Friday, April 15, 2016

Why Has The World Forgotten Islamic State's Female Sex Slaves?

Photo: An Iraqi Yezidi woman protests outside the United Nations (UN) office in the Iraqi city of Arbil on August 2, 2015 in support of women from their community who were kidnapped last year by ISIS. In 2014, the jihadists massacred Yezidis and captured thousands of girls and women to use as sex slaves.

'Outside The Bedroom, Women Must Wear a Scarf': Air France
Islamism Put Women's Rights on Ice: I skate with the Hijab, says Zahra Lari
Muslim Women Frequently Targeted In Netherlands Hate Crimes
Saudi Arabia Welcomes 400 Women into Islam
Religious Leader Says Saudi Women Should Not Drive
Finding Confidence through Covering Up
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

Why Has The World Forgotten Islamic State's Female Sex Slaves?
Twenty months ago the Islamic State (ISIS) abducted thousands of Yezidi women and girls as the extremist group swept through their villages in northern Iraq in the middle of a terrible summer. Many were forced to become sex slaves for the group’s fighters. Hundreds remain enslaved and many of those who have escaped are still reliving the trauma and often not getting the help they desperately need.  
The shocking reports of recurring ISIS atrocities and its destruction of precious monuments to a cradle of civilization remain in the news. But little has been reported about what has happened to these women in the almost two years since their abduction. Earlier this year, I went to the camps in Iraqi Kurdistan, where many Yezidis forced out of their villages have taken refuge, to talk to women who had escaped. I understood more about why we might not want to think about what’s still happening. Their stories were almost unbearable.
I spoke with seven women who had escaped ISIS after more than a year in captivity. They told me how they had been bought and sold multiple times, raped by different “owners,” locked in rooms for months, beaten and had their children taken away.
“Ramia,” whose name I’ve changed to protect her privacy, is 39 but looked older. She spoke quietly as she urged me to drink several glasses of tea. She escaped ISIS in January. The first time ISIS sold her with two of her children was in a slave market in Syria in 2014. “They were making us walk around to show us … when they wanted one of us they shouted out ‘I want that one!’ and banged on the table,” she said. She was sold on three more times. All her “owners” raped her, she said.
I asked Ramia what sort of support she had to deal with her profound trauma. She told me she doesn’t know what to do about how she feels, that mostly she worries about her 15-year-old daughter and three sons whom she has not seen since ISIS separated them from her. She wonders if they are still alive. One ISIS owner forced her, and her two youngest children, who were still with her, to convert to Islam. Her daughter began to reject her, Ramia told me. “She would say, ‘You cannot hold me unless you pray.’” Now after their escape, Ramia said, the children remain traumatized. They refuse to get into a car, afraid it will take them back to captivity. After the interview, my translator burst into tears between the lines of white tents in the displaced people’s camp where Ramia lives.
How many? The UN thinks ISIS still holds as many as 3,500 abducted people, mostly Yezidi women and children. Yezidi officials told me they have counted some 1,500 women and girls who have escaped but think almost 2,000 women and girls are still in captivity.
What now? The Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq has provided health including some mental health services but is operating under serious budgetary constraints. A well-coordinated effort to ensure the women and girls get the trauma help they need is important and needs more international support. I spoke with 15 escapees who all reported symptoms like nightmares, anxiety, depression but only one was getting regular support. Stigma, confusion about services, money and a lack of outreach were barriers to many.
Incredibly, Yezidi women who have been raped by ISIS fighters and become pregnant cannot get a safe and legal abortion anywhere in Iraq. Iraqi and Kurdish laws should be changed to allow abortions, at least in the case of rape, and safe post-abortion care.
Another priority is to ensure justice for the victims by holding perpetrators accountable. The U.S. and others supporting the Iraqi government financially and militarily should press Iraq to incorporate war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide into its domestic law. Authorities in the Kurdish region are trying to collect evidence of ISIS crimes under extremely difficult circumstances.
The U.S. also should press Iraq to become a member of the International Criminal Court so that the court’s prosecutor can investigate individuals implicated in serious crimes on all sides of the Iraqi conflict, including ISIS.
ISIS uses shock and horror to get the world’s attention. The world should respond not just with anger, but by helping women like Ramia, and her children, to get safe care, rehabilitation and justice.
Skye Wheeler is the women’s rights emergency researcher at Human Rights Watch.

