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On the Frontline of War, Yemeni Women Are Building Peace

New Age Islam News Bureau

27 Apr 2020

'Never Underestimate Resilience' Football club for ethnic minorities


• On the Frontline of War, Yemeni Women Are Building Peace

• NUR, A Women’s Football Club for Ethnic Minorities: More Than Just A Football Club 

• Refugee Women Face Greater Violence Risk During Crisis: UNHCR

• Pakistan’s Cleric, Maulana Tariq Jameel, Blames ‘Women’s Obscenity’ As Reason For Coronavirus

• The Changing Role of Women in Saudi Arabia And Across the Middle East

• Female Leadership and Heroism in The Face of Pandemic

• Saudi TV's Lionizing of Jewish Woman in Ramadan Angers Arabs

• Saudi Arabia Ends Executions for Crimes Committed by Minors, Says Commission

• Supporting Egyptian women against Covid-19

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau



On the frontline of war, Yemeni women are building peace

By Kira Walker

27 April 2020

It was the third year of the war when MunaLuqman heard of a conflict over water in Al-Haymatain, a remote area of Yemen’s Taiz governorate well-known for disputes over the scarce resource. Two communities had taken up arms, and were threatening each other, but had not started fighting. Luqman, a peace activist and founder of Food4Humanity, a women-led civil society organisation that provides emergency relief, training and livelihood programmes, sent in a team of engineers to see what could be done.

She then instigated a mediation process between 16 community representatives, who signed a local peace agreement, and formed a council to prevent future water conflicts. Through funds raised entirely by women in the Yemeni diaspora, Food4Humanity repaired the local water station, which now provides clean water for more than 10,000 people. At the end of March, Luqman mediated another water conflict in the neighbouring Ad Dali’ governorate. The situation, she says, was exactly the same. “It shows you how local initiatives, when they come together, can have a lot of impact, especially when led by women.”

Twenty years ago, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325, which recognised the vital role of women in achieving peace and security. However, when it comes to Yemen, the UN has failed to ensure that women have a role shaping the future of their country. Despite the crucial work of Yemeni women building peace on the frontline of war, their efforts have been ignored and not adequately supported, and they remain excluded from crucial peace negotiations.

The conflict in Yemen began following a failed political transition, when the Houthis pulled out of the national dialogue process in 2014, seized the capital Sana’a and ousted the new leader Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi the following January. The Yemeni government, exiled in the port city of Aden, requested its allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to launch an air and ground campaign to drive out the Houthis, escalating the conflict.

The fighting between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led pro-government coalition, armed and supported by the United States, the United Kingdom and France, has not stopped since.

Medical, water and sanitation infrastructure have repeatedly been targeted during the war, and UN human rights experts believe all conflict parties have committed war crimes. Only half of Yemen’s healthcare facilities are currently operational, while 17.8 million people lack access to clean water for drinking and sanitation – conditions which enabled the largest and fastest spreading cholera outbreak in modern history.

Yemen recently confirmed its first case of COVID-19, and humanitarian organisations have warned that the country’s decimated healthcare system will not be able to cope with the pandemic, and that the impact will be catastrophic. “In Yemen, we cannot advise people to wash their hands with soap and water, because there is neither enough soap, nor much access to water,” Luqman tweeted.

Two weeks after the UN secretary-general António Guterres made a global appeal for a ceasefire to slow the advance of the pandemic, the Saudi-led coalition has declared a two-week unilateral ceasefire starting 9 April in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The UN has called on the Yemeni government and the Houthis to immediately cease hostilities, but it is unclear if the latter will observe the truce.

Since the war began, gender-based violence has increased 63 per cent, while families driven further into poverty increasingly turn to child marriage as an economic coping strategy. A study by UNICEF found that over two-thirds of girls are married before the age of 18. Gender-based violence is but one way women are disproportionately impacted by conflict, which intensifies pre-existing patterns of discrimination; women are also affected more by food insecurity, stress, declines in health services, poor sanitation and hygiene, and reduced water access.

Their needs and interactions with the resource are also different, says Leonie Nimmo, project coordinator and research associate at the UK-based Conflict and Environment Observatory, which has been studying the impact of the conflict on water resources in Yemen.

