Jordan’s accidental plumber trains team of Syrian refugee women

The ravages of Syrian civil war sent Safaa, a dual national back to Jordan where she went, by accident, from being a jeweler to a plumber.


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Afghan poet wins prestigious British prize

Afghan poet Parwana Fayyaz has won a prestigious British prize for poetry called Forward.

Parwana won the £10,000 prize for the best single poem for Forty Names, which depicts the experience of 40 women who jump off of a cliff in order to preserve their “honour”.

Born in Kabul and raised in Pakistan, Parwana began to write poetry in 2010, when she learned English as a second language.

Shahidha Bari, the chair of the judges, called Forty Names “a poem that feels close to prayer, and yet is shocking and vital.”

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Bold Women. Scandalized Viewers. It’s ‘Sex and the City,’ Senegal Style.

Esther Ndiaye plays Racky in “Mistress of a Married Man,” a wildly popular show in Senegal.CreditCreditJane Hahn for The New York Times


DAKAR, Senegal — In the most controversial scene of “Mistress of a Married Man,” a hugely popular new television series in Senegal, the show’s protagonist, Marème, dons a daring magenta pantsuit and heads out for a date with a married man — but not before pointing below her belt.

“This is mine,” she tells her best friend. “I give it to whomever I please.”

The series, which debuted in January, has quickly reached a “Sex and the City” level of popularity, setting off a fierce debate over contemporary womanhood in a largely Muslim West African nation that like much of the region, is urbanizing at breakneck speed. The pilot alone has received more than three million views on YouTube, a number nearly equivalent to the entire population of Senegal’s capital region.

In a country where women’s sexuality has often been hidden behind a culture of discretion, Marème’s pronouncement, fans say, was nothing short of rebellion. And it fits into a larger movement by women to assert their independence. The show takes on not just feminine desire, but also rape, mental illness, male power, domestic violence and the jealousies that arise out of polygamy.

It is part of a burst of woman-driven television and film production across Africa in which writers, producers and actors openly assert female sexuality, challenge traditional gender roles and present distinctly African stories to African audiences.

There has been some pushback, from both official sources and everyday viewers. In Senegal, a state regulator has threatened a broadcast ban of “Mistress of a Married Man,” citing content likely to harm the “preservation of cultural identities.”

Netflix, which arrived on the continent in 2016, has two woman-driven series in the works in Africa, one about a female spy, the other about a girl uncovering her family’s secret past.


Fans watching the final episode of Season 1 in Dakar.CreditJane Hahn for The New York Times

Ghana’s growing Gollywood scene has several influential female producers.

And in Kenya, “Rafiki,” from the director Wanuri Kahiu, chronicles a romance between daughters of rival politicians in a country where being gay is illegal. Officials initially banned the film, but it screened to sold-out Nairobi audiences after a judge ordered a temporary reprieve.

“Mistress of a Married Man” airs twice a week on YouTube and on the channel 2STV. It is the brainchild of Kalista Sy, 34, a former television journalist who wrote the pilot after typing “How do you write a script?” into Google.



Julie Turkewitz


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Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again


Originated by The Broad, Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again is the largest exhibition to date of internationally acclaimed artist Shirin Neshat’s approximately 30-year career. Taking its title from a poem by Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad, the exhibition (which presents over 230 photographs and eight immersive video installations works) offers a rare glimpse into the evolution of Neshat’s artistic journey as she explores topics of exile, displacement, and identity with beauty, dynamic formal invention, and poetic grace. Beginning with her early photograph series, Women of Allah, the exhibition also features iconic video works such as Rapture, Turbulent, and Passage, monumental photography installations including The Book of Kings and The Home of My Eyes, and Land of Dreams, a new, ambitious work encompassing a body of photographs and two videos that will make its global debut in the exhibition.

Throughout her career, Neshat has constructed poetic worlds in which women and men navigate narratives that mirror interior and political realities. Inside of and against these metaphoric worlds, Neshat studies the specifics of both individual and cultural gestures and poses, often assembling and interviewing real people who have lived through some of the most turbulent events of recent history, including the Green Movement in Iran and the Arab Spring in Egypt.

