An event took place in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 5, where a woman organised a joint bike ride for women. The event was called “I, the society”, and was set up in order to motivate women to bike in public.
Women of Egypt Women of Egypt is dedicated to showing the world different sides of Egyptian women, outside the box of the regular ones in Western media.
Please let me take the opportunity to introduce them to you. The captions are the group’s own.
“1956 seven beauty queens across the republic were crowned, competitions in Alexandria, Cairo, Beni Suef and other cities.”
“Military training for Egyptian girls in the 60s”
“Folk dancers Farida Fahmy and Mahmoud Reda”
Photo credits: Women in Egypt
Did the news reach you about Farinaz Koshravani? She was a Kurdish-Irani woman who allegedly jumped or fell to death from the 4th floor at Tara hotel where she was working, in order to escape rape. Her fellow Iranian Reyhaneh Jabbari chose a different way when facing rape: she stabbed her attacker in self-defense, and for that she was herself killed, hanged in Gohardasht prison on October 25 last year.
Farinaz worked as a hotel maid in the Kurdish part of Iran, in the city of Mahabad. Violent demonstrations broke out after the news of her death and the hotel was attacked and burned. It’s still not confirmed whether she jumped herself or fell to her death, but one man has been detained, who has confessed he “was with” Farina before her death. Rumours claim he is a government official who had connections with the hotel and therefore was free to try and assault women in the hotel.
I asked a friend of mine who is from Iran, what she as an Iranian woman thought about the death of Farinaz. This is what she had to say:
“Analyzing women issues is very complicated and difficult in Iran, mostly because we have not enough right to talk, share and to discuss about problems as much as men. Here again I hear about an accident which the victim is a woman. A woman who is not clear that has been suicide for protecting herself against being raped or she was murdered when she was hiding her relationship with a guy there. The only thing that is obvious here is this woman was murdered just because he scared of something and jumping from balcony to another one at the hotel was certainly an idea to runaway from the danger.”
Nowadays it is like a common story in accident page of Iran news! When a man spreads acid on a woman’s face or a husband who was in doubt about his wife relationship with another man kills her! You know the most painful part is, we never understand well who is the accused and why this accident should been happen? The worst issue after this is when you hear the killer pays the blood money to the judiciary and it is even half of the amount one pays for a man and gets free! The government and judiciary easily ignore many things about women and prefer them to just be quiet for everything. They always prefer to point to women instead of men for such accusations.
There are a lot of these examples in judiciary folders that hasn’t been solved yet or just led to very not fair results. And all those women who don’t know they should be sorry for protecting themselves or should accept the attack!
I’m just happy that woman activities against unfair woman laws are increasing and people bit by bit are understanding that they should not trust the government and wait for them to bring back the rights for them. It is something they have to learn the concepts by themselves and teach to their children from now on, for being a part of our culture in the near future.”
Photo copyright: ekurd.net
Iraq’s first female mayor Ms Thikra Awash was assigned her duties today on February 26, according to the Facebook page بغداد (“Baghdad”). Her position is so far only temporary, according to the news update, since she took over quite swiftly after the former mayor Naim Aboub who was made to leave due to dissatisfaction with his performance. The inauguration is still groundbreaking: it’s Iraq’s first female mayor, to be appointed in the capital, in a time when the IS terrorists are forcing their terrifying misogynist agenda on the regions that they have conquered.
In the ceremony the previous mayor participated, and Ms Awash was welcomed to her new office by the director of the Prime Minster’s office, Mr Mehdi Alallaq, who wished everyone in Baghdad a good cooperation in order to overcome all obstacles and reach the desired goal; which is to him, a service valued by Baghdad and its people.
Ms Awash said in her speech during the ceremony that she will be loyal and honest in handling the public funds, that she opposes any sort of partisanship and that she will not be biased to any clan, party or sectarian group. She said that her work in the initial phase would have two parallel focuses: to provide better services to the people of Baghdad and work on fast addressing the problems of the city, and also, as she stated: “To reinforce the status of the capital, to once again make it a modern city, while maintaining it’s authenticity and history”.
Photo credits: https://www.facebook.com/Baghdad1
With all awful news coming to us from everywhere these days, it’s wonderful to get positive news for once: Iraq appointed their first female mayor for Baghdad, Thikra Alwash (in some news spelled Zekra Alwach), and she is set to take up duties in her office as by today, Sunday February 22. In a country where women are fighting a slow battle against inequalities in many fields, a battle that is constantly facing set-backs due to the domestic conflicts, such an appointment is an important gesture to all of the country’s women. Although women traditionally have held many high political positions in Iraq – both during Saddam Hussein’s regime and after the US invasion – Ms Awash is supposedly the first one to hold the position of being a mayor.
