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Indian-Born Saleha Jabeen First Female Muslim Chaplain to Graduate from the US Military's Chaplain Course

New Age Islam News Bureau

18 February 2021

• ‘Next Time, There Would Be No Mistake’: Taliban Militant Threatens Malala Yousafzai on Twitter

• Muslim Groups Canvass for Hijab Wearing In Kwara Schools in Nigeria

• 'Historic Reforms to Empower Women Have Put Saudi Arabia On Top Of Global List'

• Sopko Emphasizes Importance of US Support to Afghan Women

• The Untold Tragedy of Iraq's Shia Turkmen Women Enslaved By Islamic State

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Indian-Born Saleha Jabeen First Female Muslim Chaplain to Graduate from the US Military's Chaplain Course


Saleha Jabeen first female Muslim chaplain


FEB 18, 2021

Saleha Jabeen, US military's first India-born female Muslim chaplain, has graduated from Air Force Basic Chaplain Course, vowing to take her duty as a spiritual mentor very seriously.

The historic graduation ceremony was held on February 5, an official statement said on Wednesday.

Jabeen said she was grateful for the opportunity and aware of the responsibility that she has to set an example and show that there is a place in the military for anyone who wants to serve.

"I did not have to compromise on any of my religious beliefs or convictions. I am surrounded with people who respect me and are willing to receive what I bring to the table as a woman, a faith leader, and an immigrant,” she said.

"I am provided with numerous opportunities to learn and develop skills that best equip me to be a successful officer and a chaplain in a pluralistic environment,” Jabeen said.

Jabeen was commissioned in December as a Second Lieutenant at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, becoming the first female Muslim chaplain in the Department of the Defense. She came to the United States 14 years ago as an international student.

"I get to provide spiritual care to all service members, guardians and families and advise the commanders on religious and moral matters regardless of my faith, ethnicity or gender. Like our boss says, it has never been a better time to serve as a chaplain in the US Air Force Chaplain Corps,” she said.

Capt. John Richardson, Air Force Chaplain Corps College staff chaplain, said that his goal is to create chaplains who are ready to provide front-line ministry upon graduation.

"They are trained to lead the units they serve spiritually. The bottom line is to care for Airmen - every single Airman. When they care for Airmen in a professional way, every other aspect of our calling falls into place: advising leaders and providing for the religious needs of our force,” Richardson said.

Capt. Mara Title, Air Force Chaplain Corps College staff chaplain, said Jabeen’s addition to the chaplain corps will be of great benefit to everyone.

"The Air Force Chaplain Corps endeavors to promote diversity in all respects,” Title said.

"Chaplain Saleha Jabeen’s presence enables an even broader scope of spiritual care for our Airmen, and for this we are very grateful. She is as determined to take on the role of chaplain as she is kind, caring and compassionate. We are thrilled to have had the opportunity for her to graduate with the class of BCC 21A,” she said.

Jabeen said she was passionate about her role as a chaplain, and takes her duty as a spiritual mentor very seriously.

"We all have a purpose that is specifically meant for us to fulfill,” she said.

"We must listen to our heart and follow our conviction. It is important to have people in our lives who model that for us. Choose that kind of mentorship and choose good companionship. I just want people to remember that God, or higher power or the values that people uphold, remind us that we all are created with a plan: to become the best versions of ourselves,” she said.


‘Next Time, There Would Be No Mistake’: Taliban Militant Threatens Malala Yousafzai on Twitter


Malala Yousafzai


February 18, 2021

A Pakistani Taliban militant who nine years ago is alleged to have shot and badly wounded Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai has threatened a second attempt on her life, tweeting that next time, “there would be no mistake.” Twitter on Wednesday permanently suspended the account with the menacing post.

The threat prompted Yousafzai to tweet herself, asking both the Pakistan military and Prime Minister Imran Khan to explain how her alleged shooter, Ehsanullah Ehsan, had escaped from government custody.

Ehsan was arrested in 2017, but escaped in January 2020 from a so-called safe house where he was being held by Pakistan’s intelligence agency. The circumstances of both his arrest and escape have been shrouded in mystery and controversy.

Since his escape, Ehsan has been interviewed and has communicated with Pakistani journalists via the same Twitter account that carried the Urdu-language threat. He has had more than one Twitter account, all of which have been suspended.

The government is investigating the threat and had immediately asked Twitter to shut down the account, said Raoof Hasan, an adviser to the prime minister.

