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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 10 May 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Arbitrary Arrests, Heavy Sentences for Women of Baha’i Faith in Iran

New Age Islam News Bureau

10 May 2019

Coptic Christians make up around 12 percent of Egypt's population of 100 million AFP/File



 Debate Rages in Egypt as Christian Women Told To Cover Up

 Pakistan cracks down on Chinese trafficking of women

 ‘Around 85000 Female Doctors Not Working After Getting Medical Education In Pakistan’

 Egypt: Activists Campaign to Raise Awareness Of Female Detainees

 Arab Women Scientists Call Out Gender Discrimination in The Workplace

 US Report Calls Aasia Bibi’s Acquittal a ‘Landmark Decision’

 ‘I See Malala as My Leader’, Says Father Of Young Pakistani Activist Made Famous By Taliban Attackers

 A Database of Expertise: Online Register for the World’s Women Scientists

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Arbitrary Arrests, Heavy Sentences for Women of Baha’i Faith in Iran

May 7, 2019

The Iranian regime continues to make arbitrary arrests and issue heavy sentences for women of Baha’i faith. They are also deprived of having a job or studying for higher education at universities.

Job dismissals

Shahrzad Nazifi, a Baha’i citizen and champion of women’s motocross in Iran, has been deprived along with her family of participating in any competition, after being arrested in November 2018. She is also banned from training others in this field.

Ms. Nazifi’s daughter, Nora Naraghi, who is also a top moto-crosser, has been deprived of any athletic activities along with her mother because of her faith.

Noteworthy, Ms. Nazifi has been deprived of her activities without any official judicial verdict.

Heavy sentences

On Monday, May 6, 2019, a court in Bushehr sentenced Baha’i women Minoo Riazati, Ehteram Sheikhi, Farideh Jaberi and Pooneh Nasheri, to three years in jail, each. The Iranian regime’s security forces have arbitrarily arrested these women for their faith in February 2018.

Arbitrary arrests

A Baha’i woman from Semnan, Yalda Firouzian, was arrested on May 1, 2019, by security forces and transferred to an unknown location. Before her arbitrary arrest, her house was thoroughly ransacked and her personal belongings and electronic device were confiscated.

Higher education ban

A large group of girl students who had passed the college entrance exam 2018 were not admitted to university and were deprived of continuing their education just because of their faith.

Baha’i citizens in Iran are systematically deprived of their human rights while according to article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

Other reports

On May 1, 2019, civil and women’s rights activist, Mojgan Keshavarz, was transferred to the notorious Qarchak prison in Varamin. She is now confined in Ward 7. Ms. Keshavarz was beaten at home in front of her 9-year-old daughter and arrested by security forces.



Debate Rages in Egypt as Christian Women Told To Cover Up

by Farid Farid

10 May 2019

A Coptic priest's comments about women's clothing being too revealing in churches has sparked a heated debate this week among Egyptian Christians, the largest religious minority in the Middle East.

Father Daoud Lamei, a well-known parish priest in an upmarket Cairo suburb with a sizeable social media following, lambasted Christian women for attire that he deemed immodest.

"Why are girls and women even coming to church if they're wearing revealing and inappropriate clothes?" he said in a widely-shared video.

"She who does, will be judged," he added. "I personally think any man, who agrees to his wife leaving her home in that way, will be judged before God."

Lamei made the comments in an April 30 sermon marking Orthodox Easter, which is celebrated by Egypt's Coptic Christian community.

"At least during Christmas we don't have to worry about racy clothes because it's cold... we want it to be cold always," joked the popular priest.

Coptic Christians make up around 12 percent of the conservative country's population of 100 million, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim.

Lamei's remarks sparked a mixed response from women in Egypt, with some criticising his stringent tone while others praised the priest for giving worshippers guidelines.

"He is condemning these women... instead of explaining the appropriate dress code and attitude in church in general -- for everyone," said Sandra Awad, a 22-year-old student who has attended Lamei's church in the past.

But another woman, writing on Facebook, said the priest "spoke with complete respect... so they can wake up and revere the church they're entering."

- 'Cover up' campaign -

The debate comes in the wake of a controversial online campaign calling on Christian women to "cover up, so we people can pray".

A parallel drive urging Egyptian women to cover up for Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, also appeared this week with users drawing similarities between the two in the sexist language employed.

