الخميس، 27 أبريل، 2017

Anger over Saudi appointment to UN Women's Rights commission

Critics call the decision 'shocking' and 'absurd' 

Narjas Zatat 

Saudi Arabia has been voted onto the UN women’s rights commission in a secret ballot - a move branded "shocking" and "absurd" by critics. 
At least five European Union states reportedly cast their ballots for the Middle Eastern kingdom, where women still do not have the right the right to drive and were only allowed to stand as candidates and vote in municipal elections first the first time, two years ago. 
It will now serve a four year term on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which claims to be dedicated to the “promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women”.
Rothna Begum, a women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch told The Independent it was "shocking". 
"How can Saudi Arabia seek to promote women’s rights globally, when at home they continue to severely discriminate against women through the male guardianship system?" she said.  
The guardianship system means that women in Saudi Arabia remain permanent legal minors. Ms Begum said that as a result they are required to seek permission from a male guardian "to travel abroad, marry, or be released from prison, and may be required to provide guardian consent to work or get health care".
She also pointed out that women cannot drive or apply for a driving licence in the conservative country. Earlier this month, the country got into hot water after images of the first girls’ council meeting emerged –  with 13 men in attendance, but no women. 
Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch, UN Watch a non-governmental organisation (NGO) whose stated mission is "to monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter", also called appointment "absurd", while award-winning author and columnist Mona Eltahaway was equally appalled, and referred to the appointment as a “disgrace”.
The Human Rights Foundation, a New York-based NGO, called the country a “dictatorship”.
Canadian Conservative MP Michelle Rempell called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to condemn the appointment.
"Where is the credibility of the United Nations as a whole if we’re putting countries like Saudi Arabia on the women’s rights commission?" she said. 
Saudi Arabia is also a member of the Human Rights Council, which it will serve on until 2019. 

