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Hijab Is A Traditional Head Cover That Dates Back to Ancient Civilizations, And Is Not Supported or Advocated by The Quran

New Age Islam News Bureau

3 Jun 2020

Hijab Is A Traditional Head Cover, Representational Photo


• Concerns Raised Over Jailed Saudi Women's Rights Activist Loujain Al-Hathloul

• Chess Official in Iran Fired Over His Daughter's Hijab

• Iran Debates 'Honour Killings' After Girl's Murder Shocks Country

• Iran’s Women Are Still Struggling for Basic Rights

• Women's Economic Empowerment to Improve Social Status

• Nigerian Woman Brutally Raped, Murdered Inside Church While Studying: Reports

• Persecution, Forced Conversion of Hindu Girls on Rise in Pakistan

• Saudi WomanPsychiatrist,Dr. Haifa Al-Gahtani‘S Pioneering Efforts to Improve Mental Health In KSA

• Arab Women's Organizations Join the UN Chief Urging a Global Ceasefire in the Face Of COVID-19

• Women Have Become A Sizable Economic Force in Mideast — BCG

Turkey’s occupation of Kurdish Afrin targets women, minorities

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Hijab Is A Traditional Head Cover That Dates Back To Ancient Civilizations, And Is Not Supported Or Advocated By The Quran.


The holy Quran and hadith are very clear about the dress code for the believers (Muslim). Innovations and fabrication introduced Hijab (veil) to Islam (submission). Hijab (veil) is a traditional, not religious head cover that dates back to ancient civilizations, and is not supported or advocated by the Quran.

There are all sorts of items of dress which are worn by Muslim women, and these vary all over the world.

The rule of dress for women is modesty; the word hijab (Burqa in Urdu) means cover, screen, or curtain and refers to both a specific form of veil worn by some Muslim women and the modest Islamic style of dress in general.

Muslim women are required to observe the hijab in front of any man they could theoretically marry. This means that hijab is not obligatory in front of the father, brothers, grandfathers, uncles or young children.

"Say to the believing men (Muslims) that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do."

"And also say to the believing women (Muslimat) that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their zeenah (charms, or beauty and ornaments) except what's (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimar (hijab) over their bosoms and not display their decorations except to their husbands, their fathers. And that they should not strike their feet so as to draw attention to their hidden zeenah (ornaments)." (24:31-32)

"O' Prophet Tell your wives and daughters and the believing women that they should draw over themselves their jilbab (outer garments) (when in public); this will be more conducive to their being recognized (as decent women) and not harassed. But God is indeed oft-forgiving, most merciful." (33:59)

"And know that women advanced in years, who no longer feel any sexual desire incur no sin if they discard their thiyab (outer garments), provided they do not aim at a showy display of their zeenah (charms or beauty). But it is better for them to abstain (from this); and God is all-hearing, all-knowing." (24:60)

The above mentioned verses are the one in Qur'an that talk about hijab specifically. However, there's other hadith of prophet Muhammad (peace of blessings of Allah be upon him).


Concerns Raised Over Jailed Saudi Women's Rights Activist Loujain Al-Hathloul

JUNE 2, 2020

CONCERNS have been raised over the safety of jailed Saudi Arabian activist Loujain al-Hathloul: her family has been unable to contact her for three weeks, her sister reported today.

Lina al-Hathloul said that visits to her sister had been banned since March, with the authorities citing the Covid-19 pandemic as a reason to block the visits.

She warned that the last time Ms Hathloul was held incommunicado was when she was being tortured in a Saudi interrogation centre.

LoujainHathoul was detained in April 2018 when Saudi forces kidnapped her, having pulled her over while she was driving between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and took her by plane to Riyadh.

For the first 10 months of her imprisonment the prominent women’s rights activist was not aware of the charges against her. But she has since been accused of being a “traitor” and of “trying to destabilise the kingdom.”

Authorities allege that she had met British diplomats and rights organisations to discuss the situation in the reactionary gulf state.

While in prison she has reported that she has been tortured, including beatings, electrocution and the threat of rape by senior Saudi officials.

The Prisoners of Conscience campaign group has demanded the release of information regarding Ms Hathloul’s safety.

“We demand the Saudi authorities immediately disclose Loujain al-Hathloul’s situation and health condition by allowing her to communicate with her family and to release her immediately without delay or preconditions,” the group said.

“The continued denial of the activist’s right to communicate is legally unacceptable, and we should not forget that her arrest is also invalid, and the crime of torturing her brutally will not be overlooked.”


Chess Official In Iran Fired Over His Daughter's Hijab

June 03, 2020

A chess official in Iran says the Islamic Ministry of Sports has pressured him to resign from all his sports activities because his daughter "had not respected the so-called Islamic dress code".

Former owner of the SepidRoud-i Rasht soccer club, KeyumarsBayat has been the head of Gilan Province Board of Chess for the past twelve years.

