from The Mad Hatters hosted a meet and greet on World Tourism Day with Alex,
solo traveller and blogger of Lost with Purpose at female-run café and cultural
Courts Had Settled Triple Talaq Issue Decades Ago: Women’s Rights Lawyer
Woman Honoured At Technology Conference
Western Myths: Western Female Travellers Talk Of Pakistan
Wants FRSC to Include Muslim Women in Recruitment Exercise
Instagram Model Murdered At Wheel of Porsche in Baghdad
Can't Stop Pakistani Women from Thinking, Dreaming: Author Taha Kehar
of Women Continue In Iran As A Sign Of Intensifying Crackdown
Years Of The Egyptian Women’s Movement
by New Age Islam News Bureau
Marrying At 14 Is ‘Madness’—Crown Prince of Johor
Royal Highness, Crown Prince of Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim made use of
social media to express his horror at child marriage. In a tweet dated 22 Sept,
the prince wrote, “Making legal age of marriage for girls to 14? What the hell
is happening to this country? Absolute madness!”
tweet was apparently in response to a cleric in Sabah, who said that young
girls of 14 could be legally married.
The cleric, Sabah Mufti Datuk Bungsu, is calling for the legal age for
marriage to be lowered in order to follow Shariah law. This would mean boys
could be married at 16 years old, and girls at 14 years old.
year, because of continuous controversies concerning child marriages, the
federal government of Malaysia plans to standardize the age citizens are
allowed to get married to 18 years old for both males and females.
non-Muslims in the country, males and females must already follow the minimum
marriageable age of 18. However, a 16-year old female who is not Muslim may be
allowed to marry with permission from the mentri besar or chief minister, the
state’s head of government.
minimum age exists for Muslims who wish to marry. But under state Islamic laws,
males have to be 18 and females 16 in order to be allowed to wed. Shariah
courts, however, possess authority to grant permission for underage males and
females to get married.
constituents urged him to take action.
Noted women's rights lawyer, writer and author Flavia Agnes, while hinting that
all the hullabaloo seen today in the name of instant Triple Talaq is no more
than politics, said that the issue was actually settled by the Indian courts
decades ago but it was not highlighted.
the Shamim Ara case in 2002, the Supreme Court laid down the correct procedure
for pronouncing talaq. Even earlier there were judgements of Justice Barul
Islam of the Guwahati High Court in 1981 where the procedure for pronouncing
talaq was laid down", Flavia Agnes, co-founder of Majlis, a legal and
cultural resource centre that campaigns for and provides legal representation
to women and children, said in reply to a question in an interview with
1981 to 2002 various High Courts had followed the Guwahati judgement. So the
issue that arbitrary triple talaq is invalid was already settled. But these
judgements were not highlighted in the media", she said.
in another important judgement, Danial Latifi vs Union of India in 2001, the
Supreme Court held that a divorced Muslim woman is entitled to a fair and
reasonable settlement for her entire life. But no one bothered to highlight
this historic judgement and media continued to project that after divorce a
Muslim woman is devoid of rights", Agnes said.
the fact that Muslim women are entitled to relief under the Domestic Violence
Act has not been sufficiently highlighted in the media. So every time we have
approached the magistrate’s court to protect a Muslim woman under this Act, the
other side have argued that a Muslim woman is not entitled to claim relief
under this Act and this is simply because media had not highlighted this issue
enough", she added.
also said that the issue of triple talaq was not before the Supreme Court even
then a Constitution bench was set up to examine the matter.
bench of the Supreme Court while denying a Hindu woman right to ancestral
property, totally out of context, then made a reference that a Constitution
Bench be set up to examine the lack of rights of Muslim women though this was
not an issue before the court", she said.
the same interview, Flavia Agnes rejected the objections raised by right wing
Hindu organisations and people associated with the ruling dispensation, about
Darul Qazas being run by All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) saying
they are similar to Church Tribunals and Village Panchayats.
among Christians and Hindus such alternatives are available. Christians have
their own Church Tribunals and many lower caste Hindus approach their Caste
Panchayats or Village Panchayats to resolve family disputes", Flavia Agnes
said in reply to a question.
Darul Qaza is in reality dispute resolution centres arbitrated by religious law
experts. But it is wrongly attributed as Shariah Court or a parallel system
opposing or undermining the country's judiciary.
impression seems to have been created that this move to set up Darul Qazas in
every district is driven by an objective to undermine the impact of the recent
constitutional bench ruling in the triple talaq (Shayara Bano vs Union of
India) case, which had declared triple talaq invalid last August. But this
premise has no basis since darul qazas have been functioning in India for a
long time", she said in reply to another question.
also said that Darul Qazas, like Village Panchayats and Church Tribunals, are
actually helping the judiciary and sharing its burden by resolving family
disputes at their level.
our judiciary is clogged and cases drag on for a very long time. So actually
solving disputes through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms like Lok
Adalats (People’s Courts), mediation centres etc. are encouraged", Agnes,
A Saudi woman has been honored by a regional innovators initiative launched
last July by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al-Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai
and chairman of the board of trustees of Dubai Future Foundation.
