Category Archives: Women’s Rights

How the Tribal Culture of Arabia is shaping the Political Life of Muslim Women

–By:Alexandra Kinias —

megawati

Megawati Sukarnoputri served as President of Indonesia in 2001

Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world was ruled by a woman. Megawati Sukarnoputri served as President of Indonesia in 2001. Bangladesh, the third populace Muslim country, had been ruled as of 2016, for the past 25 years by women; Khaleda Zia and Sheikha Hassina Wajed, respectively, were both elected as prime ministers.

bangladesh

KHALEDA ZIA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1991 – 1996; 2001 – 2006

sheikh

SHEIKH HASINA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1996 – 2001; 2009 – Present

The list of Muslim countries that were ruled by women includes Pakistan, Turkey, Senegal, Kyrgyzstan and Mali. Kosovo and Mauritius have female presidents. In Afghanistan, two female candidates ran for president against Hamid Karzai. Out of these eleven Muslim countries, none is an Arab, not even Egypt, the birthplace of Huda Sharawy, leader of the Egyptian suffragette movement and head of the Arab Women Union that influenced women movements across the Middle East. That raises the question of whether it is Islam or tribal culture that is hindering women’s advancement in the Middle East.

turkey

TANSU ÇILLER, Prime Minister of Turkey, 1993-1996

Even though gender equality is stated in the Egyptian constitution, women still can’t run for presidency or be appointed as prime ministers because parallel to the civil law in Egypt, the sharia (Islamic law) has the final word in deciding matters concerning women.

kyrgyzstan

ROZA OTUNBAYEVA, President of Kyrgyzstan, 2010-2011

Because of the non-uniformity of Islam’s interpretations and implementations, women’s leadership is a debatable issue among religious scholars, depending where the religion is practiced. While the restriction on women’s leadership in many countries in Asia is limited to spiritual leadership (leading Muslims in prayers), it also includes political leadership in countries influenced by the tribal culture of Arabia. So not only women in Egypt and other Arab countries with Muslim majorities can’t run for presidency, but also in Lebanon, the only Arab country where only Christians can become presidents, no woman emerged as a political leader.

senegal

MAME MADIOR BOYE, Prime Minister of Senegal, 2001-2002

Male dominance is deeply engrained in tribal culture and women oppression existed in societies that predated Islam. Since the realization that girls were a profitable commodity, women became bargaining chips for tribal negotiations and their rape and enslavement motivated and attracted warriors to the battlefields. This culture perpetuated over the centuries and mutated through the various interpretations of the Quran to become the ideology that governs the lives of billions.

bhutto3 (1)

BENAZIR BHUTTO, Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1988 – 1990; 1993 – 1996

It is unrealistic though to throw the blame of women’s oppression entirely on this culture. Misogyny is a global social ailment and is practiced in societies where women’s rights are most advanced. However, as opposed to Muslim societies where misogyny is institutionalized, in western societies; laws that were drafted after fierce battles by women’s movements ensure gender equality before the law and criminalize the abuses against women. And while law enforcement turns a blind eye against domestic violence in the Middle East, the Islamic government of Indonesia is exerting extreme efforts to combat it by encouraging women to report such incidents. In Pakistan, however, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) drafted a bill in May 2016 recommending that men beat their wives to keep them in line. This bill came in response to a proposed law that would make it easier for women to report domestic violence. The CII opposed the law, and declared it un-Islamic.

kosovo

ATIFETE JAHJAGA, President of Kosovo, 2011-present

The tribal culture of Arabia that hijacked Islam left its fingerprints in countries thousands of miles away from its birthplace and molded the lives of its followers across the globe into its tribalization form. In these societies religious scholars play the role of tribal leaders, drafting and supervising laws that guarantee women’s oppression.

And while the laws in the west enforce the civility of the nations, in spite of the new culture that travels with the immigrants under the cover of Islam, this nomadic culture is fragmenting identities of the countries it dominates. Today, the Egyptian identity that has thrived and survived over the millennia is standing at crossroads. It has been overshadowed by the tribal culture imported from behind the sand dunes of Arabia and affecting both Christians and Muslims alike, and especially women.

CisséMariamSidibeKaïdama

Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé – former prime minister of Mali

In Egypt, the women’s movement that reached its peak in the mid-fifties lost its momentum and witnessed a reversal over the past three decades with the surging influence of conservatism. In less than a year after Islamist Morsi came to power, the parliament had already proposed laws to reverse the ban on FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), to drop the age of marriage for girls below 16, and to abolish the law that gave women the right to divorce, thus ensuring women’s oppression. Luckily the Islamist parliament was dissolved before these laws were drafted.

ameenah

AMEENAH FAKIM, President of Mauritius, 2015 – Present

The threat by the Muslim Brotherhood galvanized millions of women to take the streets side by side men to topple the theocratic regime. Women realized their power and are demanding more rights. The new administration has also recognized their power and is bestowing them with more privileges. For the first time in the history of modern Egypt, ninety two women were sworn in as parliament members, eighty four of whom were freely elected. The efforts to empower women are evident. While empowering campaigns are launched across the country, more women are taking leading positions in the government and more of them are choosing to remove the veil.

The road is long and bumpy. The conservative voices are clashing with the civil onse empowering women, to maintain their grip and control over them. The next few years are crucial in determining the path to where both women and the country are heading. The ultimate proof for the civility of Egypt is by appointing a female prime minister or allowing women to freely run in the presidential race. Until then, women empowerment will remain an unfinished business.

