Baltimore Teenage Girl Speaks On Behalf Of Muslims, Combating Discrimination against Girls Who Wear Head-Scarves in Public
Zekra Alwach, a civil engineer and director general of the ministry of higher education, becomes the first female to be Baghdad's mayor. (Photo courtesy: Twitter)
Do Not Make Gender Abortion A Crime Because 'It Would Divide Communities', Unions Tells Mps
ISIS: Jihadist Aqsa Mahmood's Parents Call Her 'Disgrace' Over Claims She Helped Recruit Missing Girls
Boko Haram Suspected After Girl 'No Older Than 8' Kills Five in Nigerian Bomb Attack
Watch Families of 'ISIS' Schoolgirls Make Emotional Pleas for Them to Come Home
Abercrombie Face U.S. Supreme Court Hijab Case
Ekra Alwach Becomes Baghdad's First Female Mayor
Eloped Love Couple Take Poison in Northern Kunduz Province
Female Prisoners Regret Their Trips to the Forbidden World
30 Saudis Women to Run In Municipal Vote
Sudan: 'Teens Tried For Wearing Trousers’
Rwanda: Students Called To Beware Of Human Traffickers
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Baltimore teenage girl speaks on behalf of Muslims, combating discrimination against girls who wear head-scarves in public
Local teen speaks out on behalf of the Muslim community
23 Feb, 2015
Amara Majeed founded a website called "The Hijab Project," aimed at combating discrimination against Muslim girls and women who wear head-scarves in public. She self-published a book of short biographies of 17 peace-loving, law-abiding Muslims from around the world. She provides online commentary for CNN and, starting earlier this month, for the Huffington Post.
It's worth noting that Amara is 17 years old and is still in high school. What will she accomplish when she's 18?
"I want to transform myself into an idea," Amara, a senior at Towson High School said during a post-school chat in the bookstore that has become a second home for her. "I want to transform myself into this concept of liberty and equality. People die, but ideas don't. I want my ideas to live on long after I've left this world."
Even before she's earned her driver's license, Amara Majeed is rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with as a fresh new voice speaking on behalf of an under-represented and frequently misunderstood minority. The 2,770,000 Muslims living in the U.S. in 2010 represent just 0.9 percent of all Americans, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.
So Amara can't help but stand out from the crowd — though the impression she makes stems more from her unusual initiative and drive than it does from her black hijab.
For instance, after months of fruitlessly pitching various editors at the Huffington Post and getting no response, Amara sent a long email plea directly to the website's founder, Arianna Huffington, describing her great desire to work for that organization.
The email went on to explain how Amara had gradually learned to embrace her identity as a Muslim feminist.
It described her decision to start wearing a hijab as a high school freshman because she didn't think a woman's merit should be judged solely by physical beauty. It described how two years later, she ignored her classmates' stares while offering up Islamic prayers each morning on the school bus.
According to an email passed along by Amara, Huffington responded by thanking the young woman "for sharing your powerful personal story" and added that she would "love to feature your voice on the site!"
Amara's debut HuffPost post on Feb. 6 was a meditation on skin color and arranged marriages in South Asian culture. (Amara's parents emigrated to the U.S. from Sri Lanka, and the family, which also includes her two older brothers, has made several long trips to visit relatives in the island nation.)
"She's always saying that she's not that special," said Amara's close friend, Sarah Sulkowski, 18, of Towson. "And we're like, 'Oh yeah?' Who else do you know who gets emails from Arianna Huffington?"
Charlene DiMino met Amara in the fall of 2013, shortly after being named Towson High's principal. Every morning, DiMino would walk into the high school cafeteria before classes began and find Amara sitting alone with her head bent over her schoolbooks. Frequently, Amara was at her table at 7 a.m., or an hour before the first bell rang. Every day, Amara would spend her lunch period writing in the school library.
"She was so focused and disciplined," DiMino said. "I remember thinking, 'There's something special about this young woman.'"
Amara describes her website, the Hijab Project, as a social experiment. Muslim and non-Muslim women were encouraged to wear a head-scarf to the mall or other public place and then record their experiences on the site (thehijabproject.org).
In part, the website was a response to the animosity that head-scarves have incurred in much of the world, where they are perceived incorrectly as a symbol of Islamic fundamentalism. Quebec, for instance, considered banning public workers from wearing head-scarves and other visible religious symbols such as crosses as recently as 2013, only to have the proposed law trounced at the polls.
