In the Midst of a Warzone there’s an Afghani Skateboarding School for Girls

Today I learned there’s a skateboarding school in Afghanistan where 40% of its students are female.
In a part of the world where little girls are getting shot at for promoting women’s education, that’s a pretty impressive statistic. In a part of the world where little girls aren’t even allowed to ride a bicycle, that’s a ground-breaking statistic.
Officially, this makes Afghanistan the unlikeliest of title holders for the highest rate of female participation in skateboarding out of any country in the world.
Image by Jake Simkin
War, Taliban, violations of human rights: unfortunately these are the things most associated with Afghanistan today. And yet in a society that has no place for them, 70% of the population of this country is made up of children.
Enter Australian skater Oliver Percovich, who first visited Afghanistan in 2007 with three skateboards in tow. It didn’t take long before he was surrounded by children eager to learn how to skate and his mission became clear. Since then, Olly has permanently relocated to Kabul and dedicated his life with his team to creating Skateistan, a non-profit NGO and full-functioning school where children can not only come to learn in a brand new skatepark facility, but in classrooms where they can choose to explore anything from creative arts to environmental health topics.
Regrettably, there are evident obstacles to teaching girls in a country such as Afghanistan but this NGO has worked closely with the local community and government to gain their full consent and support. It turns out, Afghans largely consider skateboarding a suitable activity for girls, but to respect the local law, they are taught on separate days to boys at the skatepark, by an all-female staff. Skateistan also arranges transport for the girls to make it easier and safer for them to attend.
Image by Jake Simkin
This is a place where six days a week, children can be safe while learning in a supervised and secure private facility. Students include street children, refugees and youth with disabilities that benefit from the program’s special curriculum to provide sports therapy through skateboarding and various activities.
While skateboarding activities are kept off the streets of Kabul as much as possible, the reality of setting up a school in the midst of a warzone however is ever present and this past September, four children who were students, volunteers and youth leaders at Skateistan were tragically killed in a suicide attack while working in the street to support their families outside of school.
Oliver Percovich’s hope with Skateistan is to break the cycle of violence that the children are surrounded by in their hometown and give them the tools and passions they’ll need to change their future.
Since Skateistan was created in 2007, the charity has opened new schools in Pakistan and Cambodia and a second school in Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan is set to open its doors imminently.
In 2009, a feature length documentary on Skateistan was filmed in Kabul, Afghanistan and was named winner of the 2011 Cinema for Peace Berlin award for Most Valuable Documentary. Skateistan: Four Wheels and a Board in Kabul is available to download on iTunes or online here.
Source: http://www.messynessychic.com/2012/11/27/in-the-midst-of-a-warzone-there-is-an-afghani-skateboarding-school-for-girls/

Pakistan women break new ground at kabaddi world cup


LAHORE: Sixteen young Pakistani women will make history this weekend as they compete in the kabaddi world cup -- the first time the Muslim country has ever fielded an international women's team in the sport.
The traditional tag-wrestling sport involves players trying to tag an opponent before making it back to their half of the field.
Kabaddi is hugely popular in the Punjab provinces of India and Pakistan, where it originates, and is played in countries around the world with South Asian populations.
It has traditionally been seen as a macho sport but now Pakistan is sending a women's team to the November 30-December 14 World Cup in India.
For 24-year-old Sayeda Fareeda Khanum, who comes from a conservative, religious family where she fought for years to be allowed to compete in sports, it is a dream come true.
"I have been sports crazy since childhood and was selected for national events in various sports many times, but I was never allowed by my family to attend a training camp outside college or university," she told AFP.
"But when I got selected for the kabaddi team, I told my mother that I would play this sport at any cost and left home to join the camp in Lahore."
Khanum, the team's best defender, spoke to AFP between sessions in a tough fitness workout at Lahore's Punjab stadium.
"Getting the national colours was my childhood dream. I am going to India to make a do-or-die battle for my nation and prove that Pakistani girls can do whatever women do in other countries," she said.
India and Pakistan, neighbours and ferocious sporting rivals, have met in two of the three men's world cup finals held so far, with India prevailing both times.
The women are determined to succeed where their male counterparts have failed.
"We decided to participate in this team for the sake of Pakistan, and for the sake of true patriotism. And we have tried our level best, and by the will of God we will succeed," vice-captain Sumera Zahoor, who comes from a martial arts background, told AFP.
Having decided to build the women's team, the authorities wrote to top sports organisations and educational institutions, collecting a group of girls coming from diverse sporting backgrounds.
Half already represent various other sports like athletics, weightlifting and racket games, while a few new players with the right attitude and ambitions have also earned a place in the team.
Training for the women in green, yellow and blue tracksuits begins with prayers and a recitation from the Koran.
After chants of "Long live Pakistan" and "God is great", they begin physical training before moving on to wrestling techniques.
It has not been an easy task for the support staff to get the team together and direct their potential.
"All the girls come from different games, some are from athletics, some are weightlifters," Aisha Qazi, the team's coach, said.
"These are individual players' games but kabaddi is a team event, so there is a huge difference and it has taken me some time to teach them."
Qazi, herself a first-class cricketer and international baseball player, said they were thrilled to be the first women's team to represent Pakistan in international kabbadi.
Head coach Ghulam Abbas Butt said he was confident the women's team would live up to their promise.
"I hope the boys' team will win the World Cup this time and the girls would also not disappoint in their first appearance," he said.
"I have done this training with my heart, and they followed it the same way. These were new girls and they have done whatever I asked them to do. That's why I know that they will play well," he said.
The Pakistan women face England, Mexico and Denmark in their pool matches while arch rivals India play the United States, Kenya and New Zealand.
Source: http://www.brecorder.com/sports/other-sports/146670.html


