Basharat Peer in New Yorker:
On Wednesday, the Saudi Arabian government beheaded Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan woman who had worked as a maid in the kingdom, holding her responsible for the death of the four-month-old baby of her employer.
Nafeek—the daughter of an impoverished wood-cutter from a village in Trincomalee, in northern Sri Lanka—was a seventeen-year-old in the second week of her job as a maid in the Saudi town of Dawadmi when the child died in her care on May 22, 2005. She said that she had been bottle-feeding him when he choked. Her employer, Naif Al-Otaibi, accused her of strangling the child after an argument with his wife and took her to a local police station, where she was arrested.
Nafeek was tried in the Dawadmi High Court without legal representation. The main evidence against Nafeek was a “confession” she had signed in the police station. On June 16, 2007, the Dawadmi High Court sentenced her to death. After the news of her conviction spread, Fernando Basil, a Sri Lankan expatriate who runs the Hong Kong-based human-rights group Asian Human Rights Commission, hired a Saudi lawyer named Kateb Al Shammari and appealed Nafeek’s conviction. More:
Meera Subramanian in Saudi Aramco World:
Image from Saudi Aramco World
Some stories have no beginnings. But sitting around a fire in a spacious landscape with radiant stars overhead, next to a man with a gyrfalcon on his fist, I get a sense of a beginning. The bird is exquisite, otherworldly, glowing in the light of the fire. When I am offered the chance to hold it, I do not say no. We slip the thickly padded, finely embroidered cuff from his hand to mine. I stroke the bird’s feathers with the backs of my fingers. Its weight is, somehow, just right: light enough not to be a burden, heavy enough to convey the substance of what rests on my wrist.
I am in the desert of the Ramah Wildlife Refuge outside Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, close to the border of Oman. In the darkness of the dunes are foxes and owls and, if the conservation efforts are working, hares and houbara bustards. It is the first day of the International Falconry Festival, a gathering that will bring hundreds of people from dozens of nations to this sandy spot to celebrate the world’s growing recognition of their artful sport—indeed, their obsession.
Late in 2010, at a meeting in Nairobi, unesco announced that it would inscribe falconry onto the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). The room, filled with expectant falconers, broke out in cheers so long and loud that a recess had to be called. Abu Dhabi had spearheaded the effort that led to this announcement, submitting the application on behalf of 11 disparate nations: the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Morocco, Belgium, France, Spain, the Czech Republic, Mongolia and Korea. It was the largest and most internationally diverse application UNESCO ICH had ever received. More:
Raped, battered, made pregnant, then kicked out. Lochana Sharma in Asia Sentinel:
Sapana Bishwokarma, 26, has no answer when she is asked about the father of the two-year-old boy who plays beside her. She says her body trembles with fear each time she recalls her son’s father.
“I didn’t know that man very well,” says Bishwokarma, who requested her name be changed. “He used to rape me as many times as he wanted, any given time of the day.”
Bishwokarma, from an eastern Nepal district, moved to Saudi Arabia four years ago as part of an army of millions of economic migrants, to work as what she thought would be a nanny, enticed by an employment agent with the prospect of a good income. She says she paid the agent about US$700 to secure the job. To get around a government ban on working in the Gulf – which was in force when Bishwokarma was seeking employment but was officially lifted last year – she travelled first to neighboring India.
Two men received her at the airport in Saudi Arabia and took her to the house where she would work. Instead of providing child care as promised, Bishwokarma says she was forced to work as a maid. A month into the job, she says her employer’s unmarried son raped her with the help of three other men. “They were a family of three with a middle-aged father and two sons,” she says. “I couldn’t even understand their language, and I was beaten up by the men.”
Eventually, according to her, all the men in the family raped her. In addition to using physical force, she says the sons also drugged her. One of the employer’s sons would give her food when no one was in the house, and she’d become unconscious or sleepy after eating it. When she woke up, she would realize she had been raped again. More:
Huma Yusuf, features editor at Dawn, in The Indian Express:
Pakistanis are increasingly acknowledging that the war on terror is a war within, a war for us to fight, and a war that we might yet lose. Recent terrorist attacks have targeted Pakistanis on Pakistani soil, and with each assault, death tolls rise, the numbers of wounded soar, and the arbitrariness of the targets overwhelms. In Manawan, 13 were killed in an assault on a police academy. In Jamrud, a suicide bombing during Friday prayers killed 70 people and left 125 injured. In Dera Ismail Khan, an attack on a funeral procession killed 32 and left over 145 people injured. In Islamabad, what should have been the safest spot in the heart of the city – the barracks of the Diplomatic Protection Department – was targeted by a suicide bomber who left eight people dead. And in Chakwal, a formerly peaceful Punjabi district, a suicide attack at a Shia mosque killed 26 people and injured dozens – stoking sectarian tensions where previously there were none.
My fanatic versus your fanatic’
Jawed Naqvi in Dawn:
THE flogging of a young girl in Swat by the so-called good Taliban has outraged civil society in Pakistan and elsewhere. However, only last month, a 75-year-old Arab widow was reportedly handed a similar punishment by a Saudi court.
Khamisa Sawadi, a Syrian who was married to a Saudi, was sentenced to 40 lashes for ‘mingling’ with two young men who were not her immediate relatives.
The two men, including one who was Mrs Sawadi’s late husband’s nephew, were evidently bringing her bread. They were also found guilty and sentenced to prison terms and lashes.
Why do we look the other way instead of confronting our double standards? Why does the image of barbarism in the case of the Taliban receive greater urgency and instil more palpable outrage than the scandalous happenings in Saudi Arabia, for example?
In The Times, UK, a review of A Jihad for Love, a film about gay Muslims by Parvez Sharma. Parvez was born and raised in India, and educated in India, the US, and the UK. He lives in New York.
Inevitably, Parvez Sharma filmed some moving testimonies in A Jihad for Love, a collection of real-life stories that show what it is like to be gay or lesbian and living within, or in the shadow, of Islam. The stories come from Iran, Turkey, India, Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
Sharma isn’t your typical campaigning film-maker. He shows how tough life can be for his subjects though he believes strongly that gay activists have behaved arrogantly in their condemnation of Iran which is symptomatic of a larger phenomenon of “Iran-bashing”. He adds: “Around 70 per cent of Iran’s population is under 30: issues are being talked about, it’s a vibrant society. And don’t forget history: a long time ago the West looked to the East as a place where homosexuality was tolerated, sometimes celebrated.”