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Filed under Islam and Women, Politics, Violence against women, Women of Egypt, Women's Rights, Women's rights in Egypt

How the Tribal Culture of Arabia is shaping the Political Life of Muslim Women

–By:Alexandra Kinias —

megawati

Megawati Sukarnoputri served as President of Indonesia in 2001

Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world was ruled by a woman. Megawati Sukarnoputri served as President of Indonesia in 2001. Bangladesh, the third populace Muslim country, had been ruled as of 2016, for the past 25 years by women; Khaleda Zia and Sheikha Hassina Wajed, respectively, were both elected as prime ministers.

bangladesh

KHALEDA ZIA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1991 – 1996; 2001 – 2006

sheikh

SHEIKH HASINA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1996 – 2001; 2009 – Present

The list of Muslim countries that were ruled by women includes Pakistan, Turkey, Senegal, Kyrgyzstan and Mali. Kosovo and Mauritius have female presidents. In Afghanistan, two female candidates ran for president against Hamid Karzai. Out of these eleven Muslim countries, none is an Arab, not even Egypt, the birthplace of Huda Sharawy, leader of the Egyptian suffragette movement and head of the Arab Women Union that influenced women movements across the Middle East. That raises the question of whether it is Islam or tribal culture that is hindering women’s advancement in the Middle East.

turkey

TANSU ÇILLER, Prime Minister of Turkey, 1993-1996

Even though gender equality is stated in the Egyptian constitution, women still can’t run for presidency or be appointed as prime ministers because parallel to the civil law in Egypt, the sharia (Islamic law) has the final word in deciding matters concerning women.

kyrgyzstan

ROZA OTUNBAYEVA, President of Kyrgyzstan, 2010-2011

Because of the non-uniformity of Islam’s interpretations and implementations, women’s leadership is a debatable issue among religious scholars, depending where the religion is practiced. While the restriction on women’s leadership in many countries in Asia is limited to spiritual leadership (leading Muslims in prayers), it also includes political leadership in countries influenced by the tribal culture of Arabia. So not only women in Egypt and other Arab countries with Muslim majorities can’t run for presidency, but also in Lebanon, the only Arab country where only Christians can become presidents, no woman emerged as a political leader.

senegal

MAME MADIOR BOYE, Prime Minister of Senegal, 2001-2002

Male dominance is deeply engrained in tribal culture and women oppression existed in societies that predated Islam. Since the realization that girls were a profitable commodity, women became bargaining chips for tribal negotiations and their rape and enslavement motivated and attracted warriors to the battlefields. This culture perpetuated over the centuries and mutated through the various interpretations of the Quran to become the ideology that governs the lives of billions.

bhutto3 (1)

BENAZIR BHUTTO, Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1988 – 1990; 1993 – 1996

It is unrealistic though to throw the blame of women’s oppression entirely on this culture. Misogyny is a global social ailment and is practiced in societies where women’s rights are most advanced. However, as opposed to Muslim societies where misogyny is institutionalized, in western societies; laws that were drafted after fierce battles by women’s movements ensure gender equality before the law and criminalize the abuses against women. And while law enforcement turns a blind eye against domestic violence in the Middle East, the Islamic government of Indonesia is exerting extreme efforts to combat it by encouraging women to report such incidents. In Pakistan, however, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) drafted a bill in May 2016 recommending that men beat their wives to keep them in line. This bill came in response to a proposed law that would make it easier for women to report domestic violence. The CII opposed the law, and declared it un-Islamic.

kosovo

ATIFETE JAHJAGA, President of Kosovo, 2011-present

The tribal culture of Arabia that hijacked Islam left its fingerprints in countries thousands of miles away from its birthplace and molded the lives of its followers across the globe into its tribalization form. In these societies religious scholars play the role of tribal leaders, drafting and supervising laws that guarantee women’s oppression.

And while the laws in the west enforce the civility of the nations, in spite of the new culture that travels with the immigrants under the cover of Islam, this nomadic culture is fragmenting identities of the countries it dominates. Today, the Egyptian identity that has thrived and survived over the millennia is standing at crossroads. It has been overshadowed by the tribal culture imported from behind the sand dunes of Arabia and affecting both Christians and Muslims alike, and especially women.

CisséMariamSidibeKaïdama

Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé – former prime minister of Mali

In Egypt, the women’s movement that reached its peak in the mid-fifties lost its momentum and witnessed a reversal over the past three decades with the surging influence of conservatism. In less than a year after Islamist Morsi came to power, the parliament had already proposed laws to reverse the ban on FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), to drop the age of marriage for girls below 16, and to abolish the law that gave women the right to divorce, thus ensuring women’s oppression. Luckily the Islamist parliament was dissolved before these laws were drafted.

ameenah

AMEENAH FAKIM, President of Mauritius, 2015 – Present

The threat by the Muslim Brotherhood galvanized millions of women to take the streets side by side men to topple the theocratic regime. Women realized their power and are demanding more rights. The new administration has also recognized their power and is bestowing them with more privileges. For the first time in the history of modern Egypt, ninety two women were sworn in as parliament members, eighty four of whom were freely elected. The efforts to empower women are evident. While empowering campaigns are launched across the country, more women are taking leading positions in the government and more of them are choosing to remove the veil.

The road is long and bumpy. The conservative voices are clashing with the civil onse empowering women, to maintain their grip and control over them. The next few years are crucial in determining the path to where both women and the country are heading. The ultimate proof for the civility of Egypt is by appointing a female prime minister or allowing women to freely run in the presidential race. Until then, women empowerment will remain an unfinished business.