Lamei has denied on social media that he endorsed any online drives and did not respond to AFP's requests for comment.

St Mark's Church in the Heliopolis district, where he delivered the sermon, on May 6 published a link on its Facebook page to the full Easter speech.

The Coptic Church has become increasingly political under the leadership of Pope Tawadros II, an enthusiastic supporter of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

It has also taken on a more active role as the sole representative for Copts in public life as a discriminated minority.

"The clergy are role models for the community who see them as the guardians of their community, its traditions and its faith," said Elizabeth Monier, an expert on Coptic affairs at the University of Cambridge.

"This is strongly the case when a community feels that it is under threat," she told AFP.

The Coptic community has suffered a number of deadly attacks on its churches in recent years, while Egyptian authorities routinely turn a blind eye to sectarian violence involving forced evictions or the shutting down of churches.

"Perceived attacks on Coptic traditions or teachings are likely to lead Copts to rally around their clergy and uphold traditions more strongly," said Monier.

- 'Justify harassment' -

A group of worshippers at a church in Upper Egypt started an online campaign last week urging fellow young women to dress modestly, which was vehemently criticised by Facebook users for its conservative language.

Marianne Sedhom, 28, a lawyer in Alexandria who took issue with Lamei's sermon, told AFP "women in the church need to speak up more against retrograde and male-centric ideas".

Egypt is one of the worst offenders worldwide for sexual harassment -- endured by more than 99 percent of women in the county according to a 2013 United Nations report.

The priest's remarks were dubbed "Christian Salafism" by Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, in reference to the dogmatic school of Sunni Islam.

Ibrahim regarded such rhetoric as hardening attitudes that "justify harassment" towards women.

"There's a crisis in clerical education so clergy end up tying piety to modesty," he said.

Coptic Christians make up around 12 percent of Egypt'spopulation of 100 million

Orthodox Easter is celebrated by Egypt's Coptic Christian community

Egyptian authorities routinely turn a blind eye to sectarian violence involving forced evictions or the shutting down of churches



Pakistan cracks down on Chinese trafficking of women

May 10, 2019

Pakistan has arrested dozens of Chinese men and their agents in a crackdown this week against traffickers targeting young women, mostly belonging to the country's Christian minority.

The arrests were made in various cities of the central province of Punjab since Sunday, Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said on Thursday.

Half a dozen women between the ages of 17 and 25 were also rescued during the operation in Faisalabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi and the capital, Islamabad.

The operation was launched after several Pakistani women were lured by the prospect of marriage with Chinese men, trafficked to China, and forced to become prostitutes there.

Most of the women were rescued by Chinese authorities after the Pakistani embassy in Beijing alerted officials about the trafficking, FIA's Saeed Abbasi told dpa news agency.

"Chinese gangs have been working in a very organised way," said FIA's Tariq Rustam Chohan, who was leading the action in the eastern city of Lahore.

Chohan said at least 30 Chinese citizens and more than a dozen of their local agents had been arrested in Lahore alone.

The Chinese embassy said last month Beijing is cooperating with Pakistan to crack down on unlawful matchmaking centres, saying "both Chinese and Pakistani youths are victims of these illegal agents".

Human Rights Watch has called on China and Pakistan to take action to end bride trafficking, warning in an April 26 statement of "increasing evidence that Pakistani women and girls are at risk of sexual slavery in China".

Last month, a Pakistani news channel spotlighted growing concerns about the issue in Pakistan, claiming it had gained entry to a matchmaking centre in Lahore where poor families would marry their daughters off to Chinese nationals in exchange for money and a visa.

According to an Associated Press report, brokers are aggressively seeking out women for Chinese men, sometimes even cruising outside churches to ask for potential brides.

It said they are being helped by Christian clergy paid to target impoverished parents in their congregation with promises of wealth in exchange for their daughters.

Parents receive several thousand dollars and are told their new sons-in-law are wealthy Christian converts.

There is a growing population of Chinese citizens in Pakistan, fuelled by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $56bn project that is seeing Chinese companies build roads, power plants and industrial zones across the South Asian country.



