Entre Cineastas: Arab and Latin American Women's Film Festival

Wish I were there:

بين سينيمائيات

(بين سينيمائيات) هو مهرجان القاهرة الثاني لسينما المرأة العربية واللاتينية والذي يعقد في الفترة من 8 إلى 13 يونيو 2009 بمركز الإبداع في دار الأوبرا المصرية. و المهرجان هو جزء من مشروع "بين سينمائيات، برنامج تبادل سينما المرأة العربية واللاتينية". وهو مبادرة من شركة الإنتاج المصرية كلاكيت عربي والمؤسسة الثقافية كلاكيت لاتيني (إسبانيا). (بين سينمائيات) يحاول في عامه الثاني أن يقدم إلى الجمهور أفلاماً لم نتعود على رؤيتها في صالات السينما التجارية، وهي أفلام عربية وإسبانية ومن أمريكا اللاتينية وكلها مصنوعة من قبل النساء. إن الهدف الرئيسي هو التعرف على سينما تقدم بديلاً للطريقة التقليدية في التعامل مع المرأة، سينما تحاول أن تتخلص من النظرة النمطية ومن اللغة التي تكرس في حالات كثيرة عدم المساواة والتفرقة العنصرية والدينية والجنسية والثقافية، إنها سينما تساعد على إكتشاف وجهة نظر النساء، باعتبارهن صانعات للأفلام، فيما يحيط بهن من قضايا مختلفة في البلاد العربية وفي البلاد الناطقة باللغة الإسبانية. للحصول على برنامج المهرجان http://seefoundation.org/v2/images/ME_Agenda/entre_cineastas_2009_ar.pdf

============ (Entre Cineastas/Among filmmakers) (Entre Cineastas/Among filmmakers/بين سينيمائيات) is the 2nd Arab-Hispano-American Women Film Festival of Cairo, that will take place in Cairo from the 8th to the 13th of June 2009, @ the Artistic Creativity Center (Cairo Opera House Complex). The Festival is the result of a project initiated by Egyptian production company Klaketa Arabe and the Cultural Association, Klaketa Iberoamericana (Spain). Entre Cineastas or “Among filmmakers” is a cinema exchange program between Arab and Hispano-American countries that intend to offer the public some uncommon audiovisual productions created by women. The objective is to offer an alternative to the traditional representation of the woman; a space where they can represent themselves without stereotypes and avoiding the kind of discourse that contributes to ethnic, religious, sexual and gender discrimination. Check this link for the full program for the festival (dates & synopsis) http://seefoundation.org/v2/images/ME_Agenda/entre_cineastas_2009_en.pdf *************** The festival event-page on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=93411417058 Official website for the project (Entre Cineastas) http://www.entrecineastas.com/
Thanks Zainab
Read More

Al Fataah: Feminism and Journalism in the Making

A while back I went into the Diwan bookstore in Zamalek only to find out that a book that I had spent around two weeks proof reading for publication is finally out (though as expected my name is not mentioned in it). This book is a compilation of all the issues of Al Fataah (The Young Woman), the first ever Women’s magazine in Egypt (and most probably in the Arab world) which was published from November 1892 till March 1894 by Hind Nofel.

What is impressive about this magazine is not just that it provides insight into the birth and development of women’s rights movement in the country but it also provides insight into the birth and development of journalism. Also, the hundreds of articles it contains are very representative of the age from the too ornate and flowery language that uses too many synonyms and images to the strong class consciousness that lurks behind many of the op-eds.

The magazine contains everything that is thought to be of benefit to the making of an upright and enlightened new woman. There are autobiographies of important and influential women (most of whom are European royalty or intellectuals and interestingly the very first woman portrayed in the very first issue of the magazine is Queen Victoria!). Many articles are dedicated to the art of home making, etiquette and health and every once in a while you find glossy magazine prototype articles describing the weddings of daughters of Egyptian nobility and the contents of their new houses. There are even articles summarizing some of the wacko 19th century scientific theories on race.