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Filed under Islam and Women, Violence against women, Women in Egypt, Women's Rights, Women's rights in Egypt

He killed his Wife for Being Pregnant with a Baby Girl, and the Birth of the Crown Price

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By: Alexandra Kinias

A Palestinian man in the West Bank was arrested on May 13, 2010 for killing his 27 years old pregnant wife. [1] He choked her to death. The wife’s crime was that her ultrasound’s results showed that she was pregnant with a baby girl. Even though the couple had already three boys and a girl, the husband, who evidently was ignorant that the man’s sperm decided the gender of the fetus, admitted that he was jealous of his brother who had nine sons.

“According to police, abrasions were found on the man’s body, indicating that the wife struggled as he was choking her to death.” [2]
As explained to the police, the husband committed this heinous crime to terminate his wife’s pregnancy because she didn’t comply with his demands, of giving birth to another son. It was as if she cooked hummus for him instead of shish kebabs.

This horrific news was another illustration of the cruel reality of how women are still viewed and treated in many parts of the world. In cultures where Stone Age mentalities dominate, females are believed to be inferior to males. It is believed that daughters bring shame to their families. Not to mention that they are viewed as financial burdens and that in the process of growing up, girls deplete their families’ resources that could be spent on rising up their male siblings. They are considered bad investments since they eventually leave the family when they get married and serve their grooms’ families. Girls in some of these cultures are as beneficial as their value when sold at a young age into marriages.

The first thing that came to mind when I read about the slain of this woman was her surviving children. How would the daughter who had witnessed the killing of her mother, for being pregnant with a baby girl, feel about her gender? What about the message that was given to the three boys?

The woman, according to news reports, had been previously attacked and abused by her husband. But growing up in a culture where violence against women is the norm and is encouraged by religious scholars, she accepted her fate and became submissive to her abuser. Even her family knew about it, but no one stood up in her defense. The social illnesses in such cultures are overwhelming that it becomes hard to point fingers at who is to blame. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the women in her family are as abused as she was, and most likely her male relatives behaved no different than her husband.

What is more horrific than the crimes committed against these women is how the law deals with such crimes. The authorities in these cultures, represented in law makers and police officers, view and accept the abusive behaviors against women as a family dispute that not only ddoesn’trequire their intervention, but that it may be misinterpreted by the society as a breach of the families’ private affairs.

And while this crime was committed in a land where the culture is stigmatized as misogynist, let us not forget that women in other cultures have suffered throughout history the consequences of their gender; and they still are. In China, female infanticide was a common practice in ancient times. It dates back to 2000 years ago. The early missionaries that arrived to China in the sixth centuries recorded that they had witnessed female infants dumped into the garbage and others thrown into the rivers and left to drown. [3] And until the 19th century this horrific crime was widely practiced in China. The two main reasons for that were poverty and the dowry system. Poor families either couldn’t afford the dowries or preferred not to lose the money to a stranger. [4] And the solution was to simply murder the female infant. The dowry system was also the reason that females’ infanticides were spread in India.

In the seventh century in pre-Islamic Arabia female infanticide was also widely practiced by the fathers who did not value their daughters as much as they valued their sons. In the years of famine, born girls were to be buried alive in fear of poverty. To poor families, girls were a burden and killing them was a way of survival. Young boys may have also been killed if there were no girls born to the family. Eventually the killing of daughters ceased once the fathers discovered that selling the daughter was more profitable than just burying her, and hence the marriage by purchasing the wives was introduced into these societies. After the rise of Islam, female infanticide was banned and hence it ceased, yet, in a culture that leans towards misogyny, females’ worth were and will always be negligible in comparison to males’.

In modern times, though, the preference of having a son over a daughter is incomprehensible. No other reason sounds plausible other than it demonstrates that the remnants of the medieval culture that has been embedded in the minds since it was practiced in ancient times are still alive. In cultures like India and China, the detection of the child’s gender before birth resulted in the soaring rate of abortion of female unborn children. And in China, where the one-child policy often collides with the traditional preference for a son in the family, the use of ultrasound to determine the gender of a fetus is banned, except for medical reasons. As a result, of course, underground illegal ultrasound services were created. [5] And when abortion fails, female babies are dumped at birth in orphanages where the lucky ones are given away for adoption. [6]

The Birth of the crown price

In Alexandria, Egypt, where I grew up, I knew of a family of nine girls and a boy. Of course the boy was the youngest of the herd. In their parental journey for having a son, two sets of twins were born. The family lived close to where I lived, but never once during the twenty years that I lived there had I ever saw the mother. With her hands full of ten children, she had no time to ever be spotted outside. At the time I was growing up, it was not uncommon that families would have a large number of kids, but this was the largest by far, especially to city dwellers. Also, most big families had an assortment of genders. With this particular family, it was obvious that they kept breeding to have a son.

And while the mother had no time for life, the nine girls were visible running errands for her. I remember the father vividly. We never exchanged words, but often greeted each other when we crossed path. He was a high school teacher who was always dressed in a brown suit and a tie. He was skinny, wore dark prescription glasses at all times and gave private lessons to supplement his income, and never gave up on having a son. In Egypt men conceal their misogynist mentalities with the rationalization that a son would carry the family name.

The journey traveled until the son was conceived and born was long and financially painful. But it wasn’t  just the financial dilemma that intrigued me, but the emotional one as well. The father was an educated man, yet his university degree was meaningless. It was baffling to see how the medieval culture was deeply engraved in the subconscious of an educated man and it left me wondering what others with less fortunate fates would do. Reading the news about the Palestinian husband who killed his wife was an eye opener to how some men dealt with the issue.

