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In Raqqa, an All-Female ISIS Brigade Cracks Down on Local Women

New Age Islam News Bureau

17 Jul 2014

Photo: In Raqqa, an All-Female ISIS Brigade Cracks Down on Local Women


 Women Visitors Accuse Officials in Prophet’s Mosque of Racism

 Child Marriages Double Among Syria Refugees in Jordan

 1.2 Million Saudi Female Graduates Want To Teach?

 Photos surface of ISIS leader Baghdadi’s wife

 City Of Tehran’s Female Workers Fired 'For Own Well-Being'

 Hijabs in AFL Teams' Colours Go On Sale Today

 Mol Seeks Input on Job Program for Women

 Pakistani Rights Advocates Fight Losing Battle to End Child Marriages

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





In Raqqa, an All-Female ISIS Brigade Cracks Down on Local Women

July 17, 2014

Their mandate? To apprehend civilian women who do not follow the organization's strict brand of Sharia law.

Shortly after the Sunni militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) retook control of Raqqa earlier this year, it created the al-Khansaa' Brigade, an all-female unit operating in the city. Its purpose is to apprehend civilian women in Raqqa who do not follow the organization's strict brand of Sharia law, including a mandate that all women be fully covered in public and that they be accompanied by a male chaperone.

"We have established the brigade to raise awareness of our religion among women, and to punish women who do not abide by the law," says Abu Ahmad, an ISIS official in Raqqa. "There are only women in this brigade, and we have given them their own facilities to prevent the mixture of men and women."

He says the organization, which has been pushing further into eastern Syria after taking control of the Iraqi city of Mosul and key points on the Iraq-Syria border last month, needs a female brigade to "raise awareness among women, and arrest and punish women who do not follow the religion correctly. Jihad is not a man-only duty. Women must do their part as well."

The women who join the brigade are either women of Raqqa who wanted to take part in ISIS's activities there, or, often, the wives of mujahedeen who have come to fight from other parts of Syria or the region.

Though women are assuming new, more powerful roles across Syria – the U.N. now estimates that one in four displaced families in Syria has a female head – residents here say that any "girl power" wrought by the brigade is mitigated by the harsher restrictions they have been tasked with imposing on Raqqa's women.

"ISIS created it to terrorize women," says Abu al-Hamza, a local media activist. He says the brigade raided the city's Hamida Taher Girls School and arrested 10 students, two teachers and a secretary on the grounds that some of them were wearing veils that were too thin. Others were accused of wearing hair clips under the veil, pinning them in a way that showed too much of their faces.

Al-Hamza says that the women subsequently spent six hours in an ISIS detention center, where they were whipped. "After arresting those women and girls," continues al-Hamza, "they took them to ISIS prisons and locked them in for six hours and punished some of them with 30 whips each."

Zainab is a local teen who was arrested by female members of ISIS four months ago.

"I was walking down the street when a car suddenly stopped and a group of armed women got out," she says. "They insulted me and yelled at me. They took me to one of their centers and kept me locked in a room. Nobody talked to me or told me the reason for my detention. One of the women in the brigade came over, pointing her firearm at me. She then tested my knowledge of prayer, fasting and hijab."

The fighter told Zainab she had been arrested because she had been walking alone, without an escort, and because her hijab was not worn properly. "You should be punished for taking your religion lightly," she told Zainab, before threatening harsher punishment should she be arrested again.

Two hours later, she was released. But for Zainab – and other women here – the message was clear.

"The brigade has created fear among the women and girls of Raqqa," she says. "We've seen how they move, always watching women on the street, raiding schools, arresting students and locking them in for hours."



Women visitors accuse officials in Prophet’s Mosque of racism

July 17, 2014

MADINAH — Several Arab women visitors to the Prophet's Mosque here have alleged that they have been racially discriminated against by Saudi women guards.

They claimed that they were being forced to vacate their places for Saudi women and were not allowed to stay more than a few minutes in Al-Rawdah Al-Sharif [the spot between the dais and the room of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)].

