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How Not to Study Gender in the Middle East

How Not to Study Gender in the Middle East

Status of Women in 'Reformist' Morocco Just three years ago, a teenager from Western Sahara (which has long been occupied by Morocco) left a human rights meeting, at which point she was accosted, as she reveals in a YouTube video, by six plainclothes Moroccan policemen. They pushed her into a waiting vehicle, blindfolded, and handcuffed her. And then they raped and sodomized her with truncheons, in the presence of high ranking Moroccan officers. Once that was done, they told her she would be killed if she decided to talk about her treatment at their hands. Several months later, on August 27th, yet another teenage human rights activist, Nguia el-Haouassi, found herself abducted by Moroccan police, stripped naked, and subjected to what was called “physical and psychological torture.” Most notably, according to the victim, she was told by police that if she discussed what had occurred while in custody, the videotape of her naked body would be downloaded onto the Internet, and she would be raped. Possibly not.

Libyan Eastern Tribal Chiefs, Population, and Government (Part 1 of 2) On 15 September 2012, the tribal chiefs of Libya’s eastern region held a meeting to announce their solutions to the recent spate of violence, which culminated in the attack on the US consulate on 11 September. Although invitations were extended to government officials at this meeting, the tribes announced a clearly critical stance vis-a-vis the government’s weak politics, at times condemning its performance and thus affirming a new capacity to criticize the Libyan state. At 10:00 AM, the chiefs and their guests began to arrive at a wedding hall in Benghazi. When I arrived at the meeting, I was surprised to see a half a dozen or so security guards standing at the entrance. I had not seen as many policemen in Benghazi since I had arrived the previous week. Present at the meetin­­­g were tribal chiefs­­­­ accompanied by their close male relatives, army officers, political activists, government representatives of Benghazi, and a few journalists. [Image from 15 September meeting in Benghazi.

Young Women Demanding Justice and Dignity: By All Means Necessary Amina Filali was a young Moroccan girl who was raped at the age of 15 then forced to marry her rapist. She was battered, bruised, and starved until she committed suicide in March 2012. She was 16 years old. Contributing to Amina’s suicide are her rapist turned husband, article 475 of the Moroccan penal code that absolves an aggressor of his crime once he consents to marrying his rape victim, the judge who called for a mediation instead of a prosecution against the offender, the police, and the religious clerics who have given their blessings to the rapist. Amina’s suicide exposes, once again, an entirely flawed legal system and deeply distorted patriarchal honor code that decriminalizes the oppressor and condemns the victim. Behind her death is the lethal combination of state sanctioned gender violence, legal blindness, and societal silence. Article 475 of the Moroccan Penal code states: According to the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), Amina is a child.

When Satire Conquered Iran by Slavs and Tatars One of the most important contributions to modern Azerbaijani literature and culture was the irreverent early twentieth-century magazine Molla Nasreddin. What follows is an introduction to the magazine by the artist collective Slavs and Tatars, together with a series of magazine excerpts featured in their book, Molla Nasreddin: The Magazine That Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve, recently published by JRP-Ringier, in a series edited by Christoph Keller. —The Editors Published between 1906 and 1930, Molla Nasreddin was a satirical Azeri magazine edited by the writer Jalil Mammadguluzadeh (1866-1932), and named after Nasreddin, the legendary Sufi wise man-cum-fool of the Middle Ages. Managing to speak to the intelligentsia as well as the masses, however, the magazine was an instant success and would become the most influential and perhaps first publication of its kind to be read across the Muslim world, from Morocco to India.

Egypt: Military Impunity for Violence Against Women (New York) – The March 11 acquittal of the only military officer charged in the “virginity tests” trial is a blow for any hopes of accountability for the abuses women have experienced at the hands of the Egyptian military over the past year, Human Rights Watch said today. The military has failed to investigate and punish credible claims of other instances of violence by its members against women, including the beating and torture of women demonstrators by military officers on March 9 and December 16, 2011. The investigation and trial in the case, in which female protesters who had been detained testified that a military doctor subjected them to “virginity testing,” underscore the lack of independence of the military justice system in trying such cases, Human Rights Watch said. On the afternoon of March 9, 2011, military officers destroyed a tent camp belonging to demonstrators in Tahrir Square's central garden, and arrested at least 190 demonstrators. The Virginity Tests Trial

Turkey’s Towering Ambition by Hugh Eakin In March 1548, having brought the Ottoman Empire to the height of its power, Suleiman the Magnificent decided to build a mosque in Istanbul. “At that time,” an anonymous chronicler explains, His Highness the world-ruling sultan realized the impermanence of the base world and the necessity to leave behind a monument so as to be commemorated till the end of time….Following the devout path of former sultans, he ordered the construction of a matchless mosque complex for his own noble self. In late May of this year, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—Turkey’s powerful prime minister, a devout Muslim, and the self-styled leader of the new Middle East—announced that he would be erecting his own grand mosque above the Bosphorus. It will be more prominent than Suleiman’s. “We will build an even larger dome than our ancestors made,” an architect involved in the project, Hacı Mehmet Güner, boasted to the Turkish daily Milliyet in early July. All this, too, can be seen on the streets of Istanbul.

