New Age Islam News Bureau
22 Jul 2014
March in protest against domestic abuse Turkey, which aspires to join the EU, has drafted new legislation to try to bring women's rights in line with European standards. —Photo by Reuters
• DAP Using Pretty Girls to Show Muslim-Friendly Image: Ikatan Muslimeen Malaysia
• Fight Against Domestic Violence Stalls in Patriarchial Turkey
• Extradition Demands: Rights Group Wants To Bring Home Women Jailed Abroad
• A 12 yr Old Child Bride Told Sharia Law Overrides Australian Law
• Syrian Al-Qaeda Women: Searching For Combat, Martyrdom on the Front Lines
• Child Brides Abducted, Raped, Married to Appease Gods in Ethiopia
• Burqa Bans Spread Across Europe As Catalan Town Becomes Latest To Ban Full Face Veil
• Africa Girl Summit: Ending FGM and Child Marriage within a Generation
• The Politics of Egypt’s Sexual Violence
• Pakistan Acid Attack Injures Four Women
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Women from 20 Countries Take Battle against Sexism Online
July 21, 2014
When Laura Bates was followed home one night by a man from her bus, she didn’t think much of it. Incidents like that just seemed to be part of living in London.
But the writer said several other similar situations followed within days. One stranger shouted obscenities at her out of a car window. Another propositioned her forcefully in a cafe.
She was startled not so much by the incidents but how accustomed she had become to brushing such behaviour aside. “I started talking to other women, and I couldn’t believe how many stories they had. I think many of us just think ‘maybe I’m unlucky,’” said Ms. Bates (27), in an interview. “Just like me, so many of them said ‘until you asked me, I’ve never talked to anyone about this.’”
Those conversations triggered the birth of the Everyday Sexism project, a website that Ms. Bates set up for women to share their experiences of sexism and harassment in their daily lives. Two years on, what started as a simple idea has become a movement that is steadily gaining momentum, galvanising support from politicians, police and thousands of women and men from Britain and beyond.
The project has collected 70,000 posts from some 20 countries, describing a wide range of unwelcome behaviour and offences from a colleague’s casual comment to unreported rapes. Many tell of assault, threats of violence and verbal abuse in public places. Others report seemingly innocuous behaviour and comments.
Some are disturbing because those posting are so young. A 12-year-old wrote to tell how she was told to “get back in the kitchen” by her male classmates when she raised her hand to say something, and numerous preteens say they are harassed daily by men who shout at or touch them on the way to school.
The outpouring on Ms. Bates’ website, and the attention it has garnered, has translated into some successes offline. Ms. Bates has addressed a United Nations-hosted forum and worked with British politicians, schools and businesses, and she and other activist groups have collaborated with British Transport Police to help reduce sexual assault on subway trains and buses.
“The greatest problem is a high degree of underreporting,” said Inspector Ricky Twyford, who oversees the force’s awareness campaign. That has improved in the past year or so, he said.
The force says reporting rates have increased by 36 per cent, while arrests were up 22 per cent compared to the year before.
DAP Using Pretty Girls to Show Muslim-Friendly Image: Ikatan Muslimeen Malaysia
July 21, 2014
Ikatan Muslimeen Malaysia (Isma) today said DAP was using pretty Malay girls in its attempt to portray the party as friendly to Malays and Muslims.
Isma vice-president Abdul Rahman Mt Dali said it was as if the party had no more Chinese girls in the party.
"In DAP's leadership, there are no Malays, but suddenly they want to put a Malay girl who is labelled as 'cun' (pretty), as if there are no more Chinese girls in the party.
"That's how DAP is trying to fool the young. I say it is a disgusting tactic when DAP uses a Malay girl to be the mask of its dangerous struggles against the position of Malays and Islam," he said in a statement.
Syefura Othman, 25, popularly known as Rara, recently said she had become a DAP life-member.
Rara said her chances in the DAP would be more promising compared to other parties in the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, and urged more young Malays to join the party.
But Abdul Rahman said youngsters who joined DAP were easily duped, saying they did not understand the Islamic struggle and the social contract in the Federal Constitution.
"I am sure DAP is fighting because it wants to be in power and change the position of Malays and Islam in the country.
"If they (the youngsters) understood, they would not have joined the DAP and can stand to see their own race and Islam being eroded," he said.
Rara was also reported as saying in Sinar Harian last week that she regarded DAP a "cool" party, which is also more open, and that was why she was attracted to it.
Abdul Rahman, however, said that the word "cool" which Rara had used to describe the DAP, showed that she was naive about the party's struggle.
"Those days, we could not even look at the rocket sign of the DAP because we understand the socialist struggle and Malaysian Malaysia concept that the party fought for.
"But now, we have reached a stage where Malay girls feel DAP is 'cool' and can even join in their struggles. Actually, that it is a sign that the identity of some young Malays is diluting and rotting," he added.
Fight Against Domestic Violence Stalls in Patriarchial Turkey
July 22, 2014
ISTANBUL: Beaten, burned and threatened by her husband, Hayat has repeatedly turned to the Turkish authorities for help. But she still lives with the man who tells her she belongs either to him, or in her grave.
