Syrian Women Burned a Burqa after Being Freed From the Islamic State
August 3, 2016
Women in the Syrian city of Manbij celebrated their liberation from the Islamic State by burning a Burqa, the full-body covering they had been forced to wear in public under the militant group’s rule.
In a video released by the Syrian Kurdish news agency ANHA, a crowd cheers as a woman waves a swath of black fabric and sets it on fire.
The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) — a US-backed alliance comprised of the powerful Kurdish YPG militia and its Arab allies — seized control of more than 70 percent of the northern Syrian town over the weekend, following a months-long offensive.
Restrictive dress codes are strictly enforced in areas controlled by the Islamic State, and women have previously been seen celebrating their freedom when the group is forced to flee. In June, Reuters reported that Souad Hamidi, 19, tore off the face-covering veil she had been forced to wear since 2014 and replaced it with her red head scarf after her village in northern Syria was recaptured by the SDF.
“They would punish people who did not follow their rules, sometimes forcing them to stay in dug-out graves for days,” Hamidi said. “Since they (SDF) took control, we are living a new life.”
Manbij, which is within the Aleppo governorate, fell to IS in 2014 and was strategically important to the group because of its proximity to the Turkish border, making it a crucial route for supplies and foreign fighters. It also became a hub for trafficking antiquities and artifacts looted from archaeological sites, such as the ancient city of Palmyra.
The UN and human rights groups have documented the systematic abuses, abduction and rapes suffered by women and girls under IS, particularly among the minority Yazidi community in northern Iraq. The group also relies on women to recruit foreign fighters by sharing propaganda online of life under the group. A manifesto published by IS in 2015 said girls could be married from the age of nine, and women should only leave the house when they absolutely have to, and even then they must remain hidden and veiled.
While plenty of devout Muslim women choose to wear the niqab, the Islamic State’s heavy-handed policy on it has drawn resentment from moderate Muslims living under the group’s rule.
3,770 Yezidi women and children still in ISIS captivity
August 4, 2016
A Yezidi member of parliament from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) bloc in the Iraqi parliament, Vian Dakhil, said the Yezidis faced the worst crimes against humanity committed by the Islamic State (ISIS). She indicated that the biggest problem facing the populations in the Sinjar region is mistrust. And the only solution and guarantee for the life of Yezidi Kurds and security for the area is to convert Sinjar to a province and incorporate it within the Kurdistan Region.
Vian Dakhil: We are now at the second anniversary of the disaster that happened to the Yezidis in general and Sinjar particularly, and still approximately 3,770 abducted women and children are in the hands of ISIS.
What’s the scale of the Iraqi government’s support for the Yezidi Kurds?
Unfortunately, the central government’s response has been inadequate. Most of the existing camps in the Kurdistan Region are provided by international organizations, with humanitarian support offered by the Kurdistan Regional Government. Under these circumstances we do not see real involvement from Baghdad morally or financially. And most Iraqi officials do not mention Yezidis in international forums.
What’s the future of Sinjar after the district’s liberation from ISIS?
Now we are in the process of converting Sinjar to a province, and incorporating it into the Kurdistan Region, because this is the best solution for the minorities in this area, especially for the Yezidis after what happened to us. Therefore the best solution is to convert Sinjar into a province and annex it with Kurdistan, and build it again so that people can return home.
What has changed after ISIS control in the district?
Mistrust, which makes us worry a lot, because reconstruction of the city is a temporary matter that is possible if some organizations and some countries help us. But there is difficulty to rebuild trust among the populations. Therefore we have to build the roots of trust among the citizens and this will take a long time.
There is a proposal that Sinjar sill become a province within the Nineveh region. What’s your opinion on that?
If this is implemented on the ground, we will stay in the same vortex. There is no difference between a district in Nineveh province or a province within the Nineveh region. But there are bigger benefits to the citizens, guarantees for their life and provision of security in the area, that will happen when we are within the Kurdistan Region.
What do you demand from the international community?
Our demands two years after the disaster are that the international community should stand with us, because Iraq in general and the Kurdistan Region in particular paid the price and the Yezidis paid a bigger price. Therefore the international community should rescue the abductees, and recognize the disaster that happened to the Yezidis as genocide committed against a population in the region.
Muslim women in Delaware speak out against Donald Trump
August 3, 2016
The man’s words, Donald Trump attributed to a woman. His wife’s silence, he left an open-ended question.
But local Muslim women heard the implication behind Trump’s words — that being a female practitioner of Islam means subjugation and silence.