'Outside The Bedroom, Women Must Wear a Scarf': Air France
April 15, 2016
The Islamist mullahs of Iran are meticulously spreading their Sharia laws to other countries and cultures through various methods.
If they cannot conquer the world with their military and convert everyone to their radical version of Islam, they will do it in other shrewd ways.
The Islamic Republic succeeded in forcing Air France, with the silent compliance of the socialist French government, to force its women flight attendants to comply with Iran’s Sharia law, including wearing a scarf, long trousers (instead of skirts), and wide garments (to hide the shape of their bodies) even though these women would not set foot in Iran and even if they are only in a layover and would not set foot outside the plane. Once they leave France, the female flight attendants have to comply with the dress code of Iran. They are not even allowed to smoke, even though the French men are allowed too.
Air France has told its stewardesses that: ‘Outside the bedroom, women must wear a scarf and a wide and long garment to conceal their shapes.”
As the pressure against such policy is mounting in France, Air France has agreed to give the female air hostesses and pilots the choice to opt out of flights to the Islamic Republic.
Nevertheless, Air France officials pointed out that they would not change their current policy at this moment. What Air France is failing to recognize is that it is basically following the Islamic Republic’s Sharia and Islamist law that views women as non-human, objects created to only satisfy men in bed.
Air France's decision and the acquiescence of the French government pose a significant danger to principles of democracy. The Islamist state of Iran, and other Islamist countries and militia groups, view this act as a victory for Islam and spread of Islamism.
Once you give them an inch, they want a mile. Concessions mean weakness for them.
Iranian leaders are already emboldened. They are asking all Western countries to remove un-Islamic things, such as wine, statues, posters which depict women without their hair covered, etc, when Iranian politicians visit their country. France previously accepted such Islamist requests by eliminating wine and other un-Islamic objects at the arrival of Iranian mullahs in Paris.
The underlying issue is mutual respect. The ignorant and foolish Iranian mullahs want other countries to follow their Sharia law whether they are on the soil of the Islamic Republic of Iran or in their own country. So why are the Iranian politicians unable to respect other countries' values? Why do Iranian leaders threaten to cancel their trip to Paris because wine is going to be served at dinner? Why does France succumb? Why does the West follow the mullahs' demands to become “Islamic” in their own countries? Why does the West not tell the Islamist regime of Iran that if you want us to respect your rule, you have to respect ours too? The Islamist regime of Iran should not have it both ways.
The intriguing issue is that the current government of France, which is run by the socialist party and President Fran├žois Nicolas Hollande, has not made any objections towards Air France’s decision. The socialist party is pursuing the same appeasement policies that President Obama is following regarding the Islamic Republic.
When the Islamist state of Iran was established, the mullahs began exporting their radical Islamist ideology to other countries in the region. It was the belief of the Islamic Republics's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and the current ruling politicians, that Iran’s version of Islam will conquer the world. Khomenei and his successor Khamenei are the other side of the coin of Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.
The ruling clerics began imposing their Sharia law on other countries through wars and financing, training, and arming Shiite Islamist militia groups. After all, they strongly believe that they are following Muhammad’s route of conquering the world and imposing Islam on everyone. The exportation of Iran’s Islamist principles was not limited to the region.
By forcing its female citizens to wear Hijab, France is basically assisting the Islamic Republic in spreading its jihadist, Islamist rules, and Sharia law to other Western countries. In addition, by imposing Hijab on its female crewmembers, France is sacrificing the fundamental human rights, civil liberties, and freedoms that are the underlying pillars of a democratic nation-state system.
The fact is that, unshackled from the United Nations Security Council’s economic sanctions, the Islamist mullahs of Iran are more blatantly exporting their radical Islam into the West. As shown above, some liberal politicians are assisting them in doing so. These revolutionary and Islamist ideals are critical dangers and should not be allowed to penetrate democratic Western societies.