Local daily Al-Bilad this week quoted a number of Arab women visitors as saying that it was unfair to designate special places for Saudi and Gulf women inside the mosque.

They said sitting in the mosque should be done on a first-come, first-served basis without any consideration for race or nationality.

Zainab Abdul Fadeel, an Egyptian pilgrim, said she and her other compatriots ululated when they first set foot on Al-Rawdah as a sign of joy.

She said: “The Saudi woman supervisor strongly reprimanded us and told us that this was not a wedding palace.

“We were only expressing joy. In my country when you are happy you make trills of joy. We meant no harm.”

Abdul Fadeel was angry that the Saudi woman supervisor did not guide them quietly or advise them politely.

“The supervisor was harsh and callous with us because we were foreigners,” she said.

She added that they were all evicted and ushered out to the extension in the western side of the mosque after only performing two rakats (complete cycle of any given prayer) at the Rawdah.

Abdul Fadeel said women pilgrims were classified according to their countries.

"Every group of women visitors from the same nationality were put together," she said, questioning why the Saudi and Gulf women were kept together while the other women were grouped according to their countries.

She said it was better to leave all the women visitors to freely mix with other visitors.

"We are all Muslims. There is no reason for this racial discrimination," she said.

Huda Bint Ismael, a Moroccan woman from the city of Fez, said she was hurt when she heard a supervisor saying that all Saudi women should go to one side while all foreign women should go another side.

"I was shocked by this flagrant disparity. Is the mosque not for all Muslims?" she questioned.

Bint Ismael said she should not be forced to leave Al-Rawdah after a short time, especially as she was coming from a distant place once in her lifetime.

"With their bad treatment, these supervisors are killing the spirituality we came looking for at the Prophet's Mosque," she said.

Salma Abu Qrait, from Algeria, said she was surprised to see security men at the women's section closely scrutinizing their faces. "Many of us quickly covered our faces," she said.

Abu Qrait said women supervisors should replace the men in these areas.

She also objected to the grouping of the women visitors according to their nationalities. "This does not happen in the Grand Mosque in Makkah," she said.

Khadijah Abdul Hameed, a Turk, asked why Saudi men were allowed to mix with male visitors from other countries while women are only grouped with their compatriots.

"What is the problem if I prayed between two women, one from Indonesia and another from Nigeria?" she questioned.

Zahida Ammar, from Palestine, said she was an old lady and was visiting the Prophet's Mosque for the first time in her life.

She said: “I wished so much that I had spent more time in Al-Rawdah to pray and recite the Holy Qur'an.

“This simple dream was not realized because the Saudi women supervisors kicked me out only after a short stay there.”

Ammar said she waited for an hour at the gate to be allowed entry into the Prophet's Mosque but was allowed to stay only for five minutes in Al-Rawdah before being asked to leave.

"I pleaded with the Saudi woman supervisor to give me time to offer two more rakats at Al-Rawdah but she refused and asked me to leave immediately," she said.

Sheikh Abdul Wahid Al-Hattab, director of information and public relations at the Presidency of the Affairs of the Prophet's Mosque, said the women visitors had to be evicted quickly from Al-Rawdah to give other women an opportunity to pray.

He said the Prophet's room and Al-Rawdah is open three times daily for women during Ramadan: after Fajr, Dhuhr and taraweeh prayers.

"These visitation times will be cut down to two only in the last 10 days of Ramadan: after Dhuhr and Asr prayers," he said.

Al-Hattab said there was no racial discrimination or social disparity and grouping women according to their nationalities was done to facilitate smoother movement.

He said: “We are organizing the entry of women to the mosque to avoid stampedes.

“It is a lot easy to make them enter according to their country or nationality.”

Hattab said the supervisors would be able to address women visitors in their own language if they are grouped according to nationality.

“It is true that the Saudi and GCC women are grouped together.

“This is just like grouping pilgrims who are on Haj.

“It is practical and will not result in any problems between the visitors.”

Hattab denied Saudi or GCC women visitors received any preferential treatment.