She says she has reason to be afraid. Last year, 13 women in Turkey were murdered by their partners whilst nominally under state protection, according to official figures.
Whenever Hayat reported abuse, either her husband was released by police after a few hours, or she was offered shelter which would have meant her children being taken away.
“Go speak to a hundred women, you'll hear pretty much the same story. It's like a pre-destined misery that we're born to live through,” Hayat, the only name she gives so as to protect her identity, told Reuters.
Turkey, which aspires to join the European Union, has drafted new legislation to try to bring women's rights in line with European standards. A law sent to parliament just last month will toughen sentencing for sexual assault.
Officials say the number of shelters have doubled in the past three years and victim support centres have been set up, allowing women like Hayat to receive protection and remain with their children.
But activists and lawyers say there are still not enough, and that an increasingly conservative and authoritarian political culture under Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government, means progress is, at best, halting.
Turkey ranked 120th of 136 nations in the World Economic Forum's 2013 Gender Gap Index, down 15 places since 2006, while a 2011 UN report indicated domestic violence rates were almost twice those in the United States, and ten times higher than in some European countries.
“There is a real concrete, open threat to our rights. They want to take them back from us, and we don't want to give them back,” said Zelal Ayman, an activist with Istanbul-based Women for Women's Rights (WWHR).
She points to Erdogan's strident views on everything from abortion to the number of children women should have, the sort of meddling in private life that may bolster his standing among his pious core supporters but which alienates a more Western-leaning, secularist strain of Turkish society.
In a 2010 speech, he said he did “not believe in the equality of men and women”. Two years later, he likened abortions to the killing of civilians in a military airstrike; activists say abortions all but stopped, since many health workers became too frightened to carry them out.
Erdogan, who has loyal support among religious conservatives in the mostly Sunni Muslim though constitutionally secular nation, is expected to win a presidential race next month which could hand him even greater powers.
Turkey has prospered in more than a decade under Erdogan, with Turks' wealth tripling in nominal terms and the economy accelerating from a backwater to the world's 17th largest.
But activists say civil rights have not kept pace. Last year's human rights report for the US State Department found that violence against women was widespread, despite attempts to beef up legislation and training programmes for officials.
“The government did not effectively or fully enforce these laws or protect victims, and victims often waited days or weeks to report incidents due to embarrassment or reprisals, hindering effective prosecution of assailants,” the report said.
Accurate statistics are hard to come by, with the nature of the crimes not always fully reported, but rights groups warn killings are on the rise. Anit Sayac, a website commemorating the victims of domestic violence, reported 229 deaths last year, almost double the level in 2011.
This year could hit a macabre new record, with 123 murders reported by July 11, the site indicated. Activists briefly occupied government buildings earlier this month in protest at a spate of killings reported in local newspapers.
Stories of battered women, sometimes accompanied by pictures of murder victims, are not uncommon in the Turkish media.
Elif Safak, arguably Turkey's best-known female author, says such violence is a symptom of a society in which women are seen as possessions and aggression — from politics to altercations in the street — is a part of daily life.
She points to fist fights between MPs, deadly clashes last summer between police and anti-government demonstrators, or the kicking by one of Erdogan's aides of a protester earlier this year in the wake of a mining disaster as signs of how normalised violence has become in Turkish society.
“The ongoing political polarisation intensifies the aggressiveness and vice versa,” she said in an interview. “Erdogan's speeches deepen the “us versus them” duality.”
She acknowledged patriarchal attitudes were nothing new even in the modern secular republic, forged from the ruins of an Ottoman theocracy in the 1920s by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who among other reforms promoted Western dress and women's rights.
It is a legacy some see as at risk.
The head scarf, symbol of female piety once banned from state institutions under Ataturk, is now seen in colleges and even the presidential palace. Erdogan's wife stands alongside him, head covered, and his public exhortations on women's role suggest a more traditionalist view.
“For us, motherhood is the highest position for a woman,” he told supporters at a political rally on Saturday, according to Hurriyet Daily news.
Yildiz Tokman from the Association for Monitoring Gender Equality says Erdogan's words have made abortions de facto illegal and women in Turkey less safe.
“Government officials act like small prime ministers, saying that a woman's place is with her husband. I'm afraid of increasing conservatism. With conservatism, the first victim is always women,” she said.
The government strongly denies suggestions it is encroaching on women's rights. One official said some women's groups refused to work with the authorities to tackle domestic violence simply because they resent government oversight or disagree with its broader political ideology.
“It's politics ... standing there and saying I'm not going to play is not always the right thing to do,” the official said on condition of anonymity, pointing to the establishment of nationwide anti-domestic violence programmes.
According to government figures, the number of shelters for battered women has nearly doubled to 92 from 48 in 2011. Activists note new legislation means only communities with more than 100,000 inhabitants are required to have a shelter, instead of half that figure previously, and many municipalities don't provide the service, blaming a lack of funding.
The official said training was being rolled out for state employees, policemen and soldiers, while 14 new violence monitoring and prevention centres (SONIM) — one-stop shops providing health, judicial and psychological support for victims have been established.
