I have already written a few articles about Saudi Arabia, and today I am sharing with you the first anti-domestic violence ad ever in this country governed by Sharia Law. It is a real important step forward for the protection of women in Saudi Arabia. Let’s hope that it is only a start.
The Kingdom of Saudia Arabia has launched its first campaign against violence towards women. A simple advertisement : a woman wearing the hijab, we only see her eyes, one is blackened and bloody. The slogan is direct: “Some things can’t be covered – fighting women’s abuse together.”
Backed by the King Khalid Charitable Foundation, he explains on his website that ” The phenomenon of battered women in Saudi Arabia is much greater than is apparent on the surface. It is a phenomenon found in the dark. We want to achieve justice for all women and children exposed to abuse in all parts of the Kingdom.” This first advert must encourage first of all Saudis to report cases of violences in Saudi Arabia.
It’s a real progress in a country where women are almost non-existent as they cannot do anything without the permission of a male relative because of Sharia law.
“The King Khalid Foundation is also working on further projects to reduce victimisation, effectively dealing with violence and abuse in order to provide further legal protection for women and children. Last Year, the Foundation also held programmes and training for women, which focussed on empowerment, management and active participation in development.” (Source : Blessed Islam)
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Report in 2012 ranked Saudi Arabia 131st out of 134 countries for gender equality. So there are still a lot of work to undertake. But we all hope that this campaign will start to smooth the mindset for positive change.
“I am with the uprising of Arab women because I want my daughter to have the life my sisters and mother wanted but couldn’t get.”
The Iranian Parliament recently issued a statement that they regard the law prohibiting marriage for girls under 10 as un-Islamic and illegal. According to Parliament member Mohammad Ali Isfenani, “We must regard nine as being the appropriate age for a girl to have reached puberty and qualified to get married.”
Over the past few weeks, over 75 girls under 10 were forced to marry much older men. Legalizing this practice would effectively legalize sex between a young child and an over-18 adult.
Nine year olds cannot understand and therefore can’t enter the “strong covenant” of marriage outlined in the Quran. More importantly, their bodies are clearly not ready for sex, let alone child bearing. Many young girls have died from bleeding as a result of being forced into early sex and childbirth. Please sign the petition to tell the Iranian Parliament that child marriage should be illegal!
Over the last year, hundreds of people, children, women have already died in Syria… Bachar Al-Assad has been closing his eyes in view of this awful and bloody situation in his own country! So has Asma Al-Assad! But is high time Asma to stand up, to speak out and to care about your people! Stop being afraid and please act for all these dead innocent children!
You are the wife of a ruthless ‘criminal’, but first of all you are a woman and a mother of young children! You are supposed to be the voice of all Syrian women! You must take responsibility! Stop protecting your own life and your own confort, go fighting for your people and stop the violence against women and children!
Women, Men, everyone around the world, be yourself involved in the protection of Human Rights by signing this petition : Asma Al-Assad: Stop the bloodshed in Syria
Hier, nous écrivions que le sort de la journaliste du Figaro était encore incertain, ce soir c’est avec soulagement que nous apprenons que “Edith Bouvier et William Daniels sont actuellement en sécurité en territoire libanais”.
(William Daniels, son confrère et photographe).
Source Europe 1: Les journalistes français “en sécurité” au Liban
Two years ago on June 20th Neda Agha-Soltan, an innocent young woman was shot during the protests in Iran following the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Since that day, she has been seen as a powerful international symbol of the Iranian struggle. Iranian protesters all around the world started wearing T-shirt with Neda’s face and brandishing placards with her face on them.
Neda’s name in Farsi means « voice »: the voice and the spirit of the Iranian Revolution. From her youngest age, Neda was already a rebel and she had the strong character to refuse bans or control. For instance, she fought with school authorities to avoid wearing the tchador and she won that battle. She was the first girl at school not to wear it. She always used to say : « why you don’t really tell people what you think? » She was very brave and she was not scared of anything. However she sadly used to say: « If we live in this country, we cannot live as human beings » plus « as a woman, I can’t even go outside without being covered up.» Neda’s father was very proud of his daughter: « there was not fear in her eyes, I respected her so much for her courage ».
In Iran, women risk a lot if they are seen in public with a man who is not related to them. This is why her hair and body must be always covered every time she is outside, even on the beach. However, in some major cities, women wear colourful headscarves or show a little bit of their hair. But they risk a humiliating arrest at anytime by the police or the notorious Bassijdi Militia.“In many parts of the country, being dressed up in black is the norm. As a woman, you have to disappear in the public eye, you cannot be. The more you attract attention to yourself, the more you are targeted because you are supposed not to be, you are supposed to be invisible”, explains Professor Roya Borounmand. Thus, the control of the regime over women’s body in Iran is a direct attack to their freedom and dignity. The law is very strict for women in many different ways, not only in terms of dress. For instance, they cannot get married without the consent of their father or paternal grandfather. Divorce is the exclusive right of the husband and they automatically have the right to keep the children over 7 years of age, or even younger if the mother marries again. Basically: “when you remarry your lose your child”.
