Current Event Follow-ups

In this page we will post new developments and current events regarding issues we have blogged about in the past.

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Egypt women stand for equality in the square

Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, February 18, 2011; 10:46 PM  

CAIRO – Women think as differently as they dress here, but they have emerged from the barricades agreeing on one thing: This is their moment in history, and they cannot afford to lose it.

During 18 days of demonstrating for freedom and democracy, Egyptian men and women walked into Tahrir Square separate and unequal, divided by gender as they passed through checkpoints. Men were scrutinized by men, and women had their bags and person searched by other women. There were several lines of men to every one for the fewer numbers of women.

Beyond the checkpoints, distinctions vanished and they stood side by side, defying the police, challenging the government, one and the same before the thugs throwing rocks and molotov cocktails. They died next to men and did not falter, steadfast for freedom and democracy.

Now, as they leave the square behind them, they want to use the strength they revealed to address long-standing inequities, to make sure women have the equality in day-to-day life that they earned in Tahrir Square.

“It was amazing to see men and women together when we took to the streets,” said Marwa Faroak, a political activist. “A lot of people were saying Tahrir Square was the future of Egypt, men and women equal, fighting for freedom. And now we have to translate this into action and change.”

Soha Abdelaty, deputy director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said Egyptians are building a new country, and women must be at the forefront so they can be effective advocates for their interests. She is optimistic but not yet ready to predict that women will indeed achieve more rights.

“There’s a long way to go,” she said.

Women are far better off in Egypt than some parts of the Arab world. There are no religious police enforcing dress codes as in Iran, or prohibitions against driving as in Saudi Arabia. But Egyptian women are greatly underrepresented in public life and inferior to men before the law. They hold cabinet posts, but no judgeships. They are members of parliament, but have few seats. They occupy many professions, but not all.


Divorces are difficult to obtain and favor men, as do property rights. Women are encouraged to marry and have children early: The legal age of marriage was only recently raised from 16 to 18.

And, every day as they walk down the street, they are reminded of their low status – until Tahrir Square. Egyptian women are sexually harassed to an astonishing degree, groped, ogled, followed by catcalls, behavior that no law forbids. In a 2008 survey, the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights in Cairo found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women had been harassed at some point.

Though the American television reporter Lara Logan was beaten and sexually assaulted as pro-Mubarak forces whipped up anti-American and anti-journalist frenzy in Tahrir Square, that attack was the brutal exception. Egyptian women who were in the square say they were treated with a tolerance they hardly expected. Woman after woman marveled at that.

“One of the things that gave me an incredible sense of wonder was how safe I felt,” Faroak said. “I spent the night there, with all kinds of different people, and Tahrir Square became safer than anywhere else for a woman to be.”


Grossman Burn FOundation (GBF) reconstructs Afghan girl’s nose

Foreign Policy Magazine ( reports that Aisha, whom we shall never forget from the cover of the August 9, 2010 issue of TIME Magazine, has been given a new nose by the Grossman Burn Foundation – after hers was butchered off by her husband with the blessings of the local Taliban, for having left her abussive husband. I met one of the founders of GBF in late August. I am pleased to post this story here today:

Afghan girl with nose cut off


AIDS Pandemic:

Nearly 30 years after HIV/AIDS was first identified, 33.4 million people are living with the virus. The majority live in sub-Saharan Africa, but the virus is spreading fast in Asia and Eastern Europe. Most HIV+ people don’t know they are infected.

  • Women make up 60 percent of infections in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Only a third of those who need antiretroviral treatment receive it
  • Some countries have been successful at containing the virus – including Brazil, Uganda and Cuba – but many others are experiencing high infection rates.

    The worst-affected region is southern Africa, where infection rates have stabilised but at very high levels. Swaziland has the highest infection rate in the world – a quarter of people aged 15 to 49 – and South Africa has the largest number of cases.

    Reuters - AIDS pins 2006

    The good news is that some of the worst-affected countries, including Haiti and Zimbabwe, have reduced their infection rates.

    And access to treatment has improved dramatically. Even so, only around a third of those who need antiretroviral drugs receive them, says the World Health Organization. AIDS workers have to grapple with social stigma as well as shortages of medical staff and drugs.



    Follow up on Sakineh Mohammad’s Stoning:

    Human rights activists fear that she is now in danger of imminent execution.