‘Around 85000 Female Doctors Not Working After Getting Medical Education In Pakistan’

M. Waqar Bhatti

May 9, 2019

KARACHI: There are around 85000 female doctors, who completed their medical education on the expense of state or privately but they are not part of the medical workforce in Pakistan. If only 50 percent of these out-of-profession female doctors are mobilized, 70 percent health issues of people in low-income group communities can be resolved, experts said on Thursday.

“A large number of women in lower income group communities in Pakistan don’t have access to healthcare facilities but there are thousands of out-of-profession female doctors, who can be mobilized to serve these patients through telemedicine. This would not only lower disease burden but would also save thousands of lives in the country”, said Dr. Sara Saeed, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sehat Kahani, a healthcare startup that is employing out-of-profession doctors to serve low-income group communities.

The healthcare organization has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Pakistan Cardiac Society to start educating patients about heart diseases, cholesterol and blood pressure monitoring so that cardiac-care awareness and treatment facilities could be provided to low-income group communities at their door steps.

Dr. Sara maintained that heart problems are no more confined to elite segment of the society as they are now more aware and take care of their health but in the low-income group population and less educated people, hardly anybody knows about cholesterol monitoring, high blood pressure and other risk factors for the heart disease.

In order to provide cardiac-care consultation to these patients who can’t visit cardiologists to their economic and cultural problems, Sehat Kahani has entered into an agreement with Pakistan Cardiac Society, through which female doctors would educate patients about their blood pressure monitoring, cholesterol testing and taking their history while cardiologists associated with Pakistan Cardiac Society would visit these communities regularly to provide free of charge consultation to patients, Dr. Sara informed.

“We have 25 clinics throughout the country of which, six clinics are functioning in Karachi. Through our MoU with Pakistan Cardiac Society, we are going to start heart health education at our clinics, which would later be visited by the cardiologists to provide consultation to heart patients”, she added.

President Pakistan Cardiac Society (PCS) Dr. Feroz Memon said due to awareness and lifestyle modifications, people in other parts of the world were living healthy lives and their rate of having Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD) was reducing while in Pakistan, ratio of people having heart diseases was constantly on the rise, which should be alarming for the nation as well as authorities.

“Lack of awareness among our people is a major risk factor behind causing heart diseases to our people as Pakistani children and youngsters are programmed to have heart diseases, diabetes mellitus and hypertension as compared to other ethnic groups in the world due to their genes. But due to their unhealthy lifestyle, children as young as 12 to 18 years of age are having high blood pressure and diabetes while young man in their late 20s are and early 30s are dying due to heart attacks.

Prof. Memon maintained that there is an urgent need to conduct research and collect data to find out causes and prepare preventive strategies and added that their collaboration with Sehat Kahani would yield positive results and help them in collecting valuable data as well as providing heart health consultation to marginalized segments of the society.

He said “In order to save our future generations, we have decided to promote the culture of research in the area of cardiology and in this regard, HealthRab is help in us for last three years. We hope that this research and data collected by our young researchers would help us in saving thousands of lives annually”, he added.

General Secretary of Pakistan Cardiac Society (PCS) and eminent cardiologist Prof. Ishtiaq Rasool and others also spoke on the occasion.



Egypt: Activists Campaign to Raise Awareness Of Female Detainees

May 9, 2019

Egyptian have launched an online campaign to raise awareness about the plight of female prisoners especially during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Using the Arabic hashtag for Ramadan without her, the online activists seek to draw attention to women in detention through social media posts that provide information about them, the circumstances that surrounded their arrest, and the condition of their detention.

The posts highlight the separation between those detainees and their families during a month where Egyptian families traditionally gather at sunset to break their fast together.

Since the 2013 bloody military coup that ousted the country’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi and led to the rise of his defence minister, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, to the presidency in 2014, Egyptian authorities have launched an unprecedented crackdown on opponents and dissidents.

At least 60,000 Egyptians have been detained “on political grounds” since the coup, according to international watchdog Human Rights Watch. Many of those detained are held in pretrial custody without charge or conviction. Many are serving sentences for violating “draconian” laws, according to Amnesty International, and issued under the coup to impose an effective ban on protests.

Others have been charged with membership to “an outlawed group” and “a terrorist group”, in a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood group which was banned following the coup. Morsi stems from the group.

Human rights organisations have described Egyptian prisons as being severely overcrowded and lacking adequate medical care. Human Rights Watch says that “scores of Egyptians died in government custody” in 2014 alone.

