No, this video doesn’t show mosques being destroyed in China

X users have been circulating a video in recent days that shows a mosque being bulldozed, claiming that it provides proof that the Chinese government is destroying mosques. The Chinese government is carrying out a “sinicization policy” on mosques, either demolishing them or carrying out architectural modifications to make them look more Chinese, a practice that has been decried by human rights organisations. However,  this video was not filmed in China.

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If you only have a minute:

  • X users have been sharing and circulating a video showing a mosque minaret being bulldozed by, they claim, the Chinese government. 
  • In their captions, these users wrongly claim that the demolition of this mosque is an example of a campaign by the Chinese government bent on the “sinicization” of mosques in China. 
  • In reality, the scene was filmed in Turkey, not China. It shows the controlled demolition of a mosque minaret that risked collapse after it was structurally damaged in the earthquake that took place on February 6, 2023. 
  • However, while this video is unrelated, the Chinese government is currently carrying out a campaign to destroy and alter mosques across China.

The fact check, in detail: 

A video of a mosque being demolished went viral  on X a few days ago. Tweets featuring the video claim that it shows the work of the Chinese government. A user whosetweet garnered 300,000 likes claimed that the mosque was going to be turned into “public toilets”, because, he said, China thinks of Islam as a “mental illness”.

This is a screengrab of a post on X that wrongly claimed that the mosque had been destroyed by the Chinese government in order to build public toilets. © X / @Linfo24_7

“The Chinese Communist Party has been focusing on mosques as part of its crackdown on Muslim Uyghurs,” wrote this user

This is a screengrab of a post on X which wrongly claimed that this mosque was destroyed as part of the Chinese government’s crackdown on Uyghurs.
This is a screengrab of a post on X which wrongly claimed that this mosque was destroyed as part of the Chinese government’s crackdown on Uyghurs. © X / @Knot73211261

The misinformation reached new levels when a Chinese account with more than 500,000 followers, which posts tweets in Arabic, reacted to the tweet. This account rightly claimed that the mosque in the footage was actually located in Italy. However, they then blamed “American security services” for spreading the rumour that China was involved.

This is a screengrab of a post on X that says that American security services are responsible for spreading false rumours that the Chinese government destroyed this mosque.
This is a screengrab of a post on X that says that American security services are responsible for spreading false rumours that the Chinese government destroyed this mosque. © X / @mog_china

If you carry out a reverse image search (check out how by reading our guide) then you can find older posts featuring this video. We discovered that the video in question was already circulating online a year ago, in February and March 2023. We learned from those posts that the mosque shown in the video is actually located in Adana, in Turkey. 

The mosque sustained structural damage in the earthquake that took place on February 6, 2023. It’s minaret was damaged, which led local authorities to carry out a “controlled” demolition in late February 2023, as documented by these Turkish media outlets.

Back then, the video was circulated online because a worker was injured during the demolition, as shown in a longer version of the scene, which was broadcast by Turkish media outlet IHA on March 2, 2023.


This is an earlier post of the video showing the demolition of a mosque minaret in Adana, Turkey.

Community Notes on X – which allow X users to add context to a potentially false post in a collaborative manner – say that the mosque being demolished in the footage is the Gökoğlu mosque in the town of Adana. It’s impossible to get close enough to the mosque in question to see it clearly in Google Street View or Yandex Maps. However, there are a few other videos posted on TikTok in late February 2023 that also show the demolition of the mosque’s minaret, which enable us to confirm that it is, indeed, the Gökoğlu mosque.

This is a screengrab of a TikTok video that says that this footage shows the Gökoğlu mosque in Adana.
This is a screengrab of a TikTok video that says that this footage shows the Gökoğlu mosque in Adana. © TikTok

Even if this video in particular does not show a mosque being destroyed by the Chinese government, the Chinese government does have a campaign targeting mosques.

The NGO Human Rights Watch wrote a whole report, published in November 2023, about the “sinicization of mosques” in China. The report talks specifically about a policy of “mosque consolidation”.

“The Chinese government is not ‘consolidating’ mosques as it claims, but closing many down in violation of religious freedom,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch. “The Chinese government’s closure, destruction, and repurposing of mosques is part of a systematic effort to curb the practice of Islam in China.”

The report notes that the government’s “mosque consolidation” efforts are focused on the regions of Ningxia and Gansu, which are the provinces with the largest Muslim populations after Xinjiang, where the Chinese authorities have already been carrying out a violent repression of the Muslim Uyghur population for years. 

Part of the sinicization of these mosques includes architectural changes, according to Human Rights Watch. In a number of mosques, the government has replaced minarets, domes and other features characteristic to Islamic heritage with architectural styles more traditional to Chinese culture, as part of their program of cultural assimilation.

À lire aussiChinese mosque partially destroyed in state campaign against Muslim minority

The Chinese government has also demolished mosques, as detailed in this article by FRANCE 24. More than 90% of mosques in the region of Ningxia have been demolished or modified had Islamic features removed, according to satellite images gathered by the Financial Times in an extensive report studying this troubling phenomenon in detail. At least 1,714 religious buildings have been altered or destroyed.

This is a screengrab showing the alteration of one mosque highlighted in the report by the Financial Times.
This is a screengrab showing the alteration of one mosque highlighted in the report by the Financial Times. © Financial Times

On social media, people often publish images of mosques being destroyed or their “sinicization”.

This is a screengrab of a post on X showing the sinicization of the Doudian mosque in China.
This is a screengrab of a post on X showing the sinicization of the Doudian mosque in China. © X / @ianscottmunro

Some have said that the Chinese government considers Islam to be a “mental illness”, as said in this Facebook post. We haven’t found any instances of this term being used by a Chinese official.

This is a screengrab of a Facebook post from December 2023 that talks about the destruction of mosques in China.
This is a screengrab of a Facebook post from December 2023 that talks about the destruction of mosques in China. © Facebook / Kaushik Vyas

However, this idea is likely connected to the so-called “re-education” camps, essentially internment camps, that the Chinese government has been running since at least 2017 in the province of Xinjiang. Members of the Uyghur Muslim minority are detained here in an attempt to combat “religious extremism”, according to Chinese officials. 

An official Chinese Communist Party audio recording obtained by Radio Free Asia, a media outlet financed by the US Congress, characterizes the Uyghurs held in these camps as being “infected by an ideological illness”, which the officials claimed needed treatment like a “physical illness”. More than one million Uyghurs are thought to have been interned in these camps since 2018. 

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Islamophobia is surging throughout Europe. Here’s how we stop it

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

It’s crucial for leaders and everyday people to unite in a remarkable effort to confront the pervasive hatred in our communities. It’s not just minorities that are at risk, it’s the Western world too, and our shared values of freedom, justice and equality, Naz Shah writes.

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Earlier this month, a plot between AfD party officials and neo-Nazis to deport millions of ethnic minorities from Germany was uncovered. 

But this conspiracy is part of a sinister undercurrent sweeping Europe and the wider Western world – one that goes hand-in-hand with a relentless surge in Islamophobia.

Since the atrocities of 7 October and the ongoing onslaught against the people of Gaza, Islamophobia in the UK has surged 600%.

Yet the British government has responded by inflaming rhetoric rather than promoting messages of unity.

