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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 5 May 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Heard Azaan in Woman's Voice? Urvah Khan, Pakistani-Canadian Breaks Stereotypes in Ramzan Message

New Age Islam News Bureau

5 May 2020

Breaking stereotypes, a Pakistani-born Canadian singer and rapper has given a beautiful rendition of Azaan (Muslim call for prayers).


• Heard Azaan in Woman's Voice? Urvah Khan, Pakistani-Canadian Breaks Stereotypes in Ramzan Message

• In Rural Afghanistan, Taliban Gingerly Welcome Girls Schools

• For Arab Women And Girls, The Crisis Is Just Beginning

• This Saudi Female Football Player Is Scoring All Her Dream Goals

• Walk A Mile in Her Hijab: Muslims Who Are Recognizable As Muslims, Face Popular Prejudice On A Daily Basis

• Islamophobia: Muslim Women’s Experiences In Scotland

• 1,100 Feminists Condemn Crackdown on Muslim Women Anti-CAA Activists

• Tunisian actress Hend Sabri to star, create new Netflix drama-comedy

• Jailed Saudi Princess Fears Coronavirus Risk In Prison

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau



Heard Azaan in Woman's Voice? Urvah Khan ,Pakistani-Canadian Breaks Stereotypes in Ramzan Message

MAY 4, 2020

Breaking stereotypes, a Pakistani-born Canadian singer and rapper has given a beautiful rendition of Azaan (Muslim call for prayers). The Azaan is given out from the mosques five times a day by the Muazzin, conventionally a man, before the prayers begin.

But with her rendition of Azaan from a recording room, Urvah Khan, dressed in jeans and top and her arms tattooed, seems to have broken many stereotypes. The brief clip is from her album ‘Muhaajir (the Immigrant Songs)’.

Khan uploaded the video on April 24 and said, “Ramadan Mubarak! As a Karachi born Canadian Pakistani, my memory of the Azaan is ingrained in early childhood experience. The crackling loud speakers, the daily rituals, all part of a youth gone, but not forgotten. It dawned on me this Ramadan that I had never heard the Azaan sung with a woman's voice, and likely never would.”

Over a thousand people have liked the video and unsurprisingly it has invited all sorts of comments with most of them condemning the act of a woman saying the Azaan. Some have also commented on her attire, her tattoos and cropped hair.

“Azan is not a song aurlarkiyan azan nae detihaiaur is huliye m tohbilkulbhi nae Astagfirullah. (Azan is not a song and women don’t give Azaan, not at all in this attire),” said one of the people in comments.

The Azaan by a woman has been a contentious issue. In November 2018, religious scholars in Kerala staged protests after a school had play where a girl gave out the muslim call for prayer. It was dubbed as an insult to the religion. In another controversy in January 2018, a Muslim woman faced backlash after she led the congregational Friday prayers in Kerala’s Malappuram.


In Rural Afghanistan, Taliban Gingerly Welcome Girls Schools


MAY 4, 2020

BADIKHEL, Afghanistan—For the last year, Habib-ur-Rahman has been running a small girls school in his own home in this remote area of rural Afghanistan, which is largely dominated by the Taliban. In a previous era, when the Taliban completely ruled the country before 9/11, that would have been impossible: The radical Islamist group forbade formal education for girls. But things are different this time, villagers say.

Some of the girls at Rahman’s school are actually related to active Taliban members, and according to the villagers, the insurgents have assured them that they have no qualms with his girls school. “Some of my students are daughters, sisters, or nieces of Taliban fighters. Mostly, all of these men are not living in our village,” Rahman told Foreign Policy. “They are busy with fighting and hiding. But they encouraged their relatives to visit my school and get educated.”

“My brother is a Taliban fighter. But he does not have any problems with the school. He wants me to seek wisdom and education,” said Latifa Khostai, one of Rahman’s students.