Women and girls are tasked with collecting water, often from distant sources, which puts them at greater risk of violence and injuries. Women and girls are most in need of clean water and sanitation facilities. And women are most at risk of death from disease when pregnant, breastfeeding or malnourished, or because of their role as caretakers. Therefore, it is essential for water interventions to factor in gender-related impacts, be sensitive to the situation on the ground and conscious of social norms, says Nimmo. “Otherwise they won’t be efficient and they won’t work.”

Access to clean water is fundamental to reducing poverty, breaking cycles of violence and improving the health and well-being of Yemeni women and girls. All the more so as climate change is predicted to further increase pressure on Yemen’s water resources, and environmental degradation has been found to drive or exacerbate gender-based violence.

Undeterred by the disproportionate challenges they face, Yemeni women have taken the lead in peacebuilding at the community level, says RashaJarhum, founder and director of Canada-based Peace Track Initiative, which aims to localise and feminise peace processes in the Middle East and North Africa, with a focus on Yemen.

Women have been negotiating ceasefires, opening humanitarian corridors, providing aid and mediating disputes over land and water resources, among other issues. In turn, their work on the ground builds trust, and establishes knowledge of community needs, an understanding of which is indispensable when it comes to peacebuilding. For Luqman, women have a greater interest in responsibility-sharing, while male-dominated conflict parties focus only on power-sharing.

However, her experience mediating the conflict in Taiz sparked a realisation that water need not be just a cause of conflict – it could also be an entry point for peace – and Food4Humanity launched Water4Peace, an initiative to empower women and youth to bring their communities out of dispute and poverty by providing access to close, clean water, awareness programmes and income-generating projects. “You give them an incentive for peace instead of violence, through water,” she says.

Water, Nimmo agrees, is fundamental to peacebuilding. “Any peace that doesn’t address the issue of water is not going to be sustainable or just.”

However, the threats Yemeni women face for their work are many, including physical attacks, arbitrary detention, gender-based and sexual violence, forced confessions, torture and defamation. “The current women’s rights situation is the worst we have ever witnessed in Yemen,” says Jarhum.

A growing body of research shows that women’s participation in peace processes leads to better outcomes: parties are more likely to reach and implement an agreement, and peace is more durable as women’s inclusion brings a different understanding of conflict, diversifies the range of voices heard and enhances the perceived legitimacy of the process.

Only recently have Yemeni women started gaining recognition for their peacebuilding efforts, due to international advocacy. The turning point, Luqman says, came when Yemeni women secured the release of 600 detainees, while none had been released through the UN-led process. “People began listening to us, when they started seeing how women could be impactful.”

For Luqman, the problem is the way the process is built to exclude women completely, and which fails to see women as a priority, which she pointed out in her 2018 briefing to the UN Security Council: “We are frustrated because… women’s role in peacebuilding continues to be ridiculed, and women who are the real peacemakers, continue to be excluded in the ceasefire and peace process.”

Jarhum, who also briefed the UN Security Council, agrees, and thinks the exclusion of women can also be traced to the one-dimensional portrayal of Yemeni women as victims in Global North fundraising to secure donor support. This victimisation, she says, obscures what women do every day on the ground, and creates the erroneous perception that Yemeni women in general are not qualified. “We need to support them without making them look like passive victims.”

Moreover, the UN-led peace negotiations are failing to do their part to ensure women are equally represented by limiting them to a consultative role. Yemeni women, Luqman says, do not want to be merely consulted. “We want to be in the negotiations, because the decisions that are made there affect all of us.”

The UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, told Jarhum that while he will request that negotiating parties include women, he will not impose a quota. Jarhum, however, does not think national actors will follow through on their commitments to include women if it is not imposed. “There needs to be international and envoy pressure.”

Against these obstacles and more, Jarhum says Yemeni women are done waiting for an invitation to be included in the peace negotiations. “We’re going to claim the space and send our own delegation.”

The lived experience of those most affected by war, and those working hardest to end it, has led to a tangible understanding that without women, there can be no just peace in Yemen.

As Luqman highlighted when she briefed the UN Security Council: “There is no excuse any longer for continuing to exclude women except a poorly designed peace process.”


NUR, A Women’s Football Club For Ethnic Minorities: More Than Just A Football Club 

27 Apr 2020

Playing football is seemingly simple enough: you pull on a shirt and shorts, tie up your boots and away you go.

But is it always that easy? Apparently not if you are a black Muslim woman, as Iqra Ismail knows all too well. “I sort of drew all the short straws in terms of Islamophobia, racism and a lot of sexism too; I’m on the wrong side of all of it,” said the England-born Somalian.

