#MeToo Floods Social Media with Stories of Harassment, Assault

New York- Women are posting messages on social media to show how commonplace sexual assault and harassment are, using the hashtag #MeToo to express that they, too, have been victims of such misconduct.

The messages bearing witness began appearing frequently on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on Sunday, when the actress Alyssa Milano posted a screenshot outlining the idea and writing “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”

Tens of thousands of people replied to the message. Some just wrote “me too,” while many others described their personal experiences of harassment or assault.

The author and poet Najwa Zebian wrote: “I was blamed for it. I was told not to talk about it. I was told that it wasn’t that bad. I was told to get over it.”

Other celebrities who took part include Anna Paquin, Debra Messing, Laura Dreyfuss, Lady Gaga and Evan Rachel Wood.
Men also expressed their support. The comedian and activist Nick Jack Pappas wrote: “Men, Don’t say you have a mother, a sister, a daughter… Say you have a father, a brother, a son who can do better. We all can.”

Since The New York Times published an investigative report on Oct. 5 detailing decades of sexual harassment allegations against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, social media has provided a galvanizing platform for women to discuss their experiences.

Twitter bolstered the #MeToo trend by promoting it on Moments, its platform of curated stories.

The company pointed to its statement from last week in which it said it was “proud to empower and support the voices on our platform, especially those that speak truth to power.” It also noted that its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, had tweeted about the company’s efforts to tackle abuse on the site.

The #MeToo movement is not the first to use social media to highlight abuse against women. In 2014, a #YesAllWomen campaign drew notice on social media after a man cited his hatred of women as his reason for killing people in Southern California. The activist Laura Bates started the #EverydaySexism campaign in 2012 to document widespread sexism, harassment and assault.

The New York Times

Canadian Research: Gossip is a Vital, Social Skill


London, Asharq Al-Awsat — Canadian researchers suggests that gossiping, one of the detestable human traits in most societies, is one of the vital characteristics to develop relationships among people.

Researchers from the University of Ottawa said men talk about cues to resource holding like wealth, and the athleticism of their competitors, while women use gossip as tactics to badmouth a potential rival who is competing for a man’s attention. Women also gossip more about other women’s looks.

This new psychological study finds that gossip is a highly evolved social skill and an intersexual competition tactic that relates to women’s and men’s evolved preferences.

According to Adam Davis from the University of Ottawa in Canada, the lead author of the study, gossiping is essential for interpersonal relationships, and not a flaw of character.

The study published in the Evolutionary Psychological Science provides the first verifiable evidence for a positive link between intersexual competitiveness, the amount of gossip that people take part in, and whether they are OK with such talk or not.

Scholars agree that gossip has evolved as an efficient way to learn more about others and to enforce group norms.

It is also a method by which people can learn more about their rivals, and can call into question their reputation, especially when they are vying for the same romantically or sexually desirable mates.

Researchers examined 290 heterosexual Canadian students between the ages of 17 and 30 years old who completed three questionnaires. One measured how competitive the participants are towards members of the same sex as their own, especially in terms of access to the attention of potential mates.

The other questionnaires measured the tendency and likelihood of the participants to gossip about others, the perceived social value of gossip, and whether it is okay to talk about others behind their backs.

It was found that people who were competitive towards members of their own sex had a greater tendency to gossip.

They were also more comfortable with the practice than others. Women had a greater tendency to gossip than men, and they also enjoyed it more, and saw more value in participating in such conversations.

Men were more likely to gossip about the achievements of others. Such talk among women often targeted the physical appearance of another and was used to share social information.

Saudi Interior Ministry: ‘Ready to Apply Provisions of the Traffic Law on Men, Women’


Dammam- Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki said that women would be allowed to drive from the age of 18 as they can obtain a driver’s license and drive a car in the kingdom.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef said security forces were ready to apply traffic laws to men and women, though he did not mention if women would be recruited as traffic police.

He said separately that lifting the ban would reduce the number of car crashes in Saudi Arabia, which has one of the world’s worst traffic death rates.

“Women driving cars will transform traffic safety to educational practice which will reduce human and economic losses caused by accidents,” he was quoted as saying on the ministry’s Twitter feed. He did not elaborate.

Turki said the Interior Minister thinks the recent decision to lift the ban on women driving represents a strong push to the ministry’s efforts to enhance traffic safety through education.

“Women will certainly benefit from being able to drive and it will help them understand traffic rules and manners. This will positively affect their educational role while raising children to properly handle cars and be on the road,” he added.

