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Open Letter by Afghan Women to the Taliban

New Age Islam News Bureau

13 Aug 2020

• Arab Women Writers Struggle to Get the Readers They Deserve

• Ilhan Omar Continues to Make Political Waves in the US

• Bella Hadid Donates to Lebanese Charities Following Deadly Blast

• Women’s Group in Dubai Raises Covid-19 Aid from Recipe Book

• Afghan District Attempts to Abolish Forced Marriages

• Sneakers Gain Footing with Women in The Arab World

• Saudi youth report draws flak over marriage finding

• Female Pakistani Journalists Call Out Online Abuse By Govt-Sponsored Trolls On Social Media

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Open Letter by Afghan Women to the Taliban

August 13, 2020


A woman shouts slogan during a demonstration in support of female victims of abuse and violence in Kabul, July 11, 2012. AHMAD JAMSHID / AP


For the past two years, Afghan women have been observing the ongoing negotiation process in Afghanistan carefully and, like millions of our fellow citizens, we deeply hope that the process can bring the nearly 40 years of conflict in our beloved Afghanistan to an end. We, women, have borne the brunt of the four decades of conflict. As wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters we have suffered terribly, we have been subjected to the brutality and violence of war; we have borne witness to the endless suffering of our families and our people. We, perhaps more than anyone, seek an end to this senseless war. Yet, we, like the vast majority of Afghan women and men, worry that the price of peace may be too heavy if we lose the vitality of more than half of our population and the essential gains achieved in the last two decades.

Your willingness to enter peace talks has given us hope but your public statements and behavior on the ground have continued to trouble us. We have heard from some in your leadership that you have changed and recognize that Afghanistan is not the same country that you reigned over in 1996-2001, and recognize women’s rights to education and work according to “Shari’a and Afghan traditions''. At the same time, you have resisted explaining your interpretations of Shari’a and the Afghan traditions of which you speak. Respectfully, your interpretation is one of many. There are many customary practices that are in clear contradictions to Islamic values. Some of the more egregious are prohibiting and limiting girls’ education, women’s economic freedom, right to inheritance, the treatment of women and girls as commodities, resolving disputes by giving little girls and women as Baad, preventing and limiting women’s employment and their participation in public life, to name just a few.

In Afghanistan, women continue to be the largest illiterate. In addition, 80% of our girls are forced into marriage at a very young age, a tradition more common in areas under your influence. While in other Muslim nations women are thriving as successful leaders, politicians and policy makers, actively improving the lives of their fellow citizens, in Afghanistan we are still fighting to be recongized and respected as equal and capable citizens. Muslim women across the Muslim world - in Tunisia, Morocco, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Jordan, Turkey, Bangladesh, Senegal, Mauritius, even Pakistan and in many others are enjoying freedom of movement, access to education, employment and access to services, but we are still fighting for our survival. Despite the significant challenges and continued threat to our lives, we will pursue our desire to serve our country. Afghanistan belongs to all of us, women and men. We do not view the roles differently when it comes to the protection and development of our beloved Afghanistan. In doing so, you have often addressed our push to serve our country and our fellow citizens as merely western influence.

You have also dismissed those of us who have been on the frontlines of working on women’s and human rights, accusing us of bringing in western values . We, as women 1 represent every part of Afghanistan, rural and urban. We represent the full diversity of Afghanistan including geographical, sectarian and ethnic. The rights that we espouse and work towards are fundamental human rights enshrined in the holy religion of Islam and other faiths practiced in Afghanistan. As more than half of the population, we have put our lives and those of our families on the line to defend and protect the most vulnerable and those abused. It is the obligation of every citizen, regardless of their gender or ethnicity, to engage in improving their lives and the lives of their families, friends and fellow citizens. You have often projected our obligation to our country and people as a western influence and propaganda but there is nothing western in Afghan women demanding respect for their dignity and protection of their equal rights. As proud and responsible citizens, we do not view putting our skills to work to improve our country’s future towards prosperity as western. In the last two decades, we have played a vital role in rebuilding our destroyed country. We have done so as scientists, doctors, technologists, entrepreneurs, judges, religious scholars, engineers, lawyers, teachers, university professors, security officials, journalists, artists, and rights activists across the country.

We will not allow our place and contribution towards rebuilding our country to be erased or reversed. More than ever we recognize our capacity to contribute to the wellbeing of our society. We will not allow the potential, talent, the rights and dignity of our daughters and sons to be stripped once again for political gains and posturing.