Adding in a 2017 report that officers and personnel at police and National Security stations “routinely torture political detainees with techniques including beatings, electric shocks, stress positions and sometimes rape.”



Arab Women Scientists Call Out Gender Discrimination in The Workplace

9 May 2019

Nadia El-Awady

Nature Middle East contacted Arab women scientists registered with the Request a Woman Scientist platform, to discover the main gender-related challenges they face and how they might be overcome.

25 women (22%) from 12 Arab countries responded from the total 114 who are registered. Their positions ranged from undergraduate students to a university vice president.

Their responses suggest that women face a variety of gender-related challenges common to workplaces around the world. Their voices resonate with frustration and strength.

Below are excerpts from some of the responses we received.

My team, which is 99% female, finds it very difficult to believe they can have a successful career in science. This is because there is a lack of local roles models reflected in the number of women leading departments or research projects.

Women in the Arab world are underrepresented at senior levels. I think it will only change when there are more women in male-dominated fields and in positions of power within the scientific community. Also when prestigious journals highlight the roles of junior and senior women scientists.

Malak Abedalthagafi, Research Professor, Life Science and Environmental Institute, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia

My institution is an excellent place to be a woman in science. My institute might be an exception, but I haven’t faced gender-specific problems. My PhD supervisor is a woman and has fully supported me. The only incident I recall was a colleague who would ‘man-terrupt’ me in meetings or try to dismiss my ideas. At the end of the day, the work speaks for itself and it wasn’t really a challenge. Perhaps I am lucky to be working at my institute.

I think more media attention for women in science in Arab countries would be useful, especially talking about their research, their personal stories, and how they balance their lives. This would encourage more women to pursue a scientific career. There is also a need for more awards and funding for women in science in Arab countries, and for conferences that connect women in science generally and in Arab countries specifically. It is sometimes challenging to reach people in the same field in neighbouring countries.

Laila Ziko, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology, Department of Biology, American University in Cairo

I don’t face challenges that impact my science career and I can overcome them if they appear. I hope that women impose their presence, especially in the field of advanced science, in order to be role models that have an impact on countries that still place obstacles in women’s paths.

Suhad A. Yasin, Lecturer / PhD student in polymer chemistry, University of Duhok, Kurdistan, Iraq

Due to gender inequality, it’s difficult to reach a position of power and leadership. In addition, it’s difficult to find a balance between family life and work. We need more fellowships dedicated to women in order to motivate them, conference organizers should work harder to have better representation from women, and the media should highlight the research of women scientists in the region.

Dima El Safadi, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Public Health, Lebanese University, Lebanon

There is gender inequality everywhere, and sadly in universities as well. The gender-related challenges include lack of recognition for scientific contribution, lack of financial support, unequal pay in the private sector, and unequal opportunities at high-level positions. The gender inequality challenges are not only biased against women, but also men. Female scientists are usually considered easy to manage (not looking for trouble), which gives them a recruitment advantage in some cases. The academic environment is starting to change, with more female scientists working at the university, and I think the working environment is also changing. I have worked with very supportive male colleagues. The new generation is changing but we still have work to do to fight gender inequalities.    

I think Arab women scientists should be supportive of each other. We should not demand change; we should make it happen with our own hands. We should call out gender discrimination against men and women. One of the biggest issues I have faced is having confidence in my work and myself. It took encouragement and recognition from an American professor that I met in a conference in Paris to believe in myself. In my opinion, Arab women need to have confidence in their work and their scientific capacity.

Sara Haddou Amar, Visiting Professor, Industrial and Logistics Engineering, National School of Applied Sciences, Morocco

Since I defended my PhD in 2016, I recruited three master’s students to work with me. Two of them were women. They both told me they won't be able to travel for internships, courses, workshops or conferences because their parents won’t let them. That was very bad news, because we are working on cutting-edge techniques, and international collaborations are mandatory for our project development. The problem is that, in our Arab societies, women are often [considered the responsibility] of men (father, husband, big brother) or other women (mother), even when they are adults.  This is a big challenge for female empowerment. I am aware this is not specific to women in science, but it reflects how the subjugation of women can negatively affect the development of individuals, groups, institutions and the country.