“The biggest battle has definitely been as a Muslim woman,” she continued. “Women’s football is growing, but to be fair it is growing mainly for the white community and for people that have more privilege and standing in their community, and can get away with a bit more essentially. As a Muslim woman there are more restrictions, more stereotypes - and not just from my own community but from the rest of the world as well.

"It is difficult because, for example, my kit has to be a bit different. I can’t wear shorts and stuff like that because of my religious beliefs. That’s something I have to explain because I’m playing football but also I’m a bit different to the rest of the people playing. It isn’t a big difference but it’s just a little miscommunication that happens sometimes and reminds me that I’m not the same as everyone else.”

That backdrop of constantly having to explain herself, of being misunderstood or discriminated against led to Ismail coming up with the idea of creating a place where black and Asian Muslim women could feel comfortable and understood. “When I was younger, I had a couple of trials and I used to discuss this a lot with a couple of my friends,” she said.

“We’d say, ‘We’re not accepted here, but one day we’ll have a place where we are accepted and where these girls can play and feel comfortable.’ I remember saying, ‘When we’ve established our careers and have saved a lot of money, we can do it then’. And then it hit me around last year. I held a tournament and I remember seeing a lot of girls there.

"The demand was a lot higher than I thought it was and a lot of the girls have genuine talent. They just needed somewhere to express it.” And so it was that she founded NUR, ‘Never Underestimate Resilience’, a football club for black and minority ethnic (BAME) women.

With the support of her friends Amirah Jama and Badra Osman, Ismail’s idea soon became a reality. After the first training session it was clear that NUR was no mere pipe dream; it had struck a chord in the community.

“When we had that first session on 21 June it really came to light how much football is needed,” said Ismail, who has the FA Level 1 coaching certificate. “And it continued to grow like that. It started with 15 girls, then 18, 23 and 40. It really grew exponentially and in a way I never thought it would.”

Her love of the game took hold at an early age, in part thanks to her brother, who is a big Chelsea fan and with whom she would watch matches together. If anyone ever told her she could not play, it made her all the more determined to prove them wrong.

“It’s a mad concept for me to believe that something like this that was so blatantly needed hadn’t been provided before,” she said. “But maybe it was only blatant to me how needed it was because I was on the inside of things. I’m glad to be the person to have done it. But if it wasn’t me, I would have wanted it to be someone else. I just want the girls to play and have that environment.”

Nevertheless, in an era of social media, Ismail and her fellow team-mates have still been subjected to hostility on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Such abuse is, unfortunately, something a large number of players across the world now have to deal with.

“Social media can be a very positive place but it can also be a very toxic one,” said the 20-year-old. “I utilise the block button. I’ll be honest with you, the block button is a beautiful thing.

"I remember having a conversation with my players and I said, ‘There will be times when people say certain things but you just have to remember that they are one person, but we are a unit, a team. We represent each other and protect each other. Remember that. These are just people behind a screen, they don’t mean a lot and they’re not the people that can say something that counts.’

"All of us had our fair share of racism growing up. We knew what could be said: ‘You can’t play. You should be in the kitchen’. All those sort of things. And once you’ve had all of it, you just laugh.”

For Ismail, who is currently studying for her bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology, it is now especially important that the next generation can also benefit from NUR. Many girls stop playing football around the age of 15 and 16 because their parents want them to focus on their education. They start playing again four or five years later, but that gap is one that Ismail would like to close.

“It is really important for the younger age groups, maybe the U-10s, U-13s, U-16s, U-6s and U-8s even,” she said. “You need to instil this idea of resilience and passion for the game at a young age. I want to instil the idea early and say, ‘You know what? If football is your passion, you need to keep going with it.’

"So we need to start from a young age that they can build and grow and keep the idea in their heads. If it’s something they want to do, that is perfectly fine. At least they had a good run at it and the opportunity and the time to figure out what they want to do. A lot of these girls did not have the opportunity."


Refugee women face greater violence risk during crisis: UNHCR

20 Apr 2020

Displaced women and girls are facing a heightened risk of gender-based violence during the coronavirus crisis, the United Nations refugee agency has said.

"We need to pay urgent attention to the protection of refugee, displaced and stateless women and girls at the time of this pandemic," said Gillian Triggs, the UNHCR assistant high commissioner for protection.

"They are among those most at-risk. Doors should not be left open for abusers and no help spared for women surviving abuse and violence."