Rashed Al-Marri was a winner in the Innovators Under 35 competition at the
EmTech MENA emerging technology conference. With her partners, she used
3D-printing technology to create a mechanical hand that can translate Arabic
text entered in a specially designed mobile application into sign language. The
device has the potential to help millions of deaf people in the Arab world and
can also be used to help teach sign language.
a leading international event dedicated to emerging technologies, was founded
in 1999 and the regional edition was held in Dubai for the first time on Sept.
23 and 24, hosted by the Dubai Future Foundation in cooperation with Haykal
Media. It attracted 300 participants, including scientists, researchers,
industry experts, spokespersons and specialists in a variety of emerging technologies
from around the world.
Innovators Under 35 winners also included Taki Hinai and Issa Basaid from the
United Arab Emirates, Munther Abu Rumaila and Abdul Mohsin Al-Husseini from
Jordan, Marwan Abu Deeb from Lebanon, Abdelkader Nasr El-Din Belkacem from
Algeria, Feras Khalifa from Syria, Emad Masoudi from Yemen and Derya Baran from
conference showcased the winners in interactive sessions during which they
presented their inventions and shared their stories, visions and future
aspirations. They have achieved excellence in a range of fields, including
biomedicine, computing, energy, communication, software development,
infrastructure, and the internet, all of which help contribute to the
development of smart cities. The young entrepreneurs will now have a chance to
present their innovative ideas to officials, decision-makers and corporate
leaders in the region.
and the Innovators Under 35 contest are organized globally by American magazine
the MIT Technology Review. The regional edition of the contest received more
than 400 nominations, from which 54 were shortlisted and judged by a jury of
officials and experts.
first Innovators Under 35 list was published in 1999 in the MIT Technology
Review, featuring young innovators making contributions that were expected to
play important roles in the development of smart cities. The first day of the
Dubai conference featured the launch of an Arabic version of the journal, aimed
at those interested in emerging technologies in the Middle East and North
is one of the most important annual international technology events, with a
number of regional editions around the world that showcase the latest
inventions and developments. They bring together technology pioneers and businesses
to network, share their experiences, learn about innovative technologies and
discuss how they might affect communities in the future.
told Arab News that the invention was part of four students’ graduation project
at the College of Computer Information and Sciences in the Imam Mohammed Ibn
Saudi Islamic University. She said that the title of the project was “Designing
a Robotic Hand for Arabic Sign Language Teaching and Translation.”
participants in the project were Ebtsam Aqeel Al-Shammari, Faten Abdulmajeed
Al-Sunaid, Hessa Saad Al-Monif and Sadeem Al-Marri. The project was supervised
by Dr. Maha Sulaiman Al-Rabiah
the project, Al-Marri said that deaf and deaf-blind persons face many
challenges in communicating with others and understanding the world surrounding
they use sign language or tactile sign language in an attempt to overcome their
isolation, they experience difficulties connecting with their community because
not all individuals are familiar with sign language or are comfortable with the
tactile approach,” Al-Marri said.
added that they attempted, in that project, to solve this problem by designing
and building a robotic hand that translates Arabic texts entered in the mobile
application into the equivalent Arabic sign language alphabet gestures, that
acts as a mean of communication between the deaf/deaf-blind person and the
told Arab News that a TV interview was the spark that ignited their invention.
deaf-blind person introduced the challenges that he was facing while
communicating with others and understanding the people around him. During that
interview, he said that although he used tactile sign language in an attempt to
overcome his isolation, he experienced difficulties connecting with his
community because not all individuals are familiar with sign language or are
comfortable with the tactile approach,” she recalled.
how their invention. works, Al-Marri said that the robotic hand parts are
printed using a 3D printer and are connected with servo-motors that act as
joints of the hand and attached with strings that act like tendons. “When a
user enters a word in the mobile application, a microprocessor sends the
appropriate command to the servo-motors causing them to move to pull the
attached strings and performing the corresponding sign language gesture,” she
believes what makes their invention special is that their robotic hand is the
first robotic hand that has been used in translating and teaching Arabic Sign
Language. “It can be used as an effective 3-dimensional educational tool to
teach Arabic Sign Language either for deaf or non-deaf people,” she said.
added that in the future they would focus on enhancing the system by making it
consist of left and right hands to be able to perform the Arabic Sign Language
words. Moreover, she said, the robot can be developed to adapt to any other
said that she is proud to be one of the young active members of her community
in education, technology, and business, where she was chosen by Google to work
as a liaison between Google and her university and other organizations.