"As a Muslim woman, I can't watch the news without feeling criminalized and misinterpreted," Amara said.
"I feel like I need to show the world that not all Muslims are horrible people who kill innocent civilians and rape girls. The way Muslims are portrayed by the media is dehumanizing and it's brain-washing."
Sociologist Christopher Bail, who studies the way Muslims are depicted in the American news media, says that Amara isn't over-reacting. He analyzed more than 50,000 newspaper articles and news broadcasts between 2001 and 2008 and found a disproportionate number of negative portrayals.
"We see images of the attack on Charlie Hebdo or the Boston Marathon bombing, and they contribute to the perception that terrorism inspired by some version of Islam is on the rise," said Bail, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina. "In the U.S., there's very little evidence of this. There's a huge gap between perception and reality."
Amara's mother, Ayesha Jabbar, says that her daughter's example helped her summon the inner fortitude to resume wearing her own hijab and to brave occasionally hostile glances and remarks.
Growing up in Sri Lanka, the head-scarf was part of Jabbar's daily attire. But after moving to the United States, she stopped covering her head.
"I love this country," she said. "After 9/11, people started staring at me, so I took it off. But when my own daughter started wearing her hijab, I was so proud of her. She helped me be strong and show that I'm proud of who I am."
The women from around the world who Amara met on the website, from the women who told horror stories of sexual abuse to the soldier who expressed her determination to wear her hijab while fighting for the U.S., moved the teen deeply.
"I got to learn about the diversity of human experience," she said. "Their stories stayed with me."
During Amara's junior year of high school, she decided to devote less time to maintaining the website, which at its peak had about 9,400 "likes," and instead to refine and publish some of those stories in the form of a book called "The Foreigners."
Amara began planning the book in January. She conducted interviews and wrote a draft in June. A Towson High School classmate took the photograph for the book jacket and a college friend edited the manuscript.
Her parents had no idea that Amara was about to become a published author until the day she asked her father for his credit card.
"I asked her, 'Amara, why didn't you tell your parents that you wanted to write a book?'" her father, Mansoor Majeed recalled.
"She replied, 'Daddy, teenagers in America don't tell their parents everything.' "
Naturally, Mansoor Majeed was curious. But, he knows his daughter's privacy is important to her and she's never caused her parents even a single moment's concern. So he bit his tongue and handed over his credit card without asking any more questions.
He didn't find out what "The Foreigners" was about until weeks later, when he went onto Amazon.com and typed his daughter's name into the search field and the book title popped up.
"Amara, you did a good thing," he told her when he came home from work that night. "I'm very proud of you."
The high school senior is currently in the midst of interviews with potential colleges. She thinks she might aim for a career as a women's rights lawyer, though adults impressed with Amara's analytical skills and fluid writing style think she might have a future as a journalist or as a cultural commentator of some sort.
Not that Amara spends every spare minute hatching plans to improve the world. She chatters away happily with her friends about everything from the recent Grammy broadcast to her obsession with Dr. Phil to the boys she has a crush on.
But, the standards she sets for herself are sky-high and at times, Amara worries that she won't be able to keep up that pace. So she tries to lower the expectations of the adults around her by intentionally downplaying her own achievements.
"I'm never satisfied with what I've accomplished," Amara said.
"I feel like it's never enough. It's important to me to get as much done as I can before I turn 18 and become a legal adult. It's so much easier to be extraordinary when you're young. The standards are constantly increasing as we age, and it's so much harder to be impressive when you're older."
Chances are that Amara soon will learn this happy truth: With the exception of pro athletes, very few people peak in their teens or early 20s.
On April 4, when she celebrates her 18th birthday, she'll just be beginning to come into her own. She'll just be beginning to figure out what she has to give, to identify the purpose to which she can devote her energy and talents.
"I'm constantly trying to up my game," she said. "I want people to be able to look at me and know what I stand for."
Do not make gender abortion a crime because 'it would divide communities', unions tells MPs
23 Feb, 2015
Union leaders are telling MPs to vote against a proposed ban on aborting babies on the grounds of their gender.
A document circulated by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) argued that the amendment to make sex-selective abortions illegal would ‘divide communities’.
It also suggests there can be ‘compelling circumstances’ to allow abortion of female foetuses – such as if a woman is at risk of domestic abuse.
The unions’ intervention into the debate provoked a major row last night ahead of today’s vote on the issue.
Religious groups, including Asian community leaders and representatives of the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faiths, said there was no division on the practice and that they all viewed sex- selective abortion as abhorrent.