Recently, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used an Islamophobic trope as a response to another Muslim MP, which I was forced to call out on the floor of the Commons.

Meanwhile, the Conservative government has spent their time and effort – not healing worsening social ties or resolving the conflict in the Middle East – but forcing through the controversial Rwanda asylum plan that is the epitome of institutionalised xenophobia.

But xenophobia is becoming more than normalised in the echelons of political power – it is becoming key to winning elections across Europe, and beyond.

It’s all down to the power of fear

From Sweden to Greece, far-right groups and populist leaders are not just participating in elections; they are winning, often in record numbers. 

Geert Wilders’ ascent in the Netherlands, fueled by decades-worth of anti-Muslim rhetoric, including the promise to ban mosques and the Qur’an, exemplifies how Europe is faced with a political trend not towards integration and acceptance, but hate and exclusion.

And it could get a lot worse.

Should Donald Trump be elected US President this November, the Western world will have turned a new disturbing corner, where minorities become scapegoats for the ills of Western society. 

For example, Trump recently said immigrants were “poisoning the blood [of America]” to raucous applause from crowds.

There is no doubt that his ascent to the White House would herald an even stronger far-right revival, emboldening new populists to emerge from other EU nations.

But why is this divisive rhetoric, key to electoral success, resonating with so many? The answer lies in the power of fear.

Working tirelessly to humanise the other

For example, the great replacement theory that so many far-right populists exhort asserts Western civilization is facing an existential threat in a culture war against Western values. 

That narrative, of the West fighting for survival against an imagined onslaught of Islamization, is designed to tap into deep-seated existential fears.

And to some degree, it’s working.

Europe is being pulled towards far-right ideologies at a scale reminiscent of the preludes to World War II. 

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It isn’t just a political trend; it’s a dangerous slide towards an era of division and hostility, one that will challenge the very foundations of our democratic values.

How then, do we address a trend that threatens to engulf Western Muslims, other minorities, and core Western values of empathy, tolerance, and mutual respect?

Well, for one, we must work tirelessly to humanise the other. History shows that escalating persecution and violence against minorities is always paired with their dehumanization.

A set of values against the far right’s divisive rhetoric

This is why education must play a pivotal role. Schools must incorporate curricula that foster a better understanding of Islamic culture through exposure and knowledge of those with different backgrounds.

But education in schools must complement wider education in society.

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That’s why my participation in the Conference of European and British Muslim Leaders this past year was a pivotal moment for the British Muslim community.

This gathering, orchestrated by the Muslim World League in London convened hundreds of the most influential Muslim figures in Britain. At the centre of the conference was the Charter of Makkah, a sweeping bill of Islamic rights and values backed by over 1,200 scholars from 139 countries which testifies to Islam’s commitment to modern ideals.

For example, the charter emphasizes environmental stewardship, religious tolerance, and women’s rights. 

But these values are more than abstract ideals; they are integral to the daily lives of British Muslims. Importantly, they go directly against the divisive rhetoric of far-right extremists.

It’s time to put out the fires of extremist ideologies

This matters immensely. Recognising the shared values between British Muslims and the wider society strikes at the root of extremism. And such appreciation strengthens the fabric of our society, bolstering its resilience against divisive forces.

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But resilience cannot only come from us. The media, society, and government also have important roles to play.

For example, policy interventions remain crucial. The political obsession with Islamophobia is distracting policymakers from addressing the increase in white nationalist terrorism, which has risen at least 320% in the past decade and increasingly targeting the young. 

Ironically, the narratives that far-right parties are spewing against Muslims are precisely the fuel that this extremist ideology depends upon.

This is why governments should develop information campaigns about the dangers of the far-right alongside legislation that protects communities from hate crimes and hate speech. 

This is particularly relevant to social media and the online world, where the far-right feels they have a free pass to spread hatred.

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It is also time for the UK government to adopt the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia. After all, how can you tackle something you cannot define or understand?

Ultimately, it’s crucial for leaders and everyday people to unite in a remarkable effort to confront the pervasive hatred in our communities. 

Because it’s not just minorities that are at risk, it’s the Western world too, and our shared values of freedom, justice and equality.

Naz Shah is a Member of the UK Parliament for Bradford West, serving as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Muslim Women, and Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Race and Community, British Muslims, and others. Shah has also served as Shadow Minister for Crime Reduction, Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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‘Freedom is paid for in blood’: In the occupied West Bank, families long to bury their dead

An Israeli strike killed six Palestinians in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, four of whom were brothers. The attack took place in the city of Jenin and left a total of seven dead, including an Israeli police officer. As the family of the brothers buried their “martyrs”, others are still waiting for the remains of relatives held by the Israeli army to be returned. 

She doesn’t cry. She doesn’t speak. Ibtesam Darwish simply looks stunned. “I wasn’t just their mother, I was their friend,” she says. “We were so close.”

Sitting in her neighbour’s courtyard in Qabatiya, a city in the northern occupied West Bank, she waits for the remains of her sons. 

Twenty-two-year-old Rami, 24-year-old Ahamed, 27-year-old Hazaa and 29-year-old Alaa were killed along with two others in an Israeli airstrike near the entrance to Jenin at 6am on Sunday in an area called Martyr’s Triangle. A seventh person died of their wounds later that day.   

Ibtesam Darwish (pink hijab) awaits the remains of her four sons in Qabatia on January 7, 2024. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24

The Israeli military said the strike targeted “Palestinian gunmen” who had lobbed explosives at troops, according to The Times of Israel. But eyewitnesses at the scene said the young people who gathered were unarmed and were trying to keep warm by a fire when the strike took place. They added that the attack happened as Israeli forces were withdrawing after a night of violent clashes with the Jenin Brigade, an armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, and that a soldier had been killed.  


Finding out on social media

Ibtesam knew her boys weren’t at home. They wanted to watch the Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp. 

“Early in the morning, I saw that there had been a drone attack and that four members of the same family had been killed,” she says softly. “I called them immediately but nobody picked up. I left them a voice message asking them to call me back straight away,” she continues.

“It was on social media that I found out they had been killed.”  

The first thing she did was to go to the local hospital. In a video posted on X, she is seen walking into a ward asking: “Have they all gone? Is there anyone left?” With the support of one of her other children, she lifts an emergency blanket and finds horror. One of her sons lies lifeless, his body mangled from the explosion. Ibtesam lets out a muffled scream.  





A few hours later, it’s time to say goodbye. The crowd in the Qabatiya courtyard begins to swell. Dozens of women wait in silence as the men congregate outside. The sound of cars arriving, halting, then driving off is incessant. Residents of Jenin and Qabatiya come in waves to attend the funeral or to give their condolences to Ibtesam. The boys’ father, who works in Jordan, is not present. In Islam, funerals are typically conducted within 24 hours of the deceased’s passing. If the death took place in the morning, the funeral must be held before sunset. If it took place at night, the funeral happens the following morning.  

As the sun burns warmer, the atmosphere becomes suffocating. Only the clicking of cameras can be heard. Ibtesam, the mother of seven boys and two girls, explains how death is a part of everyday life in the occupied West Bank.

“That’s life for us Palestinians. We go out in the morning without knowing if we’ll be back in the evening,” she says in a matter-of-fact tone. “I have three sons left. If they kill them, we’ll make more. We will continue to resist.”  

