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Afghanistan according to Yvonne Ridley

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Yvonne Ridley

(Yvonne Ridley. Photograph: Free Gaza Movement in 2005)

On Monday, the last British soldiers were airlifted out of Camp Bastion,  a day after the end of Britain’s war in Afghanistan.

This prompted many debates and discussions around the tumultuous thirteen years that have claimed the lives of many soldiers and civilians, British and Afghans alike.

But according to Muslim convert and Respect party activist Yvonne Ridley, the war in Afghanistan was a total failure. On Twitter, she said: “So Taliban undefeated, no career women emerging from rubble & only success story is the rapid growth of opium in Afghanistan.”

While the situation in Afghanistan is far from ideal, there are some good things to have emerged since the western intervention, one of them being the the education of women, which I pointed out to her (see below).

Ridley denied this, saying that there were girls in school when she was in Afghanistan. She said: “I was there with the BBC in February 2002 recording a [BBC] R4 show”. There may well have been girls in schools in 2002, but Ridley failed to acknowledge that her visit was several months after NATO’s intervention in Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban. Not once during our exchange did she refute the statistics pointed out to her as published in Monday’s edition of The Times.

Afghanistan Fact box in The Times on Monday October 27

Afghanistan Fact box in The Times on Monday October 27

Ridley then boldly claimed: “Girls were educated under the Taliban and I know people who ran girls schools during that period.” Either Ridley is naive or blatantly spreading untruths. It is a well known fact that the Taliban banned women’s education. Women seeking an education were forced to attend underground schools, where they and their teachers risked execution if caught. If you continue to read the Twitter exchange, Ridley posted this link to prove her point, but the article states, “under the Taliban regime, girls were not allowed to have education at all levels” which contradicts what she said earlier!

Ridley was correct when she pointed out that women were attending universities in 2002 – but that was after western troops went in to Afghanistan. Yet the Taliban and their supporters were determined to sabotage education for women. So if there is a reason why things are not perfect in Afghanistan, at least in regards to women’s education, is is certainly not the fault of the west. It is the  fault of the insurgents who are determined to keep females in what they deem is their rightful place – illiterate and under the subordination of men.

Why would Ridley try to downplay the barbarity of the Taliban? Perhaps she feels a sense of gratitude towards them for freeing her, after they captured her in September 2001.

I can’t say her views surprise me. The company that she keeps is highly dubious. She is a patron of former Guantano Bay detainee Muazzam Begg’s CAGE, an organisation that has shared a platform with well known Islamist speakers such as Adnan Rashid from the Islamic Education and Research Academy (a charity being investigated by the official watchdog), Anas al Tikriti, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain, and Female Genital Mutilation advocate and anti Semite Haitham al Haddad. Great company.

I am not suggesting that life for women (and even men) is ideal in Afghanistan, far from it. According to Government figures from 2013, only 26 per cent of Afghanistan’s population is literate, and among women the rate is only 12 per cent – a dismal figure. But it is a damn sight better than it was under Taliban rule, where girls were officially banned from having an education. Perhaps Ridley needs to remember that, unless she seriously believes the Taliban weren’t so bad after all?


Written by Iram Ramzan

October 27, 2014 at 9:08 pm

International Women’s Day: a list of some inspirational woman in the world

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International Women’s Day (IWD), marked on 8th March every year, started as a Socialist, political holiday, but is now celebrated all over the world.

There are some who argue that solidarity for women ‘should be for life, not one day’. True. But when you take into account that some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, still do not allow women the right to vote, its is important to have a day where we remember the struggle that women go through, as well as celebrating their achievements in what is still a man’s world.

I would like to concentrate on some inspirational women across the world, both obscure and well-known alike. As you can appreciate, there are far too many to list, but feel free to share your inspirational women in the comments below.


(The late) Marie Colvin

Marie Colvin

Born in Long Island, she was educated at Yale University and started her career as a police reporter for a news agency in New York before moving to Paris and then London. She then joined the Sunday Times in 1986 as a Middle East correspondent.

Marie died on February 22nd 2012 while covering the siege of Homs in Syria, aged just 56.

“We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story. What is bravery, and what is bravado? Journalists covering combat shoulder great responsibilities and face difficult choices. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price.”

An inspiration for anyone who wants to be a foreign correspondent or war reporter.

Nabila Ramdani – French Journalist

Nabila Ramdani

French-born Nabila is a well-known journalist of Algerian descent who specialises in Anglo-French issues, Islamic affairs, and the Arab World. She writes for several British, French and Arabic newspapers,  as well as regularly appearing on television programmes, including the BBC and Al Jazeera.

