Jomana Al-Zaydani describes
photography as a good investment opportunity that can generate a decent income
while enjoying a passion.
Politics behind the Hijab in the Arab World
Women Carve Their Name In Photography
to Succeed in Hollywood as a Muslim Woman Filmmaker
Bibi Still Can’t Leave Pakistan’, Claims Friend
Tracks Saudi Women, Hosts Slammed
Women And Weightlifting
Sets 3-Year Limit For Women Transport Service
Officials Offer Support To Woman In Distress
for Women In Business In UAE, But Few Reach Company Boards
Women Artists Face Many Obstacles, Receive Little Support
by New Age Islam News Bureau
Absher App Prevent Saudi Women from Escaping
(AsiaNews) – Saudi Arabia has created an immense electronic database on the
country's women to enable their male relatives - father, husband, son - to
track their movements and prevent them from fleeing.
is thus used to crack down on women fighting for their freedom and the rights.
For human rights groups, the monitoring system, whose existence came to light
thanks to an investigative report by Insider, is simply an extension of the
extant male guardianship system.
fact, the database has existed for years and was recently reinforced, following
the case of 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who fled her family after
abandoning Islam, for fear of being killed.
for days in Thailand waiting for a visa to Australia, her story became
frontpage news all over the world. After a while, the United Nations intervened
granting her refugee status and Canada accepted to take her, angering Saudi
the kingdom, women continue to be repressed for their activism, despite the
limited "reforms" of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), like
lifting the ban on women drivers.
guardianship is a form of gender apartheid, which binds women to a male
guardian. It applies to what women do online and in social media, as well as in
digitised guardianship system works thanks to the use of a mobile app called
Absher, Arabic for preacher, which also allows people to pay fines or renew
licenses, interacting directly with the Ministry of the Interior.
system – little known among Western media – contains a registry of the
country’s women and the means to ban them from travelling abroad or seize them
should they try to escape.
country’s borders are in fact integrated with the Absher alert system. Whenever
a passport is used (authorised or not), a text message is sent.
way male guardians can determine when, from which airports and for how long
women travel, giving them the means to trap women in Saudi Arabia if they wish.
least a thousand women try to flee Saudi Arabia every year. experts told
Insider that text alerts have enabled many men to catch family members before
they make it out.
of the many stories cited by Insider is that of Shahad al-Mohaimeed who took
advantage of a family holiday at a Turkish tourist resort on the Black Sea to
young woman left the hotel in the middle of the night, after taking her
relatives and guardians' cell phones to avoid being discovered.
she lives in Tbilisi, Georgia. "When we decide to leave," she
explained, "we decide to put our lives on the line. Because if we don't
succeed, our families are going to kill us. It's shameful to have a daughter
is no support for the beaten," she added, "even when it's reported,
police are always on the man's side."
Arab journalist Abdel Bari Atwan analyses the phenomenon of several
high-profile Arab women abandoning their hijabs and explains the possible
political reasons behind it.
Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and other parts of the Arab world, newspapers and social
media have devoted much attention to the way some well-known female performers
have been giving up the hijab.
is as much a political as a personal phenomenon. It mirrors political and
attitude changes in Arab societies that have been promoted by some ruling
regimes, with direct support from external, and especially Western parties.
Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt in the 1950s and 60s, it was unusual to see any
woman donning a hijab, whether on university campuses or on the streets.
when Anwar Sadat came to power and allied himself with the “Islamist” current
to confront the Leftist and Arab nationalist tide that was prevalent at the
time, the country began to change, as did most other Arab capitals.
became increasingly common, even in countries ruled by supposedly secular or
socialist regimes or governments.
burqa/niqab was prevalent in Egypt and most other Arab countries until the
start of the 20th century. With the spread of what was termed at the time as
“cultural openness,” and the powerful promotion of secularism and Leftist ideas
by forces opposed to the Ottoman Empire and seeking to end Turkish rule, the
niqab became less common, and magazines were published that urged Egyptian
women to get rid of the attire. The nationalist politician Saad Zaghloul did
the same as part of his political campaign for freedom from British domination
and for Egyptian independence.