But for Hayat and women like her, trapped in abusive relationships, the promises of politicians — from stricter punishment to better care provision means little if the attitudes they promote do not change in step.
“Higher penalties on paper will neither stop my husband nor anyone else's husband. There is no implementation anyway,” she said. “If they're not going to implement the laws they already have, why bother trying to make new ones?”
Extradition Demands: Rights Group Wants To Bring Home Women Jailed Abroad
July 22, 2014
KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) issued notices to the secretaries of the interior and foreign affairs ministries as well as the provincial home secretary to file comments on efforts to bring home Pakistani women sentenced and languishing in prisons in the United Arab Emirates.
Headed by Justice Munib Akhtar, the bench also issued notice to the deputy attorney-general to file comments of the federal authorities by August 13.
The Sarim Burney International Trust had filed the petition to seek a direction for the Pakistani authorities to expedite the process of bringing home women convicted by courts in the United Arab Emirates. The interior ministry, the foreign affairs ministry, the provincial home secretary and the UAE government through its counsel-general at Karachi were named as respondents.
The trust’s administrator, Rashida Shakir, submitted that an agreement had been made in Dubai in February 2012 between the then Pakistani interior minister Rehman A Malik and UAE interior minister Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan regarding the transfer of the sentenced prisoners between the two countries.
The petitioner said that the Sarim Burney International Trust had requested the President and the Prime Minister as well as the director-general of the Foreign Affairs Ministry for the transfer of all Pakistani women prisoners, who were in different prisons.
The trust claimed that President’s Secretariat had, on May 29, called the details of all the women languishing in foreign prisons from the foreign affairs secretary.
“Since 2012, no efforts have been made by the Pakistani government for the transfer of the prisoners, especially the women prisoners, from the jails of the United Arab Emirates to Pakistani prisons,” argued Qadir Hussain, the trust’s lawyer.
Right to life
The lawyer argued that Articles 4, 9, 14 and 35 of the Constitution provide that no person shall be deprived of life and liberty, except in accordance with the law and a family shall be protected by the state. “The Constitution guarantees protection against any attack on life or liberty of a person and his family subject to law,” said the lawyer, adding that the word ‘life’ included the right to live in a clean atmosphere, where fundamental rights were guaranteed and protection from encroachment on privacy and liberty was ensured.
“Under Article 8 of the agreement, the sentenced person may be transferred if they are a national of the administrating state,” he added.
The trust named seven women, who were handed down sentences exceeding a period of ten years. Three of the prisoners, Samim Akhtar, Fashola Rohi and Sehrish Kazmi, are sentenced to 25 years in jail.
Similarly, four prisoners, Nazia Jahangir, Taiba Rani, Asma Ghulam and Sajida Farzand, have been sentenced to serve 15 years in prison.
The trust maintained that the prisoners should be transferred to their country of originto serve the remaining sentences, in accordance with the provisions of the agreement.
The court was pleaded to direct the respondents to ensure immediate transfer of the nine Pakistani female prisoners from the UAE jails to Pakistan.
After hearing initial arguments, the two judges issued notices to the interior, the foreign affairs and the home secretaries. The DAG was directed to file the comments by August 13.
A 12 yr Old Child Bride Told Sharia Law Overrides Australian Law
Man ‘marries off daughter, 12’ in Islamic ceremony: bride believed Sharia law ‘override’
July 21, 2014
A CHILD bride allegedly married off at 12 was told Sharia law “overrides” Australian law, court documents revealed.
In a case that has brought awareness of secret child brides in Australia, the girl’s father and the 26-year-old man she “wed” were charged in February over numerous child sex offences.
Documents that formed part of a successful apprehended violence order application by police at the time against the girl’s “husband” state that the young girl “believed or had been informed that Sharia law overrides the Australian law”.
“She stated that together with the accused they had been trying to get him registered as her legal guardian with Centre link in order to obtain any welfare benefits they could,” the court documents state.
The police allege in the AVO document that the 26-year-old man, who was charged with 25 counts of sexual intercourse with a child, admitted to officers on the day he was arrested that he had had sex with the girl daily since the religious ceremony in the living room of the girl’s Hunter Valley home on January 12.
“When questioned on this he showed no remorse and was confident that in doing this he had committed no crime,” the police documents state. His matter is still before the courts and he is being held at Villawood Detention Centre after his student visa was revoked.
The child and the Lebanese university student met at a mosque through the girl’s 62-year-old father who is a Muslim convert, police alleged.
The girl’s father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is charged with procuring a child for sex and accessory before the fact to sexual intercourse with a child.
Dressed in a traditional Islamic tunic, the father-of-seven fronted Burwood Local Court yesterday where he was committed to stand trial in the Sydney District Court.
His lawyer Mario Licha said outside court the father would be defending the charges.
The alleged child bride, who is now 13 and her eight-year-old sister remain in the care of the Department of Community Services.
Syrian Al-Qaeda women: Searching for combat, martyrdom on the front lines
July 21, 2014
ANTAKYA, Turkey — Hala, 22, cuts a diminutive figure in her loose black abaya, a black headscarf framing her large, almond-shaped, pale blue eyes and fair skin. Eight months ago, before she married, the young Syrian woman didn’t even cover her hair. Now, she’s a combatant for Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda, although most of her battles are with patriarchal commanders who try to keep her from the front.