الخميس، 23 فبراير، 2017

Another setback for Transgender people

Trump administration rolls back protections for transgender students


The Trump administration on Wednesday revoked federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity, taking a stand on a contentious issue that has become the central battle over LGBT rights.
Officials with the federal Education and Justice departments notified the U.S. Supreme Court late Wednesday that the administration is ordering the nation’s schools to disregard memos the Obama administration issued during the past two years regarding transgender student rights. Those memos said that prohibiting transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity violates federal anti-discrimination laws.
The two-page “Dear colleague” letter from the Trump administration, which is set to go to the nation’s public schools, does not offer any new guidance, instead saying that the earlier directive needed to be withdrawn because it lacked extensive legal analysis, did not go through a public vetting process, sowed confusion and drew legal challenges.
The administration said that it would not rely on the prior interpretation of the law in the future.
The departments wrote that the Trump administration wants to “further and more completely consider the legal issues involved,” and said that there must be “due regard for the primary role of the States and local school districts in establishing educational policy.” Although it offered no clarity or direction to schools that have transgender students, the letter added that “schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that his department “has a duty to enforce the law” and criticized the Obama administration’s guidance as lacking sufficient legal basis. Sessions wrote that the Department of Justice remains committed to the “proper interpretation” of the anti-discrimination law known as Title IX but said deference should be given to lawmakers and localities.
“Congress, state legislatures, and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue,” Sessions said.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos echoed that sentiment, saying that this is an issue “best solved at the state and local level. Schools, communities, and families can find — and in many cases have found — solutions that protect all students.”
DeVos also gave assurances that the department’s Office for Civil Rights “remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools,” and she noted that she considers “protecting all students, including LGBTQ students, not only a key priority for the Department, but for every school in America.”
The decision — delayed in part because DeVos and Sessions hit stalemates regarding timing and specific language — drew immediate condemnation from gay and transgender rights advocates, who accused President Trump of violating past promises to support gay and transgender protections. Advocates said the withdrawal of the federal guidance will create another layer of confusion for schools and will make transgender students, who are already vulnerable, more so.
“Attacking our children . . . is no way to say you support and respect LGBTQ people,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Others said the practical effect on the nation’s schools would be muted, in part because a federal judge already had blocked the Obama guidance in response to a lawsuit from 13 states that argued it violated states’ rights. And it is possible the U.S. Supreme Court could settle the matter soon, as it plans to consider a Virginia case involving a transgender teenager who was barred from using the boys’ bathroom at his high school.
The Trump administration’s move drew cheers from social conservatives who oppose the idea that a student can identify as a gender that differs from their anatomy at birth.
Vicki Wilson, the mother of a child at Fremd High School in Palatine, Ill., said she sympathizes with children who have “difficult personal issues” to deal with, but thinks that “young men shouldn’t be permitted to deal with those issues in an intimate setting like a locker room with young women.”
School district officials in Palatine, bowing to federal pressure, allowed a transgender girl to change in the girls’ locker room at her school. “No school should impose a policy like this against the will of so many parents,” Wilson said during a news conference organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal organization.
The administration’s letter was the source of some disagreement between the two issuing departments, with Sessions eager to rescind the Obama administration’s guidance as court proceedings in related cases approached, and DeVos keen to leave it in place. Unlike Arne Duncan, Obama’s education secretary for seven years, DeVos does not have a close personal relationship with the president she serves; she also lacks the experience and political capital Sessions garnered as a Republican senator.
Sessions is widely known to oppose expanding gay and transgender rights, and DeVos’s friends say she personally supports those rights. The new letter is sure to ignite another firestorm for DeVos, who is fresh off her contentious nomination fight and has drawn protests from parents and teachers who believe she is unqualified for the job.
The letter also puts Trump squarely in the middle of the civil rights debate: Despite a flurry of activity in the early weeks of his presidency, Trump had not previously waded into the issue of gay and transgender rights.
Trump declined to sign an executive order last month that would have dramatically expanded the rights of people, businesses and organizations of faith to opt out of laws or activities that violate their religion, such as same-sex wedding ceremonies. Many took it as a sign that he would take a more liberal approach on gay issues than his Republican cohorts.
But in an interview with The Washington Post last year, then-candidate Donald Trump had indicated he would rescind the guidance based on the belief that it was a matter best left up to the states.
In the daily news briefing Wednesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer played down the reports of disagreement within the administration — saying the debate came down to timing and some specific wording — and reiterated the states’ rights argument.
“The president’s made it clear throughout the campaign that he’s a firm believer in states’ rights,” Spicer said.
The Obama administration’s guidance was based on the position that barring students from bathrooms that match their gender identities is a violation of Title IX because it amounts to sex discrimination.
Many advocates contend the guidance merely formalized what courts have increasingly recognized: That discrimination against gay and transgender people is a form of sex discrimination because it is rooted in stereotypes about men and women. As a result, they believe transgender people already have the right under Title IX to use their preferred bathroom.
The new letter scrambles the calculus for a number of lawsuits working their way through the courts, particularly the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender Virginia teen who sued his school board for barring him from the boys’ restroom. The case is scheduled for oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court next month. A lower court cited the Obama administration’s position on transgender student rights in siding with Grimm.
Grimm said he was disheartened that the Trump administration is withdrawing the guidance. The Gloucester, Va., school board continued to bar him from the boys’ bathroom even after the Obama guidance was issued, but Grimm said the directive was “incredibly empowering.”
“It certainly bolstered hope that the future for transgender students was looking up in a way that it hadn’t been previously,” Grimm said.
Amber Briggle, the mother of a 9-year-old transgender boy in Denton, Tex., said she views the Trump administration’s position as a temporary setback and hopes that the Supreme Court will affirm transgender students’ rights. But the withdrawal of the Obama directive is a blow, she said, because the guidance made her feel that Washington cared about children like hers and understood the support they need.
“I just don’t think my family matters to the Trump administration,” she said.
Catherine Lhamon, who headed the Obama Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, said in a sworn declaration that the administration developed the guidance after receiving discrimination complaints from parents of transgender children and questions from teachers and administrators who were having to develop policies with regard to their transgender students.
In 2011, the Education Department received two complaints of discrimination against transgender students in schools. By 2016, that number had leapt to 84, according to the declaration filed in federal court.
In a kindergarten class where students line up by gender to go to the bathroom, “a student has to decide which line to get into, and the teacher has to decide which line to accept that student into, and both of them have to field questions from other students in the class,” Lhamon said in an interview. “Any of those choices raises potential for discrimination and potential for harm that all of the students and teachers in a school have to navigate. It’s not an abstraction for the people who live it every day.”
Lhamon said the withdrawal of the guidance and the notion that the federal government needs more time to consider the issue of transgender accommodations creates chaos in schools and sends a damaging message to children.
Without federal guidance, schools are likely to look to their state governments for clarity, said Francisco Negron Jr., chief counsel for the National School Boards Association.
That could open up battles across the country similar to one last year in North Carolina, when the legislature voted to require people in public buildings to use the restrooms that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificates.

