Hires 2,000 'Morality Police' to Arrest Women Caught Without Islamic Head
Filmmaker Strives To Tell Authentic Stories Of Arab Women
Girl Saves Muslim Family from Mob Attack in Aftermath of Minor Girl’s Murder in
Lawmaker Vows To Take a Gavel to Iran's Political Glass Ceiling
Mass Awareness about Rights, Status Of Women In Islam: Mirwaiz To Ulema
Women Go Places With Female-Only Taxi Service
More Women Should Take Up Humanitarian Work In Middle East And North Africa
Compiled by New Age Islam
Women, You Have Equal Rights to Your Father’s Property: What You Need to Know
11, 2019, 7:00 pm
aims to own a house of their own. It is a symbol of financial stability and
security, especially in India.
was getting married, and she asked me, “Where will I stay after marriage? I
don’t have a property in my name. I’m not financially stable or independent.
What if my husband leaves me after a few years, where will I go then?”
man shared, “I don’t have a house in my name. I don’t feel confident. When I
get married, where will I bring up my family? I want to invest in a property.”
is a tangible substance which may be moveable or immoveable. From social
requirement in the country to legal support, owning a property has different
aspects—whether as a symbol of financial stability, mental confidence or peace.
laws have a unique approach to ownership of property. The constitution mandates
certain rights as ‘fundamental’, which can be claimed in the court. The right
to own property is a right in the natural sense. However, after the 44th
amendment to the constitution in 1978, it is no longer a fundamental right. It
remains a constitutional right regarded as social security.
this right should not be differentiated on gender, the ground reality is quite
different. Females in Indian society have been neglected and denied their share
in the family’s property.
issue here is if the right to property had been a fundamental right, every
citizen would have an equal right by law to own it, irrespective of their
gender. But it is a common notion that the business and the property of the
father or the family will go to his son. This is an old practice and by its
reasoning, the property and finances are also handled by the son.
instance, only two per cent of females who directly work at farmlands can own
the agricultural land.
Pandey once said, “The property rights of the Indian woman depend on which
religion she follows, if she is married or unmarried, which part of the country
she comes from, if she is a tribal or nontribal, and so on.” She is a PIL
lawyer in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, and former National
Director of the Women’s Justice Initiative of Human Rights Law Network, India.
light of this statement, it is important to note the various religions and
cultures practised all over the country. Unfortunately, the laws for property
are not uniform. A few examples are given below:
image only. Source: Pexels
HUF laws: specifically for Hindu Undivided Family; these have now been amended
where the daughter is a coparcener in her father’s property. Whether she is
married or not, she is entitled to her share in the holdings. This was not the
case earlier, though.
Christian and Islamic laws: Recent changes in culture and social norms have
given rise to equal property rights to the daughters of the family under their
Succession laws: The property goes to the descendants, irrespective of gender
and religion. This is different from the will of a person, which can be bent
towards any child, or member of the family, of any gender.
brings me to the story of a young woman, Alka, a resident of Kolkata who moved
to Chennai. She was aware of Dayabhaga laws where daughters are the coparceners
and have an equal share in the father’s property. But when she moved to Chennai
and tried getting her share, she was introduced to a different concept of
Mitakshara law, which discriminates against daughters and does not allow them a
share in the property.
decided to fight for her right and turned to the law for help. She wanted to
find out whether she could get her share in her father’s property and which law
would support her.
clarify, Dayabhaga and Mitakshara laws are part of HUF laws, followed on the
basis of three generations of the Hindu Undivided Family culture. Dayabhaga law
is followed in West Bengal where daughters are coparceners in the family from
birth. But according to Mitakshara law, which is followed everywhere else, only
male descendants can be coparceners.
this law has been changed, making daughter coparceners in the family property,
a lack of awareness ensures its continuity.
facts came to Alka’s rescue. Firstly, that the law is not governed by where the
members involved in the situation are located, but the location of the
immoveable property. Alka also took the help of the 2005 amendment to the law,
which states that daughters are coparceners in the property. This unbiased,
non-discriminatory and neutral approach is a result of the Indian Succession
Act of 1925.
there tend to be contradictions in the law itself. Sections 8 and 9 of the
Hindu Succession Act 2005, for instance, deal with the devolution of property
in case of the death of a man, where his relatives are first in line to inherit
his property. Sections 15 and 16 on the other hand, deal with the devolution of
the property after a woman’s death, which gives her husband’s heirs a preference
over her parents. Even Islamic law gives women half the share of a male.
