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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 19 Jul 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Libyan Female Footballers Covered Head to Toe Inflame Islamists

New Age Islam News Bureau

19 Jul 2013 

Rights groups say the problems facing Libya’s women footballers are part of a larger struggle over women's rights. Photograph: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images


 Iran Women Bare Necks in Moderation before New President

 Muslim women saying prayers at mosque kicks up a row, in India

 Ramadan TV Show in Saudi Arabia Calls Attention to Child Marriage

 UAE Builds Modern School for Children in Remote Pakistan      

 Nigeria: Women Activists Kick Against Senate's Resolution on Child Marriage

 Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Donates $10 Million for Syrian Refugee Children

 Canada Funds Projects to Help Women in Arab Countries Get Elected

 Women Staff to Beef up Shop Inspections in Saudi Arabia

 Libya's Women's Football Team Banned From Major Tournament

 Afghan Women Suffer Setback As Parliament Lowers Quota For Female Lawmakers

 USAID Announces Assistance Program For Afghan Women

 Christian Group Asks Local Muslims to Donate Books to Women's Library in Yemen

 ‘Fair Game’ For Locals, Domestics Feel At Home with Expat Families

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Libyan Female Footballers Covered Head to Toe Inflame Islamists

Jul 19, 2013

In the end, members of the Libyan women’s soccer team decided they wouldn’t pose for an official photograph. They talked about standing with their backs to the camera and concluded it would just be too risky.

They train in different venues every week, with addresses shared at the last minute by phone messages and texts. As they ran drills recently in Tripoli, they were guarded by a security detail carrying machine guns. The rise of religious extremists since the fall of Muammar Qaddafi has made it dangerous for women to even practice Libya’s favorite sport.

“All the girls are nervous,” said Hadhoum El Alabed, 37, a midfielder who has a doctorate in sports sciences and is a lecturer at Tripoli University.

The Arab Spring has been a mixed blessing for women in the North African nation. While 2012 elections in the new democracy gave them about 15 percent of the seats in the General National Congress, ultraconservative Islamists who want women mostly out of public sight are increasingly vocal. They’ve made the affront of women playing soccer a rallying cry.

The popular cleric Salim Jabar said in a televised sermon last month that female footballers had “soiled the honor of their families with the filth of nudity and shamelessness.” The Ansar al-Sharia militia demanded the team not play a match July 24 in Berlin because it “could lead to unforgiveable things.”

The struggles of the team mirror what all Libyan women are confronting, said Hadia Gana, a graphics designer in Tripoli. “It’s about control,” she said. “Control of women by men.”

Persecuted Fundamentalists

Qaddafi, who ruled for 42 years, was toppled and killed in an uprising two years ago that left the nation of 6.5 million in the hands of a weak government and feuding bands of religious and tribal forces. The fundamentalist Sunni Muslims he persecuted were on the rebels’ side and now have strongholds in several cities, including Benghazi, where U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in September.

“They don’t believe women should have any life,” said Khaled Maatawa, a professor of creative writing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and director of Tripoli’s Arete Foundation for Arts and Culture. When it screened the movie “Men Who Stare at Goats” last week, the projectionist put his hand over the lens during any scene showing a woman immodestly dressed, Maatawa said. “The idea is that women should not arouse men.”

Members of the government-funded soccer team dress conservatively. Their blue tracksuits provide cover from ankle to neck; more than half of them conceal their hair with hijabs approved by the International Federation of Association Football, soccer’s governing body.

Gender Roles

What female athletes wear isn’t what upsets extremists, said Sonja Kluemper, one the founders of Discover Football, a nonprofit that sponsors annual tournaments in Berlin for female soccer teams from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and the Palestinian territories. “Football challenges gender roles,” she said. “It’s not about sports. It’s a political issue.”

Last week, New York-based Human Rights Watch called on Libyan leaders to ensure that women’s rights are protected in the constitution. The General National Assembly approved a measure July 16 that will create a 60-member committee to draft the document -- with only six slots reserved for women.

There have been other setbacks. The Supreme Court in February overturned a Qaddafi-era law requiring a husband to have the approval of his first wife before taking a second. The top religious authority, the grand mufti, said in April that men and women should be segregated at work and school to stem the “widespread phenomena of the free mixing of the sexes.”

Marriage Prospects

The women on the soccer team practice without cleats because the Libyan Football Association has refused to allocate funds set aside for them, and the women don’t want to try to raise money on their own for fear of drawing ultraconservatives’ ire, according to Naziha Arebi, a photographer who’s making a documentary about women and girls who play soccer in Libya.

Now the team may have to scratch plans to participate in the Discover Football tournament. The football association has told players they can’t go, El Alabed said. “All the girls are very sad,” she said. “They told us, if you go, there will be problems when you come back.”

‘Qaddafi Girls’

Fadwa El-Bahi, a 25-year-old midfielder who recently graduated from Tripoli University with a degree in geophysics, said the country should be supportive of the team because it represents the new Libya, with conservatives and liberals getting along. “We have former Qaddafi girls and former rebels,” she said. “It’s an example of reconciliation.”

