students will join others from the Houston area in reciting the Quran during nighttime prayers at two area mosques.

Paul Galloway, executive director of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, said Muslim leaders believe the women's Arabic recitations, which will be presented to all-female congregations after traditional male recitations before mixed-gender congregations have taken place, will be a first for the local Muslim community.

Houston is home to one of the nation's largest Muslim populations, comprising, by some estimates, as much as 1.2 percent of the total population. The Greater Houston area has approximately 80 mosques and Islamic centers.

In this urban setting, Hamdan is striving to "to rekindle the culture of women's activities in the Quran."

"Our goal," she added, "is to make more teachers, to teach all these kids to be teachers."

The same capabilities

Hamdan's students will join four others instructed by Mohammed Hamzah Ghia, youth director at Houston's Hamza mosque.

"A lot of people think that girls can't memorize the Quran, that girls can't lead," Ghia said. "We want to show that girls have the same capabilities that males do. ... We want people to see these are wives with children and students going to school full time. These are women with corporate jobs and they are practicing their religion and teaching."

Ghia said memorization of the Quran, an endeavor that can take three to four years, "softens your heart."

"It's an extra step to get religion and bring you closer to your creator," he said.

In Islamic tradition, the month of Ramadan marks the period in which an angel revealed the Quran's first verses to the Prophet Muhammad. It's a time of daily fasts, self-reflection, intense prayer and long nocturnal recitations from the holy book.

A long tradition

For most Muslims, Ramadan prayers will begin Friday night, with the first day of fasting to begin on Saturday.

On each night, Galloway said, one-thirtieth of the Quran is recited. The ritual, which includes formalized bowing, prostrating and repetition of the holy book's seven opening verses, typically begins after the last of each day's regular five prayers. The women's portion of the Ramadan activities will begin about midnight and last more than two hours.

The Muslim world, Galloway said, "has a long tradition of women reciters. ... I think the intention in Houston is to encourage women to take up the study of the Quran."

Galloway conceded that women are not always "accorded their rights and privileges in mosques dominated by males."

"American Muslim women are asserting themselves, making more space in the mosques, more access to religious scholars. They are becoming more knowledgeable and scholarly and the phenomenon is happening right before our eyes."

Wives and mothers

Hamdan's husband, Abdullah Oduro, who heads a nonprofit Islamic educational organization, argued that Islam reveres women as "wives and mothers."

"Islam takes the education of women to a very high degree," he said, suggesting women's circumscribed roles in some Islamic nations result not from religious edict but other cultural factors.

"You cannot get around the fact that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are patriarchal religions. That's just built into them," contended Amanda Quraishi, an Austin blogger and founder of a Muslim women's organization.

"Whether they reform themselves or not in the 21st century is to be seen. In Judaism and Christianity, I see men and women trying to level the playing field. The only way that can be truly addressed is through scholarship. ... In societies where Islam has predominated for so long, where there are traditional gender roles for men and women, women have not been encouraged to take on that kind of scholarship. That's changing."

Quraishi said some aspects of Islam are "very progressive," noting that structural inequalities perhaps were necessary when the world's major religions were created.

"Everything evolves," she said. "Everything changes. This is not 632 A.D. Women's roles are different."

The Houston-area Quran students' recitations are scheduled for July 5 at Masjid Hamza and July 17 at Masjid As-Sabireen in Stafford.

Introduction to Ramadan

Here are few quick facts about Ramadan, the holy month for 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide.

What is it: In the religion of Islam, Ramadan marks the time when the Prophet Muhammad received the words of the Quran, the holy book of Muslims.

When is it: It is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.

When does it begin: With the sighting of the new moon.

What it entails: During the monthlong fast, able-bodied adults and older children eschew eating and other pleasurable activities from dawn to dusk. It is a period of introspection, communal prayer and acts of charity.

Other significance: Ramadan's observance is one of the "five pillars" on which Islam is based. Muslims believe their past sins will be forgiven if they participate in Ramadan.

How it ends: With the "Feast of Fast-Breaking," which features an extravagant repast, the giving of gifts and visits to family graves.



Bicycle a new metaphor of freedom for Afghan women

27 June, 2014

PAGHMAN: Trundling down dun-coloured mountain slopes, they ignore hard stares and vulgarities from passing men, revelling in an activity that seemed unthinkable for previous generations of Afghan women — riding a bicycle.