injustice may arise from a lack of awareness or a patriarchal outlook, but it
is important to understand that the law does its best to be fair and neutral,
to gender and other differences. And since it is not a fundamental right, any
citizen, male or female, is not entitled to it. Knowledge of the laws and your
rights ensures that you are not a victim of injustice.
tip: Consider following and abiding by the Indian Succession Act 1925, since it
is gender-neutral when you have a right as well as the option to choose between
two or other laws for a similar matter. This law is also universal,
irrespective of religion or gender. Also, ensuring the right in property and
discussing it with your parents beforehand will clear any confusion.
Hires 2,000 'Morality Police' to Arrest Women Caught Without Islamic
has hired 2,000 morality police to punish women who refuse to wear the
compulsary hijab in public, the Telegraph reports.
to the paper, a pilot program will begin in the northern province of Gilan.
Groups of six women will form units who will search for and arrest other women
who are not covering their hair according to Islamic tradition.
issue of hijab is not a simple matter, but rather a serious political and
security issue for our country," Mohammad Abdulahpour, the commander of
Gilan province's Revolutionary Guards unit, said.
is not the first time Iran has employed morality police to crack down on its
citizens, but this latest decision comes at a time when many Iranian women are
purposefully going out and breaking Iran's dress code in public.
phenomenon is called "White Wednesdays" - when Iranian women wear
white and remove their hijab in public to protest Iran's laws. These women are
often subject to harassment and arrest.
do not wish to show a violent image of our religion, but models and promoters
of vile fashions not only defy the hijab, but are nowadays appearing almost
naked on our streets," said Cleric RasoulFalahati, a representative of
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, as reported by the Telegraph.
Alinejad is the founder of White Wednesdays and frequently posts video of women
protesting the compulsary hijab on social media.
Breaking:?#WhiteWednesdays? activist took off
her ?#hijab? in a metro station in Tehran in order to invite other women to
support hijab protesters who are in prison. Now Islamic Republic authorities have arrested her. Her
name is ?#FereshtehDidani?
PM - Jun 5, 2019
people are talking about this
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don't want to cover our beautiful hair but Islamic Republic is the biggest
enemy of beauty & happiness. Here when the morality police noticed that
there are a huge number of women not wearing hijab,they backed away. Together
we are stronger. Every day is #WhiteWednesdays," she posted on Twitter
along with a video of three Iranian women walking uncovered in public.
We don’t want to cover our beautiful hair but
Islamic Republic is the biggest enemy of beauty & happiness. Here when the
morality police noticed that there are a huge number of women not wearing
hijab,they backed away. Together we are stronger.
day is #WhiteWednesdays
PM - Jun 8, 2019
people are talking about this
is also cracking down on restaurants that do not meet the regime's morality
Times of Israel reports that Iranian police have shut down 547 restaurants and
cafes in Tehran for not observing "Islamic principles."
owners of restaurants and cafes in which Islamic principles were not observed
were confronted, and during this operation 547 businesses were closed and 11
offenders arrested," Tehran's police chief Hossein Rahimi said, quoted on
the police's website.
Fars news agency said the crackdown was carried out over 10 days. Infractions
included "unconventional advertising in cyberspace, playing illegal music
Islamic principles is… one of the police's main missions and
responsibilities," the police chief said.
officials urged civilians to report anyone breaking Islamic law.
filmmaker strives to tell authentic stories of Arab women
came to UCLA TFT through the Hani Farsi Endowed Graduate Scholarship
Kendall | June 10, 2019
up in Dubai with a father who worked at a TV station, HanadiElyan caught the
filmmaking bug early.
had a lot of access to cameras and equipment,” recalled Elyan, who will
graduate with a master’s in directing from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and
Television June 14. “Sometimes he would shoot in the house, so I was around it
my whole life. But when I graduated from high school he was completely against
me going into film.”
that there was no future for his daughter in the industry, he enlisted several
of his friends, who were film directors, to tell her about the challenges of
the business and the lack of reputable film programs in Jordan where the family
had moved when Elyan was a teenager.
actually staged an intervention.” Elyan said laughing. “And it worked.”