Emna Harigua, Postdoctoral Researcher, Laboratory of Molecular Epidemiology and Experimental Pathology, Institut Pasteur de Tunis, Tunisia

In Qatar, there is a lot of support for women in the education sector. The first woman minister in the Gulf was appointed in Qatar in 2003 for education. Currently, more than 76 per cent of the students at Qatar University are women. Due to their family responsibilities and according to state law, more vacations are possible for women compared to men. However, challenges still exist for women everywhere, regardless of the institution. Long working hours and maintaining a work-life balance in academia is always a struggle.

The higher education sector needs more collaboration between scientists from around the world. I would like to see initiatives and support for young scholars and would like to see STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics] education become more accepted and accepting of young women. This could be achieved through having more emphasis on STEAM education from an early age. Innovation is the key to success and this cannot happen without equal input from everyone in the field. It is a great loss to the sciences if women are shut out and feel silenced through lack of recognition or appreciation.

Mariam Al-Maadeed, Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, Qatar University

Women in my society face community constraints in addition to the lack of solutions that are friendly to working women, especially those with families that need flexibility to care for children. My main challenge is what society thinks is the ‘norm’. A ‘normal’ female has to prioritize her family ahead of everything. Her work should come second, third or tenth after her social obligations. The other challenge is prejudice against women. Some men think we are inferior to them and less smart. We have to work double or triple the hours of men to make a name for ourselves and to get the respect we deserve.

Recognition must start with the family. I was lucky to have a family that celebrated me as a woman and a scientist. Next, recognition is needed at the university where we work. We are rarely celebrated for the work we do with awards or honours. Finally, the media should play a major role in honouring women scientists.

Lubna Tahtamouni, Chair/Associate Professor, Department of Biology and Biotechnology, The Hashemite University, Jordan

The main challenge is getting women involved in open scientific activities, like public lectures and community research activities. In many cases, the gender balance is distorted and men take over, leading the activity.

Suad Sulaiman, Professor of parasitology, Health and Environment Advisor to the Sudanese National Academy of Sciences

The main gender challenge in my conservative country is that a lot of burden is placed on women’s shoulders [in their private/family lives], which delays success in their careers. A study we conducted in Sudan under the UNESCO and SIDA (Swedish International Development Agency) umbrellas concluded that there is no gender gap among female Sudanese scientists in their early career, but this gap widens in higher positions.

Mai Mamoun Ali Hassan, Associate Professor, forest eco-physiology, Forest and Gum Arabic Research Center, Sudan

Throughout my employment at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research over the past two years, I have faced the typical challenges associated with joining and adjusting to any work environment. Thankfully, however, none of these have been gender-related. The challenges I have faced thus far, which mainly manifest in the form of financial, political, and bureaucratic hurdles that ubiquitously hinder progress within research settings in this region and beyond, have no connection to gender. In fact, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research is witnessing the successful and productive reign of its first-ever female director general. Such a progressive appointment may be the underlying driver behind the lack of gender-related challenges I have experienced at the institute.

The lack of recognition for the work of Arab women scientists is preceded by the lack of recognition for the work of Arab scientists in general, both men and women. This can be attributed to at least two issues: an overall lack of awareness among the local general population about the nature of scientific research, and a consequently lacklustre reputation for scientific research activities within and outside the region.

Saja Adel Fakhraldeen, Assistant Research Scientist, Environment and Life Sciences Research Center, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research

I think women that come from the Middle East face lots of obstacles, starting from trying to get a good education. Women struggle to have a well-balanced life, including taking care of children, family or even parents. I believe every woman is strong enough to play many roles, to challenge society with its unfair way of judging, to be smart wives, magnificent mothers and brilliant leaders. They just need to be trusted and supported. Obstacles include unfair distribution of opportunities, duty loads, and restrictions from families for studying and training abroad.

Alshymaa Yusef Hassan, Research Assistant, Zewail City of Science and Technology, Egypt

I wish we were treated simply as scientists and not ‘women scientists’. We never see the term ‘men scientists’. Women have the same abilities as men and should be treated equally. Let us start with removing the label of ‘women scientists’. Sometimes the problem is us, when we are too scared to take initiatives or leadership roles.