The sight of a woman on a bicycle may not be unusual in most parts of the world, but it is a striking anomaly in Afghanistan where strict Islamic mores deem the sport unbecoming for women.

The country's 10-member national women's cycling team is challenging those gender stereotypes, often at great personal risk, training their eyes not just on the 2020 Olympics but a goal even more ambitious — to get more Afghan women on bikes.

“For us, the bicycle is a symbol of freedom,” said Marjan Sidiqqi, 26, a team member who is also the assistant coach.

“We are not riding bikes to make a political statement. We're riding because we want to, because we love to, because if our brothers can, so can we.“

One crisp morning, dressed in tracksuit bottoms, jerseys and helmets, Marjan and half a dozen team members, all aged between 17 and 21, set out for a training ride from Kabul to the hills of neighbouring Paghman.

Mindful of turning heads and ogling eyes, they rode in the amber light of dawn through a landscape of grassy knolls, fruit orchards and tree-lined boulevards.

A little boy dressed in a grubby shalwar kameez stopped by the wayside and stared at the girls with wonder and amazement.

Up ahead, dour-looking bearded men in a Toyota minivan pulled up parallel to the cyclists — their stares were more menacing.

But the wheels continued to spin as the women powered ahead undaunted.

They have become accustomed to the hostility, often accompanied by insults. But the team say they are emboldened despite such attitudes — partly due to the encouraging support from unexpected quarters.

'Living my dream'

Fully cloaked in black, the mother of one cyclist came out to cheer them on the way to Paghman, waving, applauding, and exuding enthusiasm that is not shared by most of her extended family.

“My daughter is living my dream,” said Maria Rasooli, mother of 20-year-old university student Firoza.

“My parents never allowed me to ride a bicycle. I can't let the same happen,” she said, adding that she and her husband kept relatives and neighbours in the dark about their daughter's sport because “they just won't understand”.

Thirteen years since the Taliban were toppled from power in a US-led invasion, Afghan women have taken giant strides of progress with access to education and healthcare.

Female lawmakers are no longer an anomaly in Afghan politics and the ongoing election saw the participation of the country's first woman vice presidential candidate.

That marks a sea change in women's rights from the Taliban-era, when women weren't allowed to leave their homes without a male chaperone and were brutally repressed and consigned to the shadows.

But gender parity still remains a distant dream as conservative attitudes prevail.

That sentiment is portrayed in a mural by graffiti artist Shamsia Hassani on the walls of a Kabul cafe: burqa-clad women trapped in a watery universe — an allegory of women in the post-Taliban era who have a voice but still cannot be heard.

Boys or girls?

It's hard to reason with self-proclaimed arbiters of “morality” who regard a woman mounted on a bicycle as unconceivably risque, say members of the cycling team.

On a recent training session outside Kabul, three young Afghan men riding a motorbike swooped out of nowhere and sideswiped one of the cyclists, 18-year-old Sadaf Nazari, who tripped and tumbled on top of Marjan.

Marjan badly injured her back in the incident, which drove Mohammed Sadiq, head of the Afghan Cycling Federation who was trailing the women in his SUV, into a paroxysm of fury.

He chased down the men — the two pillion riders escaped, but he caught the driver by his collar and hauled him over to the police headquarters.

Sadiq, who established the team in 2003 after his own daughter expressed an interest in cycling, said the women's safety was a constant concern — and plans for international troops to pull out of Afghanistan by 2016 has perpetuated those anxieties.

“If the Taliban return, the first casualty will be women's rights,” he said in an interview in Kabul's old city.

As he spoke, half a dozen young women, some sporting kohl-accented eyes and henna-dyed hair, convened in his living room for a discussion about nutrition and diet with Shannon Galpin, an American competitive cyclist who is coaching the team for the forthcoming Asian Games in South Korea.

Back on the training ride, the exhausted girls gathered by a freshwater stream in Paghman to refuel on naan bread, raisins and cottage cheese.

Near a roadside kiosk where fresh plums, cherries and mulberries dangled from strings, a curious Afghan man sidled up to Marjan.

“Are you with those cyclists going around the mountain?” he asked.

Startled, Marjan's eyes darted around as she braced for trouble.