Saudi Women Pilot Gliders

Instructors give last-minute instructions to women gliders, who are taking up the sport in a big way. — Courtesy photos

Saudi Gazette report

JEDDAH — Saudi women denied driving cars, have opted to achieve their dreams in flying gliders. The Saudi Aviation Club in Jeddah provides this service to those interested in a rental capacity. Owning a glider can run to SR37,000 to SR400,000, Al Madina reported Sunday.

The paper's reporter was present at the Gliding Club on King Abdul Aziz Road in Jeddah and saw the activity in this sport without any harassment from anyone.

Taghreed said flying gliders is greatly enjoyable and in the air one forgets everything on the ground. “A person just enjoys the beautiful scenes of the earth and sea and fresh air without any harassment from anyone. Just me, the glide and the atmosphere,” Taghreed said.  She added, “After a search I came to know that there is a school teaching gliding. I visited them and obtained a license. Now I can fly a gyro-copter.”

Amal, another Saudi, said aviation sports are among the best sports for women in Saudi Arabia. In the air, a girl is far from the earth and is alone. She sees a big portion of Jeddah. Amal said that she came to the Aviation Club with her brother. She climbed a glider accompanied by her brother. She was greatly impressed by the sport. After her marriage, she underwent training and became a professional glider.

The director of the aviation school Muhammad Al-Qarni said, “The majority of those who come to the school get an introductory flight. Usually they are accompanied by a trainer.

Some of them like the idea and submit an application for a training course to learn gliding skills. After that he or she flies alone. The papers of those interested to get a course and a gliding license are referred to the Saudi Aviation Club and then to the Ministry of Interior. A person gets training after approval of his application.

The training course costs nearly SR800 per hour. Some need 10 hours while others need 30 hours depending on their comprehension and the speed of learning. The license is then referred to the Ministry of Interior for final approval. The licensee can then fly anywhere in the world.

Al-Qarni said there are several kinds of gliding in aviation — the first is using gyrocopters and the second using pro-motors and metrolites. Each type has a different body from the other.

As to the prices of these aircraft, they start from SR37,000 to SR50,000. The prices of metrolites begin from SR130,000 and the prices of gyrocopters begin from SR240,000 upto SR400,000. The prices differ according to the specifications required. There are some people who want the aircraft to be air-conditioned, multicolored and from a particular manufacturing company. Each feature has its price.

Al-Qarni said a glider uses benzene 95. The tank is filled for SR16 and this is enough for continuous flying of six hours. As to the obstacles they face, he said the biggest obstacles are the limited places they are allowed to fly, whether in Jeddah or Riyadh.