Nathalie K. Zgheib, MD, Associate Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology, American University of Beirut, Lebanon

Give Arab women scientists more recognition for the work they do. Women need to believe in themselves and support each other. They also need to be represented fairly at the top of the hierarchy.

Sanaa N. Alhadidi, PhD in ecological entomology, University of Diyala, Iraq

I think the main issue is supporting women’s education. Even though we are in the 21st century, there are still women in Arab countries that cannot read and write. Also, many families think women should stay at home and that there is no need for going to school.

Leena Tarig, medical student, University of Khartoum, Sudan



US Report Calls Aasia Bibi’s Acquittal a ‘Landmark Decision’

Anwar Iqbal

May 10, 2019

WASHINGTON: An official US report calls the Pakistan Supreme Court’s order to release Aasia Bibi a “landmark decision” and notes that Prime Minister Imran Khan and other Pakistani political leaders are also recognising the growing phenomena of false blasphemy accusations.

Read: Supreme Court acquits Aasia Bibi, orders immediate release

The annual report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) also urges Washington to encourage Islamabad to create the National Commission for Minorities’ Rights as mandated by the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision.

The report, which is distributed by the US State Department, was released days before Islamabad announced on Wednesday that Aasia Bibi has moved out of Pakistan to a country where she could not be harmed by religious extremists.

The Supreme Court acquitted Aasia Bibi — a Christian woman and farm labourer — of blasphemy charges in October 2018 after a lower court sentenced her to death in 2010.

“The Supreme Court’s landmark decision criticised the lower court judges and prosecutors for pursuing falsely accused blasphemy cases that did not meet the requirements of Pakistan’s evidentiary rules,” the US report observes.

USCIRF points out that in 2018 “some political leaders, including Prime Minister Khan, began publicly recognising the growing phenomena of false blasphemy accusations being weaponised to strip members of minority communities of their property or employment”.

The report notes that such false accusations were mentioned in the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Aasia Bibi case as well as by the Islamabad High Court in its 2018 judgment on a blasphemy case.

USCIRF also mentions that in March 2018 the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights put forth proposals to punish those ma­­king false blasphemy accusations to the Council on Islamic Ideology. But the report regrets that “few pol­iticians have been willing to call for repealing or amending the blasphemy law for fear of retribution by extremists”.

Commenting on the judgment, the report acknowledges that the SC highlighted “institutional biases” faced by minorities accused of blasphemy, but it also notes that the decision “justified and defen­ded Pakistan’s blasphemy laws”.



‘I See Malala as My Leader’, Says Father Of Young Pakistani Activist Made Famous By Taliban Attackers

May 09, 2019

DUBAI: “For Malala it is not about becoming prime minister of Pakistan but about what contribution she can make to society.”

Those are the words of Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Malala, the young Pakistani activist, Taliban attack survivor and winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

Now studying philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University in the UK, Malala Yousafzai has said before that one day she hopes to become prime minister of Pakistan.

“I can say that she has the wisdom to focus on areas where she can contribute to the nation and to the world in general,” her father said. “But her objective is definitely not simply to have the title of a prime minister. It’s a good wish to have, but not the ultimate one.”

Yousafzai was speaking to Arab News during a visit to Dubai this week to launch his book “Let Her Fly,” which details his daughter’s achievements and ambitions.

“Her entire struggle has been about equality and justice. She has stood for these values, and it is more important than just attaching a label to her name,” Yousafzai said.

“When Malala was growing up, I was her inspiration. Now I am among her millions of followers and I see her as my leader.”

Yousafzai is more than just the proud father of a young woman who became arguably the world’s most celebrated teenager when she survived an attack by Taliban gunmen in 2012. He has been an education activist in Pakistan all his life and is now helping the Malala Fund, which runs education projects around the world.

Yousafzai said that the security situation in Pakistan has improved considerably, but education still leaves much to be desired.

The Malala Fund has helped to set up modern schools in areas where underprivileged girls need better access to education.

“Things are moving in the right direction, but a lot still needs to be done when it comes to providing access to education for all segments of society,” he said.

According to UNESCO, about 262 million children and youth lacked access to education worldwide in 2017.

Recounting the horrific days when Malala battled for her life after the brutal Taliban attack, Yousafzai recalls the support of people around him and the government of Pakistan at the time.