His daughter, ShohrehBayat, who is a prominent instructor of referees at the International Chess Federation (FIDE), has been accused of not observing the Islamic hijab at FIDE Women’s World Championship (4-25 January 2020) in Shanghai and Vladivostok. She did not return to Iran after the event.

"If the Ministry of Sports concludes that by eliminating me it will win Iran's Chess Federation's election and installs its nominee at the helm, it will be a golden page in my records of honor that the ministry sees my absence at the election as its political success", Bayat has asserted in a public letter.

Bayat's daughter, Shohreh, is a senior member of the FIDE Referees Committee who, for the first time, was a chief arbiter at the Chess World Cup, in Russia. For a long time, 32-year-old ShohrehBayat was the secretary of the Iranian Chess Federation.

Following her decision to remain abroad and seek asylum in the U.K., Ms.Bayat told the BBC Radio 4 on January 5, 2020, that she feared to return to Iran because she worried about retaliation for protesting Iran’s strict hijab law, which forces women in the country to cover their hair and dress modestly.

While insisting that she had her scarf on at the championship, Bayat immediately asserted, "People should have the right to choose the way they want to dress, it should not be forced".

If I had returned to Iran, Bayat bitterly said, they would have punished me with imprisonment, 75 lashes, and probably invalidating my passport.

"The human rights situation in Iran is catastrophic," Ms.Bayat said, adding, "Iranian women are still fighting to enter the stadiums. Iranian women do not have the right to ride bicycles and even choose their clothing. Iranian women need global support. Life is very hard under daily harassment. I hope Iranian women will be free in the future."

Almost six months after the row over Shohreh'sBayat's loose hijab, her father says that the Islamic Republic authorities are after him.

The only reason behind exerting "political pressure" on me, Bayat insisted in his public letter, is his daughter's decision to stay outside Iran.

Bayat believes that people should not be punished for their relatives' wrong-doings. "Why did God not dismiss Noah as a prophet for his son's thoughts? Perhaps the Ministry of Sports' thinking is beyond divine wisdom," Bayat sarcastically said, while thanking the local sports department for resisting 'injustice' (his dismissal) for twenty days.

Earlier, Iranian women's chess star, MitraHejazipour had also refused to wear a headscarf during the World Championships and went against her opponents without observing the Islamic hijab.

MitraHejazipour, 27, was fired from the Iranian national team in 2020 for "removing her headscarf (hijab) during the World Rapid & Blitz Chess Championship in Moscow". Hejazipour asserted at the time that the hijab is a "limitation, not protection, as official regime propaganda claims. She currently lives in France.

The world's chess prodigy, AlirezaFirouzja has also decided to compete under the FIDE flag after the Islamic Republic Ministry of Sports decided to keep the Chess national team away from the world championship to uphold its "unwritten law" banning Iranian athletes from playing against their Israeli counterparts.


Iran Debates 'Honour Killings' After Girl's Murder Shocks Country


Shabnam von Hein

In late May, a village in northern Iran was the scene of a particularly horrifying crime when 37-year-old Reza Ashrafi beheaded his own daughter in a so-called honor killing. While similar cases are often kept quiet by the family, this one drew widespread attention from both traditional media and social networking platforms.

Romina, the 14-year-old victim, had secretly run away from home with a 29-year-old man who later claimed to have been in love with the child for five years. Romina's family had not given the man permission to marry her, although it would have been legally possible had her father given his consent. The legal age to marry in Iran is 13 for women.

Five days after Romina went missing, police found the couple and brought the girl back to her father. According to media reports, Romina's mother then heard her husband telling Romina to kill herself, saying that otherwise he would do it. However, the mother did nothing to save her daughter. After Romina's brutal murder, relatives organized a funeral service in the name of the "honorable" father.

Despite progress, women still repressed

"The bitter truth is that patriarchal culture is deeply rooted in Iranian society," AsiehAmini, an author and women's rights activist, told DW in an interview.

"It doesn't matter how well-educated Iranian women are or how much they have achieved through their strong status in civil society," said Amini, who fled Iran after the 2009 unrest and now lives in Norway. "In the current political system, men have not only tradition on their side but the law as well."

To the outside world, women in Iran appear to have achieved much when it comes to equality, especially when compared with other countries in the region. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women only recently won the right to drive and have only been allowed to vote since 2015.

In Iran, women have been allowed to drive since 1940 and were given the right to vote and be elected to office in 1963. Half of the university degrees in Iran are held by women, and the number of women who have filed for divorce or have found a mutual agreement to end an unhappy marriage has risen steadily in recent years.

Still not equal to men

But women in Iran and Saudi Arabia have one thing in common: They aren't considered to have the same rights as men, due to laws deriving from sharia, or Islamic law. All important decisions are made by their fathers or husbands, even after death. Iran's Islamic code of criminal law enshrines the principle of retribution. That means that if a girl or woman is the victim of a crime, her father or husband decides whether the perpetrator is punished — frequently with the death sentence — or pardoned.