AMMAN, Jordan -- Root for them. Do it. Add them to the teams you follow ardently, the teams you follow occasionally, the teams you follow randomly when you're aimless on the Internet.
They have untold guts, an unusual chance at real historic significance and the unlimited appeal of demonstrating that the human will to play a game might just trump bigger forces, such as culture. Circle the planet at this moment, and they might be just about the best thing going.
They're the women's soccer team of Jordan, and if they can reach the 2015 World Cup in Canada, the effect might be incalculable. They would become the first Arab or Middle Eastern team to reach a Women's World Cup, and imagine the impression on generations of girls seeking big dreams and good health.
Actually, you don't have to imagine much, because Jordan, just for one country, has established grassroots programs for teen-aged girls. Rema Ramounieh oversees them nowadays and calls their pupils "lucky." Ask her how these days compare to the last generation, and she says, "Actually, we didn't have a last generation."
They began only in 2005 when, Ramounieh said, "It was 35 players in the whole of Jordan. We were really so happy that we had a national team … At that time, nobody knew anything about women's football."
With Ramounieh as goalkeeper and captain, positions she would hold until retiring after this momentous June, the fledgling Jordan team up and won the West Asian Football Federation tournament and, she said, "saw that we had a future."
The future found a hilt in June in Amman when, for the first time, Jordan qualified for the Asian Cup, which in May, 2014, will funnel five teams toward Canada. They did so in Jordan, on Jordanian TV. They did so in an environment that shows a fresh generation, thinking freshly about these matters.
"That's for sure," Ramounieh said. "Yeah, I see that back in past generations, it's quite difficult, because people in the past used to think we're not allowed to play football, and football is not for women. Now we find 25-year-old Jordanian men come and watch. They really respect us, and we see now our friends, our family, everybody coming to watch us."
It's embryonic -- about 2,500 fans saw them beat Uzbekistan to qualify -- but it's compelling in its nascence. Meet Arab women who play football, and you'll meet people uncommonly alive. You might end up thinking nobody loves a game any more. As pioneers, they're alongside women I met during a two-year stint in the United Arab Emirates, such as the Kuwaiti triathlete who trained in a jellyfish-ridden lagoon at a construction site, because she could not get access to a pool; Omani women who reported dramatic health improvements from taekwondo; and an Iraqi woman who trained for an endurance event by ignoring the stares along the roads of Mosul. All make a serious bucking of their cultures with, in most cases, the serious backing of their fathers, another fresh cultural wrinkle.

The start of something: Jordan's team captain Miseda Naseem receives the cup after her team beat Egypt in the women's Arabia Cup in October, 2010. (Getty Images)
If you happen through Amman right about now, the sports focus is on Jordan's men's national team, as it readies for a home-and-home early this month against Uzbekistan, the winner playing a South American club for a World Cup slot. In that, Jordan will join eyeballs all over the world in the rough, rowdy whittling to a final 32 for Brazil. Yet a visible undercurrent here involves the women, who got good newspaper and TV publicity as they made off to Laos, to train for a tournament in Myanmar.
Said the Asian Football Confederation President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, "The rapid development of the women's game in Asia has been shown in the success of teams like Japan, DPR Korea and China on the world stage, but what we have seen from the four qualifying groups for the women's Asian Cup this year is how teams from West Asia are starting to show significant improvement."
Palestine, Bahrain, Kuwait and Lebanon also have qualified among the 16 teams for Vietnam, but Jordan holds the highest seeding, at No. 5.
It also holds the highest expectations, on vivid display one night two years ago in Abu Dhabi. There, Jordan lost a regional tournament semifinal to Iran by 3-2, and the press-conference room happened to share a wall with their dressing room, making audible their extraordinary -- and commendable -- wailing.
How they did care.
As the aching sounds drifted almost uncomfortably into the next room, their Dutch then-coach Hesterine de Reus said, "They are used to being the best team, so they are used to winning."
As she told the FIFA website when she left for Australia, "It is a young and skillful side and a promising team," adding, "There is great support from the federation."
"We really did some hard work," Ramounieh said, "and really wanted to do something about women's football in Jordan. We believe in it very much ... We still need more, but it's getting better." As in: "When you're walking down the street, people are talking to you about it and saying, 'We're very proud that you qualified for the final.'"
It's all because of something so simple, something mandatory when you're considering that some players double as students. As de Reus said, "The girls really love the sport, which is a powerful thing in itself."
Yeah, root for that.