The teacher’s wife in Alexandria was nothing but a reproductive machine. As the house got crammed with girls, their share of care and food was obviously diminishing with every addition to the family. And eventually their existence was overshadowed by the birth of one son. The older siblings cared for the younger ones and they all cared for the crown prince.

The high school teacher might have been either reasonable enough to understand that it was not his wife’s fault to keep breeding girls or he had no means to marry another woman. With his meager resources, it didn’t matter to the father that the girls were deprived from basic needs. What mattered was that he felt accomplished after the birth of the son. Finally, and in spite of the high expense that was paid along the way, the proud father succeeded in keeping the family’s name alive.

In many similar cases, men would simply take another wife if the first wife failed to give birth to a son. It is quite disgraceful that a man’s accomplishment in life is measured by having a son to succeed him. And it doesn’t matter if the son turns out to be a spoiled loser, which exactly what happened to the teacher’s son, since the boy was treated like a crown prince. Just imagine ten women looking after one child.

Under that roof, the message that was engraved in the minds of these girls was that their worth value was negligible in comparison to the boy. And vice versa, the boy was fed from birth that he was the most important member of this household. And most likely, these beliefs will be passed over to their children.
Quite saddening that in this time and age a person’s worth is judged according to their gender…

References:
1- Suspicion: Palestinian killed wife because she was carrying girl, by: Ali Waked, Israel New, May 13, 2010, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3889131,00.html
2- Killed for being pregnant with a baby girl, by: Phyllis Chesler, May 13, 2010, Fox News, http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/05/13/phyllis-chesler-palestinian-husband-wife-ultrasound-girl-honor-killing/
3- Mungello, D.E. (2008). Drowning Girls in China: Female Infanticide in China since 1650. Rowman & Littlefield.
4- Mungello, D.E. (2009). The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500-1800 (3rd edition) Rowman & Littlefield.
5- Murky fetal clinics in illegal ultrasound service, Shanghai Daily, June 4, 2012, China.org.cn, http://www.china.org.cn/china/2012-06/04/content_25557578.htm
6- China’s Unwanted Babies Once Mostly Girls, Now Mostly Sick, Disabled, By Li Hui and Ben Blanchard, Reuters, Tianjin, China Sun Feb 2, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/02/us-china-babies-idUSBREA110M120140202

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Filed under Women Rights in Egypt, Women's Rights

In Sudan women are flogged in public for wearing pants

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By: Alexandra Kinias

A disturbing video of a woman flogged in the streets of Khartoum, Sudan went viral on the Internet in December 2010, and within few days it was viewed by millions worldwide. The barbaric act committed against the Sudanese woman outraged the international community who some were caught by surprise that this medieval punishment is still in fact carried out on humans in the 21st century. The video that was shot by an amateur showed two police officers in uniform flogging an anonymous woman in a courtyard of a police station. Spectators gathered on the side and watched the painful and humiliating punishment being carried out. [1] Luckily in this time and age such crimes committed against humans can no longer be discreet, and with a click of the button they travel far enough to expose their brutality.

Sudan-flogging

Woman flogged in the streets of Khartoum

Under the Sharia law (Islamic law) that governs Sudan, public flogging is used to punish women. In fact, Sudanese women have become the primary victims of the implementation of the Sharia law since it was adopted in 1983. And its amendment in 1991, after the Islamic backed military coup of Hassan Al Bashir and his rise to power, added more limitations to women’s status and freedoms.

Flogging is justified and practiced according to Article 152 of the 1991 Sudanese Criminal Code ‘Obscene and Indecent Acts’ clause which states that:
“Whoever does in a public place an indecent act or an act contrary to public morals or wears an obscene outfit or contrary to public morals or causing an annoyance to public feelings shall be punished with flogging which may not exceed forty lashes or with fine or with both.” [2]

It is worth mentioning that wearing pants by women is considered an indecent act in Sudan. In the video you could hear the cracking of the bullwhip, the terrified woman’s agonizing screams echoing as she pleaded and moaned in pain when the long brutal whip slashed her body and face, unmercifully, and the laughter of the man in uniform, who carried out the flogging, when he noticed that he was being filmed. It was heart wrenching to watch the disgraceful reaction of a psychopath while he inflicted pain and humiliation on another human being.

No one knew at the time the video was released of the exact nature of the woman’s crime. Speculations varied between wearing pants and committing adultery. Uncovering the head and riding in a car with a male who is not an immediate relative; father, son or husband is also considered an indecent act in Sudan where women are also punished by public flogging.

The calls, efforts and pressure on the Sudanese government by Amnesty International and other women and human rights organizations to abolish this law have failed to bring an end to it. “The law is crafted in a way that makes it impossible to know what is decent or indecent,” said Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Program. “In practice, women are routinely arrested, detained, tried and then, on conviction, flogged, simply because a police officer disapproves of their clothing. The law is also discriminatory, in that it is used disproportionately against women.” [3]

The exposure of the video and the worldwide outrage it created caused an embarrassment to the Sudanese government, which announced a start of an investigation of the case. [4] That was an ironical statement merely issued to save face as the law remains and more women are suffering because of it. The shameful whipping was also criticized by Sudanese Women’s Union. Thirty of its members marched in the streets of Khartoum to protest this disgraceful act, but they were detained as they tried to hand a petition to the ministry of justice and were denied access to their lawyers. [5]