“Yes,” she replied hesitantly.

“Are they boys or girls?” the man enquired.

Marjan's face lit up with bravado.

“Girls,” she beamed proudly.



Women don’t need mahram OK for travel within KSA

27 June, 2014

Around 64 percent of Saudi women are unaware of their right to travel inside the Kingdom without obtaining the approval of their guardians, local media reported, quoting a recently published study.

Similarly, the study found that 59 percent of Saudi men were oblivious that women are allowed to travel domestically without the prior consent of guardians.

The study, which was conducted by Khadija bint Khuwailid Center for Businesswomen at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was designed to measure public opinion regarding Saudi women’s participation in national development and the problems facing them in the labor market.

Around 3,000 male and female individuals above 18 years old were randomly selected from 11 cities across the Kingdom to participate in the study.

The study also found that 66 and 70 percent of women and men respectively strongly rejected the idea of women traveling without their guardian’s consent.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Suleiman Al-Yahya, director-general of

the Passport Department, said the department has no intention of canceling travel permits for women.

The only exception will be made for women abroad on scholarship, he said.

Citizens living abroad will no longer need to employ paperwork agents or visit passport offices and will instead be able to use the Abshir online system.

“This online system is fully protected from hacking attempts,” he said.

The Interior Ministry, meanwhile, has promised to implement an e-linkage project between the Social Affairs, Justice and Commerce Ministries.

“Citizens find it easy to criticize system shortcomings because they are oblivious to the amount of work undertaken by the department in enhancing performance and expanding services,” he said. “The mediator phenomenon will soon disappear.”

“There are 500,000 Saudi citizens living in Egypt and 150,000 living in Kuwait,” said Ambassador Osama Al-Sanousi, undersecretary for Consular Affairs.

“The ministry, however, does not have accurate statistics about the number of Saudis living permanently in other countries because of the absence of a mechanism to monitor such figures,” he said. “As such, Saudis living abroad should register at the local embassies in the countries in which they reside.”

“In addition, Saudis living abroad should refrain from discussing sensitive topics and should only answer questions in the presence of a lawyer in the event of arrest,” he said.

“Embassies are tasked with bailing out their citizens and protecting them getting into prison,” said Al-Sanousi.



Iran MPs give backing to 'more babies' bill

27 June, 2014

A bill aimed at encouraging more births by outlawing sterilization and vasectomies has passed a first reading in Iran's parliament, media reported on Wednesday.

Iran, which for more than two decades encouraged birth control, is now concerned at the slowing of its annual population growth rate, which stood at 1.2 percent last year, the lowest in the region.

According to health ministry figures, Iran's fertility rate is 1.8 percent, which a UN study said is leading to a rapidly ageing Iranian population.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged parliament to pass laws that will ensure a higher birth rate, with the aim of doubling the population from a current 77 million to 150 million within 50 years.

The bill passed its first reading in parliament on Tuesday with the support of 106 of the 207 MPs present, according to the Iran daily.

The report added however that some MPs were opposed to the criminalisation of sterilisation and the law was sent back to parliament's health committee for modification.

The bill sets out punishments ranging from two to five years in prison for non-authorised operations such as vasectomy, tying of fallopian tubes and other forms of sterilisation, and abortion.

Currently abortion is outlawed in Iran except in special cases but the other operations are permitted.

According to latest available figures, some 3.5 million Iranians benefited from health ministry program aimed at preventing pregnancies in 2011-2012.

In this period, 1.3 million women received contraceptive pills distributed by the government, 550,000 received contraceptive injections while 70,000 underwent tubal ligation. Around 30,000 men underwent vasectomies.

Iranian officials have expressed alarm at the ageing of the population, with an official at the national birth registry, Mohammad Nazemi Ardekani, warning in April that the population growth rate could fall to zero "within 30 years.”

According to media reports, Iran's economic crisis and the difficulties of young couples to finance a home of their own are the main causes of the plunging birth rate.

Additionally, the divorce rate has reached 21 percent nationally, compared to 12 percent seven years ago, and 33 percent in the capital Tehran.



Sexual Harassment Allegations Rock Pakistan University Again

27 June, 2014

ISLAMABAD: A sexual harassment scandal rocked the Quaid-i-Azam University, with the vice chancellor asking the Dean of Social Sciences Department Dr Aalia Hashmi to investigate the complaint of a girl student.

