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Afghan Men Don Burqas And March For Women's Rights

Society & Culture  (tags: Afghanistan, Kabul, burqa, men, protest, GBV, violence against women, Human Rights, gender inequality )

- 1492 days ago -
A group of Afghan men marched through the capital, Kabul, on Thursday to draw attention to women's rights by donning head-to-toe burqas that for many people worldwide have come to symbolize the suppression of women.


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Evelyn B (63)
Saturday April 18, 2015, 1:15 am
Afghan Men Don Burqas And March For Women's Rights
By Krista Mahr and Mirwais Harooni

KABUL, March 5 (Reuters) - A group of Afghan men marched through the capital, Kabul, on Thursday to draw attention to women's rights by donning head-to-toe burqas that for many people worldwide have come to symbolize the suppression of women.

The hardline Taliban forced women to wear burqas in public during their rule in the 1990s and concern is growing in Afghanistan and among its allies that gains for women made since the 2001 U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban are at risk.

The men marched under a leaden sky, with the bright blue burqas falling over their heads down to muddy sneakers and boots.

The demonstrators, associated with a group called Afghan Peace Volunteers, said they organized the march ahead of International Women's Day on March 8.

"Our authorities will be celebrating International Women's Day in big hotels, but we wanted to take it to the streets," said activist Basir, 29, who uses one name.

"One of the best ways to understand how women feel is to walk around and wear a burqa."

The burqa covers the entire body, with a mesh fabric window to see through. Though a symbol of Taliban treatment of women, it remains common in many parts of Afghanistan.

The march by about 20 men drew a mixed reaction.

Traffic policeman Javed Haidari, 24, looked bemused and slightly annoyed.

"What's the point of this?" he asked. "All of the women in my family wear burqas. I wouldn't let them go out without one."

A 2013 U.N. report noted that most violence against women goes underreported, particularly in rural areas.

Several of the men said wearing a burqa felt "like a prison." They carried signs reading: "equality," and "Don't tell women what to wear, you should cover your eyes."

Some men stopped to watch, laughing and heckling. Some were confused; others said women's rights encouraged prostitution.

Some female passers-by were also nonplussed.

"We don't need anyone to defend our rights," said Medina Ali, a 16-year-old student wearing a black veil that showed only her eyes and wooly gloves on a cold morning.

"This is just a foreign project to create a bad image for the burqa and Afghanistan. They're trying to make those of us who cover our faces feel bad."

An older woman, who wore a burqa herself, was less affronted.

"My husband and son tell me I should take my burqa off," said Bibi Gul, who thought she was around 60.

"But I'm used to it. I've been wearing this for 35 years."

David C (75)
Saturday April 18, 2015, 5:00 am
good, thanks!

Dianne Cunningham (12)
Saturday April 18, 2015, 5:58 am
Brave men! Thanks for the good news story! I hope their protest stimulates some discussion amongst others in Afghanistan.

Evelyn B (63)
Saturday April 18, 2015, 7:02 am
And not only in Afghanistan, I hope! The Pakhtun/ Pushtun tribes spread across NW Pakistan (and more); other Afghani tribes are found across the region ...

I hope that others will follow the stance of these brave few! (I've shared with some Pakhtun friends :>D )

Carol R (11)
Saturday April 18, 2015, 9:05 am
Yes, courageous men to stand up for equality.....
Thanks Evelyn.

Vicky P (476)
Sunday April 19, 2015, 5:41 pm
I heard about this probably a few weeks or so ago, I'm glad they are doing this, the fight for women's rights and human rights in general there will be a slow one.

Athena F (131)
Sunday April 19, 2015, 6:13 pm
love these brave men! thank you!

Fran F (116)
Sunday April 19, 2015, 9:46 pm
This action by the Afghan Peace Volunteers is a real inspiration!

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Monday April 20, 2015, 12:56 am
Good for them! Bravo & kudos for these guys - they are really exceptional men. Nothing like EMPATHY, empathy & compassion, and that's exactly what this demonstrates. What an ingenious way to celebrate International Women's Day for socially astute activist men!

And their admonition to men insisting that women wear burqas --"Don't tell women what to wear, you should cover your eyes."-- is particularly perceptive. Spot on! If men were taught to control their desires, then women wouldn't be forced to wear 'textile prisons'! That's the basis of the mentality, as in Iran, where at one point early in the Islamic Republic, women were suddenly banned from studying at university: the reason given? If they spoke out during courses, the sound of the female voice would arouse the male students. Well...can't men learn to control their 'arousal'? In these societies, women must bear the blame for the desires they arouse & as a result, become invisible non-persons, at least in the public sphere. Men are released from any responsibility for their 'natural' sex drive! And what is 'natural' about wearing a tent with a mesh window?

And speaking of women's rights & how they're perceived in Afghanistan, what ever happened to Malalai Joya? That was one brave, assertive, outspoken Afghan woman!

From the reactions to the men's demonstration, I wouldn't say that Malalai has had much impact of Afghan society! From "This is just a foreign project to create a bad image for the burqa and Afghanistan. They're trying to make those of us who cover our faces feel bad," to "All of the women in my family wear burqas. I wouldn't let them go out without one"; from the "laughing and heckling" to the notion that "women's rights encouraged prostitution" -- none of this augurs well for women's rights in Afghanistan.