“Allowing women to drive will lead to their full awareness of the responsibilities resulting from this decree and their knowledge and understanding of the rules of traffic ethics and traffic safety requirements, which positively reflects on their educational responsibilities in raising their children on the correct and safe grounds for dealing with the vehicle and the road,” Turki told Asharq Al-Awsat.

More than Just Driving Cars

These are happy and historic days in Saudi Arabia! There are positive changes that would have never crossed our minds after years of despair.

For decades, every time an obstacle was removed, social and political battles would erupt tackling education, employment, sports and the media.

Mother of all battles was granting women their right to driving cars. King Salman intervened, signed and adopted the decree, and with that the biggest and toughest obstacle is removed.

The king’s decision was brave and wise which will be long remembered by history. He is the man who ended an era and began a new one.

The history will also remember Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in charge of development in the kingdom and the architect of the “vision” of the new state and its future.

Ever since Vision 2030 was announced, decisions were made one after the other; decisions we never thought possible because for long decades we were running in a vicious circle.

The message we can conclude here is that we are before a new modern kingdom discovering its status among civilized nations by adopting more welcoming standards that include everyone and is building a new and competent generation of men and women amid a real economy based on real developing aspects.

Many decisions and activities issued came as a surprise to the Saudi society because up until recently, they were considered almost impossible. Combined, they all reflect the transition plan evident to those considering the entire picture.

I believe, and after fierce opposition, that allowing women to drive cars is of great significance. However its political and social aspects are much bigger than that.

The king’s decision is a clear message to the society that the government will carry on with the path of change and modernization and will not allow those objecting to obstruct it.

Many years were wasted waiting for the society to change, especially the conservative members who refused any progress until hopelessness took over us. They objected any initiative or any hint to allow women to go out or drive cars or work or participate in social life.

Saudi Arabia cannot adopt an ambitious plan like Vision 2030 without acknowledging women as partners in it.

With the King’s courageous decision to allow women to drive, skeptics’ excuses tumble. Such decisions are not popular and are not looking to please one part at the expense of another; They aim to serve the greater good of the country and society.

For years now, driving ban was never based on convincing social or religious reasoning, but was applied following the desire of a category that wants to form the society according to its desires. Those isolated men who obstructed social and economic development can no longer lead an entire nation.

In order to not generalize, let’s note that those objecting the historic decision can be divided into two categories: a conservative category raised on traditions and wanting to maintain them, whose opinion we respect but is not binding, and another politicized category that wants to lead the society according to its own agenda.

The latter can no longer have a place in the kingdom. It is an extremist category with ill intentions, opposing every move and project because it wants Saudi Arabia to remain a disabled, depressed and obstructed state until it fails.

This category better understand the message: no one will allow it to stop the wheel of change.

King Salman Grants Saudi Women Right to Drive

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. SPA

Jeddah- Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued on Tuesday a Supreme Order that allows Saudi women to drive cars in the Kingdom.

The decree said that women would not be allowed to drive immediately as the new order is scheduled to take effect in June 23, 2018.

The Supreme Order, addressed by the King to the Interior Minister, said a high-level committee of the internal affairs, finance, labor and social development ministries should be formed to study the necessary arrangements for enforcing the decision and should issue their recommendations in a one month period.

Saudi sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday that the delay in implementing the decision “is linked to the need of providing all the suitable elements and the needed infrastructure for women to safely drive their cars.”

The sources added that the royal decree received on Tuesday the approval of the majority of the members of the senior scholars council, who considered the legitimacy of this issue to be “in terms of origin,” and agreed that the decision does not contradict with the principles of the Islamic Sharia adopted by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Khaled bin Salman said women would not need permission from their guardians to get a license or have a guardian in the car and would be allowed to drive anywhere in the kingdom, including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, according to Reuters.

The ambassador said that women with a license from any of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries would be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

According to the King’s Order, the decision will be effective in accordance with the approved Sharia and regulations and completion of what is required by it.

The decision received a wide support inside and outside Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday, the US Secretary of State praised the King’s decision and described it as “a great step in the right direction.”

In his decision, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques also referred to the negative consequences of not allowing women to drive vehicles and the positive aspects of allowing them to do so, taking into consideration the application of the necessary legal controls and adherence to them.

“The state – with the help of God- is guardian of the values and of legitimacy, it is the preservation and care in the list of priorities, whether in this matter or another, will not hesitate to take all that would maintain the security and safety of society,” King Salman said in the Order.

He added: “We adopt the application of the provisions of the Traffic Law and its Executive Regulations – including the issuance of driving licenses – to both males and females.”