The complainant is doing MBA in the university and is in the fifth semester. In her complaint to the vice chancellor, she alleged that an assistant professor at the School of Management Sciences tried to molest her when she visited his office for rectifying a mistake in her marks sheet.

She escaped his advances but her Dupatta was left behind in the struggle, according to her.

“She was told by the office staff to visit the teacher during the lunch break,” her class-fellow Shoaib Hasan said. “When she did on Tuesday, she was sexually harassed and ran out. The staff returned her Dupatta later.”

However, the accused professor denied the charge and termed it a conspiracy against him.

Accused teacher, vice chancellor not convinced by MBA student’s claims

“I have been teaching for 30 years and no one has ever complained about me. If the inquiry finds me in the wrong, I will resign,” he said.

Vice Chancellor Dr Etazaz Ahmad sounded skeptical about the affair.

“It involves the issue of marks and is not a simple case. The girl belongs to a group that is already facing disciplinary proceedings. It can be a tactic to blackmail the assistant professor,” he said.

“If the in-charge was not helping her, she should have come to my office, like she did after the incident. Anyhow, I will be in a position to say something about it after the inquiry,” the vice chancellor said.

This is the second sexual harassment case to hit the QAU since January. Investigators had dismissed the last one for insufficient evidence.

In the latest case, the complainant claims her teacher Dr Naseer agreed that a mistake had occurred in her marks sheet and suggested she see the assistant professor for the rectification of the mistake because of which she failed the internal exam.

According to her complaint, available with Dawn, she was given 53 marks out of 75 in the internal examination of ‘Strategic Management’ but the marks sheet noted it as 47/75.

She got 24/75 marks in the final exam and the overall marks were declared as 71/150. Since at least 50 per cent marks are required to pass the exam, she said the six mark mistake kept her from passing the exam.

She said she had her original answer sheet of exam to prove the mistake and was suggested to meet the assistant professor to get it rectified.

But, she alleged, he deliberately delayed the issue as she was made to visit his office time and again. Each time the staff would tell her to come by noon “when he happens to be in good mood”.

“She actually obtained overall 77 marks and tried her best to get the mistake corrected that the office assistant, Imran, made by entering less marks than she had obtained in the mid-term exam. But the teacher used delaying tactics,” claimed Shoaib Hasan.

“He also refused to return the original answer sheet that she gave him as proof,” he added.

However, the accused vehemently denied the allegations, even hinting that some teachers might be behind it.

“I told the student that the concerned teacher is ‘all-in-all’ in the university and that being in-charge of the department I could not help her. I treated her just like my daughter but she was insisting that I should increase her marks, which was not possible for me,” he said.

QAU was the first educational institution to receive a complaint from a girl student in 2011 after the parliament passed the Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace Law in 2010.

Then, the university syndicate removed a senior staff member after holding an inquiry. But the punishment was set aside by the-then chancellor of the university, President Asif Ali Zardari.



Iranian parliament busy debating women's dressing

27 June, 2014

Baghdad: Guess what is worrying Iran now. Its neither the crisis in its neighbouring country Iraq or ISIS attacks. A report in Al Monitor says that Iranian parliament is debating how women should dress. According to the report, Iranian Parliament summoned country's Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli to respond on concerns of parliamentarians on the issue of women wearing leggings in public. The usage of leggings violated the modesty and hijab laws, said the lawmakers. The minister was questioned on what the administration was doing regarding promotion of traditional Islamic attire in women. They asked the minister why the administration was indifferent to the legging-clad women and why was the government lax on the implementation of the hijab laws? The minister in turn replied saying leggings a problem that will take a long time to solve. It has to be noted that Iran is dogged by problems ranging from crisis in its immediate neighbour to a bad economy.



Doha: Karnataka MCA holds first Ladies Day celebration

Media Release

27 June, 2014

Karnataka Muslim Cultural Association held its first ever Ladies Day, an event organized for the women hailing from Karnataka by the KMCA women's wing on Friday June 20, at the Indian Cultural Center here. On this occasion cooking competition and guest lectures on an Islamic subject as well as women’s health were organized.

The event received an overwhelming response in the cooking competition with more than 40 entries in the salads, main course and dessert categories. The cuisine was judged by chef Marcel of Taj Rasoi, Marriott.