Islamism Put Women's Rights on Ice: I skate with the Hijab, says Zahra Lari
APRIL 14, 2016
News clips about “Hijabi Ice Princess” Zahra Lari have been making the rounds on social media, with captions saying she is “breaking barriers” and “melting the hearts” of television viewers.
Lari is a young woman from the United Arab Emirates making history as the first woman to compete in international figure skating while wearing a costume that, according to her, preserves Islamic modesty.
“I skate with the Hijab. My costume is in line with Islamic tradition,” she says.
Actually it isn’t. One could even argue she is in stark violation of strict, Orthodox, Islamic requirements, despite her mother’s assertion Lari “hasn’t done anything anti-Islamic.”
Orthodoxy prescribes not only that Muslim women must show no skin; it also stipulates that clothes must not reveal the shape of a woman’s body, or draw attention to her in any way.
Lari’s tights and showy tops do not comply.
Of course none of this should matter and not just in professional sports.
But what it means is that if Lari is breaking barriers, it is not by wearing the hijab but rather by flouting the spirit of orthodox Islam’s strict regulations.
The simple and unpalatable truth for the Islamist lobby, who view her as a public relations gold mine, is that she would not be able to compete if she complied with the Islamist requirement to wear loose and drab clothing in public.
So what exactly is the hijab doing in all this?
Islamism -- a political strain of Islam -- wishes to establish its symbols and institutions in Canada and globally. The hijab is central to this.
Muslim women can supposedly do anything in a hijab, even figure skate competitively.
Women’s groups in Ottawa recently celebrated world hijab day, and many supportive non-Muslim Canadian women wore them.
Such solidarity is touching, but the way the hijab is promoted and glamorized promotes the kind of patriarchy Canadian women should abhor.
The hijab is a garment born of the most virulent strain of systematic misogyny, derived from cultures that consider women dependent on men for their livelihood and liberty.
This world view insists on falsely portraying women as temptresses who ought to be removed from public gaze, ostensibly because they risk being sexually assaulted.
Are we to conclude from Lari’s so-called breaking of barriers that all is fine for women in the Islamic world? That the centuries of discrimination – the oppressive sharia laws, the honour killings, the forced marriages, the polygamy, the genital mutilation – have disappeared?
Does Lari’s decision to participate in a figure skating competition mean most Muslim women have broken social barriers and acquired the power to make choices for themselves?
In fact, all the horrifying barriers to women remain in much of the Islamic world, where both the legal framework and social norms combine to make life miserable for millions of Muslim women.
Of course, Lari is entitled to aspire to skating success. But she is, inadvertently, sending the wrong message about the plight of Muslim women and has become a poster girl for the Islamist hijabi lobby.
Unfortunately, this has convinced even some liberal and moderate Muslims that her example is somehow a victory for Muslim women. The continuing oppression of women in much of the Muslim world shows this is clearly not the case.
Lari would have done better to disown the hijab as a symbol of patriarchy and insist on wearing what other skaters do.
That would have been courageous.

Muslim Women Frequently Targeted In Netherlands Hate Crimes
Apr 15, 2016
The hotline for reporting Islam-phobia recorded a total of 158 cases of violence against Muslims in the Netherlands last year. In 90 percent of these cases, women wearing headscarves were targeted. 29 percent of those incidents involved physical violence. In most cases the perpetrators were white men, according to the hotline’s annual figures.
The terrorist attacks in Paris last year had a definite effect on the number of violent incidents against Muslims in the Netherlands. The hotline noticed an increase in reports after both the attack on Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 and the attacks in November.
More than a third of all reports, 54, were made in January after extremists caused a bloodbath at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. And in November, following the Paris Attacks, there were 32 reports – 20 percent of the total.
The hotline also noticed an increase in incidents surrounding protests against the arrival of asylum seekers or the construction of asylum centers.
More than half, 58 percent, of the violent incidents were never reported to the police.

Saudi Arabia Welcomes 400 Women into Islam
April 15, 2016         
Riyadh: Religious converts to Islam greatly increased in the Kingdom. Over the past four months, the number of new Muslim women has reached 400.
As per Arab News, a ceremony to honour new Muslims were conducted which was attended by Zeinab bint Abdullah Al-Rajhi, undersecretary of the student study centre at the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University.
There are so many explanations offered as to why women continue to convert- Lorna, a new Muslim, also has one to told the audience in attendance how she converted to Islam:
“Before embracing Islam, I was a teacher at a Catholic church. Later, I decided to move to Saudi Arabia to seek a better life.
“My sponsor once asked me to clean up the library shelves. While I was busy working, I found a translation of the Holy Qur’an. I asked my sponsor if I could read it, and she welcomed the idea.
“Later, I expressed my desire to convert to Islam to my sponsor who took me to a preacher who helped me pronounce the Shahada (testimony of faith). And today I feel proud to be a Muslim.”
The ceremony began with the Holy Qur’an recitation, after which a video film on women’s administration was shown.