There was also a furious reaction from MPs, including some from Union-backed Labour, who demanded to know why the TUC was telling them how to vote on an issue of conscience.
Some senior Tories accused the unions of trying to use their financial muscle and influence over Labour to manipulate voting.
The practice of aborting babies because of their gender has long been suspected to exist among some Asian communities, in which sons are said to be more valued than daughters.
Tory MP Fiona Bruce’s amendment, which has been promised support by 100 MPs, attempts to clear up confusion about whether the practice is illegal.
It seeks to establish in law that ‘nothing in section one of the Abortion Act 1967 is to be interpreted as allowing a pregnancy to be terminated on the grounds of the sex of the unborn child’.
But Labour MPs have been urged to ‘consider opposing this amendment’ by the TUC.
An email signed by the Congress’s Westminster representative Isobel Larkin said there was no evidence to suggest sex-selective abortion has been happening and that official guidance already says an abortion cannot be authorised by gender alone.
It added: ‘The amendment does not attempt to address the root causes of deeply entrenched gender discrimination but rather has divided communities.’
Last night, Labour MP Mary Glindon said: ‘To [suggest] the amendment is dividing communities is unsubstantiated ... they won’t have any evidence.’
Tory MP Julian Brazier said: ‘It is a great shame that the TUC, which represents the lion’s share of the paymasters of the Labour Party, has chosen to intervene in this way.’ Miss Larkin claimed the support of several community groups, but only named one specifically Asian organisation – the Newham Asian Women’s Project.
The briefing paper sent round by the TUC suggested it could be right in some circumstances for a doctor to approve sex-selective abortion – for example, if a woman did not want a girl for ‘cultural’ reasons and could be abused by her husband if she kept the baby.
It's offensive rubbish, say Asians
The UK’s major Asian faith groups were last night united in condemning the union’s abortion warning.
Muslim, Sikh and Hindu representatives all gave their full support for gender-selective abortions to be criminalised.
And they attacked the TUC’s suggestion that it should not be outlawed because of ‘complexities’ to do with cultural issues as ‘ridiculous rubbish’.
Dr Majid Katme of the Islamic Medical Association said: ‘The claim that the amendment is divisive is ridiculous. It’s rubbish.
‘No-one will accept that. How will this divide communities? This is upsetting only the pro-choice people, that’s all.’
He added: ‘All the major faith groups in the UK are strongly united against this criminal act of killing girls in abortion.
‘Why in a civilised society do you target girls to be killed? Why are we going the way of India and China in targeting girls?’
Bal Sandhu, of the Sikh Council UK, agreed and described the TUC’s opposition to the ban as ‘outrageous’. He said: ‘They shouldn’t be saying that. I am absolutely shocked.
‘This is completely out of the TUC’s remit. It is very offensive.’
In response to the claim that there might be ‘cultural’ reasons for allowing a gender-specific abortion, he said: ‘It is appalling that they can make such generalised statements, that they can say something like that. We are in support of sex-selective abortions being a criminal offence because it will act as a deterrent and people might think twice.
‘It doesn’t mean that there will be wife- battering as a result. It will simply send out a clear message that sex-selective abortions are illegal, unacceptable and will not be tolerated in this country.’
Dr Jafer Qureshi, Muslim co-chairman of the Medical Ethics Alliance, said: ‘Toleration of sex-selective abortion would put Britain on the slippery slope to designer families.
‘Islamic teaching is very clear on this – it is not allowed, period. I am extremely worried about this being abused.’
Hindu leaders also spoke out against the practice, saying they had been campaigning on the issue for years.
In a letter on the Bruce amendment, members of the Hindu Council UK and National Council of Hindu Temples UK wrote: ‘We are all united in the belief that sex-selective abortion must end. We were campaigning for this long before Fiona Bruce or anyone else became interested.’
ISIS: Jihadist Aqsa Mahmood's parents call her 'disgrace' over claims she helped recruit missing girls
23 Feb, 2015
The family of jihadist Aqsa Mahmood today revealed their horror after she was accused of helping recruit three missing British schoolgirls to Islamic State.
It has been claimed Mahmood, of Pollokshields, Glasgow had been in touch with at least one of the three girls on social media, urging her to join the terror group.
Police fear the runaway London teenagers are trying to reach Syria after they flew to Turkey, the Daily Record reports.
Scotland Yard are urgently trying to trace Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and an unnamed 15-year-old, all from Bethnal Green in East London.