الاثنين، 20 فبراير، 2017

A feature that honors those who dared to undergo sex reassignment surgery in the Middle East

These trans Arab women challenge social norms in a big way

They did not let society stand in their way.
2017-02-19 05:30

Published by Stepfeed

An Egyptian LGBTQ rights group has just honored the late Hanan al-Tawil – a renowned Egyptian transsexual actress who was known for playing various roles and challenging stereotypes. 
In a video posted by “No Hate Egypt”, the life of al-Tawil – who died in 2004 in mysterious circumstances – is celebrated. Her achievements, roles and contributions to the art scene in Egypt are listed, as well as the hardships she encountered throughout her life.
Though she is remembered more for comedy, especially in her iconic role as Korea the dancer (El Set Korea) in the 2003 comedy flick Askar fi el Moaskar, Tawil (née Tarek) was more than just an entertainer. She is credited with being the first openly transsexual Arab – one who fought for equality and progress while in the limelight.
Tawil inspired many others to come out. Here are some of the other inspirational women who did not let society stand in the way.

Nour Talbi

Morocco's most famous belly dancer, Nour Talbi, is a legend in her native country. The 1.85 meters seductress describes herself as a fully integrated woman. 
She left for Europe at 18 as Nourredine and returned years later as Noor. She began her career in dance and hasn’t looked back since. It hasn’t always easy. In an interview with the Associated Press, Nour describes her 10-year battle to get her gender change officially recognized on her state ID as an ordeal that almost tipped her over the edge.
"If I wasn't such a strong woman, religious, humanly and social, another might have killed herself," she said.
Nour has made international television appearances, including one on Tyra Banks' America's Next Top Model back in 2011. On it, she taught the aspiring models to dance with a tea set on their head during an episode filmed in Marrakech.

Bashayer Hussain

Bashayer Hussain is a Kuwaiti actress and director. She has revealed her sex reassignment surgery as one that was necessary, but not hardship free. 
Bashayer says she obtained legal documents from the Kuwaiti government to undergo the sex reassignment surgery in Thailand, after proving that she was 'psychologically female'. 
“In my nature, I am a woman, but on paper, I am a man … I now avoid all military points so as to escape any judgment that may arise from that situation," she told MBC after an incident involving a checkpoint. 
However, she insists that such incidents only make her stronger. 


This one’s a little different. Haifa MJKwhose name and looks are inspired by Lebanese diva Haifa Wehbe, has made a career out of emulating her favorite star. 
She’s now also created her own makeup brand, Haifa Mjk, and offers beauty tips and makeup tutorials to all those interested. 