I was a member of different initiatives that targeted youth technology; in
addition, I played a role in startups that worked in innovation and the
manufacturing industry and I started my startup in the field of e-learning to
contribute to raising student achievement and scientific performance to reach
the highest level of his/her aspiring career position using the latest methods
in education,” she concluded.
The discussion centered on public space reclamation of women as Aneeqa from The
Mad Hatters hosted a meet and greet on World Tourism Day with Alex, solo
traveller and blogger of Lost with Purpose at female-run café and cultural
space, A piece of cake.
traveller and vlogger Eva zu Beck, who earlier made news in Pakistan for her
Kiki challenge video, also stopped by.
is currently visiting Pakistan for the fourth time. She is notorious for never
having a plan because she claims her plans never work out anyway.
I just start searching on my phone as I’m en route to someplace.”
OF TRAVELLING IN PAKISTAN:
asked about how they felt travelling alone in Pakistan, the travel bloggers had
a lot to say.
be honest. Pakistan is a very difficult country to travel in as a woman. People
can be downright creepy. They may follow you in the streets, stare you to
death. But people here are also very hospitable and welcoming,” said Alex.
takes a while before you are able to culturally navigate the country and know
how to main a protective distance.”
need to learn how to keep a straight face, which admittedly, I am very bad at,”
to Pakistan Today, she said travelling alone as compared to travelling with
someone had the perk that she could go wherever she wanted without any
resistance or conflict.
when something bad happens, the impact is also much worse with no one there to
Alex, Eva doesn’t travel alone. She has tour guides and a film crew coming
along on her travels.
don’t really think I have had any bad experiences. Of course, there’s an
intrusion of privacy. But that’s not exclusive to Pakistan. It happens in a lot
of other countries as well.”
one bad thing I’d say is being asked for selfies.” She laughed at the
finds it important to adapt to the local culture and adopting the local dress
code and values when she travels.
lot of people will disagree with me on this but I find it important to adapt to
the local culture. You need to have people accept you and interact with you and
it is harder to do that if you look like an outsider. This way, the
conversation can be about what you’re doing and not what you’re wearing.”
is also a sign of respect for the local culture.”
yesterday, I went to a party in Karachi. Well, I was the only one there in
shalwar kameez. So, I thought, this is awkward,” she laughed.
WILL PEOPLE SAY?
her fourth time in Pakistan, Alex’s mother seems to be coming around but the
rest of her family still think she’s “insane”.
first time I came here, my parents texted every day begging me to come back. Of
course, I ignored those texts.”
day earlier, Alex rode a motorbike from Mardan to Peshawar. She laughs as she
remembers a scandalised rickshaw driver who was on her heels, screaming
something in Pushto
think the tiny, mundane things can be the most rewarding.”
2017, Alex visited Kumrat valley after a tiresome journey. When she and her
companions reached there, the guards were incredulous that she intended to camp
in the area.
can’t stay here.”
men will feel thirsty.”
Alex, the most frustrating thing is when people tell her, “Oh you can’t do that
because girls just don’t do that.”
think what made my resentment more emphatic was that just a week later, I had a
male friend who visited the same area. And of course, he didn’t need any
status as a woman becomes ever more precarious in Pakistan because she’s a
have to say, I am very bitter about security here. I hate it when I’m given
unneeded protocol. How am I supposed to relax in a beautiful green valley if
there are men in Kalashnikovs standing next to me?”
thinks the biggest fabrication in Pakistan is when she’s told she needs
protection as a woman and a foreigner.
is this for?
asked how she funded her travels, Alex laughed: “I have a lot of sugar
actually, I live on a pretty tight budget. Sometimes I eat daal chawal every
day for weeks, which works out for me because I love it. I couchsurf and stay
at cheap places instead of going to fancy hotels.”
lives on a budget of RS2000 per day in Pakistan. She works as a freelance
writer and graphic designer when she gets the time. Mostly, she depends on her
savings and the revenue generated from her blog to fund her travels.
I am not on a nocturnal Lahori schedule, I tend to wake up early to capture a
few shots of the sunrise. I also write articles when I am travelling on buses.”
travellers related some misconceptions about Pakistan prevalent in Western
media and their home countries. Alex shared how her relatives equate Pakistan
for the Middle-East.
now, when I go back, people ask me: how’s the Middle East?”
had something similar to share.
coming to Pakistan, I thought it was a desert. No, literally! I thought there
were no roads and everyone spoke Arabic.”
you go by western media, you expect Pakistan to be similar to Afghanistan when
it comes to landscape and to Saudi Arabia when it comes to women’s rights.”
helps that I think Western media is just awful. So when I came here, there was
not so much any unlearning but an instant wave of warmth and curiosity that
enveloped me,” she stressed.