“The comment wasn’t just to disparage the Gold Star family, per se. It was basically Donald Trump’s way of disparaging Muslim women once again,” said Zehra Wamiq, a businesswoman and mother.
The Republican presidential nominee was responding to a family’s attack on his character, credentials and patriotism when he said Khizr Khan’s Democratic National Convention speech could have been written by his rival Hillary Clinton, and his wife, Ghazala Khan, maybe “wasn’t allowed” to be anything but silent on stage. The backlash came because they’re the parents of a U.S. Army captain killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004, but Delaware women are firing back because they say he was insulting all of them.
“I’m really tired of this kind of notion or this kind of stereotype. I’ve been working for many years to educate people, to make them understand, to fight against these stereotypes and to dispel these notions,” Wamiq said. “To see someone who is running for the highest office in the United States and, just by using one sentence, he seemed to negate all the work of not only myself but that other people are doing. It’s not only offensive, it’s just tiresome.”
Wamiq was raised in Pakistan’s largest city and moved to the United States to finish her education after getting married. She now lives in Garnet Valley, serves on the board of the Wilmington Montessori School where her son is a student, operates a travel agency and is the founder of the Delaware Valley Speakers Bureau.
“So I do speak,” Wamiq said. “He insinuated Muslim women are not allowed to speak, which is something I’m doing the opposite of. I am a speaker. I go out and speak, giving presentations about Muslim women and their faith and also women’s status in Islam, the history of Muslims in the United States to schools and colleges.”
Following Trump’s much-maligned remarks, Wamiq took to Facebook where she dropped the increasingly-popular hashtag #CanYouHearUsNow. The social media connector first appeared Monday and has galvanized Muslim women across the country to share their experiences as American professionals, students, adventurers, engineers and scientists.
“This work is being done to make America true to its ideals. The reason many of us chose America to be our home is because of the ideals,” Wamiq said. “I don’t want these ideals to go to waste just for the short-term gain of a political party or a presidential candidate.”
Ruhi Khan, a Delaware native of no relation to the Gold Star family at the center of the controversy, won’t get to vote in the presidential election — but she wishes she could.
“Donald Trump is doing an awful job of portraying Muslim women and he’s just clutching onto strings by saying these things,” the Newark Charter School ninth-grader said. “I hope he’s not our president. He’d better not be. That would be a bad thing not just for Muslim women but for everyone.”
Recently, Ruhi Khan was elected vice president of her class, and the nomination included the necessity of speaking in front of her entire grade. That she’s a Muslim didn’t factor at all into the moment.
“It never crossed my mind. Of course, I was nervous, but that was because they’re my classmates, not because of my culture or religion,” Ruhi Khan said. “Donald Trump is just spewing nonsense about that subservient idea of women who are Muslim.”
But based on what Delaware Chairman for the Trump campaign, Rob Arlett, knows about Islam, he isn’t so sure his presidential pick was off-base when he said Ghazala Khan “maybe wasn’t allowed to speak.”
“Perhaps that is a true statement. I have Muslim friends. We all have Muslim friends, and in that religion and in that context, females are subservient to the husband. That is a fact,” Arlett said. “Some people may have perceived it as being an insult, but again, are they, therefore, saying their religion is an insult? Because it’s a fact.”
But Ghazala Khan has rejected that notion, and penned an op-ed that since has been widely circulated. She attributed her silence on the DNC stage to lingering grief over the death of her son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and the Purple heart.
“Donald Trump said I had nothing to say. I do,” Ghazala Khan said in the op-ed. “Donald Trump said that maybe I wasn’t allowed to say anything. That is not true. My husband asked me if I wanted to speak, but I told him I could not. My religion teaches me that all human beings are equal in God’s eyes. Husband and wife are part of each other; you should love and respect each other so you can take care of the family.”
Religious intolerance isn’t Trump’s message, Arlett said, and he called the conversation a distraction perpetuated by the media who would rather not focus on what the Republican nominee really is saying: that illegal immigration is a real threat, that the country is at war with a radical ideology born of Islam and that Europe is under siege by Muslims because of its lax immigration policies.
“It’s not about religion. It’s about national security,” Arlett said.
And to answering the Khan family at all, Arlett said Trump was within his rights to defend himself against a personal attack made on an international stage like the DNC.
Muslims in Delaware, Arlett said, are free and welcome to practice their religion however they see fit as anyone else is. But a Muslim woman who does not live her life in subservience to men, he said, is an “exception to the rule.”