oil boom in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states in the 1970s and 80s played a
major role in effecting big social changes in Arab societies. “Wahhabi” Islamic
associations proliferated in these societies, and vast sums of money were
pumped into promoting them in countries whose governments were of a secular or
Leftist persuasion, especially Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan.
of skilled and qualified people moved with their families to Saudi Arabia and
the Gulf states to work. Many of them were influenced by Wahhabi thinking and
attitudes and brought it back to their home countries, either during their
annual holidays there or after returning once their employment contracts had
phenomenon of well-known female performers, especially in Egypt, adopting the
hijab took off during that oil boom period. Saudi and Gulf businessmen
reportedly played a major role in promoting it, either via the religious
charities and preachers they sponsored or by offering cash rewards and
inducements as compensation for women who would renounce the professions of
acting, singing or dancing.
was presented as part of a campaign to combat licentiousness and immorality and
promote genuine Islamic values as they and their school of thought saw them.
ideology began receding in its place of origin, Saudi Arabia after Crown Prince
Muhammad Bin Salman came to power. He curbed a number of religious bodies,
notably the Association for the Prescription of Vice and the Promotion of
Virtue – the so-called “religious police.”
an “Entertainment Commission” was set up, and mixed-sex attendance at concerts
and sports events was encouraged. These were radical changes, and they did not
only affect Saudi society but spread to neighbouring Arab countries, especially
adopting a policy of openness and embracing Western cultures, Muhammad Bin
Salman wanted to counter Western charges that his country sponsors hard-line
Islamist groups and promotes Wahhabism – the kingdom and its government’s sole
creed since it was founded 70 years ago.
said in an interview with Time magazine a couple of years ago that such charges
were fabricated by extremists and by the Iranian regime with the aim of
tarnishing his country’s image. He insisted there was no such thing as
Wahhabism, only the four traditional schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence and
the ideas promoted by extremists.
is on the decline in some parts of Syria too as part of a popular backlash
against Islamist political groups and armed factions designated as terrorist.
Groups such as Islamic State (Daesh) and the Nusra Front are thought to have
imposed their hard-line views by force and fear in the areas that came under
their control. The same can be said, albeit to a lesser extent, about Jordan.
far, the hijab has been abandoned by a total of 14 high-profile Egyptian
performers who have worn it for years or abandoned acting, singing or dancing
altogether – including veterans such as Suheir Ramzi and Shahira or younger
artists like Hala Shiha.
observers see this as evidence of the ebbing of the tide of political Islam,
whether as a consequence of repression and persecution of its leaders –
especially the Muslim Brotherhood in both Egypt and Saudi Arabia – or because
of its abandonment by its original sponsors – Saudi Arabia and other Gulf
states – and their professed adoption of Western liberal ideas.
big problem, of course, is that Western liberal ideas are linked to democracy,
political freedoms and respect for human rights. These values and principles
are considered a red line by most of the Arab governments that are combating
political Islam. This calls for some reflection. This iron fist may later prove
to be counterproductive, or so many people believe.
it is Suheir Ramzi, Shahira, Hala Shiha and the dancer Dina. Who knows who will
be next to abandon the hijab– or whether history will repeat itself?
– Photography is one of the professions that women can take up in Saudi
women today take photography courses to become professional photographers, and
some of them have carved a successful name for themselves in the field,
Al-Madina newspaper reported.
Msh’hoor is one of these women. Although she started taking courses only a year
ago, she mastered the profession within a short time because of her passion and
like photography, especially taking pictures of models and brides and
bridegrooms. I make a good living from it. There are different types of
photography. It is not an easy job as it requires precision and
professionalism,” she said.
Hamdi, a Saudi, started as a wedding photographer in Jazan and slowly developed
her skills and ventured into creative photography. Her family supported her
along the way. They were always there for her and spurred her on to open a
Hamdi trains amateurs and sometimes volunteers to teach girls how to choose the
right angle and where to focus to take a picture.
Al-Zaydani, a Saudi, describes photography as a good investment opportunity
that can generate a decent income while enjoying a passion.
young Saudi women have proved that they are excellent photographers who know
how to capture beautiful pictures, Al-Zaydani said. Her advice to every
photographer is never to stop and always continue improving their skills and
taking more courses in different fields of photography.
a headscarf and a smile, Muslim movie director and writer Lena Khan stands out
when she walks in Hollywood circles.
very hard to be a female filmmaker in Hollywood, that is for sure,” she said.