Suddenly, the silence is broken by gunshots. The funeral procession draws nearer. Men’s voices are heard shouting the Takbir – “Allahu akbar!” (“God is greatest” in Arabic) – followed by a “la ilaha illa Allah!” (“There is no God truly worthy of worship except Allah”). More shots are fired, this time in rapid succession, almost deafening. 

The bodies of Hazaa, Rami, Ahamed and Alaa are all wrapped in the green flag of Hamas. A Palestinian keffiyeh covers their heads. Then, one by one, they are laid on the ground. A dense crowd surrounds the four “martyrs”, a widely used term to describe Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers, whether they were militants or not.  

More shots are fired, over and over again, to commemorate the dead. Men dressed in black, their faces hidden behind balaclavas, hold M-16s and other assault rifles. Among the crowds are militants from various brigades of the Jenin refugee camp. A sea of flags is waving, some clenched in the hands of young children. White for the Jenin Brigade, green for Hamas, yellow for Fatah – the party that heads the Palestinian Authority – and the red, black, green and white of the Palestinian flag.  

Time seems to stand still. As prayers and gunshots continue to fill the air, the four bodies are lifted up and carried by the men in the crowd. Ibtesam groans in pain, watching the procession walk away with her sons. She will not be going to the cemetery. According to Muslim tradition, women do not attend the burial of the deceased. The women who had come to support her flock towards her and weep. But Ibtesam does not. She was able to say goodbye to her children.  

Withholding remains, a form of ‘collective punishment’

Jamal Zubeidi was not. His son Mohammed, or “Hammoudi” as he called him, is yet to be buried. He was killed on November 29 by Israeli forces during a raid on the Jenin refugee camp. Considered a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative by Israeli intelligence service Shin Bet, the remains of the 27-year-old were taken away by soldiers. 

Shin Bet claims that Mohammed Zubeidi was involved in the planning of a terrorist attack that killed one person close to the Hermesh settlement in May last year, as well as another in June that killed one civilian and wounded four soldiers.   

Jamal Zubeidi holds the portrait of his son Mohammed, killed by the Israeli army in the Jenin refugee camp on November 29, 2023.
Jamal Zubeidi holds the portrait of his son Mohammed, killed by the Israeli army in the Jenin refugee camp on November 29, 2023. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24

Israel has a long history of withholding the remains of Palestinians suspected of or having committed terrorist attacks. “The bodies of terrorists are detained in accordance with orders given by political authorities,” explains an army spokesperson contacted by FRANCE 24.  

“Twenty years ago, it was kind of an undeclared policy. But now it’s official,” says Jessica Montell, director of the Israeli human rights organisation HaMoked. “We represent several families who are waiting.”  

The practice was authorised by Israel’s Supreme Court in 2019 and is also used by Hamas or Hezbollah in Lebanon for the remains of Israeli soldiers.

“It’s a bargaining chip for future negotiations,” says Dror Sadot, a spokesperson for B’Tselem, the Israeli information centre for human rights in the occupied territories. “There were periods when the policy was used and others when it wasn’t. The number of bodies concerned is also very vague.”  

Between 1991 and 2008, Israel agreed to hand over 405 bodies in return for the bodies of deceased soldiers, according to data collected by B’Tselem. The National Campaign for Retrieval of the Bodies of Martyrs launched by the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC) estimates that the remains of 450 bodies are being kept in Israeli cemeteries and mortuaries, 47 of which were killed since October 7. According to JLAC, 2023 was a record year with 101 bodies detained, only 22 of which were returned. The Gaza Strip is not included in these figures due to lack of access.  

For both B’Tselem and HaMoked, withholding Palestinian remains is a form of “collective punishment”. Zubeidi feels the same. “It’s a punishment to make us suffer even more,” he says from the Jenin refugee camp still marked by the scars of the nighttime raid. “They think it will deter the militants.”  

A stretcher used to transport the remains, which are then buried in a shroud without a coffin, at the Jenin cemetery on January 7, 2024.
A stretcher used to transport the remains, which are then buried in a shroud without a coffin, at the Jenin cemetery on January 7, 2024. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24

Hopes of a swap

Denying families the right to bury their loved ones is a source of undeniable anguish. Whether Palestinian or Israeli, religious or secular, funeral rites allow people to mourn. But without a body, that becomes impossible.  

“His grave has been dug. It’s waiting for him,” says the father of nine. Two of his sons have been killed by Israeli forces and another is currently in administrative detention. “I want to bury him, and visit him, but I have no body. I have no proof. How do you expect me to accept that he’s dead? I hope he isn’t. We need to see him to believe it.”  

Graves dug in Jenin's new cemetery on January 7, 2024.
Graves dug in Jenin’s new cemetery on January 7, 2024. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24

Zubeidi hopes he will be able to retrieve Mohammed’s remains thanks to a potential exchange between Hamas and the Israeli government. Negotiations to free hostages held in the Gaza Strip since October 7 could see Palestinian detainees released and remains returned on both sides.

Hints of sadness and fatigue cover the 60-year-old’s face. Zubeidi himself has also spent time in Israeli prisons.

“We’re like all families, we’re scared for our children all the time,” he laments. “We’re sad because he’s dead, but we’re proud that he died a martyr. Freedom is paid for in blood.”  

This article is a translated version of the original in French



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Injury of 16-year-old Iranian girl not wearing headscarf in Tehran sparks anger

A mysterious injury suffered by a 16-year-old girl who boarded a Metro train in Iran’s capital without a headscarf has reignited anger just after the one-year anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini and the nationwide protests it sparked.

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What happened in the few seconds after Armita Geravand entered the train on Sunday remain in question. While a friend told Iranian state television that she hit her head on the station’s platform, the soundless footage aired by the broadcaster from outside of the car is blocked by a bystander. Just seconds later, her limp body is carried off.

Geravand’s mother and father appeared in state media footage saying a blood pressure issue, a fall or perhaps both contributed to their daughter’s injury.

Activists abroad have alleged Geravand may have been pushed or attacked because she was not wearing the hijab. They demand an independent investigation by the United Nations’ fact-finding mission on Iran, citing the theocracy’s use of pressure on victims’ families and state TV’s history of airing hundreds of coerced confessions.

Geravand’s injury also comes as Iran has put its morality police – whom activists implicate in Amini’s death over her alleged loose hijab – back on the street, and as lawmakers push to enforce even stricter penalties for those flouting the required head covering.

“Girls are subjected to violence on the streets, and then their families are compelled to protect the government responsible for that violence,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.


For observant Muslim women, the head covering is a sign of piety before God and modesty in front of men outside their families. In Iran, the hijab – and the all-encompassing black chador worn by some – has long been a political symbol as well, particularly after becoming mandatory in the years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran and neighboring Taliban-ruled Afghanistan are the only countries where the hijab remains mandatory for women.

Since Amini’s death and the large-scale protests subsided, many women in Tehran can be seen without the hijab in defiance of the law.

Geravand suffered her injury Sunday morning at the Meydan-E Shohada, or Martyrs’ Square, Metro station in southern Tehran. Rumors about how she suffered the injury quickly circulated.