The players joke around during drills, calling each other ”greens” -- the dictator’s favorite color -- or rats, which was Qaddafi’s word for his opponents. They brush off the condemnation from the extremists.

“They try to intimidate us,” El-Bahi said. “But politics shouldn’t matter on the field. I just want to play football.”



Iran Women Bare Necks in Moderation Before New President

By Ladane Nasseri & Yeganeh Salehi - Jul 18, 2013

Summer in Tehran can be tough on women, as temperatures rise and the Islamic Guidance Patrols are on the lookout for citizens who might be persuaded by the heat to ignore -- more than usual -- Iran’s dress code.

This summer’s different. In the pause between the June 14 election of a new president, Hassan Rohani, and the Aug. 3 exit of the old, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the green and white vans of the fashion police are rare sights. Women, who are expected to conceal their hair and body shapes, are taking advantage.

“Finally, we can breathe,” said Parvin, a 56-year-old wearing a zebra-themed headscarf tied so that it failed to hide her neck as she shopped for groceries. Like others interviewed, she declined to give her last name for fear of reprisal.

“Who knows what Rohani will do as a president?” she said. “But so far, he’s come across as more understanding.”

The answer is crucial for women who chafe at the rules and conventions that restrict their freedom to choose a career or show some ankle. While they use the summer hiatus to don cloaks made of see-through linen or silk and adorned with glitzy beads, they’re prepared for a crackdown.

“Ahmadinejad in the beginning said he didn’t care about what people wear, but it turned out to be the opposite,” said Hanieh, a 30-year-old architect in a coat that opened to reveal a pair of skinny jeans as she drove to work. “We are in a transition period between the two presidents, and they have more important things to worry about.”

Fashion Police

Rohani, a Scottish-educated lawyer and cleric, may be a departure from Ahmadinejad, whose anti-Israel rhetoric and questioning of the Holocaust during his two terms in office helped make Iran a pariah.

Courting the women’s vote, Rohani talked about creating more job opportunities for them while “the other candidates saw women’s active participation in society as a threat,” said Nayereh Tavakoli, a Payam Nour university professor and member of the Iran Sociological Association women’s studies committee.

The 64-year-old president-elect pledged to reduce what he called the government’s “attack against people’s privacy.” He was quoted during the campaign by Khabar Online as saying that Iran “can’t solve cultural problems through police force,” and on Twitter seemed to question the Islamic Guidance Patrols, also known as the fashion or morality police. “If someone doesn’t comply with rules for clothing, that person’s virtue shouldn’t come under question,” a July 3 tweet from his office said.

The way women dress is a political marker in Iran, where policies and the enthusiasm of enforcement have changed with leaders since the 1979 revolution. “There have always been differences about what’s acceptable,” Tavakoli said, and Rohani’s government could be another turning point.

Shunning Lipstick

In the 1980s, while the republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, held the position of supreme leader, women were shrouded in dark chadors or billowy blouses over loose-fitting slacks, and were supposed to shun nail polish and lipstick, even perfume. They could be arrested for showing a wisp of hair.

“Unveiled women represented Western values, which the Islamic regime wished to eradicate,” said Faegheh Shirazi, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin and author of “The Veil Unveiled: The Hijab in Modern Culture.”

As standards relaxed -- and women, mostly in urban areas, tested the fashion limits -- colorful scarves and shawls appeared, negligently wrapped around heads and shoulders. During the eight-year presidency of Mohammad Khatami, who served from 1997 to 2005 and was known as the “father of reforms,” jeans became common, and long-sleeved tops grew more fitted. Women would venture out with bare ankles -- and sometimes calves.

Closed Sandals

The administration of Ahmadinejad, Khatami’s successor, clamped down, and Capri trousers, open-toed sandals and loud colors could once again be infractions. His ministries also banned women from studying dozens of subjects, including oil engineering and nuclear physics, citing high unemployment in the fields as justification.

Shahla Ezazi, a sociologist and a lecturer at a Tehran university, told a meeting of women’s rights activists and Rohani’s representatives that she hoped the new president will reverse restrictions imposed by Ahmadinejad’s government.

‘Older Brother’

“It seems like in these eight years, officials came up with the idea that if men don’t want to control the women in their families and keep them at home, the government should play the role of the father or the older brother and keep them in check in the public domain,” Ezazi was quoted as saying in a July 3 report on the Focus on Iranian Women website.

While women are allowed to vote and drive, they’re segregated on buses, mosques and public pools and forbidden from entering sports stadiums to watch male teams play. They’re educated separately from as early as primary school.

About 52 percent of university graduates in 2009 and 68 percent of science graduates were women, according to data for the most recent year available by the Paris-based UN Education Scientific and Cultural Organization. In 2011, women accounted for 27 percent of the workforce.

Sweeps for the inadequately covered tend to increase in the summer, when temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in Tehran. Patrol vans are usually prominently parked outside shopping malls and cinemas. Women may be stopped just for questioning or taken into custody; punishment is usually a scolding or a fine, and they’ll be asked to sign a document acknowledging that they weren’t in modest attire.

No Definition

There’s no one written code that defines what that is. Conservatives and progressives in Iran tend to disagree whether only the black, heavy and to-the-floor chador should be acceptable or if coats and scarves are sufficient protection.