Nabila was awarded the title Young Global Leader 2012 by the World Economic Forum and is a winner of the inaugural European Muslim Woman of Influence (EMWI) Award 2010.  She is a nominee for the EU Journalist Award-Together Against Discrimination 2010.

Nabila was due to take part in the Gaza Marathon this year until it was suddenly cancelled by Hamas. She wasted no time in condemning their actions.

This intelligent and articulate lady is not afraid to say what she believes. On top of that, she wears some chic blazers.

Mishal Husain – BBC World News presenter

Mishal Husain

Born in England to parents of Pakistani origin, Mishal gained her first experience of journalism at the age of 18, spending three months as a city reporter in Islamabad at Pakistan’s leading English-language newspaper The News.

In 2009, The Times named Husein as one of the most influential Muslim women in Britain.

Intelligent, beautiful and a fantastic presenter, she is an inspiration for south-Asian women everywhere.

Sara Khan – Director and Co-founder of Inspire

Sara Khan

An activist for women’s human rights organisation, Inspire, Sara completed an MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights. Sara is also a qualified hospital pharmacist and has a Masters in Pharmacy.  She has led on a number of innovative projects which have included leadership training, capacity building, women’s rights and the role Muslim women can play in countering extremism.

Is there no end to this lady’s talents?

She has contributed articles for the Guardian and New Statesman. In March 2009, Sara was listed in the Equality and Human Rights Commission Muslim Women’s Power List.

Raquel E Saraswati – activist

Raquel E Saraswati

A reform-minded Muslim, Raquel helped coordinate Irshad Manji’s Project Ijtihad, an effort aimed at fostering critical thinking in Islam. She has also been involved with gay rights organizations Al-Fatiha and Dignity/USA, and supports the Campaign to Stop Child Executions.

Raquel focuses primarily on issues related to the status of women and girls in the Muslim world and in Islamic communities in the West.  She is a vocal advocate for religious reform, freedom of speech, and equal rights for women and girls. If you follow her on Twitter, you will be well-aware of her feisty, won’t-take-any-crap attitude.

What I especially admire about her is that unlike many Muslim women who wear a hijab, she does not preach about it, nor does she condemn women who choose not to wear one.

Malala Yousafzai – Pakistani student and activist

Malala Yousafzai

I doubt there is anybody who does not know who this 15-year-old Pashtun activist and blogger is. The youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize in history, she is known for her education and women’s rights activism in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. In early 2009, at the age of 11/12, Yousafzai wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls.

On October 9th 2012, Malala was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus.Her condition improved enough for her to be sent to a hospital in the United Kingdom for intensive rehabilitation.

Of the Taliban, she said: “Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.” She is a perfect demonstration of what education can do for a female.

Ayesha Mattu/Nura Maznavi –  editors of Love InshAllah

Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi

Ayesha Mattu is a writer and international development consultant who has worked in the field of women’s human rights since 1998 and Nura Maznavi is a civil rights attorney, writer, and Fulbright Scholar. The fantastic duo paired up to edit Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, a collection of heartfelt narratives of American Muslim women.

What inspired me most about them was that they included everyone in this book – black, brown, white, devout women, nominal Muslims, you name it. Love InshAllah gave Muslim women of all backgrounds a platform on which to share their wonderful stories, something which was long overdue. Here’s hoping for a British version!

Naveeda – MUA

Naveeda, MUA

Naveeda, MUA

A professional hair and make up artisté and fully qualified beauty therapist, Naveeda is a well-known name in the beauty industry.  With over twelve years of experience in bridal make up, she is in the top of the list of make up artistés in every Asian magazine Editor’s contact book and regular contributes on leading bridal and fashion magazines such as Asiana.

What inspires me most about this lady is that she started off as a housewife with two young boys and grafted for years until she finally made it to where she is now. On top of that, she raised a fantastic son who is one of my closest friends.

Zee Mitha – business-woman @ZeeZooMeeMoo1

This feisty, loud, fellow Lancashire lass is not afraid to speak her mind. Zee always gets involved in community issues and has visited Muslims girls’ schools to inspire them to become businesswomen. She has contributed to the BBC Asian Network on topics which affect Asians and Muslims.

Whatever she has achieved in life, she has done so through hard-work and determination, often standing up to her own parents and community members to stand up for what she believes in.


My mother

Only kidding!

She has her faults and we may not see eye-to-eye all the time (ok never!) but I admire her for putting up with so much throughout her life. Everything she has now, she has because she went out there and did it for herself, not relying on anyone or anything. Plus she gave birth to ME so that’s got to put her in the list right? :- D

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