My favorite articles are the op-eds in every issue, reading them you learn a lot about the contradictory conservative and liberal aspects that struggled for control within the minds of these early feminists. Thus, while for instance they strongly defended their belief that gender roles in society are manmade and not natural, you find them criticizing European and American suffragettes for wanting to trespass into the world of politics which is described as solely for men!

The women writing in the magazine show strong awareness of and ties with other contemporary women’s movements not only in Europe as expected but also in the USA. In fact, one of the magazine’s contributors, Estir Azhari, was invited and went to the 1893 Congress of Women that was held during the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

You can find the book, which was compiled and reprinted by the Women and Memory Forum as part of their goal to bring to light the underestimated size of women’s contributions to the Arab social and cultural history, at Diwan Bookstores in Zamalek and Heliopolis or at the headquarters of the WMF itself (83 Shehab St. Mohandesin, third floor). This compiled book also contains an interesting introduction by Professor Hoda Elsadda. However, in it the WMF made a few alterations to how some words are spelt to make them follow today’s modern standardized spelling (eg. In the 19th century many Arabs tended to spell anything with a hamza with a ya’).

If you are in the USA, you can find the original copies of the magazine at the Yale University Library.

Read More

Saudi Blogger Dead

Just found out (through Muslima Media Watch) about the sad sudden death of 25 year old Saudi blogger, Hadeel Alhodaif. (Hadeel in her childhood) Hadeel, owner of the blog, Heaven's Steps, was one of the leading and outspoken Saudi female bloggers.
Leading Saudi Woman Blogger Alhodaif Passes Away at 25 Ebtihal Mubarak, Arab News For 25 days supporters and friends of Saudi blogger Hadeel Alhodaif have waited anxiously, hoping that she would emerge from the coma she fell into unexpectedly. But on Friday these hopes died as the 25-year-old writer and social critic — known for fearlessly using her real name in her criticisms — passed away. ... ... ... When blogger Fouad Al-Farhan was detained late last year for openly defending a group of conservative academics that had been arrested for meeting and discussing the need for political reform, Alhodaif was the only Saudi woman who came out publicly calling for Al-Farhan’s immediate release. She started a “Free Fouad” website and created a forum on the social networking site Facebook to keep interested people up to date on the case. “She was truly courageous speaking to the BBC Arabic eloquently and bravely about Al-Farhan’s detention when most Saudi bloggers wanted only to be quoted anonymously,” said a fellow blogger, who preferred to be quoted anonymously.
To read the full Arab News article click here. If you have a facebook account you can join a group created in her memory here. An Arabic Wikipedia page of her is now also available. Rest in Peace Hadeel
Read More

Veil Your Lollipop (Part 2)

And the mission to cover up all the women of Egypt continues... but who is behind all these disgusting ads? After Ursula posted about the lollipop, I found this candy ad via Wael Abbas It says, "A veil to protect or eyes will molest" on the top while below it has a quote from the Quran that mentions how God wants people to walk in the right path while those who are sinful/lustful want you to deviate from it.
Read More

Dalal Mughrabi, the Freedom Fighter

Last week the name of Dalal Mughrabi was repeatedly mentioned in the news in connection with the Lebanese-Israeli exchange of prisoners (another victory for Hizbullah). 30 years after her death, Dalal’s corpse finally made it back to her family. But who is Dalal Mughrabi?

Dalal was one of the earliest known Palestinian freedom fighters. Born in 1958 in a refugee camp to a family that lived in Jaffa until 1948, when the Israelis won the war, killed and chased out hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and established their current state, Dalal was raised in Beirut and secretly joined the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization).

In 1978 just before she turned 20 and having had received proper military training, Dalal was chosen to carry out the Kamal Al ‘Odwan Operation (the Israelis called it the Coastal Road Massacre) in retaliation for the assassination of several PLO leaders one of which was Kamal Odwan.

According to the plan, Dalal and her squad were to land near a coastal road heading towards Tel Aviv, hijack one of the military buses driving in that direction and head for the Knesset and in the process kill as many soldiers and Israeli leaders as possible. The mission was never accomplished. Half way through the process the Israeli military learned of what happened and a chase took place on the coastal road leading to the death of several civilians in the cross fire. After many hours of a vicious street war in which tens of Israeli soldiers were killed the 11 Palestinian fighters ran out of ammunition and finally the Israeli army squad, led by Ehud Barak, shot all of them to death.