1 This letter is written by a group of women with incredibly diverse backgrounds. We are a group of nearly 400 women from across the country working for and demanding peace. Among us, we have the current generation of Afghanistan, those in their early 20s who do not remember what it was like to live under your regime and older women who remember very well what it was like to live under your rules. The views expressed in this letter voice aspirations and fears shared by millions from across the country. As we have repeatedly offered, we are prepared to sit down with the Taliban and have a genuine discussion about the needs and challenges of our population and our country. We have done so with members of the Afghan government and believe it is equally important to engage with you. We believe this is important because you are a party to the conflict and to the negotiations. For the last two decades, your leadership and command have been living outside of Afghanistan and you have not been exposed to the flourishing progress in our country.

We believe that by sitting together we may overcome the polarized views that you have expressed about Afghan women and the future of our country.

It is the dream of every responsible Afghan, including your children who live outside Afghanistan, to live in a country in which the role of every Afghan will be vital to rebuilding our country and ensuring that we become a sovereign, independent, sustainable and peaceful country in the region and international community.


Arab Women Writers Struggle to Get the Readers They Deserve

13 AUGUST 2020


The Palestinian writer Sahar Khalifeh saw an English translation of her 1990 classic Bab al-Saha (Passage to the Plaza) published just this year. Above, Khalifeh announces the 2017 winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Mohammed Hasan Alwan’s A Small Death (Photo: Kamran Jebreili/AP).


When Jokha Alharthi’s Celestial Bodies won the 2019 International Booker Prize, in Marilyn Booth’s vibrant translation, many saw this as a turning point for Arabic literature in English translation. In particular, translators hoped women’s writing in Arabic would get more serious attention.

“I think that was wishful thinking,” Elisabeth Jaquette, executive director of the American Literary Translators Association, said over the phone. “Which is a shame.”

But while things did not instantly change for Arab women’s writing in English translation, Alharthi’s and Booth’s success is still being celebrated this Women in Translation Month, which is marked every August.

The month-long celebration was founded by the book blogger Meytal Radzinski in 2014, and it sits at the intersection of two different efforts. The first, spearheaded by the Three Percent blog, highlights how few literary works in the United States are translations. The second, started by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, tracks women writers’ representation in English-language magazines, newspapers, and journals.

The majority of literary translators are women. But as Women in Translation Month highlights, the books being translated are largely by men. Around 30 percent of new translations to English from across world languages are works written by women, while 70 percent are by men, Radzinski found.

Translations from Arabic to English follow a similar pattern. Of the 14 works submitted to the 2020 Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, ten were by male writers and four by women. In 2019, it was three books by women, 13 by men.

Women’s books that are translated from Arabic to English also face an additional set of obstacles. As Amal Amireh, a scholar of literature and postcolonial studies, wrote back in 1996, Arab women’s novels are often presented “as sociological and anthropological texts that ‘reflect’ the reality of Islam and the Arab world and ‘lift the veil’ from what one reviewer called the ‘unimaginable world of Arab women.’”

Publishers and reviewers have treated much of Arab women’s writing not as literature, but as an exotic daytrip. Many book jackets of literary works in translation feature Arab and Muslim women fully covered, with only their eyes peeking out.

“It’s not that I don’t enjoy the writing of male authors, but I seem to gravitate more towards and connect with writing by women authors.”

There have been several English-language best-sellers in the genre that Lila Abu-Lughod, a scholar of ethnography at Columbia University, has called “saving Muslim women” stories. Yet, across languages, there has largely not been an interest in translating Arabic literature by women. Maria Isabel González Martínez, the blogger behind Separata Árabe, said over email that “of the 110 Arabophone authors translated into Spanish: 76 are men and 34 are women.”

The scholar Nadia Ghanem tracks translations of Algerian writing. She noted that, while there are a few more Algerian women translated into French than into English, “regardless, there are a zillion more men translated in comparison.” When a Chinese Ph.D. student, Sha Min, put together a list of Arabic literature translated into Chinese in 2016, there was only one book by a woman writer.

Jaquette said she thought English-language publishers had been expressing more interest in finding new works by Arab women writers. But she added that this had yet to result in more women’s books in translation.

For her part, the translator Sawad Hussain said she felt the focus on male writers “stems from the Arabic publishing houses themselves, which have been putting forth their male authors for prizes and media opportunities.”