She said displaced women could end up confined with their abusers, while others, having lost their precarious livelihoods, "may be forced into survival sex, or child marriages by their families", said Triggs.

The restrictions imposed in many countries in response to the coronavirus pandemic mean limited access to support services, said the UNHCR.

To counter the risk, the UNHCR is distributing emergency cash to survivors and women deemed to be at risk of gender-based violence.

Triggs said governments should ensure that the "rising risks of violence" for displaced women are taken into account in their COVID-19 action plans.

One measure could be ensuring that services for survivors of gender-based violence are designated as essential and remain accessible.


Pakistan’s Cleric, Maulana Tariq Jameel, Blames ‘Women’s Obscenity’ As Reason For Coronavirus

April 27, 2020

Pakistan’s prominent cleric Maulana Tariq Jameel said that the novel coronavirus has been brought to humanity as a repercussion to the “wrongdoing of women”. The cleric made the comments on live television during the Ehsaas Telethon fund raising event on Thursday in the presence of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, as per media reports.

The media report cited in the Hindustan Times said that the cleric put the blame of the widespread global pandemic on “women who dress scantily”. He further condemned them and said their behavior is the reason why god’s wrath has been brought upon the country as a virus.

Later, Jameel blamed media for blowing his remarks on women out of proportions and apologized saying it was a slip of tongue. However, he did not apologize for his offensive remarks on women.

The commission took to Twitter and wrote: “HRCP is appalled at Maulana Tariq Jamil’s recent statement inexplicably correlating women’s ‘modesty’ to the Covid19 pandemic. Such blatant objectification is unacceptable and, when aired on public television, only compounds the misogyny entrenched in society.”

The country widely-read newspaper Dawn said that it is a “shame” that the cleric was not corrected when he made these offensive comments.

According to the United Nations, cases of domestic abuse cases have increased unprecedentedly across the world during the coronavirus pandemic due to the prolonged lockdown that has confined people to their homes.


The Changing Role Of Women In Saudi Arabia And Across The Middle East

Apr 27, 2020

By Fatima Salahuddin

There are way too many stereotypes and constrictive judgments that plague the lives of Middle East women and Muslim women at large. And as much as these misconceptions do not reflect the exact social status of women in this region, they are not entirely wrong. Women have for the longest time been seen as nothing more than housewives and mothers, especially in the rural provinces.

Things are, however, turning in favor of women with the progression of gender rights over the last decade. Different communities in the Middle East are redefining the role of Sharia (Islamic law) and eliminating draconian cultural norms that oppress women. Of course, gender topics are still too hot to handle even in advanced democracies such as the United States, so it is only fair to acknowledge the steps the Middle East communities are making towards women empowerment, no matter how small.

This article focuses on the changing role of women in the Middle East and particularly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We will not dwell too much on minor concerns such as whether women should cover their hair or not. Our main focus will be the plight of Saudi and Middle Eastern girls and women in 2020.

Saudi women are slowly getting their voices heard through female executive officers. There are several female deputy ministers and female members of parliament now, a big win considering that there were no women in leadership just 10 years ago. What’s more, Saudi women can now run and vote in elections.

Dr.DalalNamanaqani, a Saudi scholar, recently became the first female president of a co-ed university in the Kingdom. This positive development came at a time when female tertiary education is at an all-time high. We can only expect that with leaders such as Dr.Namanaqani inspiring bright female students to pursue leadership positions after college, there will be a significant number of women in the Saudi parliament in the next 10 to 20 years.

It is true to say that after pushing for decades, Saudi women have finally succeeded in driving major reforms in both the public and private sectors. In the labor market, female employment was at 34% by the end of 2019. That is an impressive figure considering that the Kingdom has been through major economic difficulties since oil prices started declining in 2016.

Saudi women were not allowed to drive up until a couple years ago. Thousands of women are now either employed as drivers or they are driving their personal cars. Female tourists who previously stayed away from Saudi Arabia for the fear of being subjected to harsh Sharia Laws are now booking the Saudi Arabia visa in large numbers since the law was relaxed a little. More women drivers also means more car sales in the Kingdom.

