Inside the Middle East
December 20, 2012
Posted: 943 GMT

A look back at the highlights of 2012 covered on Inside the Middle East.

Want to see more?  Follow the show on Facebook for all the latest from 'Inside the Middle East.'

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Filed under: Culture •Egypt •Inside The Middle East •Israel •Jerusalem •Lebanon •Morocco •Palestinians •Pictures •Religion •UAE •Video •Women

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December 17, 2012
Posted: 618 GMT

A look back at the highlights of 2012 covered on Inside the Middle East.

Want to see more?  Follow the show on Facebook for all the latest from 'Inside the Middle East.'

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Filed under: Abu Dhabi •Algeria •Bahrain •Culture •Dubai •Egypt •Inside The Middle East •Iran •Iraq •Israel •Jordan •Kuwait •Lebanon •Morocco •Oman •Saudi Arabia •Sports •Tunisia •Turkey •UAE •Women •Yemen

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October 2, 2012
Posted: 1316 GMT

Swedish furniture giant IKEA apologized Monday for removing women from their catalogues distributed in their stores in Saudi Arabia.

The free Swedish newspaper Metro published an article showing side-by-side images from the IKEA catalogue – in the Saudi version, a woman has been airbrushed out of the photo.

In a statement, IKEA spokeswoman Ulrika Englesson Sandman said the company "regrets" the incidents and understands "why people are upset."

"It is not the local franchisee that has requested the retouch of the discussed pictures" Sandman said." The mistake happened during the work process occurring before presenting the draft catalogue for IKEA Saudi Arabia. We take full responsibility for the mistakes made."

Sweden has long been committed to gender equality and IKEA's marketing move sparked criticism at home that the company is breaching long held values regarding women's role in society.

Trade Minister Ewa Bjorling told the Metro newspaper "It's impossible to retouch women out of reality." Sweden's European Union Minister Birgitta Ohlsson, apparently branded the incident as "medieval" in Swedish tweet.

Saudi Arabia is a religiously conservative kingdom where women can't drive and need the permission of a male guardian to work or travel. When in public, women are required to cover their hair and wear a loose flowing robe called an abaya.

It is also common for Saudi censors to black out magazine pages showing women's arms and legs, essentially using a permanent marker to add an abaya to models.

The story sparked mixed reactions on social media ranging from outrage to lack of surprise...

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Filed under: Saudi Arabia •Women

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September 6, 2012
Posted: 1108 GMT

She screamed in the face of all the men in her village "Don't talk behind my back, don't play with my honor."

With the head of her rapist in her hand, Nevin Yildirim, a 26-year-old mother of two, walked to the main square of her village and told everyone about her murder.

"Here is the head of the man who played with my honor." She said after throwing the head in the middle of the square.

After continually raping her for 8 months, Yildirim, who said she is pregnant with the rapist's child, decided to take matters into her own hands and shoot the man twice and cut off his head when he died.

She said, 35-year old Nurettin Gider, threatened her with a gun and said he would kill her children, ages 2 and 6, if she made any noise.

In small villages like hers, honor is held above all else, and women carry the burden of honor for their families.

She was arrested short after the incident and now is asking for an abortion. In Turkey, abortion is only allowed during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

The story went viral on social media and local newspapers. Some called her murder a heroic act after they said laws and society failed her.

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Filed under: General •Turkey •Video •Women

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August 25, 2012
Posted: 1027 GMT

Over 8000 people live in the Palestinian town of Allar. A number, 15 year old Bashaer Othman says is manageable to govern.

Othman has probably spent the best summer of her life. She ran the town…Literally.

Othman became the youngest girl in the world to serve as a mayor, when she was chosen as part of an educational youth program for the position.

“The real challenge is when I become a minister, I will deal with all Palestinians, not only 8000 people” says Othman.

For this ambitious leader this position has made her “fall in love” with political and social work and even made her consider a major in international studies upon graduation.

“Palestinians need a true leader and I want to be part of this leadership.” She says.

Othman tells CNN, she has been attending meetings and giving speeches and even signing off on projects for her town.

No shying away for this girl. She has been working at the municipality for almost a month and half and is already making some changes.

She wants to start a local civil defense unit.

“When there’s a fire, people used to wait for firefighters to come from a nearby town. Am currently working on opening a fire department with 6 branches across my town.”

Out of 255 members at the Local Youth Council in Allar, 12 boys and girls were elected to work as members of the municipality and Othman was elected to become the mayor for 2 months.

In the little time that she has this young mayor is hoping to give back to her fellows. And her friends are hopeful she will start a change that will make their future better.

The dearest project to her heart is renovating the town’s library. She says “I think it all starts with education.”

Othman, a usual contender in poetry and reading competitions in her town, thinks youth can start by reading.

“The library has been sitting there for years. The books are old and no one wants to go there.”