In the last several years, both Hussain and Jaquette have spent more time exploring and translating work by Arab women writers.

“The first year that the Women in Translation movement came onto my radar, I thought that probably I had translated many women,” Jaquette said. “But I looked back through my publications and found that to be very untrue, that I had translated more men than women. In part, this was due to being commissioned to translate male writers. That was a moment of reckoning for me.”

But, Jaquette added, her preference for women writers is “not only a matter of principle, it’s also a matter of taste. There’s a lot in women’s writing that resonates with me.”

Hussain said the same. “It’s not that I don’t enjoy the writing of male authors, but I seem to gravitate more towards and connect with writing by women authors.”

Hussain recently published a translation of Sahar Khalifeh’s classic Bab al-Saha (Passage to the Plaza) and has translations forthcoming of a novel by the South Sudanese writer Stella Gaitano and a short-story collection by the Libyan writer Najwa Binshatwan.

“It’s true that what affects the translation is either being a bestseller or a prize winner, and then yes, more men have bestsellers than women.”

If there has been a positive change, Jaquette said, it’s that Arab women’s writing is finding “more of a place in a literary context, vs. an ethnographic one. Part of it is the numbers. The more books by women that are published from Arabic, even if the overall numbers are not large, then that does create more room for a greater diversity of stories.”

Several of the major, serious literary works appearing in 2020 are translations of books by Arab women. Two that will surely contend for 2021 awards are Adania Shibli’s Minor Detail, translated by Jaquette, and Hoda Barakat’s The Night Mail, translated by Booth. In 2019, The Night Mail became the first book by a woman to be the sole winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. It is set to appear as Voices of the Lost in September 2020.

Translations make up a larger percentage of literature published in Arabic than they do of literature in English. But the question of gender balance does not seem to have factored into many publishers’ decisions.

“I haven’t encountered the question of ‘Women in Translation’ in Algeria,” Ghanem said, “at least not posed that way. I feel examining gender in literature is a luxury that can be afforded or investigated only when there’s enough socio-political space, and economic stability, for it. It needs breathing and thinking space.”

Gender balance differed by genre. The U.A.E.-based Kalimat Group’s Rewayat Books imprint has focused on acclaimed and classic novels since its launch in 2017. The imprint lists translations of works by 37 men 15 women on its website, with many of the classics being by men.

Egypt’s Al Arabi Publishing is another major publisher of translated literature. Its publisher, Sherif Bakr, said over email that he doesn’t consider gender when he selects titles.

Al Arabi’s list includes more than 200 books from 50-plus countries, and its fiction list is close to evenly divided, with 59 percent works by men and 41 percent by women. On the other hand, its nonfiction list shows more disparity: 86 percent books by men and 14 percent by women, perhaps reflecting who is considered a global expert.

Bakr said he didn’t think most Arab publishers consciously looked at gender when selecting books. “It’s true that what affects the translation is either being a bestseller or a prize winner, and then yes, more men have bestsellers than women,” Bakr said. “For prizes, I see a growth in the number of women who are nominated and winning.”

Other noteworthy translations to look for this year include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, translated to Arabic by Bothina Alibrahim, and Shahla Ujayli’s Summer With the Enemy, shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2019 and now translated to English by Michelle Hartman.


Ilhan Omar Continues to Make Political Waves in the US

13 AUGUST 2020


Ilhan Omar


Ilhan Omar continues to make political waves in the US as she wins Minnesota Democrat primary.

One of the two Muslim women elected to Congress back in 2018, she has continued to build a strong political stand, which has resonated with voters and saw her beat her a well-funded opponent, Antone Melton-Meaux.

“We earned a mandate for change,” Omar, who is seeking her second term in November, tweeted. “Despite outside efforts to defeat us, we once again broke turnout records. Despite the attacks, our support has only grown.”

Melton-Meaux tried to argue that Omar was out of touch with heavily Democratic Minneapolis-area fifth district, which hasn’t elected a Republican to Congress since 1960.

A refugee from Somalia, Omar was elected to the Minnesota Legislature in 2016 and has been a passionate voice on liberal issues and has been endorsed by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In a statement following her win, Omar said: “This election isn’t about me. It’s about an agenda rooted in people’s everyday struggles—and the corporations and rightwing donors who are threatened by it. It’s about standing up to a President who promised to ban an entire group of people from this country based solely on their Muslim identity. It’s about standing up for the basic human rights around the world—and fighting a military-industrial complex that opposes the recognition of people’s humanity and dignity.”