Aalima Zayeda Usman enlightened the gathering with a sermon on the importance and etiquettes of Ramadan. Dr Malini presented a different perspective into the various health stages of womanhood and the coping mechanism.

Dynamic and talented Milan Arun graced the occasion by being the chief guest. He distributed the prizes to the winners of the cooking competition.

The winners of the day in three separate categories are as below:

In the salad category:

First place was awarded to Afiya Munaf

second place was awarded to Shahnaz Parveen

Third place was awarded to Noor Azra Jameel

In the main dish category:

First place was awarded to Rehana Irshad

Second place was awarded to Aisha Mohammed

Third place was awarded to Arshia Zafar

In the dessert category:

First place was awarded to Shaheela Zahur Shaikh

Second place was awarded to Arshia Zafar

Third place was awarded to Zubaidah Khanum

Chef Marcel was quite impressed by the level of competitiveness in the sheer efforts put into the presentation of the dishes and congratulated all the participants on their culinary strengths. KMCA president Niyaz Ahmed presented a memento as a token of gratitude and thanked the chef for his valuable time and expertise.

President Niyaz Ahmed on behalf of the KMCA executive committee thanked and congratulated the newly formed KMCA women's wing comprising of Masooda Ibraiz Khan, Masiha Ashfaq, Aisha Rafique, Sana Zia-ul-Haq, Taj Mujeebulla and Rehana Masum on their dedication and efforts in making the event possible and their commitment to the success of the first ever KMCA Ladies Day.

The evening ended on an gastronomical note, with the gathering getting the opportunity to taste all the homemade delicacies prepared by the contestants.



Filipino students: Free kidnapped Nigerian girls

27 June, 2014

MANILA — Thousands of Filipino students from a Roman Catholic-run school for girls joined Friday a global campaign to free more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Islamic extremists in Nigeria, chanting "bring them back" and urging motorists in Manila to honk their car horns in solidarity.

About 4,000 grade school to college students and nuns of St. Scholastica's College spilled out of their campus to line up a busy street in Manila, many of them carrying placards that read "Bring Back Our Girls" and thumping their fists in the air as they chanted. They gave commuters a statement calling for the release of the girls and affirming their belief that girls deserve to be educated.

Extremists from Boko Haram — which means "Western education is sinful" — first abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria in April. Witnesses said they took 91 more people, including toddlers as young as 3, in attacks on villages in that African country earlier this month, providing fresh evidence of the military's failure to curb an Islamic uprising and the government's inability to provide security.

The most recent victims included 60 girls and women, some of whom were married, and 31 boys, witnesses said.

Celine Saplala, a nun and official of the school, said the rally was meant to appeal to the abductors and to people all over the world to free the girls and respect "their right just like anybody else to pursue their dream for an education."

"Please bring back our girls," said senior college student Roelle Charmaine Bito. "We have the right to be educated, each and every one of us." (AP)



Anti-Child Marriage Initiative: UNFPA, Swiss Embassy to Continue Campaign

27 June, 2014

The Embassy of Switzerland and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bangladesh will continue a media campaign to end child marriages in the country.

This is a follow-up of a partnership which commenced last year and is part of a national initiative to end child marriages. Both the parties have signed a partnership agreement in this regard at the Swiss embassy in Dhaka yesterday.

The media campaign aims to produce and air six episodes of animated cartoons to increase awareness of consequences of child marriage among the adolescents and youths in both rural and urban areas.

At yesterday’s signing ceremony, Argentina Matavel Piccin, UNFPA representative in Bangladesh, said: “Child marriage perpetuates poverty over generations and is linked to poor health, curtailed education and violence against women.”

The Ambassador of Switzerland to Bangladesh Christian Fotsch said:  “Child marriage is a threat to prosperity and undermines the development initiatives of the government and its partners in Bangladesh.”

A recent survey conducted by Plan International Bangladesh indicates that 64% of women currently aged between 20-24 years were married before the age of 18.



Madonna's Muslim Headgear Polarizes Fans

27 June, 2014

Madonna has never been shy about sharing her views of religion or stoking controversy.

Now, with a new album whispered to be coming soon (there's been no formal confirmation), the "Girl Gone Wild" singer has been posting up a storm on Instagram.