What a shame, because the women are ready! I still remember the reports that I saw or read about Afghan women & girls running or attending secret schools during the Taliban reign, so motivated were they for education. It's a real deeply felt desire, just like the brilliant Pakistani girl, Malala, survivor of a Taliban assassination attempt, expresses.

jan b (5)
Monday April 20, 2015, 3:26 am
The burka has not been a symbol of humility----it's been a symbol of how women are treated differently-- often with hostility by their own families, by neighbors, by husbands and brothers and often die for breaking the harsh rules. The rule of not ever being raped or you will humiliate your family and they must kill you.

Hilary S (65)
Monday April 20, 2015, 5:37 am
it is a sad fact of humanity that the only way a society can become egalitarian is for the powerful people to speak for the powerless ones. thing is, everyone benefits from egalitarian societies, for when women are silenced 50% of a country's brain power is paralysed. of course, the vast majority of muslim men don't believe women have brains. just bodies.

MmAway M (519)
Monday April 20, 2015, 6:24 am
Thank you Evelyn.
I was kinda shocked when I read this!

Winn Adams (179)
Monday April 20, 2015, 6:33 am
A step in the right direction. Thanks Evelyn!

Evelyn B (63)
Monday April 20, 2015, 7:04 am
I was about to give you a star, Hilary - but your last phrase .....
It is far from a "vast majority" ..... There are societies (and not only Muslim) where men - and women - have been brought up to think that women don't have much brain ... but it is more often a view that they aren't educated and don't need an education, or need it less than their brothers who are going to have to earn a living for the family .... But this is becoming less common as education is becoming more accessible. And most of these societies have a special place of high respect for their mothers .....

Don't you find it ironic that some Muslim countries have had women at the head of their governments, while the US has yet to even have a female Vice President? And not only the US - few European countries, too. It contradicts your "vast majority", as Pakistan and Bangladesh have very large numbers of population ...

But patriarchal societies are certainly "threatened" by women who are able to take their place as equals! The men still have a lot to learn about how to treat women as equals - even in the West. ( See CNN: Women in the World: Where the U.S. Falters in Quest for Equality)

Jan - humility? That's a new one, & doesn't make any sense.
Yes - the burqa does differentiate men from women - but more significant, it makes all women "uniform" in the sight of others ... (except of course, when it is used as a disguise). You see it as a symbol of hostility.

Lucy is much closer to reality in her comment ... the burqa, & the niqab (with related abaya) are a way of removing from men all responsibility for their sexual impulses ..... bestowing anonymity on the wearer & no visual triggers of sexual appeal .... There is a major shift needed in the upbringing of boys, to teach them to take responsibility for their behaviour around non-relatives, in conservative Muslim societies - and this has to be in parallel to any move to eliminate requirements that women not wear such garments. In fact it needs to precede it. And Western "holier-then-thou" attacks actually have a negative effect, pushing people into strong defense of tradition ...

A few years ago, women refugees from Swat, where an extremist taliban group had taken control, begged the Aid agencies to provide them with burqas. Not because they were used to wearing these - they weren't. But as a form of protection against all the strangers (male) around them in the camps. Especially as a protection for the unmarried girls. So that they could go to places like the toilets without fear of harassment. The Aid agencies feared reaction from Western donors if they responded positively to the plea ... so (needless to say) they didn't hand out burqas - and the women continued to live in fear, try not to go to the toilet area unless they absolutely had to ..... not leave their tents (which give little sense of security, with flimsy walls and strangers living within yards of them) unless they had to.

The problem is not the burqa itself. It is the mindset that has to change. The polarising, with Islamophobia & lack of effort to understand & have dialogue, is causing more rigidity than progress.

That's why the gesture of these men is so important - potentially far more powerful as a start to a wind of positive change than all the Western attacks on the garments themselves.

Evelyn B (63)
Monday April 20, 2015, 7:04 am
Thanks, Lucy, for your insightful comments

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Monday April 20, 2015, 7:19 am
I was curious about Malalai Joya & discovered her site, named the Defense Committee for Malalai Joyawhere the first, most recent article, dated 26 March 2015, which she wrote, is about the terrible killing of a 27-year-old woman named Farkhunda

I hadn't heard about this & wanted to check if it had been covered by any Western news media. I found an article from the Daily Beast with more context & less anger, but which tells a strangely different version of the murder (I think I misinterpreted Joya's use of 'drumhead court-martial,' which made me think it was an official execution rather than a spontaneous burst of savagery.) It also describes how amazingly brave women reacted in the days that followed & lets us hear what they have to say: Afghan Women Defy Mullahs To Bury Murdered Girl

Yesterday, a courageous band of about 30 Afghan women, many of them clad in black scarves and some in black outfits, did something remarkable: they literally shouldered the young woman beaten and burned to death by a mob in Kabul, carrying upon their shoulders her heavy wooden coffin, draped with an ornate green cloth, decorated with verses from the Quran. Bouquets of flowers, still in their clear plastic, lay upon the covering.

Last Thursday afternoon, scores of clean-shaven men, wearing neat pants and shirts for a visit to the Shah-Do Shamshira mosque, or the “The King of Two Swords,” in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan, had turned into a violent mob, shouting “Allahu Akbar” and beating and stomping a student of Islam, Farkhunda, 28, on the false rumor she had burnt a Quran. After pummeling her, the men ran over her with a Toyota hatchback, dumping her body on the banks of the Kabul River and lighting her on fire. Photos and videos of the murderous rampage shocked the world, just hours later, when they posted on Facebook and social media.