She is part of a new generation of politicians, also known as the “squad”, which includes, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.


Bella Hadid donates to Lebanese charities following deadly blast

August 08, 2020

DUBAI: Part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid, whose father, real estate developer Mohamed Hadid, lived in Beirut with his family before immigrating to the US, wrote that her “eyes and heart are crying for Lebanon” following the deadly blast on Aug. 4, which broke though the capital city and killed at least 137 people and injured thousands.

“I am sorry you have to endure this kind of disaster my brothers and sisters,” she said in a lengthy, heartfelt Instagram post, sharing that she will be sending donations to the Lebanese Red Cross, in addition to local organizations situated in Beirut. “We NEED to support the people of Lebanon. Helping from within, through these smaller organizations can help pinpoint what necessities are most needed and where they can be sent, exactly,” she wrote.

Over the weekend, American actor George Clooney and his wife, Lebanese-British human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, announced that they are donating $100,000 to Lebanese charities helping those left homeless by the deadly explosion in Beirut.

According to Variety, the couple said: “We’re both deeply concerned for the people of Beirut and the devastation they’ve faced in the last few days.”

“Three charitable organizations we’ve found are providing essential relief on the ground: the Lebanese Red Cross, Impact Lebanon, and Baytna Baytak. We will be donating to these three $100,000 and hope that others will help in any way they can,” they added.

Also showing support for Lebanon was pop star Ariana Grande.“My heart, strength and condolences are with Lebanon and everyone affected by this tragedy,” she tweeted. Please support / donate if you're able to, I will be doing so too.”


Women’s group in Dubai raises Covid-19 aid from recipe book

August 12, 2020

The group also printed a special message on the illustrated online book.

As the world struggled to pass their time constructively during the Covid-19 related #StayHome period, a group of women from Dubai made the most productive use of their time as they believed that 'every dark cloud has a silver lining'.

The volunteer group known as Friends of Emirates Red Crescent, that works under the umbrella of the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC) and comprises of 12 women of different nationalities, religions and background, managed to raise Dh17,000 by simply launching a unique online recipe book and donating all the proceeds to the ERC to help those affected by the virus.

Kamu Bhavnani, co-chair of the volunteer group, said: "We were looking for ways to use our time constructively and to help those in need, especially after seeing many suffer in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is when the group's chairperson Zenny Hirji came up with the idea of a unique online recipe book that would see us all (12 members) pen down our tried and tested recipes which were considered "family favourites" and were probably passed down to us from generations."

Each member of the group - in the age group 35-75 years - contributed five of their "family or culture special" recipes that they had been making for a number of years for the book that they titled "From Our Home to Yours - Tried and Tested Recipes".

Bhavnani said: "These are not just any run-of-the-mill recipes but I would call them heirloom recipes that have been passed down the generations. They are easy to make and not the usual, regular recipes one would find online. These are those 'ageless' recipes that are probably famous in someone's culture or household and that have been tried and tested over a number of years. We used the #StayHome time to once again practise and prepare all the five recipes each of us contributed. We then photographed our dishes so that we could show people the real pictures of how the dishes looked."

The group then distributed the e-book for Dh100 and upwards (whatever people deemed fit to pay for the cause) within their circle of friends and asked them to forward it and spread the word about the good cause behind its launch - to help those affected by Covid-19.

Lebanese national and group member Lara Tabet, a TV presenter and luxury brand ambassador, said: "The tragic events around Covid-19 made us all realise that one's greatness is not what he or she has but what he or she can give. We have witnessed so many people who were impacted and so many courageous people willing to serve on the frontlines. We have also seen the great efforts extended by the leaders of the UAE and this fired us all up to want to do our part."

The group also printed a special message on the illustrated online book, where they stated the purpose behind the book launch which, Bhavnani said was "to create an unbroken chain of giving".

Friends of Emirates Red Crescent, which has been granted a special licence by the ERC to raise funds for Covid-related causes, said the money raised is being used by the charity for providing food packages to people who lost their jobs and require financial help; offering medical assistance to those who were suffering with the disease. The charity also used the money to provide shelter to a number of people who were evicted from their houses due to Covid-19 circumstances.

The group has been fundraising in Dubai in different avatars for the last 20 years. Previously, registered as The Children's Hope Foundation (CHF) they are well known in the community for their work supporting children in the areas of health, education and general welfare.


