Desegregation in Iran (just a bit)

For the first time since 1979, women in Iran are allowed to attend a men’s game in a stadium with a mixed crowd.

For nearly 40 years, half of Iran’s population was not allowed to go to a stadium to watch soccer, the country’s single most popular sport. The defacto ban, instilled by religious clerics after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, had prevented women from attending a majority of men’s sporting events, and women who challenged it risked arrest and imprisonment. But the long-standing segregation policy loosened during the 2018 World Cup, when thousands of women poured into Azadi Stadium, Tehran’s largest sports stadium, to watch live broadcasts of their national team playing in the group stage.

The deadening hand of organised religion. It’s all about power and control.

Gates of Damascus, James Elroy Flecker

This is the song of the East Gate Warden 
When he locks the great gate and smokes in his garden. 

Postern of Fate, the Desert Gate, Disaster’s Cavern, Fort of Fear, 
The Portal of Bagdad am I, and Doorway of Diarbekir. 
The Persian Dawn with new desires may net the flushing mountain spires: 

But my gaunt buttress still rejects the suppliance of those mellow fires. 
Pass not beneath, O Caravan, or pass not singing. Have you heard 

That silence where the birds are dead yet something pipeth like a bird? 
Pass not beneath! Men say there blows in stony deserts still a rose 

But with no scarlet to her leaf–and from whose heart no perfume flows. 
Wilt thou bloom red where she buds pale, thy sister rose? Wilt thou not fail 

When noonday flashes like a flail? Leave nightingale the caravan! 
Pass then, pass all! “Bagdad!” ye cry, and down the billows of blue sky 

Ye beat the bell that beats to hell, and who shall thrust you back? Not I. 
The Sun who flashes through the head and paints the shadows green and red,– 

The Sun shall eat thy fleshless dead, O Caravan, O Caravan! 
And one who licks his lips for thirst with fevered eyes shall face in fear 

The palms that wave, the streams that burst, his last mirage, O Caravan! 
And one–the bird-voiced Singing-man–shall fall behind thee, Caravan! 

And God shall meet him in the night, and he shall sing as best he can. 
And one the Bedouin shall slay, and one, sand-stricken on the way 

Go dark and blind; and one shall say–“How lonely is the Caravan!” 
Pass out beneath, O Caravan, Doom’s Caravan, Death’s Caravan! 

I had not told ye, fools, so much, save that I heard your Singing-man. 

This was sung by the West Gate’s keeper 
When heaven’s hollow dome grew deeper.

I am the gate toward the sea: O sailor men, pass out from me! 
I hear you high in Lebanon, singing the marvels of the sea. 
The dragon-green, the luminous, the dark, the serpent-haunted sea, 

The snow-besprinkled wine of earth, the white-and-blue-flower foaming sea. 
Beyond the sea are towns with towers, carved with lions and lily flowers, 

And not a soul in all those lonely streets to while away the hours. 
Beyond the towns, an isle where, bound, a naked giant bites the ground: 

The shadow of a monstrous wing looms on his back: and still no sound. 
Beyond the isle a rock that screams like madmen shouting in their dreams, 

From whose dark issues night and day blood crashes in a thousand streams. 
Beyond the rock is Restful Bay, where no wind breathes or ripple stirs, 

And there on Roman ships, they say, stand rows of metal mariners. 
Beyond the bay in utmost West old Solomon the Jewish King 

Sits with his beard upon his breast, and grips and guards his magic ring: 
And when that ring is stolen, he will rise in outraged majesty, 

And take the World upon his back, and fling the World beyond the sea. 

This is the song of the North Gate’s master, 
Who singeth fast, but drinketh faster. 

I am the gay Aleppo Gate: a dawn, a dawn and thou art there: 

Eat not thy heart with fear and care, O brother of the beast we hate! 
Thou hast not many miles to tread, nor other foes than fleas to dread; 

Homs shall behold thy morning meal and Hama see thee safe in bed. 
Take to Aleppo filigrane, and take them paste of apricots, 

And coffee tables botched with pearl, and little beaten brassware pots: 
And thou shalt sell thy wares for thrice the Damascene retailers’ price, 

And buy a fat Armenian slave who smelleth odorous and nice. 
Some men of noble stock were made: some glory in the murder-blade; 

Some praise a Science or an Art, but I like honorable Trade! 
Sell them the rotten, buy the ripe! Their heads are weak; their pockets burn. 

Aleppo men are mighty fools. Salaam Aleikum! Safe return! 

This is the song of the South Gate Holder, 
A silver man, but his song is older.

I am the Gate that fears no fall: the Mihrab of Damascus wall, 

The bridge of booming Sinai: the Arch of Allah all in all. 
O spiritual pilgrim rise: the night has grown her single horn: 

The voices of the souls unborn are half adream with Paradise. 
To Meccah thou hast turned in prayer with aching heart and eyes that burn: 

Ah Hajji, wither wilt thou turn when thou art there, when thou art there? 
God be thy guide from camp to camp: God be thy shade from well to well; 

God grant beneath the desert stars thou hear the Prophet’s camel bell. 
And God shall make thy body pure, and give thee knowlede to endure 

This ghost-life’s piercing phantom-pain, and bring thee out to Life again. 
And God shall make thy soul a Glass where eighteen thousand Æons pass. 

And thou shalt see the gleaming Worlds as men see dew upon the grass. 
And sons of Islam, it may be that thou shalt learn at journey’s end 

Who walks thy garden eve on eve, and bows his head, and calls thee Friend.

Something often forgotten: Jesus too was an asylum seeker


Across the rich world, this decade has seen the rise of increasingly fierce anti-immigrant sentiment, much of it from self-identified Christians – as you recount the Christmas story this year, remember that Mary and Joseph fled religious persecution and sought asylum in a rich country, which took them in.