Noushin, a 32-year-old graphic designer in Adidas sneakers and black leggings, said she’s optimistic moderation will prevail under Rohani, whose slogan was “prudence and hope.” He won 50.7 percent of the vote in a victory that wasn’t predicted by polls published in state-run media.

“Rohani understands the importance of freedom for people, that the government needs people’s backing,” said Noushin, wearing a pink shawl from which strands of hair stuck out. “And women are half the population.”



Muslim women saying prayers at mosque kicks up a row, in India


Jul 19, 2013

Hassan wakf committee recommends action against mosque

Hassan District Wakf Committee has raised objections to Muslim women gathering in a mosque at K.R. Puram here for special prayers during the month of Ramadan. The committee has recommended that Karnataka State Wakf Board take action against the mosque’s managing committee.

However, the managing committee of the mosque has said that the Wakf Board has no authority to decide who should go to a mosque or who should not.

Syed Umar Farooq, secretary of the managing committee, said: “For last 8-10 years, women have been taking part in the special prayers conducted during Ramadan. We have constructed a hall for this. The board is meant to look after administration, not decide who should pray there.”

The meeting was held after the district wakf committee received a complaint from representatives of a group opposed to women taking part in prayers.

Syed Khasim, chairman of the advisory committee, held a meeting with moulvis in Hassan on Wednesday during which the moulvis are said to have expressed, based on the Shariah, opposition to women gathering for prayers in mosques.

He said that the mosque’s management committee had not responded to their notice seeking clarification. He said that only a few members in the management committee were in favour of women gathering for prayers.

“I have recommended to the board to appoint an administrator for the mosque abolishing the managing committee, whose term expired two years ago, and also stop this practice of women taking part in prayers,” he said.

However, narrating the history of women’s congregation, Mr. Farooq said that 10 years ago women in K.R. Puram volunteered to take part in special prayers in the mosque.

Since then they had been taking part in prayers, he added.

“Even after a section of people raised objections to this in the last few days, the number of women taking part in the prayers has not come down. Up to 90 women pray in the hall constructed for them regularly,” he said. He alleged that some people were raking up a non-issue for political reasons. “Those who want to on the managing committee are creating the controversy,” he said.



Ramadan TV Show in Saudi Arabia Calls Attention to Child Marriage

 Jul. 19, 2013

Ramadan TV specials are not only good for prime time Arab viewing, but also for introspection, touching on some of the controversial issues of Arab and Islamic countries. This year, a prominent theme is the scandalous issue of marriage of men to young women, sometimes very young.

 The Saudi MBC network created a drama series especially for Ramadan, called The Minors, which tells viewers the story of a 9-year-old bride. Reactions in the Islamic world to the series have been stormy.

The marriage of minors to older men is widespread in Arab and Muslim countries. Morocco, for example, reported that in recent years there has been a significant increase in the rate of under aged girls marrying. Data released by Iraq’s Ministry of Planning and Development several days ago showed that the country leads the world with underage marriages, at 11%.

 In Saudi Arabia, it was reported in January of this year that a 90-year-old man had married a 15-year-old girl, after paying 65,000 Riyals to her family. The man later sued the girl's family because she locked herself in a room right after the wedding and stayed there for two days.

 Now the conservative kingdom is pushing a bill that would set the minimum age for marriage at 16, but it will be possible to request of the court to allow marriages at an earlier age.

 The plot of the Saudi Arabian series that is now causing controversy in the Arab world takes place in Egypt, far from Cairo, in the periphery. It deals with the physical and psychological damage caused to girls – who are stll children – as a result of their marriages to older men.

The series not only criticizes the early age at which these girls are taken as wives, but also the fact that the men are often paid to take these girls as their wives, taking advantage of the poverty of the young brides' families.

 In the opening scene of the series aired last week, a nine-year-old girl, Sabah Shama, is seen playing with her friends. Suddenly viewers are shown signs that little Sabah is ‘coming of age,’ meaning she is now marriageable.

 When this becomes known, a rich old man named Kahal, who is over 70-years-old and already married to two girls aged 11, requests his sister that she arrange a wedding to Sabah, whom he will take as his third wife. The girl's family welcomes the proposal of the old man, and gives the man gold and silver, so that he will wed their child, further pushing the already poor family into poverty.

If this is not enough to shock viewers, the brother of the little girl asks Kahal to prove to the village that his sister is a respectable woman. Thus, a forged wedding document is created, stating the child's age to be 16. In this way, the creators of the series clearly also touch on the corrupt industry surrounding the issue of underage weddings. An entire village helps the old man, and continues to provide him with little girls.

 In one of the difficult scenes in the series, the nine-year-old is seen on her wedding night, forced to give herself to the old man. Afterwards, she suffers a severe hemorrhage and dies. The Al-Arabiya network wrote about this scene that the girl "panicked as she followed the rituals of being given over to her groom. Together with her thousands of questions, she also remembers the fairy tale stories she was sold.”

 When the old man learns his young wife is dead, he is unmoved. He returns to his sister and asks her to find him a new bride.