Even as the fighting rages outside the village between the Taliban and Afghan national forces, despite a U.S.-orchestrated cease-fire, Rahman said he is cautiously hopeful that things won’t go back to the way they were before. “I’m proud of my work, and I know that it’s dismantling a lot of prejudices,” said the teacher, who was himself educated in the capital of Kabul. “Education is an important part of the Islamic religion. The Taliban know that too, but it seems that they don’t have a clear stance on girls’ education.”

When the Taliban came to power in the 1990s, they imposed a very extremist patriarchal rule and banned female education all over the country. Additionally, women were not allowed to work and could not leave their homes without a close male relative. But in fact, misogynist policies were already shaped before the Taliban were created. After the mujahideen overran Kabul and toppled the last communist government in 1992, hostility toward women in urban areas increased. Also, the whole issue has always been exploited by both local governments and foreign powers that invaded the country.

When the Afghan communists staged a brutal coup in the late 1970s, they portrayed themselves as the liberators of Afghan women and underlined the importance of education. Often, this happened through propaganda movies focusing on the alleged transition of Afghan society after the so-called revolution, as the communists viewed their coup, in 1978. In such movies, the liberation of women had a very clear depiction: miniskirts and alcohol. But at the same time, many schools were shut down—the total number of them actually decreased throughout the country—while many female dissidents were tortured and killed in hidden dungeons. When the Russians invaded Afghanistan, they introduced themselves as defenders of women’s rights against so-called barbaric Islamists, while many Afghan women supported the mujahideen rebels. In 2001, a déjà vu took place when the Americans and their Western allies entered Afghanistan and proclaimed women’s rights, and especially girls’ education, as one of their chief purposes.

Since the Americans signed a peace deal with the Taliban in late February, it has become clear that, sooner or later, the insurgent group would somehow return to power in some form, at the very least in some sort of power-sharing arrangement with the government in Kabul. In fact, large parts of Afghanistan are already under the Taliban’s control. But especially in urban areas like Kabul and elsewhere, many Afghans still fear a regression toward the dark days of the Taliban regime. Especially when it comes to female education, some observers and activists believe that the Taliban would ban any kind of education for girls and young women again. Both the Kabul government and the American negotiators made clear that such a regression would not take place, while the Taliban leadership preferred to stay vague and underlined the importance of Islamic norms in the context of women’s work and girls’ education. “We are not against female education or work. But we have Islamic norms. This is still not the West,” Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the head of the Taliban office in Qatar, previously said in an interview.

The case of the girls school in Badikhel, however, shows that things are much more complex. “This is not surprising. The Taliban were never able to have a clear position to even convince their own men about the validity of un-Islamic orders like closing girls schools,” said OrzalaNemat, a political ethnographer and head of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, an independent research organization based in Kabul. She described how even during Taliban ruling in the late 1990s, local officers made arrangements with local communities to keep the schools open. “This whole rule is one among a number of rules perhaps imposed on Taliban leadership by those who aimed to destroy the foundations of a progressive thinking in the country.”

The villagers in Badikhel have witnessed the Taliban’s discordant stance firsthand. While some Taliban members sent their female relatives to Rahman’s school, which now has about 30 students, others sent threats. According to Akhtar Zaman, a local villager, unknown militants demanded the closure of the school. If not, Rahman would face “consequences.” Subsequently, the villagers reached out to the family members of the students. “After we talked with the Taliban members we knew, they became angry. They said they would find out who threatened the school, and they took it personally since their own girls are visiting the school,” Zaman said.

Rahman also faced other kinds of local resistance. Often, families rejected giving the girls into the custody of a man unrelated to them. Additionally, many still did not like the idea of sending their female relatives to any kind of school. But, after some time and many efforts, Rahman managed to persuade most of his fellow villagers to allow him to continue the effort.

