Activists from within the Druze-majority province accuse the Assad regime of
“laxity” and neglecting to protect the residents. — Courtesy photo
females among 55 detained by Houthis
to draft divorce contract for ‘women empowerment’
Bodyguard 'swapped one stereotype of Muslim women for another', Islamic
feminist scholar says
woman on death row in Pakistan for insulting Prophet Muhammad to make final
woman in Assam tonsured for protesting child marriage
girl crowned bowling champion in Riyadh
in Tabuk wedding hall injures 14 women and children in Saudi Arabia
cracks down on women's rights activists as leader offers his solution to sexual
harassment, assault: Cover up
appointed to run Saudi Arabian bank for first time in country's history
Many Dangers of Being an Afghan Woman in Uniform
president inquires about women entering sports stadiums in Iran
by New Age Islam News Bureau
of over 30 Syrian women abducted by Daesh uncertain
fate of more than 30 Syrian women who were kidnapped by Daesh (the so-called
IS) after it carried out a series of coordinated suicide attacks and shootings
in the Syrian province of Sweida, is still unknown after the militants recently
threatened to kill them all.
leaked a video on Tuesday where they murdered a woman they had abducted in
Sweida, south of Damascus, after negotiations through a mediator failed.
of the masked men in the video said that they would execute all those abducted
within a maximum of three days if Bashar Al-Assad’s regime did not comply with
its demand to release all Daesh members the regime had detained. The deadline
Daesh gave to comply with their demands ended on Thursday.
on social media identified the woman in the video as Thuraya Abu Ammar.
According to the Sweida24 news site, the woman was 25 years old, and was
kidnapped on July 25 during the attack.
social and political figures within the Druze-majority province accused the
Assad regime of “laxity” and neglecting to protect the residents of the
province, most of whom refused to join the military operations against other
to many media outlets, multiple sources from the province accused the Assad
regime of causing the massacre following an agreement with ISIS that called for
their transfer from southern Damascus to the eastern desert of Sweida. The
sources added that this transfer enabled Daesh to carry out its military
operation easily, especially in the absence of Assad’s militants.
committee in charge of following-up on the kidnappings has made a public
apology and stated its continued efforts to negotiate with Daesh. The committee
also stressed that they faced many “obstacles”, the details of which they
declined to disclose at the moment.
committee’s apology reveals that they did not know of the murder at the time of
its release. The statement said that the kidnappers did not make “any demands
[that were] to be discussed [by the committee]”.
the video released by Daesh on October first shows a fighter demanding that the
Assad regime release its captives and stop its military operation in Al-Safa
region in exchange for the Druze abductees. — Al Arabiya English
said the detained men and women were chanting: "We will sacrifice our
soul, our blood for you, Yemen."
rebels on Saturday detained dozens of students protesting in the capital Sanaa
against poverty in the war-torn country, activists and witnesses said.
activists, asking not to be named, said that the Houthi rebels detained at
least 55 students, including 18 women, near Sanaa University.
authorities had warned it would "beat and arrest" anyone taking part
in demonstrations in the rebel-held capital, residents said, after local
activists called for a mass protest against inflation and famine.
Houthi rebels did not immediately comment on the arrests.
students were taken to a nearby Houthi-run police station, after which they
were transported to "unknown locations", the activists said, adding
the rebels closed the university as part of security measures.
have launched a crackdown on activists and deployed heavy security across
of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz said the council is looking to
draft a divorce contract with additional provisions for women’s rights.
talaq in one go is becoming a social problem now and the reason behind its
occurrence has been changing with the passage of time. Previously in various
cases, it used to be internal family conflict or clash of interests between the
bride’s and groom’s family. Of late, however, the reason is social media and
social openness of extramarital relationships which lead to mutual suspicion
between couples resulting in instant divorce,” He said.
a view of the situation, the CII announced plans to hold meetings with renowned
scholars from all provinces and draft a comprehensive talaqnama for women
empowerment, which will include provisions to secure their rights of inheritance.
aim of these meetings and seminars would be countering the rise in divorce
cases, depriving a woman of her property rights and inheritance among others,”
said Dr Qibla Ayaz.
plans to hold a meeting with President Arif Alvi in this regard.
hit television show Bodyguard swapped one stereotype of Muslim women for
another, an Islamic feminist scholar has said.
Mir-Hosseini, an author, director and legal anthropologist, said she found the
plot of the show "really puzzling".
added that although she "loved the series" she was surprised with the
final twist at the end.
we had to make this woman Nadia, who is so timid and everything, which was a
stereotype of Muslim women, and then suddenly she became a stereotype of
another Muslim woman, one that is a jihadist," she said while speaking at
the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
was really puzzling for me. Why a film like this has to do that, which actually
says a lot to us about how the image of Muslims are made and projected."
character of Nadia, who was stopped by the show's hero David Budd from
detonating a suicide vest on a packed train in the opening episode, was
initially portrayed as a weak woman oppressed by her jihadi husband.
the series finale, Nadia was revealed as a skilled engineer who had built the
bomb that killed Home Secretary Julia Montague.
told police: "You all saw me as a poor, oppressed Muslim woman. I am an
engineer. I am a jihadi."