Women fighters are rare in Syrian rebel ranks, with the exception of Kurds, who — like their Iraqi Kurdish counterparts — have all-women units. The few women working with Jabhat al-Nusra are mainly involved in intelligence gathering, according to several senior Nusra commanders in Syria’s Idlib province — which makes Hala a rarity.
Syria’s battlefield features a complex mix of rebel groups from across the Islamist political spectrum, as well as those outside it, all competing for control and influence. And then there are the radical transnational groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, which remains Syria-focused, and the more virulent organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has declared a swath of Syria and Iraq as its new caliphate and renamed itself the Islamic State (IS).
The ultraconservative male-dominated domain of groups like IS and Jabhat al-Nusra is a harsh milieu in which a woman’s demand to be deployed as a suicide bomber is framed as a religious-based demand for gender equality. Such experiences also offer a glimpse into the evolving daily normalcy of the reality being created on the ground by these movements. Hala is one type of Al-Qaeda woman, Sara is another.
A 29-year-old with impeccable cheekbones, perfect teeth and a cascade of waist-length brown hair she twirls into a bun, Sara is one step removed from the front. She is from an Al-Qaeda family. Her husband, brothers and brothers-in-law are all armed members of Jabhat al-Nusra. One of her brothers is one of nine senior emirs, or commanders, in Idlib province. Her eldest brother, Rashid, was a member of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, which became Al-Qaeda in Iraq. He is presumed dead, killed in the battle of Fallujah against U.S. troops in 2004, although his family doesn’t know for certain.
The two women don’t know each other, although they were once based in the same small village in northwestern Idlib province. Before the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, Hala had been at university, studying trade and economy in Latakia, the provincial capital of a predominantly Alawite stretch of Syria.
“I used to dress casually, wear makeup, tight clothes, come and go with my friends,” Hala told me. “I didn't have an awareness or understanding of religion.” I met her and her husband in April, during a temporary stay in their friend’s apartment in the southern Turkish city of Antakya, close to the Syrian border.
Hala says that her views were not changed by a particular person or incident, but that they developed in tandem with a revolution that began with peaceful protests and morphed into an armed insurgency with an increasingly Islamist hue. “Once it became a jihad and there were mujahedeen, the philosophies of our religion were in front of us,” she says. “It awakened me to Islam.”
Hers was more than simply a religious awakening, however. Her condition for marrying her husband was that he help her secure a combat role alongside him. He agreed, and they both initially joined a Salafi fighting group independent of Al-Qaeda — but left it within a month.
“They wouldn't let me fight,” Hala says. “They said I should sit at home. I said, ‘Is there anything in Islam that says I should sit at home?’ I hate this ignorance. Convince me through my religion and I will accept it.” Instead her commander’s concerns were more parochial: “He said, ‘They'll say, what? He doesn't have men?’”
The next morning the couple pledged allegiance to Jabhat al-Nusra. Though she wasn’t interviewed, she says her husband was asked two questions by the Nusra emir who accepted them: "Is she brave enough?" and "Does she have the strength?" He said yes to both. “They replied, ‘We welcome her and her jihad.’”
Nusra’s Al-Qaeda affiliation was an attraction rather than a detraction for Hala. “It bothers the West, which pleases me,” she says. “Let them say Qaeda is terrorist. It honors me to be called a terrorist.”
She shows me a photo, on her phone, of herself in full military camouflage, pants and a long kameez with a matching ammunition belt. Her face is covered with a balaclava, and a Kalashnikov hangs off her shoulder. She admits, though, that she saw little action and that most of her duty was holding the line on fronts that had already been won, which frustrated her.
Her presence among ultraconservative men was a logistical problem. She did not stay in Nusra bases but was housed nearby. A request to join her husband on a mission to the Sheikh Najjar neighborhood of Aleppo was denied because, she says, the Nusra base there consisted of two rooms and about 40 men. “If I went, I'd be in one room with my husband and the other 39 men would have to be in one room. That's not fair. So they didn’t let me go. I understood.”
She volunteered to undertake a suicide mission against a checkpoint in the regime-held city of Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib, but her commanders denied her request. She hadn’t memorized the Quran, they told her, a condition Hala thinks was just an excuse. “They just didn’t want me to do it. The Syrian mujahedeen choke, they’re pained when they see a female fighting. It affects them deeply. The foreign fighters don’t.”
Hala and her husband now want to join Nusra’s rival, the newly rebranded Islamic State. The group was disavowed by Al-Qaeda in February, after an uprising against ISIL by a number of Syrian rebel units. Nusra had initially tried to cut an uneasy middle path between ISIL and the Syrian rebels, and offered sanctuary to foreign fighters who had borne the brunt of the anti-ISIL backlash because they tended to be more conservative and strict with locals than Syrians. At the time, Nusra asked Hala and her husband to share their home in Syria with a Tunisian ISIL emir and his wife, something they willingly did. Nusra later became openly hostile to ISIL, and the Tunisian emir fled to Raqqa city in the northeast, the only one of Syria's 14 provincial capitals to fall from the government's hands. It’s the de facto capital of a self-proclaimed Islamic state.