Iranian swimmer Elham Asghari: 'My 20km record has been held hostage'

On a Tuesday morning in June, Elham Asghari stepped into the tidal waters of the chilly Caspian sea in northern Iran to swim 20km in full Islamic dress. But her record-breaking nine-hour feat has not been recognised by national authorities because she is a woman.
"Although I [stuck to] the full Islamic dress code and had swimmingofficials present at all times, [the authorities] said no matter how Islamic my swimming gear, it was unacceptable," she told the Guardian. "They said the feminine features of my body were showing as I came out of water."
Swimming in open waters had been Asghari's childhood dream. To achieve her goal, she looked for training programmes on the internet and came up with the idea of designing a special swimsuit – a full hijab, covering her body from head to toe. It adds some 6kg to her weight in water and, she says, it is painful to wear.
Last month, although she broke her previous national swimming record, Iranian authorities refused to recognise her achievement.
In frustration Asghari posted a video of herself online with the help of her manager, Farvartish Rezvaniyeh, who decided to help publicise her plight when he heard about it on Facebook. "I could not believe this injustice was happening to a record-breaking champion. I contacted her … and we made the video," he said.
The footage, which includes the 32-year-old swimming in her Islamic swimsuit and appealing to her fellow Iranians for support, quickly caught the attention of thousands of people who shared the video clip on social networks. Tributes poured in as more people became aware of her cause.
In the video, posted on YouTube and viewed by at least 120,000 people, Asghari promises not to give in to pressure. "No swimmer will ever accept to swim with such swimsuits; swimming with these swimsuits always hurts my body," she says in a voiceover as she is seen swimming in a pool.
"I swam 20km in [the northern city of] Nowshahr, they lowered it to 15km. I protested and they accepted 18km. Yet now, they do not register the record.
"My 20km record has been held hostage in the hands of people who cannot even swim a distance of 20 metres. I have passed tough days and nights. This incident is unbelievable for me. I will not give in to pressure. Swimming is not exclusively for men – we ladies do well too."
Women in Iran can use public swimming pools at gender-segregated times, or women-only sections, but sports officials are reluctant to allow them into open waters. "They fear that if they recognise my record then they would unwittingly approve my swimming gear and that would eventually give women swimmers access to open waters," Asghari said.
She started swimming aged five, she said. "Sometimes I feel I am an amphibian, capable of living both on land and in water. In a 24-hour [period], I spend as much time on land that I spent in water. My father was a veteran wrestler … it was him who encouraged me to register my records."
In a previous open-water race near the southern island of Kish, Asghari said police boats tried to stop her in a dramatic sequence of events that led to her leg and hip being sliced by the vessel's propellers.
After battling various gender-related obstacles during PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad's eight years in office, Asghari has pinned her hopes for change on the newly elected leader, Hassan Rouhani, who will be sworn in in August. "I hope that in President Rouhani's government, these people [hindering my career] will have no place. I will definitely follow up the case about my swimming record [when he takes office]."
Iran prevents female swimmers from participating in overseas competitions. The Women's Islamic Games in Tehran is one of the few international events where domestic swimmers are permitted to take part.
Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/05/iranian-swimmer-elham-asghari 