The three friends all go to the Bethnal Green Academy school and are good friends with another 15-year-old girl who fled to Syria in December.
The Mahmood family issued a statement tonight through their lawyer Aamer Anwar which said: “They are not sure how much more misery that Aqsa can inflict on her own family but the fact that she is now accused of destroying other families is beyond the pale.
“However the Security Services have serious questions to answer- Aqsa’s social media has been monitored since she disappeared over a year ago, yet despite alleged contact between the girls and Aqsa, they failed to stop them from leaving the UK to Turkey a staging post for Syria.
“Sadly despite all the Government’s rhetoric on ISIS, if they can’t even take basic steps to stop children leaving to join ISIS, what is the point of any new laws?
“As for Aqsa - you are a disgrace to your family and the people of Scotland, your actions are a perverted and evil distortion of Islam.
“You are killing your family every day with your actions, they are begging you stop if you ever loved them.”
Last September it was reported that 20 year old Glaswegian Mahmood had become an IS jihadist, having travelled to Syria and married an IS fighter. She is accused of urging British Muslims to carry out another Woolwich.
Her family contacted the Police to report her as missing in November 2013 and subsequently it was discovered by the family that she had travelled to Syria.
Today the Prime Minister David Cameron says the disappearance of three east London girls is “deeply concerning”. The three all flew from Gatwick to Turkey on Tuesday and were captured on CCTV.
Mr Cameron said: “Our authorities will do everything we can to help these girls. But it does make a broader point which is the fight against Islamist extremist terror is not just one that we can wage by the police and border control.
“It needs every school, every university, every college, every community to recognise they have a role to play.”
The three girls were spoken to last December as part of the police inquiry into the fourth girl’s disappearance. They told their parents on Tuesday they were going out for the day,
CCTV at Gatwick airport then captured the girls as they passed through security, before boarding a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul.
Last month it was revealed that Mahmood has written a guide on how to be a war widow, sparking rumours her extremist husband has been killed.
The 20-year-old, who was taught at Glasgow’s £3,500-a-term Craigholme girls’ school, has also demanded fighter wives to read-up on how long they need to wait before remarrying under strict religious laws.
The former medical student, who now calls herself Umm Layth, also warned women that they need to learn the proper dress etiquette for widows.
Her parents Muzaffar, 51, and wife Khalida, 44, have previously begged their daughter to come home and said she had ‘betrayed’ her family.
It is believed that Shamima Begum contacted Aqsa Mahmood through social media. Last Sunday, a Twitter account appearing to belong to Shamima tweeted to an account associated with Mahmood.
Islamic State has taken control of huge areas of Iraq and Syria and also has a huge presence in Libya where last week they sparked outrage by beheading at least 12 Christians on a beach.
The mass beheading was shown in the latest in a series of sickening videos released by the group which have included the beheadings of Western journalists and charity workers including Scot David Haines.
Boko Haram suspected after girl 'no older than 8' kills five in Nigerian bomb attack
23 February 2015
A girl as young as 8 is believed to be responsible for a bomb attack on a Nigerian market in which five were killed and dozens injured as defeated Boko Haram militants flee the region.
The attack took place at a security check outside a market in the northeast Nigerian town of Potiskum earlier today, Reuters reports.
It’s the third incident this year in which children have been used to carry out attacks in Nigeria, a nation stricken by violence from home-grown Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.
It comes as insurgent militants flee the region after suffering a heavy defeat to Government forces from four nations bordering the town of Baga – Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
A witness told Reuters that the girl, strapped with explosives, “let the bomb off, killing herself and five others, while many were injured”.
Resident Bala Totiskum said he saw dozens of wounded being rushed to hospital after the blast.
Both witnesses told Reuters that the bomber was “a small girl”, estimating that she can’t have been more than 8 years old.
No-one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but it carries the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which is believed to be responsible for a string of attacks in the region using children.
Earlier this month, a 16-year-old blew herself up at a crowded bus station, also in north-eastern Nigeria. Sixteen people were killed and Associated Press reported that witnesses said many of them were children who had either been selling peanuts or begging for money.
In January, the BBC reported that 19 people were killed in Maiduguri market, also in the North East, after a bomb was strapped to a girl believed to be around ten years old.
The market is reported to have been targeted twice in a week by female bombers last year.
Boko Haram, believed to be responsible for the attack today, recently suffered a heavy defeat as the Nigerian Army reclaimed the town of Baga, also in the north east, where the bombing took place.