The Broad


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Samer Saab & Unbranded Designs


I met Samer by chance while I was having coffee with a friend at 1871, a Chicago based entrepreneurial hub for digital start ups. My friend had just bought a house and we were talking about furnishing ideas. Samer came up in conversation so we managed to do an intro and a card exchange since he was busy with a mentorship program for young aspiring Chicago school goers. Coming from the Middle East, our culture there was slightly less progressive, less casual about mentorship programs and how here, in western society people manage to fit mentorship and other community development work seamlessly into your work schedule. That left me even more curious to who Samer is and what his company was all about.
Samer and I chatted briefly a few days later about his startup, Unbranded Designs. Throughout conversation, I was really interested to know more about Samer and how he came to putting together his start up with his colleagues. Samer was born and raised near Flint, MI in a town called Fenton, where he lived his entire childhood, except for a few years in Lebanon as a baby (my parents are Lebanese). He earned a pair of engineering degrees from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and then moved to Chicago in 2008. He spent 4 years working for a management consulting firm before deciding to leave his job and taking a risk to start a company with his friends. 
“It was never a question of if I would start a company or not, but rather when. I come from a family of entrepreneurs: my parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins on both sides of the family are all entrepreneurs, not only here and in Lebanon but across the US and Middle East.”  Here is a quick chat with Samer about him, his life in Chicago and Unbranded designs.
Who has inspired you, growing up?
I’m most inspired by my uncle Ghassan Saab who came to the US in ’66 to work for a construction company. He bought the company 5 years later and has been running it ever since. Along the way he has invested in numerous companies and more importantly has become a major philanthropist in the city and the state. He received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and was the first immigrant to receive the Philanthropist of the Year in the state of Michigan. He is also the reason our family was able to come to the US. He is my dad’s older brother and helped him get started in Flint, escaping the war in Lebanon. He has had a major influence on my life and continues to inspire me.
What is Unbranded?
Unbranded was formed has a company in May 2012 but the true origin began the previous year when my co-founder, best friend, and roommate Sameer Dohadwala and I were helping a friend move up some stairs. We were frustrated by the immobility of furniture and decided right then that there was a market for portable furniture (portable meaning assemble, disassemble, lightweight, etc). We bought grid paper, visited Home Depot for construction consultations and created a complete disaster. Undeterred we began searching for designers who were actually skilled in furniture design and fabrication. We found tons of designers capable of helping us. More interestingly, we saw that each designer had books, computers, and garages full of designs we would never have seen had we not stumbled on their shop.
We also stumbled on a problem facing all designers: they don’t have the resources or skills to be able to market themselves, sell, scale manufacturing, and handle all business operations, while being a designer. Therefore, most of these guys just end up doing custom jobs. It was then that we realized we could apply our skills in marketing, sales, and operations to partner with designers to create a great company. When we realized we could centralize the entire global community using technology, we knew we were onto a major opportunity.
What was the process & challenge of setting up a company?
Over time we’ve evolved. In the summer of 2012 while we were in the Chicago Lean Startup Challenge we learned lots about designers and the residential market. After 14 weeks we’d beaten out 110 tech startups for the top prize, validated we had a real opportunity and started plowing forward. We’ve evolved over time, moving from a residential b2c focus to more of a b2b solution. We’ve recently been running design challenges to solve specific market problems with our community’s innovative solutions. The consistent focus has remained though: building a great community of designers by bringing them opportunities to design products that can get made, build their brand, and launch their careers.


Why interiors? Tell me about your passion for the industry.
I definitely have a passion for the industry but this company was started because we found a need in the market. We were inspired to create our own piece of furniture, realized it was extremely difficult to do so, and then found a number of talented designers, right here in Chicago. These designers though don’t have opportunities to showcase that talent or really take turn their ideas into major-market items. That’s when we decided to start Unbranded Designs. We wanted to bring opportunities for design, production, and marketing to the independent design community and unleash their amazing designs to the market.