IS has publicly demanded that Al-Qaeda accept the authority of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (now referred to as Caliph Ibrahim), a request Nusra and Al-Qaeda have rejected.
Hala’s husband wants to join IS because he thinks Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has gone soft and has wronged al-Baghdadi. Hala wants to join because she has seen women fighting in its ranks, although they were all foreigners rather than Syrian. What makes her desire for combat and martyrdom even more startling is the fact that she was 10 weeks pregnant at the time of our meeting.
Hala’s pregnancy, however, was not the reason she and her husband were in Turkey. They were there because the internecine war between Nusra and ISIL had heated up, and they intended to travel to Raqqa city via Turkey to join the Tunisian emir who had been their guest. “If God grants us martyrdom, the child will be raised either by my parents or my husband's,” Hala said matter-of-factly. Her parents and siblings, now in Saudi Arabia, can’t understand her transformation. “They can't convince me [to stop], but they use emotion — you know how parents are — but I refuse. I say, ‘We'll meet in paradise.’”
Unlike Hala, Sara isn’t new to Al-Qaeda’s ideas, but she is new to having to do the laundry by hand because there’s no electricity, and to living in a two-story home whose first floor is often inhabited by the families of foreign fighters temporarily housed there by her brothers. When I first met her in early February, a German ISIL fighter, his wife, several children and two other German women whose husbands had been killed in battle had recently vacated the first floor. The women barely spoke any Arabic, Sara said, but she was happy for the female company.
“There's nothing here,” she said, gesturing outside the window at the homes around her. “The thing that makes me happiest now is to see my brothers after they come back from an operation. I'm the first to see them, to cook for them, wash their clothes, and the same for my husband. This is enough for me now. There is no need to think about another life.”
Sara once had another life. Her husband, Mohammad, had been imprisoned by Syrian security forces and served 26 months behind bars for attacking a checkpoint in Latakia province. He wasn’t a member of Nusra at the time, and was released five months before I met them. He spoke with a strong lisp because most of his teeth were knocked out during beatings he says he received in regime detention. Sara spent the period of his incarceration with her parents in Antakya, where she filled her days working in a honey factory. “I worked for three years, and I can work now if I want. People think that if we wear a hijab we are from the Stone Age. We are not the same as the Qaeda of Pakistan or other places. Our society is different here,” she said. “Look at Saudi Arabia, they're not Al-Qaeda, but women there have less rights than us here. They can't come and go freely or drive cars. I can. They fight Qaeda, but their mentality is harsher than Qaeda's.”
“Harsh” is clearly relative. One Friday afternoon in February, we watched from the window as men who now lived in the village streamed out of the mosque after prayers. The Tunisian emir Hala and her husband had taken in had delivered the sermon. The first half was a fiery rant against the evils of democracy and how Muslims who called for it weren’t true Muslims, a view shared by Jabhat al-Nusra. He railed against freedom of expression and action. “They curse God and the Prophet, peace be upon him, and say it is freedom of expression. They walk around naked and say this is freedom!” he said. “If you, a Muslim, express your opinion, you are a terrorist … This is the rule of the ignorant, and whoever wants it is an infidel.”
The second half of the sermon concerned rebel attacks against ISIL: “Look at our enemies. Who are they, what is their ideology and who are their backers? Before they started killing the State they would complain about a lack of weapons and ammunition, then when they decided to kill the State, we saw tanks, and 23s [antiaircraft guns] and weapons! Their financing is from countries that don’t want an Islamic project in Syria or Iraq. Think about it!” he said.
Sara pointed out a redheaded Chechen fighter dressed in an almost-ankle-length kameez. He had defected from ISIL to Jabhat al-Nusra. He walked alongside a Syrian colleague with a thick, bushy black beard who was dressed in a salwar kameez patterned from military camouflage. The Syrian lived next door to Sara, on the other side of a small clearing where people burned bags of trash. “He killed his own father and uncle after Nusra found them guilty of collaborating with the regime,” Sara said, gesturing toward her neighbor. “He shot them dead.”
Her husband, Mohammad, had returned to shower. He yelled out from the bathroom that he wanted the nail clippers in the display cabinet. Sara couldn’t find them. “Where are they?” she bellowed. “Next to the grenades,” he said. She handed him the nail clippers and took a bottle of moisturizer out of the cabinet and applied it to her dry hands.
“Look at my hands,” she said. “I feel like I'm on a front too. I have to do everything here, and all by hand. My whole life has changed.”
A month later, in March, Mohammad would go missing on his way to the Turkish border. Sara returned to her parents in Turkey, and to her job in the honey factory, while she waited for news. He was found three weeks later, detained by a Free Syrian Army unit that thought he was a member of ISIL. During that time, the house in Syria where they were staying had once again been occupied by foreigners, this time a Chechen man and three of his sisters who had come to Syria to marry mujahedeen. It was a source of great amusement to Sara and her female relatives. “We used to worry about our men fighting the regime,” a Nusra wife said on a sunny afternoon in a home in Antakya where several women were gathered. “Now we also have to worry about Chechen women who are looking to marry them!”