Romina's case highlights the absurdity of this system, with the perpetrator also being the one who is meant to decide between pardon and punishment. According to Iranian media, before his daughter's murder, Romina's father asked a lawyer what punishment he could expect. The answer: between three and 10 years in prison.

Ashrafi isn't the only father to have used this loophole in the Iranian justice system. According to a study carried out by the Iranian Police Academy, up to 45% of murders committed in several particularly tradition-bound provinces in the west and south of Iran are honor killings.

'Honor is a woman's most important asset'

"In a traditional society, honor is a woman's most important asset," said Iranian journalist MahrokhGholamhosseinpour. "A man whose wife or daughter has lost her honor is rejected, humiliated and ignored by such a society."

Gholamhosseinpour has researched the issue of honor killings in Iran for years. She remembers the case of a girl called Ala, who lived in a village in Khuzestan in southern Iran. According to her mother, she was raped by several men from another tribe while she was looking after sheep. When she was brought back to the village half-dead, it was quickly decided that she had to be done away with.

In many cases, the father or grandfather enlists a brother or a cousin of the "dishonored" girl to carry out the murder. After the crime has been committed, he takes responsibility himself or pardons the killer.

"In most honor killings, there are no complaints by the plaintiff or guardian. And the murderer is quickly released at the agreement of both parties," said Gholamhosseinpour. Romina's elopement or abduction would have probably not resulted in her murder if she and her family had lived in a larger city, said Gholamhosseinpour, who now lives in the US.

Conservative resistance to reform

Romina's fate has deeply shaken Iranian society, and not only on the internet. Almost all of Iran's newspapers reported on the murder, and President Hassan Rouhani ordered his Cabinet to finally introduce the necessary legal reforms to more severely punish violent acts committed in the name of "family honor."

But the president knows that draft laws aimed at protecting women from family violence will be rejected by the conservative justice system. Hard-liners argue that such laws aim to imitate Western values and goals that contradict Islamic principles.

KobraChasali, a member of the influential Women's Social and Cultural Council (WSCC), carries this argument to an extreme. According to Chasali, Islamic values and laws aren't to blame for Romina's death. Rather, it's supporters of the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which, among other things, aspires to establish equality between the sexes worldwide.

The WSCC answers directly to the country's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. For 35 years, the council has tried to establish what it sees as Islamic culture and values in Iranian society and has fought bitterly against the UN's development goals because they call, among other things, for sex education and the equality of boys and girls.

For the conservatives, the answer to the problem of honor killings is simple: having girls marry at as young an age as possible.


Iran’s Women Are Still Struggling for Basic Rights

JUNE 2, 2020

FOR nearly ten years a Parliamentary Bill, aimed at giving women some legal protection in Iran, has been lost in the labyrinthine legal structures of the Islamic Republic. The Bill for the Protection of Women Against Violence originally started its passage in 2011, eventually being sent to the judiciary in 2017 for review by the Rouhani administration.

The contribution of the judiciary was to dilute the Bill significantly, removing 40 of its 91 clauses before sending it to Iran’s judiciary head at the time, SadeqLarijani, for approval.

The amended Bill was now much weaker than the first draft proposed by the government. For one thing, the country’s judiciary has discarded the articles defining “violence” and its different manifestations, including violence at home.

However, it was discovered in 2018 that Larijani had sent the Bill to religious leaders in Qom for further scrutiny.

The fact that this step is not required as part of the formal legislative process makes it clear that the only reason for sending the Bill for further scrutiny was to add to the delay.

A prominent campaigner for human rights in Iran was quoted in 2018 as stating: “The Iranian authorities can take three months to arrest, sentence and execute an individual, but after seven years they still cannot pass legislation to protect women’s lives.”

Human rights and women’s rights activists have argued for the legislation in order to give women some degree of legal protection from domestic violence. They have been demanding that Iranian civil society be engaged in a review of domestic violence and an assessment of women’s needs, allowing individuals and groups working on the issue to have meaningful input into the process.

Campaigners for women rights in Iran have argued for allocation of more resources for the independent study of domestic violence so that the dearth of information and data on the subject is addressed.

They have also demanded that the issues of marginalised women facing domestic violence — such as women from ethnic and religious minorities, refugee and migrant women, women with disabilities and widows — be addressed.

At present Iran’s laws lack the necessary protections against violence toward women and in many respects exacerbate the vulnerabilities of women to domestic abuse. The Civil Code in Iran, for example, forbids a woman from leaving the matrimonial home without the husband’s permission unless she is willing to go to court to prove she is endangered.

This leaves Iranian women deeply vulnerable to violence, including marital rape, especially given the requirement of witnesses, the fact that a female witness’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s and the stipulation that if a woman leaves the marital home, she is not subject to maintenance.