“Striving for education has always been a problem for Afghan women. But I’m optimistic that certain circumstances are changing slowly. Personally, I’m happy to go to school and learn so many different things,” said Mahbuba, one of the schoolgirls, who declined to give her surname. She described how some of her family members at first resisted her attending Rahman’s school. But over time, all of them started supporting her and even encouraged their relatives to send their daughters and sisters and nieces to school too. Also, Mahbuba wants to go to university one day. “We are a crucial part of Afghan society, but we need to be educated to serve our purposes in the best way,” she told Foreign Policy.


For Arab women and girls, the crisis is just beginning

by Lina AbiRafeh

May 5, 2020

The current pandemic has had an unprecedented global impact - we are all affected by this collective crisis. And yet, the virus and its aftermath will discriminate more strongly against those who were already marginalised, namely women and girls. In the Arab region, where I now work, women were vulnerable before the crisis. And their crisis is just beginning.

I have spent my career as a humanitarian aid worker in insecure environments around the world, supporting women to mitigate the risks they face in those settings - notably as a result of a more hidden global pandemic, violence against women. Everywhere I have worked - from Afghanistan to Mali to Haiti - women and girls suffer more. It does not matter whether this is due to a conflict, a natural disaster or an epidemic.

Already volatile prior to COVID-19 due to socioeconomic instabilities and protracted humanitarian crises, the Arab region is uniquely affected by this global pandemic, with more than 62.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

In the Arab region, nearly half of the female population of 84 million is not connected to the Internet nor has access to a mobile phone. This, coupled with alarming literacy rates - approximately 67 percent of women and 81 percent of men - means that women are disproportionately unable to access accurate information about the virus to help them prepare, respond and survive.

Amid this crisis, and combined with the continuing conflicts and economic collapse, violence against women is increasing. For many women and girls, being quarantined safely is a luxury. Based on anecdotal evidence and reporting by several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Lebanon, under lockdown the number of reported cases of violence against women rose by 100 percent during the month of March.

Similarly, live-in migrant domestic workers (almost always women) are exposed to unique risks stemming from the nature of their jobs. The travel ban and other restrictions further harm their livelihoods and ability to support family members in their countries of origin. Additionally, they cannot leave the house and are therefore working around the clock often without the right to rest. The abuse they suffer - sexual, physical, psychological, economic - is heightened as a result of the additional stress of deteriorating economic conditions and health risks.

Refugees are another disproportionately affected group. Female refugees, in particular, are no strangers to discrimination. Lack of funding due to the pandemic has compromised their survival. Even more than before, refugees are considered a threat by host communities and are shunned due to fears that the virus will spread through the camps, placing the host country at greater risk.

Women in conflict zones face additional risks during this pandemic. In both Syria and Yemen, the healthcare infrastructure has been decimated by years of armed conflict - with 67 attacks on hospitals in Syria in over a year and constant attacks on health facilities and medical personnel in Yemen.

The informal and community-based nature of women's work in conflict zones also means an inherent lack of financial stability and access to formal, professional roles in society. In Yemen, at least there is momentum and strong organising for feminist peacebuilding and the inclusion of women in official peace talks and conflict mitigation processes.

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to result in the loss of 1.7 million jobs in the Arab region, including approximately 700,000 jobs held by women. But female participation in the labour market is already weak, with high unemployment among women reaching 19 percent in 2019, compared with 8 percent for men.

Projections indicate that the informal sector will be particularly impacted by the pandemic. In the Arab region, women perform nearly five times as much unpaid care work as men while approximately 61.8 percent of active women work in the informal sector and will, therefore, suffer disproportionately.

Women are the majority of the world's healthcare practitioners and family caretakers, performing unpaid labour and exposing themselves to infection in order to care for a sick child, an elderly family member or a needy member of the community.

In Lebanon, 80 percent of nursing staff are female. More than half of these are now working with reduced salaries and longer hours, rather than being properly compensated and protected. In every emergency I have worked in, women are the ones who know who is in need, what they need and how to get it to them. They are the world's social safety net.