When journalists arrived to report on the incident Ehud Barak shot several bullets on the already dead Dalal for the benefit of photographers and then proceeded to disarm her from the empty ammunition belt she had on and pulled her by the hair to allow for a better view of her face!

While Dalal and many other Palestinian martyrs are celebrated in the Arab world for their heroic attempts at liberating Palestine, in mainstream American and right-wing European media, as with anything Palestinian, the Zionist Israeli point of view is the only one heard.

One look at the English results of a Google search on Dalal will show how she is described as a murderer, terrorist and at best an extremist separatist who killed Israelis for no reason at all. She is blamed for the death of several civilians who died in the cross fire, and the Israeli operation that followed hers (which led to the death of hundreds of unarmed Palestinians) is not seen as a brutal act of force but as a natural outcome to her operation. You see, when your country is colonized by people who mass-murder your people and steal their land, you are expected to just watch and do nothing or you are an evil, evil terrorist.

This is the only English post on Dalal that I found that is worth reading, though I have a few reservations to it. If you know of any other non-Zionist English articles on her please send me the link.

One final comment I want to add is that in her will, Dalal Mughrabi, asked that she be buried in her country, Palestine, after her death, why was her body returned in the exchange, I don't understand.

Read More

Saudis Turn Headlights on Male Guardianship

And the battle goes on...
By Sanna Negus WeNews correspondent Saudi women's rights activists are pressing for reforms to lift the sharp restrictions they face in their conservative society. Some believe the time has finally come and they will soon have the right to drive. Sixth in a series on women and Islam. DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia (WOMENSENEWS)--A woman drives a car in a grainy video posted on YouTube, her silhouette framed by a loose veil as she congratulates women on March 8, International Women's Day. She is Wajiha al-Huweidar, a Saudi women's rights advocate. "Obviously, I'm driving my car in a remote area," al-Huweidar says in Arabic. "Only in remote areas in Saudi Arabia are women allowed to drive, I'm sad to say. In cities--where they really need to drive--it is still forbidden." Hundreds of responses poured into YouTube: some praised her bravery, others called her a whore. The same day the video was posted, al-Huweidar and other activists presented a petition signed by 126 women to the Saudi interior minister, Prince Nayef Bin Abd al-Aziz. The signatories are women with driving licenses from other countries, offering to teach their countrywomen how to turn the wheel. In January the government signaled that the driving ban will be lifted, and many people seeking reforms in Saudi Arabia believe this is the year. In the meantime, it remains a lightning rod for women's rights activists who see it as a first step toward easing the rules of male guardianship that follow their every move. Al-Huweidar learned how to drive as a graduate student in Virginia over 10 years ago. For her, the driving ban is especially important because, unlike wealthy Saudi women, she cannot afford a chauffeur. "Driving is not the most important thing, but it is a symbol of freedom," al-Huweidar says from her home in Dhahran, a city in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province. "We want to achieve some kind of justification as humans." Women's driving was officially forbidden in 1932, when the authoritarian monarchy was established. Saudis observe a strict form of Wahabbism that sharply curtails women's freedom of movement under its interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law, which is observed across the legal system with the exception of secular tribunals for commercial disputes and complaints against government officials. Saudi Arabia's Sharia dictates that in order to travel a woman needs permission from her "mahram," a male guardian who is her husband or relative. The mahram is also necessary for education, marriage, financial transactions, having surgery; everything. In Saudi Arabia, women are never mature enough, legally speaking. "Our biggest problem is that we have no say in the biggest questions of our lives; we have no control over them but, rather, depend on the mahram," al-Huweidar says. "We want to correct this, but are starting from the simpler issues (such as driving) because they have nothing to do with Islam or taboos. They are rights taken away from women." Some theologians have voiced fears of women being harassed by men if they drive. Other influential religious scholars have pointed out that the driving ban is not based on Islam but on social beliefs. A February poll in the Arab News found that only 10 of 125 male respondents categorically rejected women behind the wheel.
Read More