This heinous crime against women was practiced for two decades away from the eyes of the world. And the credit for attracting international attention to it goes to Sudanese reporter and UN employee Lubna Al-Hussein who was arrested in 2009 for wearing pants in public and was sentenced to 40 lashes. Hussein and 13 other women were arrested in a coffee shop in Khartoum for violation of the Islamic dress code. She refused to be flogged and decided to go on trial. Al-Hussein resigned her UN position that granted her immunity so she can challenge the law and invited other reporters to attend her trial and to write about it. Due to the controversy and international exposure that her case attracted, the verdict was reduced to a $200.00 fine, which Al-Hussein refused to pay. “This is not a case about me wearing pants. This is a case about annulling the article that addresses women’s dress code, under the title of indecent acts. This is my battle. This article is against the constitution and even against Islamic law itself,” she said after the hearing. [6]

SUDAN-WOMEN-RIGHTS

Loubna Al-Hussein wearing pants

The Sudanese Journalists’ Union paid the fine on her behalf the court dismissed her case. In a televised interview with an Egyptian channel, Al-Hussein told her story and expressed her dismay and concern over the future of the women in Sudan. “I am not the only woman who was subjected to this punishment. There are tens of thousands like me. In one year 43,000 women were arrested because of their clothing, not from all of Sudan, but in Khartoum only, as declared by the police general commissioner.

“This clause in the law contains both moral and physical violence. Physical violence is manifested in the punishment of lashing, which is a humiliating and degrading to the pride and dignity. The moral violence is manifested in the fact that it is called ‘indecent acts,’ and this is the reason that tens of thousands of women before me did not have the courage to complain. The courts that try such cases are not regular courts. They are special courts that were established during the presidency of Al-Bashir. In these courts the defendant has no right to defend herself. And in my case, because of the publicity and the public support I received, I took a lawyer along with me, but the judge refused to give the defense witnesses a chance to be heard.”

‘Indecent clothes’ according to the law is subjective and not defined. And when asked to explain what the definition of ‘indecent clothes’ is, Al-Hussein responded that such definition is left to the discretion of the law enforcement officers. “The law says clothes that offend public sentiment and the authorities [policemen] arbitrary interpret the law as they please. And under the same law that punishes women by 40 lashes for wearing pants, a man who rapes a boy, a girl or a woman is sent to one month in jail. And then they tell you this is the Islamic law, but in fact this is the law of Al-Bashir.” [7]

The international outcry caused Al-Hussein’s case in 2009 fell on deaf ears. And no action has yet been taken by the Sudanese government to end this crime. And following in Al-Hussein’s footsteps, civil engineer and women’s rights activist Amira Osman Hamed also defied the law when she refused to cover her hair in public. She was arrested in August 2013 in a small village outside Khartoum. To bring the law back into the spotlight, Hamed who is awaiting trial says that she is ready for any sentence – including flogging. “I take the risk to tell what is happening in our country and I hope that will be the last time a Sudanese woman is arrested by this law.” [8]

cl-sudan-sadarticlewide-20130909074925285322-620x349

Amira Osman Hamed is awaiting trial for uncovering her head in public

Hamed’s trial, which was initially due to take place on 19 September 2013, has repeatedly been postponed after her lawyers submitted an appeal to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice stating that Article 152 is unconstitutional. According to her defense team, the Minister of Justice is still deliberating on this appeal and no progress has been made in arranging a new trial. Amnesty International in a statement issued on June 30, 2014 vowed that they will continue to put pressure on the Sudanese government to retract Hamed’s charges altogether. In the meantime she is free on bail. [9] [10]

It is shameful that such medieval practice is still implemented in broad daylight and that women have to pay the price for the insanity of lawmakers who draft such laws to ensure women’s submission by torturing and harassing them. There is no justification for the practice of such laws, no matter what label is added to them, other than the psychopathic, sadistic and misogynist mentalities behind them. And even with the assumption that these laws have been written in ancient books, there has to be a global effort to eradicate them not to revive them. And while Al-Hussein and Hamed’s cases attracted international attention, it is saddening to learn that there are thousands of other Sudanese women who are suffering in silence because of the consequences of this law. These women either have no means to bring their cases to the light or they chose to remain silent not to be stigmatized in their community as being charged with immorality.

Reference:
1- Sudan woman whipped including in the face while police laugh–Warning Graphic images, Sky News, Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve_JJFF5X-g

2- The Sudanese Penal Code 1991, Article 152, Obscene and Indecent Acts, page 40, European Country of Origin Network (ecoi.net) http://www.ecoi.net/ , http://www.ecoi.net/sudan, https://www.ecoi.net/file_upload/1329_1202725629_sb106-sud-criminalact1991.pdf
3- Amnesty International calls on Sudan to repeal law penalizing women for wearing trousers, September 4, 2009, Amnesty International, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/amnesty-international-sudan-repeal-law-penalizing-women-wearing-trousers-20090904
4- SUDAN: Authorities investigate whipping of woman on YouTube video, December 14, 2010, Los Angeles Times, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/12/sudan-authorities-investigate-whipped-woman-video.html
5- Sudan YouTube flogging video: Women arrested at march, BBC News Africa, Dec 14, 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11991558
6- Lubna Hussein Pants Trial Adjourns until Tuesday, The Huffington Post/Associated Press, Aug 20, 2009, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/29/lubna-hussein-pants-trial_n_246901.html
7- Interview with Lubna Al-Hussein on Egyptian television, Lubna Al-Hussein, Sudanese Journalist Sentenced to Lashing for Wearing Pants, Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWHu6AYshlI