Mir-Hosseini said shows like Bodyguard do not help the struggle Muslim
feminists face daily around the world.
we, without questioning it, we are getting indoctrinated into it. Feminist
voices in Islam just can't... it is an oxymoron... because that is the image we
have," she said.
feminists face a lot of resistance, especially in Muslim majority countries.
When you argue for equality in the family, men feel threatened and it is like
the whole of society is going to collapse.
also face accusations that you have been brainwashed by the West because you
are asking for equality and feminism. At the same time you face resistance from
those Muslim women who see arguments for equality and justice within Islam as a
was heresy in one time can become orthodoxy. Change will come."
Saleem, a British-born Pakistani who is now an atheist, said Muslim women today
have to overcome many stereotypes and prejudices.
is a stereotypical view of Muslim women as passive, as lacking in autonomy, and
Muslim men are brutes," she said.
is very problematic and it is old. It is not a new thing and it has only come
about because of 9/11.
the same time, not talking about the way Muslim fundamentalism is genuinely
damaging the lives of Muslim women around the world is also a problem.
do you find the fine balance? I try and speak about both sides as equally as I
ex-Muslim, who is the co-founder of advocacy group Faith to Faithless, said the
debate on whether woman should wear the hijab is more complicated than it
can say that, Islamically, you do not have to wear a hijab, but that doesn't
deal with the shame or the guilt that women feel," she said.
say that Muslim women are all oppressed by it is to take away their autonomy
and to see them as stupid children.
to not talk about that there are millions of children living under laws that
force them to wear hijab is disingenuous and demonstrates an ambivalence and I
think it is one of the real struggles facing Muslim women today."
Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan for insulting the Prophet
Muhammad will have her final appeal heard by the Supreme Court on Monday, her
lawyer has said.
Bibi has spent nine years in prison after being accused of contravening the
country’s strict blasphemy laws following a dispute in June 2009.
case has drawn international attention to Pakistan’s treatment of its religious
minorities and Ms Bibi's supporters, including Pope Benedict XVI, who called
for the charges to be dismissed, saying she is being persecuted for her faith.
Bibi has already received one stay of execution from the Supreme Court, in
2015, after lower courts rejected the appeals.
her appeal fails the mother of five, from the rural village of Ittan Wali,
Punjab, will become the first woman to be executed for blasphemy in Pakistan.
international community has condemned blasphemy laws in Pakistan and elsewhere
for being regularly invoked against religious minorities to settle local
Ms Bibi’s case she was working in the fields alongside several Muslim women who
refused to drink from the same water supply as an “unclean” Christian.
days later a local imam, who was not present during the argument, claimed she
had defamed the prophet.
her insistence that she was being persecuted for her faith, Ms Bibi was
sentenced to death the following year.
governor of the Punjab at the time, Salmaan Taseer, was murdered by his
bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, in January 2011 after he attempted to get clemency for
bodyguard, who was executed in 2016, was showered by rose petals by supporters
when he was taken to the courthouse to face charges in the days following the
August, a Buddhist woman in Indonesia was jailed for insulting Islam after she
complained a mosque was playing the call to prayer too loudly.
Republic of Ireland has committed to a referendum on its blasphemy laws which
in 2017 saw comedian Stephen Fry investigated by police.
A Muslim woman in Assam was tonsured and her clothes were torn apart for
protesting the marriage of her minor son. The incident occurred at a remote
village in Lower Assam's Dhubri district bordering Bangladesh on October 2.
Three women, allegedly involved in the crime, were arrested by the police. They
are now in jail.
video of the incident which has gone viral on the social media, some people
were seen erupting in wild celebration after the victim was made to go through
the ignominy. The police said Rashima Bibi, 39, was tonsured by the three
arrested women who are the relatives of her second husband Mantu Sheikh.
Rashima, who had married thrice, lives separately with her third husband Moinul
marriage of Rashima Bibi's 19-year-old son from her second husband Mantu Sheikh
had taken place in October last year. Later, based on her complaint, we had
arrested some people and they are still in judicial custody. The family of the
second husband has been upset with her for a long time as the arrested people
are not getting bail. On October 2, Sheikh's relatives had a quarrel with
Rashima over the issue of marriage. During the tiff, she was tonsured by the
relatives of Sheikh. Her clothes also got torn off in the incident,"
Dhubri superintendent of police, Longnit Teron, told TNIE.
said three women were immediately arrested for their role in the incident. The
SP also said that Rashima was annoyed that Sheikh had arranged the marriage of
her minor son. The minor boy lives with his father.
The Saudi Bowling Federation launched its first women’s tournament, the Saudi
Women Bowling Championship, in Riyadh on Saturday.
by Arab News and Al-Riyadh newspaper, it is the first of the federation’s
initiatives to support women in sports, and will be followed by a tournament in
Alkhobar on Oct. 13, and in Jeddah on Oct. 20.