If women are once again left out of leadership roles in the response to the pandemic, the patriarchal consolidation of power in these areas will have devastating effects on women's rights, equality and autonomy. This requires a robust feminist response, guaranteeing women's right to information, to healthcare, to choose. Because when others decide for a woman, she faces discrimination and violence. In short, her own life is at risk.

A feminist response to this pandemic must work to undo rather than magnify oppression and the very systems that place women at higher risks in times of crisis, with the recognition that simply existing as a woman is a form of crisis. Simply, a woman's right to decide must be at the heart of the response to this pandemic.

Life will undoubtedly be different in the aftermath of the pandemic. And, for the majority of women, their challenges do not end when the crisis is resolved. For women and girls, the crisis is just beginning.

In the Arab region, this presents an opportunity to implement feminist policies and ensure that women's rights organisations and feminist activists have the tools and resources they need to advocate and act on behalf of women and girls.

Centring women in the response will enable the region to better withstand future shocks. In short, when women lead, we all benefit.


This Saudi Female Football Player Is Scoring All Her Dream Goals

May 5, 2020

Let's meet a trailblazing figure in women's football in the Kingdom! Johara Al-Sudairy has been holding her team's name high and paving the way for more young Saudi women to enter this exciting sport...

Kuwaiti football club Al-Arabi has welcomed Saudi Arabian player Johara Al-Sudairi as part of its team back in February. Her presence in the team will initially be for a trial period and is seen as a key step towards professionalism in the field. Al-Sudairi caught the attention of scouts while she was still part of the Jeddah Eagles, particularly during the team’s participation in the Jeddah Women's League. The talented athlete played in three games during the competition and scored a total of eight goals, a feat that propelled her team to first place in the league.

Speaking on her experience thus far in the Kuwaiti League, Al-Sudairi said, “It’s highly popular and supported. The general atmosphere of each game is professional yet fun, which heightens the enthusiasm of the players and motivates the audience to attend games and cheer their teams on.”

She also pointed out that Al-Arabi is considered to be one of the strongest competing clubs in the region and is always nominated for titles. Indeed, the team succeeded in reaching the finals after beating Alqadeseya 7-4, an experience that Al-Sudairi described as “beyond fantastic.”

She added, “We hope that Saudi female players will continue to be supported and feel motivated to go through such experiences in the field, especially as Saudi Arabian girls have the knowledge and skills to lead them towards similar experiences.”

We can't wait for these uncertain times to end to see Al-Sudairi back on the field breaking records again and representing Saudi Arabia!


Walk A Mile In Her Hijab: Muslims Who Are Recognizable As Muslims, Face Popular Prejudice On A Daily Basis

May 3, 2020

By Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO — More than likely you have heard the expression, “walk a mile in my shoes,” to caution against prejudging what anyone’s life is like.  Jewish filmmaker Nancy Cooperstein Charney poignantly brought that message home at the conclusion of her documentary, Who’s Next?, when she filmed a large group of women, presumably non-Muslims, being shown how to put on a hijab, and then marching together in New York City.  I’m not sure, given the Islamophobic atmosphere in the United States today, how many other women would have the courage to do that.

Yet, that was the point of the documentary.  Muslims who dress like Muslims, or simply are recognizable as Muslims, face popular prejudice on a daily basis, much of it in Charney’s view, directly attributable to the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric from President Donald Trump and his White House.

Against a backdrop of anti-Muslim rallies, news conferences, picket signs, and newspaper columns and headlines, Charney introduces viewers to a number of Muslim families in several boroughs of New York City, so we can see how much like “ordinary” Americans they are, except for the constant harassment they must face.

We see one New Yorker who travels back and forth to the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, where his wife and two children must remain because the wife has been excluded by the United States for a reason unknown to her or her husband.  So, he travels periodically to Trinidad and Tobago to see them, and whenever he flies, he is subject to intense questioning, searches, and other humiliations.  He  was born in Indiana to a Palestinian father, and during his childhood he went to camp in the Palestinian areas to learn Arabic.  His wife is the daughter of a imam in Trinidad.