Othman has all the support she needs from Allar’s regular mayor, Sufian Shadid, who handed the power to her for two months

The youngster says she meets with the mayor everyday for an hour and they go over the projects she is working on.

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Filed under: Palestinians •West Bank •Women

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August 7, 2012
Posted: 1046 GMT

In Amman, Jordan, our team met the women of Jordan's national boxing team, the first female boxers in the Middle East. Nineteen-year-old Baraa Al-Absi is hoping her tenacity in the ring will lead to fighting on a bigger stage, like the Olympic Games. Except for one thing – Al-Absi is not technically allowed to box while wearing her headscarf, or hijab. Like many Muslims, Al-Absi wears the hijab for religious reasons. She’s not willing to take it off for anyone – even if it means quitting her team.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: Culture •Inside The Middle East •Jordan •Palestinians •Women

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May 28, 2012
Posted: 1109 GMT

Check out this youtube clip published a few days ago showing a Saudi woman standing up to the Mutawwin, or religious police.

The woman is being told to leave the mall, apparently because she is wearing nail polish and – possibly – because some of her hair is showing.

Although women are expected to cover their hair in public, many women in malls, hotels and restaurants in Saudi Arabia wear only the flowing black abaya, without covering their hair. It is not clear from the video where the incident took place, but it is not uncommon to be monitored in malls by members of the dreaded body officially called The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

“You are not the boss of me” the woman yells in the video which according to an article published by The Saudi Gazette, prompted the commission to start an investigation into the incident.

Despite efforts to reform the religious police, including setting up a human rights unit and signing a deal with the local tourism authority , many a woman will still reach for her headscarf when a Mutawwi is nearby!

This video revived an ongoing debate in the kingdom about the role the religious police should play in Saudi.  Here’s what some tweeted:

Here you can see photos from Inside the Middle East's most recent trip to Saudi a few months ago.

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Filed under: Saudi Arabia •Women

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May 21, 2012
Posted: 1256 GMT

The United Arab Emirates is sending a woman to compete in weightlifting at the London Games this summer, the first time that a female bodybuilder from the Gulf nation has qualified for the sport.

But the Emirati women's squad is also making history for another reason – they were the first female weightlifters to compete internationally while wearing the hijab, according to a recent report from the National.

The Abu-Dhabi-based newspaper reports on the UAE’s decision to wear the Islamic headscarf while competing:

Until recently, the rules governing the sport stipulated uniforms had to be collarless and could not cover elbows or knees, essentially because judges need to see that a competitor's elbows and knees are locked during a lift.

However, those dress regulations were modified by the International Weightlifting Federation, after being challenged last year by a Muslim American who wanted to wear Islamic dress while competing in US national competitions.

"It was a decision which will help the whole Islamic world," Sheikh Sultan bin Mejren, president of the Emirates Weightlifting Federation, told the National.  "Now there is no difference between Muslims and non-Muslims in events like the Olympics. There is no border to accept them or not. Everybody can participate without breaking rules."

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Filed under: Abu Dhabi •Dubai •Sports •UAE •Women

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May 10, 2012
Posted: 1159 GMT

The Kuwait Times newspaper is reporting that five MPs have proposed a law that would disqualify women from being appointed as judges or prosecutors.

The current law says a judge or prosecute must be ‘a Kuwaiti Muslim,’ but the suggested amendment would add the term ‘male’ to the statement.

A memo attached to the draft amendment says “the aforementioned item in its current state might exclude women from assuming judicial posts; a much debated move from a religious standpoint.”

“In a bid to prevent any misjudgment that calls for nominating female citizens to judicial posts, this draft law clearly seeks to add a condition according to which only a Muslim male citizen qualifies to be appointed as a judge or prosecutor,” the memorandum reads.

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Filed under: Kuwait •Women

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July 5, 2011
Posted: 1332 GMT
Indonesian domestic helper Rosnani Matsuni says her employers abroad ignored her basic human rights.
Indonesian domestic helper Rosnani Matsuni says her employers abroad ignored her basic human rights.

Indonesian domestic helper Rosnani Matsuni holds traumatic memories from her years working abroad, claiming she was beaten, threatened with her life and "treated like an animal" by her employers.

Having worked for most of the past decade in and around Saudi Arabia, she identifies with the case of fellow Indonesian migrant worker Ruyati bin Satubi, who was executed there by beheading on June 16 for killing her employer's wife, who she says abused her.

Saudi Arabia is suspending the issuance of visas to domestic workers from Indonesia starting Saturday, the latest move in a tit-for-tat game of economics and human rights. The statement came days after the Indonesian government declared it will refuse to allow its citizens to go to Saudi Arabia until human rights conditions there improve. Indonesia issued its moratorium policy, effective August 1, after the Gulf kingdom beheaded Satubi. Read more...

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Filed under: Human Rights •Women

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