Ehsan, a longtime member of the Pakistani Taliban or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan as they are known, urged Yousafzai to “come back home because we have a score to settle with you and your father.” The tweet added that “this time there will be no mistake.” Yousafzai, who has setup a fund that promotes education for girls worldwide and even financed a girls’ school in her home in the Swat Valley, called out the government and the military over Ehsan’s tweet.

“This is the ex-spokesperson of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan who claims the attack on me and many innocent people. He is now threatening people on social media,” she tweeted. “How did he escape?” Associated Press queries to the military were unanswered.

The charges against Ehsan include a horrific 2014 attack on a Pakistani army’s public school that killed 134, mostly children, some as young as five years old.

He also claimed responsibility for the 2012 shooting of Yousafzai in Swat Valley. In the attack, the gunman walked up to Yousafzai on a school bus in which she was travelling, asked for her by name and then fired three bullets. She was just 15 years old at the time and had enraged the Taliban with her campaign for girls education.

Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a teacher, ran a school in Swat Valley for boys and girls. In 2007 when the Pakistani Taliban took control of the area, they forced girls out of schools and ruled with a brutal hand until 2009, when they were driven out by the Pakistani military.

During his years in military custody, Ehsan was never charged. Authorities also later never explained how he left the country and travelled to Turkey, where he is believed to be living today.


Muslim Groups Canvass for Hijab Wearing In Kwara Schools in Nigeria

February 17, 2021

By Adekunle Jimoh, Ilorin

Muslim stakeholders comprising youths and women organizations Wednesday urged the Kwara state government to prevail on former owners of public schools to allow female Muslim students wear hijab.

The Muslim organizations argued that since the takeover of those schools by the state government, it behooves former missionary owners of the schools to hands off control of grant-aided schools in the state.

The Muslim stakeholders said that allowing Muslim female students to wear hijab will be in conformity with the judgment of the Kwara state High Court of 2016 and that of Court of Appeal of 2019.

They asked the state government to direct schools to allow Muslim female students to practice Islam in all ramifications, “i.e. observing prayers and use of hijab by female students”.

Addressing reporters in Ilorin, Muslim stakeholders which included representatives of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Federated Organizations of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), and Concerned Parents/Teachers Associations, expressed surprise that some former owners of schools in Ilorin on Monday and Tuesday forcefully removed hijab from heads of female Muslim students.

They listed the schools where there are infringements on the freedom of religion of female Muslim students to include St. Anthony, St. James, Bishop Smith, St. Anthony and ECWA, all in Ilorin.

Led by Ustaz Isiaq Abdulkareem, the people said they promptly reported the infringement on the concerned Muslim students to the appropriate quarters.

They, however, lamented that at a peace meeting held in the office of Secretary to the state government on Tuesday, the former missionary school owners, insisted that they were not concerned about the judgements of the Kwara state High Court and Appeal Court.

“This is the time for the government and the people of the state need peace more than ever before. It should be seen as calling for trouble as failure to act may lead to people enforcing their rights in the best possible way.

“As a stakeholder in this government, I appeal to Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to take bold and urgent step in addressing this issue to avoid possible outbreak of crisis in the state,” he said.


'Historic Reforms to Empower Women Have Put Saudi Arabia On Top Of Global List'

February 17, 2021

NEW YORK — The giant leaps that Saudi Arabia has recently made and continues to make while implementing historic reforms have put the Kingdom on top of the list of 190 countries that are most advanced and reformed in the areas of empowering women and strengthening their role in building society, the United Nations heard.

Addressing the first regular session of the Executive Council of UN for Women on Monday, Mona Alghamdi, a member of Saudi Arabia's Permanent Mission to the United Nations, said women’s empowerment, economic advancement, and gender equality are at the forefront of these reforms. The virtual session was held under the item of economic flexibility, including social protection and economic stimulation.

Mona reiterated the Kingdom’s full commitment as an effective partner of UN to work closely and constructively, in line with internal regulations and policies, to advance women and empower them as an effective partner in building societies, especially during these difficult times the world is witnessing due to the pandemic, and over the coming years.

“Despite the great challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative effects on all aspects of life, the Kingdom continued to move toward its goals and ambitions pertaining to the economic empowerment of women. The Kingdom is witnessing major reforms and transformations,” she said while citing the report of the World Bank titled “Women, Business and the Law 2020.”

In recognition of the importance of empowering Saudi women and enhancing their participation as a full and essential partner in advancing society and promoting economic development, she stressed, Saudi Arabia has worked on adopting a package of legislative reforms and introducing regulations and policies toward the advancement and empowerment of Saudi women, specifically in the areas of their mobility, workplace, entrepreneurship, and pensions.