Another family interviewed includes a former  Catholic American who converted to Islam after deciding to marry her Mauritanian husband, whom she met while serving in the Peace Corps.  It took her a while to wear a hijab, but eventually she decided to don it “to walk the walk.”

A Pakistani family living in Brooklyn came to the United States when their son was still a toddler, needing heart surgery so complicated that it could not be performed in Pakistan.  After the surgery, it was learned the child had a rare form of heart disease that requires constant follow-up treatment.  Every year, the family goes to a federal building in New York City to renew the visa it was granted on humanitarian grounds.  Now, however, with anti-immigrant fever seemingly at a very high pitch, the family is not at all certain it will be permitted to remain in this country, even though they have paid taxes and been good citizens for nearly two decades.

We meet the family of another Pakistani who opened a grocery shop, and extended credit to the people in his neighborhood.  He also served as a quasi employment agency, telling people who were looking for work, where in the neighborhood they might find jobs.  But then came the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and his son’s vision of some day taking over the family business changed.  He became an advocate for  fellow Muslims, teaching people about the religion he grew up in, a religion which much like Judaism says if you hurt one human being, you hurt all mankind, and conversely if you help one human being you help mankind.

From such families, we hear stories of their children about having their hijabs ripped off at school, being called terrorists, being told to go back to the country they came from — even though they were born in the United States.

Islamophobia is not universal; the documentary shows rallies in which Jews and Christians stand up for their Muslim neighbors, and call for their rights to be protected.  I am proud and relieved to say that when Jews were mentioned in the video, the references were kind ones.   Said one interviewee: “I don’t anyone else to suffer what we have suffered, what Jewish people have suffered, Japanese people have suffered , Black people have suffered…”

A stand-up comic, responding to television portrayals of Muslims and her own fellow Palestinians as terrorists and extremists, says she tells her child, “Yes, this is the narrative on TV, but we are not like that.”


Islamophobia: Muslim women’s experiences in Scotland

May 4, 2020

Tasnim Nazeer

Journalist Tasnim Nazeer was the victim of Islamophobia in Glasgow city centre when out shopping with her children. She was verbally abused by a man shouting anti-Muslim slurs, and only escaped unharmed thanks to the intervention of a passer-by.

Her experience led her to explore the enduring issue of Islamophobia. She spoke to three Muslim women in Scotland about their experiences of hatred, and what it’s like to be a Muslim woman living in Scotland in 2020.

This shocking statistic was revealed by the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group to tackle Islamophobia, led by Labour MSP, Anas Sarwar. The group is an attempt to help Scotland demonstrate leadership to the rest of the UK and the world in taking action against anti-Muslim sentiment.

However, hate crimes continue. Islamophobia affects Muslims in work, schools and in public. Many Muslims have reported being fearful to leave their homes in case they face verbal or physical abuse and some feel they are outsiders in their own country.

According to research from the University of Bristol’s Dr Nabil Khattab, Muslim women are 71 per cent more likely to be unemployed even when they had the same educational level and language skills as white Christian women.

“They wear the hijab or other religious symbols which makes them more visible and as such exposed to greater discrimination,” Khattab said.

“I am a secondary school teacher who has experienced multiple incidents of Islamophobia in Scotland. I have had a lot of harassment in my work place where I have been subjected to verbal abuse from pupils. My colleagues don’t judge me for wearing the headscarf and Islamic dress, but when I report Islamophobic abuse that I get from students I have found them to be complacent.”

Sofia describes how she was called a “terrorist” amongst other slurs by students while working in a Scottish school. When she reported it to the headteacher, she was given one week’s notice to leave.

“Instead of trying to tackle the issue I was made to feel that I was the problem and this really made me feel really depressed and impacted me emotionally. I was a temporary teacher and I didn’t have any rights at the time.