The Civil Code reinforces the rights of men over women in several other ways stating: “In relations between husband and wife, the position of the head of the family is the exclusive right of the husband.” The code goes on to say that, “If the wife refuses to fulfil the duties of a wife without a legitimate excuse, she will not be entitled to the cost of maintenance.”

The rights of women are further diminished by the code’s assertion that “the wife must stay in the dwelling that the husband allots for her unless such a right is reserved to the wife.”

The position of the Civil Code becomes reflected in the day to day realities of life for women in Iran. There have been examples of women dying due to domestic abuse where the perpetrator is not prosecuted because the police do not regard domestic violence as a crime.

The extent of domestic violence is Iran is difficult to estimate, as it is widely underreported. However, a national study undertaken in 2004 indicated that two out of three Iranian women had suffered domestic abuse in marriage. An Iran-based charity reported in 2017 that 32 per cent of women in urban areas had suffered domestic violence and that this figure rose to 63 per cent in rural areas.

Iran remains one of only six nations in the world not to have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, although violence against women is regarded as a crime in other international treaties to which Iran is a signatory, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

A diluted version of the proposed legislation finally reached the Iranian parliament in September 2019.

“A joint task force, composed of the representatives of the judiciary, government, and Majles (parliament) Research Centre have reviewed the Bill and prepared the final version,” a spokesman for the judiciary said during a weekly press briefing in September last year.

The legislation has still not been passed. Whether it would have been enough to save RominaAshrafi is doubtful, given the deeply held conservative views of state officials and law makers in Iran.

Ashrafi had initially fled the family home following her father’s fierce and violent objections to her relationship with the 28-year-old BahmanKhavari, which included repeated threats that he would kill her if she indeed eloped. Ashrafi was then tracked to another address by police who forcibly returned her to the custody of her father, despite her frantic and repeated pleas that he would kill her.

It will take a massive shift in society and attitudes to change the situation for women in Iran. The deeply held conservatism and religious dogma governing the country remains a major impediment to the progress of women and the development of women’s rights.

The death of Ashrafi is the latest dramatic example of how medieval religious laws can play out, even in the 21st century. For women campaigning in Iran passing the Bill for the Protection of Women Against Violence would be small step but at least it would be a step in the right direction.

Ensuring that Iran’s women have the support of those seeking equality and human rights elsewhere in the world is the least we can do.


Women's Economic Empowerment to Improve Social Status


03rd June 2020

ISLAMABAD, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 3rd Jun, 2020 ) :Women's economic empowerment is the major way for womenfolk to improve their social status and urged to encourage such steps from all segments of society especially from family members.

Head of Mehrgarh, (a non-profit organization) Maliha Hashmi, said women empowerment is all about equipping them to be part of decision making at household, social and their career level, adding that women's empowerment is essential for sustainable progress and prosperity of the society.

Another women's rights activist Dr.MominaKhayal said women had always played a vital role in the development of the country. "Women entrepreneurs could bring a huge difference in the country", she commented.

"Educated women with economic empowerment can positively impact the overall society", she told APP.

She said government should focus on promoting products of home based women workers not only to support them but also to bring economic stability at grass root level.


Nigerian Woman Brutally Raped, Murdered Inside Church While Studying: Reports

June 03, 2020

A 22-year-old Nigerian woman was brutally raped and killed after she went inside a church looking for a space to study. The crime has sparked outrage and horror across the African nation, as hundreds demand justice.

Vera UwailaOmozuwa, a microbiology student at the University of Benin, went inside an empty Redeemed Christian Church of God, or RCCG, church in Benin City, southern Nigeria, to get some studying done Wednesday.

Hours later, a church security guard found her unconscious in a pool of blood, her family told local newspapers. She died in a hospital on Saturday afternoon.

Her family said she also had been raped.

A Nigerian police spokesperson said the force would “bring the perpetrators of the callous act to book in the shortest possible time.”

In a statement on Twitter, RCCG said: “As a church we are deeply touched and condemn in absolute terms this evil visited on an innocent girl as we have equally condemn any act of violence and abuse against women.”

In a separate statement, the church’s global leader, Pastor Enoch Adeboye said: “All I can do at this time is to pray for the family of Omozuwa and do everything possible working with relevant authorities to bring the perpetrators to book. I and members of my Family condemn this act strongly and urge everyone to stay calm as we are already looking into the matter and cooperating with the police to establish the facts of the shocking incident. #justiceforuwa”

A Nigerian police spokesperson said the force would “bring the perpetrators of the callous act to book in the shortest possible time.”

In a statement on Twitter, RCCG said: “As a church we are deeply touched and condemn in absolute terms this evil visited on an innocent girl as we have equally condemn any act of violence and abuse against women.”