Razan Baker, a member of the federation’s board of directors and head of media
and women’s participation, said the number of participants in the Riyadh
tournament exceeded expectations. Registration is still open for the Jeddah and
Alkhobar tournaments, she added.
has “the best bowling center in Saudi Arabia,” she said, “with international
standards and the capacity to accommodate this large number of competitors.”
exciting event began with important instructions from player Nahla Adas to
prevent any sports injuries.
stretches before the game help prevent injuries,” she said.
are aged between 12 and 47. The winner will receive a cash prize of SR5,000
($1,335) and the first and the second runners-up will get SR3,000 and SR2,000
Saudi Bowling Federation is taking serious steps to promote this game. Seven
months ago, a national bowling team was formed in the Eastern Province. The
team members receive training daily for three hours under the federation’s
said the federation’s plan to form a bowling team received an overwhelming
response. “We received a lot of messages from people requesting information on
are also getting in touch with all the bowling centers in the Kingdom. We have
girls contacting us from Khamis Mushait, from the northern border in Arar for
example. They’re both happy and upset, asking why don’t they have a
championship like this in the northern province. Hopefully, we can organize
more tournaments in different cities,” Baker added.
Najla Abdulrahman, a member of the Saudi Mass Participation Federation, is
pleased with the event. “First, we are happy to be part of this event that is
organized by the Saudi Bowling Federation, and we as the Saudi Mass
Participation Federation always strive and are delighted to have such events
with our other partners to increase the percentage of practicing sports in our
society in general.”
who is also part of the national team, said she used to play this game in the
US just for fun.
now I take it seriously and wish to play at the international level. I am lucky
to be a part of this team. I wish to see this game become more popular than
football in the Kingdom. We always hear about football, now is the time for
bowling,” she added.
talented player, Mashail Anas Abdulwahed, surprised everyone with her
brilliants strikes. She has been bowling since 2005.
have been waiting for this moment since 2005.”
the importance of sports, Abdulwahed said: “It changes one’s mood and gets rid
of negative energy. Bowling is energetic and we can play it comfortably.”
Mica Ecalnir won the championship trophy followed by Jellah Mae Alba Mondoy and
Mariam Pablo Cruz who won the second and third places respectively.
the game, I felt nervous, and I told myself that I should work hard,” Ecalnir
said. The champion said she used all the techniques she had learned to win the
championship, organized in cooperation with the Saudi Federation for Community
Sports, is open to Saudi women and women born in the Kingdom of all ages.
Saudi Bowling Federation has decided to support the Zahra Breast Cancer
Association and change the championship’s color to pink in order to raise
awareness about women’s health.
A fire erupted in a room inside a wedding hall in the Hamra district of the
city of Tabuk, causing 14 women and children to suffer smoke inhalation.
operations room received a report of a fire in the designated section for
women, and when the civil defense teams arrived, some of the women who were
inside the room were evacuated,” said Maj. Abdulaziz Al-Shammari, a civil
defense spokesman for the Tabuk area.
said the fire was confined to a small room, and firefighters were able to
extinguish the blaze that was caused by an electrical fault with “technical
of the injured were treated at the scene, and five were transferred to
said an investigation was underway and that the safety measures available on
the site helped the teams to extinguish the fire.
the one-year anniversary of the global #MeToo movement, Iran’s Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared a solution for Western women facing sexual
harassment: wear a hijab.
statement comes amid growing unrest over the law that mandates that Iranian
women wear the hijab, or headscarf, in public. In recent weeks the Iranian
government has arrested several activists who have protested the law.
took to Twitter Wednesday to give his advice, posting a two-minute-long video
that accompanied his tweet, which he titled “The disaster of countless sexual
assaults on Western women — including incidents leading to #Metoo campaign —
and Islam’s proposal to resolve it.”
showed women across the U.S. and Europe talk about their personal stories of
harassment and included a link to an article chronicling speeches Khamenei has
given over the years about the headscarf.
remarks demonstrate Khamenei’s attempt to leverage the power of the #MeToo
movement to criticize “immodest” attire that women in Western societies wear,
while praising Islam as the solution.
and Saudi Arabia are the two countries that require women to wear headscarves
in public. Still, millions of Muslim women across the Middle East and the West
choose to wear the hijab on their own.
many, the decision to wear a headscarf goes beyond religion. It can be tied to
culture, as well as fashion and politics.
Iran, the hijab has long been politicized.
1928, Reza Shah Pahlavi banned the hijab to encourage Iranians to dress more
like people in Europe. In 1941, the ban on hijabs was lifted for university
students and professors. Shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, women were
forced to wear the hijab in public.
rights advocates this week were quick to call out the supreme leader’s
hypocrisy, pointing to longstanding laws that have discriminated against women
and punished those who speak out.
is trying to take the moral high ground. But within Iran, the government and
hardliners’ views towards women has very much not been in the defense of
women,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in
Iran, an advocacy group. “He’s been calling for policies that roll back the
rights women have gained on their own. He is being opportunistic.”
video begins with a shot of two-time Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman confronting
former U.S. gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar in court over sexual assault
allegations. It then jumps to various clips of well-known figures accused of
sexual harassment, such as film mogul Harvey Weinstein. It also includes
politicians, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, speaking about the plight women
the end of the video, Khamenei is shown delivering a recent speech that
suggests how the hijab protects women against harassment.