Azerbaijan to host Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017

By Nigar Orujova
The eighth elective general assembly of the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation (ISSF) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia has decided to hold the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games in Azerbaijan in 2017, the Azerbaijani National Olympic Committee said on July 24.
The ISSF member states voted for holding the Islamic Solidarity Games 2017 in Azerbaijan at the Assembly.
The Azerbaijani capital put forward its bid to host the tournament in February. The tournament is due from June 23 to July 2, 2017.
A presentation about Azerbaijan was made during the General Assembly by Vice President of NOC and ISSF Chingiz Huseynzade, head of the international relations department and executive director of the organizing committee of the Islamic Solidarity Games Baku-2017, Kenul Nurullayeva, and NOC expert on international programs and member of the working group of the Islamic Solidarity Games Mehman Kerimov, according to the NOC.
As part of the General Assembly the "Baku-2017" book was presented. The book includes sections on the concept of the Games, a review of the political and economic situation, legal aspects, customs and immigration aspects, information about the environment and meteorology, finance, marketing, communications, sports facilities and competitions, residential areas, transportation, security, medical services and doping control.
A special video on the Islamic games was demonstrated to the participants and relevant booklets were distributed.
New staff of the ISSF for 2013-2017 was also determined during the event. Thus, Chingiz Huseynzade was re-elected as a vice-president of the organization for the next four years.
Kenul Nurullayeva became a member of the executive committee. This landmark decision on the membership of a woman in the ISSF executive committee was made for the first time since 1968, on the basis of structural changes.
Azerbaijan became the only country represented in the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation by two representatives.
Moreover, it was decided to hold the General Assembly of the ISSF in Baku in 2015.
In May in Baku, ISSF Secretary General Faisal Bin Abdulaziz Al-Nassar said that the evaluation commission for the Games believes that Baku has all the suitable conditions for hosting the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017.
The Games, which will bring together athletes from 57 countries, will be held under the slogan "Solidarity is our power". More than 160 Azerbaijani sportsmen will participate in the Games. The Muslim religion of all athletes is not a pre-condition for participation in the competition.
The Islamic Solidarity Games is a multinational, multi-sport event involving the elite athletes of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the UN with 57 member states spread over four continents.
The first of the ISG tournaments was held in 2005 in Saudi Arabia with an Olympic-style tournament aimed at showing Muslim sports prowess and featuring 6,000 athletes.
Azerbaijan gained four gold, four silver and seven bronze medals at the first ISG, thus becoming the eighth country in the medal table.
The second event, originally scheduled to take place in October 2009 in Iran, and later re-scheduled for April 2010, was cancelled after a dispute emerged between Iran and the Arab countries. The third Games will be held in Indonesia this year.
Source: http://www.azernews.az/sports/57300.html


Libya's women's football team banned from major tournament

By Chris Stephen
Rights groups say the problems facing Libya’s women footballers are part of a larger struggle over women's rights. Photograph: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images
Libya's international woman's football team, already under threat from religious extremists, has been banned from taking part in a major tournament next week by the country's sporting authorities.
In a move likely to raise questions about its commitment to equal rights, Libya's football association told the team it cannot fly to Germany on Saturday, citing concerns that it takes place within the holy month of Ramadan.
"The federation said you cannot play in Germany because of the need for fasting," said midfielder Hadhoum el-Alabed. "We want to go but they say you cannot go."
Libya had been due to play teams from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Tunisia and Germany in Discover Football, a tournament funded by the German government. It is billed as the biggest gathering of Middle-Eastern women's footballers since the 2011 Arab spring.
El-Alabed, at 37 the oldest player in the squad and who played in Liverpool while earning a Phd in sports science, said the ban had shattered hopes that the fall of Gaddafi would bring social change. "Other teams can play [in Berlin], so why not us? If you could see the girls, when they were told, they were all crying."
After initially giving permission for the tournament, Libya's FA changed its mind. "It is Ramadan," said the FA general secretary, Nasser Ahmed. "We are not against women playing football."
It is understood German diplomats are working behind the scenes to provide guarantees that the 18-strong squad would be secure in Berlin.
Threats from Islamist radicals have already forced the team to train in secret, constantly switching venues and deploying armed guards.
In June Ansar al-Sharia, the militia linked by some with the killing of the US ambassador, Chris Stevens, in Benghazi last September, issued a statement saying it "severely condemned" women's football
"This is something we cannot have because it does not confirm with sharia law," it said. "It invites women to show off and wear clothes that are inappropriate."
Salim Jabar, one of Libya's most popular television preachers, has demanded the women's team disband, saying it was against the strictures of Islam.
"This team consists of tall, good-looking young girls, and that's the last thing this country needs," he said in a sermon broadcast from his Benghazi mosque. "For the first day that she [a Libyan woman] signed up for this team, she has sold herself and brought shame on her family."
Women's football was allowed during the Gaddafi regime, but only in reduced format with teams playing in gyms to be out of the public eye in this conservative Muslim country. Since the revolution the international team has been allowed to play 11-a-side, but its higher profile has made it a lightning rod for extremists.
"They [radicals] say to us you are no good, they intimidate us," says team captain Fadwa el-Bahi, 25.
At one training session, the location of which the Guardian was asked to keep secret, the team coach, Emmad el-Fadeih, said the women had already met strict FA guidelines. All play in head-to-foot blue tracksuits rather than shorts and T-shirts, and most wore the hijab.
El-Fadeih said the team had complied with FA rules that only unmarried women could travel to Germany, and then only if their father or guardian gave written permission.