Afghan District Attempts To Abolish Forced Marriages

August 12, 2020

BAMYAN, Afghanistan -- Hamida, a young Afghan girl from the Yakawlang district of the central Afghan province of Bamyan, had pictured a bright future for herself. But at age 14, her dreams of finishing school and attending university met with the harsh reality facing so many girls in Afghanistan when her father married her off to an older cousin.

Hamida’s childhood was taken away from her in the name of exploitative customs that are widespread in rural and remote areas of the country. Once she was married, she was expected to cook, clean, and look after her husband and in-laws, but after six years, she has had enough.

“When I was in seventh grade, my father forced me to marry a man I did not love. My husband's family did not let me continue my education,” said Hamida, now age 20. “I finally divorced my husband, but my life is now a cycle of never-ending problems.”

“I have returned to my father's house, but my ex-husband has taken my [2-year-old] daughter away from me,” she said. “I am worried for my daughter's future. I don't want her to face a destiny similar to mine.”

In a show of unity against the practice and in a pioneering move the first of its kind in Afghanistan, civil rights activists, religious clerics, and women in Bamyan’s Yakawlang district agreed to ban forced marriages. A number of the clerics suggested this type of union is unacceptable and actually forbidden in Islam.

Rauf Salehi, a leader of Yakawlang’s clerics, tells Radio Free Afghanistan that after the decision to prohibit forced marriages was made a few months ago, the number of forced marriages in the district dropped by 50 percent.

“When people come to religious imams or clerics, it is necessary for them to investigate the situation and ensure it is not a forced or underage marriage,” Salehi says.

“Either way, forced and underage marriages go against Islamic law, and girls who are in this type of situation cannot participate in decision-making for themselves. Therefore, a marriage of this fashion is invalid through the lens of Islam,” he added.

The official legal marriage age in Afghanistan is 16 for girls and 18 for boys. Most marriages in Afghanistan’s segregated society are arranged by parents and family elders between consenting adults. But traditions involving bride price, dowries, and using marriages to settle disputes results have turned many arranged marriages into forced unions. Every year thousands of young girls like Hamida have their fate signed away by others, giving them little to no opportunity to have a say for themselves.

Some Afghans, mostly those who are poverty-stricken or uneducated, view marriage as transactional and therefore decide to wed their children for economic reasons, according to a UNICEF study, leaving them vulnerable to health risks and potential abuse.

Salehi says it is necessary to end the exploitative social customs that permit these types of marriages to take place in the first place. He has asked the government to take a strong stand on this issue.

Zakia Razia, head of Bamyan’s women’s rights commission, commends the decision made by the religious leaders. She says she will continue to work with elders and religious figures in order to forbid forced child marriages throughout all districts of Bamyan.

“Forced and underage marriages are a crime against women; therefore, we will make sure to get all of the religious leaders on our side, to rid the province of this undesirable practice,” Razia said.

In many cases, women who marry under the legal age or against their will experience psychological traumas that can negatively impact their mental health in the long run, even if they are able to secure a divorce.


Sneakers gain footing with women in the Arab world

August 13, 2020

DUBAI: “Formal + strictly sneakers” — that was the dress code on Tamila Kochkarova’s wedding invitation last year. “I wore a pair of Nike Air Max 98 that were completely white,” the Uzbek photographer and sneaker collector, who has lied in Dubai for the past 16 years, tells Arab News. “My number one priority on my wedding day was my comfort.”

Once considered niche and alternative in the region, sneaker style has now entered the mainstream, and is increasingly popular among women in the Middle East — a demographic that stereotypically splurges on fancy clothing with ornate embellishments, paired with shoes a little more “ladylike” than sneakers.

But while glamour has traditionally been the driving force behind fashion, comfort is now heavily influencing style movements, particularly two of the most popular in this region: modest fashion and sneaker culture. Both have helped shape Kochkarova’s personal style.

“I got into sneaker culture when I was young, around 12 or 13,” she says. “I just started hanging out weekly in Dubai Festival City at the skate park out there, and my friends were all skateboarders who were really into sneakers.”

Today, skaters aren’t the only ones buying into the trend of clunky, colorful sneakers. Female ‘sneakerheads’ have become influencers on social media, and a number of them happen to dress in skin-covering attire, too. Instagram is now abuzz with modest fashion bloggers — early images of these women were on the more traditionally feminine side — elegant gowns and flowy maxi dresses and skirts, with fabrics fluttering over sling-back heels, strappy stilettos and, occasionally, ballerina flats. But a new wave of sneakerhead hijabis is shedding light on an alternative type of modest fashion.