To Be a Woman in Pakistan: Six Stories of Abuse, Shame, and Survival - Zara Jamal - International Interviews with a handful of the country's 88 million women and girls Brides-to-be wait during a mass wedding ceremony in Karachi. Reuters According to a 2011 poll of experts by the Thomson Reuters Foundation Poll, Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for women in the world. Westerners usually associate the plight of Pakistani women with religious oppression, but the reality is far more complicated. Quietly, slowly, in piecemeal legal reforms, female empowerment is coming in Pakistan. A difficult irony for women in Pakistan is that, should a victim speak up about physical or sexual abuse, she is seen as having lost her and her family's dignity. These are the stories of six poor, working women of different ages, backgrounds, and life experiences in the Pakistani city of Karachi, where I grew up and where I met them. These women have consented to share the stories and photos so that the world might better understand the challenges they face. Ayesha, age 18 Rehana, age 37

Dissipating Dissent: Morocco's Stabilizing Spatial Tactics When considering the wave of uprisings that swept the Arab world recently, otherwise known as the “Arab Spring,” Morocco is often perceived as the exception to the rule. The country’s socio-political profile led many to believe that it was only a matter of time for the disgruntled masses to take to the streets and bring down another regime that has monopolized governance for decades and on whom the country’s ills can be blamed. Morocco has survived the unrest, however, and its leadership seems to be as strong today as ever. This is often explained with the promises of political reform that King Mohammed VI issued soon after regional uprisings started. This succinct narrative, albeit factual, does not accurately reflect the relationship between the resilient regime and the country at large. Spatial practices have been accorded significant attention over the last few decades by various intellectual traditions, notably philosophy, sociology, geography, and anthropology. Spatial Tactics

In a Baghdad E.R., Women's Psychological Wounds Go Untreated I had been working at a trauma center in Baghdad for some time when an opportunity came up to transfer back to my old job — at a maternity hospital in Sadr City. But I backed out at the last minute. I knew the transfer would be good for me: I’d be far away from the stress and drama of the E.R., where I had spent a lot of time. I told myself that getting away would let me process what I had seen and experienced. But I wondered if I had gotten so used to chaos that I wouldn’t function in a peaceful, stable environment. When the transfer offer came, I was responsible for this hospital’s female medical ward. During one of my E.R. shifts, a 16-year-old girl was brought in by her aunt and brother, who were both terrified. I’ve also seen quite a few women who’ve burned themselves. These women are especially at risk in a health care system in which overworked doctors like me focus only on saving their lives; healing their invisible wounds is another story.

New Texts Out Now: Myriam Ababsa, Baudouin Dupret, and Eric Denis, Popular Housing and Urban Land Tenure in the Middle East Myriam Ababsa, Baudouin Dupret and Eric Denis, editors. Popular Housing and Urban Land Tenure in the Middle East: Case Studies from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Cairo and New York: The American University in Cairo Press, 2012. Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book? Myriam Ababsa (MA), Baudouin Dupret (BD), and Eric Denis (ED): The first impulse behind this book came out of Eric Denis’ and Baudouin Dupret’s collaboration during the nineties at the French Institute in Cairo (CEDEJ), when the former conducted major research on urbanization and the latter on legal practice. J: What particular topics, issues, and literatures does it address? MA, BD, ED: Our main questions are related to the production of architectural and legal forms and norms. Since this is the central topic of this volume, it means that several and often parallel sets of literatures are addressed, including Middle East studies, urban planning, cities and development, sociolegal studies, and ethnography.

The Uprisings Will be Gendered Women's rights and the regulation of gender and sex norms in the Arab world have long been put under the spotlight by local and international activists in addition to local and international politicians and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). This year, the ongoing uprisings in the Arab world have brought into focus some dominant ways that sexual and bodily rights are framed, gendered, and politicized. These can be grouped under three loose themes, each of which deserves further study: One is the equation of gender with women and/or sexual and gender minorities. Two is the fear of Islamists. It is an old complaint that the study of “gender” is in fact the study of people who are not “white” (i.e., not racialized) hetero-normative men. Masculinity studies is a growing and robust field that teaches us to be vigilant in questioning the ways that a gender analysis is deployed and withheld. Gender equality and justice should be a focus of progressive politics no matter who is in power.

Military court hears evidence in Egyptian “virginity tests” case February 27, 2012 by Shahira Amin A Cairo military court on Sunday heard witness testimony in a case against a soldier who allegedly performed “virginity tests” on seven female protesters on 10 March 2011. 22-year-old Samira Ibrahim filed a lawsuit against the military doctor whom she accuses of conducting the tests on her and six other female detainees near Tahrir Square. In December, Ibrahim won an earlier case against the Supreme Council of the Armed Force (SCAF) when a Cairo Administrative Court ruled that virginity checks should not take place again in military prisons. According to human rights lawyer Hossam Bahgat the landmark ruling was the first of its kind against the military and was “the first crack in the SCAF’s impunity.” In this second case, the defendant has denied performing the tests, insisting that he had simply asked the detainees if they were virgins rather than subjecting them to physical tests. The court adjourned until 11 March when a verdict is expected.

Women, democracy and dictatorship The electoral success of Islamic parties in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, has raised worries about policy and legislation on family and gender issues, this despite re-assuring noises from leading figures. Earlier electoral successes of Islamists in Iraq had brought about a disorderly mix of family policies and rule of disparate religious authorities, accompanied by much constraint and intimidation. This may be a good time to reflect on the record of various Middle Eastern countries on these issues over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first century and their relations to political regimes. In the early and middle decades of the twentieth century it was always dictators who embarked on policy and legislation which liberated and empowered women in both family and society. Flickr/Al Jazeera English. What were the institutional forms of the reforms of the twentieth century? Demotix/Luke Somers. Demotix/Sabrina Belkhouja. Flickr/Hamed Saber.