26 men have been arrested in connection to the homicide.

Three days later, more than 1,000 gathered for her funeral in the Afghan capital.

“Maa hama Farkhunda yem,” the women chanted at her gravesite. “We are all Farkhunda.”

“Maa edalat mikhohim!” they added. “We want justice!”

The symbolic assertion of power and strength by the women, defying a puritanical ban against women at cemeteries, is a hopeful expression for women—and men—in traditional Muslim communities, rejecting antiquated interpretations of Islam that subordinate women, denying them fundamental human rights, such as the right to simply grieve at a gravesite. .../... "

The article is too long for me to post it all, but it is really impressive; the women's views are quoted later on.

In light of this spontaneous burst of barbarity in the middle of Kabul, the courage of the Afghan Peace Volunteers is all the more impressive. I had really no idea how dangerous it is in Kabul to express be accused or suspected of sacrilege! Thank goodness they weren't attacked!

Evelyn B (63)
Monday April 20, 2015, 7:39 am
Drumhead is very different to official, LucyK! It's often used as an equivalent to lynching, or "kangaroo court" now, although originally it referred to expeditive judgement within the military context, in the field - I think a drum was used as a table for the officer judging, or something?

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Monday April 20, 2015, 7:56 am
I think I understand why Jan said "symbol of humility" - here in France, I've heard Muslim men defending women wearing burqas by saying that it's a sign of modesty. In any event, I took Jan's 'humility' to be interchangeable with the men's model of 'modesty' in women, though they aren't exactly the same thing. Perhaps 'humility' is closer to submissiveness. There was (& perhaps still is, though we don't hear about them anymore) a great movement of French Muslim girls & women, and French girls & women whose parents or grandparents immigrated from Muslim & North African countries. In reaction against the overt patriarchal, repressive attitudes and pressure that young Muslim men in France's suburbs were inflicting on the girls of their generation, the women formed an organization called 'Neither whores nor submissive' (Ni putes ni soumises). The women were sick & tired of feeling the pressure & the oppressive attitudes, the lack of respect these young men showed for women who integrated French society, dressed in Western fashion and/or had boyfriends. They were a bit like the Iranian morality police; they, too, wanted to control the women in their neighborhoods & police their way of dressing or their freedom to go out and associate with whomever they chose.

But, again, before rushing into Islamaphobic reaction, just remember that Western women long submitted to, before complaining about the double standard that still existed when I was a teenager, and we've all heard about the dichotomy certain men maintained between 'the mother and the whore.' Having a father whose grandparents came from Sicily I can tell you I'm well-acquainted with that mentality! Even when the language has been replaced by English for a generation or two, the mentality sticks like macaroni & cheese.

Evelyn B (63)
Monday April 20, 2015, 8:50 am
There's a whole education process needed to move out of that kind of mindset - and we haven't yet broken completely free of it anywhere! After all - how often do rapists in the West claim "she was asking for it" ...?

And I hate seeing the spread of the hijab, & even the niqab, in parts of the Middle East , North Africa and even across Africa ... in places where they have never worn these before.

I actually do know some women who genuinely prefer to wear the hijab & full flowing clothing - because it means that they don't have to worry about fashionable clothing! Though some wear very "fashionable" hijab ..... :>)

I do think they should have the right if it is their free choice ... but only if it is their free choice. There was a debate on French TV about 3 years ago, between an Afghan and a French hijab wearer ... and the point made, powerfully, by the Afghan was "You are lucky - you can choose to wear it, or not to wear it. I have no choice at all."

Barbara Tomlinson (431)
Monday April 20, 2015, 1:46 pm
A few years ago, there was a speaker at the Friends Center {which is the Quaker "Meeting House"}. It was on Women's Rights and the speaker had actual Burqas on hand, which we were invited to try on. I did.
The men in the photograph aren't wearing the Burqas "properly", which is okay, I take it they are simultaneously making the point that THEY DON'T MIND BEING IDENTIFIED, they are NOT ashamed of what they are doing, which is very brave.
The Burqa, as I have ACTUALLY PUT ONE ON, "the right way", for a few minutes, which was ENUF for me -
It is exactly like A WALKING PRISON.
It is a TENT, not like clothing, more like a "house", but an exceedingly NARROW one.
Different even from a headscarf or even a face veil.
The Burqa covers every inch of you including your EYES. You look out thru a MESH where others can't look in. Even your hands are supposed to be inside the tent, or covered by gloves when outside, warm or cool weather.
You have NO PERIPHERAL VISION at all. Can ONLY look straight ahead. Tunnel vision, really.
Out on the street, you would NOT be safe, as you COULDN'T SEE ONCOMING TRAFFIC. Or hear it very well, probably, muffled by cloth. If you want to see something behind or to the side, you have to STOP AND TURN AROUND COMPLETELY.
You'd be okay I guess in a village with ONLY Pedestrians. Or else, you'd NATURALLY have to have a MAN accompany you, to be safe {from ANYthing out there, animals, kids on skateboards, things to trip over, etc.}.
A woman couldn't even recognize her Best Friend, out on the street, since every woman looks the same. {Unless the friend had some special mark on the Burqa, like a little stain or something of the sort. Conspicuous decoration or jewelry are no-nos.}
How could a woman in a Burqa watch a child properly, or shop? Get on buses, etc.? Would be LETHAL to let her drive... Burqas make Citizenship in the sense we understand it, IMPOSSIBLE.
It is understood that the whole life of the woman is IN THE HOME, and she only goes out when absolutely necessary, accompanied by her menfolk...