“We treat the Saudi visitors exactly like other visitors. This is why we group them together.”

Hattab denied supervisors treated the visitors harshly.

He said they receive intensive training courses on etiquette organized in collaboration with Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah and King Saud University in Riyadh.

Hattab said it was not Islamic to ululate inside the Prophet's Mosque.

"The place has its sanctity, which has to be respected," he said.



Child marriages double among Syria refugees in Jordan

July 17, 2014

The number of child marriages has doubled among Syrian refugee girls in Jordan because of poverty and fear of sexual violence, international agencies said on Wednesday.

Save the Children, in a report, "Too Young to Wed," said children marrying in Syria before the country's conflict erupted in 2011 accounted for 13 percent of all marriages.

But "early and forced marriage among Syrian refugee girls in Jordan has doubled since the onset of war," according to the report.

It said 48 percent of them were forced into unions with men at least 10 years their senior.

"Child marriage is devastating for those girls concerned," said Saba al-Mobaslat, Save the Children's country director in Jordan.

"Girls who marry before 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence than their peers who marry later, and they have much more limited access to sexual and reproductive health, putting their young bodies at extreme risk if and when they become pregnant."

Figures from the UN children's agency UNICEF show that among Syrian refugees in Jordan, the rate of child marriages rose from 18 percent of all marriages in 2012, to 25 percent in 2013.

Latest figures show this rate jumped to 32 percent in the first quarter of 2014, UNICEF said on Wednesday.

Jordan, home to more than 600,000 Syrian refugees, allows girls under the age of 18 to marry with court approval.

Government figures show that 735 marriages of Syrian girls under 18 were registered in 2013, compared to 42 in 2011.

"As refugees, Syrian families are reliant on dwindling resources and lacking economic opportunities," said the Save The Children report.

"At the same time, they are all too aware of the need to protect their daughters from the threat of sexual violence," it said.

"Given these pressures, some families consider child marriage to be the best way to protect their female children and ease family resources."

UNICEF's Jordan representative, Robert Jenkins, likewise warned that girls who marry before 18 are at increased risk of abuse and of medical complications during pregnancy.

"They also have more limited economic opportunities due to loss of schooling and can get trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty," he said.

Mobaslat said the repercussions of forced marriage can be physical as well as mental -- and even fatal.

"The consequences for girls' health of engaging in sexual activity while their bodies are still developing are devastating: girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than fully-grown women," he said.



1.2 million Saudi female graduates want to teach?

July 17, 2014

RIYADH –  Director of the Human Resources Development Fund (Hadaf) Ibrahim Al-Me’aiqil has said that it is impossible for any country in the world to employ over 1.2 million female job seekers in one field i.e. education, according to a report published in Arabic language daily Al-Hayat on Wednesday.

He was responding to the wishes of female Saudi job seekers on the list of Hafiz Program (Arabic for “incentive”), a Ministry of Labor program that supports the unemployed and helps them gain employment. He said unemployment among female graduates is increasing because all of them want jobs in the education sector because of “social pressure and interference in an individual’s job decision.”

Al-Me’aiqil’s observations were confirmed when the National Center for Assessment in Higher Education (Qiyas) conducted an occupational aptitude test, the results of which were announced at a press conference here early Tuesday.

The Qiyas survey showed that 27 percent of Saudi nationals, who took the test, prefer jobs in education and other social fields like journalism and culture. Qiyas, which was established in 2000 to perform standardized tests to measure students’ achievements applying for undergraduate study, surveyed 6,346 Saudi males and females.

A film on the test results showed that 54 percent of those who were surveyed hailed from Riyadh and Makkah regions. About 51 percent of them were students. The aptitude test indicated that only 13 percent showed inclination for professions like law and finance.

Al-Me’aiqil said the Qiyas project aims at receiving more observations on the occupational interests with the objective of developing the labor market.



Photos surface of ISIS leader Baghdadi’s wife

17 July 2014

Photos of the wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, have surfaced online, offering a glimpse into the private life of the so-called 'caliph.'