 The first episodes of the series provoked a surge of online responses throughout the Arab world. Some viewers were shocked by the phenomenon itself, while others were terrified by a series bringing the issue so vividly into their living rooms.

One of the web surfers wrote on Facebook, "This is the greatest sin of the society in which we live, a society which is not cultural. We live on backward customs and backward traditions." Another surfer was shocked by the decision to display such severe images on screen. "This series has scenes that exceed the limits of human beings.",7340,L-4406344,00.html



UAE builds modern school for children in remote Pakistan       

By Shafek Koreshe

 Jul. 19, 2013

KALAM, July 18 (APP): The construction of a modern new school is nothing but a miracle for the children in the scenic Swat valley, that only a few years back witnessed military operations and destruction of vital infrastructure. Built along the meandering Swat River at an altitude of around 6300 feet, the two-storey school building constructed with funding from the government of United Arab Emirates houses a computer lab, eight class rooms and administration facilities. Official figures put the total number of schools destroyed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at 750 since 2008, due to militant activity and floods, of which 611 have been reconstructed.

For the 10 year old Ayesha and her parents in the remote Kalam village, it is a dream come true, as she can now study and play with her friends, in an attractive building, only 15 minutes walk, across the river through a narrow wooden plank bridge.

The school, around 270 kms drive from Islamabad is home to over 225 young children from nearby homes. It has a fully equipped computer lab, modern teaching facilities and cartoon characters painted on the walls - a welcome difference from the earlier structures that housed schools.

Under the UAE Pakistan Assistance Program the new preparatory Haryati School is part of efforts to boost educational development in the province under the directives and initiatives of President of UAE Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The school was inaugurated by Director General of the UAE Project to Assist Pakistan Abdullah Al Ghafli and Major General Akhtar Jamil, Commander of the GOC 45th Engineers Division of Pakistan Army, unveiled the plaque.

Al Ghafli said the school is part of the 53 educational projects worth AED 27.6 million (Rs 745.3 million), carried out by the UAE Project to Assist Pakistan. The institutes include primary, high schools, degree colleges and vocational training institutes.

He particularly mentioned the initiatives of President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to boost education in Pakistan and said “students in Pakistan will now be able to receive education - from primary to high school, and even pursue post-high school education at specialised colleges.”

He termed it the most important aspect of development of individuals, families and the society at large so as to join the league of developed nations.

Al Ghafli later handed over school bags to the students of the new school, as part of a plan of UAE Project to Assist Pakistan to distribute 30,000 schools bags to poor and orphaned Pakistani male and female school students.

The principal of the new school termed the school a symbol of hope for male and female students from remote Pakistani areas who aspire to receive education in modern schools and to secure a better future for themselves and their families.

The parents beaming with pride and looking forward to a bright future of their children were appreciative of the efforts of President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for bringing education to their doorsteps.

Following the pushing out of militants from the Swat valley, there has been a gradual increase in enrollment, as the parents now feel it safe to send their children to schools. According to Swat District Education Officer Dilshad Bibi the first six months of 2013, 102,374 girls were registered at different primary schools in Swat.

Provincial Minister for Education Muhammad Atif terming female education a priority said his government has allocated an amount of Rs 66 billion for education, an increase in the annual budget by 27 per cent.



Nigeria: Women Activists Kick Against Senate's Resolution On Child Marriage


The Gender and Constitution Reform Network, GECORN, a coalition of women's rights organisations across Nigeria, on Thursday rejected the Senate's resolution on child marriage.

The organisation, in a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, and made available to journalists in Abeokuta , rejected the argument of Ahmed Yerima that the proposal for the deletion of section 29 (4)(b) which states that "any woman who is married shall be deemed of full age" is at variance with Islamic law.

"The constitution of Nigeria is the supreme law of the country. While we hail the constitution review process led by the Senate and the House of Representatives, we reject the argument of Senator Ahmed Yerima that the proposal for the deletion of section 29 (4) (b) which states that "any woman who is married shall be deemed of full age."

The women activists emphasised that section 29 of the 1999 Constitution particularly prescribed the procedures for Nigerians who wish to renounce their citizenship.

"29 (4)a, defines the character of a Nigerian who is capable of denouncing citizenship and clearly states that such person must be of full age - 18 years and above, which is in line with the Child Rights Act 2003. 'Our argument is that S 29 4(b contradicts, S 29 4(a) and can cause misrepresentation in law and practice.

"We ask, is the Senate saying that a 13-year-old girl has the mental capacity to renounce her citizenship? Thus, we argue that Senator Ahmed Yerima, basing his argument solely on child marriage is treacherous and a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the intention of the 1999 constitution.

"Such misrepresentation is in our own view, what the Senate originally wanted to avoid by the (Senate Committee on the Constitution Reform's report) proposal and its initial votes for the deletion of S 29 4(b)."

The organisation noted that failure to delete 29 4(b) has several negative implications: (1) criminal liability can be placed on under age married girl child. (2) An underage married woman can vote and be voted for (3) She can also obtain a driver's license, (4) Legitimizing child marriage 'as evidenced by the past conduct of Senator Ahmed Yerima years back.'