asked why she keeps on returning to Pakistan, Alex said:
really hard to find the same level of hospitality anywhere else.”
is your favourite city in Pakistan?
audience laughter, she responded. “No, I did not say Karachi when I was asked
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has reacted to the recent nationwide recruitment
exercise conducted by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC). FRSC had directed
applicants to appear in white shorts, white round neck T-shirts, canvass and
socks, which did not go down well with MURIC. Expressing their displeasure in a
statement signed by its director and founder, Professor Ishaq Akintola,
described it as a deliberate exercise to marginalise and discriminate against
Muslim women. He also wondered why FRSC would issue such a directive to exclude
a section of Nigerian citizens.
said: “The whole world knows that Muslim women do not wear shorts. It is,
therefore, strange to hear the FRSC requesting applicants of both sexes to
appear in shorts. FRSC is a federal road safety concern and its recruitment
exercise should be inclusive.
is FRSC telling us that it only recognises Christian women alone? Is FRSC
telling us that it cannot tolerate the sight of Muslim women? Is this federal
agency only interested in giving jobs to Christian women to the disadvantage of
their Muslim counterparts? Is FRSC unaware of the economic implication of this
among the Nigerian Muslim population? Is this not a deliberate attempt to
empower Christians and continuously impoverish Muslims?”
that Muslims are shortchanged, the group noted: “We are disappointed that FRSC
has joined the clique of anti-Muslim institutions that claim secularism in
order to shortchange Muslims. Muslims are being shut out of the economy of this
country. Muslims are being dragged to the bottom of the pyramid of poverty in
Nigeria. Instructions, which make it impossible for Muslims to participate in
nation-building are being rolled out on a daily basis in public and private
remind FRSC that the marginalisation of any section of the Nigerian population
by any agency is a violation of Section 14(4) of the 1999 Constitution of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria, which stipulates that ‘The composition of the
Government of the Federation, a State, a local government council, or any of
the agencies of such Government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of
the Government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner
as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority and
the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the people of
said they rejected the FRSC recruitment exercise, because it failed to
recognise the diversity of nation’s population.“MURIC, therefore, rejects the
FRSC recruitment exercise for failing to recognise the diversity of our
population. It is illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional to issue directives,
which are designed to exclude any section of the country. The exercise can best
be described as incomplete, sectional and discriminatory.
complete the exercise, FRSC authorities must give Muslim women their own
opportunity to participate. A new date must be fixed for the recruitment of
Muslim women in the next few weeks. Nigeria belongs to us all. MURIC will not
fold its hands while our common patrimony is shared out among Christians alone.
We advise FRSC and all uniformed formations to take note of this observation in
order to correct the anomaly in future exercises,” the group said.
— Iraqi model and Instagram starlet Tara Fares has been shot dead at the wheel
of her Porsche convertible in central Baghdad, sending ripples through social
interior ministry opened a probe into Thursday’s murder of the 22-year-old who
suffered “three fatal bullet wounds” as she drove through the capital’s Camp
a fashionista with 2.7 million followers on Instagram for her pictures sporting
tattoos, different hair colours and adventurous clothes, was a victim of her
fame and targeted because of her lifestyle, Twitter users wrote.
am beyond disappointed and hurt after hearing about another tragic loss in
Iraq. Tara Fares, a model and social media influencer was gunned down in broad
daylight in #Baghdad,” one said.
young Iraq model was simply enjoying & loving life like other pretty girls.
Unfortunately she got shooted & killed by few militants. I am truly heart
broken & saddened by such a tragic news,” another wrote.
Thursday it was Tara… Next Thursday, who will it be?” a third tweeted.
al-Basheer, an Iraqi satirist who lives in exile in Jordan after having faced
death threats, condemned the murder of Fares, who was based in Iraqi Kurdistan
and rarely traveled to her native Baghdad.
who finds excuses for those who kill a girl just because she had decided to
live like most other girls on the planet is an accomplice to her murder,” he
Tanya, the protagonist of a new quick-read from Pakistan, who has "got a
pretty good life, working for a Karachi newspaper and smoking-drinking-flirting
her way through minor romantic escapades". The author, Taha Kehar, says
that her character is his attempt to cultivate a narrative about what it means
to be a woman in Karachi. But are there really many "politically
opinionated, liberal, urban women that are both feisty and fearless", as
Tanya is, in Pakistan today?
the author of "Typically Tanya", said that it wasn't entirely
necessary for women in Pakistan (or anywhere else in the world for that matter)
to be "liberal" or "urban" in order to have "bold
political opinions or take on a fearless, feisty approach to life".