Knowledge of Saja Hamid al-Dulaimi came to the fore shortly after the release in March of a group of nuns who were kidnapped months earlier in the historic Syrian town of Maaloulah.

An online video at the time of the release showed the nuns being transported by masked gunmen waving the banner of the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate. Activists said the nuns were freed in exchange for the release of women prisoners held by President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

According to media reports, Dulaimi’s identity was first revealed by Abu Maan al-Suri, a Nusra Front member who said Baghdadi’s wife had been among the detained female prisoners who were released.

Dulaimi, according to al-Suri, had been detained alongside her two sons and smaller brother.

Details about her early life are sketchy.

Dulaimi’s first husband was an Iraqi named Fallah Ismail Jassem, a leading member of the Rashideen Army who was gunned down by the Iraqi army in the province of Anbar in 2010, according to media reports.

There are also unconfirmed reports that suggest Saja al-Dulaimi may have worked as a hair dresser. Others say she may have worked as a seamstress in Anbar province and Al-Amryiah in Baghdad.

Dulaimi’s family allegedly all adhere to the ideology of ISIS, including her father Ibrahim Dulaimi, a so-called ISIS “emir” in Syria who was reportedly killed in September 2013 during an operation against the Syrian army in Deir Attiyeh.

Her sister, Duaa, was allegedly behind a suicide attack that targeted a Kurdish gathering in Arbil, according to some reports.



City Of Tehran’s Female Workers Fired 'For Own Well-Being'

Arash Karami

July 17, 2014

A number of female employees were recently fired by the Tehran municipality, reportedly for their own “well-being.” Both the sudden decision and its motivation shocked many at the Tehran City Council and officials managing women’s affairs in the administration of President Hassan Rouhani.

Farzad Khalafi, media affairs deputy for the Tehran municipality, told Iranian Labour News Agency July 13, “Secretarial work and office management is time consuming and lengthy, and for the comfort and well-being of women, this decision was adopted that the office manager and secretary be a gentleman.”

Khalafi continued, “The officials at the municipality may be at work until night and visit various projects, and this needs the presence of the office manager. In this case, it’s possible that women would be inconvenienced and strained and not be able to take care of their lives and family, and it’s possible there would be a disruption in their life.”

He added that there are many other women employed by the city and there is no plan to fire them.

Khalafi also said that there was no specific directive for the firing of the female workers and that the decision had been made in a meeting. Shahindokth Molaverdi, Rouhani’s vice president for Women and Family Affairs, told Reformist Etemaad that there was indeed a directive by the municipality to fire the female employees. She said that it “has not yet been implemented and no one has been fired.” Etemaad did not clarify whether it had interviewed her before the firings or if she had simply been unaware of them.

Molaverdi added, “On this issue, we gave the mayor a serious warning. We are hopeful they prevent this.”

Ali Saberi, a Reformist member of Tehran City Council, called the decision and the reasoning behind the firings a “strange act,” adding, “I implore you that whatever is done should be done based on expertise.”

Shahrbanou Amani, a former parliamentarian and current adviser for women’s affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency, criticized the move to fire female employees. She said it wasn’t clear why the decision was made but that setting limitations for women in the workplace would not help address the issue of men’s unemployment.

According Etemaad, the three women on Tehran’s City Council have not yet responded to the recent firings.

There have also been rumours that Tehran municipality would separate men and women in its offices. Khalafi told ILNA that he had “no information” on that topic.

Tehran City Council member Gholamreza Ansari said on the issue of segregation, “In a situation where a worker has no choice but to work two shifts for the financial security of one’s family, these limitations will have negative consequences and will cause corruption, bribery and fraud.”

Ansari went on, “These kinds of actions have high costs and are only propaganda … and have no relation to the spirit of our religion and ethics. Separating the sexes has been tested many times in various places, such as our universities, and it has not been successful.”



Hijabs In AFL Teams' Colours Go On Sale Today

July 17, 2014

Echoing the message of this weekend’s multicultural round – 'Many Cultures, One Game’ – the AFL has approved a new range of football-themed Hijabs, which go on sale today.