“The Kingdom has taken strict decisions towards criminalizing sexual harassment at workplace in the public and private sectors by enacting legislation and criminal penalties to protect women from gender discrimination and sexual harassment,” she said.

Mona said that Saudi Arabia encouraged women to compete in the entrepreneurial sectors by introducing legal amendments aimed at protecting women from discrimination in the work sectors, including a ban on gender discrimination from accessing financial services, and sacking of women during their pregnancy and maternity leave.

“Equality in the retirement age is one of the most important reforms that are implemented through equalizing the retirement age for men and women at 60 years of age, which contributed to extending their years of service and benefiting them from all benefits and payments and extending the period of their effective contribution to the advancement of the national economy,” she added.


Sopko Emphasizes Importance of US Support to Afghan Women

February 18, 2021

US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko on Wednesday emphasized the importance of the United States support to Afghan women and said inattention to women in Afghanistan can lead to a tragedy for them.

Explaining his new report, Support for Gender Equality: Lessons from the US Experience in Afghanistan, Sopko said the "US investment on Afghan women is an investment in Afghanistan’s future."

“We must not forget the bitter lesson we learned following our previous withdrawal from Afghanistan” Sopko said. “Cutting off those whom you have previously encouraged to rise up can lead to tragedy not only for them, but for our nation as well.”

He said US policymakers should consider conditioning US assistance to any future Afghan government on that government’s demonstrated commitment to the protection of the rights of women and girls.

Sopko mentioned that likewise, the US government should also consider encouraging other international donors to impose similar conditionality on future assistance.

“I do not believe gender equality is a zero-sum game. The US can continue to play a role in shaping an outcome that preserves gains made by Afghan women and girls by advocating that Afghan women have a meaningful role in the Afghanistan peace negotiations and that any future agreement includes protections for them,” Sopko said.

He said "this key question is vitally important in the context of peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and the answer may determine whether the successes and investment in improving the lives of Afghan women and girls will be remembered as a lasting legacy or historical footnote."

“We cannot be naive about the challenges that women and girls in Afghanistan continue to face. Make no mistake – though they have greater access to health care and education and work as legislators, judges, teachers, health workers, civil servants, journalists, and business and civil society leaders – Afghanistan still remains one of the most challenging places in the world to be a woman,” Sopko added.

SIGAR commissioned field interviews with 65 Afghans – both female and male – from 14 provinces. They represent a wide range of Afghan society and viewpoints their participation makes “this report truly unique.”

SIGAR’s new report on women is the first comprehensive, independent government analysis of US efforts to support gender equality in Afghanistan.

Despite real improvements, Afghanistan remains one of the most challenging places in the world to be a woman—with high maternal mortality ratios, endemic gender-based violence, and limited access to education and health care, according to the report.


The Untold Tragedy of Iraq's Shia Turkmen Women Enslaved By Islamic State

By Suadad al-Salhy

18 February 2021

The efforts to free Yazidi women and children enslaved by the Islamic State (IS) group have brought worldwide support and attention, and won one of their number the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yet hundreds of Shia Turkmen women also kidnapped in the 2014 IS rampage have been denied the opportunity for freedom, accountability and closure due to the silence and denial of their community’s leaders, Iraqi officials, activists and international human rights organisations told Middle East Eye.

The militants’ bloody and brutal assault on northwest Iraq in August 2014 is often referred to as the Yazidi genocide, with some 3,000 Yazidis murdered and perhaps another 7,000 enslaved.

Barely recognised amid those crimes, are the hundreds of Turkmen women also taken into captivity.

Most are Shia from the Turkmen-dominated rural town of Tal Afar, 80 km west of Mosul. They were seized in the neighbouring Yazidi-majority town of Sinjar, where they and their families sought refuge after IS had taken control of Tal Afar several weeks earlier.

The vast majority are not even registered as missing, officials and activists say. And no real official or non-governmental campaign efforts have been made to seek them out and bring them home, despite information clearly indicating that they are in camps run by Kurdish and Turkish forces in Syria.

“Legally, these [kidnapped] women do not exist, as they are either registered by their families as being killed by IS or simply not present,” Hayman Ramzi, director of the Tulay Organisation for Turkmen Affairs, told MEE.

“The men of the victims’ families have been refusing to declare that one of their daughters was kidnapped.”

Faced with silence, the extent of the abductions only began to emerge to the Tulay Organisation over time.

“Throughout the years we worked on this issue, we usually found out that there was a kidnapped woman here or there by chance, when a distant relative spoke about it,” Ramzi said.

“The families of these women are refusing to admit that they were kidnapped by IS. We were receiving death threats from some of them when we told them that we had information confirming that one of their women had been kidnapped."

