Iran MPs demand stronger veil enforcement

Updated 15 June 2014
0

Iran MPs demand stronger veil enforcement

TEHRAN: Two thirds of Iran’s MPs have written to the president urging him to take measures to ensure women correctly observe Islamic dress, denouncing Western cultural influence against the veil.
The 195 members of the 290-strong parliament who signed the letter in part blamed satellite television for feeding the trend, ISNA news agency reported on Sunday.
A defining feature of Iran’s interpretation of Islamic law since the 1979 revolution, hijab obliges women to cover their hair and much of their body in loose clothing when outside, regardless of their religion.
A dedicated “morality police” has long handed out fines, verbal notices or even arrested women it considers are not properly observing the rules, but lawmakers have in recent months criticized lax enforcement.
In the letter, the MPs wrote: “One of the main areas of cultural invasion is in trying to change the way of life of Iranians regarding the veil. We ask that you give the necessary orders to enforce the law.”
Iran’s parliament is dominated by conservative males.
However, President Hassan Rouhani, a self-declared moderate who was surprisingly elected last June, has expressed a desire to expand social freedoms — to the disapproval of hard-liners.
In October, he asked police to be moderate when enforcing the hijab requirements and recently said, “We cannot take people to heaven by using whips,” a remark that was condemned by conservatives.
Rather than wearing a full length traditional “chador” that drapes the head and body, many women wear a thinner head scarf, leggings and shirt.
Police in Tehran earlier this month launched a new drive against non-compliance of the female dress code. Officers were deployed on the capital’s biggest roads, and women — drivers and passengers — checked.
The MPs letter and push for stronger enforcement coincides with an online campaign in which hundreds of Iranian women posted pictures of themselves flouting the dress code inside Iran.
The Facebook page “Stealthy Freedoms of Women in Iran,” was launched by a London-based Iranian woman who said she wanted a debate on having the right to choose to wear the hijab. The campaign did not generate a reaction from the government.
At least two protests to demand enforcement of hijab have taken place in Tehran in the past two months.


Migrants in Lebanon seek to break stereotypes with new radio show

Updated 18 July 2018
0

Migrants in Lebanon seek to break stereotypes with new radio show

  • Migrant domestic workers can be treated like they are invisible, and this radio show can change the way they are perceived by illustrating and highlighting the multi-faceted dimensions of their identities and lives
  • Projects like the Lebanese radio program could be used across the region to change attitudes toward migrants

BEIRUT: Since arriving in Lebanon, Sudanese migrant worker Abdallah Afandi has been turned away from beach resorts, mistaken for a cleaner and prevented from renting an apartment — all because of the color of his skin.
Now he is hoping to challenge the “racism and prejudice” he says he has encountered by taking part in Lebanon’s first radio show to be hosted and produced by migrants from countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Philippines.
The aim is to give Lebanese people a greater understanding about where migrants come from to create the tolerance and respect that local migrant rights groups say is lacking.
“Many Lebanese see Sudanese only as cleaners and workers — we want them to see us in a different way,” Afandi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The 27-year-old came to Lebanon seven years ago when he no longer felt safe in his home of Darfur in western Sudan, where conflict had raged since 2003.
He now earns a living preparing food in a restaurant and doing maintenance work in a Beirut residential building.
Afandi’s episode is one of a series airing on Voice of Lebanon, a popular independent radio station, featuring migrants talking about their own food and culture as well as the issues they face in Lebanon.
In it, he and two other Sudanese migrants discuss their country’s pyramids and interview Sudan’s ambassador to Lebanon on migrant rights.
“I want to use my voice so that people in Lebanon understand where I come from, my culture, music, food — so they will look beyond what I do for a living, and the color of my skin,” he said.
KAFALA
Migrant workers in Lebanon and much of the Middle East work under the kafala sponsorship system, which binds them to one employer.
Rights groups have blamed the system for abuse of migrant workers and say it leaves them vulnerable to exploitation by denying them the ability to travel or change jobs.
Race is also a factor — last month two Kenyan women migrant workers suffered an attack that Lebanon’s justice minister condemned as “shocking” and “abhorrently racist” after footage of them being beaten was circulated on social media.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said projects like the Lebanese radio program could be used across the region to change attitudes toward migrants.
“This radio show is a brilliant example to be replicated across the region, and to bring attention to stories ‘by migrants’,” said spokeswoman Farah Sater Ferraton.

’NOT FOREIGN’
The show — whose name “Msh gharib” means “not foreign” in Arabic — has been in the works since 2017 and was created by the Anti-Racism Movement, a local non-government organization, with the help of migrants from the community center it runs.
“The title of the show really communicates its purpose — migrants are not ‘the other’. Their voices and stories shouldn’t be ‘foreign’ to Lebanese,” said Laure Makarem, spokeswoman for the center.
“Migrant domestic workers can be treated like they are invisible, and this radio show can change the way they are perceived by illustrating and highlighting the multi-faceted dimensions of their identities and lives.”
The 15 episodes will air in the next few months and are mainly in Arabic, with small sections in the hosts’ native language — particularly when talking about their rights in Lebanon.
Tarikwa Bekele, a 33-year-old domestic worker, is working on one episode with fellow Ethiopians, who make up the biggest migrant group in Lebanon at more than 100,000 people.
They are planning to talk about Ethiopian traditions, famous athletes and a famous model in the hope of showing Lebanese that Ethiopians are not “just working in houses and cleaning bathrooms,” said Bekele.
“There are so many Ethiopians working in Lebanon,” said Bekele. “Once they can see that we are like them — like any other country — I think they will treat us better. Treat us with respect.”

Funding for this story was supported by a fellowship run by the International Labour Organization and the Ethical Journalism Network.