"There are groups like Ansar al-Sharia don't want them, some people say football is not suitable for women," said el-Fadeih.
Fears of a backlash also saw team members refuse to be photographed for the tournament website. "They don't want their faces displayed," said Naziha Arebi, a British-Libyan filmmaker. "These women just want to play football."
El-Bahi, a geophysics graduate, insists nothing in the Qur'an bans women from sport. "The prophet (Muhammad and his wife used to run together and compete with each other."
She said the authorities should be highlighting the role women's football plays in fostering togetherness in a country wracked with militia violence. "This team is an example of reconciliation," she said. "We have former Gaddafi girls and former rebels, side-by-side."
Rights groups say the problems facing Libya's women footballers are part of a larger struggle by women who have struggled to win their rights. This month Libya's congress, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood's Justice and Construction party, gave just six seats to women in a 60-strong commission formed to write a new constitution.
Tournament organisers say Libya's place will remain open. "We have heard that the football association decided that they are not allowed to go," said Discover Football spokeswoman Johanna Kosters "We will wait and see if they get on the plane."


Spain's IOC member Marisol Casado says Turkey has removed women wearing headscarves in bid

Instanbul Olympic bid
The head of the Turkish bid, Ugur Erdener, speaks during the presentation of the Candidate Cities for the 2020 Olympic Games during the Association of National Olympic Committees meeting in Switzerland. Picture: AP Source: AP
A SPANISH IOC member questioned why Turkish bid leaders have failed to show images of women wearing headscarves in Istanbul's presentations for the 2020 Olympics.
While declining to answer questions about security in Turkey, Marisol Casado instead raised the issue of women who wear head coverings in the predominantly Muslim country.
Istanbul is competing against Madrid and Tokyo for the 2020 Games, which will be decided by the IOC on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The three cities made closed-door presentations to IOC members last week in Lausanne, Switzerland.
"There was one question that was never addressed, and that is the number of women who wear the veil," Ms Casado said at a news conference for Madrid's bid.
"There was never an image of a woman wearing a veil in any of their presentation videos."

Turkey, a country that sits on both the Asian and European continents, is governed by secular laws. It would be the first mainly Muslim country to host the Olympics if Istanbul wins in its fifth attempt.
"Anyone who visits Istanbul will be aware that around 30 per cent of women there tend to wear veils," Ms Casado said. "People who live in Arab nations are looking for something that will be more representative of their culture."
Ms Casado's remark was reminiscent of a faux pas made by Tokyo Governor Noiki Onose in April when he compared his city to Istanbul by saying that the Turkish city was underdeveloped and less equipped to host the games than Tokyo.
Mr Inose was also quoted as saying "the only thing (Muslim countries) share in common is Allah and they are fighting with each other, and they have classes."
The governor later apologised.
Under IOC bid rules, candidate cities are prohibited from criticizing rivals.
Ms Casado spoke as Spanish IOC members gave an assessment of how Madrid's bid was shaping up.
Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., accompanied by Jose Perurena and Ms Casado, said Madrid's bid for the 2020 Olympics broke a long tradition of overspending to host the event.
"It's a new model," Mr Samaranch said. "The Madrid Games would be good for the Olympic movement" because it puts forward the idea that games can be organized without massive spending.
Mr Samaranch said it was now more important to "use our brains instead of the wallet." He said hosting the games would also help Spanish sports and the country's economy as a whole. He said that Madrid had "explained clearly that we want it and we need it."
Madrid has sought to present what it has labeled as a low-spend, responsible model, respectful of the 27 per cent unemployment rate that the economic crisis has caused.
Both Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Economy Minister Luis de Guindos have stated that the games posed no financial risk to Spain. Madrid has stressed that 80 per cent of its proposed venues are ready and it will only need $US1.9 billion ($2.1 billion) to complete and burnish its Olympic infrastructure.
"We have limited funds," Mr Samaranch said. "Our presentations have had to be very short and sometimes frustrating because of that."
Istanbul has defended its $US19.4 billion infrastructure budget while Tokyo boasts a reserve fund of $US4.5 billion to be used for the Olympics.
Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/more-sports/spains-ioc-member-marisol-casado-says-turkey-has-removed-women-wearing-headscarves-in-bid/story-fnibbyyv-1226677414888 