The head scarves are the idea of designer Shanaaz Copeland, who has been making Hijabs in AFL colours for her football-loving children and friends for years. Deciding there was a wider market for her scarves; the fashion designer presented the novelty to the AFL in 2011, with the hope of empowering Muslim women and girls and helping to break down barriers.

“When you go to the footy, it's not about who you are,” Copeland explained. “It's about people embracing one another and just enjoying their sport together.”

Richmond Tiger’s midfielder and AFL Multicultural Amabassador Bachar Houli told media the move was hugely important for Muslim women who love their football as much as any fan.

“There are so many Muslims who attend the footy, but at times don’t feel like they are part of supporting their team,’’ he said.

“This is a fantastic thing, because now they can wear their football team colours on their scarf, feel like they are part of the game.’’

The 'Unity Sports Wrap' is available in each of the 18 AFL teams’ colours, and can be worn as a neck scarf, headscarf or wrap. The garment retails for $49.95.



MoL seeks input on job program for women

July 17, 2014

The Ministry of Labor has called for public input on its expanded employment program for women at shops catering to women and families.

Members of the public can provide their views on the ministry's Maan website set up specifically to get a broad range of opinion on its new labor laws.

The new expanded program is expected to create thousands of jobs for Saudi women. The ministry has already feminized shops selling lingerie. The ministry has proposed in its draft document that owners of these shops would not need permits to hire Saudi women. However, these shops must only cater to women and families, have seating for employees and places to rest and pray.

Other proposed stipulations include the prohibition on women working before 9 a.m. and after 11 p.m., and a ban on men and women working together in the same shop.

Penalties for those who fail to comply include fines of between SR2,000 and SR5,000. There would also be a ban on owners employing foreign workers, renewing the visas of their current staff and transferring the sponsorship of others.

First time violators would not be able to get aid from the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) for three years, while repeat offenders would not get aid for five years.



Pakistani Rights Advocates Fight Losing Battle to End Child Marriages

Inter Press Service

July 17, 2014

LAHORE,(IPS) - At first glance, there is nothing very unusual about Muhammad Asif Umrani. A resident of Rojhan city located in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province, he is expectantly awaiting the birth of his first child, barely a year after his wedding day.

A few minutes of conversation, however, reveal a far more complex story: Umrani is just 14 years old, preparing for fatherhood while still a child himself. His ‘wife’, now visibly pregnant, is even younger than he, though she declined to disclose her name and real age.

The young couple sees nothing out of the ordinary about their circumstances; here in the Rajanpur district of Punjab, early marriages are the norm.

[pullquote]3[/pullquote]Umrani’s father, a small-scale farmer, tells IPS he is “proud” to have married his son off and “brought home a daughter-in-law to serve the family.”

Similar sentiments echo all around this country of 180 million people where, according to the latest figures released by the Pakistan Demographic Health Survey (2012-2013), 35.2 percent of currently married women between 25 and 49 years of age were wed before they were 18.

According to the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, seven percent of all boys are married before the legal age in Pakistan.

Families like Umrani’s are either blissfully unaware of, or completely indifferent towards, domestic laws governing childhood unions.

Intazar Medhi, a lawyer based in Lahore, tells IPS that the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 – which prohibits girls under the age of 16 and boys under the age of 18 from being legally wed – is one of the least invoked laws in the country.

While the Act is in force in every province, and was recently amended by the government of Sindh to increase the legal marriage age of both boys and girls to 18, it is hardly a deterrent to the deeply embedded cultural practice.

For one thing, violators are fined a maximum of 1,000 rupees (about 10 dollars), what many experts have called a “trifling sum”; and for another, the law doesn’t extend to the many thousands of ‘unofficial’ marriage ceremonies that take place around the country every day.

In a country where 97 percent of the population identifies as Muslim, few nikahs (marriage agreements under Islamic law) are registered with an official state authority.

