3/18/2019

Gulf women have come a long way


https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/gulf-women-long-190308131344342.html

Saadia Mufarreh is a Kuwaiti writer, journalist and poet.



Over the past few years, the topic of women's rightsin the Gulf has attracted much attention in the region and beyond. It has become a favourite subject of public forums, conferences, academic scholarship and the local and international press.
Even those who are most concerned about women's rights in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula cannot deny the fact that much progress has been made in the area over the past two decades. The movement for women's rights, which has been joined by men as well, has sought relentlessly to empower women and to secure the same opportunities in education, work and other aspects of public life afforded to men in the region.
Although empowerment has been achieved at different levels in Gulf countries, given the difference in local political and social circumstances, there are a number of remarkable achievements that have to be highlighted.

Education, work, and wealth

Education was the key that opened the door to women's participation in public life. The first girls' schools in the region were established in Bahrain and Kuwait in the 1920s. By the 1950s, educational institutions for girls had been founded across the region.
Education slowly started changing traditional perceptions of gender roles and women's position in society. In the following decades, women secured not only the right to higher education but also the opportunity to pursue studies abroad, eventually supported by government scholarships.
Although the Gulf was relatively late in introducing women's education compared with the rest of the Arab world, over the past 60 years it has not only managed to catch up with other Arab countries, but has even overtaken them.
The region now boasts the highest education rates for women in the Arab world. Gulf women are also more educated than Gulf men. In Qatar, for example, 54 percent of university-age women are enrolled, compared with just 28 percent of men; in Bahrain and Kuwait, women also outnumber men in institutions of higher education.
Gulf women also enjoy higher labour participation rates than women in other Arab countries, with Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar leading in this statistic. Growing access to work and business opportunities for women has also increased their personal wealth. According to a 2012 report, enterprises managed by Gulf women hold assets worth $358bn. Last year, two Saudi women made it to the Forbes' most powerful women ranking: Lubna Olayan and Rania Nashar.

Political opening for women

Being increasingly more educated and active in the labour force, Gulf women have also sought political empowerment. Their attainment of political rights has not lagged too far behind men's given the constricted political space in the region. In the early 2000s, Gulf countries finally started allowing women to pursue and occupy political posts (in some instances, these rights were given at the same time as men).
In 2002, Bahraini women were given the right to vote and run in elections for the first time; four years later Lateefa al-Gaood became the first Bahraini woman elected to parliament.
In 2005, Kuwait also allowed women to vote and stand for election. Four years later, four Kuwaiti women were elected to the parliament: Massouma al-Mubarak, Salwa al-Jassar, Aseel al-Awadhi and Rola Dashti.
In 2003, the Gulf also witnessed the appointment of its first women ministers. In March of that year, Sheikha Aisha bint Khalfan took charge of the National Authority for Industrial Craftsmanship in Oman and in May, Sheikha Ahmed al-Mahmoud became Qatar's education minister.
Now, a decade and a half after this modest political opening, there have been more steps made forward and a few backward. The speaker of parliament in Bahrain and the vice chairperson of the state council in Oman are both women (Fawzia Abdulla Yusuf Zainal and Suad al-Lawati respectively). 
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have also started to give opportunities to women to occupy important government posts. In 2013, the late King Abdullah appointed 30 women to the Shura Council and last year King Salman entrusted the post of deputy minister of labour and social development to Tamader bint Yousif al-Rammah. In the UAE, Amal Abdullah al-Qubaisi became the first woman to hold the post of speaker of the Federal National Council in 2018.