Adulthood now means the same for both males and females in Saudi Arabia; both men and women over the age of 21 are considered adults. This means a lot to women. For a start, it means that an adult female does not have to obtain a male guardian’s permission to travel abroad like it used to be. Women with no husbands or fathers, particularly divorced or widowed women, had to go through the embarrassment of seeking permission to travel from their own sons. Finally, women do not need guardians, whether a father, husband, brother or son, to go about their daily activities. Some families are actually accepting women as equal partners to men. Young ladies are even allowed to turn their abayas and other clothing into fashion statements provided they don’t expose their bodies.

The rights, liberties, and opportunities of women in Gaza and Palestine as a whole have been hard to come by for a long time now. Most women in the country are poor, unemployed, uneducated, and a large number are forced into early marriages. Female college dropouts are also high.

However, Palestinian women are using their creativity and energy to create opportunities for themselves. A case in point is the “Women for Change” film festival that addresses topics of marginalization and oppression. Female programmers, on the other hand, have united to create mentorship initiatives for young girls with a passion for coding.

One thing that governments in the Middle East are realizing is that it will be hard to achieve their Vision 2030 reform plans without women. That is why there will be new opportunities for Muslim women in the region every year going forward. It is now up to the women to rise to the occasion and cement their place as key players in the region’s social and economic growth.


Female leadership and heroism in the face of pandemic


April 26, 2020

Most of us have little concept of the devastating impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the bodies of severely impacted victims. Yet courageous medical staff — often with woefully inadequate protective clothing — are staring death in the face every day.

A lot has been written about how men appear more susceptible to COVID-19 than women. However, one Italian study found higher contagion risks among working-age women; apparently due to their overrepresentation in essential sectors like medicine, social care and education. Some 73 percent of US health care workers infected with coronavirus are women.

Women make up about 90 percent of nursing and social care workers. One in three US jobs held by women has been designated as essential (the figure is even higher for non-white women). Women are found in high numbers in cutting-edge scientific efforts to find a vaccine, while, as morticians, they are compassionately managing piles of dead bodies in epidemic hotspots.

Even though less than 7 percent of world leaders are women, many of their countries — such as New Zealand, Germany, Taiwan, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark — are near the top of the global list for rapidly and effectively combating the epidemic. These states are today best positioned to cautiously relax emergency measures.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won plaudits for the swift decisions to close borders and enforce a lockdown (after only six cases) and her effective messaging; stopping the disease in its tracks. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg also implemented an early lockdown, allowing scientists to take the lead. Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir offered free tests to all citizens. The only Nordic state with a male leader — Sweden — gained notoriety for refusing to close schools and businesses, and it has since notched up one of Europe’s highest death rates.

Chancellor Angela Merkel (a scientist by training) bluntly but calmly addressed her nation at an early stage, with Germany’s world-class health system maintaining a mortality rate far below those of its near neighbors. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s rapid initiatives (such as inspections of planes from Wuhan as early as December and mandatory health checks) have meant Taiwan has only suffered six deaths so far, despite its proximity to China. Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs, from the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten, became an internet sensation for her no-nonsense public messaging, saying: “Simply. Stop. Moving. If you do not have the type of bread you like in your house, eat crackers.”

While it would be facile to claim that these leaders performed exceptionally well just because they are women, commentators have noted that, due to the extreme difficulties women face in reaching the top, they must be truly exceptional individuals (while figures like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson were born into privilege). All these leaders are exceptional communicators. Merkel is affectionately referred to as “Mutti” (mummy), and is respected for steadily steering Germany through successive crises.

After decades of interviewing female leaders, I find them better attuned to the human consequences of policy decisions. Speaking to Indira Gandhi in the final hours of her life, she emphasized to me the importance of women’s ability to deal with details: Politics isn’t primarily about besting rivals, but improving the lives of society’s weakest, and protecting society against short and long-term risks.

It was jaw-dropping how long it took many male leaders to perceive the crisis hurtling toward them head-on. With the US in an election year, Britain negotiating Brexit and the EU undergoing a multitude of crises, statesmen appeared reluctant to focus on a lowly health care issue. They then found themselves embarrassingly out of their depth when the crisis hit — belatedly taking action several weeks later than their female counterparts. Trump famously denounced COVID-19 as a “hoax” created by his rivals and predicted that “like a miracle, it will disappear.” That’s not to mention his potentially fatal recommendations of blasting bodies with ultraviolet light or injecting people with disinfectant.

We are, meanwhile, facing an “epidemic” of domestic violence, as women find themselves cooped up with their abusers 24/7. Domestic violence reports have more than doubled in some countries, with horrific cases of women being tortured and beaten to death in Iraq, Latin America, India and elsewhere.