"We therefore urge the Senate to reconsider its position and call on the House of Representative to show progressive leadership by failing to concur on this provision and others that might retard the progress of this country," the organisation stated.



Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Donates $10 Million for Syrian Refugee Children

(Wam) / 19 July 2013

In a massive boost for the “Big Heart for Syrian Refugee Children” campaign, Shaikha Fatima bint Mubarak has donated $10 million to give refugees life-changing access to food, medication, shelter and education.

The Ramadan spirit of generosity has inspired also the public to make substantial Zakat donations to benefit Syrians.

The contributions come as the Syria Regional Response Plan faces a $1.9-billion gap in the funding required to help over 1.76 million refugees. The number of Syrian refugees who have been registered or are pending registration with the UNHCR is now approximately 600,000 in Lebanon, 500,000 in Jordan, 400,000 in Turkey, 160,000 in Iraq and 100,000 in North Africa.

Commenting on the importance of spreading the Ramadan spirit to Syrians, Shaikha Fatima said, “Every single day that we spend at home with our loved ones this Ramadan is a blessing, and we should never forget the millions of Syrians without a roof over their heads or a motherland under their feet. By supporting the ‘Big Heart for Syrian Refugee Children’ campaign, we will show that refugees might be homeless, but never hopeless.”

In a response from the ‘Big Heart for Syrian Refugee Children’ organisation, Shaikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, said, “On behalf of the countless Syrians whose lives will be saved and transformed, we are extremely grateful beyond words for the massive contribution of $10 million from Shaikha Fatima bint Mubarak. Such acts of warm-hearted generosity shine rays of sunlight into the darkness of the Syrian crisis, and give refugees hope for a brighter day. The ‘Big Heart for Syrian Refugee Children’ campaign applauds Shaikha Fatima for proving that our humanitarian spirit is alive and well.”

Panos Moumtzis, UNHCR Regional Refugee Coordinator for the Syria Situation, added, “This is the fastest growing refugee crisis in human history, with the first six months of 2013 alone seeing over a million new refugees. Women and children are the hardest hit, and initiatives such as the ‘Big Heart’ campaign spearheaded by UNHCR Eminent Advocate Shaikha Jawaher will turn food, water, shelter and medical attention from a distant dream into a daily reality.”



Canada funds projects to help women in Arab countries get elected

 Jul. 19, 2013

While women are present in political life throughout Middle East and North Africa, Ottawa says their rights are often inadequately addressed.

OTTAWA - Canada announced funding Thursday to help more women get elected in Middle East and North African nations undertaking democratic reforms.

Two projects being awarded a total of Can$971,200 (US$932,285) include training in campaign management, and coaching candidates on how to get their message across to the electorate.

While women are present in national assemblies and legislatures throughout the Middle East and North Africa, Ottawa says their rights and interests are often inadequately addressed.

"Women's participation in decision-making processes is essential to ensure that democracies are truly representative of their populations," said Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Lynne Yelich.

"Canada will continue to support the development of women's leadership skills and increase their active participation in elections so that more qualified women will be elected. These activities will strengthen the voice of women in emerging democracies at all levels of government," she said.

The aim of the projects by the Forum of Federations and the International Republican Institute is to develop women's electoral campaigning skills and help to expand recognition of women's rights in Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.



Women Staff To Beef Up Shop Inspections in Saudi Arabia

19 July 2013

The Ministry of Labor will hire additional female field inspectors to ensure implementation of the government order making it mandatory for women’s wear and accessories shops to have Saudi women employees.

The move will be initiated in the second phase of the inspection campaign for feminization of shops selling women’s clothes, an official of the ministry said.

Forty-five women field inspectors had participate in the first phase of the drive.

“A woman inspector’s job involves monitoring the markets and shops exclusively dealing in women’s accessories,” Undersecretary for Development at the Ministry of Labor Fahd Al-Takhayyefi said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency on Tuesday. “They will also study the method of operation in these shops and report to the ministry if any violations are detected. They will also explain to the shop owners the way the regulation is to be implemented in the most effective manner.”

Saying that the inspection teams started their field work immediately after the end of the grace period on July 7 in all cities and towns of the Kingdom, Al-Takhayyefi urged all establishments dealing in women’s clothes and accessories to take speedy steps to implement the order.

Establishments which fail to implement the feminization regulations would be listed in the red category of the Nitaqat law, which could eventually lead to cancellation of license and consequent shutting down of the business, he warned.

The inspections in the second phase will focus on commercial centers such as malls and independent shops in all cities and governorates, he added.

Anyone who comes across a shop which has not complied with the regulations regarding employment of Saudi women or not providing suitable environment for Saudi women working in the shop or any other violation can contact the ministry’s officials at 920001173 or e-mail to

On receiving such a complaint, the ministry will send male or female inspectors to take immediate steps, he said.



Libya's women's football team banned from major tournament

Sporting authorities cite Ramadan as reason for withdrawal after team forced to train in secret following threats from radicals

 19 July 2013

Libya's international woman's football team, already under threat from religious extremists, has been banned from taking part in a major tournament next week by the country's sporting authorities.

In a move likely to raise questions about its commitment to equal rights, Libya's football association told the team it cannot fly to Germany on Saturday, citing concerns that it takes place within the holy month of Ramadan.

