Week of October 16th

  • Israeli lawmakers want to tighten a ban on the employment of underweight models and on the undeclared digital slimming-down of fashion images, amid concern that the measures are being routinely flouted even as they are adopted abroad. The fashion industry’s use of wafer-thin models has long been the subject of heated debate worldwide. Critics say the practice promotes an unhealthy body image among women, which can contribute to triggering anorexia and other eating disorders and a preoccupation with unrealistic measures of perfection. Israel in 2012 became the first country to pass a law requiring advertisers explicitly to identify pictures with photoshopped people and prohibiting the use of models below a certain body mass index (BMI), a measure which expresses a ratio of weight to height.
  • On Monday, a press release from a Thomas Reuters Foundation international poll shared that Cairo is the most dangerous megacity for women. Women’s rights experts in the country say the treatment of women in the Egyptian capital has worsened since a 2011 uprising seeking social change. Cairo came out worst when pollsters asked experts on women’s issues in 19 megacities how well women are protected from sexual violence, harmful cultural practices, and about access to healthcare and finance. Women’s rights campaigners and commentators said women in Cairo faced daily harassment while a weakened economy and high unemployment since the uprising had eroded economic opportunities for women and seen health services deteriorate. “The economy has become so bad in the last two, three years that we are suffering a setback in the thinking that women’s issues are not a priority,” said Omaima Abou-Bakr, co-founder of Women and Memory Forum, a non-government organisation set up to fight misconceptions of Arab women.
  • On Thursday, a Kurdish female militia that took part in freeing the northern Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State group said it will continue the fight to liberate women from the extremists’ brutal rule. In a highly symbolic gesture, Nisreen Abdullah of the Women’s Protection Units, or YPJ, made the statement in Raqqa’s Paradise Square — the same place where IS fighters once carried out public killings. She said the all-women force, which is part of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces battling IS, lost 30 fighters in the four-month battle to liberate Raqqa. Raqqa was center stage of IS’ brutality, the de facto capital of the militants self-proclaimed “caliphate.”

“We have achieved our goal, which was to pound the strongholds of terrorism in its capital, liberate women and restore honor to Yazidi women by liberating dozens of slaves,” Abdullah said. The success of the predominantly-Kurdish SDF poses a challenge to a post-ISIS Syria; remaining in Syria to protect its Kurdish allies risks embroiling the United States in possible future conflicts between Arabs and Kurds, and between Turkey and Kurds.

  • Suicide bombers struck two mosques in Afghanistan during Friday prayers, a Shiite mosque in Kabul and a Sunni mosque in western Ghor province, killing at least 63 people at the end of a particularly deadly week for the troubled nation. Afghan forces have struggled to combat a resurgent Taliban since U.S. and NATO forces formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014, switching to a counterterrorism and support role. Local residents believed Afghanistan’s IS affiliate was behind the Shiite mosque attack, but no group immediately claimed responsibility for either attack.
  • U.S.-backed forces seized control of Syria’s biggest oil field on Sunday, in an indication of the coming race between the Syrian government, and its Russian and Iranian allies, and opposition forces to claim valuable territory left behind after the ongoing defeat of ISIS. Kurds and Arabs fighting under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces captured the al-Omar oil field in Deir al-Zour province after charging about 60 miles through the desert and launching a surprise assault, according to U.S. military and SDF officials. Deir al-Zour is where most of Syria’s oil is located, and it is emerging as a key front in the wider war for influence in the Middle East. The capture of al-Omar gives the Kurdish-led SDF control over a vital strategic asset that could serve to give it leverage in any future negotiations over the status of Kurds in Syria. It also risks triggering a confrontation with the Syrian government, potentially drawing the United States into a fight with Syria, Russia and Iran.
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