The Muslim women who are excelling at top-level sport

Salma Bi (right) … 'The main challenge is family support'.
Salma Bi (right) … 'The main challenge is family support'. Photograph: Nick Wilkinsonk
On a recent weekday evening at London's Wembley Stadium, half a dozen Muslim women, some wearing headscarves, were taking it in turns to flip over some male opponents with impressive shoulder-height kicks.
These women, demonstrating Safari Kickboxing's female-only Muay Thai Kickboxing classes, were taking part in a ground-breaking celebration of Muslim women in sport. Pioneered by the Muslim Women's Sports Foundation (MWSF) and supported by the FA, the evening's Ambassador Awards showcased the diverse sporting talent of Muslim women across the UK and abroad.
"I cannot think of a better backdrop to these inaugural awards than Wembley," says the FA's chairman David Bernstein. "It is a stadium synonymous with achievement, excellence, inclusivity, variety and success … I've seen what Muslim women have achieved – it will be an inspiration for the wider community."
With awards ranging from UK Sportswoman of the Year to Volunteer of the Year, the MWSF is keen to recognise different forms of sporting success – both at professional and grassroots levels. The organisation strongly believes that faith and sport for both genders are entirely compatible and that the culture of sport is an essential part of Islamic history. Since its establishment in 2001 it has been at the forefront of encouraging physical activity amongst women from British ethnic-minority communities, particularly focusing on the cultural sensitivities of Muslim women.
So why aren't enough Muslim women getting involved in sports? The recurring theme seems to be cultural attitudes. Salma Bi, a 26-year-old cricketer, and the only female Muslim umpire at Level 1A, has founded her own coaching academy, and believes "the main challenge is the support of the family". It is much harder to excel in anything if your loved ones don't understand why it's important to you.
Moreover, concerns over maintaining modest dress and contact sports with members of the opposite sex can also make traditional sports clubs off-putting. Ayesha Abdeen, MWSF's Chief Executive says, "we found that Muslim women are the hardest to get active – if you can cater to their requirements, you can cater to anybody's".
Offering female only sports clubs or sessions has helped to combat this and provide opportunities where more Muslim women feel comfortable in enjoying sport. MWSF also allows mothers to bring their kids along to some training sessions.
Cultural barriers to participation were recently highlighted in Saudi Arabia, when the country refused to allow Saudi women to compete in the Olympics. The institutional barrier, by contrast, can be seen in Fifa's ban on women wearing hijab on the pitch. The Iranian women's football team could not complete their 2012 Olympic second-round qualifying match against Jordan because they refused to remove their headscarves.
The new awards will hopefully provide role models for other Muslim women. One such role model for many will be the MWSF's International Sportswoman of the Year, Ibtihaj Muhammad. She is an American sabre fencer and Olympic hopeful who has made the last two US World Championship teams is ranked second in the US and hopes to be the first Muslim woman representing the US in any sport whilst wearing hijab. Although she has said it is "extremely difficult being different in the sports world – be it for religion or race" issues of faith, race, gender and sport need not clash. "I would never fence if it compromised who I am and my religion – I love that the two work together."
Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2012/may/10/muslim-women-excelling-at-top-level-sport