The struggle continues

There are still many challenges ahead. Some achievements in the political arena, especially in Bahrain and Kuwait, have been rolled back. Women face a lack of social and financial support that makes it difficult for them to run for office. Various levels of political repression across Gulf states have also affected women and women's rights activists. And despite appointments to official positions, political decision-making largely remains in the hands of men.
Large sections of the Gulf societies are still dominated by views that reduce the importance of women's participation in the public sphere. These are very much reflected in various provisions of family and personal status laws, which can restrict certain social and economic activities of women and put them at a legal disadvantage to men, withSaudi Arabia still retaining a strict guardianship law.
Although Bahrain (2006), the UAE (2008), Qatar (2010) and recently Kuwait (2018) allowed women to become judges, the judiciary and the interpretation of the law is still very much dominated by men.
Despite these major challenges, it has to be recognised my generation witnessed the transformation from "ground zero" to the impressive level of public participation Gulf women enjoy today. The struggle of the next generation will indeed be difficult and change will be slow, but they will be aided along the way by the established consensus in the Gulf that women's socioeconomic empowerment has to be part of any comprehensive development strategy and any "future vision" plans.
Policies on women's participation are no longer just a bunch of nice words that grace reports of international organisations; they are real and tangible despite all the remaining political and social barriers. Indeed, the difficulties that were surmounted to get us where we are today are considerably bigger than the ones that lie ahead.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial stance.









Bahraini dismissed journalists to be given new chance

https://gulfnews.com/world/gulf/bahrain/bahraini-dismissed-journalists-to-be-given-new-chance-1.62729346

Journalists association launches initiative to find suitable jobs

3/11/2019

BAHRAIN, UNA DONNA LEADER DEI GIORNALISTI. MA IL REGIME INSIDIA LA LIBERTÀ

http://caffedeigiornalisti.it/bahrain-donna-capo-sindacato-regime/?fbclid=IwAR2kHl6awVv0lvHwPxiTIcxC4JOuErt5lCAUfW_NQBpGPoJaS87zv97sJOI


Il Bahrain continua a essere una delle prigioni dei giornalisti: sono ancora nove, quelli rinchiusi nelle carceri di Jau. Quasi tutti sono giovani, con sentenze definitive e detenuti insieme a 4.000 attivisti politici. Tutto ciò accede mentre, nel mese di gennaio 2019, è stata eletta la prima donna a capo dellaBahrain Journalists Association (BJA). Si tratta di Ahdeya Ahmad, vice caporedattore del Daily Tribune a Manama. Ahdeya, che ha sconfitto la concorrenza di Yousuf Al Bin Khalil (caporedattore di al Watan) finora, non ha risposto alle mail che organizzazioni umanitarie e giornalisti le hanno inviato dall’estero, nonostante anche lei sia giovane, avendo la stessa età dei suoi colleghi shiiti in Jau: «Non solo non risponde mai, ma non dà replica nemmeno alle istanze della nostra ambasciata italiana in Manama, evitando di dare sèguito alle nostre richieste». Il commento è di Cristina Sugoni, giovane funzionaria della Americans for Democracy & Human Rights Bahrain (ADHRB) in Italia.