By Tuesday, the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, which reports on abuses in Iran’s western Kurdish region, published a photograph it said showed Geravand at the hospital, her head wrapped in bandages as she remains in a coma.

Geravand “was physically attacked by authorities in the Shohada station at Tehran Metro for what they perceived as noncompliance with the compulsory hijab,” Hengaw alleged, citing reports it said it received. “As a result, she sustained severe injuries and was transported to the hospital.”

The Associated Press has not been able to confirm the exact circumstances of what caused Geravand’s injuries.

Late Wednesday, Iranian state television aired what appeared to be nearly all the surveillance camera footage covering the 16 minutes Geravand spent inside of the Metro station before her injury. She entered at 6:52 a.m., then went down an escalator. The sole gap, about a minute and a half, occurs before she reaches the turnstile gate where she uses her Metro card. The footage includes her shopping for a snack, then walking to and waiting on the platform for the train.

In the mute footage, Geravand, whom activists describe as a taekwondo athlete, appears calm and healthy. An AP frame-by-frame analysis of the footage showed no signs of the aired video being manipulated.

At 7:08 a.m., Geravand enters the No. 134 train car – the last on the train and likely a women-only compartment. A new conductor for the train walks up as she enters, his body blocking the view of door she walks through. Within four seconds, a woman steps backwards out of the train and just a sliver of Geravand’s head can be seen as she lies on the floor of the train. Women then pull Geravand’s limp body out and run for help as the train moves off.

Iranian state TV’s report, however, did not include any footage from inside the train itself and offered no explanation on why it hadn’t been released. Most train cars on the Tehran Metro have multiple CCTV cameras, which are viewable by security personnel.

“Refusing to publish the footage only increases doubts about the official narrative,” the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said.

Emergency medical technicians took Geravand to Fajr Hospital, which is at a Iranian air force base and one of the the closest medical facilities to the station. In the time since her injury, security forces have arrested a journalist for Shargh newspaper who went to the hospital, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Shargh, a reformist newspaper, helped lead reporting surrounding Amini’s death as well.

Already, Geravand’s injury has drawn international attention, something Iran’s government has sought to dismiss. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote online: “Once again a young woman in #Iran is fighting for her life. Just because she showed her hair on the subway. It’s unbearable.”

U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Iran Abram Paley also wrote that he was “shocked and concerned about reports that Iran’s so-called morality police have assaulted 16-year-old Armita Geravand.”

Iranian authorities likely worry about this incident escalating into popular anger like in Amini’s case. Women continue to ignore the hijab law despite the growing crackdown. That includes what Shargh described as Tehran’s city government hiring of some 400 people as “hijab guards” to give verbal warnings, prevent uncovered women from entering subway cars and hand them over to police.

(AP)



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Iranian parliament to consider law targeting ‘celebrities’ who defy hijab law

Under a new law under consideration in Iran, “celebrities” who defy the Islamic Republic’s hijab restrictions could find themselves facing confiscation of 10% of their total assets. The proposed bill is the latest effort by hardliners in the regime to suppress support for the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protest movement, in which many Iranian actors, athletes and social media influencers have participated in one way or another.

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On July 23, Iranian media reported that the Islamic Republic’s parliament plans to debate a bill that would take action against the widespread opposition of Iranian women to the hijab requirement in Iran. Under current law in Iran, any woman who does not cover her head and her body in public faces up to 2 months in prison or a fine of up to 50,000 tomans (one euro). The bill proposes strengthening those maximum penalties for all women to 10 years in prison and 150 million tomans (€3,000, 30 times the monthly minimum wage). The minimum monthly wage in Iran is about €110.

The bill, submitted by the parliament’s research centre, contains a special provision for “celebrities”, allowing the government to confiscate up to 10 percent of their wealth, and banning them from working in their field. for 15 years. The bill’s use of the word “celebrities”, an anglicism commonly used in Iran, means it could be used against a wide range of people. 

 





The research center wrote in a memo regarding the bill: “These new measures will be preemptive. They will make it impossible for our enemies to use public arrests by police for their own propaganda purposes.”   

The protests were sparked in September 2022 when Mahsa Amini died after being arrested by Iran’s so-called morality police known as “Garsht-e Ershad”. The unit halted their patrols soon afterward, but Iran’s police announced July 16 that patrols targeting “immoral clothing” had resumed. 

READ MORE: Morality police patrols return to Iran’s streets after 10 months

During the 10 months of protests, countless thousands of Iranian women have chosen to stop wearing hijab and go about their daily lives with their hair uncovered. They have been joined by numerous actors, musicians and athletes, who have appeared without headscarves at public appearances and on their social media accounts. Beauty and fashion influencers with large followings on Instagram and other social media have also abandoned the hijab.

This Iranian stylist specialised in hijabi fashion before the 2022-23 protests. She now poses with her hair uncovered. © Observers

Actress Taraneh Alidousti, who has appeared without a hijab in support of the protests, was arrested in December 2022, held for nearly three weeks, and ordered to pay a fine. She has reportedly been banned from Iran’s government film watchdog has threatened to ban films starring actresses who have removed their hijab in public.

“They can declare a ‘financial jihad’ against us, but it won’t work”

“Tarlan”, a well-known Iranian actress, spoke to the FRANCE 24 Observers about the new bill in parliament. Like many other Iranian actresses, she has appeared on social media without hijab since the protests began. We are concealing her identity to protect her, and this article does not contain any images from her accounts.

I first heard about this bill when many of my followers on social media sent me links to the news. My first reaction was anger and a little bit of fear. But after a few seconds I honestly didn’t care. I’m not sure they will dare to actually pass the bill. While it’s being debated in parliament it will make Iranians even angrier: it’s targeting artists and personalities that people love and care about. 

“Tarlan” does not believe her fellow artists will be deterred by the prospect of financial penalties. 





 

There are women who have lost their lives on the streets: young beautiful souls like Nika [Shakarami], Kian [Pirfalak] and Hadis [Najafi]. Money is nothing compared with what they have sacrificed. And I think of fellow artists who have already paid the ultimate price for an artist because they supported this revolution: the price of being banned from practising their art as actresses, superstars like Taraneh Alidousti.

These are not just nice words I am uttering here. I really believe it: the anger and sadness is deep inside me, and many of my colleagues I have spoken to feel the same. On the other hand, I am not naive. I am sure that this will scare many of my colleagues, especially the younger ones who are starting out, who are not yet so well-known, who need to be seen and present.

I’m afraid the regime will use this bill as a sword to hold over the heads of artists to force them to do what the state wants them to do. It might, for example, put pressure on them to appear in state-funded propaganda films and series, and to support the regime’s ideology on their social media accounts. The regime has in the past arrested actors for arbitrary reasons such as drugs or an extramarital affair and forced them to do what they ask.

 





But we are not stupid. Some of our friends and I are thinking of solutions if this bill really becomes a law. We’re talking to our lawyers. There are already solutions being proposed to us, like transferring our assets overseas or to someone we trust in Iran. If we have no more assets, they’d have to confiscate ten percent of nothing!  They can declare a ‘financial jihad’ against us, but it won’t work. Iranians, especially women, have chosen their path, and nothing can be done to stop us.

Since Mahsa Amini’s death on September 16, 2022, more than 500 people have been killed by the security forces.