"The federation said you cannot play in Germany because of the need for fasting," said midfielder Hadhoum el-Alabed. "We want to go but they say you cannot go."

Libya had been due to play teams from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Tunisia and Germany in Discover Football, a tournament funded by the German government. It is billed as the biggest gathering of Middle-Eastern women's footballers since the 2011 Arab spring.

El-Alabed, at 37 the oldest player in the squad and who played in Liverpool while earning a Phd in sports science, said the ban had shattered hopes that the fall of Gaddafi would bring social change. "Other teams can play [in Berlin], so why not us? If you could see the girls, when they were told, they were all crying."

After initially giving permission for the tournament, Libya's FA changed its mind. "It is Ramadan," said the FA general secretary, Nasser Ahmed. "We are not against women playing football."

Threats from Islamist radicals have already forced the team to train in secret, constantly switching venues and deploying armed guards.

In June, Ansar al-Sharia, the militia linked by some with the killing of the US ambassador, Chris Stevens, in Benghazi last September, issued a statement saying it "severely condemned" women's football

"This is something we cannot have because it does not confirm with sharia law," it said. "It invites women to show off and wear clothes that are inappropriate."

Salim Jabar, one of Libya's most popular television preachers, has demanded the women's team disband, saying it was against the strictures of Islam.

"This team consists of tall, good-looking young girls, and that's the last thing this country needs," he said in a sermon broadcast from his Benghazi mosque. "For the first day that she (a Libyan woman) signed up for this team, she has sold herself and brought shame on her family."

Women's football was allowed during the Gaddafi regime, but only in reduced format with teams playing in gyms to be out of the public eye in this conservative Muslim country. Since the revolution, the international team has been allowed to play 11-a-side, but its higher profile has made it a lightning rod for extremists.

"They (radicals) say to us you are no good, they intimidate us," says team captain Fadwa el-Bahi, 25.

At one training session, the location of which the Guardian was asked to keep secret, the team coach, Emmad el-Fadeih, said the women had already met strict FA guidelines. All play in head-to-foot blue tracksuits rather than shorts add T-shirts, and most wore the hijab.

El-Fadeih said the team had complied with FA rules that only unmarried women could travel to Germany, and then only if their father or guardian gave written permission.

"There are groups like Ansar al-Sharia don't want them, some people say football is not suitable for women," said el-Fadeih.

Fears of a backlash also saw team members refuse to be photographed for the tournament website. "They don't want their faces displayed," said Naziha Arebi, a British-Libyan filmmaker. "These women just want to play football."

El-Bahi, a geophysics graduate, insists nothing in the Qu'ran bans women from sport. "The prophet (Muhammad and his wife used to run together and compete with each other."

She said the authorities should be highlighting the role women's football plays in fostering togetherness in a country wracked with militia violence. "This team is an example of reconciliation," she said. "We have former Gaddafi girls and former rebels, side-by-side."

Rights groups say the problems facing Libya's women footballers are part of a larger struggle by women who have struggled to win their rights. This month Libya's congress, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood's Justice and Construction party, gave just six seats to women in a 60-strong commission formed to write a new constitution.

Tournament organisers say Libya's place will remain open. "We have heard that the football association decided that they are not allowed to go," said Discover Football spokeswoman Johanna Kosters "We will wait and see if they get on the plane."



Afghan women suffer setback as parliament lowers quota for female lawmakers

By Atia Abawi

 Jul. 19, 2013

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan’s parliament has passed a law lowering the proportion of provincial council seats reserved for women.

The Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of parliament, this week approved a revised electoral law that included the reduction of the guaranteed proportion of the 420 provincial council seats allotted to females from 25 percent down to 20 percent.

The purpose of guaranteeing some seats for women was to ensure female representation in the male-dominated society where women and girls are still often treated as second-class citizens.

Many worry this is yet another step in restricting women’s rights in a country that has made many strides in this area during the last decade. After the U.S.-led military invasion that toppled the austere Taliban regime 12 years ago, women and girls were given the opportunity to rejoin society. They were given the allocated seats in the country’s legislature to help with the process of integration.

They were also given the right to work outside the home and millions of girls went back to school – privileges they did not have under the Taliban.

But amid reports of possible negotiations with the Taliban and attempts to bring them back into the political fold, the new law makes it clear it isn’t just the Taliban that women need to worry about – it’s their own government.

Human Rights Watch said the decision – one of many similar recent moves by various government bodies – indicated “a broad-based attack on women’s rights.”

“It’s perverse that Afghanistan’s parliament is devoting its time and energies to attacking women’s hard-fought legal protections,” said Brad Adams, the Asia director for HRW. “Afghanistan’s foreign donors should be loud and clear that they won’t stand by while Afghan women’s hard-won rights are swept away.”

Female parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai said that the fact that women kept as many seats as they did was an achievement.

“In the last three years, I should say that [Afghan] women have been lost from the attention of international community and civil society. They are not getting as much support as they had in the past,” she said. “It’s not a good step that the seats were reduced, but on the other hand this 20 percent is still a big deal for us, we risked even losing the 20 percent.”