Scores of married couples live together for years without any documentary evidence of their union, with many families preferring to avoid legal formalities.

It is thus nearly impossible for government officials to estimate just how many such ‘illegal’ unions are taking place, or to dissolve contracts that entail nothing more than the presence of a religious person and witnesses for the bride and groom.

Some advocates like Intezar believe the problem can be rectified by following the example of the Sindh province, whose amendment of the 1929 Act upped its punitive power to include a three-year non-bailable prison term and a 450-d0llar fine for offenders.

He thinks setting 16 as the official marriage age – the same age at which Pakistanis receive their Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) – will make it easier for law enforcement officials to take action against those responsible for marrying off young children.

The government, he says, must also take steps to ensure timely birth registrations as millions spend lifetimes without any documentary proof of their existence.

Tradition trumps law enforcement

But for Sher Ali, a social activist based in the same city as Umrani’s family, a single law will not suffice to clamp down on a centuries-old practice that serves multiple purposes within traditional Pakistani society.

For instance, he tells IPS, girls in rural areas are often given in marriage in order to settle disputes, or debts. Some are even ‘promised’ to a rival before they are born, making them destined to a life of servitude for their husband’s family.

Various tribes also have different standards for determining an appropriate marriage age. For example, Sher explained, in some regions like the Southern Punjab, a girl is deemed ready for marriage and motherhood the day she can lift a full pitcher of water and carry it on her head.

In a country where the annual per capita income hovers at close to 1,415 dollars and 63 percent of the population lives in rural areas, girls are considered a burden and cash-strapped families try to get rid of them as early as possible.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to ending child marriages is the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), an unofficial parliamentary advisor, which also wields tremendous power to influence public opinion.

When the Sindh government announced its plans to extend the marriage age, CII Chairman Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani denounced the move as an effort to “please the international community [by going] against Islamic teachings and practices."

Comprised of prominent religious scholars, the Council has repeatedly urged the parliament to refrain from setting a “minimum marriage age”. Though parliament is not legally bound to any suggestions made by the body, many allege that the extent of its political power renders any ‘advice’ a de facto order.

Indeed, repeated assertions by religious groups that puberty sanctions marriage has led to a situation in which girls between eight and 12 years, and boys in the 12-15 age bracket, find themselves husbands and wives, while their peers are still in middle-school.

Speaking to IPS over the phone from Malaysia, Dr. Javed Ahmed Ghamidi – who is known as a moderate and had to leave the country after receiving several death threats from extremists – said that since Islam does not specify an exact marriage age, it is up to the government to draft necessary laws to protect the rights of its citizens.

He fully supports the implementation of a law that only allows legal unions between people who are old enough to run a household and bring up children.

“Such laws are not at all in conflict with the teachings of the religion,” he insisted.

Qamar Naseem, programme coordinator of Blue Veins, an organisation working to eliminate child marriages, pointed out that such a law is not only a domestic duty but also an international obligation, since the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution against child, early and forced marriages in 2013.

Supported by over 100 of the world body’s 193 members, the resolution recognises child marriage as a human rights violation and vows to eliminate the practice, in line with the organisation’s post-2015 global development agenda.

Various studies have documented the impact of child marriage on Pakistani society, including young girls’ increased vulnerability to medical conditions like fistula, and a massive exodus from formal education.

Experts say Pakistan has the highest school dropout rate in the world, with 35,000 pupils leaving primary education every single year, largely as a result of early marriages.

Slowly, thanks in large part to the tireless work of activists, the tide is turning, with more people becoming aware of the dangers of early marriages.

But according to Arshad Mahmood, director of advocacy and child rights governance at Save the Children-Pakistan, much more needs to be done.

He told IPS there is an urgent need for training and education of nikah registrars, police officers, members of the judiciary and media personnel at the district level in order to discourage child marriages.

Effective laws must be coupled with the necessary budgetary allocation to allow for implementation and enforcement, he added.

People will have to be informed that child marriages are the main reason behind high maternal and newborn mortality ratios in Pakistan,” he concluded.

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