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Thousands in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon protest Koran desecration in Sweden

Thousands of people took to the streets in a handful of Muslim-majority countries Friday to express their outrage at the desecration of a copy of the Koran in Sweden, a day after protesters stormed the country’s embassy in Iraq.

The protests in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran that followed weekly prayers were controlled and peaceful, in contrast to scenes in Baghdad on Thursday, when demonstrators occupied the Swedish Embassy compound for several hours and set a small fire.

The embassy staff had been evacuated before the storming, and Swedish news agency TT reported that they were relocated to Stockholm for security reasons.

For Muslims, any desecration of the Koran, their holy text, is abhorrent. 

Under scorching heat Friday, thousands gathered in Baghdad’s Sadr City, a stronghold of influential Iraqi Shiite cleric and political leader Moqtada al-Sadr, some of whose followers took part in the attack on the Swedish Embassy. They brandished Korans, burned the Swedish flag and the LGBTQ rainbow flag and chanted, “Yes, yes to the Koran, no, no to Israel.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani had called on protesters and security forces to ensure that the demonstrations remained peaceful.

Read moreSwedish embassy in Iraq stormed

In the southern suburbs of Beirut, thousands more gathered at a protest called by the Iran-backed militia and political party Hezbollah, also brandishing copies of the holy book and chanting “with our blood, we protect the Koran.” Some burned Swedish flags.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a video address Thursday night called on Muslims to demand their governments expel Sweden’s ambassadors. Iraq cut diplomatic ties with Sweden earlier that day.

“I invite brothers and sisters in all neighbourhoods and villages to attend all mosques, carrying their Korans and sit in them, calling on the state to take a stance toward Sweden,” Nasrallah said in the address, according to Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency.

In Iran, thousands marched in Tehran and other cities across the country, demonstrations that were aired on state television. In the capital, protesters gathered in the city center, shouting: “Death to the Americanised Sweden! Death to Israel! Death to enemies of the supreme leader!”

Student protesters pelted the Swedish Embassy building that was closed for the weekend, which in Iran is Friday and Saturday, with eggs and demanded the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador.

“The Koran talks to humans all the time, and its voice will never be stopped,” protester Fatemeh Jafari said. “They can never destroy the Koran! Even if they burn it, we will stand by it!”

The demonstrations come after Swedish police permitted a protest Thursday in which an Iraqi of Christian origin living in Stockholm – now a self-described atheist – threatened to burn a copy of the Koran. In the end, the man kicked and stood on the holy book outside of the Iraqi Embassy. He gave similar treatment to an Iraqi flag and to photos of Sadr and of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The right to hold public demonstrations is protected by the constitution in Sweden, and blasphemy laws were abandoned in the 1970s. Police generally give permission based on whether they believe a public gathering can be held without major disruptions or safety risks. 

The reaction in Iraq was particularly virulent, although no embassy staff were injured since none were present. After protesters left the embassy, diplomats closed it to visitors without specifying when it would reopen. 

The state-run Iraqi News Agency reported that some 20 people were arrested in connection with the storming of the embassy. Among those arrested were an Associated Press photographer and two Reuters staff who were covering the protests. The detained journalists were released hours later without charges, following an order from the prime minister’s office.

Sudani, the Iraqi prime minister, ordered the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador and the withdrawal of the Iraqi charge d’affaires from Sweden.

Leaders in several Muslim-majority countries condemned the desecration of the Koran and summoned diplomats from Sweden to express their outrage. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian wrote a letter to the UN secretary-general in protest. On Friday, the minister told state television that he wouldn’t accept a new Swedish ambassador to replace the previous envoy, whose term has expired until Stockholm takes a “strong” stance against the man who desecrated the Koran.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called on the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to play a “historic role in expressing the sentiments of Muslims and stopping this demonisation.” 

Meanwhile, the Swedish Foreign Ministry conveyed to the Iraqi charge d’affaires that the storming of the embassy was “completely unacceptable,” according to the TT agency.

Thursday’s Koran desecration was the second to involve the Iraqi man in Sweden, identified as Salwan Momika. Last month, a man identified by local media and on his social media as Momika burned a Koran outside a Stockholm mosque during the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, triggering widespread condemnation in the Islamic world.

Read moreFrom militia leader to refugee: The backstory of the man who burned a Koran in Sweden

Koran burnings in the past have sparked protests across the Muslim world, some turning violent. In Afghanistan, the Taliban suspended all the activities of Swedish organisations in the country in response to the recent Koran burning.

A similar protest by a far-right activist was held outside Turkey’s Embassy in Stockholm earlier this year, complicating Sweden’s efforts to persuade Turkey to let it join NATO.

In June, protesters who support al-Sadr stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad over that Koran burning. 

Worshippers gathering for Friday prayers at the Stockholm mosque outside which last month’s Koran-burning took place expressed frustration that Swedish authorities allowed such actions. Imam Mahmoud Khalfi told the AP the situation made him feel “powerless.”

“You expect politicians and decisionmakers and police to show understanding … and try to find a solution. But it hasn’t happened, unfortunately,” he said.

He noted that other countries, such as neighbouring Finland, had found a way to combine freedom of speech with respect for religion. Unlike Sweden, Finland still has blasphemy laws.

“To let these extremists and criminals abuse the law and jeopardise peace in society and national security and Sweden’s reputation in the world, that is unsustainable,” he said. “We cannot understand why these lunatics are allowed to run wild.”

At the same time he added, “We are against all violent reactions and we have called on our members, to Muslims in Sweden, to react and act … in a peaceful way.”

(AP)

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‘All that we’re asking for is to be recognised’: Turkish Alevis’ struggle for equality

From our special correspondent in Pazarcik, Turkey – With an estimated population of between 15 to 20 million people, Turkey’s Alevi community is one of the country’s largest religious minorities. Despite being widely discriminated against, Alevis are being given renewed hopes in their struggle for equality in Turkey as Alevi presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu faces off against incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 14. 

The Cemevi (Turkish for house of gathering) in the town of Pazarcik situated in the Kahramanmaras Province in southern Turkey has been heavily damaged by the February 6 earthquakes. The Alevi prayer house now serves as a place of storage for aid supplies.

Chairs and tables are piled together and boxes strewn about on the cracked and dust-covered floor of the partially destroyed prayer house where President Hasan Husevin Degirmenci of the local Alevi Cultural Association spoke with FRANCE 24.

The Pazarcik Cemevi, which was originally built with funds raised through the sale of “tea and coffee at weddings of the [Alevi] diaspora in Switzerland”, is far from the only Alevi prayer house damaged by the earthquakes, Degirmenci said, adding that there is no rebuilding in sight.

Meanwhile mosques damaged by the earthquakes will be rebuilt, he said. 

Alevism: an old syncretic religion

It is hard to define what Alevism actually is. Some say it is a sect, while others call it a religion, an Islamic branch resembling Shi’ism and Sufism. Alevis, however, regard themselves neither as Sunnis nor Shias.

“We red heads (kızılbaş in Turkish refers to the crimson headwear worn by Alevis during the rule of the Ottoman empire) have nothing to do with Shias,” Degirmenci said. “Ali is Shia. We pray for the 12 imams at each Cem (gathering) so that the prayer is complete.”

