Global Roundup: Fighting to Find Indigenous Women’s Remains, Türkiye LGBTQ+ Community, Lebanon ‘Dangerous’ Feminists, Muslim Women Cycling Club, Philippines Queer Youth & Thrifting
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Image via BBC
22-year-old Cambria Harris will stop at nothing to find her mother's body. Last December, Winnipeg police told Cambria and other family members that her mother Morgan Harris, 39, of Long Plain First Nation had allegedly been murdered by a man they accuse of being a serial killer. Police claim Jeremy Skibicki killed four women, including Harris, and dumped their bodies in two different landfills over a three-month span in the spring of 2022. All the women were indigenous and none of their bodies have been recovered. Indigenous blockaders dressed in camouflage gear have been standing sentry by the landfill for weeks, in protest.
Cambria has been fighting to have her mother's body and the bodies of other victims recovered from the landfills where they were buried, as police said they have no plans to search the Prairie Green Landfill. Police told her too much time had passed and a search was "unfeasible".
What if your mother or your loved one ended up in a landfill and you were told that they would not search for your loved one and that they're going to be there for time immemorial? There's a chance that my mother's bones are still there. - Cambria Harris
After police initially declined to search the landfill, and under pressure from the families and their supporters, the federal government funded a study to determine if a search would indeed be possible. It concluded that a search could take up to three years, cost up to C$184 million, and workers would be exposed to hazardous chemicals – thus the province won’t support a landfill search. The decision was met with anger by the families, supporters and indigenous leaders.
Canada has long faced a crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Cambria discussed the impacts of intergenerational trauma on indigenous families, including her mother. She and her siblings were taken away by child services likely due to their mother’s growing drug addiction. Her grandmother was sent to a residential school – institutions where many suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse and children were often housed in poorly built, poorly heated, and unsanitary facilities.
Now, Cambria has turned her attention to finding justice for her mother and the other three women, and bringing them home. The federal government told the BBC that they are still considering whether they will fund a search.
The Istanbul Pride March, in support of LGBTQ+ rights, has been banned by the Istanbul Municipalitiy since 2015. - Copyright AP
Members of the queer community in Türkiye spoke to Euronews Culture about their future in a country where hate speech against LGBTQ+ people has become rampant. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s win in May, marking the continuation of his 20-year conservative rule into 2028, and parliamentary seats won by two Islamist parties has escalated concerns among LGBTQ+ activists.
It's hard for me to feel safe in Turkey because things that are not crimes (such as the way you dress and speak) can be criminalised. Even if you don't experience anything on the street, when you’re on social media or reading the news, you’re constantly faced with homophobic and transphobic discourses. It makes people feel that they are not accepted here. -Anonymous queer person from Istanbul
For those who can afford it, moving abroad seems like the safest option for them. Performing artist Akış Ka, one of the leading figures of that scene in Istanbul, travelled to London in May following an invitation from one of Britain's leading cultural venues, the Barbican Centre, to take part in its cross-genre arts night Transpose. Thanks to their temporary working visa, Akış Ka, whose name is a pun in Turkish about gender-fluidity, was able to apply for an artist visa. They will find out in September whether their request is accepted. While they were making a living as an artist for eight years in Turkey, they were not able to find a job in the last three months they spent there due to being constantly banned from clubs.
In my performances, I try to explain transgender rights, our right to live in Turkey and our fight for survival. -Akış Ka
Marsel Tuğkan Gündoğdu from SPoD Siyasal Katılım, an NGO supporting LGBTQ+ rights in the country, believes the LGBTQ+ community in Türkiye will continue to exist despite being oppressed.
This country belongs to all of us, and we are at our place here as much as everyone else is. It's great that some people manage to keep up their hopes for this country and find the power to fight for themselves in them. -Marsel Tuğkan Gündoğdu
Women like to be called 'khateera.' It means all of these things: It means you're strong, it means you own your own decisions. You're more aware of the world. You're more aware of your rights. You're more aware of your own value. -Amanda Abou Abdallah, Khateera's founder
The producers' vision for Khateera is for it to be a safe space where one can discuss subjects like feminism, the patriarchy and other societal issues in a more light hearted way, as if you were talking with friends. They avoid the use of complicated terms, avoid any arrogant explanations, use easy-to-understand language and always add a dash of humor and even a little sarcasm, while simultaneously conveying the facts.