Pakistan is an inherently patriarchal society where women are subjected to
restrictions and excessive surveillance, no measure of constraints can stop
them from thinking, dreaming and forging their way in the world. Women in
Pakistan have entered the public domain and are reclaiming it by negotiating
gender confrontations and challenging archaic norms," Kehar told IANS in
an email interview from Karachi, describing his frame of mind as he shaped
shared that Tanya may epitomise the struggle of Pakistani women, but she
belongs to "a privileged segment of Karachi's elite" that "can
operate within a bubble and turn a blind eye to the ground realities".
virtue of her social status, she manages to evade some patriarchal demands and
has the freedom to ignore the restrictions imposed by the public sphere. But
even then, it would be flawed to assume that she isn't influenced by patriarchy
in her everyday life. While writing 'Typically Tanya', I had to remain mindful
of these subtle nuances," he said.
himself a journalist, said that he wanted to break away from Western ideas of
Karachi as "a battle-hardened, conflict-riddled city" and understand
it from the perspective of its citizens.
also admitted that the male gaze could claw its way into the narrative and
possibly even shrink the space for the female perspective. "The primary
challenge was to elbow away all male-centric notions to prevent them from
distorting Tanya's perspective," he said, adding that he discussed his
protagonist's traits with some of his female friends, who spent their days
cooped up in newsrooms like Tanya does in the novel.
that Tanya's experiences may not be "entirely representative" of all
independent and modern Pakistani women, Kehar, however, asserted that like most
of them, Tanya recognises "the importance of making her own choices"
and "taking charge of her own life".
author, published in both Indian and Pakistani media, said that Indian readers
might enjoy Tanya's humour, her friendship with Inder, an Indian journalist who
is reporting from Pakistan. The book might also interest some readers who enjoy
to describe his novel for Indian readers, the author obliged, saying:
"'Typically Tanya' is about Karachi, journalism and relationships between
misfits. It is about a woman's journey in negotiating these minefields. The
protagonist isn't obsessed with marriage and is unwilling to compromise her own
dignity at the altar of a groom chosen by a rishta aunty."
has previously published a collection of poems and "Typically Tanya"
is his debut novel. Published by HarperCollins India, it is priced at Rs 299.
of women continue in Iran. Afsaneh Khorsandi and Maryam Azad were arrested on
Wednesday, September 26, 2018, in Mahabad of Iranian Kurdistan, and in Tehran.
agents in Mahabad raided the residence of Afsaneh Khorsandi on September 26,
2018, arresting and transferring her to an unknown location. It is not clear
why she was arrested and where she has been taken to.
Khorsandi is the sister of Aram Khorsandi who had been arrested a day earlier
by security forces and transferred to an unknown location.
new wave of arrests of women civil activists and Kurdish activists has been
launched by the Revolutionary Guard Corps to intensify the atmosphere of fear
and terror in the areas inhabited by Kurds.
the same time, Maryam Azad, another women’s rights activist from Shiraz, was
arrested by security forces. Maryam Azad was arrested at a Tehran Airport as
she was leaving the country for Turkey.
associate of Ms. Azad said she had been arrested by security forces without
being informed of her charges. Her arrest took place after she had passed the
gate and boarded the plane.
Azad, 31 and a graduate of Dramatic Arts, was very much interested in
performing in plays but was not able to continue in this profession due to the
illness she is being treated for.
women’s rights activists and advocates, Hoda Amid, Najmeh Vahedi and Rezvaneh
Mohammadi were apprehended in the wave of arrests of women activists and
lawyers. After nearly one month, they are still detained under undetermined
status, denied access to legal counsel and bascially deprived of having family
International issued a statement on September 3, 2018, warning against the
arrests of women including lawyers and women’s rights activists in Iran, saying
it signaled intensifying crackdown on civil society in Iran.
Egyptian women’s movement is the oldest women’s movement in the Arab world. It
first emerged in the last quarter of the 19th century and evolved in tandem
with a century and a quarter of social and political developments.
in recent years the movement has undergone what might be termed a historic ebb
as it has become caught between funding-related charges brought against some of
its leading organisations, the outmoded and unwieldy bureaucracies governing
some long-established women’s institutions, and stiff competition from
little-known feminist pioneers who have forayed into cyberspace with individual
or collective initiatives.
feminist leaders in the institutionally established women’s movement understand
the need for internal reform to shed cumbersome bureaucracy and develop more
efficient modes of operation, they also realise that the new virtual women’s
movement does not have the wherewithal on its own to promote change. As one
leading feminist activist put it, “there’s a big difference between a ‘loud
voice’ and ‘effective influence’.”
is the Egyptian women’s movement faring at present? Has the conventional
movement succumbed to stagnation preparatory to finding new ways ahead? And
have social-media initiatives swept the rug out from under established entities
and official organisations? Al-Ahram Weekly put such questions to leading
figures in the established women’s movement in Egypt, also taking a look at
some of its rivals in virtual space.
years ago, the widest circulating hashtag in Egyptian cyberspace was #I saw
harassment. Eventually this found its embodiment in the concrete world in teams
of people patrolling the streets during holidays and at other times when rates
of harassment are high in order to stamp out this problem.
people running the programme, independent from NGOs and other civil-society
organisations, managed to turn the fight against female harassment into a
popular cause, to the degree that the government felt compelled to adopt it and
create anti-harassment units consisting of female police officers.