Religious Leader Says Saudi Women Should Not Drive
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that does not allow women to drive.
And it is likely to stay that way, if the country’s top religious cleric has his way. Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh argued that allowing women to drive is “a dangerous matter that exposes women to evil,” according to the Associated Press.  
What did he mean by that?
He said men with "weak spirits" who are "obsessed with women" could cause female drivers harm and that family members would not know where the women were.
He spoke on the religious channel, al-Majd.
The Saudi kingdom follows an ultraconservative version of Islam that includes many restrictions on women. While there is no actual law against women driving, the Saudi government does not permit women to get drivers’ licenses.
Women’s rights activists have driven cars to protest the ban, posting images of themselves driving on social media. Some have been arrested.
Women must rely on hired male drivers, or male relatives, to get them to work or to go shopping, or anywhere else they might need or want to go.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Saudi women are increasingly using the driver service Uber to get around.
They do so because the taxi system is described as “sometimes chaotic,” says The Los Angeles Times. The mass transit system is poorly run and the cost of hiring a chauffeur, a regular driver just for one person, is high.
The newspaper says a woman using public transportation alone, without a male, is “often seen as lacking morals.”
So the country is seeing a rise in smartphone-based ride services. In addition to Uber, Saudi women also use a company called Careem to get around.
In addition to not being able to drive or go out alone, women face other restrictions in Saudi Arabia under its form of Islam.
The Week website says they are not allowed to mix with men in public places. They cannot open a bank account without their husband’s agreement. They must cover up their bodies.
Most women must wear an abaya -- a long black robe that fits over their clothes and has a head scarf. Religious police on the streets go after women who show too much of their body or wear too much makeup.
Many public buildings have separate entrances for men and women, according to The Daily Telegraph. This is because women can only spend limited time with men who are not family members. If there is unlawful mixing, the newspaper says, criminal charges can be filed against both parties. But usually the women get a stronger punishment.
Saudi women represented their country at the 2012 London Olympics for the first time. Conservative clerics called them prostitutes, says The Week.  Still, the women athletes had to have male guardians with them and cover their hair.
But progress is being made in at least one area.
For the first time, women could vote, and run for office, in local elections in 2015. It was the only the third time elections have been held in Saudi Arabia for either women or men.
And it was the first time women were elected as politicians in the Saudi Kingdom.
I’m Anne Ball.
Anne Ball wrote this for Learning English from several news sources. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