In a separate statement, the church’s global leader, Pastor Enoch Adeboye said: “All I can do at this time is to pray for the family of Omozuwa and do everything possible working with relevant authorities to bring the perpetrators to book. I and members of my Family condemn this act strongly and urge everyone to stay calm as we are already looking into the matter and cooperating with the police to establish the facts of the shocking incident. #justiceforuwa”

OsaiOjigho, the director for Amnesty International in Nigeria, told The Guardian that Omozuwa’s death “resonates because even in the spaces that women and girls should be safest from gender-based violence, the home, the schools and now places of worship, it is getting there.”

She added: “The method the state has been using over the years, clearly has not moved with the intensity required to deter rapists and potential rapists and to protect women and girls.”


Persecution, Forced Conversion Of Hindu Girls On Rise In Pakistan

02nd June 2020

MIRPUR KHAS (PAKISTAN): The minorities in Pakistan, especially Hindus, continue to face persecution in the hands of state and non-state actors as incidents of violence and forced conversions are on the rise.

On Monday, two incidents of abduction and forced conversion of Hindu girls were reported from Sindh province.

A fifteen-year-old, daughter of Rai Singh Kohli was abducted by armed men in village RaisNehal Khan of MirpurKhas district of Sindh.

When the family members went to file a complaint, they faced harassment by the police. The FIR was registered after the family waited the whole day outside the police station.

On the same day, another Hindu girl, 19-year-old BhagwantiKohli was abducted and forcibly converted to Islam in village Haji Saeed Burgadi in Sindh's MirpurKhas district.

According to the family, Bhagwanti is already married and her conversion to Islam has ruined her life.

Family members of Bhagwanti held a protest and demanded that her daughter should be returned. The abductors have already filed a certificate of her conversion to Islam in the police station.

Hindus and other minorities in Pakistan are facing atrocities in the hands of the Muslims and the government authorities.

In another incident, the Hindu Bheel community was attacked. Men, women and children of the community were brutally beaten and their homes were destroyed in village Barmalio of Tharparkar district of Sindh.

The region is facing severe heat and the families of the minority community are facing difficult times as they have no drinking water, no food, and no shelter.


Saudi Woman Psychiatrist, Dr. Haifa Al-Gahtani ‘S Pioneering Efforts to Improve Mental Health In KSA


June 03, 2020

JEDDAH: A pioneering Saudi psychiatrist has taken on a new challenge in her professional efforts to improve people’s lives.

In 2005, Dr. Haifa Al-Gahtani was the first Saudi woman to specialize in psychiatry through Saudi Aramco’s Physician Development Program. She qualified as a cognitive behavioural therapist three years later.

Now she has become the first Saudi woman to be accredited as a trainer/consultant in cognitive behavioural therapy by the Academy of Cognitive Therapy in Philadelphia. This means that in addition to her role as acting head of the psychiatry department of Arabian Gulf University and running her own clinic at the Renewal and Reward Center in in Safa, Dammam. Al-Gahtani can now help to train and guide a new generation of therapists.

“We have many practitioners of cognitive behavioural therapy in Saudi Arabia, but the number of trainers is quite low,” she said. “My next step is to work on increasing the number of qualified, accredited supervisors.”

While there is an abundance of medical doctors in Saudi Arabia, she added, the number of qualified therapists and mental-health professionals remains comparatively low. Al-Gahtani wants to address this imbalance by improving the quality of training.

“There’s not a set level that you reach and then you stop; there’s always room for improvement,” she said. “I’m working on developing more programs that suit the country’s needs with regards to therapists — specifically a collaborative effort between Arabian Gulf University and the Kingdom to train qualified mental-health professionals in psychotherapy and, particularly, cognitive behavioral therapy.”

Al-Gahtani has helped to train psychologists from the Ministry of Health and at the Renewal and Reward Center, and is also training psychologists as part of the “Mubadara” program, which aims to raise the efficacy of psychological services provided in the Kingdom in the form of practical intensive training.

Yet Al-Gahtani did not initially set out to become a psychiatrist. Although she felt an affinity for the subject at university, she decided to specialize in internal medicine at King Saud University instead. Later, through her scholarship with Aramco, she completed a degree in psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

“Physicians deal with physical ailments when things go wrong, with pain and rashes, tangible things that are seen and examined,” she said. “Psychiatry is more complex, in terms of what humans are suffering from, something you see the impact of rather than the actual thing.

“As an example, with depression and anxiety, or even worse stages of mental illness, you see the effects in that the individual doesn’t eat or sleep, and they lose interest and contact (with others). They become detached and withdrawn because what they’re experiencing is internal, more in the way they think and feel and interact.”

She said that her interest in behavioral therapy stems from the fact that it helps patients to help themselves. They are encouraged to deal with their issues by changing the outcome of situations that have a detrimental effect on their mental stability, going through different reactions and scenarios until they develop a better coping mechanism.