might have heard, a few months ago, that a large number of Western, female
politicians announced, one right after another, they had been subjected to
abuse, harassment or violence at times when they were working in government
offices ...” Khamenei said. “By introducing hijab, Islam has shut the door on a
path that would pull women towards such deviation.”
the last decade, women in Iran have been growing more aware about the legal and
political impediments that stand in their way of achieving equality. For
instance, women still need their husband’s or father’s permission before they
are allowed to leave the country.
over such discriminatory laws, a burgeoning women’s rights movement has emerged
in recent months that challenges the mandate that women must wear headscarves
have called for anti-hijab protests, and videos that show women pulling their
headscarves off in public spaces have gone viral.
response, the Islamic Republic has clamped down on dissent, arresting several
women’s rights activists and human rights defenders.
June, prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested and taken to
the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. Sotoudeh, who has defended women arrested
in the anti-hijab protests, started a hunger strike in August.
September, three women’s rights advocates were arrested. Hoda Amid and Najmeh
Vahedi were arrested by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a few days
before they were scheduled to host a workshop, according to the Center for
Human Rights in Iran. Women’s rights activist Maryam Azad was arrested a few
weeks later before boarding a plane en route to Istanbul.
President Trump imposes further sanctions on Iran, the arrests suggest how
hardliners within Iran’s establishment, particularly its intelligence and
security services, are gaining more control and are trying to discourage women
from protesting, Ghaemi said.
a signal to activists. They are trying to intimidate them. The security
enforcers are assuming more control of the domestic environment as sanctions
come in. It’s a bad omen for the limited activism that was allowed in Iran up
till now and signals more oppression that’s to come,” Ghaemi said.
woman has been appointed to run a Saudi Arabian bank for the first time in the
Al Olayan, a Saudi businesswoman, will lead a new lender that has been formed
after the merger between Alawwal Bank and Saudi British Bank.
Olayan, 63, has been the deputy chair of Alawwal Bank for four years and will
now lead a bank that is the third-largest lender in Saudi Arabia.
new bank will be part owned by HSBC and have a capitalisation of £13.2bn.
Olayan has long been a pioneer for women in Saudi Arabia. In 2004 she was
elected to the board of Saudi Hollandi Bank, becoming the first woman in the
country to feature on the board of a public company.
the same year she was the first Saudi woman to give the keynote speech at the
Jeddah Economic Forum and 12 months later she co-chaired the World Economic
Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Olayan has frequently appeared in a range of “most influential” lists and in
2018 she topped the ranking of Forbes Middle East’s most influential women.
Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has launched a range of proposed
reforms under his Saudi Vision 2030.
of the changes includes empowering of Saudi women.
in 2018 a ban on women driving was lifted and women were allowed into football
matches for the first time.
dozen Afghan women in their early 20s, dressed in camouflage uniforms, trudge
through prickly thistle plants under a nearly full moon. No one dares speak,
the silence broken only by too-big army-issued boots crunching to a chorus of
stray-dog howls and midsummer cricket chirps. It’s one of the first times these
women, all seniors at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy in Kabul, have
taken part in a nighttime exercise. Normally they would be tucked away in their
dorm — its hallways plastered with posters of Marie Curie, Rosa Parks, Amelia
Earhart and Col. Latifa Nabizada, Afghanistan’s first female helicopter pilot —
surrounded by barbed wire.
cadets must adhere to a strict 9 p.m. curfew. But on this warm night, the women
smile in the darkness, leaping over ravines and clambering up hills of dirt,
spreading out into formation with their rifles in tow. Off in the distance is a
flurry of commotion — the pop pop pop of blank rounds fired by their male
counterparts; their flares pierce the night sky and set the dry grass ablaze.
(The female cadets’ Afghan superiors have not yet allowed them to fire blank
rounds or flares as part of a nighttime attack drill; so far, they’ve only had
limited daytime firearms training.) Led by a female sergeant known to the women
as Sergeant Hanifa, the group is flanked by American and British advisers who
advocate drills like this while trying to navigate cultural norms that dictate
how Afghan women must act and how they are viewed. In this case, in a bid to
recruit more women, academy leadership has assured parents that female cadets
won’t be out unsupervised at night, for their own protection.
have to do a head count, make sure we have all the lambs,” said Maj. Alli
Shields of the British Army, using the nickname given to the women by Afghan
male staff. “Or else this will be the first and last exercise.” Next to her
stands Lt. Cmdr. Rebekah Gerber of the United States Navy, a senior gender
adviser for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, who watches the drill with her
hands on her hips, mentally taking notes. She’s one of a dozen advisers from
NATO countries working with the Afghan government to integrate and support both
men and women across the security sector. The lofty end goal: gender equality.