The Pazarcik Cemevi that has been heavily damaged by the February 6 earthquakes now serves as a place of storage for aid supplies. © Assiya Hamza

The icons of the 12 imams are portrayed above a platform at the far end of the room with Ali, the prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, along with Muhammad’s descendants. The 12th imam is “hidden” (his features are not portrayed) and is believed by Alevis to return at the end of time. The icon of Haci Bektas Veli, a revered 13th century Turkish philosopher and founder of the Bektashi Order, and a photo of Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic and champion of secularism, are also portrayed. 

The icons of the 12 imams are portrayed at the Pazarcik place of worship.
The icons of the 12 imams are portrayed at the Pazarcik place of worship. © Assiya Hamza

 

 

A portrait of Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic and champion of secularism, displayed at the Pazarcik Cemevi.
A portrait of Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic and champion of secularism, displayed at the Pazarcik Cemevi. © Assiya Hamza

The Alevi faith is essentially a religious syncretism which combines philosophy, Gnosticism, Sufism and Christianity. Unlike the majority of Muslims, Alevis do not pray five times per day, nor do they go on pilgrimage to Mecca. They do not observe Ramadan and do not ban alcohol. Every Thursday, a ceremony called the Cem is presided by a dede (which literally means “grandfather” in Turkish) during which men and women gather to pray. At the end of the ceremony, the devotees perform a dance called Semah accompanied by music played on a Saz, a traditional string instrument.

“The main rule is justice. Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto you,” Degirmenci said. “Don’t say things that you won’t want said to you. We don’t have a book. Our belief is passed on orally. We respect the four holy books (the Quran, the Bible, the Torah and the Book of Psalms) and we expect the same respect from others. We exist, even though we’re not recognised by authorities.”

‘They killed children’ 

Ever since the rule of the Ottoman empire, Alevis have been regarded as apostates, miscreants and followers of Islamic fanaticism in Turkey. Often persecuted for their faith, Alevis have been the victims of several pogroms. Hasan Husevin Degirmenci has himself survived the 1978 Maras (short for Kahramanmaras) massacre, during which over a hundred Alevi Kurds were killed and more than 500 injured by neofascist groups according to official figures. 

“The fight was mainly between left and right wingers (communists and neofascists from Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party) but armed groups took it out on Alevis,” Degirmenci said. “They killed children, they eviscerated pregnant women. At that time, there were a lot of Alevis living in Maras, and the community was prosperous. They did it to divide and to weaken us. They reinvented history by pitting Sunnis against Alevis.”

Another more recent pogrom has also left its bitter mark on Alevi history. On July 2, 1993, Islamic fanatics carried out an arson attack on a hotel in Sivas, a city in central Turkey known for its religious conservatism. Academics were gathered at the hotel to celebrate Pir Sultan Abdal, a 16th century Alevi poet. The arson attack left 37 people dead, and among them 33 Alevis. The faces of the “martyrs” cover one of the walls of Cemevi’s main hall. 

The faces of the victims of the Sivas massacre cover one of the walls of the Pazarcik Cemevi’s main hall.
The faces of the victims of the Sivas massacre cover one of the walls of the Pazarcik Cemevi’s main hall. © Assiya Hamza

Despite making up to an estimated 20 percent of the population, the Alevi community in Turkey continue to face death threats and attacks for not observing Ramadan, and their houses are often marked with a cross.

“When I was a child, we weren’t even allowed to speak Kurdish. We had to hide our faith after the Maras massacre. But after what happened in Sivas in 1993, people refused to endure it anymore,” Degirmenci said. 

Struggle for equality 

“I was born Alevi, I didn’t choose it. I have an identity card, I did my military service, I pay my taxes. I fulfil all my duties as a citizen. There are between 15 and 20 million Alevis in Turkey and all that we’re asking for is to be recognised in the Constitution.”  

Despite the continuous hardships, the Alevi community in Turkey have recently been given renewed hopes when the opposition presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu spoke publicly of his Alevi heritage, breaking a political taboo. 

Backed by strong popular support, Kilicdaroglu would become the first Alevi president in Turkey’s history if he is elected on May 14 against Recep Tayyip Erdogan

“We Alevis, we have hope. We will never give up,” Degirmenci said. “An Alevi candidate will apply his beliefs in morality and justice. There are other minorities in Turkey: Kurds, Syrians, Yezidis … He will not point fingers at anyone.” 

However, Kilicdaroglu’s victory is not yet guaranteed, and fears over the incumbent’s potential re-election remain high among Alevis.

“We can’t go on like this,” he said. “The Christians have already left the country. If he is re-elected, the Alevis will leave.”

This article was adapted from the original in French

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These Iranian women share how they push back against Islamic rules at home

Issued on: Modified:

Iranian women are turning to social media to share their “before and after” photos online with the caption, “I was born in a religious family, but then I tore the family’s virtue apart.” Many of them are young girls who were brought up religiously under the influence of their families. But they say they’ve now found their own way, although sometimes in spite of psychological or even physical violence. 

In one photo, they are wearing modest clothing – a black chador covering most of their body – and a stoic expression. In the other, they have taken off the headscarf, are wearing a bit of makeup and have a slight smile. This is how Iranian women are sharing their stories online.

The photos – shared on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok since mid-April – show how they rebelled against their religious families and came out on the other side. Images like these have gone viral online and other young women and girls in the same situation have begun asking for advice on how to make the same changes.


Since the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement began in Iran in September 2022, more and more women have begun defying Islamic dress codes and guidelines in public spaces. 

They have continued despite ongoing pressure from authorities and the morality police, who have begun cracking down on compulsory hijab laws in parks, public transportation, universities and even hospitals – and refusing services to women who fail to comply. 

>> Read more on The Observers: Iran’s hijab war continues with business shutdowns and surveillance cameras

Our Observers in Iran, however, tell us that a growing number of Iranians seem to be defending women who refuse to wear the hijab out in public.

But for many Iranian girls and young women, the fight for social freedoms began at home.

‘My parents’ reaction was insults, humiliation and physical violence’

Parnian (not her real name) is one of the young women who has shared her “before and after” photos on social media. 

It was another online challenge for me. I saw it like that but at the same time, it was a way to show that if we fight we can progress. We are stronger than they think. I found many others like me – seeing their photos was heartwarming.

I was born into a very conservative, religious family in a town in central Iran. Since I was four or five years old, I had to wear a black chador [Editor’s note: an Islamic headscarf that covers the hair and body]. I had to pray five times a day and fast from nine years old. I wasn’t allowed to use Instagram or any other social media. Anything in the real world or online where a man could be present was forbidden to me. I lived like this until I was 14 years old.

At that age, I started comparing myself to other girls, to the freedom they had, and to the relationships they had. I said to myself, “Something is wrong in your life”. I also started researching and reading books, and eventually, I found out that I had to make my own decisions and go my own way. That’s when my struggle with my parents began.

Everything changed when I was 18. I began dressing how I liked, stopped partaking in religious rituals and started dating boys. My parents’ reaction was everything you can imagine: insults, humiliation and physical violence. They didn’t let me go to one of the universities I was accepted into, because they wanted me to go to a girls-only university.