The series “Smatouha Minni" — translated into English, it means "you heard it from me”—is probably the group's most popular product, with its approach to a wide range of sensitive topics, everything from women's health and menstruation to access to the labor market. The show wants to expose the various prejudices and stereotypes that prevent women in the region from equality. Khateera offers more than just this series though. On the group's website, the outlet also publishes writing from authors throughout the Middle East and North Africa who deal with topics like sexual harassment, discrimination and gender stereotyping in their texts.
To me, the aim is to bring forward an Arab feminist narrative, to separate our feminism from Western feminism and to fill the knowledge gap in order to allow young Arab girls and women to live a more just life…Another aim is to show women and girls that they're not alone in their thoughts. So many women think the same exact things but lack the tools to say them, or [they] might be in danger if they do. And that's where 'Smatouha Minni' comes in. -Maria Elayan, actor and co-writer
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(Image credit: Richard Butcher)
When Iffat Tejani was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer at the age of 37, she decided she needed a bucket list and at the top of the list was to ride a bike. Growing up in Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, Tejani would notice other children riding bikes but could only dream of joining in. She said none of the girls were allowed to cycle. Aged 16 Tejani relocated to the UK with her family.
Exercise was out of the question while dealing with the cancer, but after two years of arduous treatment Tejani’s energy began to return. Six weeks after radiotherapy ended, she did a 5K breast cancer run. As a Muslim woman, she was looking for a female to teach her to cycle, which was very hard to find, she says. Unable to find a female coach, Tejani booked a lesson with a St John Ambulance man who taught cycling skills part-time. Over the next three days, Tejani picked up all the basic skills she needed to ride solo.
From speaking to friends at her local mosque, Tejani knew that the demand was strong, and she grew ever more determined to set up a cycling club for Muslim women. After another battle with cancer, she started the Evolve club in 2020. Tejani’s vision for the club was to provide everything its members could want, from coaching to group rides to racing and performance development. She decided to design a more modest jersey to be accommodating to Muslim women. The next hurdle was a shortage of female coaches so she trained women to become coaches. Now, with 350 members, Evolve’s ultimate aim is getting a hijabi girl on the podium.
Cycling has always been seen as a white man’s sport that’s not really open to everyone else. So the whole idea of Evolve was to make a comfortable, safe space in which to progress. When I was starting out I was the only woman from my background riding, but now the club has 350 members. I don’t want anyone to be alone like I was. -Shahina Chandoo, 19, Level 2 coach
For those of us in the LGBTQ+ community, thrifting is personal and political
Sophia Gonzaga writes on Rappler about how for those in the LGBTQ+ community in the Philippines, thrifting is personal and political. The loose equivalent of thrifting in Filipino is “ukay-ukay,” which refers more to the act of scrounging through piles and rows of clothes than saving money, but the spirit of thrift is still there, says Gonzaga.
Gonzaga discusses how thrifting has gained popularity in recent years, partly due to being popularized by Youtubers. People also started to grow conscious of the damaging and unethical production practices behind popular brands, and consciousness of those issues were amplified with the rise of ultra-fast fashion online shopping giant SHEIN during the pandemic. However, according to Gonzaga, for queer people the appeal of ukay-ukay doesn’t end at sustainability, affordability, and quality. Sourcing clothes from thrift stores also plays a big role in their self-expression as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
I always try to go out of my comfort zone and try clothes I wouldn’t usually wear, or try to make clothes ‘work’ and fit my style. I think that’s why a lot of the queer creatives that I know gravitate towards thrifting. It’s also a really accessible way to experiment with your gender expression. - Zero Candelaria, student and filmmaker
For David Paddit, who works in marketing for a jewelry brand, the creativity in tinkering with ukay pieces is inherently queer.
We take something old and turn it over its head, subverting expectations. There’s no wrong way of going about ukay-ukay, much like queer identity. -David Paddit
One student also pointed out that the lack of distinction between men’s clothing and women’s clothing in ukay-ukay allows shoppers a wider selection of pieces to choose from – which is especially important for nonbinary people for whom mainstream retailers are often not safe spaces.
Despite maybe having one rack dedicated to rainbow pieces and statement tees loudly declaring gayness or allyship (only during Pride Month), it’s in these [mainstream retailer] stores that trans women also get vilified for wanting to try women’s clothes in women’s dressing rooms, where they belong. -Sophia Gonzaga
Samiha Hossain (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa. She has experience working with survivors of sexual violence in her community, as well as conducting research on gender-based violence. A lot of her time is spent learning about and critically engaging with intersectional feminism, transformative justice and disability justice.
Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She refuses to let anyone thwart her imagination when it comes to envisioning a radically different future full of care webs, nurturance and collective liberation.