    The BBC’s Tehran correspondent, Jon Leyne, says the Iranian authorities are clearly trying to move the focus away from the adultery charge and the stoning sentence, and to brand Ms Ashtiani a murderer.

    The airing of the TV confession is a sign that she could soon be executed, probably by hanging, our correspondent says.

    It seems the Iranian officials are sending a tough message to Western media and human rights groups that if they interfere in Iranian affairs and cause embarrassment, it will be counter-productive, he adds.

    Two weeks ago Time magazine ran a cover story on Afghanistan. The cover photograph was of a very young woman who’s nose (and ears) had been cut off by her husband and brother-in-law at the behest of Taliban leaders in her community. Days later, 10 foreign aid workers in Afghanistan were tragically murdered, in the same province. My hope is that the murders were unrelated to the Time story. But if what the BBC correspondent, Jon Leyne, notes (above) is true, that western media exposure results in unintended consequences on the ground in restrictive Muslim societies abusing women systematically, then the stakes have just been raised mind-bogglingly high. To not attempt to expose what goes on in places where curiosity is not welcome would be to condone generations of dreadful human abuse. On the other hand, to shine the light would be to intensify the abuse once the light is turned away.

    What is the free world to do?

    Follow up on Gaza:


    Gaza women walking by "racy" window text of artcile appears below

    28 Jul 2010 13:13:00 GMT

    Source: Reuters

    GAZA, July 28 (Reuters) – The Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip have ordered lingerie shops to display more modesty.
    A week after banning women from smoking water pipes in public places, the Hamas-run police force has told stores selling women’s underwear to remove scantily-clad mannequins and any posters of racy undergarments. “These measures have stemmed from complaints and pressure by ordinary people. They have to do with upholding our traditions,” police spokesman Ayman Al-Batniji said on Wednesday.

    Hamas leaders have repeatedly denied any intention to impose Islamic law on the Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians. But Hamas police have broken up a hip-hop concert in the territory and tried — unsuccessfully — to force women lawyers in court and female school students to wear traditional Muslim clothing, a step that drew a public backlash.

    Hamas’s modesty moves were widely seen by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as attempts to mollify more conservative Islamic factions that have accused the movement of failing to uphold Islamic Sharia law.


    Follow up on Burka Ban:

    Saudi Cleric Announces: casting off the Burka abroad is OK:

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – A popular Saudi cleric said Saturday it is permissible for Muslim women to reveal their faces in countries where the Islamic veil is banned to avoid harassment, while deploring the effort to outlaw the garment in France. (see full article by Abdullah Al-Shihri at:

    "CONTRAST" June 2009- France

    The Sheikh goes on to say: “We should not confront people in their countries or elsewhere,” al-Garni was quoted as saying in the Saudi-owned daily Al-Hayat. “In case a ban is enforced against a Muslim woman there — and as a consequence there is a reaction or negative implications or harassment or harm — it is better for the Muslim woman to reveal her face.”

    The British say “No” to ban similar to that proposed in France.

    Minister dismisses it as “rather un-British”:

    Amnesty International condemns French veil ban as a violation of the Freedom of Religion:

    Israel discusses the French veil ban:
    Bill presented to Knesset regarded as unlikely to become law, although it finds MK’s in support, as well as some opposed:

    AP Photograph

    The US sounds off on the proposed French law, voicing its disagreement with the legislation:

    While Europe debates a ban, the Muslim world takes a lead with Turkey already banning the Niqab and Burka in schools and Syria, announcing today, that it has instated a similar ban.

    see article:;_ylt=Ap8UyKNIFVcvoZly_AJWEbtvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJvaHAybWh1BGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAwNzIwL21sX3N5cmlhX2lzbGFtaWNfdmVpbHMEY3BvcwMzBHBvcwMxMQRzZWMDeW5fdG9wX3N0b3J5BHNsawNzeXJpYWJhbnNmdWw

    “We have given directives to all universities to ban niqab-wearing women from registering [in universities].” a government official in Damascus told The Associated Press on Monday.

    Reuters - Paris, April 2010.


    We blogged about the appointment President Obama would have to make when Supreme Court Justice Stevens announced his pending resignation. He made the choice of a woman: Elena Kagan. Here she is in her own words…



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