Finding Confidence through Covering Up
APRIL 15, 2016
First-year Emma Wott, a theatre major with a religion minor, is not afraid of being different. She dyes her hair every six months — right now it’s a faded teal — and is covered in tattoos. So when she was asked to do a risk project for her principles of acting class, she was unsure of what to do.
The risk project requires students in the class to step outside of their boxes and do things they would never normally do. Some kids in the class dyed their hair a different colour. One girl cut her hair short. Someone in the class last semester, who was extremely shy, asked someone out for a cup of coffee, but Wott knew she couldn’t do anything like that — that would be too easy.
“My boyfriend also studies religion, so we were just kind of bouncing ideas likes, ‘What can we do that’s kind of risky and be willing to actually get something from it?’” Wott said. “We both came up with the idea of wearing a Hijab because I have friends who are Muslims and just with everything going on nowadays, I thought, ‘What would it be like to spend a week just seeing it through those eyes?’
“I paid full respect to it,” Wott said. “I even had the under-scarf, the outside of it and the long skirts.”
Megan Zimmerer, a sophomore international studies and French double major with Middle East and Islamic studies minors, is a member of Miami’s Muslim Students Association and  said she thinks Wott’s project was a great idea.
“If you want to know if I’m offended by it or anything, I’m definitely not,” Zimmerer said. “As a Muslim, I don’t feel like you’re necessarily obligated to wear [a hijab], even though some people feel that you are. I encourage people to do it.”
Wott herself identifies as an eclectic Wiccan, so she draws from a lot of different religions.
“I love just learning about cultures and seeing ‘Why do they believe that?’ ‘Where’s the connection to that?’ ‘Oh! That’s why you do that!’” Wott said. “I knew a little bit about [Islam], but while wearing the hijab, and even before, I researched as much as I could.”
While the Quran does not specifically mention the hijab, a couple of verses state that women should wear a khumar, or headscarf, and dress modestly. One verse translated to English reads, “Say to the believing women that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste) and not display their beauty except what is apparent, and they should place their khumur over their bosoms…”
“Wearing a scarf on your head and dressing modestly is something that women have done since the beginning of the Abrahamic faiths,” said Gina Petonito, professor of sociology at Miami University’s Middletown campus. “Basically, it’s only been with more secular societies the last hundred years or so that women have taken off scarves and hats and long dresses and things that cover their bodies.”
Most of Wott’s Muslim friends were in complete support of her. She said they understood that one don’t have to be a Muslim to wear a hijab.
“It’s more about your own faith and your own connection to God, and no one really has the right to question it,” said Wott.
Wott did have two friends who felt that she shouldn’t wear it. Once she explained why she was wearing it and the meaning behind it, though, they seemed more open to the idea.
People who didn’t know Wott never outwardly shouted slurs at her on campus, which she had feared, but lots of people stared.
“Being a girl,” Wott said, “you will sometimes get glances when you go out. I got glances like that — just negative stares from some people.” 
On the last day that Wott wore the hijab, she went to a dinner theatre showing of “Fiddler on the Roof” with her family at La Comedia Dinner Theatre in Springboro.
“The people at the table in front of us at this big buffet left within two minutes of the show starting, and we all thought that was weird,” Wott said. “My mom is friends with the stage manager and found out that they left because a Muslim woman was sitting behind them. On campus, I never got anything like that. No one ever moved if I was sitting near them.”
Petonito said that what Wott is doing shouldn’t be something that people care so much about.
“What she’s doing is just an extension of what people have practiced,” said Petonito. “People in the Mennonite and Amish communities, collectively called Anabaptists, believe that they’re always in a state of prayer and, to be faithful, they should always cover their hair. You have Orthodox Jewish women who cover their hair, and some of the Orthodox Jewish women even wear wigs so that you’re not aware that their hair is being covered.”
Petonito added that what Wott is doing is not even something unusual with regard to Christianity. The Bible even states that women should cover their hair while praying.
“It’s just something that societies have lost and somehow equated with modernity,” said Petonito.
Petonito talked about a contemporary Muslim activist named Dalia Mogahed, who says that the value of women lies in their sexuality.
“When a woman’s sexuality is viewed as private, then it becomes a controversy because the person can’t place the value on her,” Petonito said. “A woman who is stepping outside of it saying, ‘I refuse. I refuse to have my value be dictated by my sexuality and how I fit it with modern fashion,’ is then viewed as the deviant.”
Wott said that, through this project, she learned that people pay too much attention to the media.
“They pay attention to social media and the articles and then suddenly that’s, like, black-and-white correct for them when it isn’t,” Wott said. “They just don’t know. The only ones who questioned me wearing the hijab were people who weren’t of the faith. I just don’t understand why people wouldn’t just talk to someone [who is Muslim] instead of relying on what the media is feeding them.”
Petonito stressed that people should be free to wear whatever they want.
“So people want to change the way they look? Why is that so problematic? You’re not hurting anybody with how you dress,” said Petonito. “I’m not going to worry about that. I worry about people who want to attack others and harm them. There is no harm in what this woman is doing. The attention is on a woman who just changed her fashion. Who cares?”
Petonito said the way people dress, the way people look and the way people act in Oxford can be very homogenous.
“There’s a lot of conformity,” said Petonito. “She decided to break the mold. It’s horrible that we just live in a society that’s so based on looks.”
Zimmerer has seen first-hand what happens when someone breaks the status quo.
“I think some people who are close to you get worried that you’re straying from mainstream religions. I know my family was pretty concerned and some close friends expressed concern when I starting wearing the hijab and really practicing,” said Zimmerer. “I know people who are interested in doing it without necessarily converting just because dressing modestly is a beautiful thing, and I have a lot of respect for her for doing it. It is hard. I know that.”
Wott said she plans to wear the hijab again and research even more about it, as well as learning about other cultures and religions that emphasize the wearing of headscarves.
“My biggest outcome, amazingly, was that I found a lot more confidence in myself,” Wott said. “There were two days where I didn’t wear makeup at all. You become kind of self-conscious because the only thing you’re showing is your face. I became much less aware of what people were seeing me as and becoming more aware of myself.”

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