“I think they feel like you don’t have as much authority, or you can’t command
a set as much. And for the Muslim thing, I think they are still trying to
is a child of immigrants from India. Born in Canada, she moved to the United
States with her family when she was 2 years old and settled in a neighborhood
east of Los Angeles. In school, she explored several career options before
deciding on filmmaking.
had wanted to become a teacher. You look around and you’re like, ‘Nobody learns
from teachers anymore,’” Khan joked. “Sometimes it feels like it,” she added.
“And at least people learn so much from movies and films, about people, about
social issues, about everything.”
Khan’s decision to pursue a career of writing and filmmaking sparked some
I was starting out, people in the community, South Asians most of all, they’re
like, ‘Why are you entering such a stupid career?’”
Khan persisted. Her first success was a movie she co-wrote and directed called
“The Tiger Hunter.” The 2017 comedy is about the immigrant experience of a man
from India in the U.S. Khan said the movie’s success surprised people in her
who are South Asian or Muslim can’t seem to believe that our stories have really
real value. And so, the moment you start talking about, ‘Oh, you know such and
such person from this company’ — aka white person — ’said this movie is good.’
That’s when their eyebrows raise. That’s when they feel like, ‘Oh, OK, somebody
else validated this brown person’s story, and thus it has something to say.’”
said the film’s universal themes and the coincidental timing of its release
helped draw attention to it.
Muslim ban happened right when the movie came out,” she said, referring to
President Donald Trump’s executive order that temporarily barred people from
seven countries, most with a predominantly Muslim population, from entering the
U.S. “That was never intended. It’s not a good thing, but it became very, very
Tiger Hunter” opened doors to opportunities that Khan never had. She is now
working on a TV comedy and directing a movie for Disney. She said she surprised
many people during Hollywood meetings.
first thing when you walk into a room in a lot of places is them kind of
looking at your head — sort of just a quick eye-glance over there. And then,
when you say things like how I play the drums, and they were just very
shocked,” she said. “They want people who they feel like they can hang out with
that are part of their club. And you really don’t look like you’re a part of
Khan said she will not compromise who she is. She just creates her own path.
not going to hang out in a bar until 2 a.m., which sometimes a lot of business
gets done that way, and sometimes meeting those people on TV that you need to
meet. So, you kind of have to make up for it in other ways,” she said. “For me,
I’ve always had to make up for it, part of it. That’s how I started making my
keeps her going, even with obstacles from Hollywood and within her own
like what I’m doing,” she said. “I like it. I feel like it has some value. It’s
incredibly fun. Then, I’m also a faithful person, whereas it’s always for me,
it’s about sort of like how you went about your day, and kind of what you
tried, and the results are up to God.”
Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on
death row, has been transferred from a secret location near the capital to
another in Karachi, but is still unable to leave the country to join her
daughters in Canada, a friend said Saturday. Aman Ullah, who spoke to Asia Bibi
by telephone Friday, said the 54-year-old Bibi is being held in a room in the
southern port city. He said Bibi is frustrated and frightened, uncertain of
when she will be able to leave Pakistan. “She has no indication of when she
will leave … they are not telling her why she cannot leave,” said Aman Ullah,.
Ullah has been a liaison between Bibi and European diplomats, who have sought
to assist her. The Associated Press spoke to Bibi by telephone with Ullah’s
assistance following her October acquittal, which was upheld last month. The
acquittal should have given Bibi her freedom, but Aman Ullah said diplomats
were told that her departure from Pakistan, where she feels her life would be
in danger, would come not in the short term, but “in the medium term.” He said
Bibi told him she is locked in one room of a house. “The door opens at food
time only,” said Aman Ullah, and she is allowed to make phone calls in the
morning and again at night. He said she usually calls her daughters. Bibi’s
husband is with her, he said. “She is living with her family and given
requisite security for safety,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said in an
email. He said the government was responsible for taking “all possible
measures” to protect her and her family, adding that “she is a free citizen
after her release from jail and can move anywhere in Pakistan or abroad.” Aman
Ullah, a rights activist, first began aiding those falsely charged with
blasphemy when his wife was wrongly accused, and has since helped several
people gain their freedom.