To readers elsewhere, the idea of a self-declared Islamic caliphate or an Al-Qaeda-controlled belt creating a new social order in huge swaths of northern Syria and Iraq may seem far-fetched, given the overwhelming advantage in military strength of the states it is challenging. There is also strong local opposition to these schemes. But at the moment, for Hala, Sara and hundreds of thousands of men and women in many of the towns and villages that have fallen out of Syrian and Iraqi government control, the ISIL-Qaeda social order is slowly becoming a lived reality.
Child Brides Abducted, Raped, Married to Appease Gods in Ethiopia
July 21, 2014
Nairobi — In Ethiopia, girls are abducted on their way to school, raped and then married to their captors.
In Ghana, they are married to traditional priests and become "slaves to the gods" to pay for their family's sins.
In Cameroon, girls are promised in marriage to settle debts while still in the womb.
"There are different forms of child marriage but all these different forms have one common point, which is the girl doesn't have a voice," Francoise Kpeglo Moudouthe, Africa officer for the advocacy group Girls Not Brides, told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"Her status in the community is so low that she doesn't even have a right to speak about this issue: if she wants to marry, when she wants to marry and who she wants to marry."
Girls As Commodities
On July 22, the Girl Summit in London will bring together governments, charities, activists and business to declare their intention to end child marriage in one generation.
Fifteen of the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are in Africa, and 39 percent of the continent's girls are married before the age of 18.
Niger has the highest rate, with 75 percent of girls married before they are 18.
Moudouthe believes that the summit's ambitious goal of ending child marriage in a generation can be achieved.
"The most important thing is to change the way that girls are viewed. For me, that really is the underlying problem," she said. "Girls are not commodities. We cannot sell them into marriage. We cannot decide what to do with their bodies."
Child marriage is a tradition that is practised to preserve a girl's chastity, to strengthen ties between families and to cope, as a response to poverty. In many African countries, parents receive a bride price from the groom's family when their daughter marries, and are relieved of the burden of providing for her.
Engagement with the 70 million child brides around the world is critical to breaking the cycle.
"It's an inter-generational issue," Moudouthe said. "Girls who are forced into marriage, and are not made aware of the unfairness of the situation, are likely to have daughters who also become child brides."
In Ethiopia, Moudouthe met a 13-year-old girl breastfeeding her second baby. She had been married at the age of six or seven.
The teenage mother was attending a discussion club for child brides called Meserete Hiwot, meaning "base of life" in Amharic. The majority of mothers who attend have not completed primary school and benefit from learning about assertiveness, hygiene, financial literacy and reproductive health.
"It is so important because girls are confined in marriage. They are usually not allowed out of the house," said Moudouthe. "Not only do they learn about their rights but also how to handle the day to day challenges. How do you know when your child is sick and what can you do about it?"
Other strategies that experts say can help to end child marriage are supporting girls to remain in school, enforcing laws banning child marriage, teaching girls skills so that they can earn money for their families and educating communities about the negative impacts of the practice.
Girls Not Brides is campaigning for ending child marriage to be made one of the Sustainable Development Goals being drawn up to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which expires in 2015.
"When you look at the obstacles [to achieving the MDGs], child marriage is a common one in that it affects six of the eight MDGs," Moudouthe said.
The world cannot achieve universal primary education if girls drop out of school to get married. Nor can extreme poverty be eradicated when child marriage perpetuates poverty.
The third goal, gender equality, is directly challenged by child marriage.
Similarly, it is hard to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health when young girls get pregnant and give birth before their bodies are mature.
"The children of girls who had them below the age of 15 are 60 percent more likely to die within their first year," Moudouthe said. "And girls who are pregnant before the age of 15 are five times more likely to die or be injured during their pregnancy or childbirth [than older women]."
The sixth goal linked to child marriage is combating HIV/AIDS, which affects child brides more than unmarried sexually active teenagers.
"They are married to men who are very often much older and who have sexual experience already, and with whom they have very little capacity to negotiate for safe sexual practices," Moudouthe said.
Burqa Bans Spread Across Europe As Catalan Town Becomes Latest To Ban Full Face Veil
July 21, 2014
The town of Reus in the Catalan province of Tarragona has become the first in Spain to ban the wearing of full-face veils in public, a move which follows a judgment on July 1 by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which found that a French law banning the wearing of the veil did not breach the Convention on Human Rights.
The Strasbourg judges said the French ban was justified because of respect for life in society: "The barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face in public could undermine the notion of 'living together,'" the judges said.
France was the first country in Europe to ban the veil. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose administration brought in the ban in 2011, said that veils oppress women and were "not welcome" in France.
Now Reus has passed bylaws to ban the veil. Ramon Espadaler, Interior Minister for Catalonia, has said that the ban, first proposed in 2013, was in no way an attack on religious freedom as the wearing of helmets and masks in public will also be forbidden.
While other towns in Spain have banned the veil in publicly-owned buildings, Reus is the first of the ban garments such as the Niqab, which covers the face apart from the eyes, and the Burqa, a full-length enveloping garment which includes a cloth grid across the face, on the streets.