The official Nigerian Army twitter account tweeted: “Military Operations in Monguno and other communities successful. God bless the Armed Forces of Nigeria.”
Islamic militants had held the town since January 3rd. The Nigerian Government claims that 150 people were killed when they took Baga and nearby Doron Baga, but locals told the BBC that the number could be as many as thousands.
But Nigerian forces, with help from its neighbours and backed by airstrikes, seized to north eastern town on Saturday, in what the military called a significant victory against insurgency.
“We have secured Baga. We are now in full control. There are only mopping up exercises to do,” Defence Spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade told Reuters.
He added that “a large number of terrorists had drowned in Lake Chad”, as they fled from military advances from the African nations.
Baga was the headquarters of an international force for all four countries and its recapture was an important one. Boko Haram forces are said to now be on the run, in this region and many others.
Olukolade added: “Not even the strategy of mining over 1,500 spots with land mines on the routes leading to the town could save the terrorists from the aggressive move of advancing troops.”
The victory comes at an important time for President Goodluck Jonathan, who is up for election on March 28th after a six-week delay, on the grounds that more time was needed to fight insurgents.
It will be welcome opportunity to talk of success after a bloody battle with Islamists in which thousands killed and 1.5-million were displaced last year alone.
Over the six-year conflict, the Suni group has killed thousands more and kidnapped hundreds, with successes in the last year that saw them carve up territory the size of Belgium.
But fleeing Boko Haram forces are often seen as dangerous to the general population. Reuters reported that militants retreating from an offensive in Sambisa killed 21 people on Friday in attacks near Chibok, where rebels abducted 200 schoolgirls last year.
Military chiefs will meet in Chad’s capital N’Djamena next week to finalist plans for an 8,700-strong task force of troops from the four countries, plus Benin
Watch families of 'ISIS' schoolgirls make emotional pleas for them to come home
23 Feb, 2015
Relatives of three missing schoolgirls who are believed to have fled to Syria to join Islamic State wept today as they issued heartfelt pleas for the youngsters to come home.
Police are urgently trying to trace Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-old Amira Abase, who flew from Gatwick Airport to Istanbul in Turkey on Tuesday.
The girls, described as "straight A students" at Bethnal Green Academy school in east London, did not show any signs they were planning to travel to war-torn Syria, their families said as they gave emotional interviews at Scotland Yard's headquarters.
Renu Begum, 27, said she hopes her "baby" sister Shamima had travelled with the intention of bringing back another fellow pupil who went to Syria in December.
Amid fears the girls may have been recruited by jihadists online, Ms Begum said any attempt to prey on the "vulnerable" young girls was "cruel" and "evil".
"To convince young children, young girls who are highly intelligent... at that age, who are vulnerable, it's just wrong," she said.
"It's a really evil thing to do.
"You're breaking up entire families.
"They're preying on young innocent girls and it's not right."
Holding her missing sister's pyjamas, Ms Begum broke down in tears as she urged her to return home.
"Please come home," she said.
"Mum needs you more than anything in the world. You're our baby. We just want you home. We want you safe."
Ms Begum said their mother last saw Shamima get on a bus on Tuesday morning after she claimed she had extra classes at school, and there was "nothing unusual about her behaviour".
"She's a sensible girl," she said. "We're hoping she wouldn't do anything that would put her in any danger. It's left a big hole in the house.
"Her family love her more than anybody else in this world can.
"If anyone is telling her they're going to love her more than us, they're wrong.
"She's a clever girl but she's only young and young minds can easily be swayed."
Shamima's relatives, including her two older sisters, posed for a photograph with Amira's father at New Scotland Yard in London as they appealed for the girls to come home.
Abase Hussen, 47, said his family had "not stopped crying" since the disappearance of his daughter Amira, who claimed she was going to a wedding on the day she went missing.
"She said 'daddy, I'm in a hurry'," he said.
"There was no sign to suspect her at all."
Mr Hussen clutched a teddy bear dressed in a Chelsea shirt with the words "number one mum" on its foot which Amira gave to her mother on Mother's Day.
He said his daughter sent a text on the morning of the day she went missing which said "dad the place is a little bit far. I pray my midday prayer and I get back".
"She didn't come home," he added. "We are depressed, and it's very stressful. The message we have for Amira is to get back home. We miss you. We cannot stop crying. Please think twice. Don't go to Syria.
"What she's doing is completely nonsense. Remember how we love you. Your sister and brother cannot stop crying."