“I asked them if they could support me in dealing with the kids to create more understanding about hate, but they told me that they have dealt with it and instead asked me to leave a week later.”

This was not a one off. Sofia says she was told to leave one of the top schools in Scotland after she flagged up anti-Muslim abuse. The school told her they did not need her anymore, but she was replaced by another teacher.

“I feel they did this just so they could get rid of me because the kids were reacting to me so badly. I feel that for managers, I am hard work because they don’t want to deal with Islamophobia and if I do flag it up, I get asked to leave.”

“Every single day I would play out the worst scenarios as I thought someone would attack me verbally or physically. I couldn’t talk to anybody about it because I felt no one would believe me and felt that I have never been validated for having those fears.

Many women who have experienced Islamophobia are unaware of the support that is available. In Sofia’s case she did not know who to turn to.

“I didn’t get any support at all and had to subsequently quit my job. It got so bad that my husband told me to stop working because I was being subjected to such hate, but that wasn’t an option for me because I love what I do as a teacher and wanted to carry on despite the hate against me, but was finding it difficult.”

“The time that I had to use preparing my lessons for teaching was being taken up with dealing with the online abuse. I felt that I had to deal with it alone at my work place and felt that if my colleagues had supported me it would have helped with the situation.”

“I felt that people were thinking it was something to do with me, however this was not the case. I feel that we need to have a diverse range of people from different communities speaking about Islamophobia at work and in schools.”

“Sometimes students pick up the language from home or from the media but it will make a real difference if there was more education on hate crime.

She worries that her daughter is facing abuse for being a visible Muslim in school, and has struggled to continue her career in the face of such prejudice.

“My daughter has started wearing the headscarf and she is the only one wearing it in her class, but the high school kids ask her about terrorist attacks and whether she was supporting it which makes her feel really upset and uncomfortable.

“I now currently just do supply work because I just can’t get a job and keep getting rejections in interviews and feel this too is also due to being a visibly Muslim woman in Scotland.”

Maryam (name changed) is an assistant professor living in an affluent town in East Renfrewshire. She faces Islamophobia in her professional life.

“I think it is very challenging being a Muslim woman in Scotland. Islamophobia can affect any Muslim woman. I don’t wear the hijab but still get affected by Islamophobia.

“I have found that I have not been shortlisted for jobs for quite some time, despite the fact that I am overly qualified for these roles. I think it’s primarily due to my Muslim name and it is extremely demoralising and it really affects me.”

“I think that people need to know about the contributions that Muslims have made to society such as in the fields of science and mathematics.”

“Muslim women from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds have experienced difficulty in finding a job. I think the cross party group findings are also very worrying especially for the future generation. The rise of the far right in Europe is another significant cause of the widespread rise of Islamophobia that we see today”.

“In the Netherlands, anti-discrimination agencies found that 91 per cent of religious discrimination [was] related to Muslims and I can see that there is a link between what we are seeing in Europe and the way Muslims are treated in Scotland”.

She highlights the extreme rhetoric used by on those in power and some media outlets, including Boris Johnson’s infamous “letterboxes” comment about Muslim women who wear face-covering weils.

“I want to see change made and I feel that the governments should introduce targets in tackling this. There should be a press regulator to investigate the way Muslims are reported and more Muslim and diverse journalists should be hired for balance within the mainstream media. The press and the media should publish data on ethnic diverse journalists.”

Maryam also notes that government efforts need to increase in tackling the issue. She mentions the UK Government’s controversial Prevent anti-radicalisation strategy, which has been criticised for disproportionately impacting those of Muslim faith.

“I think the government needs to adopt a proper definition of Islamophobia, for example they have accepted the definition for antisemitism and this is good, but they should also recognise Islamophobia too.