8- Sudanese women risks flogging over uncovered hair, By: Ian Timberlake, September 8, 2013, for Fox News, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/09/08/sudan-woman-risks-flogging-over-uncovered-hair/
9- Amnesty International UK, Amira Osman Hamed, http://www.amnesty.org.uk/amira-osman-hamed-sudan-woman-headscarf-flog#.U-h0_vldWO0
10- Urgent Action, June 30, 2014, Amnesty International, http://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/f2u25313.pdf

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Filed under Violence against women, Women's Rights

The Virtual Revolution of Iranian Women

— By: Alexandra Kinias —

In defiance to the rule of the Mullahs that hijacked their liberties and rights and has been keeping them hostage for the past 35 years, women in Iran have finally been given a global platform and an opportunity to share with the world their stolen moments of freedom. Thanks to the young exiled Iranian British journalist Masih Alinejad who created ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ [1], a Facebook page that became the voice for Iranian women to share their photos without their headscarves and to reveal their true sentiments about Hijab and how it has shaped their lives.

It all started when Alinejad shared her photograph on Facebook that was taken while she was running down a London street without a headscarf, and which she accompanied with the comment, “Every time that I run in London, feeling the wind in my hair, I remember that my hair is like a hostage in the hands of the Islamic Republic government.” [2]

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Masih Alinejad running down a London street without a headscarf. Photo taken from Facebook

“I was sure that most Iranian women who don’t believe in the forced hijab have enjoyed freedom in secret,” she says [3]. She asked her friends and followers if they would too like to share their experiences of stealthy freedom from their headscarves. However, she had not anticipated that this invitation to share their stolen moments of freedom would create such a global buzz. With the scores of photos she received from Iranian women who responded to her call, the page attracted the attention of the world and exposed the realities of the conditions that these women are living in. And within less than a month, her post had ignited a movement that gained enormous momentum and sparked a virtual revolution that exceeded the expectations of Alinejad herself. The page was followed by more than a quarter of a million people from every corner of the globe, and counting. They joined to support these women who are fighting a battle to achieve their basic human right and to applaud their bravery and their act of rebellion against the status-quo, and a tyrannical regime. What was even more compelling was the encouragement that these women received from Iranian men who supported them in their battle. Many of the photos were taken with or by husbands, fathers, sons and often boyfriends. Yet with their hands tied there isn’t much they can do, for they too suffer under this theocratic rule.

On her Facebook page and in various interviews, Alinejad explained that she had not created ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ with a political intent and neither is she against the veil that her mother is still wearing back home in Iran, – but [rather to support] the right of Iranian women to choose either way. “I have no intention whatsoever to encourage people to defy the forced hijab or stand up against it,” she said. “I just want to give voice to thousands and thousands of Iranian women who think they have no platform to have their say.” [4]

And as agreed by many contributors to the page, their objection is not to the veil, but to its compulsion. On the contrary, many attributed their dismay with the veil is because of their lack of choice. Had they been given the free will to choose, some women confessed that they might have considered to be veiled.

The rigid dress code imposed on the women in Iran doesn’t allow them to choose what they wear in public. And walking the streets without the proper Islamic attire that consists of a chador and a headscarf subjects them to punishments that may vary from a fine to verbal warning, and often detention that can last for few hours, after which a male relative; a brother, father or a husband has to collect them in person from the police station.

The smiles of the women enjoying their stolen moments without the headscarves and their testimonials captured the hearts of people worldwide. ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ posted photos of women of all ages standing in green fields, on snow summits, on the beach, at work, on sand dunes, in the streets, driving their cars and wherever they got a chance to steal these moments away from the eyes of the morality police. With their headscarves held up high and billowing in the wind like colorful banners, some faces were concealed with dark glasses; some women gave their backs to the lens while others gazed daringly to the camera. But none-the-less they all had their hair flaunting on their shoulders, dancing in the wind, as many wrote.

In a photo, where three generations of women from the same family smiled to the camera, the grandmother who stood next to her daughter and granddaughter wrote, “We wish that the new generation tastes this most basic freedom before their hair goes gray. Is this too much to ask?”

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Three generations in one frame at a corner of the street. Photo from Facebook

The heartwarming testimonials of those joyful moments are memorable, yet it is still painful to read what it feels like for these women to be denied a simple pleasure that is taken for granted elsewhere. All they want is the right to choose what to wear. Their stories reinforce the belief that theocratic regimes are out there to steal people’s rights of choice, and happiness. It is not just a head cover, but a sign of control enforced by the government. “[The] hijab is about control,” Alinjejad says. And the “Iranian regime would never want to lose control. [5]

In one photo a woman is standing on the beach with a wide grin on her face and holding the scarf in her hands above her head. “I’ll let the wind blow away the darkness of my scarf. I’ll let the blaze of hope of individual freedom shine in my heart and keep my soul bright and vivid.”

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I’ll let the wind blow away the darkness of my scarf. Photo from Facebook

In another photo where the caption shows that it was shot in 2003, a woman in dark sunglasses stood on the beach with her 6 years old next to her in her bathing suit, her head tilted and her blond curly hair falling on her shoulder. “Despite the fact that there were many police officers there and my family did not think it was a good idea to take my scarf off, I did it; because I really felt like letting my hair feel the wind a little bit. I yearned to turn into a drop of water in the sea. I hope my 6-year old daughter will never have to enjoy her freedom stealthily.”