Striking architectural backgrounds, edgy angles, avant-garde poses, and a clear focus on bold — and often rare — sneakers, including limited-edition Nike Air Max, Jordan and Air Force One styles, are features of trending images in the modest-fashion blogosphere. Su’aad Hassan, who was born and raised in Dubai and now lives in Canada, has over 18,000 followers on Instagram. Her outfits include bright tracksuits, plaid blazers, denim vests, bucket hats, silk scarves, retro sunglasses, and a range of sporty footwear. “I think modest fashion and sneaker culture go hand in hand, because, as a whole, modest fashion is a push against the societal standard,” she explains.

Modesty is dominating runways right now, and sneakers are also in vogue, being produced by brands like Gucci, Balenciaga and even Christian Dior, the quintessential “ladylike” French fashion house that recently collaborated with Nike on an exclusive pair of Dior logo-stamped Air Jordans. But both subcultures had been ostracized from mainstream fashion for years. Even in the Middle East, where modest fashion is more prevalent, covering up was not always seen as trendy for young women, Hassan explains.

“Whether observing the hijab or not, dressing modestly in the Middle East, especially over the last few years, isn't the cultural norm everyone thinks it is,” she says. “Being able to dress as you wish and to express yourself at your most authentic  — choosing yourself and your comfort over anyone’s expectations of you — requires a level of comfort with your identity, and this ties into general comfort in clothing and appearance. Sneakers make this so easy.”

Femininity has long been synonymous with high-heeled shoes. Louboutin — rather than Reebok or Adidas — has been the brand of choice for glamour-loving women, especially in the Middle East. But Athleisure and sports-luxe trends in mainstream fashion have helped popularize streetwear and sporty shoes, and today, women in the region are pairing clunky sneakers with their abayas, floaty maxi dresses and stylish tracksuits — an eclectic mix of sartorial standards, with room for an array of personal styles that may not necessarily conform to tradition.

“Women, especially nowadays in the Arab world, have completely renovated the term ‘femininity’. It’s by our own rules – we can wear a dress with a pair of sneakers and feel very, very feminine. We don’t have to wear six-inch heels to feel like a woman,” says Kochkarova, who is working on launching a website — — dedicated to female sneakerheads from the Arab World. The site, she says, will highlight muses living in the Middle East, or from the Middle East and living abroad, through creative photoshoots and insightful interviews, forming an online community celebrating women and their coveted sneakers.

Joshua Cox, co-founder of Sole DXB — the Middle East’s largest sneaker, streetwear and lifestyle fair — says that sneaker culture would be “incomplete” without women, and that labels are now paying extra attention to this demographic.

“Our attendance has always been pretty consistent, with women making up half of our audience, but it's only in the last three years that we've seen the brands in the region increase and improve their offering for women,” he says.

Brands are now also working with creatives who identify with both modest fashion and sneaker culture. Reebok, for instance, ahead of Sole DXB 2019, recruited Sharjah-based Sudanese graphic designer Rihab Nubi for its digital campaign promoting pieces from the Reebok by Pyer Moss Collection 3. Nubi wore a top-and-trousers set with a dramatic, pleated, silhouette paired with chunky black, yellow and salmon-toned shoes from the collection, and an off-white headscarf.

While religion is certainly a motivator for women who dress modestly in the region, it isn’t the sole reason why women are gravitating towards conservative cuts. Many, inspired by the appeal of covering your body, rather than being pressured to flaunt it, have begun dressing more modestly without even realizing that their attire could be labeled as “modest fashion.”

“It wasn’t that I was dressing to try and be modest, they’re just the type of clothes I happen to be comfortable in. I never really liked to reveal too much,” says Kochkarova of her trademark loose skirts and oversized shirts. She adds that her favorite element of modest fashion is creative and experimental layering: “I’m heavily influenced by fashion in Japan, especially after visiting twice last year, and that’s something that they do on a regular basis.” She also finds inspiration in the up-and-coming sneaker culture in Saudi Arabia. “These kids in Saudi are insanely creative — they’re so underrated,” she says, citing Jawaher of @fashionizmything and Riyadh-based photographer Hayat Osamah as examples.