for Elyan — and the people she hopes to inspire — her father’s intervention was
only temporarily successful. After a brief detour working in information
technology, she’s now about to graduate from one of the top film schools in the
world. And this year she also earned a development award from the Jordan Film
Fund as part of the Royal Film Commission for a script she is working on called
“The Camp Beauty Queen.” This script was selected as one of only 10 scripts to
be part of the annual Producers Guild of America Power of Diversity Workshop,
which began June 3.
independent work, which is focused on Arab women, has also earned her inclusion
in the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers community, recognition from the
Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and other honors, including the Delia
Salvi Memorial Award, a George Burns and Gracie Allen Scholarship/Fellowship in
Comedy and the UCLA 2018 Director’s Spotlight Award.
of a lifetime
her father shut down her filmmaker dreams, Elyan studied information technology
in college and worked for a bank. It paid the bills, but didn’t offer much
fulfilment. So she went to night school to learn digital filmmaking. After
graduating, she made her first short film, “Mariam’s Chance,” which screened at
festivals in France, Egypt, Sweden, Iraq and the Netherlands, and earned the
special jury award at the Tangiers International Film Festival in Morocco in
2013. Although she was encouraged, her film career was not progressing, so
Elyan pivoted to commercial work and doing TV news reports.
that took off, she quit the bank to become a full-time freelance
producer/director. In 2014, she moved back to Dubai and started a production
company, Reel Arab Productions, with her husband, Nathan Bennett. Soon after,
Elyan learned about UCLA TFT’s Hani Farsi Endowed Graduate Scholarship, an
award established in 2015 to give voice to Arab women filmmakers.
award like this is so essential because there are not many independent
filmmakers in the Arab world,” she said. “We’re a tiny group that is fighting
against the mainstream.”
applied and received one of the three scholarships and so the couple moved to
dropped everything and came,” she said. “I was getting really tired of doing TV
reports and commercial work. I was turning into a filmmaker that was different
than what I wanted to be, but there weren’t any other opportunities.”
Smith, professor of directing and screenwriting, runs the first-year graduate
program in production, cinematography and directing at TFT. She led the review
of the applications and the selection of the three inaugural scholarship
recipients, all of whom will graduate this week. Smith said that Elyan has
exudes joy in making films, probably more than any other directing student I’ve
ever met really,” Smith said. “Hanadi is one of those people who has a deep
intrinsic understanding of drama. And no matter what she writes about and
shoots, no matter what she explores, she understands fundamental things about
drama that very few people do. At the core, she is a great storyteller. She
could do very well in Hollywood.”
2018 short “Nadia’s Visa,” an 18-minute drama about a woman separated from her
husband and daughter who are living in a western country overseas, screened at
film festivals in the United States, Germany and Tunisia and was part of the
short film corner at Cannes.
says her success has gone a long way in softening her father’s early anxiety.
now on board,” she said.
said the education she received at TFT has surpassed all expectations. She will
graduate with the confidence to break barriers in what continues to be a
male-dominated industry and the motivation to show the world that the Arab
community and its stories are incredibly varied.
unfortunately, even Arab filmmakers play with negative stereotypes because they
think this is what the world wants to see of us,” Elyan said. “So they show
them the worst of our society, which enrages me because these bad stereotypes
are really the tiny minority. Breaking stereotypes is huge thing for me.
Arab women are portrayed as the victim or the terrorist and there is no
in-between,” she continued. “What about the people who go to work, the moms and
daughters, where are they? I think it hugely important for filmmakers from the
Arab world to tell these stories because otherwise it’s going to be told by
someone else and they won’t give us justice.”
small film makes a big impact
thesis film, “Salma’s Home,” which was shot in Jordan, is the story of three
women who are brought together after the death of their husband and father and
must find a way to live together amicably in a home that was left partially to
each of them. The two older women were both married to the man at the same
time, although neither of them knew it. The third woman is the man’s daughter
with his first wife. She moves in with her child after ending her marriage.
has an absurdist and fantastic plot to it,” Smith said. “They either have to
live in this house together or sell it, and they can’t really afford to sell
began as a low-budget production, resulted in the Jordanian community coming
together to help the young Bruin filmmaker. Drawn by a desire to see people
like themselves on screen, the community provided film equipment, catering and
are just eager to see a locally made movie produced — there are so few being
made,” Elyan said. “I got A-list actors who worked for almost nothing, because
they really wanted to do something different and to be on film.”