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I did it because I really felt like letting my hair feel the wind a little bit. I hope my 6-year old daughter will never have to enjoy her freedom stealthily.” Photo from Facebook

A woman giving her back to the camera and looking at extended green meadows wrote, “This is Iran. The feeling of the wind blowing through every strand of hair, is a girl’s biggest dream.”

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“ The feeling of the wind blowing through every strand of hair, is a girl’s biggest dream.”

Another woman wrote, “It felt like God was caressing our hair with his own hands.”

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“It felt like God was caressing our hair with his own hands.” Photo copied from facebook

Alinejad came under attack from conservatives and fundamentals in Iran who accused her of working with foreign governments to promote promiscuous behaviors. She had also been exposed to smear campaigns and would be arrested if she returned to Iran for spreading immorality, “I’m a journalist, I’m doing my job,” she said. “I’m reporting about what exists in Iran, I’m not creating anything.” [6]

In response to her Facebook page, hardcore Islamists rallied the streets of Tehran to call on the government to enforce the country’s strict Islamic dress code for women and to take actions to stop the influence of Westernization that is invading the country. “The youth should be vigilant and be aware that the same enemy that has blocked our access to nuclear science is trying to drive us towards abandoning the hijab and towards corruption,” said one young protester, adding, “It is the same enemy. I ask all my good friends to do a little bit more thinking first, and then do whatever they want.” [7]

Ironically, it was the voice of women who joined this rally that demanded the government to take actions against other women who don’t want to comply with the enforced dress code and warned that they will start another revolution if the Hijab situation does change. And while women pro-hijab are given the right to demonstrate, those who are against it are denied such right.

Even though President Rohani has taken a less strict view of the dress code, allowing looser clothing to be worn in the hot summer months, saying the emphasis should be on virtue rather than fashion [8], yet, his voice is silenced by the conservative Iran’s Revolutionary Guards who have more power than the president when it comes to enforcing the country’s Islamic laws, including the enforcement of the dress code.

In Iran, where demonstrators are crushed and opposition in hunted down, ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ gave women an opportunity to rally against their oppressor from behind their computer screens and their voices echoed worldwide. It is too early to predict how this movement will unfold or what the fate of these courageous women who stood in the front lines exposing their lives to danger would be. No one is immune from the consequences of their actions when governed by tyrannical oppressive regimes, especially the ones that are concealed under the religious cloaks. What this movement had succeeded so far to accomplish is that it has exposed the lies and the fake image that the Islamic government has been projecting to the west. The news about women’s rights in Iran has always been portrayed from one side. Thanks to the cyber age and the social media for playing a viable role in making the voices of the oppressed women heard. ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ is a drop in the ocean for these women who put their lives in the crossfire to pave the road to the future generations to be able to enjoy their freedom.

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“Hoping for the day when all my nation’s women can taste freedom with their whole bodies and souls.” Photo from Facebook

“Hoping for the day when all my nation’s women can taste freedom with their whole bodies and souls,” one woman wrote.

(All pictures are copied from the Facebook page, “My Stealthy Freedom” and its creator’s Masih Alinejad’s page. The property and copyright are of their respective owners)

References:
1- My Stealthy Freedom
2 – Iranian women defy law, shed hijabs in public for ‘Stealthy Freedoms’ campaign
http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/iranian-women-defy-law-shed-hijabs-in-public-for-stealthy-freedoms-campaign-1.1824491#ixzz32lNgfuIG
3- ibid
4- ibid
5. The Facebook page where Iran’s women are unveiling on line
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/18/the-facebook-page-where-iran-s-women-are-unveiling-online.html
6- Iranian women defy law, shed hijabs in public for ‘Stealthy Freedoms’ campaignhttp://www.ctvnews.ca/world/iranian-women-defy-law-shed-hijabs-in-public-for-stealthy-freedoms-campaign-1.1824491#ixzz32lNgfuIG
7- Iran women’s “stealthy freedom” dress code backlash
http://www.euronews.com/2014/05/17/iran-women-s-stealthy-freedom-dress-code-backlash/
8-ibid

 

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The Illusion of the International Women’s Day

 

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— By: Alexandra Kinias —

The hype over the International Women’s Day [IWD] has subsided and men are free again to abuse and mistreat women for the next 364 days. I don’t mean to be satirical over this international event nor is my intention to undermine the global efforts to improve women’s conditions and status worldwide. Yet, I have mixed feelings regarding the dedication of certain days to celebrate one cause or another. And IWD is not exempt; not that I disregard the attention that celebrating this day brings to many women’s causes.

Such celebrations remind me of a time when I was growing up in Egypt where the Egyptian government celebrated the ‘Traffic Week’. Not for just a day, but every year, traffic police forces, on full alert, patrolled the streets, to bring law and order – For One Week. They enforced traffic laws, issued tickets for violations and the television broadcast public awareness programs on safe driving and road etiquette. No doubt that such event was created with good intentions, yet it was a total farce. Once the ‘Traffic Week’ was over, the streets of Egypt were left in extreme chaos for 51 weeks. And today Egypt is ranked among the highest countries in the world for road fatalities.

IWD falls under the same category as the ‘Traffic Week’. The only time that traffic came to order was when the government of Egypt decided to take action and punish the violators. And the same goes for women’s issues. With all due respect to the money and efforts spent, nothing really is accomplished until governments intervene to not only issue laws that protect women, but also to enforce them.