The ambitions and aesthetics driving the personal styles of these women are unique and diverse, but it’s clear that comfort and practicality are reigning in the modest fashion and sneaker style subcultures, painting a new picture of what an enlightened and empowered woman can look like.

“What we can see as observers…are that women choose to use sneaker culture for self-expression. They aren’t playing to stereotypes on femininity,” says Cox. “By bringing modest fashion and sneaker culture together, they're making it their own, and are contributing to the culture as much as they're taking from it.”


Saudi youth report draws flak over marriage finding

August 13, 2020

RIYADH: A General Authority for Statistics (GaSat) report published this week has stirred debate over a long-running issue in Saudi Arabia — the age of marriage.

The “Saudi Youth in Numbers” report on marriage and work patterns in the Kingdom’s 15-34 age group drew comment on social media, with some suggesting it painted an inaccurate picture and portrayed marriage before the age of 18 as commonplace.

Its findings were also criticized by a Saudi statistics expert, who said that relying on a wide age range “could leave room for speculation and uncertainty.”

The report indicated that the percentage of married females in the 15-34 age group was 34.3 percent, while the percentage of employed Saudi youth in the same age bracket was 47 percent.

GaSat spokesman Mohammed Al-Dukhainy told Arab News that the 15-34 age group was selected in line with international studies.

Use of this age group made international comparisons easier, he added.

However, Dr. Melfi Al-Rasheedi, a board member of the Saudi Professional Association for Statisticians and Data Scientists, said that “unbalanced” age groups could leave room for speculation and uncertainty, and lead to unclear results. “The way the report was presented was not correct. Suffice it to say that the report did not indicate the statistical method used and whether it took the level of education as a variable in the study,” he said.

“The age group 15-34 is a wide one. We want to know the number of participants who started working or got married between 15 and 18. This is not indicated in the study and we cannot tell.”

Last year, the Ministry of Justice instructed official registrars not to register any marriage if the prospective spouse was below 18 years of age and to report the case to the relevant court, which would decide if there was any risk to the person involved.


Female Pakistani journalists call out online abuse by govt-sponsored trolls on social media

Aug 13, 2020

More than thirty female journalists in Pakistan have written a strongly-worded statement condemning the terrible circumstances under which these scribes are forced to work in their country.

The statement titled- Joint Statement: Attacks on women in media in Pakistan said, "vicious attacks through social media are being directed at women journalists and commentators in Pakistan, making it incredibly difficult for us to carry out our professional duties".

The statement also pointed out the systematic abuse that these journalists are subjected to owing to the pressure put on by government officials, further amplified by Twitter accounts affiliated to the ruling party.

In a well-planned, and coordinated campaign, the personal details of these women journalists and analysts have been made public. Moreover, to discredit them, the ruling party often refers to these journalists as peddler of "fake news", "enemy of the people". The statement further points out that they have also been accused of 'taking bribes'.

The journalists further alleged how posts critical of the government are inundated with sexual slurs and baseless allegations.

There have also been multiple reports of pictures and other personal information of female journalists being accessed and spread online, endangering their safety. The group of journalists also retreated that they are being prevented from exercising their right to free speech and participate in public discourse. When they self-censor, others are prevented from receiving information to form their views, which is a violation of their rights under article 19 A of the constitution of Pakistan.

The journalists ended their statement by making two demands from the Imran Khan-led Pakistan government. Firstly, they asked Imran Khan to send a clear message to all party members, supporters, and followers, to refrain from launching these attacks, whether directly or indirectly.

Lastly, they demanded that the Standing Committees on Human Rights of the upper and lower house of parliament to take notice and to hold the government accountable by ensuring the acknowledge, apologise, and list the actions they will now take to end such a toxic environment.

Soon after the journalists released the statement, #AttacksWontSilenceUs was trending on Twitter. Various sections of the society showed their solidarity towards these journalists.

“Pakisan needs more independent, strong, determined & successful women in journalism. #AttacksWontSilenceUs seems a very powerful slogan to start with.Let grow such men & women doing exceptionally good work & sitting on the fence while performing their duty in this profession," said senior journalist from Pakistan Zahid Gishkori on Twitter

Aima Khosh, one of the signatories of the statement tweeted, "the statement by women journalists is trending, human rights defenders are speaking up and the HR minister has expressed concern. At the same time, someone is trying hard to break into my account. To whoever this is, I have only one thing to say: #AttacksWontSilenceUs".




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