film’s youngest actor was Elyan’s now 19-month-old son, Ali, who played the
baby of the film’s youngest female character.
did really well,” Elyan said. “At times it was tough because we work for 13
hours a day. Of course he would only come for a couple of hours at a time, but
the days were long and it was tough balancing filmmaking and motherhood.”
hopes the film will help spur women to go into filmmaking and studios to
produce their projects.
to the most recent UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report, there were just 21 women
directors among the 167 English-language films from 2017’s top 200, or just
12.6 percent of the total. This figure was double that of previous years and is
considered to be “a blip.” Elyan said
it’s important to increase the pool of talented women in the field by
supporting scholarships and opportunities such as the one that brought her to
always knew I had something to say and that I had enough talent but when I got
to UCLA I was able to say I am a director,” Elyan said. “Just being able to
make that declaration allowed me to just go for it, and my work has gotten much
better. I wouldn’t have done a feature film by now if I was on my own. UCLA has
girl saves Muslim family from mob attack in aftermath of minor girl’s murder in
Jaiswal | TNN | Updated: Jun 11, 2019
Days after the killing of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl in Aligarh’s Tappal
area, a Muslim family was allegedly attacked on Sunday by a mob in Jattari area
while they were travelling from Ballabhgarh in Haryana to Aligarh. The family
was saved by a Hindu girl, who is their close friend and was travelling with
them in a van to attend a function.
to police, the incident occurred around 3 pm in Jattari, when the van with
seven passengers on board, including the Hindu girl, was moving towards
Maheshpur after crossing Tappal area.
of the travellers, Shafi Mohammad Abbasi, said the goons on motorcycles
attacked the van with iron rods.
van from which they were travelling
beat me, my daughter who wore a veil and our driver,” Abbasi said, adding that
the goons would have killed them if 24-year-old Pooja Chauhan, who was
travelling with them, had not bravely intervened. “Pooja stepped out and boldly
confronted the attackers,” he said.
said he had known Pooja’s family for 32 years and considers her one of his
daughters. “One member from the mob softened his stand after seeing Pooja. He
quietly handed us our car keys and asked us to drive away immediately,” Abbasi
said, “The mob attacked us just because they realized that the travellers were
from the other community, as some of the women were wearing veils. Such
incidents should not happen with anyone.” The family managed to reach Aligarh
police has registered an FIR against 10 unidentified people under sections 147
(rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 323 (voluntarily causing
hurt), and 507 (criminal intimidation) of IPC on a complaint filed by Pooja
Chauhan at the Civil Lines police station.
SSP Akash Kulhary said police have raided several places, but no suspect has
been arrested so far. He said no one will be allowed to take law in their
Lawmaker Vows To Take A Gavel To Iran's Political Glass Ceiling
11, 2019 14:02 GMT
lawmaker ParvanehSalahshuri, a sociologist, says that when she decided to apply
for one of a handful of influential posts in parliament, she realized she
didn't have a chance.
reason, as the 55-year-old reformist sees it, is that she's a woman.
lawmakers saw it as a man's position and they wouldn't accept the presence of a
woman," Salahshuri told the news site Khabaronline.ir on June 7.
is one of 17 women voted into the 290-seat parliament in 2016, a record number
in Iran since an Islamicallyfueled revolution ushered in conservative religious
leadership four decades ago.
there routinely face legal and cultural discrimination that gives less weight
to their testimony in court, bars them from many sports arenas, enforces a strict
dress code, and in some cases bars them from traveling unaccompanied.
said she and other female lawmakers have faced added resistance from male
colleagues, who have dismissed their proposals, pressured them for speaking
out, and locked them out of senior positions.
women have made bids for senior positions on the parliamentary board in the
past three years, but none successfully.
these situations, it becomes clear to what extent men are supportive of women
and, more importantly, how much they believe in women," Salashshuri said.
cited a proposal that would set a one-sixth quota for women on electoral lists
but said it was "strongly" opposed by men.