“I was only saying yes to whatever people around me suggested, and I am extremely thankful that they collectively took the right decisions. I was then just the father of a critically injured daughter, and all I wanted was her life to be saved,” he said.

He is also indebted to those who decided to fly her to the UK for treatment — a decision taken after consultation between military doctors and the government. “She may have survived even if we stayed in Pakistan, but a lot of the reconstruction surgery wouldn’t be possible back home.”

Yousafzai said the family had lived happily in the Swat Valley until the terror attacks of 9/11 when the Taliban began to extend its influence, often attacking educational institutions.

“They had neither missiles nor suicide bombers at the time, so they started destroying girls’ schools. They banned women from going to the markets and started controlling the kind of clothes they wore, which was unacceptable,” he said.

The family decided to raise their voices against the violence and, almost by default, became Taliban targets. “They were silencing dissenters one by one, and it was only a matter of time before they attacked one of us.”

This marked the beginning of a struggle that has been detailed in Yousafzai’s book, which is subtitled “A Father’s Journey and the Fight for Equality.”

“Malala was the youngest of them all, but her voice was the loudest,” he said. “Maybe she was attacked because they looked for a soft target, but she was a star in her own right.

“Whenever she appeared on television, she had a certain charisma. She used to speak up for the girls whose rights had been taken away. She was speaking for the 50,000 girls who were being denied education by the Taliban,” he said.

For more than 20 years, Ziauddin Yousafzai has been fighting for equality — first for Malala, and then for young women around the world.

1997 Malala Yousafzai born July 12, 1997, in Mingora in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

2008 Eleven-year-old Malala gives her first speech — ‘How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?’ — to a press club in Peshawar.

2009 Writes for the BBC Urdu blog under the name Gul Makai.

2011 Fourteen-year-old Malala is nominated by South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize. She is also awarded Pakistan’s first National Peace Award for Youth.

2012 Pakistani Taliban target Malala. A gunman fires four shots, hitting her and wounding two friends. She is flown to the UK for treatment.

2013 Addresses UN General Assembly, her first public speech since the shooting, and calls for free universal education. Speaks at Harvard University, meets Queen Elizabeth and US President Barack Obama, and is nominated again for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her autobiography, ‘I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban,’ is published.

2014 Wins the Nobel Peace Prize, shared with Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian children’s rights activist. She becomes the youngest Nobel laureate and the only Pakistani winner of the peace prize.

2015 On her 18th birthday, Malala opens a school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.



A Database of Expertise: Online Register for the World’s Women Scientists

9 May 2019

A global online register is striving to increase the proportion of women scientists in the public sphere.

The Request a Woman Scientist platform was launched in 2018 to connect educational institutions, policy-makers, journalists and industry figures with women scientists across disciplines and geographical regions. In less than a year, it has grown to include more than 7,500 women from 174 scientific disciplines and 133 countries. About 115 women registered in the database work and study in 15 Arab countries.

A recent survey of women in the database found that, among 1,278 respondents, 11 per cent had been contacted since signing up. They were contacted for a variety of reasons, including interview requests from journalists, panel participation, peer reviews, and educational outreach. These engagements resulted in speaking opportunities at conferences and events, in addition to being quoted in the media.

Nature Middle East reached out to all the women affiliated with Arab countries in the database. Among the 22 percent who responded, only one had been previously contacted through the platform. But all are hopeful it will improve their visibility and connectivity to colleagues in their fields.  NME asked the women about the challenges they face in the Arab region and their ideas for solutions.

Saudi epidemiologist, Amani Alqahtani, signed up to the database to learn from senior scientists, particularly on how to face gender challenges in the industry. 

“In Saudi Arabia, we have many brilliant female scientists who are working very hard to get positions. In reality, it is much easier for men to get leadership positions regardless of their comparative skills and qualifications,” she says.

“I’m hoping this will change and women will have equal opportunities to men. Women’s empowerment is a hot topic in Saudi Arabia right now, but I believe it is still just a topic.”

The platform’s founders are hoping to reach out to more women. “Our biggest hope for the future of the database is that it will become so widely known and used that it will be a bookmark on everyone’s browsers,” says neuroscientist, Elizabeth McCullagh, who co-leads the project. 

The database is run entirely by volunteers, but the founders hope to hire someone to improve enrolment from under-represented disciplines and geographical regions.




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