Il 25 febbraio 2019, la Corte di Cassazione del Bahrain ha confermato la condanna a 3 anni per tre membri della famiglia di Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, attivista fuggito in Gran Bretagna e membro eminente del BIRD (Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy), con base a Londra. Con questa decisione, la suocera Hajer Mansoor, il cognato Sayed Nizar Alwadaei e il cugino Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor dovranno scontare una condanna che le Nazioni Unite hanno giudicato arbitraria e illegale. Ben undici ong, tra le quali le stesse ADHRB e BIRD, hanno inviato una lettera alle autorità, condannando la sentenza come caso dirappresaglia contro Sayed per il suo lavoro sui diritti umani e chiedendo l’immediato rilascio della sua famiglia.
«Il 14 febbraio 2019, ottavo anniversario della rivolta pacifica in Bahrain, in aula Nassyria in Senato, con Marian Al Khawaja, Brian Dooley, Riccardo Noury e il senatoreAlberto Airola, si sono affrontate tutte le violazioni dei diritti umani in Bahrain –  continua Cristina Sugoni  – La nostra ambasciata a Manama è stata più volte sollecitata a seguire i processi dei giornalisti e degli attivisti in sede giudiziaria, chiedendo anche al governo d’incontrare i prigionieri. Certo, noi siamo tra i primi partner commerciali del Bahrain: questa potrebbe essere la spiegazione di tanta difficoltà. Ma l’Italia non conosce la cultura del disimpegno sui diritti delle persone. Ecco perché insistiamo, e abbiamo chiesto una risoluzione di condanna per i diritti umani. L’Italia deve ripudiare il regime degli Al Khalifa». «L’anno scorso c’è stato un tentativo in questo senso: in aeroporto, a Manama, abbiamo chiesto formalmente alle autorità bahrenite di poter vedere i prigionieri Nabeel Rajab e Abdulhadi Al Khawaja», racconta il senatore Alberto Airola. «Siamo rimasti seduti per 24 ore, poi ci hanno chiesto di prendere un volo e di uscire dal Paese. Dobbiamo tornarci».
Il 28 febbraio scorso, il senatore Ron Wyden ha presentato una dichiarazione al Congresso degli Stati Uniti, affrontando il deterioramento della situazione in Bahrain e la sua preoccupazione per le revoche di cittadinanza come punizione per l’attivismo e il dissenso, la chiusura dell’ultimo giornale indipendente e il targeting dei giornalisti. Wyden ha sottolineato una dichiarazione dello stesso presidente americano: «Vede il mondo attraverso una lente transazionale ed è disposto a trascurare le violazioni dei diritti, in nome delle vendite di armi o di una maggiore cooperazione alla difesa». Proprio mentre Hatice Cengiz, la fidanzata di Jamal Khashoggi (il giornalista saudita ucciso in Turchia, ex direttore di una rete televisiva in Bahrain che durò poche ore) ha chiesto all’UE di mettere i diritti umani prima dell’economia e di smettere di privilegiare i soli interessi economici: l’omicidio di  Khashoggi dominava la conferenza della Commissione per i Diritti Umani al Parlamento Europeo.