I have been beaten by my father, I do not know how many times. Once, he took me out to the desert and beat me with a stick. He told me to give him my boyfriend’s number, even though I didn’t even have a mobile phone and wasn’t allowed to go out alone.

I had to leave their house. I moved to Tehran to live with a relative of my mother who is understanding and very cool. I bought a mobile phone, I work, I buy clothes I like, I dress the way I like, I go out with friends and colleagues … I live the way I want to the extent that I can in this country.

But the threats and pressure from my family continue through phone calls and messages. In the last one, my father threatened that if the member of my mother’s family that I live with does not kick me out, he will divorce my mother! 

And since the “Woman, Life, Freedom” revolution started, their pressure has increased. They are afraid that the power of this revolution will make me even more rebellious.

But I am hopeful. If I have survived until now, I can make more progress. I am trying to apply again to a university inside or outside Iran. Sometimes the only way is to be strong. You do not have an option B.

‘They finally understand we must respect each other’s way of life’

Rima (not her real name) is another woman who has shared photos of herself both under her family’s religious pressures and now. 

My father is religious but more relaxed, while my mother was ultra-conservative and forced every single detail of Sharia law on me. When I was 12, I started questioning religion and our lifestyle. I wore the chador until I was 15, and then my mother died.

After that, reading books helped me find my own beliefs. I found disturbing contradictions in religion and I realised I did not want to live with these contradictions and have to convince myself with faith.

My father and the rest of the family are religious, but they did not want to force me. They talked to me and tried to convince me otherwise: “OK, you don’t have to wear a chador, but wear a hijab [which covers only the hair and not the entire body]”. Then they said, “Ok, you can take off your headscarf inside, but keep it on in the street”. I pushed them back little by little. And since the “Woman, Life, Freedom” revolution, even the little bit of pressure that remained has disappeared. They have finally understood that we must respect each other’s way of life and they have accepted me as I am.

Sometimes we argue about “things girls can or cannot do”. They can not force me and I do what I want.

Following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian who died while in the custody of the morality police in September 2022, Iran saw months of mass protests. Girls and young women have led the protests, chanting the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom”.

Police crackdowns on the protests have resulted in more than 537 deaths, thousands of injuries and tens of thousands of arrests.



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The Black Women’s Caucus Statement Against Gender Ideology is pure fire

Via J.K. Rowling, we get this latest pushback against gender ideology:

Who are they? They are a group within, ‘Women’s Declaration International USA,’ which describes itself this way:

WDI USA is the United States chapter of the Women’s Declaration International (WDI). We are a dedicated group of volunteer women from across the country focused on protecting women’s sex-based rights.

We are a feminist group created by women, for women. At WDI USA, women always come first. Our mission is to advance the Declaration in law and policy. …

WDI USA’s actions are guided by the Declaration on Women’s Sex Based Rights, a document created by the founders of Women’s Declaration International to maintain language protecting women and girls on the basis of sex rather than ‘gender’ or ‘gender identity’.

In any case, the statement at the link is pretty amazing. It starts with: ‘We, the members of the Black Women’s Caucus of Women’s Declaration International USA, believe that it is crucial for Black Women to denounce gender identity ideology.’

Some highlights:

Gender ideologues employ the ‘forced-teaming’ tactic against Black women in order to shame us into being work mules for their campaign of male sexual privileges that they call ‘transgender rights.’ While these efforts are masked as progressive and inclusive concepts, gender identity ideology is actually intrusive and harmful to women, and uniquely so to Black women.

Gender identity ideology … is also incompatible with the fight for women’s rights because it allows men access to spaces and activities designated for women such as bathrooms, sports teams, and housing. It has been reported that 1 in 4 Black girls are sexually assaulted before the age of 18 and 35% of Black women report experiencing physical sexual violence. Policies that allow men unfettered access to female-designated facilities put Black women and girls, a demographic disproportionately impacted by male violence, at an even higher risk.

And they brought the receipts:

There have already been deadly consequences where an employer ignored a Black woman’s whistleblowing regarding a male who demanded to be recognized as a woman. Monica Archer, a caseworker in a women’s shelter, warned her employers about a client, Harvey Marcelin living as Marceline Harvey, who’d made threats against her and other shelter employees. Archer was fired for speaking out. Marcelin had already served 50 years for murdering and dismembering two women and after Archer’s whistleblowing was ignored, Marcelin was found to have murdered and dismembered a 68-year-old ‘gal-pal’ he had met while living in the women’s shelter.

It goes on and continues to be great stuff and it is worth considering in its entirety. Naturally, this provoked reactions:

We’re not that optimistic, but it’s definitely an encouraging sign.

Of course, there was pushback:

‘Yakubite’ appears to be a reference to the super-racist and super-crazy theory that white people were actually invented by an evil scientist named Yakub, according to the Nation of Islam. Yes, really. If you read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, he says it is the explicit doctrine of that group (which is outside of any mainstream conception of Islam). It’s as if Scientology and racism had a baby.

What is interesting to us is that Black Women’s Caucus argument against gender ideology is an argument from the left. Except for being against trans ideology, it is basically a leftist argument in its form, focus, and modes of argumentation. It is identity politics, arrayed against people who pretend that your identity is whatever you decide it is.

And it’s not the first time we have seen this. For instance, the Montgomery, Maryland public schools have apparently gone ‘gender neutral’ with respect to their restrooms, allowing boys to go into girls’ restrooms apparently without even pretending they identify as women, and it got pushback from the Council on American–Islamic Relations (‘CAIR’):

From Reason:

One of CAIR’s offices is also handling a case involving the rights of a Muslim student who had removed her hijab to adjust it in the girls’ bathroom at her public school when a student who she perceived to be of the opposite sex entered and saw her with her hair exposed in violation of her sincerely held beliefs, leaving her feeling shocked and humiliated.

Other parents have informed CAIR’s Maryland office that their children no longer feel safe or comfortable using school bathrooms and wait until they return home at the end of the day to use the bathroom, raising concerns about poor health outcomes and the impact on school performance.

This was also a problem at Yale University where they decided to have gender-neutral dorms:

From Legal Insurrection:

The current policy disproportionately affects Muslim students. Often, they succumb to being pushed to off-campus housing, at a rate higher than their non-Muslim peers. Students who remain on campus are forced to change their habits to avoid sacrificing their core beliefs. These potential habit changes are non-negligible. Without single-gender bathrooms, Muslim women are forced to be on guard and wear a hijab, even during times when they normally would not: just taking a shower or going to the bathroom becomes a stressful and inconvenient burden, taking a toll on their mental health. Living quarters become a space of anxiety, not rest.

Muslims also must pray 5 times a day. In order to do so, they perform wudu, a type of ablution or purification using water. This involves wiping the top of the head with their hand, which must be done without any fabric or impediment in the way. If Muslim women are not able to remove their hijab because of the mixed-gender bathrooms, they cannot perform wudu, and, as a result, they cannot fulfill their obligatory daily prayer. Mandatory mixed-gender bathrooms directly interfere with students’ right to their religious practices.

This is not only heartless behavior—essentially blocking a person from utterly reasonable practices of their faith—but it might also violate various civil rights laws.