Women who approve of Burqas and want to wear them, have been BRAINWASHED, just like the women who approve of Female Genital Mutilation {FGM} and perpetuate it on their daughters.
Burqas are JUST AS RESTRICTING and SHOULD NOT BE PERMITTED in a civilized society.
Banning them, just like banning, prohibiting, criminalizing FGM, or like banning footbinding did in China - that will HELP WOMEN GET RID OF IT.
This is NOT a "fashion choice" or "personal choice". Besides, like Gay "Conversion" therapy, NO FAMILY SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO INFLICT THIS ON THEIR TEENAGE DAUGHTERS.

Long skirts, "modest" clothing, headscarves, those ARE "fashion" or "personal" choices.
"Western" countries ARE RIGHT TO BAN BURQAS on their streets & in their schools.
Headscarves, no. Not the same thing at all. Hey, *I* wear headscarves if I feel like it! for whatever reason...

Birgit W (160)
Monday April 20, 2015, 1:59 pm
Evelyn B. says it all. It does not matter what we wear, or how many tattoos or earrings we have.

Barbara Tomlinson (431)
Monday April 20, 2015, 2:02 pm
To combat Islamophobia, I have made this point often - and THIS ARTICLE SHOWS HOW RIGHT I AM!!!

The point that:
In EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, every single one without exceptions, and Islamic countries aren't exceptions -
in every country there are Women struggling for their Freedom and Equality -
and in every country there are GOOD MEN HELPING THEM. Including, in every Islamic country.
It suits the Government War Machine, and the complaisant Media, to beat the drum for WAR, WAR, WAR, against countries that are NO THREAT to the U.S. but just HAPPEN to be sitting right on top of Oil, Natural Gas, and Minerals and Rare Earths... not that that is of any interest to U.S. Corporations and Contractors...!
Way to do that, to BAMBOOZLE THE PUBLIC best, is to DEMONIZE all the Men -
and to turn the Women all into Passive, Mindless Ciphers, who can't lift a finger to liberate themselves, but are waiting eagerly for... a big, strong, mighty, hairy-chested American Soldier to kill their husbands and "liberate" the helpless women.... sounds more like RAPE than "liberation", when put that way.....

Barbara Tomlinson (431)
Monday April 20, 2015, 2:25 pm
Men in Turkey, a 99% Islamic country, put on miniskirts to show solidarity with women. {Not all women approved.}
There are 2 Petitions on forcechange, started by Islamic MEN, asking for Police Investigations and Prosecutions of the murderers of Farkhunda.
Malala Youskafai's father is - DUH! - a MAN and a noted educator of Islamic girls in Pakistan, formerly. {Now he and Malala both live in exile in Britain.}
The book by an Afghan woman, "A Woman Among Warlords", gives due credit to the MEN without whom the often-necessarily-secretive activities of the Afghan Women's Movement would not even be POSSIBLE.
In EVERY CASE of Invasion and Occupation by the United States, it has made the position of Women in the country involved, MUCH MUCH MUCH WORSE.
Wars ALWAYS impact Women worse than Men.
Women get RAPED AND KILLED in wars. American Bombs KILL WOMEN AND CHILDREN, not just the "Bad Guys". American Soldiers RAPE WOMEN AND CHILDREN TOO, unpleasant as it may be to think so. American Soldiers have MURDERED Women and Children in these countries. For some reason, the Women don't feel grateful and aren't saying "thank you" to the "liberating" American Troops...
For some reason, Women don't like having their Husbands, Sons, Brothers, Fathers, Uncles, Nephews killed... Even if they're oppressive and nasty a lot of the time. Would YOU?
Women in War become Widows and without means of support - sometimes without Family at all.
Women in War turn to PROSTITUTION as one of the few means open to support themselves or children. CHILDREN turn to Prostitution. Women and children starve, get serious injuries, get diseases, etc...
Some "Liberation"!

Evelyn B (63)
Monday April 20, 2015, 2:48 pm
BT - they'd been wearing them properly as they "marched" (quite a short distance!!), but threw them back when standing in front of the Human Rights Commission .....

Shoes are the closest thing to an identity "give-away", with burqa or full gear niqab .....

You can be categorical from the comfort of a context where, if anything, wearing a burqa would actually make one vulnerable. But you do not have the right to refuse others a FREE choice ...... and you should be cautious in assuming that all women who choose to wear a hijab do so because they are not strong enough to resist family pressure. That is actually quite insulting to those who actually choose for themselves.

Banning is not a global solution - although it could be applied in societies where only family and social pressure are behind the wearing of a garment like the burqa.