King Salman Issues Historic Royal Decree Granting Driving Licenses for Women

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued on Tuesday a historic royal decree granting driving licenses for women in the kingdom as of next June, said the Saudi-owned network Al-Arabiya .

The royal decree also ordered the establishment of a high-level committee of involving the ministries of internal affairs, finance, labor and social development. They will be tasked with studying the arrangements to enforce the new law.

“The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licenses for men and women alike,” said the state-owned press agency (SPA).

It stipulated that the move must “apply and adhere to the necessary Sharia standards”, without providing details, and said a majority of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars had approved its permissibility.

The kingdom has been opening more areas for women through the government’s modernizing reforms.

Years After Acid Attack, an Afghan Story of Survival Takes a Dark Turn

Kabul, Afghanistan — Mumtaz’s new baby still has no name.

Mumtaz is a 23-year-old woman from the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, the victim of an acid attack when she was 18, whose tormentors were jailed. It was a rare legal victory in the struggle for women’s rights in Afghanistan, hailed at the time as proof that justice for female victims was possible.

But as far as Mumtaz is concerned, justice has brought her nothing but tragedy.

Last month she was widowed, her husband killed by relatives of her attackers. When his body was brought to her, she went through his pockets in desperation and found 2,000 afghanis, about $28, which was the only money he left her.

Last week that money ran out when her first child, an 18-month-old daughter, Asma, became sick and Mumtaz spent what was left on a doctor.

Before his death, her husband, Mohammad Khan, had bought a treat for Mumtaz, a large can of powdered milk. She was due to give birth in September and that would help with the baby’s nutrition.

But Mumtaz and Asma had little to eat besides bread and tea, so they finished off the milk last week. “I have no hope. I have nothing,” she said.

Then, on Monday her second child was born prematurely, a month early but otherwise healthy. “There was no joy in her birth. For two days I could not even look at her,” said Mumtaz, who like many rural Afghans uses only one name.

Most of Mumtaz’s own family, including her parents and all of her siblings, are now stuck in a Turkish refugee camp, unable to send her anything. She lives with her dead husband’s family, who are just as poor, and now unable to work their fields for fear of being killed themselves.

Even if anyone wanted to help, Taliban insurgents have made her area of Kunduz impassable to aid groups and government officials.

This is the sad outcome to what was once hailed as an improbable success story in Afghanistan’s effort to eliminate violence against women. Mumtaz’s situation shows how difficult it is to protect women in the face of continuing conflict, in which chronic insecurity leads to the use of violence to enforce male prerogatives.

Mumtaz was the victim of a notorious 2011 acid attack. The leader of what was then a pro-government militia, who claimed she had been promised to him as his wife, became infuriated when she decided to marry someone else. With fellow militia members, he attacked her and her family, dousing Mumtaz, her two teenage sisters and her mother with acid and badly disfiguring Mumtaz’s face.

As horrific as that was, Mumtaz and her family at least saw some justice done for an act that normally would have gone unpunished. The authorities stepped in, using newly granted powers and stiff sentencing under the country’s landmark Elimination of Violence Against Women Act, and arrested four confederates of the militia leader, jailing them for 12 years with no hope of parole.

Mumtaz and one of her sisters were sent to India for facial reconstruction surgery. Despite her worst fears that her fiancé would no longer want her, he married her when she returned. Three years later, their daughter Asma was born.

Five months ago, the spurned suitor who led the 2011 attack, Naseer, was caught and arrested and now faces a long prison sentence. That was when Mumtaz’s fortunes, which had been looking brighter, took a turn for the worse. Her struggles underscore how little control the national government has over large areas of Afghanistan.

Her family’s village in rural Kunduz Province was overrun by the Taliban, and the militiamen who followed Naseer joined the insurgents; many of the numerous armed groups in Afghanistan change sides depending on who dominates their area.

Mumtaz’s father, Sultan Mohammed, refused demands from Naseer’s relatives to withdraw the charges against him and his men, so they kidnapped his older brother, who was released after village elders intervened.

New York Times

Tunisia: Clerics Oppose Equal Inheritance Rights

Tunis- Clerics in Tunisia on Thursday voiced opposition to President Beji Caid Essebsi’s plan to introduce legislation granting equal inheritance rights to women, considering it contradictory to Islamic precepts.

Essebsi has announced the formation of a commission to examine “individual liberties” and “equality in all domains”, including inheritance rights.

The secular leader also called for the government to scrap a 1973 circular that prevents Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims.

According to Agence France Presse, prayer leaders from across the North African state said in a statement issued jointly with experts in sharia Islamic law that the proposals amount to “a flagrant violation of the precepts” of Islam.