Sally Mursi

Sally Mursi (née Sayyed) sent shockwaves through Egypt and the Muslim world after she went under the knife to become Sally in 1988. 
Her case caused an uproar that even led the Grand Mufti to intervene. 
Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, released a fatwa, making it spiritually legal for a transgendered individual to change to his or her appropriate gender.
"Tantawi issued a fatwa that recognized that Mursi’s change was necessary for her health,but required her to dress, behave, and comply with all obligations of Islam for women, except for marital obligations, for one year before the operation. The fatwa was the first positive Sunni ruling about sex changes, allowing them in cases where there is a clear medical condition, which a GID diagnosis would seem to constitute," Human Rights Watch wrote. 

الثلاثاء، 14 فبراير، 2017



May her soul rest in peace.  in memoriam of Egypt's first transsexual actress

An Egyptian LGBTQ advocacy group honours the late Hanan Al Tawil, Egypt and the region's first transsexual actress. The group hopes to shed light on transphobia in Egypt, which is rumoured to have driven Al Tawil to take her own life.

Yesterday marked the 51st anniversary of late Egyptian actress Hanan Al Tawil. The occasion went almost unmarked, after all, to many, her career was nothing more than her life in the limelight. However, Al Tawil did so much more than entertain, she was the first transsexual actress in Egypt and the the region and her rise to fame was a milestone in the road to progress and equality.

To commemorate her life with a video that soon went viral, LGBTQ advocacy group 'No Hate Egypt' took to Facebook to remind us all of Al Tawil's iconic moments throughout her history. Who can forget Miss Inshira7? Or her singing scene in Askar fi el Moaskar? In her own way, Al Tawil has left her mark on Egyptian pop culture history.

Al Tawil passed away in December of 2004, yet the cause of death remains unknown. Al Tawil is rumoured to have committed suicide, a friend of hers told the group that the actress was often harassed and mocked, which gave her "severe psychological disorders." 

The video ends on a sombre note, showing a transsexual Egyptian woman being assaulted on the street. In a recent survey by Vocativ, 41% of trans or gender non-conforming respondents admitted to have attempted suicide. The percentage is likely higher in Egypt with rampant transphobia and no anti-discrimination laws to deter such hate crimes. 

find attached the link to the video on the group's face book page: 


الأحد، 12 فبراير، 2017

Palestinian writer afraid to go home amid uproar over novel

Palestinian writer afraid to go home amid uproar over novel


Assciated Press

10 February 2017

السبت، 7 يناير، 2017

Proud Brit gay pop icons who ruled in the 80s

George Michael, Freddie Mercury & Elton John: How They Ruled the '80s British Pop Empire

The Live Aid concert at London’s Wembley Stadium on July 13, 1985, was, among other things, a time capsule of British pop at its imperial peak. It fell during a heady era when the entire bill could be British (or, in the case of U2 and Bob Geldof, Irish) without seeming parochial.
The evening’s lineup featured three rejuvenated giants of the 1970s -- David Bowie, Elton John and Queen -- and, for one song only, a young gun who had absorbed lessons from them all. Midway through John’s set, the singer introduced George Michael, “this guy I admire very much,” and let him run away with “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” 
Michael was modeling the riff on young American manhood that he would make iconic with 1987’s Faith -- blue jeans, black leather jacket, sunglasses, stubble -- while Andrew Ridgeley, his junior partner in Wham!, already looked dispensable. Unfairly tagged as good-time lightweights, Wham! had everything but credibility, and Michael’s performance made it clear that the 22-year-old was hungry to correct that. Before Faith, before even his duet with Aretha Franklin (also in 1987), Michael was overtly aligning himself with the greats, and he began with John. 
“George was nervous as hell. The feeling was, could he deliver in this company?” says Bernard Doherty, the publicist for Live Aid. “Backstage they were laughing and joking: two local lads who came from down the road.” At that point, Michael, John and Freddie Mercury constituted an MTV-enabled troika of British megastars roughly-equivalent to the American triumvirate of PrinceMadonna and Michael Jackson.
Michael was a generation younger than John and Mercury, but he felt older than his years and bigger than the ’80s zeitgeist. “I’ve always felt that my talents were very traditional. I didn’t feel I was tied to youth culture,” he told me in 2004. Of his contemporaries, he added: “I always believed I would outlast everyone, with the possible exception of Madonna.”
Like his British heroes-turned-peers, Michael was a closeted gay man from the London suburbs whose voracious ambition was that of the conflicted outsider storming the citadel. Also like them, he was a versatile populist with a big-picture understanding of pop, a gift for universal melodies and a supernova showmanship that extended all the way to the cheap seats. For Michael, the success of the more flamboyant Mercury and John in the straight world was inspirational. 