3/06/2019

ADHRB Condemns Decision Upholding the Sentence of Members of the Alwadaei Famil

25 February 2019 – Today, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld the three-year prison sentence of three family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy for the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD). With this decision, Alwadaei’s mother-in-law Hajer Mansoor, brother-in-law Sayed Nizar Alwadaei, and cousin Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor have exhausted all legal remedies to reverse their conviction and will serve the three-year sentence, which the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found to be arbitrary and unlawful. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) condemns the ruling from the Court of Cassation in a case of reprisal against Alwadaei for his human rights work. Yesterday, eleven NGOs, including ADHRB and BIRD, sent a letter calling on the Bahraini authorities to release Hajer, Sayed Nizar, and Mahmood. ADHRB repeats this call for the immediate and unconditional release of his three family members with a right to compensation.

The family was initially arrested in March 2017 as Alwadaei was highlighting Bahrain’s human rights record at the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC). On 2 March 2017, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei’s cousin and brother-in-law were arrested in their home by force and without a search warrant. They were taken to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) for interrogation and have reported being tortured. Three days later, on 5 March 2017, his mother-in-law was summoned for interrogation at the CID and was subsequently arrested, interrogated and questioned about Alwadaei for nearly 10 hours without a lawyer. All three family members were interrogated on matters regarding Alwadaei’s activism. On 30 October 2017 Hajer, Sayed Nizar, and Mahmood were convicted on charges of placing a “fake bomb” on a public road. The family was sentenced to three years, with the charges based on confessions coerced through torture. Since then, Sayed Nizar’s sentence has been extended to eleven years on additional fabricated charges.
Alwadaei’s family’s case has been marked as a reprisal, as the initial arrests came over a month after January 2017 reports of the “unidentified object” and coincided with Alwadaei’s engagement at the Council, as UN offices have noted. In prison, Hajer Mansoor has been subjected to further reprisal for mention of her case in the UN Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) report on reprisal and in Bahrain’s review under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), having been subjected to increased restrictions, abuse and assault by Isa Town Prison authorities. In August 2018, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) issued an Opinion stating that that all three individuals were deprived of liberty, interrogated and prosecuted for their relation to Alwadaei and targeted in acts of reprisals, casting further doubt on the case’s legitimacy.
“Today’s ruling by the Court of Cassation continues Bahrain’s policy of reprisal against human rights activists and their families,” says ADHRB Executive Director Husain Abdulla. “The case has long based itself on absurd charges of planting a “fake bomb” and repeatedly been correctly identified as a reprisal by the Bahraini human rights community, with abuse and ill treatment  almost always preceded by attention from the international community on their case – particularly UN attention. The Bahraini government must immediately and unconditionally release the Alwadaei family and quash their sentences, and the international community must echo these calls and urge Bahrain to cease its agenda of reprisal.”
Today’s ruling by the Court of Cassation is deeply concerning, as family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei family have now exhausted all final appeals processes in the justice system. Hajer Mansoor and Sayed Nizar will remain in prison until March 2020, and Mahmood Mansoor may not be released until March 2028. ADHRB condemns the Court’s ruling against Hajer Mansoor, Sayed Nizar, and Mahmood Mansoor and further condemns their continued prosecution as acts of reprisal for the work of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei. We call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release the three family members of Alwadaei and to provide them compensation and other remedies for harm suffered. We call on the international community to echo these calls and urge the government of Bahrain to release victims of reprisal and political prisoners, and to cease its policy of reprisal against human rights defenders and their families.

3/04/2019

Jamal Khashoggi's body likely burned in large oven at Saudi home

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/jamal-khashoggi-body-burned-large-oven-saudi-home-190304011823218.html

New documentary says Turkish investigators also found traces of Khashoggi's blood on walls of the Saudi consul's office.

The body of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggiwas likely burned in a large oven at the Saudi consulate general's residence in Istanbul, an Al Jazeera investigation revealed.
New details of the writer's murder by a Saudi assassination team were reported in a documentary by Al Jazeera Arabic that aired on Sunday.
Turkish authorities monitored the burning of the outdoor furnace from outside the premises as bags believed to be containing Khashoggi's body parts were transferred to the Saudi consul's home after he was killed inside the consulate a few hundred metres away.
Al Jazeera interviewed a worker who constructed the furnace who stated it was built according to specifications from the Saudi consul. It had to be deep and withstand temperatures above 1,000 degrees Celsius - hot enough to melt metal.
Large quantities of barbeque meat were grilled in the oven after the killing in order to cover up the cremation of the Saudi writer's body, Turkish authorities reported. 
The burning of Khashoggi's body took place over a period of three days, Turkish officials said.
Turkish investigators also found traces of Khashoggi's blood on the walls of the Saudi consul's office after removing paint that the assassination team applied after killing the Washington Post columnist on October 2.
The documentary was based on interviews with security officials, politicians, and some of Khashoggi's Turkish friends.

First contact

Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan was the first official to contact the Saudis regarding the whereabouts of Khashoggi, according to the documentary.
In a call with the de facto Saudi leader, Fidan reportedly demanded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (also known by his initials MBS) reveal what happened to the journalist.
The call was cut short though when MBS rejected the demand and ended the call over what MBS reportedly perceived as an "unacceptable threat".
A critic of Saudi Arabia's powerful Prince Mohammed, Khashoggi entered the consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork so he could marry his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside the building. 
Riyadh initially insisted Khashoggi had left the consulate alive before changing its account and admitting the journalist was killed in an operation it said was undertaken by "rogue elements".
A CIA report said MBS likely ordered Khashoggi's killing - an allegation Saudi Arabia denies.
Eleven suspects have been indicted for Khashoggi's murder in Saudi Arabia, which has insisted it would handle the case and refused their extradition to Turkey.
United Nation's special rapporteur Agnes Callamard, who is leading an international inquiry into the murder, called it "a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the state of Saudi Arabia".
The international investigation started in late January and an official report is due in June.


