Photo: First Women’s Rights Demonstration in Egypt

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This photo is from the Facebook site King Farouk of Egypt, a site that’s dedicated to showing photos and stories from ancient Egypt. This photo is allegedly portraying the first demonstration for women’s rights in Egypt, on March 9, 1919.

The site is reminding us of hopeful times, when the Middle East and North Africa region wasn’t bleeding. I believe we all need it right now.

Dear Western Activist for a Middle Eastern Cause!

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Are you into a Middle Eastern political or social cause that you have found yourself 100% dedicated to? Congratulations to discovering a new part of the world! Not many people who travels start to indulge in the culture and language of another country.

However, there are some side effects I have seen consistently with the, mostly young, sometimes older, Western activists who throw themselves into a Middle Eastern cause. If I have met you somewhere, some of your traits might resemble this person:

You are completely in love with the new country, the new culture and the cause you have discovered. The reason for the cause – a conflict, a social injustice – has probably existed for long but for you it’s new, and so be it. For you, it’s a new situation, and you apply that to the cause. Therefore, the cause is new.

Injustices in your own country, at home, don’t matter half as much to you. To be active in the local politics or volunteer in your local community is not as exciting, even though you might be able to provide much more input in a country where you already knew the context, the culture and the language. No, it’s the across-border-thingy that attracts you. The Middle Eastern people need to be saved. They are oppressed.

Could there be nuances in or two sides to a conflict? Nah, that doesn’t interest you. You are 100% pro or against. Local politics, peace negotiations, revision of the law – all this isn’t that interesting, if it isn’t involving what you can recognise as pure, angry activism.

You despise the Gulf countries and are in love with the rest. Dubai, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are oppressive countries where other kinds of Westerners go to make money. There might be plenty of human rights groups in these countries, but that doesn’t catch your attention.

All injustices are the fault of US, Europe, or Israel. There is little responsibility with the national governments or the hardcore religious groups that overthrow any attempt to democracy. The West is to blame for everything. The West is all over racist. You don’t have statistics that will back this up, but statistics is nothing that matters to you anyhow.

The women’s rights situation you either overlook, you become uncomfortable if another activist points out the systematic oppression of women in the country or region you are dedicated to. Or you might make this your own cause, you take it on yourself to educate and liberate the oppressed women in the Middle East, ignoring the many local women’s rights groups that is, patronising the Middle Eastern women by making them need your help. You might even create a Facebook page where you undress in support of the women of the Middle East. Would a Middle Eastern woman undress to support her sisters in the West? Probably not. But that doesn’t cross your mind.

You have very clear opinions on the hijab. It’s either sexy, you try it on in the mirror before you travel to a Middle Eastern country (note: in most Middle Eastern countries it’s not mandatory), you have postcards with photographs of women in hijabs and AK4s stuck to your bedroom wall, and you dress in one on occasions and in places even when it’s not needed. Or it’s oppressive, and you do everything you can to find evidence that justifies this cause.

When hanging out with Middle Eastern friends that you’ve made in your city back home, you have lower standards than you would have with friends of your own nationality. Did a man you hang out with crack a sexist joke? Do you know that he specifically treated a woman you know badly? You forgive him, because he is from the Middle Eastern country you adore. He still needs to learn, as if he has no brain of his own, as if there weren’t men in his country that could behave properly.

Dear Western activist for a Middle Eastern cause: if you read this and you feel targeted, please don’t get too mad with me. If you feel targeted, spend some time to think why and how being an activist for a foreign cause without seeing the full aspects of it, can be problematic and reinforce stereotypes. You see, this text is aiming the problematic aspects of activism when applied to a foreign country, in the context of post-colonialism. And you know what else? I used to be where you are, myself, once upon a time.

Photo credit: brown fox.org

The Death of a Woman – the Case of Farinaz Koshravani

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Farinaz Koshravani

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

Painting: Girls under Islamic State

The Kurdish artist Rostam Aghala, whose art I have shared before, has pictured women’s suffering in the hands of the terrorists in Islamic State. He wanted to share it with me for me to share it on my site, for the world to see. Rostam uses the Arabic acronym “Daesh” to name Islamic State.

“Girls under Esideat (Daesh)” by Rostam Aghala

Photo copyright: Rostam Aghala

Inauguration of Iraq’s First Female Mayor in Baghdad

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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”.

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Photo credits: https://www.facebook.com/Baghdad1

First Iraqi Female Mayor Elected

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Thikra Awash

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 @SAijaz_