Mr Hussen said his daughter had never spoken about an interest in jihad with him but "maybe with friends".
He added: "She doesn't dare discuss something like this with us.
"She knows what the answer would be."
Mr Hussen said his wife had a "broken heart".
"If anyone doesn't have hope, life would be miserable," he said. "We don't despair. We struggle. It's stressful. We hope, of course."
Reading a message to Kadiza, her older sister Halima Khanom said: "We want you to know that we all miss you and we love you.
"Everyone is hurting because we don't know if you are safe, especially mum. Find the courage in your heart to contact us and let us know how you are and if you are okay. That is all we ask."
Abercrombie face U.S. Supreme Court hijab case
23 February 2015
The U.S. Supreme Court will make a rare foray into popular clothing on Wednesday to weigh in on accusations that Abercrombie & Fitch illegally rejected a Muslim job applicant because of her hijab, Agence France-Presse reported.
Abercrombie argued that its store policy forbids sales staff -- whom it calls “models” -- from wearing “caps” of any sort, and that Samantha Elauf, then 17, should have made clear in her 2008 interview that she could not comply due to her religion.
“Before her interview, Ms Elauf knew the position required her to model the Abercrombie style, knew the style of clothing that Abercrombie sold and also knew that Abercrombie did not sell headscarves,” the company said in a court brief.
It stressed that floor staff are expected to sport a “classic East Coast collegiate style.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a complaint on behalf of Elauf against Abercrombie & Fitch, which is known for sales associates often dressed in racy attire, and attorneys say she is protected by the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Under the act, no one can be refused employment based on their religion, unless the employer cannot accommodate the person's religious beliefs without adversely affecting business.
The closely watched case could have deep ramifications for how businesses hire their employees because it would place the burden on employers to warn job applicants of any characteristics that could hurt their candidacy, experts say.
A federal district court sided with Elauf and her lawyers in the case, but she lost on appeal when the Denver, Colorado-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Abercrombie.
The appeals court ruled that the 1964 act only protects employees who provide “explicit notice of the need for a religious accommodation.”
The U.S. Supreme Court, which usually sides with those who claim their religious freedoms have been violated, sharply criticized the appeals court decision, warning it “will lead to irrational results in other cases as well.”
“Who bears the burden of initiating a dialogue as to any potential religious conflict?” asked Rachel Paulose, a former US attorney, in explaining the key question at the heart of the case.
“The EEOC argues the burden should be on the employer if it suspects a possible (religious) conflict, while Abercrombie argues... the initial responsibility (is placed) squarely upon the employee or applicant in every situation.”
The case has received support from religious rights groups and US President Barack Obama's administration, which appealed the Colorado court's decision.
The EEOC said its cases involving complaints of religious discrimination have more than doubled in the past 15 years.
A decision by the high court is expected in June.
Zekra Alwach becomes Baghdad's first female mayor
23 Feb, 2015
A woman has been named as mayor of Baghdad for the first time, a government spokesman said, amid widespread corruption and rampant violence.
Zekra Alwach, a civil engineer and director general of the ministry of higher education, becomes the first female to be given such a post in the whole country, where international rights groups have condemned women's rights abuses.
As mayor -- the most important administrative position in the capital -- Alwach will deal directly with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and holds has the prerogatives of a cabinet minister.
She will begin work Sunday, according to a municipal source.
"Abadi sacked the (former) mayor Naim Aboub and named Dr. Zekra Alwach to replace him," government spokesman Rafed Juburi said.
Aboub's removal was not designed as a punishment, although he was regularly accused on social media and by Baghdad residents as incompetent, the spokesman added.
He made headlines in March 2014 when he described his city, beset by brutal sectarian violence and rife with corruption, as "more beautiful than New York and Dubai".
"Aboub is a clown. Abadi should have sacked him from the start," said Yasser Saffar, a Baghdad baker. "All his statements were ridiculous."
Alwach's appointment is a breakthrough for gender equality in Iraq, where rights groups say discrimination and violence against women is widespread.
According to a U.N. report last year, at least a quarter of Iraqi women aged over 12 are illiterate and just 14 percent enter the world of work.
Baghdad is currently plagued by car bombings and sectarian killings, and militants from the Islamic State group have seized much of Anbar province to the west, menacing the capital.
Eloped love couple take poison in northern Kunduz province
23 Feb, 2015
An eloped love couple took poison in northern Kunduz province of Afghanistan in a bid to end their lives, local government officials said. (File Photo of Forbidden Afghan couple)
The officials further added that the couple decided to end their lives after the family of the girl became aware regarding their location.