“Part of behavioral therapy deals with oneself having the ability to make a difference in your own life, if you’re guided and provided an opportunity to do things differently, because the only way to change something you’ve been through is to do something completely different,” Al-Gahtani said.

She added that there is still a social stigma surrounding mental health, which she has come up against at times. It affects not only people suffering from mental health issues but also the professionals who help them.

“What surprised me when I chose to first dedicate my study to this field was hearing things not from my family, but mostly people I worked with, who would say, ‘Why do you want with this crazy major? It’s for crazy people. No one will want to marry you,’ which is nonsense,” she said.

Things have started to change, however, since she first noticed such attitudes during her studies 20 years ago. Many students she taught have gone on to pursue careers in the mental health field and attitudes towards mental illness have changed with the arrival of this younger generation, who she described as “very open.”

“That’s the difference I’m interested in: To change the stigma surrounding mental illness and the profession and specialty,” Al-Gahtani said.

“I urge those who are suffering in silence to seek help. There is nothing to be afraid of.”


Arab Women's Organizations Join the UN Chief Urging a Global Ceasefire in the Face Of COVID-19

June 03, 2020

NEW YORK (IDN) – In a joint statement, ninety-one women's organizations from Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Syria and Yemen have joined a global appeal issued by UN Secretary-General AntónioGuterres at the outset of the pandemic.

On March 23, Guterres urged warring parties across the world to lay down their weapons in support of the bigger battle against COVID-19: the common enemy that is now threatening all the humankind.

The COVID-19 global health crisis has posed devastating threats to women and girls in fragile and conflict-affected countries, says the statement. All those living in humanitarian situations face dire circumstances as conflicts have interrupted health services and destroyed health infrastructures. But women and girls are at heightened risk as they often take shelter in crowded places, with limited access to water and sanitation.

Though the challenges in translating international calls for a ceasefire into stable truces on the ground are enormous, women peacebuilders have been at the frontline of the COVID-19 response in their communities. They have been working tirelessly to alleviate the hardships of the pandemic on their already exhausted populations, says the joint statement issued on May 29 by women's organizations.

It was an outcome of an interactive dialogue aimed at capitalizing on the efforts made by women's organizations in conflict-affected countries across the Arab States region to help communities curb the spread of the virus and mitigate its social-economic impacts.

The dialogue aimed at "Silencing the Guns in Times of COVID-19", was organized with support from the UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States.

The women's organization regret that, despite the alarming threats posed by COVID-19 and repeated calls to stop fighting and unite against the deadly pandemic, fighting continues in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Furthermore, the cumulative impact of Israeli occupation continues to cripple Palestine, adds the statement.

"Much of our infrastructure has been destroyed, our health facilities have been continuously targeted, and our livelihoods have been severed as a tool of war. COVID-19 could not have come at a worse time," the statement points out. "A large-scale outbreak of the pandemic in our countries would take our suffering to yet another level," the women's organizations warn.

From the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, the women's organizations which had already been trying to alleviate the hardships of war on their communities took on the additional challenge of helping stop the spread of the virus and assist affected communities.

"Equipped with digital technologies and the belief that we can fight this common enemy only together, we have worked with people in different parts of our countries to spread knowledge about preventive measures and help our inadequate health facilities to provide services," the joint statement emphasizes.

Unless we stand united, COVID-19 will exacerbate ongoing conflicts and may even give rise to new ones, eroding what is left of our social fabrics, it adds. "If we allow this virus to spread further in our war-torn countries, it would ravage us with no regard to our national, ethnic, religious or political differences. It would hit us all, especially the most vulnerable among us, including children and the elderly. So, we need to put our differences aside and fight this common enemy before it is too late."

The women's organizations call for a ceasefire and the immediate implementation of the relevant international resolutions. These, they say, are the first and most essential moves in the battle against this invisible enemy in our region.

"This would not only give us a respite from the fighting and allow humanitarian aid and health services to reach the most vulnerable communities but would also open new channels for dialogue. Instead of spending more money on protracted wars, resources must be immediately redirected to preventing the pandemic from spreading and helping those who suffered most from armed conflict."

"Our drained countries do not need yet another call to fall on deaf ears. We have already missed many opportunities to usher in peace and unity. If heeded, our call would not only allow our communities to have rest from senseless fighting finally. However, it would also show us that we can still put our differences aside and silence our guns in the interest of our collective safety and security. The pandemic has only made the need for us, both men AND women, to finally sit at one table and make peace as urgent as ever."

Earlier, the UN Secretary-General in a Policy Brief on April 9 highlighted "The Impact of COVID-19 on Women". He explored how women and girls' lives are changing in the face of COVID-19 and outlined suggested priority measures to accompany both the immediate response and longer-term recovery efforts.

The paper pointed out that the year 2020, marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, was intended to be ground-breaking for gender equality. Instead, with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, even the limited gains made in the past decades are at risk of being rolled back.

"The pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems which are in turn amplifying the impacts of the pandemic", the UN chief noted.

"Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex."

The COVID-19 pandemic is not just a health issue. It is a profound shock to our societies and economies, and women are at the heart of care and response efforts underway, Guterres said.

As frontline responders, health professionals, community volunteers, transport and logistics managers, scientists and more, women are making critical contributions to address the outbreak every day.

The majority of caregivers, at home and in the communities, are also women. Furthermore, they are at increased risk of infection and loss of livelihood, and existing trends point to less access to sexual and reproductive health and rise in domestic violence during the crisis.


Women Have Become A Sizable Economic Force in Mideast — BCG

June 2, 2020

DUBAI — Women have become a sizable economic force, and the next few years can represent a defining decade for women in wealth, according to a new report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

The report, titled 'Managing the Next Decade of Women's Wealth,' urges wealth managers across the Middle East to personalize their approaches to meet the specific needs and priorities of individual clients, regardless of gender, and identify that the women's segment is a massive business opportunity.

According to the BCG Global Wealth 2019 Market Sizing Database, women's wealth segments in Assets under Management (AuM) are in a favorable position to experience substantial growth in the region during the years ahead.

Most notably, women's wealth in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) amounts to $103 billion and $224 billion, respectively, with wealth projected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 8.3 percent and 5.1 percent up to 2023. This emphasizes the tremendous growth of women's wealth and indicates the potential for the coming decade should the growth of this magnitude persist.

Despite the ongoing economic impacts of COVID-19, future growth is still expected to accelerate — with women's wealth projected to strongly contribute to regional wealth growth over the next several years.

The continued growth is due to the likelihood of the pandemic creating an economic shock, which will see the displacement of output before growth eventually rebounds. In this scenario, annual growth rates will fully absorb the impact — enabling continued growth acceleration.

In the coming period up to 2023, the Middle East will continue to witness robust growth, with a 9 percent CAGR increase forecast by 2023. This will be driven primarily by greater political and economic stability across the region, as well as continuous improvements in healthcare and educational access for women.

Female rates of primary and secondary education participation are now similar to those of males, and women outnumber men at the university level in 15 or 22 Arab countries. In the UAE, women in leadership positions have been increasing by 2.4 percent, while women in entrepreneurial activities and labor force participation in KSA has risen by one percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.

"The opening up of the Middle East is further evidence that expanded access to education and health care can have positive implications for women," said Mustafa Bosca, managing director and partner, BCG.

"Labor force participation, leadership positions, entrepreneurial activities, and economic empowerment all play important roles in economic advancement, which will, in turn, contribute to further growth in women's wealth over the next decade."

Ensuring gender equality in wealth management

With women's wealth in the Middle East already accounting for USD 786 billion and CAGR estimated to rise by a further 9 percent by 2023, BCG projects that the coming decade will be a monumental period for women and wealth. Advisors in this segment have, up to this stage, been late to address in the growing influence and impact of women.

Wealth managers should, therefore, consider two crucial steps to ensure the potential of women is realized.

Firstly, they should create a culture of inclusion — use standardized questions in the onboarding process and establish varied teams to achieve a shifting culture towards being more inclusive and client-focused.

Secondly, they should focus on the individual — adopting a personalized approach that is tailored to their financial objectives and personal goals.

"Examining preconceptions about female investors, moving beyond labels to treat the individual, and adopting an objective-based and evidence-backed advisory approach will enable wealth managers to ensure the full potential of women is realized in the decade ahead," said Bosca.

"A new wealth management model will meet the demands of women and empower them to make their own decisions. By doing so, they will continue to become a more prominent economic force to the point where, half-way through the coming decade, gender equality will no longer be discussed." — SG


Turkey’s occupation of Kurdish Afrin targets women, minorities

JUNE 2, 2020

Shocking scenes similar to ISIS crimes against women were found in the Kurdish area of Afrin in Syria last week. Video captured the moment that women were liberated after being held in a secret prison by a Turkish-backed Syrian group in Afrin. The area has been occupied by Turkey since Ankara’s invasion in January 2018. Turkish-backed Syrian extremist groups have committed widespread human rights abuses, including ethnic cleansing, attacks on the Yazidi minority, and now the kidnapping of women and children.

Turkey, a NATO member, has been accused of systematic human rights abuses throughout areas it runs in northern Syria. It has backed groups labelled “undisciplined” and “jihadi mercenaries” by a US official, which have committed ethnic cleansing in Afrin and also areas near Tel Abyad, which Turkey invaded in October 2019.

More than 300,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been displaced in ethnic cleansing reminiscent of the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s. Turkey has systematically re-settled mostly Arab refugees in Kurdish homes, hoping to stoke tensions between Kurds and Arabs while encouraging the rebel groups it backs to embrace extremist religious ideology that labels Kurds “atheists” and “infidels.”