Uncertain numbers

It is near impossible to know the true number of missing Turkmen women.

Their families’ state of denial and the “deliberate blindness” among men in the community, as well as the acquiescence of influential government institutions and Shia political and religious forces, has hindered any attempt at investigation.

Political and religious forces have even, human rights activists and officials told MEE, aborted any serious attempts to free the women and return them to their families.

Some local human rights groups told MEE they believe 540 civilians from Tal Afar are missing, including 125 women. Twenty-two of them, who were held in an IS-run Mosul orphanage, were freed by Iraqi forces when they took the city in October 2017.

But international human rights organisations and their federal partners focusing on Tal Afar and working to return the displaced said the total number of missing people is actually around 1,200, including 600 women.

So far, 131 of them have been freed. Mostly this was achieved through individual efforts, such as families paying ransoms to militants who they reached through mediators working to liberate Yazidi women held by IS in Syria.

"Most of the announced figures are inaccurate,” said Nawal al-Karawi, director of the Iraqi Centre for Women and Child Rights, who has been working in Tal Afar in partnership with other organisations for years.

“Most tribes refused to officially register the kidnapping of their daughters. They consider it shameful, so they refuse to disclose it.”

Without serious attempts to highlight the issue, no special governmental body has been established to follow up on the missing, unlike with other communities.

“Most of the kidnapped women have not been enquired after, and no one has searched for them, so there is no governmental, international or civil efforts to bring them back,” Karawi said.

Trapped in Syria

Correspondence MEE has seen between the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR), the General Secretariat of the Iraqi Cabinet and the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee indicates officials only have a vague idea of how many Turkmen women are missing.

Their communications say they believe there are over 450 yet to be accounted for, and they think the women were taken to Syria, Turkey and a number of Gulf Arab states.

The most recent of these communications was signed on 29 December. It said the foreign ministry was in talks with the Ministry of Displacement and Migration, intelligence service and a number of Iraqi diplomatic missions to “investigate” the fate of the "kidnapped Turkmen women and survivors".

According to the letter, the intelligence service had confirmed the presence of Turkmen women in Syria in camps run by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia, including al-Sadd in Raqqa, Abu al-Khashab and Abu Hamam in Deir Ezzor, al-Hol in Hasakah, and Akkadha in the city of Azaz.

It also suggested that some of these women have tried to escape to Turkey, but they were arrested by Turkish forces and moved to Afrin prison on the Syrian-Turkish border strip. Middle East Eye has asked Syrian opposition authorities in Afrin to confirm this, but received no response by the time of publication.

The letter gave no information on how many women may be held in Afrin or their condition. Despite saying the foreign ministry had asked diplomatic missions to seek information on those women, the letter clearly states that they were not able to obtain “any valuable” details.

For those seeking the Turkmen women, the letter was a breakthrough.

“This was the first time for years that we received an official response to our correspondence with government institutions regarding this issue,” Ali Akram al-Bayati, member of the IHCHR council and director of the Turkmen Rescue Organisation, told MEE.

“Finally, there is evidence that some of these girls are still alive and were moved” to Syria, Bayati added.

“When I received this information, I felt happy because this means that there is a chance to save them. But at the same time I was very upset because we live under the shadow of a state that does not care about a person, his fate and his suffering.”

When approached to comment on the correspondence with the IHCHR, foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed al-Sahhaf promised to respond after contacting his ministry’s director of the human rights department. By the time of publication he had not responded.


Tal Afar, 450 km north of Baghdad, is a large town located in a triangle of territory between the Turkish, Iraqi and Syrian borders.

Like most Iraqi northern border towns, its society is tribal, conservative and closed, and women are considered a symbol of a man's honour, and his soft side that should not be touched or approached.

For many men in such a conservative society, admitting their wives and daughters had been kidnapped and raped is an admission they were unable to defend them, a symbol of impotence and shame.

Local activists and officials told MEE that denial and ignoring these women’s fate is an attempt to move on without having to deal with the consequences.

Some men refuse to even acknowledge the women when they appear to have reached safety.

Many human rights activists said they have received pictures or names of Iraqi women freed in Syria, and asked Turkmen families if they could help identify them. Most men, they said, refused to recognise women suspected to be relatives.

“When we show them the pictures that we receive, they get upset and tell us: ‘These women are dead, so why do you insist on exhuming this issue?’” Salem Geddo, director of the Orphan Charitable Foundation in Tal Afar, told MEE.

“Some of them look at the picture for seconds and without focus, then say angrily, ‘This is not our daughter’, although his facial features clearly reflect his unwillingness to know the identity of the person in the pictures in the first place.