A doctor in the provincial hospital said the 18-year-old died after she was taken to the hospital as she had taken more toxic material but the boy is still being treated.
The provincial women’s affairs department chief Nahida Asefi confirmed that the couple had taken toxic material which is used to kill the rats.
According to the reports the couple had recently fled from their homes in Kabul province after the family of the girl rejected a marriage proposal from the boy’s family.
The couple had reportedly taken shelter in the house of one of his relatives in Imam Sahib district of Kunduz province before their location was traced by the family of the girl.
Majority of the marriages are arranged between the families in Afghanistan which is a conservative society and majority of the cases the women are eloping from their homes to escape from forced marriages.
Female prisoners regret their trips to the forbidden world
23 Feb, 2015
When desires overturn virtues and people turn to evil conduct, human and jinn demons open the doors of temptation and lure victims by presenting them with choices. Moral issues come to the surface until consciousness wakes to a bitter reality and curtains close on a shocking scene and the tears of prisoners.
The women’s prison in Madinah is an example of a correctional facility.
One woman has finished her sentence but she has not seen the light of day but has been transferred to a women’s welfare home because her parents refused to take her back.
“A friend convinced me to run away with her to Jeddah to escape my family’s pressure and my brother’s abuse,” she recalled her story in conversation with a local newspaper. “Without thinking, I went with her but we were soon discovered and we fell into the hands of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Haia) which was watching the apartment where we were. When my father came to get me, he said he would kill me and I was sent to prison and spent six months there. Now I am in the welfare shelter for girls and awaiting forgiveness from my father and brother.”
Another woman says she is an orphan who was raised by a family until she reached 16. They treated her well, but she met bad friends at school who lured her to make mistakes. She used to run away from school and go to a rest area with a boy until they were arrested by the Haia. “They called my adopted family to take me from the police station but they feared for their reputation and so I was taken to detention. I lived in the welfare shelter for girls, but found treatment differed greatly from what I was used to. Everyday there were fights between me and the other girls and supervisors. I decided to leave and met a man who promised to marry me. I used to meet him in one of the markets when I went to study in a computer institute where I went from the welfare home. My errors were discovered because I became pregnant. After investigation, I admitted what had happened but the young man denied all knowledge of me and my unborn child,” she said.
Fatima, another girl, says she is sad and does not want to go back to her family because she is responsible for her situation. Her mother is always busy, and her father is with his second wife most of the time. She does not have any brothers or sisters. This pushed her to go a neighbor’s house. Her friend there introduced her to her brother and the relationship developed until the calamity took place and signs of pregnancy started to show.
“I didn’t tell anyone and started to wear large clothes so that no one would notice my swelling belly, but the neighbor’s boy and his sister wouldn’t help me,” she said. “I felt cramps in my stomach so my father took me to hospital where the doctor told him I was having labor pains. My father couldn’t take the shock and fainted; my mother was horrified and she only realized her negligence when it was too late,” she said.
She sent her daughter to the home for orphans after her father wouldn’t allow her to stay at home. Fatima refused to go with her father and went to prison to demand the return of her daughter because she isn’t the only criminal; she feels that everyone else is a criminal too.
Another woman Manal said her mother was the source of her troubles. Since her divorce, the sisters witnessed her nights with her friends and some men. She used to ask the girls to be hostesses during these gatherings until the matter became a reality. After she died, the girls carried on her conduct and could not give it up even though they moved to their father’s house.
“We used to make excuses to go to imaginary celebrations and spend the night at hotels with our friends. One day, I went with a man to his house and a fight broke out between him and his friend who was with us. Matters got out of hand and they started to fight and the man’s mother called the police. I couldn’t escape and was arrested. My father refused to take me back and told my uncle to take me to his village, because he feared for my sister, but he didn’t know that she was already on the same path,” she added.
30 Saudis women to run in municipal vote
23 February 2015
RIYADH — The next municipal council elections are expected to have at least 30 women candidates standing for seats all over the Kingdom, the Makkah daily reported.
The general coordinator of the Baladi Initiative, which trains women to be decision makers through seminars and workshops, said these candidates are ready to stand for the elections.
Hatoon Ajwad Al-Fasi said: “We currently have the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation and the Arab Urban Development Institute as partners and we are trying to reach out to the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs.”
She added the workshops and training for the elections and general affairs were offered from August 2013 until May 2014.