Would you say you’re an artist at heart or a creative?
At heart would be the only place you could call me an artist. Unbranded Designs was started precisely because my co-founders and I are NOT designers. We lack the talents to do what the amazing designers in our community do everyday, but that’s why we appreciate their work even more! But personally speaking, growing up I’ve never considered myself much of a creative. I’ve always been more analytical and scientific versus the other end of the spectrum. I’ve always been amazed by the creative ability by artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs. Though it probably wasn’t fair to myself, I never expected that I would be able to approach the level of any of these types. I think that’s one of the reasons I really enjoy building Unbranded Designs. We’re building an innovative company while working with a global community of creative types, all interested in creating innovative products. I am now constantly surrounded by creativity.



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Maldives overcomes Islamic opposition and appoints two women as Supreme Court judges

Maldives overcomes Islamic opposition and appoints two women as Supreme Court judges


Male, September 5 (Maldives Independent): In a historic vote on Tuesday, parliament confirmed the president’s nominations of former judges Dr Azmiralda Zahir and Aisha Shujune Mohamed as the first female justices of the Supreme Court.

Both nominees were approved with 62 votes in favour. Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed Abdulla cast the sole dissenting vote while Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim abstained.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party controls 65 seats in the 87-member People’s Majlis.

Shujune, who resigned from the civil court in 2014, was among the first two female judges appointed to the bench in 2007. Dr Azmiralda was the most senior female judge in the country until her resignation from the High Court in May 2016.

President Solih’s nomination of the pair last month sparked a backlash from religious scholars who contended that Islam prohibits women from serving as judges.

Clerics condemned the move on Twitter and some shared an opinion issued by the fatwa council, in which the advisory body backed the view that women cannot pass judgment on criminal matters or property disputes. There was a consensus among scholars of all sects of Islam that judges must be male, they said. Some scholars from the Hanafi sect say women can adjudicate civil matters and family disputes but most scholars do not agree with any exceptions, the council noted.




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‘Sweetness In The Belly’: First Clip Of Refugee Story Starring Dakota Fanning As Brit Raised Muslim In Africa – Toronto

[WATCH] �Sweetness In The Belly� Clip:

UPDATED with Dakota Fanning post: Dakota Fanning posted on Instagram on Wednesday to clarify the background of her character in Sweetness In the Belly, her latest film that is set to bow at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival (check out her post below). Deadline previously updated the headline of this story to clarify the nature of her role.

PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, 7:52 AM: “You are full of surprises,” Wunmi Mosaku’s (Lovecraft Country) character tells Dakota Fanning’s Lilly in the first clip of their Toronto Film Festival-bound drama Sweetness In the Belly, which itself has an intriguing premise.


Unspooling in the festival’s Discovery strand, Fanning stars as Lilly Abdal, who was orphaned in Africa as a child (of English parents) and escaped to the UK as a refugee, fleeing civil war in Ethiopia. In London, she embraces the Muslim immigrant community, attempting to reunite people with their scattered families. However, her mission isn’t purely selfless: a passionate lost love affair is revealed between her and an idealistic doctor.


Zee Mehari’s (Difret) feature, also starring Yahya Abdul Mateen – II, Kunal Nayyar and Peter Bankole, is based on the fiction novel by Camilla Gibb and is adapted for the screen by Laura Phillips (Combat Hospital). Director Mehari is Ethiopian and the actors speak a combination of English, Amharic and Arabic in the film.

Pic was developed by Sienna Films and is produced by Jennifer Kawaja and Julia Sereny (How She Move) together with Alan Moloney (Brooklyn) and Susan Mullen (Brooklyn) of Parallel Films. Mehret Mandefro (Difret) and Adrian Sturges (The Enfield Haunting) are executive producers along with Laura Bickford (Traffic) and Fiona Druckenmiller (Beasts of No Nation).

HanWay Films is handling worldwide sales. Entertainment One will distribute in Canada. It was produced with the support of Telefilm Canada, Screen Ireland, the Ontario Media Development Corporation and Eurimages.

Fanning recently starred in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywoodand TV drama The Alienist.

Andreas Wiseman


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Not just Sanskrit, Gujarati owes a lot to Arabic and Persian too

The Hindu literati claimed the purity of the language in the ancient age and its deterioration during the Muslim period.