This was the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell era of pop, when stars scrambled norms of gender and sexuality in a way that bypassed homophobia while hitting a demographic sweet spot that excluded no one. “They acted out fantasies on behalf of their audience, but it was unthreatening, in the realm of make-believe rather than the truth of their sexuality,” says Martin Aston, author of Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: How Music Came Out.
Michael made his affinity with his forerunners explicit in 1992, when “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” recorded live with John, became his last No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. (Performing the song in Las Vegas three days after Michael’s death, an emotional John said: “I only wish George was here to sing it with me.”) Also in ’92, Michael gave a bravura rendition of “Somebody to Love” with the surviving members of Queen at the Mercury tribute concert. “It was probably the proudest moment of my career because it was me living out a childhood fantasy,” he said later.
Two things set Michael apart from his elders. One was his readiness for stardom: He wrote “Careless Whisper” when he was just 17 and waited three years until the time was right to unveil it. The other was his auteurdom: He was his own songwriter, producer, arranger, image-maker and strategist. Faith mastered and tweaked American forms for maximum pleasure, from the brisk rockabilly of the title track to the erotic manifesto “I Want Your Sex (Parts I and II),” from the deep soul balladry of “One More Try” to the sexual-spiritual alloy of “Father Figure.” This was something-for-everyone pop born of generosity rather than calculation, and it was irresistible. En route to winning a Grammy for album of the year, Faith produced four No. 1s on the Hot 100 and topped the Billboard 200 for 12 weeks. A young British solo artist wouldn’t reach that position again until Adele did 24 years later.
It was not for want of trying. Robbie Williams, the straightest camp man in ’90s British pop, modeled himself on Michael, but he was one of many British exports whose appeal didn’t translate to America. Michael appeared to have blazed a trail, but it was one that only he could travel down. “I’ve seen people aspiring to be me for the last 20 years,” he said in 2004, “and what they normally don’t understand is that to be me you’ve got to do the whole process.”
That was part of it — but the industry changed, too. Pop’s monoculture splintered into hip-hop, R&B, grunge and country, often reasserting traditional gender roles in the process, and saw off the kind of ecumenical megastar who straddled genres and demographics, especially the British variety. Just a few years after Live Aid’s summit meeting, the sun had set on British pop’s imperial phase, making Faith both its zenith and its last hurrah.

الاثنين، 26 ديسمبر، 2016

R.I.P, one of the greatest legends of pop music and a yet another gay icon passes away ...gone to soon!


George Michael was a defiant gay icon. His life must not be sanitised

The popstar’s openness about his sex life, and his campaigning for LGBT rights, offered a liferaft to many – particularly at a time when anti-gay sentiment was rife