I fail to see how conferences and seminars where someone picks the tabs for all the attendees’ flights, accommodations and per diem in a five stars hotel in Europe or the U.S. would benefit an eleven years old girl forced into marriage in a remote village in Yemen or Afghanistan. The monthly income of these girls’ households is often less than the room rates in the hotels where the dignitaries meet.

And while the dignitaries are annually celebrating women’s days, in luxurious hotels worldwide, crimes are still committed against women in every corner of the world. In Afghanistan, in February 2014, a new law passed by the parliament that bans the relatives of an accused person to testify against them. This law is a major setback for the efforts that had been exhausted in fighting violence against women over the last two decades. Afghanistan is a country plagued by honor killing crimes, forced marriages of minors and domestic violence. This law will silence the victims, as these women will no longer be able to bring their attackers – who are usually a family member – to justice. [1]

In Egypt, on the other hand, a doctor will be prosecuted for homicide on charges of killing a 13 years-old-girl. The young victim died in his clinic after she underwent the brutal procedure of female genital mutilation [FGM]. The law that banned FGM under which the doctor will be tried passed in 2008, yet it went into effect in 2014, when the government of Egypt took action to enforce it. [2]

At midnight on March 8th, the IWD was officially over. The lights were turned off in the conference halls. The microphones were switched off, and Facebook profile pictures, of IWD’s supporters, were changed. And from there on it is business as usual. The dignitaries flew back to their offices to write reports and recommendations that will be saved in digital files, printed and bind in reports. They will get their promotions and life goes on. All will be forgotten until next year. Meanwhile, women living thousands of miles away from the luxurious hotels where passionate PowerPoint presentations were addressing their issues, will still be raped, abused, killed by a family member, denied their rights to travel without a man’s permission, and girls will have their genitals mutilated and forced into marriages.

References:

1. New Afghanistan law to silence victims of violence against women

2.Egypt launches first prosecution for female genital mutilation after girl dies 

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The Evolution of the Harem

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By: Alexandra Kinias —–

During the golden age of the Abbasid Dynasty (750 AD – 1258AD), with its capital in Baghdad, the Islamic conquests reached their peak. The lands of the Islamic Empire extended from the Chinese boarders in Asia to Andalusia in Europe. The Arabs controlled the lands from Mount Sinai to the shores of the Mediterranean in North Africa and all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

The knights who fought under the banner of Islam conquered these lands for dominance, land expansion and spread Islam. These worriers were rewarded by receiving their shares from the spoils of war. Slaves were among these spoils. And the streets of Baghdad were flooded with slaves who were captured from every corner of the Islamic territories; Caucasia, Georgia, Circassia, Europe and Africa. Men were sold to be used as laborers, farmers or soldiers and women were used for domestic help or for sexual pleasures.

Slavery and concubinage were known and practiced since ancient times, thousands of years before the rise of Islam. Laws and rules were drafted to regulate and control their lives. However, with the rise of the Islam and with the vast Islamic expansion, slavery and concubinage underwent a dramatic evolution that dictated and shaped the lives of millions of women for centuries later. Their residues are still felt as the blue prints of this system are still used as guidelines to control and abuse women in modern times.

In the lands of the Islamic Empire, and even after the sack of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258, slaves were a commodity traded in the markets throughout the Islamic territories. Slave trading became a lucrative business and slaves were auctioned to the highest bidders. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that while men cost few hundred Dinars, women and girls were worth tens of thousands of Dinars. [1]

And like any business, merchants competed to market their merchandises. A new art was developed to polish these women to generate attractive prices. The value of the slaves increased if they acquired artistic talents. To increase the value of the slaves, merchants bought young girls, from markets or from slave captures. There young girls were brought up in special homes, similar to the Geisha Houses in Japan. Under the supervision of older and experienced slaves, these young girls were groomed and polished. In these homes the girls were taught to sing, dance, and play musical instruments. They were also taught to read, write, languages, grammar, science, painting, embroidery, and to recite poetry to their lovers,. Their knowledge didn’t stop at that, but they were also taught to discuss politics, science and arts. Female slaves didn’t depend simply on their beauty to attract their clients, but similar to today’s Call Girls, they were also judged by their intellect, knowledge and culture.

After receiving their training, these girls were either sold to wealthy clients or worked in Singing Houses, similar to today’s brothels. These houses were built by the merchants to entertain the wealthy customers and as a place to display their merchandises. There was fierce competition between these Singing Houses, which were built throughout the lands of the empire, to attract the customers. Caliphs, Emirs and wealthy businessmen were regular customers in these Singing Houses, to enjoy the performances or to buy more slaves.

Slaves became more intellectual than free women and moved in the inner circle of the policy decision makers and eventually became very powerful in the palaces of the Caliphs. With their soaring popularity and their influence, they became role models for the free women who looked up to them and some men demanded from their wives to follow the way these slaves talked and dressed. [2]

Amidst this moral corruption that invaded the society, the situation was reversed. And while men enjoyed their extreme sexual freedoms with their slaves, who also lived without any societal restrictions, the free women were secluded, kept in confinement in their homes and were forced to wear the veil on the rare occasions when they went out. They were segregated from all strange men and were forbidden from playing any role in the society.

It is quite staggering to see that in many societies today, history has not progressed since then. The stagnant medieval mentalities that exist in these societies are still controlling the lives and fates of women. And while men are enjoying their sexual freedoms, they are still treating their women as commodities, and are insisting to imagine that protecting their honor is achieved by veiling their women, holding them captives in their homes and depriving them from education and life.

Reference:
1.Encyclopedia History of the Arabs page 220
2.Modern Vision of veil – Ikbal Baraka page 64

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