Maldives Women’s Team Forfeit Basketball Tournament Over Headscarf Ban


Maldives women’s team forfeit basketball tournament over headscarf ban thumbnail

The Maldives’ women’s basketball team refused to play without their headscarves, forfeiting the International Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) first under 18 three-on-three tournament held in Bangkok, Thailand earlier this week.
“The girls were really upset, we are as well. We came prepared based on the uniform the team wore in the last two games,” Maldives Basketball Association (MBA) President Ahmed Hafiz told Minivan News today (May 27).
“According to FIBA, the head cannot be covered during play. We have to go with FIBA rules if we want to play,” Hafiz stated.
The Maldives’ women’s basketball team has been allowed to participate in past tournaments while wearing burugaathah (headscarves), however the decision to make an exception to the rules “depends on the officials”, according to Hafiz.
“Qatar held a tournament two weeks back and there were some complaints that the Qatar team was wearing headgear, so FIBA was forced to apply the rules,” Hafiz explained. “Maybe that is the reason this issue came up for the Maldives [in this tournament].”
FIBA Asia has designed a jersey for Muslim players, but still needs to obtain FIBA international approval, according to the MBA.
“FIBA Asia is working on this because lots of Muslim countries are involved. Now the are suggesting to FIBA International to change the rules to allow headgear,” said Hafiz.
The Maldives’ under 18 women’s team is planning to participate in the upcoming Asian Youth Games, to be held this August in Nanjing, China, according to Hafiz.
“However, [the choice] is up to the players. We will not force them,” he said.
“This is a big problem for the game and will ruin the development of women’s basketball for a place like this, because there are still very few girl players and most wear the burugaa,” MBA Secretary General Arif Riza told Minivan News today.
“FIBA is pretty clear about the rules, so although the team has been allowed to play twice before, this was a mistake of ours also,” said Riza.
The primary issues of concern to MBA are that FIBA permitted the Maldives’ team to wear headscarves during tournaments in 2011 and 2012 as well as allowed other teams to play in violation of different dress code rules, such as wearing t-shirts instead of jerseys, according to Riza.
“Immediately after President Hafiz arrives [from Thailand] we will discuss the issue and write FIBA a letter,” said Riza.
“They should be allowed to have the right to play,” he declared.

FIBA Response
The headgear ban is “a part of FIBA Rules, but not a policy,” FIBA AsiaSecretary General Hagop Khajirian told Minivan News Thursday (May 23).
“It has nothing to do with headscarves as such, but more to do with the regulations which stipulate that the playing gears of players has to be such that it may not cause any harm or hindrance to themselves or opponent players,” explained Khajirian.
Although these rules have “been the case always”, FIBA is currently reviewing the headscarf restriction.
“There have been requests from many nations regarding this. And the FIBA Asia Central Board, in its meeting [held] on April 24 in Kuala Lumpur, resolved to send a study paper to FIBA to be taken up for further consideration,” said Khajirian.

The choice to cover
While Maldivian women’s participation in basketball is slowly increasing, netballis popular nationwide. Although there are key distinctions between the two sports – such as no dribbling in netball – the rules are very similar, according to a skilled Maldivian netball player of nine years and student coach of six years.
“Wearing the burugaa while playing netball is no problem for us, it is not difficult and we’ve never experienced any injuries [from the headscarves],” she explained on condition of anonimity.
“Every person has the choice of whether or not they choose to wear the burugaa. However, it is a religious thing, in Islam Muslims have to cover, it is the right thing,” she continued.
“Although some are not wearing [headscarves], that is their choice,” she added.
The netball enthusiast agreed with the Maldives’ women’s basketball team decision to not remove their headscarves and forefit their game in the recent FIBA three-on-three tournament.
“Their choice was the correct one, they do not want to break religous rules,” she said.
“FIBA should change their rules if they want Maldivians to participate, because so many [women] are wearing burugaathah. They have to change so everyone can compete,” she added.

Burugaa bans
A senor researcher from the internatonal NGO, Human Rights Watch, previously highlighted the discriminatory issue of banning women from wearing headscarves, in a 2012 article “Banning Muslim Veil Denies Women a Choice, Too”.
“The sad irony is that whether they are being forced to cover up or to uncover, these women are being discriminated against. Banned from wearing the hijab – a traditional Muslim headscarf – or forced to veil themselves, women around the world are being stripped of their basic rights to personal autonomy; to freedom of expression; and to freedom of religion, thought and conscience,” wrote Judith Sunderland.
“Denying women the right to cover themselves is as wrong as forcing them to do so. Muslim women, like all women, should have the right to dress as they choose and to make decisions about their lives and how to express their faith, identity and moral values. And they should not be forced to choose between their beliefs and their chosen profession,” notes the article.
Muslim women’s basketball players in Switzerland and Baharain have also faced controversial opposition to their refual to remove their headscarves.
The Baharaini team was “lauded” for their refusal to remove their headscarves during an international competition in 2009, according to Gulf News.
Meanwhile, Sura Al-Shawk, a 19 year-old STV Luzern basketball player, was denied permission to play while wearing a headscarf by the Swiss basketball association ProBasket in 2010, reported the Associated Press.
ProBasket told the Associated Press it followed FIBA rules and that wearing the headscarf while playing basketball “could increase the risk of injury and the sport has to be religiously neutral”.
In July 2012, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)overturned a headscarf ban, which was put into place in 2007, after a yearlong campaign led by FIFA vice president Prince Ali of Jordan, reported the Associated Press.