A self-described fiery redhead pushing what she jokingly calls a “ginger gender
agenda,” Gerber comes bearing a bold message for the Afghans and her coalition
colleagues: “Get on board or get out — it’s happening.” It’s a job Gerber
doesn’t take lightly. Deployed halfway across the globe from her four daughters
— her second overseas deployment, after serving on a Navy ship in the Persian
Gulf — she’s driven by thoughts of her girls back home “and for the women to
NATO formally ended its 13-year combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, drawing
down a huge deployment of international forces, the United States and its
allies have turned their attention to training, advising and assisting Afghan
armed forces, trying to carve out a reality in which Afghanistan is able to
defend and secure its own country without billions of dollars in foreign
funding and assistance. Within that complex and intensely scrutinized mission
is another, perhaps even more difficult, one: bolster the ranks of Afghan women
in security forces, train them, promote them and keep them alive. Advisers like
Gerber are tasked with leading that charge, part of a NATO policy born in the
wake of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, passed in 2000, which
stresses the importance of women’s involvement in global peace and security.
Since then, a growing body of evidence has found that when women play a role in
the security sector, take part in peace negotiations and are involved in
rebuilding after war, women feel more comfortable reporting sexual violence and
nations enjoy a more stable and lasting peace. To enact the resolution and
appease international donors eager to support women’s rights, Afghanistan, a
United Nations member state, adopted an internationally funded national action plan
that details everything from engaging men in addressing violence against women
to including women at decision-making levels nationally, regionally and
17 years into America’s longest war, in which the argument for protecting and
“saving” Afghan women has long shaped the rhetoric to invade and maintain troop
presence, their advancement in the security sector is still largely at odds
with cultural perceptions of women’s place in society. Progress, as defined by
the United States and NATO leadership, has been painfully slow, and there’s
concern that programs to recruit and train women have only put them in more
danger. Despite billions of United States tax dollars spent on bolstering
Afghan troops and paying their salaries — nearly $160 million budgeted in the
last three years alone to support female forces — Afghanistan has never come
close to its set recruitment benchmarks for women. Those involved in and
familiar with NATO gender efforts say it could take generations before real,
lasting progress is made for Afghan women in uniform.
the Taliban overran war-torn Kabul in 1996, cementing its control over most of
the country, women had served in the security forces for decades, though in
limited capacities and often facing great backlash. (Col. Latifa Nabizada and
her sister braved male colleagues’ pelting them with rocks after enrolling in
military flight school in 1989 to become helicopter pilots, the first Afghan
women ever to do so in 1991.) Under the Taliban, though, Afghan women found themselves
stripped of their rights and confined to their homes, their ambitions tabled —
or driven underground. Mothers risked everything, even their lives, to educate
their daughters in secret. In 2001, American-led Afghan militias drove the
Taliban from the capital. And with their exit came a trickle of renewed
freedoms for at least some Afghan women: They’ve been able to attend top
universities, anchor television shows and hold jobs in government. But a
majority of Afghan women are still absent from public life. Across the country,
they live under the firm grip of men. Decisions on marriage and on access to
medical professionals, education and employment are not their own to make and
are instead made by male relatives. While the current Afghan Constitution,
approved in 2004, awards women some hard-earned rights, conservative
interpretations of Islamic law still guide Afghan culture. In 2012, the
national Ulema Council, Afghanistan’s top religious body, which advises the
Afghan presidency, declared that women should be seen as secondary to men,
advising women not to mingle in offices or schools with men to whom they’re not
related or travel without a male guardian.
who dare speak up — about anything — almost instantly find themselves a target.
In 2015, a 27-year-old woman named Farkhunda Malikzada confronted a group of
men who were reportedly trafficking amulets and Viagra at a shrine in central
Kabul. The men responded by falsely accusing her of burning a Quran, which
incited a mob to furiously beat her in broad daylight and light her bloodied
body on fire, shouting that the Americans had sent her. Police officers nearby
— including a female officer named Shamila, who risked her own life by
screaming at the men to back off — weren’t able to save her. She died of her
joining the security forces is today considered a dangerous act, one that
challenges the very fabric of Afghan culture and notions of how women should
live their lives. In this male-dominated environment, Afghan women in uniform
are often met with disdain. The community views them as “whores,” according to
an Afghan woman in the special forces who serves alongside men and is tasked
with searching women and children during raids. She is the sole provider for
her family of seven. Many women who sign up to join the security forces,
particularly the police, do so for financial reasons. Many are widows or women
without a male guardian to support them and, as a result, already face
ostracization in their communities. It’s not just a job; it’s a last resort for
women like Shamila, a 39-year-old police sergeant and single mother, joining
the police force was an act of defiance after escaping from her violent Taliban
husband, who forcefully married and raped her as a child. “I’m going to kill
you,” he would say at night, dangling a noose. She would hold up the Quran and
beg for her life. In 2008, her son helped her flee from Pakistan to Kabul,
after she spoke up against the suicide vest hanging in their house and her
husband nearly beat her to death. Italian doctors pieced together her broken
limbs. After she healed, Shamila worked as a part-time cook and cleaner. But
she wanted more: job security and a higher wage. Mostly, she said, grinning
widely and flashing a silver tooth, she “wanted to be someone.” Now she works
at a police station in Kabul, where she earns a steady wage managing the
station’s finances, but also, at times, she handles criminal cases: a woman who
lit herself on fire to commit suicide; a woman who killed her husband after he
demanded that she sell sex for money; a woman killed by her brother, who
slashed her open with a knife. It’s a dangerous job, she said, one that barely
pays enough to support her and her teenage son and daughter and to afford their
one-bedroom apartment, and one in which she has “only made more enemies.” Even
so, she wakes up excited for work every day.