The value of woman’s life is half of man’s life in Iran.
If a woman in Iran lays charges against a man for violence and if he denies, she will be accused of lies: she has no chance of obtaining convictions against the man. Even worse, she could be incriminated for bringing false testimonials. Additionally, Iran has the highest rate of execution in the world as a proportion of the population of the country (see Death Sentences and Executions 2010, a document by Amnesty International). The death penalty is imposed for adultery, possession of drugs, homosexual behaviour or even non-violent protest. There is another striking difference between boys and girls: the age of criminality for a girl is 8 years old whereas it is 14 years old for a boy. If a little girl is sentenced to death, she might go to jail until she is 18 years old to await her execution.
As the video documentary tells us about Neda’s life, she was married to a man she loved in 2004 when she was 21. They were together for almost four years but then they divorced because of cultural differences: he was from the North whereas she was from Teheran. She used to read forbidden books such as The Last temptation of the Christ, by Nikos Kazantzakis. Most of the books she read were by nature considered subversive by the regime. She was very curious and she had a mind willing to know and learn. She went to the University of Teheran to study Islamic philosophy. Before entering into University, women are inspected to check if they have make-up or if they are well dressed according to the rules of the regime. But she quickly gave up some of her courses because, as she told her family, the God they are teaching at University is different from the God she has known since she was a kid. She said that the God they were presenting was a God of revenge whereas the God she knew was a compassionate and loving God. She had the thought that the regime had confiscated religion and turned it into an ideology, they deprived Islam of everything that makes religion human. Neda dreamt about living outside of Iran even only for one day. Therefore, she started to go to a language course to learn Turkish. Neda visited Turkey a few times working as a tour guide, and she enjoyed beeing free to act and dress up as she wished. Neda loved dancing and was keen on the singer Googoosh. She learnt Arabic dance when she could be free behind closed doors at her house back in Iran. Like many girls in the world, Neda was just dreaming about fashion, being able to live the way she wanted to live, reading the books she wanted to and giving love.
Neda is portrayed as a heroine with exceptional courage and strength.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected as the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran in June 2009 even if the whole process was suspect from the beginning of the vote. According to this documentary, he was paying people to vote for him and promised to build schools, roads all over the country (construction work were begun but quickly abandoned when Ahmadinejad was re-elected). He claimed to poor people: “we promise to bring water to your village”. According to Professor Ali Ansari (Professor of Iranian History at University of St.Andrews), it was an election under the rules established by the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, for the first time in Iran, there was a debate preceding the vote accepted by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Consequently, the Young generations were hoping that something was changing in their country, as was Neda. They were celebrating that debate in the streets already saying “Ahmadinejad bye bye”. Neda’s sister tearfully said: “It’s very sad when you see this joyful week and what finally happened”. The atmosphere in the week was euphoric, people really thought that the situation could change. It was a non-violent demonstration down the streets. During the vote, suspicion started. In some vote offices, there was no representation for the opposite candidates, people could only find Ahmadinejad’s name. Later on, the Bassidji militia started a massive arrest of political activists all over the country. Without being a big surprise, Ahmadinejad was elected with 60% of the votes. Neda was very angry about that election: the election was fake. This is why the day after the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Neda joined the people in the protest. She thought that Iranian people were insulted. Millions of people on June 15th demonstrated peacefully, displaying their disagreement in the streets. All the categories of the people were featured in the crowd: men, women, young people, religious, non-religious, families, very old people. Everybody was there to claim their protest in silence. The participation of women was absolutely exceptional and they were at the forefront of the protest. Neda symbolised a generation: she was a young girl trying to get more freedom. Neda was in the protest everyday. One day though, three Bassidji women approached her and said: “Dear, please don’t come up looking so beautiful because the Bassidji men target beautiful girls and they will shoot you”. Beauty is a danger to these fundamentalist men. They cannot control themselves in front of beauty and they are scared that by looking at beauty they will lose their relationship with God. “If you look at the beauty, the devil will come to your mind” think some men as explains the Iranian photographer Reza Deghati. So as these men cannot control themselves, they prefer killing the temptation.
On June 16th, 4 days after the election, violence was starting to show up not from the demonstrators but from the police. Therefore, Iranian and in particular foreign journalists were clearly not welcome to stay, they were beaten by Ahmadinejad’s men. Nevertheless, thanks to Youtube and social media networks in general, people became citizen journalists and posted videos of what was really happening in the streets and the violence from the regime of Ahmadinejad. People started to say: “Our leader is a dictator, you should be removed”, “Death to the dictator”. Neda’s mother did not want her daughter to go protesting again because it was getting more and more dangerous but Neda told her mum: “I have to go, I have to go”. Everyone in the streets that day were clearly declaring war on the Islamic republic of Iran and were risking violent consequences from the regime itself. Neda knew all the risks but she was not afraid. Neda called her mother every half an hour to reassure her and said at some point: “it’s like hell, I’ve never seen so many government forces in my life before.” A few minutes after talking to her mother on the phone, the worst happened: Neda was shot in her chest. No one could save her explained a doctor who was with her that day. It was such a tragic moment and no one could help this young and innocent woman, Neda Agha-Soltan. A few weeks later, the Iranian regime first said that she went to Greece to hide herself, then they said she was killed by a BBC journalist or even by a CIA agent.
The Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou wrote: “Our dignity has been bartered, we had all the words in the world, yet we did not utter the only word that matters: FREEDOM”.
Rest in Peace Neda
What comes to your mind when you think about women in Saudi Arabia?
No rights? No freedom of speech? No freedom to be who they want to be?
Have you already thought about their taste for fashion and beauty? It might sound a bit odd to think that Saudi women do like clothes, lingerie, and being well dressed. Saudi women are part of the modern world in their own unique ways; they have access to the physical trapping of modernity: mobile phones, TV, fast-food but they still live and hope that one day they will have the guarantee of civil rights for all.
Here is an interesting photo from the photographer Shawn Baldwin representing the juxtaposition of globalization and traditions, and the obvious separation between women and men in Saudi society.
First of all, it is important to understand the situation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: a major player in world affairs and within the Middle East. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a monarchy the constitution of which is based on the Sharia Law (Islamic law – Sharia) that regulates the private and public lives of the whole population as the it deals with many aspects of day-to-day life, including politics, economics, banking, business, contracts, family, sexuality, hygiene and social issues. Exposed to globalization, Saudi Arabia is concerned about its future and its place within the business world. This is why Saudi Arabia is becoming more and more involved in the process of globalisation and has emerged as one of the Middle East’s key global leaders with a more open economy. For instance, it is very common to see young Saudi business men in their traditional outfits with the latest trendy mobile phones and high-tech laptops on the terrace of a café. Consequently Riyad, the capital is the amalgam of a very traditional and Bedouin ancestral lifestyle and the rise of a modern world where monumental shopping malls, luxury boutiques and the worldwide fast-food chain McDonals’s are located. In addition, “fifty years ago, Riyadh was a city of mud houses […] Today, the center of the city is wireless and has Starbucks, Saks Fifth Avenue and Baskin-Robbins.” (The (Not So) Eagerly Modern Saudi)
However, even if Saudi Arabia has been opening itself over the last decade, the position of women in Saudi Arabian society is still a complex and frequently misunderstood issue. It is certainly true that from the Western view, the role of women in Saudi Arabia shows sharp cultural differences. In current Saudi society, women have almost no rights (they are not allowed to vote, to drive, to make decisions…) and the government even “continues to treat women as perpetual minors” (Human Rights Watch). The pressure of Islamic extremism is really felt when it comes to the way women have to dress up and the behavior in public and private area that they can or cannot display. The development of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has brought opportunities for women in education and employment. In 1960, the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia undertook the introduction of a national education program for girls. By the mid-1970s, about half of all Saudi Arabian girls were attending school. Five years later, education was made available to all Saudi girls and it appears, moreover, that women receive an excellent cosmopolitan education. There are now important women physicians, professors, journalists, and business owners. But, it is important to know that it is only a very small percentage of women who have access to these kind of jobs and who are allowed to choose what they want to do themselves. When they express their desires to work, to be allowed to do so, their families have to give their consent. Success is not possible “without a father and husband who have supported her every step of the way” (Saudi women workers). Regarding private life and more precisely marriage, Saudi women are almost never allowed to select for themselves their husbands. Further, at home, women totally depend on their husbands and always need their agreement when they want to do something (going out with friends, shopping…).However, it appears that women in Riyadh can have access to a shopping center for women a few times a week where women are not only the consumers but also the sales clerks. In this very different mall, women can watch TV, can look at magazines, can try on clothes in fitting rooms and even take off their abaya (long black dress). In addition to their taste for fashion, they enjoy wearing lingerie, as they explain, the husbands want them to be sexy and attractive in their private life inside the house. Therefore it is extremely embarrassing for Saudi women when they have to deal with the man working the lingerie shop to talk about the size or the colour of their underwear. Consequently, females in Saudi Arabia require lingerie departments to hire women staff to avoid gender-mixing. (Saudi Women Call for Female-Only Staff in Hospitals and Women Stores)
Here is a very good documentary presenting a typical day into the life of a Muslim wife in Saudi Arabia. Basically, according to the lady in this video below, Saudi women are happy about who they are, what they do regarding Islam religion, Saudi women are very fashionable and love to dress up.
“Saudi Arabia does not like dramatic change (…) so society needs to be prepared and ready before women are allowed to drive?” explains that woman in the documentary above. For a country that is proud of its advance within globalization with respect to its traditions and its religion, is it not finally time to give women their rights and a real identity out of her family?
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- First time ever at the Olympic Games: Two women competing under the Saudi flag!