“There should be an inquiry into the government’s anti-terrorism strategy Prevent because it shouldn’t lead to discrimination of Muslims but it is. To be honest I wish we had a better government in place”.

Significant steps, such as blind CVs, are required to overcome the barriers that Muslim women face in the employment world, she says.

“ I feel more singled out in Edinburgh than I do if I was in Glasgow. As a convert to Islam, I think that one major difference that I have seen since becoming Muslim is that when I didn’t look Muslim living in Edinburgh, I wasn’t judged, but now that I am visibly Muslim, I get treated differently.”

Melinda has seen “evident Islamophobia” when in the supermarket, at the bus stop and in public. When I first got a job in Scotland, I wasn’t covered but since covering I haven’t got a job yet”.

“Society as a whole is just not educated enough and does not have any clarity on what it means to be Muslim. Like for example, coming from a completely atheist background to all of a sudden having faith and going from one to the other is completely different and people don’t understand that it is possible and think ‘what has happened to you?’”

Getting support seems to be a recurring issue for many Muslim women. Melinda agreed that she was not really aware of any support for those experiencing Islamophobia, but credits Muslim organisations for helping her.

“When I was non-Muslim, I was seeing how the media portrayed Islam and it was horrific and something you don’t want to be a part of and even feel like running away from. However, as a Muslim it is sad, hurtful and cruel seeing how Muslims are portrayed on television.”

“What amuses me the most is when people before speaking to me assume that I don’t know how to speak English and speak really really slowly.”


1,100 Feminists Condemn Crackdown on Muslim Women Anti-CAA Activists

May 5, 2020

New Delhi: As many as 1,100 feminists from all over India – including organisations and individuals across a wide cross-section – have issued a solidarity statement, condemning the targeted crackdown on Muslims and women activists in Delhi who had been visible in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, National Register of Citizens and National Population Register.

The signatories noted that the Delhi Police, “at the behest of the Union home ministry is brazenly rounding up people under the cover” of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The statement also underlies the harm caused by linking the peaceful protests that began in December to the riots that took place in Delhi in February. It also asks why cases have not been registered against BJP leaders Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra and Pravesh Verma, who made incendiary statements that are believed to have led to the violence in northeast Delhi.

Among the signatories are feminist rights activists Annie Raja, Medha Patkar, Farah Naqvi, Aruna Roy, Shabnam Hashmi, Lalita Ramdas, Maimoona Moolah, Ruth Manorama, SoniSori and others.

There are also academics Uma Chakravarti, Kalpana Kannabiran, Zoya Hasan, PratikshaBaxi, Gabriele Dietrich, Jayati Ghosh, celebrated authors Meena Kandasamy and Gita Hariharan, senior journalists Pamela Philipose, Geeta Seshu, Sajaya K, and Laxmi Murthy and theatre personalities Mangai and Maya Rao.

Advocates Anubha Rastogi, Veena Gowda, Albertina Almeida and film makers Aparna Sen, Mahasweta Burma, Shiba Chachi, Fathima Nisaruddin, Reena Mohan and others are also among signatories.

Condemning the false cases, arbitrary arrests, detentions and interrogations, as well as UAPA and sedition charges, the statement highlights the cases of three Muslim women: 25-year-old MBA student Gulfisha who was connected with the Seelampur protests, 30-year-old SafooraZargar who was a member of the Jamia Coordination Committee and Ishrat Jahan, former municipal councillor who was active in the Khureji protest.

“Delhi Police must immediately make public all FIRs, arrests and detentions with their legal status and conduct a free and fair investigation into all the incidents of violence.

False cases against peaceful anti-CAA protesters must be dropped, and all those arrested on trumped-up charges must be released immediately.

Real culprits of the violence in Delhi must be booked, including the likes of Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and others who instigated hate, sparked and perpetuated the violence.


Tunisian actress Hend Sabri to star, create new Netflix drama-comedy

May 05, 2020

DUBAI: Tunisian-Egyptian actress Hend Sabri has joined forces with Netflix to star in a drama-comedy that she will also executively produce for the first time, the streaming service announced Monday. 