the effort to recruit women was seen as a numbers game, with the Afghan
Ministry of Defense pushing for bigger recruitment numbers in the face of
intense international pressure. Resolute Support, the NATO-led “train, advise
and assist” mission in Afghanistan, calculates that there are currently 3,231
women in the Afghan National Police, 1,312 women in the Afghan National Army, which
includes the air force, and 122 women in the Afghan Special Security Forces,
making up, in aggregate, roughly 1.4 percent of Afghan security forces. All but
75 of them are based in Kabul. Those numbers are estimates, said Resolute
Support, because NATO and Afghan records detailing force strength often do not
Support has shifted its focus away from lofty recruitment goals. In 2010, the
goal was to have 10 percent of security forces be women by 2020. In 2015, that
goal was scrapped for a more attainable one: 5,000 women in the army and 10,000
women in the police force by 2025. Now, the goal is to have at least 10 percent
of the Afghan National Police and 3 percent of the Afghan National Army filled
by women by 2021, with an eventual goal of 10 percent in the army. With those
goals come new focus on supporting and carving out opportunities for the women
who have already come forward to serve — for whom there is little room for
advancement — through language and professional development courses, overseas
training opportunities, mentorship and improved access to adequate facilities
and equipment. NATO gender advisers say they are instructing Afghan
counterparts to slow down recruitment of women “until we know where to put
them,” according to Gerber.
can get them in the door, but without positions for them, they’ll never be used
effectively,” said Capt. Kirrily Dearing of the Royal Australian Air Force
Group, head of Resolute Support’s gender directorate, to whom Gerber reports.
“It’s not just about numbers.” Afghan women lament that there is often no
clear, or honest, path to promotion. Well-trained and educated women find
themselves forced into tea-making and cleaning roles, regardless of their job
descriptions. And there are not enough mid- to high-level women in security
forces or supportive men to whom younger women can look for guidance. To meet
the new benchmarks, Resolute Support will have to work with the Afghan
government to recode existing male-only positions to be gender-neutral and
increase the number of women-only positions so that women are able, and
encouraged, to apply for jobs ranging from intelligence to mechanics.
Previously, pilot positions to fly the ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle — a
small, low-altitude surveillance drone — were closed to women. Those positions
will be recoded so women can fill them, a bid to recruit more women into
intelligence. Once the positions are recoded and NATO has a better of idea of
the positions available to women, and where they’re needed, Gerber said there
will be a push to recruit women in schools, computer firms, libraries and
engineering firms. “We’re focused on quality, not quantity,” Gerber said. “We
want educated women. They have to be smarter and stronger than the men.” That’s
a steep task in a country where an estimated 80 percent of Afghan women are
illiterate. And many women like Shamila can read but do not have a high school
education. Language and literacy courses can help with recruitment in areas
like Kandahar and Helmand, where there’s a critical need for women in security
forces but a shortage of candidates with the requisite language or professional
skills. “Everything is gradual,” Gerber said. “But honestly, we have to steer
the ship slowly. Making too many sudden changes will cause the ship to list and
maybe even sink.”
and the Afghan government have tried a variety of ways to recruit women, with
limited success — from recruitment posters to handpicking promising women to
offering incentive pay. But incentive pay has also led to resentment and
harassment by male colleagues because women end up making more money than the
men. Such incentives run the risk of causing more harm to the very women
they’re meant to support, said Wazhma Frogh, a member of Afghanistan’s High Peace
Council and founder of the Kabul-based Women & Peace Studies Organization.
Rewarded by NATO for their recruitment and determination, the women are often
seen as “the darlings of the West” by both colleagues and their communities,
Frogh said, who has for years worked on issues of women’s integration across
the security, political and civil society sectors. It’s a dangerous label, one
that points to Afghans viewing women’s empowerment in the security forces and
elsewhere as a Western-initiated and funded endeavor. “People say they’re being
pushed by the foreigners,” she said.
November 2017, a video anonymously posted to social media went viral in
Afghanistan; it reportedly showed Col. Ghulam Rasoul Laghmani, the head surgeon
in the Afghan Air Force, in a graphic sexual encounter with a female
subordinate. She asked for a promotion, only to have him demand sex in return.
She secretly filmed the encounter, seeking accountability in a system where
women have little means to report harassment and abuse without further
endangering themselves. “An investigation did not yield results,” says an
Afghan Ministry of Defense spokesman, who states that Laghmani was still
penalized and is no longer employed by the air force. NATO and Afghan sources
familiar with the situation said that he is still working with the military in
a different capacity.
is no complaint mechanism, said Humaira Rasuli, director of Medica Afghanistan,
an Afghan organization advocating and providing legal assistance for survivors
of violence and harassment. Some of their clients are women in security forces.