More than 18 years ago, George Michael was famously outed for a “lewd act” in a Beverly Hills toilet – and promptly humiliated by institutionally homophobic newspapers. Some might have been consumed with shame and grovelled before a tabloid press that had assumed the position of hypocritical moralisers once occupied by the medieval church. Instead, Michael penned the biggest “fuck you” in musical history: Outside, a song that unapologetically flaunted his human sexual appetite, and declared war on the hypocrisy of others. Sex was natural, the song said; it was the attitudes to it that were not: “There’s nothing here but flesh and bone.”
No sanitising or erasing who Michael was. He was a gay man, a gay icon, and being gay was central to his identity and his music. Like many gay men, coming to terms with his sexuality was a fraught process: he thought he loved women and only accepted he was gay in his mid-20s, still years before he told his parents. Some are saying: why wait until he was 35 to come out, and only under duress?
Coming out wildly differs from person to person: it is an experience imposed upon gay men – and all LGBT people – by a society still far from entirely accepting us. For a superstar back in the 1990s, it was considerably harder than it was today. According to the British Social Attitudes survey, in the year Michael came out half of all Britons thought same-sex relations were always or mostly wrong (nearly four in 10 said “always”), while only 23% opted for “not wrong at all”. From section 28 (only a decade old) to a different age of consent, the anti-gay laws were still in place.
Coming out should not be some sort of duty for public figures: it is a highly personal experience, and life is complicated. But, undoubtedly, Michael coming out offered a liferaft to so many LGBT people – not just gay men – struggling in a society that judged them and made them internalise shame. It is difficult to describe how lonely this experience is. But here was a household name: the girls at school – and their mums – fancied him.
Yes, it’s true that the manner in which he was outed became a standard playground homophobic trope, a means for bigots to express their revulsion at how sordid and morally corrupt they deemed gay men to be. But haters gonna hate, as the expression goes – homophobes will latch on to anything to confirm their bigoted narrative. For LGBT people consumed with terror at the realisation of who they were, to see the man who sang Last Christmas telling his tormentors where to stick it was liberating.
In the 1980s and much of the 1990s, gay men were dying in their thousands from HIV/AIDS. Much of society alternated between pity, disgust and a sense of “they’ve brought it on themselves” as they perished. Michael was among those who watched his lover, Anselmo Feleppa, tortured and killed by the illness. His No 1 1996 hit, Jesus to a Child, was about this terrible loss, underlining how his sexuality and his music cannot, and must not, be divorced.
Being gay and out is one thing, but often it is on the terms of a disapproving society. As long as you are sanitised and, preferably, sexless in appearance, you can gain acceptance – or so the unspoken pact goes. While once bigots persecuted gays, as Matthew Parris noted, now “they haven’t stopped hating, and their new cry is this: ‘Why don’t you just shut up about it? Who asked what you get up to in bed, anyway? Your private life is your affair but please stop ramming it down our throat [snigger, snigger]’ …”
Michael rejected the unspoken pact. He had an open relationship. He loved anonymous sex. “You only have to turn on the television to see the whole of British society being comforted by gay men who are so clearly gay and so obviously sexually unthreatening,” he told the Guardian’s Simon Hattenstone in 2005. “Gay people in the media are doing what makes straight people comfortable, and automatically my response to that is to say I’m a dirty filthy fucker and if you can’t deal with it, you can’t deal with it.” Or as he put it rather enthusiastically on Twitter: “I have never and will never apologise for my sex life! Gay sex is natural, gay sex is good! Not everybody does it, but … ha ha!”
Here was a man who proudly campaigned for LGBT rights, becoming a high-profile supporter of HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust. He was profoundly political in many other ways, too, backing Labour through the trauma of Thatcherism and backing Britain’s striking miners. He put on a free concert for NHS nurses to say thank you for looking after his dying mum. In 2003, he reworked Faith alongside Ms Dynamite into an anti-Iraq war track, and even released a single – Shoot the Dog – that castigated Tony Blair’s alliance with George W Bush and the neocons.
I can already here the cries: “Stop politicising him!” It is the cry of people who want to erase the aspects of those they admire that contradict their own worldview. But when people die, we have a responsibility to remember who they actually were, not a sanitised and false version that is palatable to some.
We live in an age where bigots are newly emboldened. They treat supporters of anti-racism, feminism and LGBT rights like this: “You’ve had your party, now it’s over, and it’s our turn.” It is tempting to turn and retreat. But, as a closeted teenager back in 1998, it is impossible not to recall the courage and defiance of George Michael. A talented and much adored musician, yes. But also a gay man, and a gay icon, who made the lives of so many LGBT people that little bit easier.