3/02/2019

UN experts demand release of Alia Abdel Nour

http://icfuae.org.uk/news/un-experts-demand-release-alia-abdel-nour

UN human rights experts have urged the UAE to release Alia Abdel Nour, who has terminal breast cancer, and is currently detained in Tawan hospital.
She is reportedly being held in a windowless room without ventilation and chained to a hospital bed under armed guard.
“We are extremely concerned about the physical and mental integrity of Ms. Abdulnoor, and about reports that the conditions of detention are causing her unnecessary pain,” the experts said
In a case Human Rights Watch have described as ‘marred by due process violations’, Alia was arrested in 2015 and disappeared for six months and forced to sign a confession under duress. 
In 2017 she was convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Family members have said that Alia’s sentence relates to small donations she made to Syrian families at the advent of the Syrian revolution in 2011. 
Since her arrest, it is reported that Alia has been severely mistreated and has frequently been denied access to adequate medical care to treat her cancer.
 “We would like to remind the United Arab Emirates that torture, and ill-treatment is universally and absolutely prohibited and that any statement made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence,” the UN experts said today.
Earlier this month the UAE authorities rejected Alia’s requests for early medical release.
“We call on the authorities to release Ms. Abdulnour and to allow her to live her last days of life in dignity and with her family at home,” said the experts.
Human Rights Watch have also called for Alia to be released on medical grounds. 
“The cruel and senseless suffering Abdel Nour and her family have been subjected to blows the UAE’s rhetoric around tolerance right out of the water”
“Abdel Nour should be allowed to spend her last days watched over by her family, not by prison guards who keep her shackled to a hospital bed,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa Director at Human Rights Watch.

Saudi Arabia: detained women's rights activists to be put on trial

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/02/saudi-arabia-detained-womens-rights-activists-to-be-put-on-trial

More than dozen arrested in 2018 and rights groups say some have been tortured


Saudi women’s rights activists detained last year in a sweeping crackdown on campaigners will be put on trial, prosecutors have said.
“The public prosecution would like to announce that it has concluded its investigation and prepared the indictment list against the defendants ... and will refer the case to the relevant court,” the state-controlled Saudi Press Agency said on Friday.
The brief statement did not directly identify the defendants as female activists nor give a date for court proceedings.
More than a dozen activists were arrested in May last year – just before the historic lifting of a decades-long ban on female drivers the following month. Many of them were accused of undermining security and aiding enemies of the state. Some were subsequently released.
Those still detained include Aziza al-Yousef, a retired professor at Riyadh’s King Saud University, and Loujain al-Hathloul – who was held in 2014 for more than 70 days for attempting to drive from neighbouring United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia.
Some of those detained have faced sexual harassment and torture during interrogation, rights groups and their family members say. Several people with knowledge of their arrest have told the Associated Press that some of the women detained have been subjected to caning, electrocution and others were also sexually assaulted.
In February a cross-party panel of three British MPs found the female activists were being detained in cruel and inhumane conditions that meet the threshold of torture under both international and Saudi law.
Friday’s statement from prosecutors said “all detainees in this case enjoy all rights preserved by the laws in the kingdom”.
But the statement drew sharp criticism from human rights groups.
“These women’s rights activists should be released from detention for their peaceful activism not referred to trial,” Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East campaigns director, said. “The Saudi Arabian authorities continue their signature repression.”
Michael Page, the deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said: “The Saudi prosecution is bringing charges against the women’s rights activists instead of releasing them unconditionally.
“The Saudi authorities have done nothing to investigate serious allegations of torture, and now, it’s the women’s rights activists, not any torturers, who face criminal charges and trials.”
Agence France-Press and Associated Press contributed to this report