Gujarati is a family of languages. Some of these are written in Arabic script and spoken in both India and Pakistan.

Growing up in Gujarat, I was taught that Gujarati language traces its origin to Sanskrit language. That Gujarati is taught to be written in a variant of Devanagari script today, seemed to me like a natural extension of this origin story.

But this story omits many waves of significant influences that other languages, like Arabic and Persian, have had on Gujarati.

Political choice

We grow up linking the spoken language with a particular script to an extent that, over the years, this link seems ‘natural’. But the popularisation of a particular script over another is a political decision, driven by the context in which the language is standardised.

One striking example is the Turkish language script reform under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1932, when ‘official’ Turkish language ceased to be written in the Ottoman Turkish alphabet (a Perso-Arabic variant) and was replaced instead with Latin alphabet.

One of the goals of this reform was to remove influences of Arabic and Persian languages, both associated with the clergy in the Ottoman Empire.

Sanskritisation, in search of ‘pure’ Gujarati

Like in the case of the Turkish language, Gujarati underwent a process of standardisation. The use of a variant of Devanagari script was made in order to align with the idea of Gujarati as “the accomplished daughter of Sanskrit,” in the words of missionary Joseph Van S. Taylor.

The language reform in Gujarati took place in parallel with that among many other languages in pre-Independence India. During this time, writes Clair Tisdal, "three main varieties" of Gujarati were found: "Hindi Gujarati", "Parsi Gujarati", and "Muhammadan Gujarati".

Both Parsi Gujarati and Muhammadan Gujarati were seen as “corrupt” by the Hindu high-caste intellectuals in that period. These intellectuals (consisting mostly of Brahmins and Baniyas) would go on to determine what constitutes “pure” Gujarati.

Given that there were competing claims as to what constitutes “pure” Gujarati language, the upper-caste intellectuals sought refuge in a constructed past. As Riho Isaka writes, “the Hindu literati claimed the ‘purity’ of their language in the ancient age and its deterioration during the ‘Muslim period’.”

During this standardisation that took place between the 19th and early 20th century, words from ‘foreign’ languages like Arabic, Persian, and English that were commonly used in spoken Gujarati were replaced with those derived from Sanskrit. Gujarati hence underwent a process of Sanskritisation.

Language of Gandhi, Jinnah

The politics of pre-Independence nationalism played an important role in the Sanskritisation of Gujarati, which was the first-language of both Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi, the fathers of the two partitioned nations. Their respective relation with the language has a lot to say about the politics of language(s) in the pre- and post-Partition era.

Gandhi played a significant role in the standardisation of Gujarati. Through Gujarat Vidhyapith (an institution he helped set up), Gandhi led the publication of Jodanikosh in 1929. According to V. Sebastian, Jodanikosh “was the first dictionary which sought to standardize Gujarati orthography with a set of 33 rules.”

Over time, multiple updated editions of the dictionary were published and its rules adopted in schools to teach a standardised Gujarati. The standardised orthography was intertwined with Sanskrit to an extent that, as Somabhai Patel writes, “[i]f you want to know Gujarati spelling, then you should know Sanskrit spelling because without Sanskrit knowledge, you are not going to write ‘correct’ Gujarati.”

On the other hand, Muhammad Ali Jinnah came to be associated with Urdu, the language that was linked with Islam because of the use of Nastaliq (Arabic) script and which was to become an official language of Pakistan.

Jinnah was born “Mahomedali Jinnahbhai” and raised in a Gujarati-Ismaili family. According to historian Faisal Devji, “while his knowledge of Urdu, the official language of Muslim nationalism, was poor, Jinnah apparently spoke Gujarati and Kutchi beautifully if never in public.”

Disassociation of Muslims

Shreya Parikh


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The Silence Is the Loudest Sound

The Indian government has confined about seven million Kashmiris to their homes and imposed a complete communications blackout.

Blockades on the streets of Srinagar, the largest city in Jammu and Kashmir, on Aug. 11.

NEW DELHI — As India celebrates her 73rd year of independence from British rule, ragged children thread their way through traffic in Delhi, selling outsized national flags and souvenirs that say, “Mera Bharat Mahan.” My India is Great. Quite honestly, it’s hard to feel that way right now, because it looks very much as though our government has gone rogue.