and Google are facing criticism from human rights activists for hosting an app
that allows men in Saudi Arabia to track and control women’s movements.
to a media report, the app called Absher allows men to give women permission to
travel, and also get SMS when a woman uses her passport at the border.
making the apps available on Google Play and Apple’s App Store, the U.S.-based
tech giants have been accused of facilitating misogyny and helping “enforce
International, Human Rights Watch, and a women’s rights activist urged Apple
and Google to reconsider hosting the app, Insider reported, adding that . The
two tech giants did not respond to requests for comment, said the report.
Saudi law, it is essential for women to have a legal “guardian” who can
restrict their travel.
Absher, a government service, offers other functions like paying parking fines,
its travel features have been targeted by activists as it makes it difficult
for women to leave Saudi Arabia. “Apple and Google have rules against apps that
facilitate threats and harassment,” Human Rights Watch was quoted as saying.
like this one can facilitate human rights abuses, including discrimination
International called on Apple and Google to demand changes to the app so that
it can be stopped for being used to harm women.
Mohammed, a critic of Saudi Arabia, told Insider that the companies are
“facilitating the most archaic misogyny” and help the Saudi government to
enforce “gender apartheid.”
number of Saudi girls practicing weightlifting has increased lately, whether at
homes or in specialized gyms. This is after many years of fear and superstition
in our society that practicing weightlifting will make the girls aggressive.
personal observation and research, I discerned that those who were against the
idea were not objecting to weightlifting alone but to women sports in general.
people were indeed promoting obesity. This is how women in the previous
generation were raised, separated from the concept of fitness and health.
women lived under an illusion. Men who once praised them did not hesitate to
marry other woman once they lost their fitness and shape and gained weight
after giving births. These men had no compunction in searching for the fit and
healthy second wife, who will soon join the club of the first wives and so on.
Yes, there were ignorant minds that saw the value of a woman in her weight and
they did not hesitate to disrespect her and insult her.
the year I was thinking how this superstition about women sports spread in the
generation of the 80s. Indeed women of that generation are slowly regaining
their health and becoming part of the decision-making process.
believe awareness about the importance of health and sport is growing.
Recently, the General Sports Authority announced that people practicing sports
in Saudi Arabia increased by 23 percent in 2018, compared with the past. There
is a good understanding of the importance of sport as a way of life among the
new generation of young men and women. But what about the type of sports
practiced? What about nutrition?
girls are the ones suffering. There is a shortage of women›s gyms. There is
shortage of qualified fitness trainers. It is not enough to open a hall,
install some equipment and then call it a gym. I think we are taking slow and
reluctant steps toward increasing health awareness.
shocks more is the over-exaggerated membership fees charged by the fitness
centers, whether for men or women. For women it is much more expensive. Here I
want to ask: Why is the gym membership fee for a year SR10,000 or SR12,000 in
Saudi Arabia, while in the UK it starts at SR5,000 and reaches a maximum of
SR7,000 in gyms with specialist trainers.
gyms in the UK are of high standard and operate 24/7, even during weekends and
holidays. Where is the regulatory role of the Ministry of Commerce and
weight is for sure an important physical activity, but it is practiced randomly
here, despite its positive impact on body and mind. The same is the case with
boxing and self defense sports. Is anyone following up with these sports? What
is the role of the Health Ministry? I believe that the recent campaign by the
ministry on displaying the amount of calories on the menu cards in restaurants
is one of the most successful campaigns in the history of the Saudi health.
These are needed corrective steps. They even provided free links to increase
awareness on calorie intake. I believe it should be more transparent and we
need to discuss the issue of obesity.
person will be shocked on the information of obesity in Saudi Arabia if he or
she starts searching about it online to see the ratio and the number of deaths.