According to El Pais, the coalition local government, made up of conservatives and Catalan nationalists, who want Catalonia to break away from Madrid and become an independent state, amended their own legislation to remove the words "niqab" and "Burqa." They replaced them with clothing "of any type or form or accessories that impede identification or make it more difficult."
The local government called for the prohibition based on criteria of "security" and "coexistence."
However, police will be unable to impose fines for breaching the ban until there is what one local councillor called "superior legislation."
Belgium already has a ban on full-face veils, and it is likely that attempts will now be made in other countries including Austria, Norway and Denmark after the ECHR decision.
Earlier this month, the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) announced they would introduce a bill banning full-face veils. Heinz-Christian Strache, FPÖ leader and Member of Parliament, posted on a social network an image of a young blonde woman with the caption, "Too beautiful for a veil."
According to Strache, the image is "against the Islamisation of Europe." Party spokeswoman Carmen Gartelgruber said: "One of the many tools of oppression is the Burqa." Other parties in Austria do not support the ban, however.
A right-wing party in Denmark will introduce legislation for a French style ban. Pia Kjærsgaard, a spokesperson for the anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DF) which sits with the British Conservatives in the European Parliament, thinks a ban on face-covering dress, whether it is specifically targeting Islamic Burqas or not, should be introduced in Denmark: "We can't have women being completely covered so you can't see their facial expressions or who you have right in front of you."
The DF proposed a Burqa ban in 2004 and 2009 but both times it was defeated.
In Norway, which is not a member of the European Union but is one of the 47 member countries of the Council of Europe whose court is the ECHR, Labour and Progress parties have stated that they would consider revisiting the issue of a Muslim veil ban.
Jan Bøhler of the Labour Party said: "When parliament rejected such a ban in 2013, the main argument was that Norway risked being censured in the ECHR. Now that argument falls away. I think we need to take a new discussion about a possible ban."
In Germany, there is no law restricting the wearing of veils, but according to the BBC, in September 2003 the federal Constitutional Court ruled in favour of a teacher who wanted to wear an Islamic scarf to school. However, the court said states could change their laws locally if they wanted to.
In Britain, there is no ban on wearing a veil, but schools can decide their own dress code, but following the ECHR judgement, Tory MP Philip Hollobone urged the Government to ban the veil in Britain: "We will never have a fully functioning, fully integrated multi-cultural society if growing numbers of our citizens go around with their faces covered."
Africa Girl Summit: Ending FGM and Child Marriage within a Generation
July 21, 2014
What: Unicef to Co-Host an International Summit With the UK Government to Rally a Growing Movement to End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (fgm/C) and Child Marriage. Unicef Will Release New Data and Projections On Fgm/C and Child Marriage. Press Release and the New Data to Follow On Friday 18 July, Under Embargo for 0001 Gmt — What: Unicef to Co-Host an International Summit With the UK Government to Rally a Growing Movement to End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (fgm/C) and Child Marriage. Unicef Will Release New Data and Projections On Fgm/C and Child Marriage. Press Release and the New Data to Follow On
Who: UNICEF Child Protection experts attending the Summit and available for interview:
Susan Bissell, Chief of Child Protection
Francesca Moneti, Senior Child Protection Specialist
Anju Malhotra, Principal Adviser on Gender
Cody Donohue, Child Protection Specialist
Claudia Cappa, Statistics & Monitoring Specialist
Manuel Fontaine, Regional Director, West and Central Africa
Andrew Brooks, Regional Adviser, Child Protection, West and Central Africa
Field experts available from: Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Niger, Sierra Leone and Sudan, plus regional bureaux for West and Central Africa, and East and Southern Africa.
Where: London, United Kingdom
Why: FGM/C and child marriage deny a staggering number of girls the right to live healthy, fulfilling lives free from violence and discrimination. When a girl is cut or becomes a child bride, her rights, and thus the rights of every girl and woman across her society, are cruelly devalued.
Girls who undergo FGM/C are at risk of prolonged bleeding, infection including HIV, infertility, and death. A girl who is married as a child is more likely to be out of school, experience domestic abuse and contract sexually transmitted infections. She will have children when she herself is still a child, and is far more likely to die due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth than women in their twenties.
Many of the solutions to end these practices already exist within communities, and should be showcased, supported and taken to scale. Without intensive and sustained action now from all parts of society, hundreds of millions more girls will suffer profound, permanent, and utterly un-necessary harm.
The international summit will bring together leaders from across the world, including government representatives, international organizations, the private sector and girls themselves to rally action to end FGM/C and child marriage for all girls, everywhere.
The Politics of Egypt’s Sexual Violence
July 21, 2014
CAIRO — One day in the summer of 1974, I was getting ready to go to the swimming pool with a mixed-gender group of friends when my mother took me aside. “Remember,” she said, “that a well-brought-up young man does not ogle women.”
I was a teenager at the time, subject to all the usual hormonal energies, but I listened to my mother’s advice and to this day observe it. But as far as Egyptian society was concerned, within a few years hers had become a voice in the wilderness.