According to Daily Star Lebanon, Ms Awash is a civil engineer by background and was previously the Director General of the Ministry of Higher Education – this is also stated in her Linkedin profile. In Ms Awash’s new role as a mayor she will be dealing directly with the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and will therefore be able to push her agenda, the agenda of the city of Baghdad, on a high level.
Some voices today criticised Ms Awash’s lack of political experience, and the fact that her predecessor Naim Aboub was removed by the prime minister in the blink of an eye. But still so, the choice of a female mayor in a time when dangerous, backwards powers are threatening the country of Iraq, is a brave and forward one. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for Ms Awash and what the future holds for her, as well as her fellow Iraqi sisters.
Photo credit: Twitter @
Women from the Gulf are not very common in media and an ordinary image of a Gulf woman is her dressed in nikab and abaya, not doing anything in particular.
My Kuwaiti friend who is so dedicated in showing the world different sides of the Gulf shared these photos with me. The explanations for the photos is from him and I have sometimes found more information about a certain person myself. He himself doesn’t have copyright has but downloaded them from different websites and shared them via his own social media. Therefore the copyright is unknown.
Enjoy the view of different beautiful women in different aspects of life.
Ibtisam Lufti, Saudi Arabian singer. Ibtisam belonged to the first generation of Saudi singers and achieved great success and popularity despite her handicap of being blind. Her main career took place in the 1970s and -80s and when announcing that she was leaving the scene it caused a public outrcry. Ibtisam is portrayed in the book “Women of Saudi Arabia” by Ali Fagandash. Year of the photo unknown.
Oman, late 1970s.
Aisha Al Marta, Kuwaiti singer, performing for women at a Kuwaiti wedding. Aisha is the third women from the left in the backrow. She was a Kuwaiti singer, born in 1934. Also Aisha was blind, she lost her sight at age 7. She joined a music group at age 14, secretely so as not to have any problems with her family. Later on she worked at Radio Kuwait and became an extremely popular folklore singer, performing traditional songs from the Gulf, famous for her patriotic songs. When she died in 1978 appearantly a national day of mourning was called for, and still “Aisha Al Marta” cultural events in her honor are being held in Kuwait. A Youtube video with Aisha you can see here. Year of the photo unknown.
Woman from Al Hijaz region, Saudi Arabia. Year unknown.
Women from Jaizan province, Saudi Arabia. Notice the difference in clothing between the women in this photo and the woman in the previous one.
I lived in Syria last year, and I made a few amazing friends despite the ongoing war. I still keep in touch with them and am surprised how I could meet so many fine people in so short time.
One of them, we can call her Sarah, had made an incredible journey in life. Coming from a working class conservative family, she had been married off against her will when young. The marriage had been abusive, something she was not unused to: in her world, as she described it, “almost all men hit women”. But the violence Sarah had been subjected to had been of the extraordinary kind.
When she left her husband it was because she knew she wouldn’t survive if going back. Trauma to her head had made her loose parts of her memory and she had suffered three miscarriages as a result of the abuse. When leaving her husband Sarah had to leave her children behind and was not allowed to see them. She had the right to visit her children but was deeply traumatized, had no support from her family and no lawyer to help her access this right.
At her family’s house noone spoke to her, they didn’t approve of her leaving her husband. She stayed most of her time in a dark room, often not remembering the day before or where she was. She knew her family wanted to get her into a mental hospital, and she also knew that if they were able to make her admitted there she would never be able to get out.
“How did you make it?” I asked Sarah the one evening she opened up and told me her story, which I would have had no clue of if she hadn’t told me, despite her sad eyes, this pretty girl in modern clothes and pastel earrings. We had been hanging out for a while and were drinking wine in one of the laid back cafés in the inner city of Damascus.
“I just had to”, she said. “I read every book in the house… And I tried to remember the books I read.”
She became able to make appointments with a psychiatrist at a public hospital. She gradually became better and was able to enroll in a beauty school. One day when she was well enough she left her family’s house. She had been making money by working in beauty saloons in downtown Damascus, saving so she could rent a small flat on her own.
“You’re not allowed to move out!” her brother had told her. “You’re nothing but a whore if you live on your own!”
But the verbal abuse didn’t take hold of her, she was so used to it.