Gender violence was already at crisis levels before the coronavirus outbreak, with nearly one in five women worldwide experiencing violence in the past year. The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa coincided with a significant increase in sexual abuse against women and children. Ebola also led to a spike in maternity deaths as health care resources were diverted away from pregnancies.

About 20 percent of Iraqi women experience domestic violence, with 36 percent of married women reporting psychological abuse from husbands. Nevertheless, domestic violence is underreported, with so-called honor killings frequently logged as suicides. Lebanese women’s protection organizations are reporting exceptionally high volumes of calls.

Women in impoverished nations, refugee camps and conflict zones are the most vulnerable; living in crowded conditions and with minimal access to health care or clean water. Indeed, the UN is warning of famines of “biblical proportions” due to the pandemic’s economic fallout, potentially pushing hundreds of millions of people throughout the developing world to the brink of starvation and possibly killing far more than the virus itself.

Although the Arab world is behind much of the rest of the world in terms of female participation in the medical workforce, the Gulf Cooperation Council states are catching up rapidly. Female medical students frequently outnumber their male counterparts, with Saudi universities pumping out thousands of exceptional women medical graduates every year.

Women constitute 70 percent of the worldwide health workforce, but only 25 percent of leadership positions. COVID-19 crisis teams are almost exclusively men — disqualifying the best talents and marginalizing the viewpoints of half the population. Will nurses and care workers continue to be among the worst-paid segments of the workforce after the pandemic is over?

Coronavirus isn’t just a temporary respite from the usual “masculine” business of politics. We may be entering an age of pandemics, where environmental and biological threats irreversibly transform our way of life, giving rise to challenges of famines, mass immigration, state collapse, exacerbated conflict for resources and, of course, gender violence.

Given their proven record of success, we must ensure that women are properly represented at the highest levels in confronting this tsunami of 21st-century strategic threats.

BariaAlamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.


Saudi TV's lionizing of Jewish woman in Ramadan angers Arabs

April 26, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): A new series aired on the Saudi-owned MBC channel about the life of Jews in the Persian Gulf during the 1940s has generated controversy in the Arab world, with critics regarding the drama as an invitation to normalize ties with Israel.

Umm Haroun, a daring account of the Jewish merchant communities that resided in Kuwait, premiered during Ramadan which is the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar.

The series directed by Egypt’s Ahmed Gamal el-Adl in the United Arab Emirates stars a Kuwaiti actress who plays the role of a Jewish midwife of Turkish origin living in the Persian Gulf country before settling in the occupied Palestinian territories.

"Before our footsteps go missing and our lives fall into memory, we will be lost to time," a Jewish character says in Hebrew in the opening monologue of the first episode. "We are the Persian Gulf Jews who were born in the Persian Gulf lands.”

Hebrew-language outlet N12 reported on Sunday that many believe Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is involved in the series as he is interested in closer relations between the kingdom and Israel.

Several critics took to social media to express their outrage at the series, saying it portrays Jews as suffering from “injustices” in an Arab country.

“We have many successful and heroic women in the Persian Gulf,” protested Hana al-Qahtan. “Why do we need to turn a Jewish woman into a hero in our dramas?”

Another social media user Ahmed Madani tweeted that he does not understand why an Arab television channel would broadcast a series about a Jewish woman during Ramadan.

“Would Israel ever produce a series about a Muslim woman in its prisons?” he asked. “What about the injustices done to the Palestinians? Why not produce a documentary about the suffering of Palestinians?”

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas which is based in the Gaza Strip denounced the TV series as a “political and cultural attempt to introduce the Zionist project to Persian Gulf society.”

“The character of Umm Haroun reminds me of [ex-Israeli prime minister] Golda Meir, the head of the occupation, who was a murderous criminal,” said senior Hamas official Ra’fatMurra. “This is the goal of normalization: hatred, slow killing and internal destruction."

Murra said the series aims to falsify history and gradually introduce Persian Gulf society to normalization with the Zionist occupation, at a time when some Arab rulers are panting to build close ties with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to protect their thrones.

The al-Quds news network reported that 13 Palestinian groups and organizations had, in a joint statement, urged the Saudi-owned channel to stop airing Umm Haroun.

Israel has full diplomatic relations with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, but latest reports suggest that the regime is working behind the scenes to establish formal contacts with Persian Gulf Arab states such as Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia welcomed US President Donald Trump’s pro-Israel “deal of the century,” which was unveiled in late January and rejected by all Palestinian groups.