“Women need to be able to complain and trust that there will be confidentiality
and no effect on their work,” she said, a point she’s stressed in conversations
with the Ministry of Interior. “We’re actively working on that.” The incident
captured in the video wasn’t an isolated one. Women are often told they must
offer sexual favors to male superiors in exchange for advancements or raises.
“They want to put you in their trap,” said one mid-ranking Afghan army
lieutenant, who holds a leadership position training Afghan women. She asked to
remain anonymous out of fear of retribution. Women seen as threats by their
colleagues are often punished with rumors of sexual impropriety — rumors that can
ruin careers, and lives, in a culture where a woman’s “honor” is everything.
Sex outside marriage, called zina, is illegal under Afghan law, and hundreds
are in jail for these, often unfounded, “moral crimes.” The Afghanistan
Independent Human Rights Commission has noted that there are several hundred
reports every year of Afghan women dying by domestic violence or “honor
killings,” in which brothers, fathers or other relatives kill women — and
sometimes men — to restore “honor” to the family after a suspected moral
indiscretion, like a romantic relationship out of wedlock or a marriage
refusal. But many killings and attacks are never reported.
are not even sexual harassment and assault policies in place to protect women
employed by the Afghan Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior from the
many types of threats they face. It’s a major, though long delayed, goal of
Resolute Support to help draft and promote better policies, as well as ways in
which men and women can report sexual harassment and assault. After missing a
deadline in March to deliver the new policies, Resolute Support held a
round-table discussion in June with NATO advisers and representatives from the
Afghan Ministries of Defense and Interior. The meeting started off tense, with
one gray-haired Afghan policy adviser in fatigues proclaiming that there was no
need for change and that “people already know where to report sexual
harassment.” Gerber’s eyes widened. “We need to shake the tree,” said Marghaly
Faqirzai Ghaznavi, an Afghan Ministry of Interior adviser on human rights,
women and children’s affairs, and the only Afghan woman who was in the room.
The meeting ended with a promise: Representatives from the ministries would
take the NATO-drafted policy into consideration. Months later, no policy has
been formalized. American advisers are still hopeful that they can firm
something up in the coming months. “Our job is not to hand them an
international community-accepted policy or a plan easy for us to implement,”
said Gerber. “We want them to do it themselves.”
they wait on their government to take action, Afghan women continue to face
great risks. Death threats drove Latifa Nabizada, the pioneering helicopter
pilot, to leave Afghanistan. She’s now living in Austria, where she and her
daughter have been granted asylum. In May, the United States granted asylum to
26-year-old Niloofar Rahmani, Afghanistan’s widely celebrated and
America-trained first female fixed-wing pilot. She became an icon for women
after graduating from pilot school in 2013, and also a target, she said.
Rahmani’s lawyer insists her life would be at “grave risk” if she were made to
are critics — not just the Taliban — who say that the United States has no
place dictating how Afghanistan should run its country. And there are others
who say that American and international funding and pressure are essential to
push forward gender efforts, but that such efforts have been marked by flawed
execution and limited results. Women across the security sector are “what
Afghanistan needs,” said Frogh of the High Peace Council. They’re essential to
everything from responding to domestic violence cases to searching the homes
and bodies of suspected militants when women are involved — something that is
culturally unacceptable for men to do. But there’s a lack of political will,
she warned. “If [Afghanistan] wants it or not — that’s a different thing.” One
thing is certain, she said: The current strategy is simply not working. There’s
an inherent power difference between foreign troops — often stationed in
Afghanistan for a year or less before rotating out — and their Afghan
counterparts. “You cannot mentor people with a language and attitude you don’t
understand,” Frogh said.
an intelligence officer trained as a missile analyst, had no experience working
on gender policy before arriving in Kabul, apart from serving as a victim’s
advocate at United States Northern Command in Colorado. Instead, she largely
learned on the job in what started out, she said, as a “throw spaghetti against
the wall and hope it sticks kind of thing.” Despite what are usually good
intentions, Frogh said, rather than top-down efforts, more attention must be
paid to community-based and community-led security reform, where Afghan women
are engaged with their own communities at a local level, providing direct
solutions. That way, she said, “people start connecting” and see the women are
honorable. “It’s long past the time where we should be ‘winning hearts and
minds’ directly,” said A. Heather Coyne, who worked on community policing and
women issues in Afghanistan with the United States military and United Nations
Assistance Mission in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2014. She added that the
international community has largely not taken into account what Afghan women
truly need and has put them into more danger. “If they’re working with
advocates and helping to empower those advocates, that’s great. But when you do
it as the international community trying to convince people . . . you know
what? You’re going home. It’s not your business to go in and try to convince
ministries to do certain things.”
international community’s top-down approach, pumping hundreds of billions of
dollars into the country, has stoked what the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan
Reconstruction calls “rampant” corruption. For years, the United States
provided funds with “no conditions” to the Defense and Interior Ministries, the
latter institution called the “heart of corruption” by President Ashraf Ghani.