Hassan Rohani won election in 2013 on a platform of relative moderation,
including calls for "equal opportunities for women" and a relaxation
of some curbs on media. But his critics say he has mostly fallen short in both
parliament is part of the discriminatory macrostructure of the country,"
she also said female lawmakers had successfully raised the collective voice of
women while highlighting some of the issues they face, including compulsory
Islamic dress, or the hijab.
draft bill banning the marriage of girls under the age of 13 was rejected by
the parliament's Judiciary Committee amid opposition by opponents of the bill
who claimed it contravened Islamic law.
bill was recently adopted that toughens punishment for acid attacks, which more
often target women. But it still requires approval from the hard-line Guardians
Council, a vetting body that exclusively comprises elderly men.
and her colleagues have proposed other measures, including a bill that could
facilitate travel for female athletes and others to attend international
cultural, scientific, and sports events outside the country.
Iranian law, women need the permission of their fathers or husbands to travel
outside the country. In 2015, the husband of one Iranian soccer player refused
to grant her permission to attend a tournament in Malaysia.
have also pushed for a greater role for female judges who currently serve in an
outspoken Salahshuri has repeatedly been criticized for raising women's issues
and calling for the release of opposition figures Mir Hossein Musavi, his wife,
university professor Zahra Rahnavard, and reformist cleric Mehdi Karrubi, all
of whom have been under house arrest since 2011 for challenging the Iranian
establishment and highlighting alleged human rights violations.
reportedly faced vicious online and offline attacks and sexual slurs for a
September 2018 speech in which she criticized the lack of freedom in Iran, as
well as poverty and corruption, and suggested that "military bodies"
should not interfere in politics.
colleagues said at the time that Salahshuri had been "shocked" by the
intensity of the verbal attacks she faced. A male colleague, GholamrezaHeydari,
who had also been critical of state policies in a speech delivered the same
day, was said to have been spared such attacks.
reactions were awful," lawmaker TayebehSiavoshi said, suggesting that
"even common and uneducated men" feel more important than women in
society has not yet accepted the presence of women on the political scene or in
the highest echelons of the establishment," Siavoshi told the semiofficial
ISNA news agency in 2018.
told Khabaronline that she and her colleagues would continue to pursue women's
issues in parliament.
system acts in a way that humiliates women," she said, adding that laws
need to change to end such discrimination.
she also suggested that there had been slow progress.
think we have managed to be effective to a certain extent, not fully," she
mass awareness about rights, status of women in Islam: Mirwaiz to Ulema
advocating for providing space for women to pray in mosques,
MutahidaMajlis-e-Ulema (MMU) patron Mirwaiz Umar Farooq today said, “ the great
religion of Islam emphasised participation of women and their due share.”
need to understand and accord the rights guaranteed to women by Islam. Denying
them their rights amounts to great injustice to them,” a spokesman of the MMU,
in a statement today, quoted Mirwaiz as having said while addressing a
gathering after laying the foundation stone of a Masjid at Hawal here.
and Kashmir crime branch to probe supply of e-challan devices to traffic cops
Branch likely to challenge sentence part
Mehbooba, Sajad, Faesal, others hail verdict
officers whose hard work won conviction for accused
welcomed the interest shown by the youth towards Islam. “The solution to most
problems faced by us is provided in the Quran and Sunnah provided we look for
constructing mosques, it should be equally kept in mind that we have to provide
separate spaces for women folk in every new Masjid to pray,” he said.
day reports of domestic violence against women come to fore which is shameful.
This reflects our attitude towards women as a society and our ignorance of
their rights and dignity as emphasised by Islam.”
GDP growth overestimated by 2.5 pc, says Modi govt's former chief economic
slain in Shopian were inspired by IS ideology: Police
dies after falling off from under-construction building in central Kashmir's
is the basic responsibility of Ulema and Islamic scholars to create mass
awareness about the rights and status of women in Islam during their sermons ,
lectures and writings and also educate women about it. The respect they deserve
in their homes and at their in-laws should also be stressed upon by Ulemas and
spaces in masjids for women will help create a sense of equality for them ,
besides helping both men and women in getting educated about women’s rights and
changing the attitude in society.” “Ulema should frequently raise issues of
injustices towards women in society which includes domestic violence , demand
for dowries , harassment at in-laws
homes , issuers related to women’s right to property and all such things that
they are confronted with,” Mirwaiz said. He said, “Kashmiri society has to play
a collective role in ensuring protection to women.”
women go places with female-only taxi service
her blind spot, Fatima Dzhambulatova changes lanes on a busy avenue in
Chechnya's capital Grozny. In this Muslim republic of Russia, she is
spearheading a women-only taxi service.