I too have tried a burqa - within 20 minutes I had a headache from trying to focus through that grid .... I couldn't believe that anyone with any freedom of choice would choose to wear a burqa (or, for that matter, full niqab .....) I was therefore shocked to find that a close friend would sometimes put on a burqa to go shopping. Her family is very liberal - and anti-burqa, but she would slip away, put on a burqa, and go exploring markets where nobody could recognise her. It gave her a sense of freedom.

Then I was working in Pakistan after masses of people fled from Swat, due to its take-over by an extremist taliban group. Swat (where Malala comes from) was not a part of Pakistan where burqas were worn ... at least, before the spread of extremism. And the refugees were those fleeing extremism. So you can imagine Aid agencies astonishment when the women started to plead with them to provide burqas, especially but not only for their adolescent daughters. Why? Not because they'd suddenly been brainwashed, but because they didn't feel safe surrounded by total strangers ...
=> Tents in the camps are often packed closely together, and the neighbouring tents house total strangers (men and women)
=> Toilets and bathroom facilities are provided for large clusters of tents ..... and to reach them, refugees have to walk through groups of strangers
SO "please give us burqas so strange men won't see our faces, our figures and maybe aggress us or our adolescent daughters"

Well - the Aid agencies didn't dare risk the criticism of people who share your views, BT.
So those poor women had to live with their fear, stay inside their tents, control their bladders etc until it got dark, then go together to the bathroom/toilet area ..... because WE disapprove of the cultural implications of burqas. Worse - in an effort to "protect" the adolescent girls, marriages would be arranged ... much younger than they would have been in the village before the Taliban militia arrived ......

FIRST - the mindset has to be changed ... then, banning burqas wouldn't be unrealistic.
And in these camps, for example - the fear of strangers was not necessarily based on fact, but on perception of potential risk ....

Because it isn't the burqa that is intrinsically BAD - but the mindset of traditionals & patriarchal attitudes that create a "desirability" of burqas. (Although frankly, I think anyone who chooses freely to wear a burka needs their head examined ... including my friend .... but she doesn't like niqab, which would accord the same anonymity ....)

In Western countries, banning burqas & niqab in public spaces is viable - security justifies the ban. (In the "Women only" areas of shopping centres in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, women are required to remove their face covering ....... see for the sign at the entry of one ....) But the hijab? No threat, no danger ... one can see better than women with long hair falling aroind their faces ..... So - providing it IS their own free choice, women should not be harassed for wearing a hijab.

And if it IS their choice, they should be allowed to wear what they want - without people suggesting that they don't have the freedom or the strength of character to choose for themselves becuase they choose to wear something that WE assume reflects their oppressed condition.

Evelyn B (63)
Monday April 20, 2015, 2:52 pm
And I do so agree with what you posted here, Barbara, whiile I was replying to your first comment & doing some "thinking out loud" based on what you wrote there!!

Barbara Tomlinson (431)
Monday April 20, 2015, 2:53 pm
Finally, I want to say that in Islamic and other countries, the Women's Movement may be taking a long time, getting a slow start, and we get real impatient with "those awful, terrible, awful men!"

Partly, because in some countries, a Woman's Movement has to be semi-secret at times, even underground sometimes, and its "leaders" often in danger and sometimes assassinated or in jail.
Those "darker", "lesser" people just CAN'T be as smart and as "civilized" as US.... biologically impossible.
[Tho they don't put it QUITE that way...]

So, we hear about the SETBACKS to Women, and the terrible RESTRICTIONS on them -
but NOT about the push-back from Women and their Male Allies.
This article shows that MAY be starting to change... What we HEAR, that is.

It's going to take a LONG TIME probably to REALLY LIBERATE ALL Islamic Women, including some very fundamental changes to the Religious Outlook of many or most Muslims!
But "a long time" doesn't mean it's not happening at all... And, things CAN change pretty fast sometimes, we've seen that ourselves, if a real MOMENTUM gets rolling....

SOCIAL MEDIA is in just about EVERY COUNTRY. Including Islamic ones.
Women are EXPRESSING THEMSELVES, and getting together with other Women, and with Male Allies, thru the Social Media.
Wealthy Arab Women know what's going on in other countries, and are less and less "content" to live restricted lives that WEALTHY WOMEN IN OTHER COUNTRIES DON'T HAVE TO.
In Iran, there are more Women studying in college, than men...
We're not talking about 19th-century Villagers here...

Just as with the "Western" Women's Movement in the first half of the 20th Century, and with the Gay Movement in the second half, I think we could see real break-throughs in Islamic countries IF THE UNITED STATES KEEPS ITS ARMIES AT HOME AND ITS GRUBBY HANDS OFF THE OIL...

It is BUSH/CHENEY/RUMSFELD'S WAR, and NOTHING ELSE, that is RESPONSIBLE for the DISASTER {not just to Women!} that is ISIS...

Evelyn B (63)
Monday April 20, 2015, 3:10 pm
Wish I could sent a cascade of stars! ************************

Just one thing ... the men have to be a part in driving the movement ... because shifting patriarchy out of the dominating position requires male leadership in partnership with women's empowerment!!

Iran is far from the only country in the region where there are more women than men in higher education (and not only from elite families, but also from poorer backgrounds). The Gulf States, Lebanon, Jordan ... and others, too. Young men often drop out during secondary education - to take paid work.

But education isn't a key per se - even when women are increasingly breaking into "male" domains of education ... Otherwise we'd be seeing far greater gender equality in the West!! In top positions, in politics, in big business & in Boards .... with equal salaries for equal work ..... But we still have a long way to go, ourselves ....