On Tuesday, the 55-year-old Material Mom shared a photo herself wearing a Muslim niqab (a veil that covers everything but a woman's eyes) and captioned it: "Its that kind of day! #unapologeticbitch"

Raised a strict Catholic and now a follower of the Jewish practice of Kabbalah, Madonna sparked a firestorm 25 years ago for using religious imagery in the video for "Like a Prayer."

This isn't the first time Madonna's worn a niqab. She was photographed wearing a chainmail niqab last fall to accompany her essay for Harper's Bazaar in which she explained her interest in learning more about Islam.

"I am building schools for girls in Islamic countries and studying the Qur'an," she wrote. "I think it is important to study all the holy books. As my friend Yaman always tells me, a good Muslim is a good Jew, and a good Jew is a good Christian, and so forth. I couldn't agree more. To some people this is a very daring thought."

Maybe these thoughts had something to do with her niqab photo…or maybe not. Regardless of intentions, her photo has divided fans.

"The people who are judging Madonna, saying she looks like a fool will be the ones who will be judged by God as well. Don't worry about what Madonna does...worry about your own behavior. Lead by example. Stop judging," freedomlover88 wrote in the comments next to Madonna's Instagram photo.

However, little_liar97 wrote, "What the f--- are you doing madonna? Stop being offensive, not all musloms wear burka just women who want to and you dont have any clue about what is Islam about so stop and excuse me but Niqab or burka arent in the Islam , in ancient afganistan people worw it bc it was a desert so if you dont know dont say."

Many also pointed out that some critics had it wrong in writing that Madonna was wearing a burka, instead of a niqab.

However, Salam Al-Marayati, the president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, declined to criticize Madonna's headgear. Instead, he told Yahoo that Madonna cares passionately about making a positive difference for young girls in Islamic culture.

"I know that she's done a lot of humanitarian work in the past and I've heard that she's interested in helping promote education for girls in Middle Eastern countries," he said. "And that's a positive thing."

Exactly a year ago, Madonna took the stage with Pakistani human rights advocate Humaira Bachal and committed to match donations via her Ray of Light Foundation in support of the Afghan Institute of Learning.

Aside from her "unapologetic" picture, Madonna was in a more revealing mood later. On Wednesday, she published a shot of her sweaty, cleavage-baring self captioned: "Post graduation workout. #i'mdone." (Her oldest daughter, Lourdes, just graduated from high school and enrolled at the University of Michigan.)

Madonna's 13th studio album is expected for release sometime this year. While no date has been announced, she has been in the studio working with popular electronic music producers like Avicii, Diplo, and Disclosure.

Based on her track record, we can only expect more wild images on Instagram as the album release nears.



Iranian LGBTs hold panel in Istanbul as a part of pride week

27 June, 2014

A panel organized by Iranian LBGTs was held on June 26 as a part of the annual Istanbul LGBTI Pride Week, bringing the problems of gays, lesbians, trans and intersex people in Turkey’s eastern neighbor to the table.

Shadi Amin, the coordinator of the Iranian lesbian and transgender network 6rang, former Iran justice researcher Raha Bahreyni, and “Roma,” an Iranian citizen currently working at the LambdaIstanbul LGBT solidarity association, attended the panel held in Cezayir Hall in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district.

6rang coordinator Amin said they were continuing their fight in Turkey and Istanbul as it was the nearest possible spot to Iran. “We want to tell Iran that we are everywhere,” she said.

The panel touched on the fact that many LGBTs come to Turkey from Iran to escape punishment, which can include death sentences or flogging, as homosexuality is legally considered a disease that must be treated.    

Rates of gender reassignment surgery in Iran are reportedly five or eight times higher than in Western Europe and North America, with 1,366 people applying for such surgery in the country between 2006 and 2010.

Bahreyni, who conducted a three-year study on the experiences of 88 gay, lesbians and trans people in Iran, said surgery was more common in Iran as people who do not cohere to the norms of the general public there are driven to take more drastic action. He added that Iranian LGBTs are sometimes subjected to electroshock or hormone therapy, or are forced to engage in unwanted sexual intercourse in the name of “treatment.”

“Roma” said that LGBTs who have fled Iran face double security problems, both due to their sexual identities and the fact that they are refugees.