The latest decision comes after conservatives in the upper house of parliament, Mishrano Jirga, surreptitiously removed a law that stipulated there should be at least 25 percent female representation in the provincial council earlier this year. Female politicians discovered what had happened and fought to have the decision recalled.

Barakzai said women should not take the decrease in seats allocated to them sitting down, and should campaign harder to win the seats independently.

“They should do the work themselves and not wait for others to give it to them,” she added. “It is their job and their duty.”

Some Afghans agreed with the new law and applauded the decision.

Muhammad Moeen Marastial, a former member of parliament, called the reduction “reasonable” and said that it fairly represented the country’s status quo in regards to gender equality.

“It is dependent on our society’s conditions, and for now it is hard for women to work and represent themselves. So because of the current situation the step taken by the parliament is a right decision.” Marastial said. “Also, if you look at the parliaments around the world, you will be able to find they are only 20 to 30 percent made up of women.”

But Marastial added that he believes parliament should do more in the future to give women more opportunities and create more equality between men and women.

Kabul mechanic Mohammad Daoud said he is fine with the lessening of female representation and added that they should reduce male representation as well.

“They should end the parliament and provincial councils all together,” the 42-year-old said. “What have they done for our society? They are useless and just an extra expense for our government.”



USAID announces assistance program for Afghan women

By Karen DeYoung

 Jul. 19, 2013

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced a new $200 million assistance program for Afghan women Thursday, amid fears that gains in women’s rights and development made over the past decade will dissipate after the withdrawal of foreign combat troops next year.

The five-year investment is the largest to date by USAID aimed specifically at advancing women’s interests. The program, called Promote, envisions an additional $200 million in contributions by other international donors.

“We aren’t setting our sights low. We aren’t scaling back our ambitions,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said of the program, which will fund scholarships, investment in women-owned business and organizations that promote them, as well as push for the inclusion of women in the civil service and in elective office.

“Many people ask me and others what will happen to Afghanistan when we complete a military transition,” Shah said in a speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace. “The answer is, it depends. This is a critical moment for Afghanistan and for our partnership in the region.”

Women have made large strides in Afghanistan over the past decade. The country has seen a significant decrease in maternal mortality, from 1,600 per 100,000 births to 327, between 2000 and 2010, according to the World Bank. Prenatal health-care coverage has increased from 6 percent to 39 percent, and institutional deliveries from 7 percent to 43 percent.

During the Taliban rule in the 1990s, girls were virtually prohibited from receiving a formal education; now, about one-third of Afghan girls attend primary school. At least 200,000 Afghan women now have at least a secondary school diploma, some university study or a university degree, according to USAID.

But “extreme forms of discrimination remain part of the day-to-day experience of most Afghan women, and violence against women is common and largely unpunished,” according to a recent Human Rights Watch report. “Half of all girls are still not in school and female literacy remains extremely low. Child marriage and forced marriage are common, with 39 percent of girls married before age 18.”

Many Afghan women have expressed concerns about both the departure of U.S. troops and reports of peace negotiations that could allot the Taliban some measure of political power, particularly in southern Afghanistan, the group’s homeland.

Under the Taliban, women were forbidden to work or leave their homes without wearing a head-to-toe veil and being accompanied by a male relative.

The Afghan constitution, written with U.S. guidance after the Taliban was ousted in late 2001, guarantees the rights of women and minorities, and respect for its provisions is one of the outcomes the United States has deemed necessary for any future negotiations with the Taliban.

“I think there’s a very strong feeling in Kabul these days that the U.S. has stopped caring about what Afghanistan looks like in 2015 or in 2020, that they’ve had enough, they’re tired of it,” Heather Barr, a senior Human Rights Watch researcher in Afghanistan, said in a recent interview with CNN.

Although Afghan President Hamid Karzai has publicly supported women’s rights, activists say his actions are often at odds with his words. Last year, Karzai endorsed a set of religious guidelines calling for full segregation of the sexes and implying that violence against women “can sometimes be justified,” the Human Rights Watch report said.

In May, a parliamentary debate over Karzai’s 2009 presidential decree outlawing violence against women adjourned after 15 minutes of argument and has not been restarted. The law, by most accounts, has been implemented only spottily.

Among other worrisome signs highlighted by activists was the decision this month by an appeals court to release three Afghans convicted of torturing and imprisoning a young girl who had been forced to marry an older man at age 12. The three, relatives of the girl, Sahar Gul, had served only one year of a 15-year sentence.

A proposed revision of Afghanistan’s criminal procedure code, which is before the lower house of parliament, would prohibit relatives from testifying against the accused at trial, effectively preventing women and girls from speaking against their abusers.

Although women are officially welcomed in the police and armed forces, they have reported repeated harassment. Early this month, one of the nation’s most senior female police officers was ambushed and killed as she left her home in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province.

In other actions this month, the lower house of parliament approved revisions in the electoral law that reduced from 25 percent to 20 percent the number of seats guaranteed for female representatives in provincial councils, and Karzai appointed a former Taliban official as one of five commissioners on a newly established human rights body.

The official, Abdul Rahman Hotak, who had worked for the Education Ministry and edited a Taliban newspaper, has said he opposes the anti-violence law.