Barbara Tomlinson (431)
Monday April 20, 2015, 3:33 pm
Evelyn: I agreed with you the first time, about those women in refugee camps, that's a SPECIAL CASE, I would've wanted them to give the Women Burqas too! Aid workers can be culturally insensitive... That case DID make sense. Don't blame ME! {I know ya don't.}

I am thinking mostly of Immigrants. Those who come to Western countries, then send their kids - daughters - home "on vacation" for FGM. It MUST be made illegal IN WESTERN COUNTRIES. To make it illegal EVENTUALLY in countries where it is endemic, takes tact, time, education... not just suddenly passing a law.

In the same way, we can MAKE BURQAS ILLEGAL in the West. FOR PUBLIC SAFETY REASONS.
During the Mt. St. Helen's eruption, in Washington State, some towns were COVERED IN ASH and people wore scarves, veils, masks, ANYthing, over their faces to not breathe in the Volcanic Dust in the air! And posted on the front of BANKS was the request, for everybody to take OFF their Face Covering when entering the Bank! Makes perfect sense! PUBLIC SAFETY!
To outlaw Burqas in countries where they are a Custom, is a different matter.
First, they shouldn't be made MANDATORY.
Then, Educate the Young... It would be good to also RESTRICT WHERE THEY COULD BE WORN, for, again, PUBLIC SAFETY reasons... like, not where there's heavy traffic, crowds of people...
There's a YouTube Video showing a Woman {presumably} who is covered-up, MURDERING another Woman... who's going to IDENTIFY her...?

Headscarves should not be a problem. Or wigs {I am thinking of Orthodox Jewish Women}, hats, wearing nothing on the head, etc. Personal or cultural choices. Either or both.
In the West we can tell ALL WOMEN that they HAVE A CHOICE...
They can CHOOSE to follow the culture or their personal preferences for scarves, wigs, skirt lengths, etc. - but NO ONE CAN COMPEL THEM.
BUT - they do NOT have a choice to wear Burqas {in the West}, or bind feet, or inflict FGM, or for that matter, inflict Gay "Conversion" therapy on their families...

I'm against face-veiling in the West, for the same Public Safety reasons...
The rest of that covered-up stuff makes me somewhat sick to see it, but except for the face, well...
one sees some Christian and Mormon and Orthodox Jewish women all-covered-up for "modesty" too, conspicuously so, not "reasonably" so... I hate to think what those Women are going thru, but "it's a free country" and maybe their lives are not so bad as I imagine, there may be compensations...
Just hope it becomes LESS common, not more so.....

Rose Becke (141)
Monday April 20, 2015, 9:03 pm
Great comments BM

Roslyn McBride (26)
Monday April 20, 2015, 10:03 pm
Afghan men marching for women's rights? Hard to believe!

Evelyn B (63)
Tuesday April 21, 2015, 5:53 am
That quite a number of Afghan men DO support women's rights .... I know from experience!
That they'll talk about women's rights - in some contexts - very supportively - that too

But that they dare make a spectacle of themselves to draw public attention .... yes, hard to believe - and great! The first tiny chink in the wall???

And Barbara - yes, I saw from the comments AFTER posting my comment that we were less in disagreement than I feared! But C2NN doesn't give us any way of editing, unfortunately ... or I would have modified where I'd written
" who share your views, BT. " .... I owe you an apology for that, because later comments made it clear that you were talking about within Western countries ....

Although I STILL think that banning can only be a viable strategy when one has already started the battle with the mindsets .....

Bruce C D (89)
Tuesday April 21, 2015, 6:51 pm
Excellent comments and discussion. This article demonstrates one of the things wrong with the racist generalizations common to Islamophobia.

I'd just add that there are a great many Muslim women who dress modestly (yes, even burqas) because they want to, not because they are forced to do so. It is as much a cultural phenomenon as it is religious.

I don't agree with France's ban on Muslim dress, because it is discriminatory and it sends the wrong message to that nations large Muslim population. I don't believe it has anything to do with security. I would favor a law that prevents anyone from being forced to wear religious clothing, which I think is the right way to go about things.


LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Wednesday April 22, 2015, 4:28 am
I do & don't agree with France's ban.

I don't agree because it stigmatizes a group that is already, all too often, discriminated against (ie in getting jobs ) & marginalized, excluded, in French society, where the majority of the original North African immigrants and now their descendants, two and three generations on, live in poor, suburban housing project ghettoes, where the unemployment rates are far higher than in French society at large, even if unemployment IS very high in France in general, and particularly high for young people seeking their first jobs, whatever their ethnic background. Even non-Muslim, non-ghetto-dwelling young people with impressive degrees & diplomas cannot find proper work, but since these young men were not successful at school, have no job training & cannot apply for well-paid positions, they find only the lowest grade work available to them -for many dealing drugs becomes the only way of making some money, and delinquacy is rampant. (though I admit I don't know the %s & the hard data, it's an impression you get from TV reports, but many suburban ghetto youth deplore the 'false' image of them that the media spread) So banning the burqa causes an aggressive backlash, justified by the angry young men's feelings, and accurate perception of being stigmatized & discriminated against. It intensifies the negative feelings against France.