It’s been a major hurdle for NATO forces working on programs meant to empower
and support Afghan women, with advisers monitoring ministry budgets worth
millions. Part of the problem, said Afghans working with women in the security
sector, is that NATO pushes forward gender initiatives themselves or contracts
directly with American companies who don’t have their feet on the ground. The
United States Agency for International Development recently came under fire for
its $216 million Promote program that is meant to support more than 75,000
Afghan women in leadership, development, economic and civil society roles over
five years. Contracting with America-based Chemonics International, Tetra Tech
ARD and Development Alternatives, three firms that have collectively reaped
more than a billion dollars from the war in Afghanistan, USAID cannot say
whether the program has made a positive impact despite spending $89.7 million
over three years.
much money is spent,” laments one Afghan women’s rights advocate who asked not
to be named out of fear of losing Western funding. The United States thinks
big, she said, but mechanisms are often “not well adapted to the context” of
NATO troops, interacting with civil society is almost impossible because of the
crippling security situation. They have very little face time with their Afghan
counterparts, apart from on military bases and in ministries. Gerber is not
allowed to leave Resolute Support or other NATO bases without several “Guardian
Angels,” NATO units tasked with providing force protection to coalition troops
and advisers from threats like green-on-blue insider attacks — when an Afghan
ally, like a police officer or army lieutenant, attacks coalition forces. The
Marshal Fahim National Defense University, where Gerber helps train women at
the Afghan National Army Officer Academy, has been targeted numerous times
(most recently in January), both by suicide bombers and threats from within,
most notably a 2014 attack in which an Afghan soldier fired on Maj. Gen. Harold
J. Greene of the Army, killing him. He was the highest-ranking American officer
to die in combat on foreign soil since the Vietnam War.
a recent June afternoon at Resolute Support, an Australian sergeant opened the
door of the gender office and stuck his head in, grinning big. “How’s the war?
Are we winning?” he asked, joking that it didn’t look good from his side of the
base. Gerber rose from her desk. Above her, the iconic World War I icon Christy
Girl stared down from a poster, exclaiming, “Gee!! I wish I were a man, I’d
join the Navy.” “We’re winning,” Gerber said. “One woman at a time.”
away from the heavily fortified NATO headquarters, the war looks different for
women like Shamila. From inside her sparse and filthy police station, she
fights to support her children as a single mother, to help the women who need
her, to stay alive. In grainy, graphic cellphone video showing Farkhunda’s 2015
brutal murder, captured by onlookers and attackers, Shamila stands guard in
front of the shrine where Farkhunda hid. She had been at the tailor when she
heard a woman was in trouble and rushed over with her daughter in tow, hoping
she could somehow intervene. In the video, Farkhunda pleads for a female police
officer. Shamila arrived unarmed and out of uniform, placing her body between
Farkhunda and the mob. “Get her!” the men scream, climbing over the metal fence
to breach the shrine, holding rocks and pieces of wood. Within 10 minutes,
Shamila had to flee: They could have killed her daughter. “If I didn’t have my daughter
with me, I would have done something,” Shamila said with regret. “I would have
died there [to save Farkhunda]. Or I would have killed someone.”
it’s moments like this that keep Shamila going, to send a message to Afghan
women. “Never lose hope,” she said, wiping away tears with her head scarf.
of the World Federation of Football Federation (FIFA) sent a letter to the
Iranian regime, demanding an answer for lifting the ban on women entering
sports stadiums in Iran. This is the third letter sent to the clerical regime
on the basis of the promise made by Hassan Rouhani on lifting the ban on female
fans to attend matches in stadiums.
March, during his meeting with Rouhani, Giovanni Vincenzo (Gianni) Infantino,
President of FIFA called for a solution to the problem of women entering sports
stadiums and watching matches. The meeting was attended by the Minister of
Sports and Youth, Massoud Soltanifar as well as Mehdi Taj, the President of
said at the time that Rouhani had promised that women in Iran will have access
to football stadiums soon and there were plans to allow women attend football
matches in the country, soon.
months after FIFA President’s visit to Tehran and sending two letters to the
Football Federation in Iran to follow up on the fixing of infrastructural
problems to allow women entering sports stadiums, this issue has not yet been
resolved, and the third letter was sent to the Football Federation several days
FIFA President had also recently written in a letter to the Iranian Football
Federation that if the problem of broadcasting the women's tournaments in Iran
were not resolved, he would not travel to Iran any more. (The state-run Fars
News Agency - October 1, 2018)
a meeting with the Minister of Sports on May 7, 2018, Ahad Azadikhah, a member
of the parliamentary Sports Commission, had stated that the problem of women
entering indoor sports arenas during matches such as volleyball, basketball and
athletics have been resolved. However, on the eve of Iran’s hosting of the
volleyball league, it became apparent that the ban was still in place.
women’s entry to sports stadiums and volleyball matches has been formally
imposed by law enforcement officers since 2013, and since then, this problem
has never been resolved for football stadiums and even women's sports venues.
number of government officials and religious scholars, including Makarem
Shirazi and Nouri Hamedani, have emphasized on the ban on women’s entry into
sports stadiums in Iran.
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