Burning calories does not mean just a fit body. It also means preventing
diseases and saving huge amounts on medical bills.
one needs is to seek advice of a person who is specialized in nutrition and a
qualified fitness trainer. Sadly, many people who have succeeded in losing
weight are giving free fitness advice, which could put lives in danger because
every fitness regimen does not suit all. If someone decides to live a healthy
life, then he or she should seek advice from a specialist to determine how many
calories they need to burn each day and the type of physical exercise they need
to practice. They should also coordinate with trainers in gyms, despite the
fact that they are rare, especially in women’s gyms. This will also open the
door for new job opportunities in the profession.
the health of humans comes with awareness. We need to work on increasing this
awareness among the Saudi citizens. It should start from understanding what one
wants to be. Yes, your health, your role and your identity are one system, so
– Many Saudi women employees have criticized the Human Resources Development
Fund (HRDF)’s condition that they should have been registered with the General
Organization of Social Insurance (GOSI) for less than 36 months in order to
benefit from Wusool, the transportation program for female employees.
of Labor and Social Development spokesman Khalid Aba Al-Khail said the 36-month
period was important for a female worker to ensure job stability and the
purpose of the Wusool program was to enable female workers to retain their jobs
in the private sector.
1 million rides to and from work were carried out by the Wusool Program last year,
benefiting 2,851 female workers, according to the HRDF.
requirements pertaining to the registration in the Wusool program have been
amended to ensure that females employed for more than three years do not use
the service. Also, the monthly salary of the employee registered in the GOSI
should not exceed SR8,000 in order to benefit from the program, according to
said several amendments had been made to the monthly financial support, which
was at 80 percent of the cost or a maximum amount of SR800. The duration of the
support has been increased to 12 months.
female employees were angry because the HRDF allowed only those who had spent
less than 36 months in a job to benefit from the program.
of the women with more than 36 months of work history have circumvented the
condition by registering their siblings or relatives in the GOSI and using the
service in their name.
of the employees, who requested anonymity, says she has been working for a
company for four years now and has registered her sister, who has just been
employed, in the GOSI so that she can benefit from the Wusool program.
Amal Shirah, human resources consultant, said the GOSI registration period and
the salary limit do not support the empowerment of women.
Wusool program is excellent but it is restricted to female employees with less
than three years of service. It is a little bit frustrating for others with
longer work duration. A third of an employee’s salary goes into the
transportation cost, so the program is important for empowering women
employees,” she said.
called upon the HRDF to cancel the three-month registration requirement with
GOSI and allow all female workers to benefit from the Wusool Program regardless
of when they started their employment.
circumvent rule by registering relatives with GOSI
The officials have come forward to help a woman who claimed on social media
that she was forced to flee from Dubai, leaving her children there, and seek
asylum in Macedonia to escape from the alleged abuse from her family.
UAE Embassy in Rome, which is responsible for diplomatic and consular affairs
in the Republic of Macedonia, said it was aware of “Mrs Albolooki’s social
media posts.” The embassy will collect any evidence of illegal threats made
against her and pass it to police so that it can be fully investigated, said a
statement posted the embassy’s twitter handle on Friday.
abuse is a serious crime, and has no place whatsoever in the UAE; Emirati women
are protected and fully empowered under UAE laws.” The embassy said crimes
involving harm against women are prosecuted under UAE law, and these allegations
should and will be fully investigated.
senior Dubai government official also offered help to the woman.
was recently made aware of the case of @HAlbolooki. I am writing this to
publicly demonstrate my support to this case. Everyone is entitled to have
freedom especially women. Dubai and the leadership have set clear policies and
laws to protect women in these circumstances,” tweeted Afra Al Basti the
director-general of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children on Friday.
have personally selected lawyers that are ready to assist @HAlbolooki and guide
her through this process. My top priority is to safely reunite @HAlbolooki with
her children,” Al Basti tweeted.
distressed woman named Hind Al AlBolooki (@HAlbolooki) has alleged in a video
posted on social media that she ran away from Dubai and went to Macedonia,
after her father, brother and uncle threatened her after she demanded divorce
from her husband. She further claimed that she left her children behind as she
had no other option.
The number of registered businesswomen in the UAE grew by about 20 percent last
year, although females are still underrepresented on company boards, according
to statistics quoted by the state news agency (WAM).
report by the Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry, quoted by
WAM, found that the number of businesswomen registered with the chambers
increased to more than 25,000 in 2018 compared with 21,000 in 2017.
than 50,000 trade licenses were issued to women entrepreneurs last year, with
Emirati businesswoman now holding a combined 28,000 commercial licenses with
investments of 30 billion dirhams ($8.2 billion), the report found.
the proportion of women who are acting as chairs of the board in private sector
companies in 2018 stood at just 4 percent — compared to 2 percent in 2013 — and
the number of female board members stood at between 9 and 14 percent.