Mustafa, one of the leaders of the group that spearheaded the #I saw harassment
movement, relates how it started. “We were just a group of friends disturbed by
the violence to which women and girls were exposed, especially on public
occasions and specifically following the 25 January Revolution. We saw this as
a reflection of the mounting violence in society as a whole and of the
attitudes among certain parts of society toward the participation of women in
the revolution and after it. We did not have any particular political agenda,
and none of us were connected with any political bodies or organisations.
Instead, we began our campaign on social-networking sites in November 2012, and
before long our Facebook page had more than 60,000 followers,” Mustafa said.
decision to take our idea to the streets was not as easy as some might imagine,
even though we had a reasonable number of volunteers. We were about 30
volunteers who patrolled the Downtown Cairo area, particularly between Maspero
and the Corniche which are areas where harassment is most frequent during the
holiday seasons. At one point, we turned in an unofficial capacity to an NGO
called ACT that offered us logistical support. We set ourselves three main
objectives: monitoring and identifying harassment hotspots; documenting
incidents of harassment including details regarding perpetrators and victims;
and awareness-raising. We performed the latter in universities, in the Cairo
Metro and in gathering places for young people.”
regard to the first two objectives, we relayed the information we acquired to
the relevant authorities, specifically the Interior Ministry, to help them
combat the phenomenon. I think that this was an important contribution to the
government’s handling of the problem. Also, our presence and our efficacy gave
us the opportunity to take part in the committees formed to draft the
anti-harassment law. The committee sessions were organised by the National
Council for Women (NCW). Our group has now begun a new campaign seeking stiffer
penalties in order to prevent violence and harassment against women,” she
to Mustafa, her group’s Facebook campaign included a page dedicated to
documenting the testimonies of victims of harassment and violence, but it was
not the only one in cyberspace.
global #me too hashtag also triggered a surprisingly large response in Egypt,
one which probably even the most long-serving women’s rights activists had not
more recent phenomenon has been the hashtag #Diala’s Right involving a child,
Diala, and a paternity suit involving a young female journalist and a well-known
a number of media outlets have joined the cause, the hashtag continues to be
one of the most widely followed and influential movements in Egypt.
claim this case holds up a mirror to the current state of the more traditional
women’s organisations in the country and how weak their influence is today when
compared with how influential they were in a similar case 16 years ago
involving Egyptian actor Ahmed Al-Fishawi and Hind Al-Hinnawi who succeeded
with the help of civil society and women’s organisations to compel Al-Fishawi
to admit that he had fathered her daughter.
reality: Lamia Lotfi, a long-established lawyer currently working with a
women’s legal rights centre, is representing Diala’s journalist mother in the
recent hashtag case.
has no doubt that the feminist establishment, what she terms the
institutionalised movement as embodied in governmental organisations and
official NGOs, is miles behind the virtual entities on social networking sites.
women’s organisations that began to emerge in the mid-1980s are like government
agencies. They are just as encumbered in bureaucratic red tape and just as
sluggish,” Lotfi said. “They change their identity in accordance with the
person directing them, and their involvement in issues never goes beyond the
theoretical level. There is no genuine contact with the people and their needs
which, of course, change with the times.”
we cannot deny the accomplishments of the older generations of female activists
in the causes for which they fought long and hard, such as the fight to end
female circumcision (female genital mutilation). When they first began work on
this at the outset of the 1990s, the rate of female genital mutilation was 97
per cent. By the time we began to deal with it, as a case of violence against
women, it had been criminalised and the rate has now dropped to around 60 per
cent. This is significant progress in a difficult society such as ours,” Lotfi
I liken women’s rights work in our society to drops of water falling on stone.
Perhaps part of our problem is that we don’t realise this and we lose
government deals with women’s issues as part of development issues more
generally in which women are supposed to be partners. It accepts women as
participants in development work, but it objects to them fighting openly for
certain causes. To be frank, most of the recent gains for women have come from
the top down, and with only a few exceptions this has characterised the Egyptian
women’s movement from the outset,” Lotfi said.
the role of the state recedes today, there has emerged the powerful influence
of single issue initiatives that suddenly surface, like the fight against
harassment. This and other causes have taken the women’s struggle into the
virtual world, which has the advantages of speed and impact, as well as new
blood. Perhaps in a year or two, the single-cause women activists we see today
will be replaced by new faces that will at least guarantee the continuity of the
struggle, even if only in the form of temporary initiatives. This is much
better than the stagnation that characterises the establishment women’s
movement today,” she added.
to reports on women’s rights associations, only seven such associations or
organisations are still active today. Foremost among them is the NCW, which in
spite of its nominal independence is classed as an official entity because of
its funding and leadership mechanisms.