As Woody Guthrie sang: “If Jesus was to preach like he did in Galilee, they would lay poor Jesus in his grave.”

Joseph, Mary and Jesus were able to get asylum in Egypt, having, as they did, a well-founded fear of persecution, and when it was safe for them to return, they did. Today, by contrast, wealthy states (like the Egypt of the time) do all they can to prevent those fleeing political or religious persecution from getting across the border. The barriers are such that many people take desperate risks to escape the regimes they are threatened by in Syria or Eritrea, and end up drowning in the Mediterranean. Those that do make it are often disbelieved, stigmatized as “bogus” asylum-seekers, and even prosecuted for using false documents to enter.

A Christmas story [Chris Bertram/Crooked Timber]

Glacial change

Only a country as restrictive as Saudi Arabia could come up with such a thing as a progressive move.

Female divorcees and widows in Saudi Arabia are to be assigned ID cards allowing them to act independently from men, local media reported on Thursday.

The changes will allow women to register a child for school, access records and authorise medical procedures once their marriages have ended, the reports said.

Without their own identity documents, divorced women in Saudi currently need permission from their husbands or a court order to perform those tasks, the Arab News said.

No date has been set for the change, it said.

The wheels of change are grinding forwards, at glacial pace. Via: Divorced Saudi women to have ID cards: Reports


Interesting to see the editorial handbrake turns executed by several newspapers in light of the death of two young boys attempting to migrate to Europe with their parents. The Sun and the Daily Mail good examples, and while they both have a certain ideological line to peddle, it’s also interesting to see them respond so quickly to the currents of public opinion even if it takes them on a reverse course to what they were saying before, and in the Mail’s case, what they’re still saying only over the page.

Here’s two samples from the Sun:

The Sun: Migrants are to be helped!
The Sun: Migrants are to be helped

The Sun: Migrants are to be feared!
The Sun: Migrants are to be feared

And the Daily Mail, which is very confused. Evidently the new editorial line in the Mail came in after most of the paper had been put to bed.

“it’s not illegal, it just needs bravery”

Bushra Al-Fusail is a young female photographer who’s pushing one solution to severe petrol shortages caused by the conflict in Yemen: bicycles.

“In 2011 when there were fuel shortages we could still find petrol in the black market,” she explains, “but things are so bad right now that we can’t even find a black market.” Last week Al-Fusail launched a campaign to encourage Yemeni women and girls to hop in the saddle with a Facebook event called “Let’s ride a bike.”

Unlike in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, women in Yemen can drive and it’s common to see women in cars zipping around the capital Sanaa. But female bike riding is almost unheard of – many conservative Yemenis believe it’s immodest or shows off too much of a woman’s body.

“I see men cycling everywhere,” Al-Fusail says. “So I thought, why can’t we ride bikes too? After all, it’s not illegal, it just needs bravery.”


“People need to change the way they think,” she says. “They need to stop thinking of women as sexual objects, only then will they stop seeing everything they do as sexual.”

Why some people are blaming war for… women on bikes – BBC News


It takes some inner strength to battle against both social pressure not to cycle due to your sex and against a cycle-unfriendly environment:

Yasmine Mahmoud cuts a defiant figure as she weaves her bicycle through the chaotic streets of Cairo, a place where few women dare to pedal.

Every day, like for the past four years, she takes her bicycle from her 10th floor apartment and rides through the Egyptian capital, to the astonishment of bystanders.

“Unfortunately, it’s socially unacceptable in Egypt for a girl to ride a bicycle in the street,” said the 31-year-old executive secretary, as she prepared to set off from the upscale Cairo neighbourhood where she lives.

Women enjoy more freedom in Egypt than in deeply conservative Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, but the most populous Sunni Arab country still considers it inappropriate for them to ride bicycles.

Unlike in many countries, the two-wheeler is considered unsafe for travelling in Cairo’s traffic-clogged roads.

For Egyptian women it is all the more challenging given the city’s notorious sexual violence, and female cyclists in particular are targeted by passers-by.

Via Pedalling ahead, Egypt’s female cyclists hope to change narrow perceptions – Malay Mail Online.

Lustig’s Letter: This immoral government

Robert Lustig eviscerates the UK government over it’s stance on immigrants running the gauntlet of the Med to get to Europe, viz:

The immigration minister, James Brokenshire, had the brass neck to stand in the House of Commons and argue, apparently in all seriousness, that the Italian rescue operation in the Mediterranean has had the “unintended consequence” of risking more migrants’ lives as more and more desperate people try to flee to a place of safety.

Someone needs to take him to one side and explain the difference between causation and correlation. Yes, there are more people risking their lives; no, it’s not because some of them are rescued when their rotting vessels sink beneath them.

Mr Brokenshire clearly can’t be expected to have noticed what’s been happening in places like Syria and Libya, from which many of the migrants come. The idea that perhaps the ever-worsening conditions there have caused even more people to risk their lives clearly hasn’t crossed his tiny little mind.

According to the European Border Agency, more than 180,000 people have arrived in Europe by sea so far this year. The population of the EU is 500 million.

In Jordan, there are more than 600,000 registered refugees from Syria alone (the true figure is probably far higher.) The population of Jordan is 6.5 million.

In Lebanon, Syrian refugees now make up well over a quarter of the country’s total population. So do they shoot refugees at the border — to discourage the others? No, they do not.

Mr Cameron and his colleagues have no such scruples. There are too many people fleeing from terror and violence, they say. If we let some of them drown, others who may have been thinking of trying to flee will decide instead to stay at home to be shot, bombed, starved, tortured or raped.