Mohammed bin Salem, secretary-general of the Federation of UAE Chambers of
Commerce and Industry, also informed WAM
that the UAE is now the regional hub for for more than 24 percent of the world’s
500 largest companies.
- For more than a decade, Iraq’s rich history of art has been undermined and
overshadowed by politics, war and destruction. The art scene suffered as
collectors fled the country and artists who could afford it followed suit.
on entering the hall of the Iraqi Plastic Artists Society in Baghdad’s Mansour
neighbourhood, one is amazed by the quality, quantity and diversity of artwork
available in the country today.
society revived its annual art exhibition in 2008 to help rebuild the country’s
shattered cultural scene. Baghdad’s biggest cultural event was suspended after
the US-led invasion in 2003. The works of approximately 160 artists were
showcased at this year’s exhibition.
nearly 90% of the work on display was by male artists points to the poor female
representation on the Iraqi arts scene.
17 women artists featured in the show. Their participation was very low
compared to last year’s,” said society President Qasim Sabti. “This is not due
to the lack of Iraqi women’s artistic capacities or talents but because many
are not ready to take part in such a major event, in addition to the
limitations placed on participation criteria that include age and experience.”
a celebrated painter who has been a pillar of Iraq’s art scene for decades,
said that there are many women artists who are preparing to burst on the scene
“like a tsunami.”
have many young and talented female artists, much more than in the past. Some
have already been able to carve a niche for themselves on the arts scene,
surpassing well-known artists and this is a great achievement for Iraqi culture,”
society is planning an exhibition for women artists only in March.
are as many as 420 women engaged in different branches of fine arts today, a
big number compared to the ‘80s of the last century when we had 70 female
artists, among whom only 30 could excel and establish a name for themselves,”
Sabti said. “Artistic competition is very harsh at present, which shows that
the art movement is regaining momentum and moving forward.”
Yusra Alabadi, who was among the few female artists featured in the show, said
obstacles before the art scene in Iraq were immense, even though the Iraqi
Plastic Arts Society and the Academy of Fine Arts boast thousands of members
and students nationwide.
contributions have dwindled on the cultural arena because they have lost the
feeling of belonging as well as creativity. Some 50% of those who claim to be
artistic are trying to imitate others and they eventually slip into repetition
and redundancy, which is neither appreciated nor sustainable,” Alabadi said.
downplayed the effect of the security and economic situation in Iraq on
artistic performance, saying: “Despite the fact we are living in very difficult
conditions and our country is still under occupation, it should not affect
creativity but, on the contrary, arts and culture constitute a safe haven for
artists and writers.”
by Iraqi women extend past the fine arts to other genres, including theatre and
drama, said actress and director Awatef Naeem.
are many reasons for that, including the demotion of culture in Iraq in general
and the absence of cultural awareness among women,” she said.
the main reason is the rise of social conservatism and religiosity which
imposed strong restrictions on women’s participation in cultural activities,
especially drama and theatre.”
her latest stage production — “The Slaves of Baghdad,” which she said was
inspired by the Islamic State’s enslaving of women — Naeem recruited some
actresses who agreed to participate without remuneration. “This shows that
Iraqi actresses are committed to their art, are respectful and want to have a
presence on the cultural scene despite the many challenges,” she said.
production, as well, has been undermined and almost halted for several years to
the exception of a few TV series which would only employ a handful of
who is also the owner of Hawar Gallery, one of the last bastions of art open in
Baghdad, said the art market dried up after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam
Hussein and the outbreak of sectarian violence and insurgency.
and middle-class Iraqis who once bought art moved away; Western diplomats who
bought local works disappeared into the Green Zone and nearly all the
Saddam-era galleries closed their doors for good.
Saddam, art was publicly funded, though within strict political constraints.
for the artists, there are fewer constraints but less support.
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Instead of tracking movements of Saudi women through E-database,
Saudi Arabia should reform its treatment of women.