But that means that France should first have attacked the shameful inequalities & lack of opportunities for suburban ghetto youth, particularly for males, as the girls seem to fair better. And that means remedial programs in the schools, because you can't get anywhere without a degree, a diploma or two! It also means changing a lot in the schools, because France has a very elitist approach to school program & teaching methods; you learn it the way they teach it or you're left at the wayside in total failure.

It is also true that very few Muslim women & girls were the extreme burqa in France. It seemed exaggerated at the time to spend so much parliamentary and media time focusing on an issue that involves so few women. The attention this issue received seemed to me all out of proportion given the tiny number of women concerned. It was like a major diversion from important issues that need tackling. But talk is cheap, as they say, and remodeling the education system and/or providing effective remedial programs for youth who are failing or who have already slipped out of the education system would take a lot of money that isn't available.

Also: Evelyn & Barbara, as well as others, point to TWO reasons for wearing a burqa, but I see a third reason. It's a symbol & the expression of a patriarchal society that diminishes & denigrates women, and denies their human & civil rights; It can be a woman's choice, as some have said, and not necessarily a symbol of women's submissiveness; but there's a third possibility that no one's mentioned - it can also be a way a 'giving the finger' to a (French) society perceived as hostile or, at the very least, disrespectful of people belonging to this ethnic/religious group & disrespectful of their religious traditions and origins.

I do agree, though, on another level. Living in France means embracing a secular society and values of equality between men and women. It's important for Muslims to integrate French society if they are to succeed and lead productive, prosperous & happy lives. A patriarchic system which oppresses women and fails to take their rights into account is not in line with the values of French society. Women cannot flourish and fulfill themselves when dominated by the men in their entourage, upholding an archaic mode of social organization that interferes and prevents girls' & women's rights. French law, for example, has to protect girls & women from FGM & arranged marriage. In many instances, girls in France have been lured back to the parents' country under false pretenses, and then married off, against their will, to someone of the parents' choosing. Whatever their traditions & backgrounds, these girls had grown up in France and wanted to live independent lives of their own choosing. Others have had to run away from home because they suspected (correctly) what their parents were plotting - a forced marriage! Cases like these are exactly like anti-FGM legislation. Human rights must prevail whenever traditions like these fail to respect the will of girls & women.

I bookmarked this essay on cultural relativism years ago & find it is still & always valid: "So ... reasonable and desirable goals of tolerance, understanding, cosmopolitanism, and cultural relativism can clash with equally reasonable and desirable goals of preventing harm to others, criticising unjust laws and customs and traditions, exposing exploitation and oppression, and advocating an end to asymmetrical, unfair, cruel, punitive and destructive instituitions. Sometimes those institutions and practices and customs are in Third World countries, and then attempts of First World people to reform or abolish them will conflict with the laudable goal of not being a cultural imperialist or Eurocentric or self-righteous or intolerant. And then one has to choose.

One obvious (yet strangely easily overlooked) way to deal with this problem is to ask ourselves what we mean by ‘culture’. If we think and say that women shouldn’t be murdered by their fathers and brothers for, e.g., resisting an arranged marriage, only to be told that that’s their culture and it’s arrogant and Eurocentric to judge other cultures by Western standards, then surely the thought is available: what do you mean ‘their culture’? Whose culture? And what follows from that? Is it the culture of the women who are murdered? Or is it only the culture of the men doing the murdering. If the latter, why should their culture be privileged?

In fact it’s quite strange the way a line of thought that’s intended to side with the oppressed often sides with oppressors in the name of multiculturalism. A great many practices could be put in the box ‘their culture’. Dowry murders, female infanticide, female genital mutilation, slavery, child labour, drafting children into armies, the caste system, beating and sexually abusing and witholding wages from domestic servants especially immigrants, Shariah, fatwas, suttee. These are all part of someone’s ‘culture’, as murder is a murderer’s culture and rape is a rapist’s. But why validate only the perpetrators? Have the women, servants, slaves, child soldiers, Dalits, ten-year-old carpet weavers in these cultures ever even had the opportunity to decide what their culture might be? .../... " (too long to post here, but worth the read)

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Wednesday April 22, 2015, 4:35 am
Btw, I have never personally had the opportunity to wear a burqa, to try it out, so to speak, as Barbara has. But if I had been one of those aid workers whose plight Evelyn explained, I'd have wanted one, too! Safety outweighs ideology! It's just common sense!

I did read a book, though, long ago, "The Bookseller of Kabul," by Åsne Seierstadwhich, which explained in detail, in one chaper, what wearing a burqa was like & how it felt. It was by a Norwegian journalist who got herself 'embedded' in an Afghan family, and then wrote an account of everyday life in the household, including going out to the market, for example, and having to recognize people by their shoes! I had forgotten both the name of the book & the author, so I had to google to find it; and lo & behold! I've come across a Wiki article that reveals the controversy & lawsuit that the book triggered from the head of the household. If you're interested the Wiki article on The Bookseller of Kabul is here.

After theoutcome of the first trial in what was to become a long, legal saga, the Irish Times published an excellent article, Vindication for Bookseller of Kabul as court orders author to pay damages about "one of the literary world's most unlikely feuds – one that pitches an aggrieved Afghan bookseller against a Norwegian journalist who turned the story of his family into an international bestseller that has arguably done more to shape perceptions of quotidian life in Afghanistan than anything else.