Last week it unilaterally breached the fundamental conditions of the Instrument of Accession, by which the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India in 1947. In preparation for this, at midnight on Aug. 4, it turned all of Kashmir into a giant prison camp. Seven million Kashmiris were barricaded in their homes, internet connections were cut and their phones went dead.

On Aug. 5, India’s home minister proposed in Parliament that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution (the article that outlines the legal obligations that arise from the Instrument of Accession) be overturned. The opposition parties rolled over. By the next evening the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 had been passed by the upper as well as the lower house.


The act strips the State of Jammu and Kashmir of its special status — which includes its right to have its own constitution and its own flag. It also strips it of statehood and partitions it into two Union territories. The first, Jammu and Kashmir, will be administered directly by the central government in New Delhi, although it will continue to have a locally elected legislative assembly but one with drastically reduced powers. The second, Ladakh, will be administered directly from New Delhi and will not have a legislative assembly.

The passing of the act was welcomed in Parliament by the very British tradition of desk-thumping. There was a distinct whiff of colonialism in the air. The masters were pleased that a recalcitrant colony had finally, formally, been brought under the crown. For its own good. Of course.

Indian citizens can now buy land and settle in their new domain. The new territories are open for business. Already India’s richest industrialist, Mukesh Ambani, of Reliance Industries, has promised several “announcements.” What this might mean to the fragile Himalayan ecology of Ladakh and Kashmir, the land of vast glaciers, high-altitude lakes and five major rivers, barely bears consideration.

The dissolution of the legal entity of the state also means the dissolution of Article 35A, which granted residents rights and privileges that made them stewards of their own territory. So, “being open for business,” it must be clarified, can also include Israeli-style settlements and Tibet-style population transfers.

For Kashmiris, in particular, this has been an old, primal fear. Their recurring nightmare (an inversion of the one being peddled by Donald Trump) of being swept away by a tidal wave of triumphant Indians wanting a little home in their sylvan valley could easily come true.

A supporter of India's revocation of Kashmir�s special status displaying an artist's rendering of a map of India decorated with a shawl of saffron, the dominant color in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party�s symbol.

Arundhati Roy/ The New York Times


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Malaysian women deserve better, advocacy group says after civil court shuts door on Sisters in Islam

Sivananthi asked how SIS is considered to be 'deviant' by pushing for policies that are today being implemented in other Islamic countries. — Picture by Ham Abu Bakar
Sivananthi asked how SIS is considered to be 'deviant' by pushing for policies that are today being implemented in other Islamic countries. — Picture by Ham Abu Bakar

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 — The Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (Arrow) today urged the civil courts to review the recent judgment on Muslim women rights advocacy group Sisters in Islam (SIS).

Arrow said the High Court’s dismissal of SIS’ challenge against a five-year fatwa labelling it an Islamic “deviant” organisation has severe repercussions for Malaysia in the advocacy and protection of women’s rights and their dignity.

“To reiterate what SIS has already said — after 62 years of independence, Malaysian women deserve better than this,” Arrow executive director Sivananthi Thanenthiran said in a statement.

Arrow, a Malaysia-based NGO which advocates women and youths rights, asked how SIS is considered to be “deviant” by pushing for policies that are today being implemented in other Islamic countries like Morocco and Tunisia as well as famed Islamic institutions like the  Al-Azhar University in Egypt.

“SIS is a civil society working towards advancing the rights of Muslim women in Malaysia within the framework of Islam, universal human rights principles, constitutional guarantees as well as live realities and experiences of women.

“SIS has also been advocating issues in relation to end child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), promoting gender equality in Muslim marriages and Islamic Family Laws, and taking a stance against gender based violence and moral policing,” Sivananthi said.

“By saying that the civil court has no jurisdiction relating to Shariah law, it is setting the stage for increasing crackdown on women’s rights organisations by fundamentalist and conservative groups,” she added.

Last Tuesday, High Court judge Datuk Nordin Hassan threw out SIS’ challenge of the fatwa saying the civil courts have no jurisdiction to decide on the case.

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