Arab Women’s Organisation (AWO), which falls under the Arab League, is little
different. Both organisations were established in 2000.
are also five independent NGOs dealing with women’s issues: the Al-Nadim
Centre, which offers psychological and legal support to the victims of
violence; the New Woman Foundation, which was founded in 1995 and officially
registered in 2003 as a foundation dedicated to women’s legal issues and
providing support to women; the Women and Memory Forum, which was established
in 1995; the Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women, which,
founded in 1987, is the oldest women’s organisation still in operation; and the
Nazra Feminist Studies Centre, which is one of the best-known women’s centres
in spite of its relatively recent creation about a decade ago. The Nazra Centre
was unfortunately recently shuttered by court order.
is not Tunisia: “I admit that the organised women’s movement is going through a
decline,” said Mazen Hassan, one of the most active of the new generation of
at the same time we are in the midst of a rough time organisationally and
operationally. I believe that the whole of civil society in Egypt is suffering
from constraints on its activities and difficulties in finding sufficient
funds. We’re supposed to be non-profit organisations depending on grants and
donations to finance our activities, but now we’re legally threatened because
of this. It is a true dilemma for our Centre [the Nazra Feminist Studies
Centre], which has now been closed down forcing us to continue our activities
on the Internet,” Hassan said.
recognise some of the accomplishments achieved on the ground, however,
especially in the fight against violence against women. There has been the
creation of the anti-violence committee in the interior ministry and the legal
amendment criminalising harassment. A specific strategy has been formulated to
deal with the question of violence, though no one discussed it with us. It’s
very important for there to be channels of communication between civil society
organisations and individual activists and the government in order to produce
real change,” she added.
situation in Tunisia, often seen as a model for women’s ability to win their
rights in the Arab world, is also not just the product of the present day or
the years since the 2011 Revolution. It is the product of more than 50 years of
feminist work through mechanisms in which the state worked with civil society
and feminist activists. The Tunisians also had a clear agenda which was put
into effect immediately after the revolution. Unfortunately, even though we
preceded them chronologically, we are lagging quite a bit behind them
organisationally and operationally,” Hassan said.
she faults the state for abandoning its support for the women’s cause in recent
years, she does not deny flaws in the feminist movement itself. “Unfortunately,
the women’s movement in Egypt has come to resemble many of the state
bureaucracies. This applies in particular to the performance of the older
generations of feminists who are generally not open to change or to criticism
from the younger generations. If we are to succeed in effecting change, we have
to accept the need to change ourselves and the ways in which we work. For
example, I disagree that there has to be a unified agenda for the whole
movement. It is unacceptable to insist that we all have to rally around a
feminist organisation or entity should have the freedom to choose the causes it
wants to espouse and to press for necessary changes. All we should be asked to
do is to support one another. There is another important point here concerning
interaction with the governmental women’s agencies. I am not totally opposed to
working with them. But I find it hard to see them as a genuine part of the
feminist movement because in the end they are governed by the political agenda
of the regime,” Hassan said.
the other hand, I think it’s possible to take advantage of their presence as a
national mechanism for lobbying and realising our demands. We complement the
system; we’re not competing with it. We need a multiplicity of entities. At the
same time, we shouldn’t snub the younger groups, especially those operating
through the Internet. In fact, we should utilise whatever resources we have to
work with them through training, support, or joint efforts them. We must
acknowledge that the initiatives and hashtags on social media have had a
genuine impact,” she added.
waves of feminism: Hala Kamal in her history of the feminist movement in Egypt,
A Century of Egyptian Women’s Demands, divides the movement into four waves.
beginning of the first in the late 19th century was marked by the publication
of the first women’s newspaper in Egypt, Al-Fatah (The Young Woman), in 1892.
Founded by Hind Nofal, Al-Fatah became the mouthpiece of the nascent Egyptian
feminist movement which emerged about a decade later.
then followed other periodicals such as Anis Al-Jalees in 1898, Fatat Al-Sharq
in 1906, and Al-Jins Al-Lateef in 1908, all of which advocated women’s rights
and sought to express women’s points of view.
was during this phase, largely dependent on the press, a new media at the time,
that Egyptians became acquainted with the names of the first generation of
Egyptian feminists, such as Malak Hifni Nassef and Aisha Taimour.