"Shah Muhammad Rais, the real-life Bookseller of Kabul thinly disguised in the book of the same name as the domineering Sultan Khan, has long protested the accuracy of Asne Seierstad’s account of the inner workings of his household.

"Last week, Rais experienced a vindication of sorts when an Oslo court ordered Seierstad to pay more than €31,000 in damages to his second wife, Suraia. Seierstad was found guilty of defamation and “negligent journalistic practices” after Suraia argued that the book cast her in a distorted and humiliating light, and left her feeling “violated”. Seven other members of the family, including Rais, his first wife and his children, are also planning to sue.

"The row, which has rumbled along since the book’s publication in 2003, has prompted searching questions about the degree to which western journalists should judge the traditions and mores of societies like that of Afghanistan. .../... "

The Guardian published a piece asking, "Did she exploit her subjects' privacy and trust in her portrayal of Afghan family life? And what does the case mean for journalism?", which explains (among other things) that author Seierstad was appealing.

The legal saga ended when Asne Seierstad won her appeal, and damage claims against both the author and her publisher were reversed. Rais then appealed to Norway’s Supreme Court. But since the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, the appeals court decision stood and Seierstad prevailed.

Evelyn B (63)
Wednesday April 22, 2015, 5:38 am
OOF, Lucy - you've jumped around so much it is hard to know how to come in here!!

France & the burqa ...
Firstly, other than some ignorant people using "burqa" to refer to the hijab ... and that is less common now than when the row first blew up about wearing headscarves (hijab) in school .... neither the laws & regulations nor the discussions refer to burqas.

(Anecdote: when there were huge debates, at the time of the first big headscarf media coverage ... I was at a meeting, and kept objecting to their use of "burqa" as a synonym for the headscarf. At the lunch break, I rushed home, and shortly after the start of the afternoon session, I donned my burqa and walked in to the hall! Deathly hush; shock on every face. And I announced: "THIS is a BURQA! I don't think that this is what is being worn in schools!" And rapidly removed it - because it is horrible to look through the grid! I'd brought one home to show friends ... including beautiful but discreet embroidery, hardly visible because in the same colour as the cloth ... and possibly for fancy dress events ... Anyway - the term "burqa" was never used again in those discussions!!)

People not very familiar with France can't possibly grasp the hypersensitivity the surrounds the principle of "laïcité" (secularism) for the French. It is almost a religion in itself! The State and state institutions must be laïc, free of all religion. No outward sign of religion is permitted in schools - not worn by students, not worn by teachers. The hijab - because basically, that is the most common form of "Muslim" dress seen in France - is seen as a religious symbol and is therefore not admissible in state schools. If Muslims want their daughters to wear hijab - they should send them to private school. Just as Jews who want their sons to wear Kippah have to send them to private schools. Fair enough - if they can afford the fees.

The only burqa I've seen worn in my part of France is my burqa - well, it's not mine, now - a friend begged me to give it to her, and she's used it for teaching people .... And I haven't noticed great attention being paid to the burqa in the media ... at least, not about it being worn in France .... although I've seen a number documentaries and debates about status of women in countries where burqa are worn ..

Evelyn B (63)
Wednesday April 22, 2015, 6:10 am
your comments on cultural relativism/ multiculturalism

As has been pointed out to me a number of times when I've worked with people combatting harmful practices - if parents perceived their practices as harmful, they wouldn't support them! (Well, maybe a few sadists, but not as a culturally supported practice) ... They continue the practices because they think they are PROTECTING their children .... And not only girls: there is a school of thought that male circumcision is "Violence against Children", equivalent to FGM. Yet in Israel, women do not have free choice to NOT circumcise their sons - there was a case reported here on C2NN where the courts ordered a mother to circumcise her son, with $100 per day for each day where she delayed obeying ..... Perception: circumcision is in the interest of the male. Perception: an uncircumcised girl will not be acceptable as a wife. Perception: if a girl is not covered, she is at risk of aggression by strangers ..... ALL perceived as protection.

And changing perception doesn't take place through imposed laws. It requires discussion and persuasion. When the Shah of Iran gave strict orders that the wives of those in the civil service must wear Western dress ... and gave orders for a series of parties to which officials must bring their wives, there were women (probably prostitutes!) who hired out their services to attend, in evening dress, insteadof the actual wives! Eye witnesses described how they found themselves meeting & recognising Mme the wife of the Minister of Education ... when she was attending another party as Mme wife of the head of postal services! Laws and royal orders are not enough to overthrow "values" - the values have to evolve, and from within the culture. Laws & external condemning don't work - if anything, they make people dig their heels in & become obstinate, protective of "their" traditions, finding ways around the laws .... sometimes, with far more harmful effects - as will illegal abortions or illegal circumcisions.

Evelyn B (63)
Wednesday April 22, 2015, 6:26 am
I must look out for that book - It seems to illustrate clearly a number of issues: e.g. the ethics & responsibilities of a journalist who lives within a community or family of a very different culture; e.g. the challenge of "neutral" .. including avoiding carrying one's own values through subconsciously ....


Connie O (45)
Thursday April 23, 2015, 12:19 pm
I am glad to see some men that are supporting women on certain issues. This is a culture that will be very hard to change.
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