“Inheritance in Islam is clearly explained in the Koran… it can neither be modified nor interpreted,” a former religious affairs minister, Noureddine Khadmi, told a news conference.

A former Tunisian mufti, Hamda Said, criticized what he termed proposals that would put an end to “a 1,400-year consensus”.

“It’s like saying God has been unjust with women, something that is completely false as there are many cases of women inheriting more than men,” said Fatma Chakout, a female lecturer at the Islamic University of Ez-Zitouna.

Sheikh Abdullah el-Oussif, a doctor in Islamic sciences, said the president’s proposals posed a “danger” because they risked dividing society in post-revolutionary Tunisia at a time when the country needed unity.

Medical Program to Release Stress May Help Reduce Diabetes Risk

London- US researchers in Pennsylvania have developed a medical program to reduce anxiety through meditation and body awareness. Eight weeks later, researchers concluded that the program not only reduces stress, but could also lower blood sugar.

Dr. Nazia Raja-Khan from College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania told Reuters Health the study suggests that this program could be a useful tool for preventing or treating diabetes in patients with overweight or obesity.

The program known as “MBSR”, is an intensive instructor-led training program and incorporates meditation, body awareness and other anxiety-reducing techniques. It was originally developed decades ago at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester to help patients manage pain and stress while being treated for cancer and other serious illnesses.

MBSR training has been shown to reduce stress and therefore might reduce the risk of heart disease in overweight or obese individuals, though this has yet to be proven, Raja Khan’s team writes in the journal Obesity.

The researchers assigned 86 women to eight weeks of either MBSR training or a health education program focusing on diet and exercise. They told both groups that the main focus of the study was stress reduction.

After eight weeks and again after 16 weeks, they compared changes in stress levels, mood, quality-of-life, sleep quality, blood pressure, blood sugar, weight and other measures.

After eight weeks, the MSBR group had a greater improvement in mindfulness and a greater decrease in feelings of stress, compared with the health education group. Perceived stress remained lower in the MBSR group after 16 weeks.
Women in the MBSR group also had lower blood sugar, after eight and 16 weeks compared to before the training, while women in the health education group had no change in blood sugar.

After MBSR or health education, both groups had less overall psychological stress, less anxiety and better sleep, but neither group had lost weight, lowered their inflammation or cholesterol levels or improved their responses to insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar.

Raja-Khan told Reuters Health that further studies are needed to determine more long-term benefits of MBSR in overweight/obesity and to confirm the role of MBSR in diabetes prevention and treatment.

ISIS Wives Live in Oppression, Slavery


Moscow – The terror group ISIS is known for its demeaning and objectifying treatment of women. The ultra-hardliners would enslave and auction off women in a special arena to the highest bidder.

What is more is that even the wives of ISIS members have not been spared the violence and humiliation.

ISIS wives appeared in several interviews aired by several media outlets in which they speak of oppression and brutal violence of living under the rule of ISIS’ self-proclaimed “caliphate” in Raqqa.

Speaking to Russia Today, Khadija, who came to Syria from Tunis to live in the ISIS Syrian stronghold of Raqqa for three years, said that she saw plenty of cruelty and injustice, but no genuine pursuit of religion or Islamic law.

“My husband and I made a huge mistake by coming there. And I advise you not to believe those who say that ISIS is an Islamic state, which preaches Islam and Sharia and lives pursuant to the teachings of Prophet Mohammed and the Quran,” Khadija said.

If women were found to be in violation of the strict code of conduct, imposed by ISIS, they were locked up in prison-like detention facilities by female watchers, put in charge of “women dormitories.”

“It was sickening to be there,” Khadija said, recounting stories of women in labor seeking help and receiving indifference at best. Women were routinely denied maternity care and forced to deliver babies on the spot.

Nour Alhouda, originally from Tripoli, Lebanon, said her husband first joined a group where he was indoctrinated with ISIS ideology and left for Syria.

“He persuaded me that there’s nothing bad there and I trusted him as his wife so I arranged all the documents and I joined him in Syria,” the young woman told RT.

The slave trade is a booming market in ISIS, she said.

“They paid a lot of attention to women’s looks. They bought makeup to sell them for $15,000, the virgins were priced at $30,000.”

Young girls also became a mere commodity once they are in hands of extremists, she added, recounting that the militants planned to sell a 10-year-old girl for some $10,000.

It was reported the girls as young as 8 are sold at such slave markets. Some 3,000 to 5,000 Yazidi women are believed to be held captive by ISIS.