Sarah took off her abaya and hijab (“I believe in God, but I never wanted these”). She started going to the gym, started going out, started dating. After a few years she was strong enough to fight for her kids. In the meantime her ex husband had remarried and had a new child with his second wife. And the war had started.
Sarah got a female lawyer who threatened her ex husband with legal actions if he didn’t allow Sarah visitation rights. The legal system was weakened and they might not have been able to push it further, but her ex husband got scared and gave in. The children slept next to her each time they visited and cried when it was time to go back to their dad, desperate not to go.
War dragged on and effected everyone, even the people living in the regime controlled capital. Sarah wasn’t able to make a living despite working 12 hours a day. Her employer paid her a small sum of her salary and said “It’s war, I have no money to pay you”. In the breakdown of the system there was nowhere to go to claim your salary. Benefits didn’t exist. Sarah had to move back to her family, and they didn’t accept her children coming to visit. Her ex husband was happy and Sarah was back in confinement again. The war had made her loose all her rights. But worse was yet to come.
The other day she called me and told me her children were back with her. Great news! But how had it happened?
Her ex husband had been taken by the authorities and noone knew where he was. His new wife had refused his extended family to see the children. But the childrens’ uncle had spoken to them on Skype and seen them having bruises and marks on their faces. Something wasn’t right and in the end he called Sarah and told her to try take the children. He didn’t want to take them himself as the war made him having enough financial constraints with his own family.
There was no legal system anymore that would support Sarah’s attempt to get her children back. Instead she called the woman and asked if she could invite her and the children to a nice restaurant. When they met, Sarah was all smiles with the woman. In the middle of the meal she got up with the kids to go to the bathroom, then rushed them through the back door of the restaurant, and jumped in to a taxi.
Sarah’s family in the end accepted the children staying with them when they learned that Sarah’s ex husband was gone. The truth about what had happened to the children unravelled when back in Sarah’s care. Sarah’s ex husband’s new wife had abused them already when her husband was still present, probably as a revenge for the abuse she herself suffered in the hands of her husband. The children had told their father what their stepmother did but he didn’t believe them. When he disappeared the abuse escalated: she had tortured them with electricity and starved them. If Sarah hadn’t intervened I don’t know what had happened.
“They are so angry”, Sarah said. “And hungry. It’s like they hadn’t had food for weeks. You can’t believe how weak they are.”
“So what will you do now?” I asked when we were on the phone.
“I can’t do anything, Jenny. There is nowhere I can go.”
She can’t report the woman to any police authorities. There is hardly nowhere to take the children for psychological counselling. If her ex husband comes back and forces the children to return to their abusive stepmother, there is nowhere for Sarah to turn for legal help. She’s also no longer financially independent and has no control over her own life, she’s back in the hands of her own abusive family. In Syria, once a functioning country with a stable infrastructure, everything is collapsed.
When I speak to Sarah on the phone there is nothing I can say that will help her. That’s why I write about this on my blog. I want everyone to know what it’s like to be a woman or a child in Syria during this war. That’s all I can do.
In Kuwait women were given the right to vote and participate in elections as late as 2005, so when the news broke a few years back that the country would allow female prosecutors for the first time, this was to many a step forward. Kuwait is not as oppressive to women as some of their neighbouring countries – there’s no mandatory dress code for women, women are not banned from driving and there are fewer restrictions on work places for women than in Saudi Arabia. But it’s still behind many of the other Middle Eastern countries.
The other day the first batch of women prosecutors were sworn in, more precisely 22 of them, creating more headlines. It hadn’t been an easy path – Islamist MPs who opposed the women had delayed the process by several months, claiming that under Islamic Sharia law women cannot be judges, which they as prosecutors now have the possibility to be. In the end the new justice minister Yacoub Al-Sane (also a man) signed a decision to appoint the prosecutors, putting an end to the delay. After the women had been sworn in, MP Humoud Al-Hamdan held a press conference where he critiziced the decision and said that he and other Islamist MPs were to submit a draft law to ban the appointment of women judges, as this is against Islamic law.
Many others celebrated the event though and the group photo of smiling young women was shared widely online among Gulf people and women’s rights supporters, generating positive feedback but also comments from men such as “I can’t wait to be prosecuted in Kuwait!” and “They don’t look Kuwaiti, they must be Lebanese” (the ultimate insult for a Gulf girl).
I asked one of my male Kuwaiti friends what he thought of the women prosecutors and he gladly shared his views – on the condition that he could remain anonymous. My friend is not an activist, but he says he like to keep an eye on politics. His answer surprised me as I myself was very positive about the women prosecutors.