the baton was passed to the generation of the 1919 Revolution, when discussions
revolved around questions of marriage, divorce, polygamy, the veil and domestic
to the efforts of the pioneers of the Egyptian feminist movement, the first
wave, which lasted until 1952, achieved major inroads in improving women’s
of the most significant achievements was equality in the right to education at
all levels, and the first class of Egyptian female university students
graduated in 1933. This wave also brought the first women’s party in Egypt and
the Arab region in the shape of the Egyptian Women’s Party founded in 1942.
second wave, lasting from the 1952 Revolution to the beginning of the 1980s,
was characterised by the Nasserist regime’s determination to contain and co-opt
the feminist movement and was consistent with its rejection of independent
political parties or other entities.
according to Kamal women achieved important successes at this time, the most
important being Article 31 of the 1956 constitution which stated that all
Egyptians were equal before the law in rights and duties and which for the
first time gave women the right to vote and stand in legislative elections.
the state remained resistant to women’s demands on questions concerning family
law and personal status law.
the third wave, which began with the beginning of the Hosni Mubarak era, the
government began to relax its grip on civil-society activity, making it possible
for independent feminist entities to re-emerge.
also ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This was the period in which Cairo hosted
the International Conference on Population and Development (1994), which Kamal
describes as “a milestone in placing women’s rights on the national agenda”.
dates the fourth wave of Egyptian feminism from the outbreak of the 25 January
Revolution, in which there was a massive turnout of women in all its
she observes that as spectacular as the women’s presence was in the Revolution,
they were also exposed to unprecedented levels of physical violence. The sexual
harassment crisis they encountered was fed by a combination of political,
religious and social motives.
was also a period that saw the ebb of the organised feminist movement and the
remarkable rise of feminist Internet activists, although it should be borne in
mind that established feminists continued to make important contributions to
the drafting of the new constitution and other political activities.
Darwish, a prominent figure in the Egyptian feminist movement for more than 30
years, explained what she sees as the positive and negative aspects of the
Egyptian women’s movement.
movement in Egypt has tended to focus on women’s issues from either a
philanthropic or a developmental perspective. Feminist demands were voiced
alongside or beneath the umbrella of philanthropic work, and this obscured the
feminist cause and rendered it incapable of direct confrontation. Successive
regimes in Egypt worked to promote this, and they greatly obstructed genuine
efforts on the part of rights organisations,” she said.
the history of the movement, Darwish said that “I do not date the beginning of
the feminist movement in Egypt to the beginning of the 20th century as some
still do. The pioneers of the movement were more concerned with the national
independence struggle and felt themselves to be part of that general movement.
the feminist movement as an independent movement had its start following the
promulgation of the 1923 constitution. But political conditions in Egypt were
never encouraging for feminists.
though the movement came to the fore during the 25 January Revolution, that did
not last long in the face of the tyranny of the Islamist movement and the
male-oriented culture of our society,” she said.
are always seen as guilty when we bring up subjects men don’t like. We’re
either accused of undermining religion or of implementing foreign ideological
agendas. I’ll never forget the ferocious attacks we encountered in the 1970s
when we first began to speak out against violence against women. Nevertheless,
we continued to fight until the term took hold and the problem was recognised.
This is a crucial prerequisite of the feminist movement: it has to continue for
years to attain its goals. Its demands cannot be realised in a day. The effort
might take decades.”
Darwish is an exponent of a vanguard generation of activists, Salma Al-Naqqash
is a representative of the rising generation. While she acknowledges the
achievements of the older generations, she believes that the feminist movement
in Egypt today lags a step or two behind its counterparts in a number of other
Arab countries, notably Tunisia.
example, whereas now there is gender equality in inheritance rights in Tunisia,
a large number of women in Upper Egypt are still not allowed to inherit at all.
“Even the judiciary, which boasts of granting women the right to work, doesn’t
allow women to work in the Council of State, which is one of the most important
judicial bodies in Egypt,” Al-Naqqash said.
general, we need to understand that the feminist movement in Egypt is not just
a bunch of causes that we push for from time to time. It is a social advocacy
movement in which we try to avail ourselves of all the means at our disposal.
Those who accuse the feminist movement in Egypt of laxity have no idea about
the magnitude of the difficulties we face, whether in terms of the prevalent
social culture or the prevalent political regime and the extent to which it is
interested in supporting women’s rights,” she said.
Egyptian Women’s Party
may be the only country in the Arab world to have given birth to a women’s
political party officially recognised by the state. Founded in 1942, the
Egyptian Women’s Party was headed by Fatma Neamat Rashed, and its charter
outlined goals and demands that were very progressive by the standards of the
time, such as gender equality, full entitlement to political and social rights
as equal citizens, and the right of women to serve in government offices,
including in the judiciary.
party also called for amendments to the laws governing marriage, polygamy,
divorce, alimony and child custody. It gave Egypt some of its celebrated
feminists, but the party was dissolved soon after the 1952 Revolution.
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