All of this raises the question of whether identity politics, which conservatives have their own objections to, might end up making a common cause with conservatives to defeat gender ideology—a view that literally identity is malleable.

We shall see.



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Will Turkey’s inflation crisis damage Erdogan’s re-election chances?

A month before Turkey goes to the polls on May 14, the country’s inflation crisis is a major campaign theme as the six main opposition parties rally around Kemal Kilicdaroglu to create the strongest challenge yet to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But analysts say discontent with Erdogan’s economic management will not automatically translate into votes for Kilicdaroglu – especially given the prominence of cultural issues in Turkish politics.

It was telling that Erdogan focused on economic promises when he finally launched his presidential election campaign on April 11, more than two weeks after the secular CHP’s leader Kilicdaroglu. “We’ll bring inflation down to single digits and definitely save our country from this problem,” President Erdogan told his supporters at a stadium in Ankara.

Turkey does indeed need saving from inflation. While growth is robust, the most recent official statistics show inflation running at over 50 percent year-on-year in March, after it reached a quarter-of-a-century peak at over 85 percent in October.

Few doubt that the real figures are much higher: “It’s very clear that the government has been playing with the numbers; the real experience of everyday citizens is considerably more dire,” said Howard Eissenstat, a Turkey specialist at St. Lawrence University and the Project on Middle Eastern Democracy in Washington, DC.

The Turkish lira fell to an all-time low against the dollar in March – the latest of its periodic collapses in the currency and inflation crisis that has racked the Turkish economy since 2018.

Experts blame the crisis on Erdogan’s belief – against all economic evidence – that high interest rates fuel inflation, which has prompted him to cut rates when tight monetary policy is needed to reduce inflation.

‘Really dire’

All this marks a colossal change from the economic outlook in the early years of Erdogan’s rule, back when the Western commentariat lauded him as a forward-thinking reformer.

Erdogan’s moderate Islamist AKP party pulled off an extraordinary feat in the 2003 Turkish elections, overcoming the secularist hegemony cemented in the 1920s by the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The 2001 Turkish economic crisis was a major factor behind the AKP’s victory – and when Erdogan became prime minister in 2003, he set about reviving the economy and turning it into a powerhouse.

Bolstered by IMF support and buoyant conditions in Europe, Turkish GDP growth averaged 7.2 percent from 2002 to 2007. Many voters in Erdogan’s core constituency – working-class, socially conservative Muslims in the heartlands of Anatolia, the Asian part of Turkey – joined the ranks of the middle class.

But over the past five years, the inflation and currency crisis has affected all segments of Turkish society, from Istanbul’s Europhile bourgeoisie to pious, working-class voters in the Anatolian heartland.

“The daily lives of Turkish citizens are being squeezed in very fundamental ways,” Eissenstat said. “People who think of themselves as middle-class are having tremendous difficulty maintaining a basic standard of living. And for the vast majority of Turks who live week-to-week and month-to-month in the best of circumstances, the situation has become really dire; just putting food on the table has become a major struggle.”

Unreliable polls?

Polls suggest the president is losing support in the current economic context. Erdogan and the AKP repeatedly sailed to re-election over the past twenty years – but the latest survey by Mediapoll puts Kilicdaroglu slightly ahead for the first round, at 42.6 percent compared to 41.1 percent for Erdogan.

“I want change,” Selman Deveci, a voter in Konya, a traditionally AKP-supporting territory in the Anatolian heartland, told the Financial Times. “They’ve screwed the economy.”

But Deveci was not impressed with the opposition either: “I don’t have faith in them.”

Analysts say this attitude of disillusionment with Erdogan but scepticism towards the opposition looks to be quite widespread – casting doubt on Kilicdaroglu’s lead in some polls.

“I’m not sure I’m very trusting of the polling,” Eissenstat said. “A lot of outside observers tend to just assume that … because the economic situation is bad, people will jump ship – but not necessarily. I suspect a fair number of AKP voters will return to them, after flirting with the idea of doing something else.”

After all, many Western observers underestimated Erdogan the last time around, in 2018 – expecting then-CHP leader Muharrem Ince to push the president into a second-round runoff after a spirited campaign. Ultimately, Erdogan clinched the necessary majority in the first round with 53 percent, winning 10 million more votes than Ince.

Culture war

The economy’s consequence in determining elections is one of the oldest rules in politics, most famously encapsulated by the cliché “It’s the economy, stupid!”, a mantra for staffers created by Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist James Carville during the successful challenge to George HW Bush for the US presidency amid 1992’s deepening recession. But not every electoral campaign takes place in the kind of context the US had in 1992, when pervasive political tribalism was confined to its past and future.

A fissure has run through Turkish society ever since the early 1920s, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk severed the profound links between Islam and politics that characterised the Ottoman Empire.

After coming to power, Erdogan slowly but surely brought Islam back into the heart of Turkish public life, eroding the power of Kemalism (so named for the secular philosophy espoused by the republic’s founder) and the “deep state” military-judicial nexus that had long buttressed it.

The anger of Turkey’s largely metropolitan secularists attracted international attention during the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul – but Erdogan retained his popularity among his millions of supporters in the Anatolian heartland, many of whom welcomed his triumph over the old establishment.

This cultural divide has many different characteristics from those seen in Europe and the US. But “culture war stuff matters in Turkey as it does in the West”, Eissenstat underlined.

And the technological changes of the last decade are amplifying this phenomenon, he added: “In a world of social media – of experiencing the world through news sources of our political choosing – political identification and ideology play a greater role in voting behaviour than before, as we’ve seen not just in Turkey but France, the US and the UK.”

All that said, as the presidential candidate uniting a heterogenous bloc of opposition parties, Kilicdaroglu has adopted a far more pragmatic stance on Turkey’s culture wars than his CHP predecessors.

Last year, Kilicdaroglu shifted the CHP’s position on women’s headscarves, a totemic issue in Turkish politics. Ataturk had discouraged the wearing of headscarves in the 1920s and his successors gradually introduced explicit bans applying at public institutions, which Erdogan then reversed in several stages.

Not only did Kilicdaroglu say the CHP had “made mistakes in the past” by supporting headscarf restrictions, he also endorsed a constitutional amendment upholding women’s right to wear it.

This strategy will make it easier for Kilicdaroglu to emphasise the economy, suggested Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, director of the German Marshall Fund’s Ankara bureau. “The culture war is the main driver of Turkish politics, but not the only one,” he said. “Kilicdaroglu has softened the impact of polarisation with his conciliatory discourse. Therefore the economy will play a more significant role than usual in these elections.”

Return to orthodoxy?

Kilicdaroglu’s economic platform is a return to orthodox monetary policy and central bank independence. Beyond that, the opposition has avoided getting into the nitty-gritty details of economic policy.

But while it is a simple answer to the inflationary crisis, returning to economic orthodoxy is not such an easy sell for the Turkish opposition.

“The opposition is promising a return to confidence and normalcy, but their problem is that confidence and normalcy requires short-term pain,” Eissenstat noted. “That means they’d rather keep the conversation about how Turkey got into this mess, keeping the election as a referendum on Erdogan, without too many questions about what the opposition in power would look like.”

“Providing economic confidence and returning to governing fundamentals is what Turkey needs,” he concluded. “But it wouldn’t necessarily be popular or easy.”

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