“We had 365 participants who were educated on local councils and general affairs.
“Judging by the number of participants, we can say Saudi women from various cultural background and ages are willing and prepared to be candidates or organizers and coordinators in the elections.”
She also added the Baladi Initiative is willing to accept any woman with the “drive and desire” to serve her community.
“We are currently focusing on training the 30 candidates for the elections and organizing committees.
“Although we are not the only ones offering training sessions for women, we do always aim to bring women into their own societies and have them among the decision makers to improve their societies.”
Sudan: 'Teens Tried for Wearing Trousers'
23 February 2015
Wad Madani — Two young women were arrested in El Gezira state on 11 February, on charges of violating the the Public Order by wearing trousers.
Fatima Abdelfadel Hassan (16) and Amna Mohamed Banaga (18) were held by policemen when they were working at a brick-making site in El Haj Abdallah village. They were kept in custody at the local police station from 4pm until 11:30pm.
The women were released on bail only to return the next day for the trial, the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (Siha) reported in a statement on Wednesday.
Hassan (16) was acquitted, while Banaga (18) received 20 lashes.
Banaga told Siha's source that she was lashed on her hands, although it is usually conducted on the legs, buttocks, and back area. The source who visited the young women and their families added that Banaga's hands bear the marks of the lashings.
Siha condemned the incident, saying that in Sudan, "women and girls continue to suffer under discriminatory laws, particularly under the so-called Public Order Articles, contained in the 1991 Sudanese Criminal Act, by which they are arrested based on loose interpretations of the laws, subjected to summary trials, and lashed."
Siha is a coalition of over 80 women's civil society organisations in Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Somaliland, Eritrea, and Uganda. It works on women's access to justice, promoting and protecting women's human rights, activating women's political participation, and supporting economic empowerment.
The organisation published a detailed analysis of the Public Order Regime in 2009: "Beyond Trousers: The Public Order Regime and the Human Rights of Women and girls in Sudan".
Rwanda: Students Called to Beware of Human Traffickers
23 February 2015
Students should be vigilant because they are the major targets of human traffickers under the guise of getting them white-collar offers in other countries where they end up in sexual and exploitative slavery.
This was a message delivered to students of College St. Andre in Nyamirambo, Nyarugenge District, shortly after a friendly football match between St. Andre and Rwanda National Police which the latter won 1-0.
Inspector of Police (IP) Claude Budaraza, the Nyarugenge District Community Liaison Officer (DCLO) explained to the students the tricks traffickers use to lure them into modern-day slavery and adverse ordeals involved.
He explained that although victims were sometimes taken by force, threats or abduction, methods yet to be reported in Rwanda, the majority are deceived or manipulated due to their vulnerability.
Badaraza further noted that human trafficking was no longer "hearsay in Rwanda" adding that "even Rwandans have fallen victims" in the past years.
Rwanda National Police has since 2009 handled 36 cases of human trafficking involving over 150 victims, mostly foreigners intercepted in Rwanda while in transit.
About 90 per cent of the victims are females and 82 per cent of them aged between 18 and 35 years.
In 2009, RNP intercepted 51 Bangladeshis in Kigali while in transit to Mozambique. Between 2012 and 2013, ten Rwandan girls were rescued from Uganda and some suspects arrested.
In September last year, Interpol Kigali intercepted a Ugandan girl at Kigali International Airport as she was being trafficked to Dubai.
Early last month, two Rwandan nationals were arrested in a hotel in Nyabugogo with three females they were allegedly trafficking to Nairobi, Kenya
Most victims are said to be bound to Asian countries like Malaysia and China, Middle East, Southern Africa and East Africa.
"Some traffickers try to be good or befriend you and try by all means to manipulate you not to reveal any information to anyone.
Always inform people or Police on such offers such that this act is prevented and those involved arrested," IP Budaraza told the students.
Viviane Umulisa, from the RNP Directorate of Anti-Gender Based Violence and Child Protection also reminded the students to fight and report incidences of gender related abuses and partner with police in fighting any criminal or illegal acts.
The students were also sensitized on dangers associated with drug abuse and urged to desist from such acts and concentrate on their studies.
Drug abuse and GBV, although they have decreased tremendously in the last few years, largely due to increase awareness, remain among the major crimes committed in Rwanda.
Father Lambert Dusingizimana, the Headmaster of College St. Andre thanked RNP for the educative lecture and appealed to his students to be crime preventers and live by example.