“I’m very happy to announce that I’m joining the Netflix family to create a new show centered around women. I’m also very excited because this will be my first experience as an executive producer!” the multi-award winning star wrote to her 2.7 million Instagram followers.

Sabry has previously collaborated with Netflix on a campaign, “Because She Watched,” to curate an inspirational film collection on the platform.

The 40-year-old actress, who has a degree in law, has previously made history by becoming the first Arab woman to serve as a jury member in the 2019 Venice Film Festival.

Sabri, who is a UN goodwill ambassador for the World Food Programme, started acting in 1994 in Tunisia. She then moved to Egypt, where she got married and currently lives, to expand her outreach.

With a career that spans over two decades, she has proven to be one the Arab world’s most iconic actresses with a number of successful films and shows under her belt.


Jailed Saudi Princess Fears Coronavirus Risk In Prison

May 05, 2020

London, United Kingdom: A year after landing in jail without charge, her mercy plea unanswered by Saudi rulers and in fear of a coronavirus outbreak behind bars, a prominent princess did the unthinkable -- and went public.

Princess Basmahbint Saud, a 56-year-old royal family member long seen as a proponent of women's rights and a constitutional monarchy, mysteriously disappeared from public life in March last year.

Last month, her Twitter account sprang to life with a letter from the princess claiming she had been "abducted" and "thrown into prison" along with her 28-year-old daughter, Suhoud al-Sharif, and imploring King Salman and his powerful son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for help.

The letter, a rare public appeal from a member of the secretive royal family, voiced fears that her "deteriorating health" in Riyadh's high-security Al-Ha'ir prison -- known for holding terrorism convicts and political prisoners -- could result in her death.

Allowed one weekly telephone call before the tweets, Suhoud told her family that prison authorities had sounded the alarm that coronavirus cases had been detected inside the facility.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia, which has reported more than 25,000 coronavirus infections so far, did not respond to a request for comment.

The case, which spotlights what observers call increasing repression under de facto ruler Prince Mohammed, is the latest sign of turmoil within the royal family following the detention in March this year of King Salman's brother and nephew.

The youngest child of late King Saud bin Abdulaziz, Princess Basmah was preparing to travel to Switzerland on a private jet in March 2019 for medical treatment when a group of men claiming to work for the king showed up at her Jeddah penthouse.

They said they were there to escort the princess for a private meeting with the monarch, according to the sources. Unwilling to let her mother go alone, Suhoud accompanied her.

Security footage of that encounter provided by the sources shows the men -- burly and armed with pistols -- before they moved to cover the surveillance cameras with pieces of cloth.

In written testimony to the United Nations, seen by AFP, the family said Princess Basmah's detention was likely due to her "record as an outspoken critic of abuses in our country" as well as her enquiries about a fortune belonging to King Saud that is frozen by the state.

She was also deemed an ally of former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was replaced as heir to the throne by Prince Mohammed in 2017, the written testimony added.

The government has yet to officially comment on the crackdown, which observers say is an attempt to stamp out dissent and enforce absolute loyalty within royal ranks to Prince Mohammed.

Princess Basmah suffers from numerous health issues including osteoporosis and severe gastrointestinal problems, according to her medical records seen by AFP.

Her detention in a notorious prison is unprecedented in Saudi Arabia, where royal family members are typically held under house arrest or detained in luxury villas or hotels.

But her troubles may have only increased after her Twitter plea -- an unusually bold move by someone from the kingdom's sprawling royal family, comprising thousands of members.

Private entreaties -- not public petitions -- are considered the safest way to navigate the opaque justice system in the absolute monarchy. Saudi authorities are highly sensitive to criticism in public.

But her plea came after private letters making the same appeal to the king and crown prince, seen by AFP, went unanswered over the past year.




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