There is scant data about the incidence of sexual harassment in Egypt before the 1970s — the phrase hardly appeared in the news media until the ’90s. That is not to say such behavior did not occur, but today it has become an epidemic. In 2008, a survey by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women have been the victims of sexual harassment and 46 percent experience it on a daily basis.
Some blame unemployment, poverty and the influence of pornography, but the fundamental reason, in my opinion, is the influence of Wahhabi strictures on men’s view of women.
In 1899, the Egyptian thinker Qasim Amin published “The Liberation of Women,” a book that ushered in Egyptian women’s struggle for labor and education rights. The first woman to graduate from an Egyptian university did so in 1933. In 1956, women gained the vote; six years later, Hikmat Abu Zayd became the first woman to serve in the cabinet.
For most of the 20th century, Egyptian women were respected regardless of how they dressed and were rarely subjected to harassment. But at the end of the ’70s, millions of Egyptians started migrating to the Gulf states for work. They returned heavily influenced by the Wahhabi reading of Islam, which forbids the wearing of swimsuits and obliges women to wear the hijab and keep their bodies covered.
The hijab is now so prevalent in Egypt that an unveiled woman is generally taken to be a Christian or a nonpracticing Muslim, and most swimming pools now have women-only days. But has the spread of the hijab done anything for public morality?
Some Wahhabis, in fact, deem harassment a just punishment for a woman who exposes any part of her body. “I challenge the notion that a single woman in a niqab has been molested,” said the Salafist preacher Abdallah Badr on his religious TV show, referring to the Islamic full-face veil. “The women who get harassed are those in slutty clothing.”
That assertion is simply not true. The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights study also showed that a woman’s dress had no effect on whether she was molested; in fact, the majority of victims were veiled.
“The root cause is the contempt with which women are viewed,” said Dr. Mohamed Abdelghani, a British-based psychiatrist quoted on the BBC’s Arabic website. “Just as the man in the street sees his own rights trampled on by state-appointed officials, he does the only thing within his power and abuses or molests women.”
There has, in fact, been a malign convergence of the ways that Egypt’s religious fundamentalists and its tyrants in political office treat women. Both want them to stay in the home.
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When Hosni Mubarak was president, his regime used sexual harassment to punish women who opposed him. On May 25, 2005, the police set loose a gang of thugs on a group of women demonstrators. As they assaulted the women, the goons shouted that this was Mr. Mubarak’s response to women who came out to protest.
That episode, which became known as “Black Wednesday,” established a pattern of politically motivated sexual assault that has continued after the ouster of Mr. Mubarak, through the periods of rule by the military council and the Muslim Brotherhood. For the authorities, it serves two purposes: It is designed to inspire such fear in women that they will never take part in a protest again, and it aims to smear the male demonstrators, tarring them with responsibility for the attacks.
Initially, during the 2011 revolution when millions of young men and women occupied main squares throughout Egypt, sexual harassment in the crowds was not unknown but relatively rare. But then, on Feb. 11, as Egyptians were celebrating their success, Lara Logan, a CBS News correspondent, was assaulted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, in what many regard as an attempt to discredit the revolution in the eyes of the world.
The latest of these crimes took place last month during demonstrations to mark the appointment of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president. On this occasion, a political motive was unclear, but female supporters of Mr. Sisi were set upon by a gang as they celebrated in Tahrir Square.
One brave police officer, Mostafa Thabet, almost lost his life trying to rescue a woman whose clothes had been ripped off and who was bleeding profusely. This ugly incident set off a wave of revulsion in Egypt, and Mr. Sisi felt obliged to visit the hospitalized victim, personally apologizing for the trauma she had suffered.
One of Egypt’s largest-ever manhunts resulted in a number of perpetrators being brought to justice. The recent tough sentences for sexual assaults may deter some, but to eradicate sexual harassment we need to address the type of thinking that justifies it.
There are two conflicting views of women in Egypt: a reactionary one shared by the fundamentalists and the supporters of authoritarian government, which reduces women to no more than their bodies, and a progressive one held by the revolutionaries, who regard women as deserving full civil rights. The revolution looks to the future, whereas the reactionary outlook harks back to the past. The line of battle is clearly delineated.
Alaa Al Aswany is the author of the novel “The Yacoubian Building” and other books. This article was translated by Russell Harris from the Arabic.
Pakistan acid attack injures four women
July 21, 2014
FOUR women have been seriously injured after being attacked with acid by two men riding a motorbike in Pakistan, a police official says.
THE attack took place in the Quetta's Shariab market when the women were out shopping.
The men, who were armed, hurled acid at them and fled the scene, said Quetta Police Superintendent Imran Quereshi.
The victims, who suffered serious burns on their faces, were admitted to the Bolan Medical Complex hospital in the city.
The cause of the attack remains unknown and no suspects were immediately arrested.
Baluchistan province, with Quetta as its capital, borders Afghanistan and Iran, and is the largest but the least populated province of Pakistan.
The area is the scene of repeated attacks from separatist groups, Islamic militants and mafia networks that operate throughout the country.
Acid attacks against women, which often fall under what is termed as honour crimes, are common in Pakistan where women face discrimination in all spheres of social life.