Christian group asks local Muslims to donate books to women's library in Yemen

By Samer Hijazi

 Jul. 19, 2013

NORTH CAROLINA — A Christian volunteer group is reaching out to southeast Michigan's Muslim community, during the holy month of Ramadan, in an effort to upstart a women's library in Yemen.

Impact International has volunteered at the Arab International Festival in Dearborn for 14 years and returned this year, despite its cancellation, to plant flowers on Warren Ave.  They are currently seeking assistance, in order to aid a developing project in Sana'a, Yemen. A recently opened women's center in the region, received funding to upstart a library, but funding has not been adequate enough to fill the building with literature.

Mike Griffin, president of Impact International, has traveled to Yemen with groups of volunteers for the past 15 years. During a visit there last April for a first aid workshop, he discovered that the Biliques Woman's Center in Sana'a had built a brand new library, but no books were found on its shelves.

"It's a beautiful library, but there are no books.  None whatsoever. They used whatever funding they had to build the facility, but they have no funding for books and aren't getting any foreseeable funding in the future," Griffin told The Arab American News.

Upon learning of the research center's predicament, Griffin and his group offered to assist the center. The center's leaders have provided two lists of recommended books, one in English and one in Arabic, in hopes that Impact International can aid them in, either donating these specified books to the library, or solicit funding, so that the books can be purchased for the library.

The goal of the center and its library is to provide resources to local women in Yemen, who will be using these books for their own purposes.

"This is just a start for the library. There is a lot of room for more books, but they need to start somewhere," Griffin adds. "We hope it will be helping Muslim women, especially in a country like Yemen, which has been going through hard times these last few years. There's a great vision for this women's center, and a great vision for this library."

Established in 1998, and based in North Carolina, Impact International, a non-profit organization, seeks to bridge U.S. and Arab cultures, through service opportunities. The group’s membership includes residents from Louisiana, Georgia, Arizona and South Carolina.  These are just some of the states that have engaged in cross-cultural initiatives with Muslim and Arab communities, in attempts to eliminate barriers and misconceptions.

The group has already established projects in Yemen through their annual visits. Griffin, whose son suffers from Down’s Syndrome, has in turn, used his experience and resources to assist with special needs programs for children in Yemen. The group has met with schools, parents and families, in order to provide special needs children with the proper training and support that they may need.

His efforts in the country have been acknowledged by the local community. Impact International's humanitarian work was even profiled in the Yemen Times. Griffin says that he has visited the country at least 15 times and has toured almost every province.

"I'm just hugely in love with Yemen.  I love the culture and the people.  It's a beautiful country," Griffin added. "I'm hoping that during Ramadan, the Dearborn community could be involved with this project in some way," he added.  

A list of books is available on the group's website at: 

For a direct link to the books needed in English, visit:  

For a list of Arabic books, visit:

To donate any of the specified books, or to send a tax-deductible monetary contribution, via mail, send to:

 Impact International

4509 Hayrick Ct.

Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587



‘Fair Game’ For Locals, Domestics Feel At Home with Expat Families

19 July 2013

Domestics including maids and drivers are not optimistic that sponsors will respect the new labor law passed by the government.

They say sponsors are not abiding by current legislation and are therefore unlikely to implement the new rules.

The Cabinet passed the new labor law earlier this week, which provides an estimated 2 million domestics nine-hour rest a day, one day off, medical leave and one month paid vacation every two years. There are also penalties of up to SR10,000 and a lifetime recruitment ban for employers breaking the law repeatedly.

“We don’t expect maids to be treated differently. What we have seen so far is many laws that are not followed or respected by (sponsors),” said Sa'dia Ebry, an Ethiopian maid working for a Syrian family.

She added that she has worked for several families that have failed to stick to contractual agreements. The families pay the agreed SR800 a month but then ignore other parts of the contract that stipulates an eight-hour working day and one day off.

She said such behavior from sponsors force “many domestic workers to escape or find work with expat families.”

Atef Majdi, an Egyptian guard, said his sponsor, a Saudi property owner, violated their contract because he was initially asked to only work eight hours a day at one building.

“When I started work, I found that I had to work at two buildings. In addition, the building owner ordered me to wash the cars of 32 tenants of one building. This job is really hard and takes between four to six hours a day. In addition, I have to do other tasks,” he said.

“When I was told to supervise the two buildings, I didn’t get a day off. In addition, I was told to serve the owner's family.”

Majdi said it was unlikely the new laws would be implemented because the old ones were not respected.

Mulla Hassan, a Pakistani driver, said his initial job for a Saudi family did not work out because the contract was not honored. He is now happily working for a Swedish engineer.

“When I started working for the Swedish family, I got extra money even though there was no work contract. Furthermore, they respect working hours and don't let me work more than eight hours a day.

“In addition, I was getting two days off a week. They pay my salary even when I'm off for medical reasons. I have never seen Arab families treat their workers like this,” he said.

Mulla said he does not want to work for Arab families because he cannot “trust” them. “I am ready to work with foreign families until the end of my life.”

Mulla said that sponsors violate the law further by holding the passports of their workers.