First Ma'zouna in Egypt and the Muslim World

The best piece of news I heard on coming back to Egypt is that the first ever female "Ma'zoun" (the person who carries out the marriage ceremony in Islam) in Egypt and the Muslim world has been appointed by the family court of Al Sharqiyah governorate. 12000010000717710128468.jpg Amal Sulaiman, a lawyer who has a BA, diploma and MA in Law and Sharia applied to the job of Ma'zoun for the Qenayat city with 10 other male applicants and was granted the license for the job even though many other male ma'zouns and court officials either considered her application to be against Sharia or ridiculed her. Follow the link above for the full story in Arabic and if you want to know how people reacted to the news read the comments under the story, while many were supportive many others made disgusting male chauvinist comments like "I'll try not to confuse her with the bride".
Read More

Influential Women's Magazine Silenced in Iran

Iran has a feminist movement I truly envy. Hope its current crazy government wont succeed in putting an end to it like ours did fifty years ago! zanan-3489.jpg
By Maura J. Casey WeNews commentator Iran has just closed Zanan, an influential women's magazine that covered international politics, prisons, Islamic law; never chocolate cake. Maura Casey says the closure could be temporary; if not, it's a terrible loss. Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews. (WOMENSENEWS)--Iran's most influential women's magazine, Zanan, has become the latest victim of a government intent on censoring, harassing and imprisoning opponents, journalists in particular. Officials accused the monthly journal of damaging society by being too negative toward Iran and closed the publication Jan. 28. Zanan is hardly alone, of course. Iranian courts have used similar rationale to close many scores of newspapers and magazines in the last 10 years, particularly those that called for free speech and greater civil liberties. But Zanan, which means "women" in Farsi, was one of a kind; it was the only serious women's magazine in Iran and had a wide following, both in Iran and around the world. Zanan's crusading editor, Shahla Sherkat, who lives in Tehran, founded the magazine 16 years ago to explore serious topics that affect women in the Islamic Republic: politics, women in prison, international issues affecting women and the impact Islamic law has on women's lives. Sherkat also ran book reviews, stories about women in sports and health issues, among other topics.
Read More

There must be violence against women

Here is the typical misogynist argument we have to fight against everyday. Human rights and feminist NGOs aim at destroying family morality because they want women to report their abusive family members to the police!!
There must be violence against women

By: Maged Thabet Al-Kholidy majed_thabet@hotmail.com  
This title may sound strange, but it’s actually not just a way to attract readers to the topic because I really do mean what it indicates. Violence is a broad term, especially when used regarding women. In this piece, I want to shed light on those instances where violence against women is a must.First, we should know the meaning of the word violence. Longman’s Dictionary of Contemporary English defines violence as “behavior that is intended to hurt other people physically.” However, the term violence mustn’t be confused with other concepts and terms such as gender inequality or absence of women rights. Occasionally – if not daily – we hear about events occurring in Islamic and Arab societies. Some human rights organizations recently have attacked violent acts against women, standing against any type of violence – even that between a father and daughter – and citing the cases of some women as examples. Consequently, they offer solutions such as complaining to the police, taking revenge or leaving them men, who are either their husbands, fathers or brothers – with no exceptions. One such case involved a woman whose husband allegedly had beaten her. Without revealing the husband’s reasons for doing so, such human rights organizations immediately urged the wife to complain to the police and the courts, while at the same time generalizing the instance and other similar solutions to any type of violence. If a man and woman are husband and wife, the Qur’an provides solutions, firstly reaffirming any logical and acceptable reasons for such punishment. These solutions are in gradual phases and not just for women, but for men also. For men, it begins with abandoning the marital bed, by opting to sleep elsewhere in the house. After this, they may discuss the matter with any respected person for the husband’s or the wife’s family, who could be in a position to advise the wife. If this also does not work, then the husband yields to beating the wife slightly. They do this because of a misunderstanding in the Quran, as the word says Darban, which is commonly understood today as beating. However, in Classic Arabic it means to set examples or to announce and proclaim. The more accurate meaning of this last one is that the husband finally has to set forth, to make a clear statement or proclamation, and if these measures fail, then divorce is preferable. Similarly, wives may take actions such as abandoning the marital bed, following by leaving the husband’s home for that of their parents, brothers or any other relatives. They may do this more than once, but if such action fails, they may not continue to live with their husband and via their relatives, they may request a divorce. Despite such instructions, beating is considered a type of violence, according to human rights organizations, which urge women to complain to the police. I just wonder what kind of families our societies would have if Muslim women started doing this regarding their husbands. Relationships between fathers and daughters or sisters and brothers also provoke argument from human rights organizations, which propose the suggested solutions for all relationships. Personally, I don’t think fathers or brothers would undertake such behavior unless there was a reason for it. Fathers are responsible for their daughters’ behavior, but human rights organizations deny this too. Brothers also should take action regarding their sisters’ behavior, especially if their parents are too old or dead. If a daughter or sister makes a mistake – especially a moral one – that negatively affects the entire family and its reputation, what’s the solution by such organizations? According to them, women should complain to the courts about any type of violence against them. Likewise, should fathers and brothers complain to police if their daughters or sisters violate moral, Islamic or social norms? Fathers should handle their daughters via any means that suits their mistake; thus, is it better to use violence to a certain limit or complain to the police? Shall such women then complain to the police against their fathers or brothers? It’s really amazing to hear this.
Here is the rest of the "article".
Read More