This is the same language and methodology that ISIS used in its campaign in 2014. Tens of thousands of ISIS members came to Syria through Turkey and many hundreds of them then fled back to Turkey when the US-led coalition and partner forces defeated ISIS in 2019. The jihadist group's leader was found by the US to be hiding within a few kilometers of Turkey in Idlib which Ankara controls.

REPORTS THAT Kurdish and minority Yazidi women are being targeted by Turkish-backed groups in Afrin, conjure up recent memories of the ISIS ideology of kidnapping and enslaving minority women. ISIS enslaved thousands of Yazidi women in 2014 in Sinjar and systematically sold them to be raped, creating a new slave trade. Some 3,000 of them are still missing, kidnapped in Sinjar by ISIS. Some of them were trafficked to Turkey and even to Idlib.

The Kurdish-led autonomous Administration of North and East of Syria has called for an international investigation into the kidnapping of women in Afrin, according to an article by Wladimir van Wilgenburg at Kurdistan 24. According to the television news channel, at least eight women were found in the headquarters of a Turkish-backed militia last week in Afrin.

The militia had taken over the former security office of the Kurdish group that ran the city in northern Syria before 2018. This is symbolic because it shows that these groups have the imprimatur of the state and the government’s support to administer the region on its behalf during the occupation.

According to the reports, the group that held the women illegally in its secret prison is called the Hamas division. Kurds have called on the UN and the international community to investigate the crimes. “Women have fallen victim to various human rights violations, including rape and forced marriages,” the article notes. Other reports assert that the Kurdish population of Afrin, once 90%, has fallen to some 30%. Hundreds of women have been reportedly kidnapped, which appears to be a systematic campaign to kidnap and disappear Kurdish and minority women.

TURKEY'S ROLE in northeast Syria has now been compared to creating a new Gaza. Ironically, Turkey condemns Israel’s treatment of Palestinians while doing worse crimes to Kurds in northern Syria. European countries are currently debating how to look at Turkey’s role: whether to support its occupation or to critique it. Turkey has threatened to use Syrian refugees as a weapon against Europe if they don’t remain quiet.

The abuses of the Hamza unit in Afrin were only revealed because it clashed with other groups including Jaish al-Isla and Ahrar al-Sham. Turkish-backed groups have supported settlers from other parts of Syria taking the homes of Kurds, part of Ankara’s goal to settle more religiously extreme and loyal groups it has armed and remove minorities from Syria.

So far, the UN and other groups devoted to human rights have not documented the recent allegations of systematic kidnapping of women and use of secret prisons to hold them, or what crimes may have been committed against them. One list shows numerous girls in the age range of 13-16, some 20 of whom were kidnapped since January. This list includes women from neighboring areas of Syria, including some kidnapped in Idlib, which Turkey also controls. For instance Manar al-Mahbash, a 14-year-old girl, was reportedly kidnapped on May 10 by Turkish-backed militants.

The end result of kidnapping women is to create a kind of Islamist far-right state similar to ISIS where women cannot walk alone or leave their homes without fear of assault and kidnapping. In addition, the slow ethnic-cleansing of remaining minorities, through harassment and attacks and kidnappings, is part of a larger pattern in the Middle East where far-right Islamist groups have targeted minorities by bombings and intimidation.

DETAILS OF the women saved last week include one woman reportedly named Arin Hassan, a Yazidi who was kidnapped from the village of Kimar by the Hamza Division and held at the “black site” or secret prison. Yazidi activist Nadia Murad, who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for her work fighting against the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, has spoken out about the crimes in Afrin. She was once kidnapped and held by ISIS prior to becoming an activist. “Turkish-backed militias are silently carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Yazidis in Afrin,” she wrote on May 29.

The harrowing video showing women being rescued from the secret prison in Afrin is the tip of the iceberg of the destruction wrought on the once peaceful area of Syria. Turkish-backed groups and the Syrian regime’s allies, such as Hezbollah, have competed to destroy the war-torn country in recent years, while Kurdish groups sought to protect their communities in Afrin and eastern Syria. The Kurds received backing from the US-led coalition up until October last year when their communities were handed over to Russia and the Syrian regime as the US retreated and the Syrian Democratic Forces were forced to agree to a deal.

It appears the ethnic-cleansing in Afrin will continue until there are few minorities left. Shrines of the Yazidi faith have also been destroyed and desecrated, similar to how ISIS destroyed them in Iraq. The targeting of women will also continue, because there are no strong groups to prevent it or any authorities that enforce the protection of women’s rights in Turkish areas of control. Protests in Afrin on May 29 sought to ask the Turkish authorities to rein in the militias they back, but Ankara has no desire to antagonize its allies on the ground.

Harassment and sexual assault on women as a weapon of war is the central human rights violations that the Nobel Prize sought to highlight in 2018. Two years later, little has been done to reinforce that message, as women continue to be disappeared into secret prisons and “black sites” in Afrin.




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