the wheel of a white sedan bearing the bright purple logo "Mekhkari",
the name of the service launched this spring, the 49-year-old taxi driver
explains the appeal of women drivers in the conservative region. Some clients
have husbands who won't allow them into a car with another man, she says, while
some believe women are safer drivers and others simply prefer riding with a
member of the same sex.
the sparse office of Mekhkari, which means "girls" in Chechen,
founder MadinaTsakaeva said she got the idea after realising she preferred to
ride with female drivers, who were hard to find. "It was very rare for our
city," she said. "So we did a survey on social media about what
people thought of the idea of a women-only taxi."
project eventually got financial backing, the amount of which has not been made
public, from the Emirates-based Zayed Fund for Entrepreneurship and Innovation,
which opened a Grozny chapter in 2017. So far, Mekhkari has five drivers and a
fleet of five cars.
co-ordinator of Grozny-based women's rights organisation Women For Development,
said that the idea for a women-only taxi service in Chechnya had been a long
the Soviet era, you could count the number of women who drove on one hand, the
whole republic knew them and their entire life story," she said.
started to change about a decade ago. In 2008, Women For Development organised
free driving courses for about 100 women, half of whom began driving in Grozny.
Traffic policemen in the city of 270,000 were shocked, Bazayeva said, but the
campaign proved "infectious" and women behind the wheel are now
Zayed fund stressed the value for conservative Muslims of the female-only taxi
company, which only takes bookings for women passengers or women travelling
service "will be very convenient from the point of view of religious norms
and traditions," the fund said on its Instagram account in late March,
when it made the decision to approve the funding.
the end of two separatist wars with the Russian government, Chechnya has in
recent years seen a resurgence of Islam, encouraged by its leader
RamzanKadyrov, who has governed the North Caucasus region with an iron fist
it's not only conservative Islamic traditions that compel women in Grozny to
use the service: passengers say that they also appreciate what they describe as
a less aggressive style of driving.
drive more erratically, women are more careful. I feel safer with a
woman," 29-year-old KhedaYusaeva said, from the back seat of
reason women might prefer the service is to avoid conflict with their husbands
over riding with a male stranger, Bazayeva said, adding that she knew of cases
where a man had beaten his wife simply for having a taxi driver's phone number
saved in her address book.
appearance of women drivers in the sphere of this male-dominated profession is
a huge step forward, a big accomplishment in a male world," Bazayeva said.
She also said that she believed the initiative was "symbolic" of
women's participation in the country's economic life, in a society where their
rights are limited.
now has plans to add 15 more cars and is even considering expanding to offer
deliveries and other services to homes of women who cannot leave the house.
Mekhkari first sought to recruit female drivers, there was no shortage of
experienced applicants, Tsakaeva said.
said that most of the men she had come across on the job had been positive,
complimenting the car, gesturing with a thumbs-up and asking for the taxi's
number – for their wives.
is a desirable job for me and I'm very interested in chatting with my clients,
I get some very interesting women," the driver said, before adding:
"I like being behind the wheel."
more women should take up humanitarian work in Middle East and North Africa
region has big gap between demand and availability of female volunteers
women's familiarity with culture and languages of region could make a big
“The need is so great for the work we do in this field.” This comment, by Rana
SidaniCassou of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies (IFRC), sums up the state of her occupation as a female humanitarian
worker in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
phenomenon of women in the region devoting their lives to helping people
affected by wars, natural disasters and humanitarian crises is scarcely new.
But what is different now is the gap between the availability and demand for
female volunteers and staff.
based in Lebanon, has witnessed her fair share of tragedies while working on
the frontlines for various aid organizations since 2004.
the IFRC’s head of communications for 21 countries, it is her responsibility to
keep the world’s attention focused on MENA’s humanitarian needs, and “to give a
voice to local communities.”
has vivid memories of her deployment in the ancient city of Bam, in Iran’s
Kerman province, following the devastating earthquake in 2003. “I was in Bam
within 48 hours of the earthquake,” she told Arab News. “The whole city had
been destroyed. Everything was gone: Homes, schools, villages. It was a city of
especially remembers the rescue of an elderly woman from underneath the rubble
11 days later.
explained that she’d been in a state of partial paralysis and therefore
confined to her bed. Her son would visit her every day to make sure she had an
adequate stock of food and other necessities,” Cassou said.
the earthquake hit, she was protected by a block of wood that sheltered her.