Saudi Arabia Eases Laws on Solo Women

Ok, so I get why they have to show an ID to the hotel manager, but why do they have to register with local police for staying in a hotel!!!
The authorities in Saudi Arabia have decided to end a ban on unaccompanied women staying in the country's hotels. A woman can now stay in a hotel alone as long as she carries identification. Based on a royal decree, the move marks a break from religious codes requiring women to be accompanied by a male guardian at all times. The decree allowed the Ministry of Trade to outline new regulations simply requiring women to show photographic ID to hotel managers. This must then be registered with local police. The decision was reported by the local daily al-Watan newspaper, which is considered close to the Saudi government, on Monday.
Read More

Iman Mersal

A poet I just discovered and really liked:
Iman Mersal was born November 30, 1966 in Mit ‘Adlan, a small village in the northern Egyptian Delta. Her first poems were published in local poetry magazines while she was still a student in high school. Subsequently, she attended the University of Mansura, graduating in 1988 with honors in Arabic literature. From 1985 to 1992, she co-edited the independent feminist magazine, Bint al-Ard (Daughter of the Earth), which published the creative work of young female writers, as well as non-fiction articles on feminism and Islam. From 1988 until 1998, she lived in Cairo writing, editing, studying, and teaching Arabic literature. Mersal’s first book of poetry, Ittisafat (Characterizations, Dar al-Ghad, Cairo) debuted in 1990. A stellar collection of measured verse, Ittisafat was enthusiastically reviewed by the renowned novelist and literary critic Edward Kharrat in the London-based al-Hayat (September 1, 1991). Following its publication, she stopped writing for several years. Her second book Mamarr Mu‘tim Yasluh li Ta‘allum al-Raqs (A Dark Passageway Is Suitable for Learning to Dance, Dar Sharqiyat al-Qahira, Cairo, 1995) took a new direction, forming part of an avant-garde poetic movement. Mersal and other poets of the “90s generation,” adopted new genre that came to be known as qasidat al-nathr or prose poem. The new form freed them from the grandiose rhetoric and large ideological focus of modern Arabic poetry, enabling them to explore the details of daily life. Because of resistance from the mainstream, the nascent movement found its home in independent magazines—often small and struggling—including al-Garrad (The Locusts) and al-Kitaba al-Ukhra (The Other Writing)...
[Here is one of her poems recited by her] Thanks SP
Read More