"They do not say do not call us again, but they do not disclose any information that could help in reaching or identifying their kidnapped daughters. They feel shame and embarrassment. They know that IS raped these women, and they cannot bear the idea or live with it.”

Culture targeted

The Islamic State group’s use of sexual violence was a deliberate and systematic tactic to humiliate its opponents and destroy their cultural identity.

In a report on gender-based violence conducted by the Iraqi Al-Amal Association, the prominent women’s rights group said: "Women's bodies have been considered a symbol of the cultural identity of societies. Humiliating them [women] and subjugating them [is a tool to] humiliate and subjugate their societies."

IS militants viewed communities and sects that didn’t conform to their extremist interpretation of religion, such as the Shia, with murderous contempt, labelling them apostates.

Officials, activists and tribal leaders in Tal Afar told MEE that, as with the Yazidis, IS killed all Turkmen men and male children over the age of 12 it came across and threw them into the Allau Anter well, a hole around 50 metres in diameter and 100 metres deep, located north of Tal Afar.

Federal officials estimate that the remains of over 1000 people are in this mass grave, at least 400 of which are Shia Turkmen, while the rest are Yazidis.

"It was not proven to us that the Turkmen women were killed, although many of the Yazidi women survivors stated in their testimonies that the militants were raping Turkmen women and burning them after that, but we have not found any remains of them yet,” Bayati told MEE.

"All the evidence and information available to us indicates that the number of Turkmen women who were killed was limited, unlike men and children over 12 years old.”

The Islamic State group’s methods are recorded in the testimony of Yazidi and Turkmen survivors.

They have described militants commanding every boy to take off their shirts and lift their arms, immediately killing anyone who had armpit hair.

A prominent Iraqi sociologist, who has been studying the impacts of enslaving Yazidi and Turkmen women on their communities since 2014, told MEE IS used this tactic “to inflict the greatest possible harm on their Shia opponents”.

Shia political, governmental and religious leaders are convinced that IS kept these women alive as a "poisoned dagger", exposing sensitivities around women to undermine them and "distort their cultural identity in a way that cannot be changed or erased", said the sociologist, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons.

According to the sociologist, Shia leaders are fully aware of what the women have been subjected to, but believe it is an affront to the community as a whole, and are therefore unable or unwilling to accept it.

“The Shia male mentality wishes that these women would die and disappear forever. They want time to stop at the moment of the kidnapping, as they do not want to know or deal with what happened next with these women,” they added.

"For them, women are the soft loins, so they want to push this incident into oblivion, or deny that it happened. But the presence of victims hinders or delays this."


Over recent years, Iraq’s Shia forces have dominated politics and security, and controlled most of the state’s financial and human resources. They have used these considerable resources in efforts to free Yazidi women from IS captivity. Yet they have invested next to nothing to liberate Shia Turkmen women.

In fact, they used the same resources to cover up this issue and try to keep local and international media and civil society organisations away from it, officials, lawmakers and activists told MEE.

Moreover, since 2015 they have worked hard in the parliament to prevent any explicit mention of kidnapped Shia women being included in draft legislation targeting IS militants’ gender-based violence.

Shia political forces have been careful to frame the Turkmen women’s tragedy as a marginal part of the Yazidi genocide, and not highlight their plight separately, lawmakers said.

Successive Shia-led governments, including the current one, have met and supported Yazidi survivors and their families. But representatives of the Turkmen women and their relatives have been received no more than three times, a federal official involved in this file told MEE. In two of these meetings, the Turkmen survivors were introduced as part of the Yazidi delegations, officials and activists said.

The 22 Turkmen women freed from the Mosul orphanage and returned to Tal Afar have received no rehabilitation or official care or compensation, despite living in “very poor conditions” and often with distant relatives as their immediate family were either killed or captured, the Tulay Organisation's Ramzy said.

Human rights groups invested in their plight are few, poorly funded and stretched thin.

The only support offered to these women is monthly payments of 100,000-300,000 dinars ($70-$200) from the al-Hakim Charitable Foundation associated with Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Saeed al-Hakim, one of Najaf's leading Shia religious authorities, activists told MEE.

“In fact, there is no government position that has been adopted over the past years regarding the Turkmen survivors or kidnapped women,” said a senior federal official who worked on this file.

“The official side believes that this issue is a social tragedy that took place in a Muslim country that is facing difficulty in accepting it or living with it,” he added.

“The official side does not want to embarrass [the Shia], so it turns a blind eye to it and considers it a sensitive local issue that needs solutions far from sight.”



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