“There’s exceptions to all rules. That doesn’t take away the facts of what was just said. We have to understand the bigger picture here. The reality is he has a job and responsibility as commander in chief to protect the people. That is the No. 1 most important factor in all of this. I don’t care if it’s Muslim or not Muslim,” Arlett said. “Have some within that religion been ‘Americanized?’ Again, that’s a true statement, too. But the foundation of that religion is what it is. You can say the same thing about Christianity, too.”
In the days that followed the DNC and Trump’s response to the Khan family, Amna Latif was watching.
A Pakistani immigrant who moved to the United States to finish her education and join her husband who’d already relocated, Latif, who now lives in Newark, heads the Tarbiyah Islamic School of Delaware, which she founded in 2009. As much as she respects her husband, she’s proud of her independence — she kept her maiden name, she built her school and it was her choice to wear garments which cover her face in keeping with her faith.
“This is who I am. You can call me submissive. Yes, I am submissive to God,” Latif said. “I am my own person.”
In 2011, her school had 35 students and since has grown to an enrollment of more than 200. On her roster of employees are 35 people, 28 of whom are women.
New Castle’s Meryem El Harrasse was born in Morocco and has taught children at Tarbiyah School for the last five years. She hasn’t liked Trump since his reality show “The Apprentice” put the bombastic billionaire on prime time TV, and his current act hasn’t surprised her at all.
“I don’t feel bad because I know that’s not what a Muslim woman is, but I hope one day he will understand before he talks about Muslim women all the freedom Islam gives to a woman,” said El Harrasse. “It’s not me. My religion gives me the right to talk, the right to do whatever I want. We have rules, but we are not slaves. We can have our own last name. We have the right to vote in our country. We have the right to go wherever we want.”
Latif and El Harrasse share the same mission: educating Delaware’s youngest on character as well as scholarly learning. Part of the school day includes religious instruction, and Latif said there are as many lessons there for girls as for boys.
“We have a lot of rights that are given by Islam many, many, many years ago. We had ownership of property, ownership of business, equal rights for equal pay and things like those that were not in the U.S. until the 1900s,” Latif said. “Muslim men do support their women. My husband supported me all along … He said, ‘Do what you want to do. Do what makes you passionate.’ “
There are women central to the Muslim faith, people both close and influential with the prophet Muhammad.
At 25, Muhammad married up. His first wife was 40-year-old Khadija, a wealthy, thrice-married merchant who is revered as the first convert to Islam. Muhammad’s third wife, though only nine when they married, is loved in part for her stubborn ways and influence on the prophet, and after his death Aisha led Muslim armies into combat.
Hillary Clinton’s broken glass ceiling is 34 years behind Pakistan’s, where Benazir Bhutto became the first woman to head a major political party in 1982. Clinton has to beat Trump to catch her though, because Bhutto in 1988 was elected to lead the country twice, and no other woman led there before or since.
Bhutto was on her way to a third term was she was assassinated.
“There was a huge following. My father was a huge supporter,” Wamiq said. “Her courage, her bravery. She was merely 26 years old when she was put into jail for five years, and her integrity and courage was the driving force not only for me but for many other women. And later, when she was killed, that was also her courage.”
In October 2012, a man boarded a school bus in Pakistan and asked by name for Malala Yousafzai. Then he shot her in the head.
She lived and continued her mission — the same that sparked the assassination attempt of the then-14-year-old — of promoting the education of girls throughout the world. At 17, she became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.
“In Muslim countries, there are leaders who are women. It’s important to let people know [that Muslim women are subserviant] is a false stereotype,” Ruhi Khan said. “For me, Malala, especially because I am a youth, I feel she has been a very big role model. She spoke out against what’s wrong in her culture and she chose to fight for education because she deserved it and not because as a woman she should just stay silent.”
Still, all Muslim woman around the world are not free.
In Saudia Arabia, women aren’t allowed to drive and traveling without an escort is risky. In Iran, only 17 percent of women are part of the labor force compared to 76 percent of men. In Yemen, only half the women can read compared to 83 percent of men. There exists a form of murder known as “honor killings,” which are tracked by human rights organizations and generally associated with religious and local views of women as reproductive vessels and points family pride, though some argue these acts should be seen as part of the global issue of violence against women.
That Islam plays a role in some of these statistics is undeniable, but Ruhi Khan said it can’t be spoken of so simply.
“It’s not because they’re Muslim they’re doing this, it’s because they’re not good. They’re trying to be awful to women. It’s not because they’re real Muslims. They’re not following the true beliefs of equality and kindness,” she said. “I make it a point to let people, the people I know in my school and outside my school, know my views and that I’m a Muslim and that one of the main parts of destroying Islamophobia is letting people know people who are Muslims, they’re there, and they aren’t the awful people you see on the news.”