Bosla Magazine

While reviewing everything I have posted or forgot to post about this year I realized there was one thing I should not have missed and that is this year's issue of Al Bosla, an Egyptian radical democratic annual publication in Arabic. So far Al Bosla has published four issues each of which deal with one topic that has a strong impact on the Egyptian social, political and economic situation. Each of these topics is dealt with from all possible angles through a democratic leftist/secular perspective. One thing I really like about Al Bosla is that, unlike other "know-it-all" local publications that recycle dominant misconceptions and call it "analysis", it is actually written by people who know what they are talking about. This year's issue is about Egyptian women. It tackles issues from the political (the position of women in society in the light of Islamists' struggle with the state) to the personal (the female body) and from the cultural (image of women in the cinema and theatre) to the literary (new feminist writings on the web). In addition to the main topic a few articles tackle issues of foreign policy, religion and leftist movements in Iraq. The second, third and fourth issues are all available online and if you are interested in local Egyptian politics I strongly recommend you read the previous issues as well.
Read More

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated!

Couldn't believe it when I heard it. I really appreciated and respected her.

Benazir Bhutto killed in attack

Benazir Bhutto at the rally on 27 December 2007

Benazir Bhutto had been addressing rallies in many parts of Pakistan

Pakistani former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated in a suicide attack. Ms Bhutto - the first woman PM in an Islamic state - was leaving an election rally in Rawalpindi when a gunman shot her in the neck and set off a bomb. At least 20 other people died in the attack and several more were injured. President Pervez Musharraf has urged people to remain calm but angry protests have gripped some cities, with at least 11 deaths reported. Security forces have been placed on a state of "red alert" nationwide. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack. Analysts believe Islamist militants to be the most likely group behind it.

Map: Scene of the assassination

Ms Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), had served as prime minister from 1988-1990 and 1993-1996, and had been campaigning ahead of elections due on 8 January.
Benazir Bhutto's coffin leaves hospital in Rawalpindi

Benazir Bhutto's coffin has now been taken from the hospital

It was the second suicide attack against her in recent months and came amid a wave of bombings targeting security and government officials. Nawaz Sharif, also a former prime minister and a political rival, announced his Muslim League party would boycott the elections. He called on President Musharraf to resign, saying free and fair elections were not possible under his rule. The United Nations Security Council held an emergency session and later said it "unanimously condemned" the assassination.
This is what happens when military men rule a country.
Read More

Exported and Exposed

HRW Reports on Abuses against Sri Lankan Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates
Even if I went to bed at 3:30 a.m., I had to get up by 5:30 a.m… I had continuous work until 1:00 a.m., sometimes 3:00 a.m.... Once I told the employer, “I am a human like you and I need an hour to rest.” She told me, “You have come to work; you are like my shoes, and you have to work tirelessly.” The conditions were getting worse. I told the employer that I wanted to leave but she would not take me to the agency…. [Her husband] would say, “You want to go, you want to go?” and he would pull my hair and beat me with his hands. He went to the kitchen and took a knife and told me he would kill me, cut me up into little pieces, and put the little pieces of me in the cupboard… By this time they owed me four months’ salary…. There are more and more innocent women going abroad, and planning to go. It is up to the women to care of themselves. The [Sri Lankan] government gets a good profit from us; they must take care of us. They must do more to protect us. —Kumari Indunil, age 23, a former domestic worker in Kuwait
Desperate to support themselves and their families, and with few viable options at home, over 125,000 Sri Lankan women migrate to the Middle East as domestic workers each year. Their earnings have made a significant contribution to the Sri Lankan economy, yet many migrant women resort to this survival strategy at profound personal cost. Unscrupulous labor agents and subagents in Sri Lanka often charge illegal, exorbitant recruitment fees and deceive women about their prospective jobs. In Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), labor laws exclude domestic workers, who are typically confined to the workplace and labor for excessively long hours for little pay. In some cases, employers or labor agents subject domestic workers to physical abuse, sexual abuse, or forced labor. While current figures likely underestimate the scale of abuse, the Sri Lankan government reports that 50 migrant domestic workers return to Sri Lanka “in distress” each day, and embassies abroad are flooded with workers complaining of unpaid wages, sexual harassment, and overwork. The exploitation that migrant domestic workers confront is not secret, and the media in the region regularly carries stories of horrific abuse. This stream of news articles includes such headlines as, “Broken Finger and Wrist Bone Tell Tale of Torture,” “Lankan Maid’s Hand ‘Burnt for Cooking Tasteless Food,’” “Woman Tortured, Killed Maid for Being ‘Lazy,’’’ and “Lankan Housemaid ‘Forced to Eat Pet Cat’s Food.’”1 Despite this awareness, the governments of Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the UAE have failed to extend even standard labor protections to these workers. Sri Lanka has yet to rein in a competitive and corrupt recruitment industry, and has not created adequate support services or effective complaint mechanisms for abused workers. The countries of employment have balked at guaranteeing rights that all other workers enjoy, including rest days, limits on working hours, and in some countries, a minimum wage.
I visited Lebanon only once and I loved the country and the people (haven't been to any of the other countries). The only thing that I found at first strange then a bit disturbing was how middle class families with children under 13 always went out followed by an entourage of maids and nannies. Can't say I was surprised when I read this report. Thanks FT
Read More

