By Claire Zillman
August 21, 2017

August 19 is celebrated as Independence Day in Afghanistan—it marks the nation breaking free from Britain nearly a century ago—but this year’s government commemoration was eclipsed by, of all things, a concert put on by pop star Aryana Saeed.

The controversial singer, known for her form-fitting clothing and fierce feminist lyrics, decided to perform on Independence eve to highlight that—as she sees it—Afghan women are still not free even 98 years after the nation’s liberation.

When news of the concert broke, Afghanistan’s mullahs denounced the performance and authorities canceled it at its original location. Saeed irks the nation’s religious officials, who see her clothing and refusal to wear a headscarf as an affront to Afghan culture. She lives in London for her own protection, but security risks haven’t dulled her message. She sings in one song:

Who says I am the mother of this world?
I am nothing, but a burden on the son’s shoulders,
I am a slave because I am a wife,
I am a headache when I am a sister,
This is who I am.
I am the daughter of the Afghan land.

“The mullahs are the enemy of the Afghan people, the enemy of happiness,” Saeed said after the initial cancellation. “I’ll perform in the street if I have to.”

And perform she did, at another location, despite receiving threats of an attack on the venue.

One female concert-goer who attended told the New York Times that she’d gone to make a statement.

“Many women say that they fight for their rights, but after a time they get tired and stop,” she said. “Aryana Saeed never gets tired. She came here to show the mullahs that we women aren’t afraid of them anymore.”

—@clairezillman


EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Name calling
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged that the name of her Scottish National party can be problematic, stirring up associations with “inward-looking and insular” nationalist movements elsewhere. Party members have bristled at those ties, as groups like the U.S.’s white nationalists make headlines. Sturgeon said her party’s independence movement is actually “outward-looking and internationalist,” admitting that if she could select the party’s moniker all over again, she “wouldn’t choose the name it’s got just now.”
Financial Times
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12 and pregnant
A Finnish advertising agency and designer Paola Suhonen have launched a “Maternity Wear for a 12-Year-Old” campaign to raise awareness about childhood pregnancy in developing countries and to drive funds to children’s rights organization Plan International. It features Fridah, a Zambian 12-year-old whose baby is due in September. Around 7 million girls in developing countries become pregnant each year, which typically means they’ll fall behind academically and be ostracized in school.
AdWeek
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Home free?
Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe is back home—for real this time—after South Africa granted her diplomatic immunity amid accusations that she assaulted a model in Johannesburg. But rather than skirting an international incident, the South African government may have inflamed one, with its opposition party and the model’s lawyer decrying the decision. 
Washington Post

THE AMERICAS

The women are alt-right
The September issue of Harper’s profiles the women of the ‘alt-right.’ Photos of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month mainly featured white men, but writer Seyward Darby reports that women are active in the movement, and many joined initially as anti-feminists.
Harper's
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Gifts that keep on giving
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has transferred shares of her Facebook stock worth nearly $100 million to a fund that lets her push the money toward organizations or causes she cares about, including two charities she founded: LeanIn.org, a nonprofit focused on female empowerment; and OptionB.org, a nonprofit helping people overcome grief and adversity. Sandberg’s major donations have become an annual affair.
Recode
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From Caracas to Columbia
After her Caracas residence was raided by authorities last week, Venezuela’s former attorney general Luisa Ortega has fled to neighboring Colombia as President Nicolás Maduro’s administration cracks down on political rivals. The government filed corruption allegations against Ortega and her congressman husband last week. The couple claims the charges are retaliation for their break with Maduro and their condemnation of his authoritarian push. 
Wall Street Journal

ASIA-PACIFIC

Neighborhood watch
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop last week launched a tirade against New Zealand’s Labour Party for intruding in Australia’s on-going dual citizenship saga—seven MPs have revealed they have dual citizenships so far—that was so fierce it prompted one newspaper headline to ask if Australia had “accidentally declared war” on its neighbor.
Guardian
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Scratching the surface
Liu Xia, widow of late Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, has resurfaced for the first time since her husband’s death in a brief video in which she pleads for privacy and time to grieve. But the video hasn’t quieted concerns that Liu is being kept by Chinese security forces against her will.
New York Times

IN BRIEF

Proposed California law targets sexual harassment in venture capital
Wired
Transgender Pakistanis win legal victories, but violence goes on
New York Times
The deadly cost of pregnancy for migrant women in Jordan
New Yorker
Fadwa Suleiman, actress and voice of Syrian opposition in exile, dies at 47
New York Times

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