“I am not so excited” he says. “In 2005, I was super excited for women to get the ‘right’ of voting. But having a look into history will show something hidden. Before 2005, There was a lot of failed attempts for female activists for the right of voting. What was changed in 2005? It is external pressure. The government in Kuwait wanted to release this pressure by directing the members to vote for the right of the woman. Therefore, women were used to polish the authorities’ image to the West, and gaining this right was not because of local female activists.
The trick is using women to polish the image of the governments from the Western perspective, without allowing a real impact within the inside of the society. In all cases, what did women added in Kuwait after 10 years of gaining the right? We still see discrimination against women, less rights in the society etc.
The government today has a bad image because of funding the extremist groups all over the world, and it need to polish the image again. Therefore, women are the best tool to be used. I don’t feel that the society is pushing for more women rights. To see real impact, the change should come from the society, the average people. In fact I could say that using women this way is another way of abusing women in a completely patriarchal society. And we will never see any real impact to change the basic systematic violation of women rights.”
Let’s hope the appointment of these 22 women will be a step in the direction of real implementation of women’s rights and that this trickles down to the average people that my friend is talking about. So that the feedback for the next batch of prosecutors will generate more positive comments than sexist ones. At least they have male supporters. That’s something to cherish.
Photo credit: www.facebook.com/sultan.alqassemi
I’m reluctant to what kind of international support Iraq and Syria are needing in the ongoing crisis of ISIS, as I as most other people don’t want to see previous disasters repeated all over again. But tonight my friends the women’s right activists at Warvin Foundation for Women’s Issues in Iraqi Kurdistan e-mailed me about a petition that they have signed for the White House, where they ask them to take immediate action to rescue the kidnapped Yesidi Kurdish women from ISIS, and I had a look.
The petition says:
“We the… appeal to you to take immediate action to rescue the more than 1000 Ezidi Kurdish women who have been kidnapped by the monstrous ISIS terror group. The majority of women under ISIS control has been raped and is currently being traded on the market to serve as sex slave. We beg you take action and protect those woman’s glories as well as the rest of the women from those barbarous armed men.“
This isn’t some foreigners wanting to liberate women in the Middle East, it’s not a bombing campaign noone asked for. This is Iraqi women asking for help for their fellow citizens that are enslaved under conditions you don’t want to imagine. At least I don’t want to imagine. That’s why I decided to share this with you.
A few days ago the horrifying news about a young girl who was the victim of a honourkilling in Dohuk in Northern Kurdistan spread over the world. Dunya, a 15-year-old girl who was in an arranged marriage with a 45-year-old man, according to kurdishrights.org his name was Sleman Ziad Younis, had been killed by him and the photos of her mutilated body filled the internet.
These news are unfortunately not rare in Kurdistan. Violence against women is a wide spread phenomenon – I dare saying this as I have worked with women’s rights issues in the region – and many of these crimes are swept under the rug and forgotten. Only in 2011 domestic violence became illegal in Kurdistan and even though this legal change marked a great step forward, the process of actually implementing the law and change attitudes is very long, as always when a society is in a process of change and is developing from a troubled past. Unfortunately the change was not quick enough for Dunya.
But in the aftermath of the petrifying news something happened. Women’s rights groups – there’s quite a few of them, consisting of both men and women – started to call for a mobilization against what had happened. I actually first found out about this story when one of my male Facebookfriends who is a human rights activist changed his profile picture to the picture of a young Dunya. Progessive Kurdish media condemned the causes of the murder, not only the act itself; Dunya’s parents selling off their little girl to an old man, the society not taking actions against it. Events were being set up to demonstrate against violence against women and in support of the girls as Dunya. Yesterday May 29 the first event was held, a demonstration outside the Kurdistan parliament in Erbil called “Stand up for Dunya”.
I asked my Kurdish friend Camaran who went how he thought the event was, and he answered:
“Today I went to the civil protest that took place in front of the Parliament, and continued for an hour in which the civil servants and human right activists spoke about the ordeals that women experience in their daily life in Kurdistan.
Dunya has become the symbol of such brutality. A 15 years old child!
But I was generally disappointed at the number of participants… out of 2000 something people that responded to the event on Facebook, only around 150 people showed up.“
But even though Camaran was disappointed fewer people than expected showed up, the event marked an important change. Also the fact that he as a man was there and participated in the struggle, just like my other male friend who made Dunya’s photo his Facebook profile picture. Some years ago a similar sight would have been impossible.
Photo credit: nrttv. com