Thanks Sheikh Fadlallah

Aaah! Finally my load of work is almost completely done and I can now lie back and relax and blog. Can't believe it has been almost a month since I last posted anything! Happy Eid and Merry Christmas everybody! 2007 is almost over and for this reason I'll be posting round ups of the year from now till new year eve. The first person I want to talk about and thank from all my heart is Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah who, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, issued a fatwa that is very supportive of the basic rights of women as human beings and that gave me back some of my faith in the possibility of ending the patriarchy that dominates our culture and understanding of religion. In his fatwa Sheikh Fadlallah, who is well known for his position against honor crimes that are widespread in "democratic" Jordan and Syria, begins by acknowledging that though women have regained many of their rights they still suffer from discrimination and violence. He then proceeds to describe the different types of violence that women suffer from: domestic violence (forced to marry, beaten up, raped, sworn at, deprived of marital rights, thrown out of the house, not allowed to continue with her education), social violence (honor crimes, low pay at work)... and so on. After this overview he moves on to issue his fatwa in which he states that since Islam looks at women as equal to men, and a marriage in Islam is based on "Ma'rouf" (tenderness, respect and love in treating each other) hence, no man has the right to control an adult woman (wilaiyah) and no husband is allowed to swear at, beat up or force his wife to do what she doesn't want to do. Accordingly, if a husband beats up his wife she is allowed to beat him back in self defence and if he deprives her of her marital rights she has the right to deprive him of whatever they agreed on in the marriage contract. An interesting point mentioned in the fatwa is that in no place in Islamic texts was it mentioned that women have to do housework so a man should be grateful that his wife is volunteering to take care of the household. Here is the link to the full Arabic fatwa. For an English, French or Persian version click here. As expected, the fatwa pissed off the Islamist book burners (to borrow my favourite Angry Arab expression) of the Arab world and weirdo "human rights" male activists who ignored everything mentioned in the fatwa and focused only on how dare he tell women to beat their husbands back and continued to vehemently defended the "benefits" of beating the wife. Sheikh Fadlallah's fatwa was described as "abnormal" by people who actually spend hours of their lives deciding on how severe/light a beating of the wife should be when she doesn't behave as she is told to! Anyway, what we really need for the time being is more sheikhs like Fadlallah and hopefully, some time in the future, the day will come when Muslims world wide would use their brains and commensense inleading their lives instead of waiting for muftis to tell them what to do.
Read More

Justice in Al-Saudia

So much for Saudi justice:
An appeal court in Saudi Arabia has doubled the number of lashes and added a jail sentence as punishment for a woman who was gang-raped. The victim was initially punished for violating laws on segregation of the sexes - she was in an unrelated man's car at the time of the attack. When she appealed, the judges said she had been attempting to use the media to influence them. The attackers' sentences - originally of up to five years - were doubled.
Thanks SP
Read More

Celebrating 100 years of Frida Kahlo

"In a comparable way, when she painted her pictures, it was as if she was drawing, painting or writing words on her own skin. If this were to happen there would be a double sensitivity, because the surface would also feel what the hand was tracing - the nerves of both leading to the same cerebral cortex... With her small brushes, fine as eyelashes, and with her meticulous strokes, every image she made, as soon as she fully became the painter Frida Kahlo, aspired to the sensibility of her own skin. A sensibility sharpened by her desire and exacerbated by her pain." John Berger. image.jpg 2888200474.JPG kahlo-04.jpg To learn more about Frida Kahlo visit her official website: http://www.fridakahlo.it/
Read More

