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Egypt

ARABICA: Nude Activist, Tunisian Rapper, Other News Buzzing In Arab World

Your weekly shot of what the Arab world is saying, hearing and sharing.

In Sana'a, Yemen's capital
In Sana'a, Yemen's capital
Laura Thompson

Egypt’s "nude activist" gains ire of religious right
Alia Al-Mahdi, a 22-year-old Egyptian woman, has become famous over the past two years for posting nude photos of herself on her blog as a way to protest patriarchy, sexism and violence against women.

Though she now lives in Sweden, where she has been granted asylum, Al-Mahdi is still making waves in her home country with her recent radical feminist and atheist take on the Muslim call to prayer (seen here in its traditional version inside a Cairo mosque).


In a Facebook photo posted Friday, Al-Mahdi replaced the opening of the call to prayer — “God is great” — with “Woman is great.” Where the Muslim muezzin declares, “I testify that there is not god but God,” Al-Mahdi instead proclaims, “There is no god, no ruler, no father.”

A prominent Salafist preacher called Al-Mahdi’s declaration proof of “apostasy” and called for criminal charges to be filed against her. In the Egyptian penal code, blasphemy is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. A figure at Egypt’s centuries-old religious institution Al-Azhar concurred, characterizing the call to prayer as one of Islam’s most sacred rituals.

Al-Mahdi has a history of upsetting her country’s conservative religious establishment. She has previously launched a call for men to send her pictures of themselves wearing the headscarf, and for women who wear the headscarf to send pictures of themselves uncovered.

She also made international headlines when she posed expand=1] nude in freezing cold temperatures in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Sweden to protest the inclusion of Shariah in the Egyptian constitution.

The constitution written and approved under the Islamist-dominated Morsi government named Sharia law (the divine law of God as revealed through the Abrahamic holy books, culminating in the Koran) as the main source of all legislation. This constitution is currently being “amended” by Egypt’s military-backed regime, which has indicated its intention to put the constitution to a referendum next month.

New Egyptian protest law under fire
Thirty Egyptian demonstrators protesting military trials of civilians were arrested Tuesday under a new law that restricts Egyptians’ freedom to protest.

The legislation, adopted Sunday, requires that organizers notify police three days before their intended demonstration. Human rights groups have severely criticized the law as basically criminalizing protests.

Twitter was abuzz with photos and tweets regarding the “protest law,” coming from both sides of the political spectrum. One user, sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, posted the following image with the message: “Your laws will not pass.”

#قانون_التظاهر#عند_أمك#مكملين !! :D :D pic.twitter.com/TJUdEVoGEs

— رزان :D (@Razan_ehab) November 24, 2013

Another user drew a parallel with the British occupation and the current military-backed regime, recalling the British prohibition of public demonstrations in Egypt.

#قانون_التظاهر 2013 #مصر#مافيش_فايدةpic.twitter.com/bAW3GBmIYE

— azza ahmed (@azza_ahmed9098) November 25, 2013

The Islamist Strong Egypt Party (Misr Al-Qawia), critical of both the Muslim Brotherhood and the military-backed regime, tweeted about the often minor policy differences maintained by the now-deposed Morsi government versus the current regime.

#مصر_القوية | #قانون_التظاهر .. ما بين حكومة #قنديل و حكومة #الببلاويpic.twitter.com/c8SBaSqecw

— حزب مصر القوية (@MisrAlQawia) November 26, 2013

In Tunisia, the dangers of calling police “dogs”

A Tunisian rapper on the run for months has agreed to appear in court to file an appeal, his lawyer said this week.

Weld El 15 became a nationally known outlaw after he was sentenced to two years in prison, and then 21 months, for his rap song “Boulicia Kleb,” or “Police expand=1] Are Dogs.” The rapper’s lawyer called the case a clear violation of freedom of expression and another example of the intentional marginalization of vocal youth.

But Tunisia’s Islamist Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh supported the prison sentence, insisting that Weld El 15 had incited hate against security forces and judges. Defamation of public officials is a punishable offense.

Reports have also circulated that some police officers harass those found listening to the song. One blogger site posted an interview with the mother of a Tunisian man, living in Switzerland, who was arrested during his summer vacation in Tunis while listening to the song.

Weld El 15 is scheduled to attend a hearing on Dec. 5. In the meantime, two rappers and a French-Tunisian journalist received suspended four-month prison sentences for expressing support for Weld El 15 during a trial earlier this year.

Kuwaiti women gets death sentence for murdering maid
A Kuwaiti woman has received a death sentence following the murder of her maid, whom she allegedly drove unconscious into the desert and then ran over repeatedly with her car. The homicide reportedly followed years of torture.

The Gulf is notorious for the mistreatment not only of its domestic workers, but also of its migrant laborers.

MBC and other prominent Gulf radio stations have been proactive in addressing the problem, broadcasting ads encouraging good treatment domestic help in light of Islamic values and the example of the Prophet Muhammad.

This ad, produced by the Program for the Spread of the Culture of Human Rights, reminds viewers that the Prophet Muhammad instructed Muslims to treat their workers with humanity: “Nourish them with what you eat, and give them to wear what you yourself wear and do not burden them with more than they can handle.”

A member of the Kuwaiti ruling family has also been sentenced to death for murdering his nephew. The alleged reason behind the killing? A disagreement over sports clubs.

A “Saudi Juliette” and her “Yemeni Romeo”
A 22-year-old Saudi woman has apparently traveled illegally to Yemen to elope with the love of her life — Arafat, a poor 25-year-old Yemeni man whom she had met in her Saudi village’s cell phone shop. Her family had refused Arafat’s marriage proposal, planning instead to have her wed another man. Momentarily detained by Yemeni forces for illegally entering the country, Huda found support with the he UN Refugee Agency — the UNHCR helped her get asylum — as well as Yemeni Internet users.

One Yemeni Twitter user posted an image to Huda’s family: “To the family of Huda: Yemenis will keep an eye on your pure daughter.”

مسا الخير والعافيه * ورساله اوجهها الي أسرة الفتاة السعوديه(هدى آل نيران) بسمي وبسم كل متابعيني وبسم كل اليمنين* pic.twitter.com/UxCj87nWWD

— كريم عــ الرحمن ــبد (@karim_ahmadi) November 26, 2013

Another supporter posted an Instagram photo of a poster advertising a Yemeni gathering in support of Huda. It reads, “We're coming, Huda!”

This modern-day Romeo and Juliette tale has perhaps garnered such significant attention because of mounting tensions between the comparatively poor and underdeveloped Yemen and its northern oil-rich neighbor, Saudi Arabia. Like Arafat, many Yemenis travel to Saudi Arabia for work, yet the Saudi government’s recent crackdown on undocumented laborers has forced many Yemenis to return home.

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A customer walking along the aisle of empty shelves in a supermarket

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Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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So even those thousands of miles from the battlefields have been hit by the soaring prices of basic necessities.

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