She survived by rationing out the food, medicine and water that her son had
left with her,” Cassou added.
incident really touched my heart. I realized that when your time isn’t over, it
isn’t over. It made me into a person who believes I have to do my best to help
people like this, regardless of war, disease, outbreaks or earthquakes.”
course, not all stories have a happy ending. Cassou was sent to Tunisia after
several migrants drowned when their boat — which had started out from the
Libyan port of Zouara in the direction of Italy — capsized in the Mediterranean
Sea. “I met a mother whose story haunts me to this day. She was on the boat
with her 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. She could tell the boat was
going to capsize, and so asked another passenger to hold on to her son while
she held on to her daughter when the vessel overturned,” Cassou said.
teams managed to save the mother and daughter and took them to Tunisia, while
rescue helicopters were taking the survivors to Rome to a refugee camp there.
The mother arrived in Tunisia with no idea if her son was dead or in some camp
for refugees,” Cassou added. “I tried to find the little boy, but I still don’t
know what happened to him. This is one of the downsides of the job. It hurts to
be weighed down with questions without answers, to not be able to help
Bahgat is another Arab woman who has devoted her working life to helping those
in need of humanitarian assistance.
director of the Egyptian Red Crescent’s (ERC) department in charge of tracing
and restoring family links, Bahgat’s job is to find and reunite people,
especially those separated from their families due to events beyond their
I got to do fieldwork, it changed my life. It’s a two-way job, where you get to
see the real impact of your efforts,” she told Arab News from Cairo.
joined the ERC barely 24 hours before Egypt’s political upheaval of 2011. “So I
pretty much participated as a humanitarian worker in the aftermath of the
violent events,” she said. “A stand-out moment for me early on in my career was
during the evacuation of a camp. Helping many people belonging to different
groups from the same place was overwhelming. For me, the best moment was when a
young man published a Facebook post a year later describing how I saved his
life. That day, I came to know how one could be touching people’s lives without
even realizing,” she added.
job is to reunite separated family members, but it also involves offering
protection and support to children, women and elders,” Bahgat said.
I was present during the reunification of several children with their families
at the airport after years of separation. The hugs and tears of joy were very
moving for everyone present there, but what moved me most was the sight of a
stern security official looking at his own child’s photo on his phone as he
watched a girl being reunited with her aunt.”
said she would like to see more women in MENA pursuing a career in humanitarian
women are strong and caring at the same time, which is a perfect combination
for a humanitarian worker,” she said.
work will have a huge impact on the upbringing of a new generation. I encourage
women of the region to get exposure to humanitarian work. Any woman who joins
this field will be following her heart.”
woman who has been doing so for more than three decades is Laila Toukan,
director of training at the Jordan Red Crescent.
been raised in a household where “humanitarian volunteering is a habit and a
way of life,” Toukan, a Palestinian, said she had no doubt about her career
part of her job, she runs a vocational training center which strives to empower
women and young girls with a view to improving their economic status and
give them training in sewing, handicraft skills, beauty and hair care, culinary
art and literacy,” Toukan told Arab News from Amman. “We teach them computer
skills to enable them to access social media, as well as knowledge of business
said she has given socially and economically useful training to hundreds of
young women every year. “We have many success stories,” she added. “For
instance, two young women who met while doing a course together have launched a
successful business from home together.”
back on her life as a humanitarian worker, Toukan said she would not only like
to see more Arab women in the profession, but also more of them in
decision-making roles. “We need volunteers, committed volunteers, those who’ll
stay and make a difference. Together, we can help girls and women in need,” she
added. “If you give women cash or an in-kind donation, this eventually goes
away. But once you teach them a skill, it stays with them for life.”
views are echoed by Cassou, who said there is a desperate need for dedicated
female humanitarian workers in the region. But Cassou cautioned that anyone
wanting to do humanitarian work has to be “realistic about their expectations”
and realize they “can’t save the entire world.” Nevertheless, “there’s a real
need for Arab women in our field. We’re based in a region where most countries
have experienced wars, disasters, crises and upheavals, so there’s a need for
more hands, especially in the form of Arab women,” she added. “We have empathy,
we understand the culture and we speak the language. It makes a big