Iraqi Refugees Turn to Prostitution

So much for "Operation Iraqi Freedom":
By OMAR SINAN, Associated Press Writer Wed Oct 24, 3:24 AM ET DAMASCUS, Syria - The Iraqi women jump onto the stage at the al-Rawabi club, their long black hair swinging, their young faces caked with makeup. Iraqi pop music booms out as they sway and dance under strobe lights. Nearby, a woman nicknamed At'outa meets her paying dates — men who hand over $90 a night for companionship and sex. This club in northwest Damascus represents one of the most troubling aspects of the Iraqi refugee crisis — Iraqi women and girls who are turning to prostitution to survive in countries that have taken them in but won't let them or their families work at most other jobs. No reliable figures of Iraqi prostitutes exist, but an increase in the number of Iraqi women seen in recent months in clubs and on the streets of Damascus, Amman and other cities suggests the problem is growing as more Iraqis flee their country's violence. Most of the Iraqi women at the al-Rawabi club appeared to be in their late teens and early 20s although some were older. While some danced on stage, about a half-dozen others strolled around the tables, smiling at men and inviting offers to sit down for a drink. Ayman al-Halaqi, a club manager here, said Iraqi dancers are cheaper to hire than Syrians. Back home, even dancing in a skimpy costume would be considered shameful. Iraqi women who go beyond that can earn 10 times more from a single encounter with a client than by working a full day as a housemaid. At the al-Rawabi club, the usual customers are mostly Iraqi or Syrian men, but summer brought the annual flood of visitors from Persian Gulf states and Saudi Arabia. Bassam Abdul-Wahid, a 27-year-old Iraqi who runs an import-export business in Damascus, was partying with three male companions at the club one evening. Sporting three gold rings and a flashy gold bracelet, he motioned for more whiskey as two slender young Iraqi women in tight jeans slipped into chairs at the men's table. Abdul-Wahid, a regular at al-Rawabi, joked that he likes his table to be "an example of Iraqi generosity." As the liquor flowed, the women laughed and exchanged "high-fives" with the men — but refused to talk with a reporter. At'outa, a blonde in her late 30s whose nickname means "little kitten" in Arabic, agreed to tell her story but refused to give her real name for fear neighbors or her children would learn what she does. Last year, she fled Iraq with her son and two daughters, all teenagers, after her husband was gunned down by militants in Baghdad's volatile Ghazaliyah district. After a few months in Syria, her late husband's savings were running out. She tried working as a tailor and a housemaid, but could not make ends meet, she said. Then, a man offer to cancel a $250 debt in exchange for sex. Since then, she has regularly met other dates at the al-Rawabi club, where sex earns her enough money to pay the bills.
Thanks FT
Read More

ٌWomen fighters at War

In commemoration of the 6 October 1973 war in which Egypt was able to regain sovereignity over Sinai I would have liked to talk in detail about a woman who has gone into what up till now is a male dominated field, the army. This woman is Rawia Attiyah whom i introduced previously as the first woman to become an MP. Unfortunately what little I found about her as a soldier was not enough to write much more than a couple of sentences though a lot abounds on her life as an MP. Apart from her political career Rawia was one of the very few women who joined the "liberation army" as the Egyptian army was called back in the nationalist movement days and fought against the triple (British- french- Israeli) aggression on Suez. She was a lieutenant and worked as a communications officer and during the time she served in the army she was shot at in the right leg. She also participated in the 1973 war and received honorary recognition for her heroism. Until I came across her name and saw some old worn out pictures of women in the 60s with guns on their shoulders i had thought that women in the Egyptian army never did fight but just held office jobs. Now I'm really intrigued by the idea of women doing actual fighting in the Egyptian army and would like to learn more about her and other women like her. If anyone knows anything about her please let me know. Does anyone know of any books on the issue?
Read More