Saudi Arabia ends executions for crimes committed by minors, says commission

Apr 27, 2020

Saudi Arabia will no longer impose the death penalty on people who committed crimes while still minors, the country's Human Rights Commission says.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - which Riyadh has signed - says capital punishment should not be used for offences carried out by minors.

They say freedom of expression is severely curtailed and critics of the government are subject to what they say is arbitrary arrest.

A record 184 people were executed in the kingdom in 2019, according to human rights group Amnesty International. At least one case involved a man convicted of a crime committed when he was a minor, the rights group reported.

In a statement published on Sunday, AwwadAlawwad, president of the state-backed commission, said a royal decree had replaced executions in cases where crimes were committed by minors with a maximum penalty of 10 years in a juvenile detention centre.

The kingdom's human rights record has remained under intense scrutiny, despite recent changes, following the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, while many civil rights and women's rights activists remain in prison.

Earlier this week, the most prominent Saudi human rights campaigner died in jail after a stroke which fellow activists say was due to medical neglect by the authorities.


Supporting Egyptian women against Covid-19

16 Apr 2020

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) recently commended the National Council for Women (NCW) for its efforts toensure that a gender perspective is adopted in Egypt’s coronavirus response plan.

The NCW established the women’s policy tracker on responsive policies and programmes during the Covid-19 pandemic to monitor policies and procedures responsive to the needs of Egyptian women in light of the efforts made to reduce the spread of the virus. 

UN Women issued a press release expressing its appreciation of the Egyptian government as well as the NCW’s efforts to ensure that the Covid-19 response was effective for everyone, including women and girls.

Notably, the government’s stimulus package provides more incentives for sectors that have high female labour force participation, such as tourism and agriculture; increases payments to women community leaders in rural areas; and increases the number of households in the Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity) social protection programmes with an additional 100,000 households.

Over 80 per cent of recipients of the Takaful programme are women, and includes clients of the microfinance sector in the Central Bank of Egypt which decided to delay loan instalments. Women constitute over 70 per cent of microfinance clients.

UN Women said it appreciated the gender-sensitive approach taken by the government of Egypt in its response to the coronavirus and will continue to support national efforts to carry out additional measures in line with its responsibilities, which include advancing women’s rights during such difficult times.

The government has taken several measures to contain the effects of Covid-19 on the economy. President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, during a meeting held on 22 March marking Egyptian Women’s Day, issued a set of economic and social protection decrees to support and protect society, recognising the role and status of Egyptian women and the importance of continuing to support them during this current phase.

In March, a decree was issued by the prime minister to lower office density in the public sector by reducing the number of employees. The decree included protections such as granting pregnant employees and working mothers whose children are under 12 exceptional leave throughout the decree’s implementation period. In line with this decision, the NCW said that should there be complaints from female workers in the public sector who face any challenges with respect to the prime minister’s decision, they should be reported on the organisation’s hotline.

Maya Morsy, the NCW president, pointed out that the first policy Note issued by the Women Policy Tracker covering 14 March to 6 April aimed at monitoring policies and measures adopted by the government to fulfill women’s needs. “The government’s efforts are based on President Al-Sisi’s directives regarding the importance of mustering efforts by government institutions and bodies to deal decisively and effectively with the crisis,” Morsy said.

The government, according to Morsy, was also taking into consideration the importance of mainstreaming and integrating women in decision-making processes and implementing programmes in order to ensure their protection from social, economic and psychological repercussions of the virus. The NCW, she said, will work with government authorities to support the development and implementation of mitigation and response policies to ensure the protection of women.

According to the policy note, the virus has seriously affected women’s engagement in economic activities especially in the informal sector. In Egypt, 40.9 per cent of female non-agricultural employment is in informal employment and 33.9 per cent of females work in vulnerable jobs. Egyptian women also represent 70 per cent of the paid care sector workforce, mainly as teachers, health and social workers. 

In addition to including an analysis of the status quo, the NCW policy note also presented a number of proposed response measures, whether immediate or mid-term, to concerned ministries and government institutions regarding issues related to health, education and social protection. The policy Note further tackles violence against women, leadership and representation in decision making during crisis management, and the impact on economic opportunities.

Morsy stressed that the NCW will continue tracking and monitoring policies and programmes that respond to the needs of women during this crisis.




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