Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Tunisia

Three and a half years ago, the world was riveted by massive crowds of youths mobilizing in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand an end to Egypt’s dreary police state. We watched transfixed as a movement first ignited in Tunisia spread from one part of Egypt to another, and then from country to country across the region.

Before it was over, 4 presidents-for-life had been toppled and the region’s remaining dictators were unsettled.

Some 42 months later, in most of the Middle East and North Africa, the bright hopes for more personal liberties and an end to political and economic stagnation championed by those young people have been dashed.

Instead, some Arab countries have seen counterrevolutions, while others are engulfed in internecine conflicts and civil wars, creating Mad Max-like scenes of postapocalyptic horror.

But keep one thing in mind: The rebellions of the last three years were led by Arab millennials, by young people who have decades left to come into their own. Don’t count them out yet.

Given the short span of time since Tahrir Square, it is far too soon to predict where these massive movements will end. During the “Prague Spring” of 1968,  a young dissident playwright, Vaclav Havel, took to the airwaves on Radio Free Czechoslovakia and made a name for himself as Soviet tanks approached. But then, after a Russian invasion crushed the uprising, Havel had to seek work in a brewery, forbidden to stage his plays.

That wasn’t the end of the story, however. Two decades later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Havel became the first president of the Czech Republic.

Or consider the French Revolution: Three and a half years after the storming of the Bastille, the country was facing a pro-royalist uprising in the Vendee, south of the Loire Valley, a conflict that ultimately left more than 100,000 (and possibly as many as 450,000) people dead.

And let’s remember that a decade passed between the Boston Tea Party and the American victory in the Revolutionary War.

There are, of course, plenty of reasons for pessimism in the medium-term in the Middle East. But when it comes to youth revolutions, it’s a pretty good bet that most of their truest accomplishments will come decades later.

The young Arabs who made the recent revolutions are, in fact, distinctive: substantially more urban, literate, media-savvy and wired than their parents and grandparents. They are also somewhat less religiously observant, though still deeply polarized between nationalists and devotees of political Islam.

And keep in mind that the median age of the 370 million Arabs on this planet is only 24, about half that of graying Japan or Germany. While India and Indonesia also have big youth populations, Arab youth suffer disproportionately from the low rates of investment in their countries and staggeringly high unemployment rates. They are primed for action.

Analysts have tended to focus on the politics of the Arab youth revolutions and so have missed the more important, longer-term story of a generational shift in values, attitudes and mobilizing tactics.

The youth movements were, in part, intended to provoke the holding of genuine, transparent elections, and yet the millennials were too young to stand for office when they happened. This ensured that actual politics would remain dominated by older Arab baby boomers, many of whom are far more interested in political Islam or praetorian authoritarianism.

The first wave of writing about the revolutions of 2011 discounted or ignored religion because the youth movements were predominantly secular and either liberal or leftist in approach. When those rebellions provoked elections in which Muslim fundamentalists did well, a second round of books lamented a supposed “Islamic Winter.”

Yet, in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has been ousted (albeit through a reassertion of power by the military).

In Libya, Muslim fundamentalist candidates could not get a majority in parliament in 2012.

Even in Tunisia, where the religious right formed the first postrevolution government, it was able to rule only in coalition with secularists and leftists.

As they wait their time, many of the millennial activists who briefly turned the Arab world upside down and provoked so many changes are putting their energies into nongovernmental organizations, thousands of which have flowered, barely noticed. Others continue to coordinate with labor unions to promote the welfare of the working classes.

In this way, they are learning valuable organizational skills that — count on it — will one day be applied to politics.

Their dislike of nepotism, narrow cliques and ethnic or sectarian rule has already had a lasting effect on the politics of the Arab world.

And two or three decades from now, the twentysomethings of Tahrir Square and the Casbah in Tunis and Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli will, like the Havels of the Middle East, come to power as politicians.

We haven’t heard the last of the Middle East’s millennial generation.

Juan Cole is director of the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan and the author of “The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East.” A longer version of this piece appears on tomdispatch.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

 

 

From Syria to Sweden: The story of Stateless Syrian Palestinian in search for Identity

More than 2.8 million Syrians have been forced to leave their country so far. The vast majority of them remaining in neighboring countries, such as Turkey (764,000), Lebanon (1,093,069) and Jordan (597,328), according to the UN Refugee Agency. 

They are often living in dire conditions because countries like Lebanon and Jordan are already under extreme economic and political strain. Few others went seeking refuge in Europe.

However, Europe has only granted asylum to 89,000 people. Though Europe is failing refugees from Syria , Sweden is one of the few European countries to offer permanent residence to Syrians arriving at its borders.

Salim Salamah, found refuge in Sweden after fleeing Syria to Lebanon. I met Salim a few weeks ago in Malmo, the most densely populated area in Scandinavia, but he wasn’t a mere Syrian refugee.

While he was introducing himself, he was not sure if he should say a “Syrian-Palestinian”, “Palestinian from Syria”, “refugee in Sweden”, becoming “Swedish” or maybe just a human being!

As I was confidently introducing myself as a Tunisian African and explaining more about my Africanism, he smiled and replied: “I like that you clearly know who you are because I am still in search for my identity”.

This complex identity of Salim dates back to his family’s displacement in 1948 following the Nakba that expelled Palestinians from their homes.

He was born in 1989 and raised in Yarmouk refugee camp (by Damascus), a historical Palestinian neighborhood established in Damascus during the 50s.

At the age of 24, Salim found himself a refugee “again” and as he says “the journey continues…”

 

Images and dates have been engraved in his memory because of their atrocities… “28th October 2013 I left Syria…Taking that decision wasn’t easy! Because there will be no soon return to Damascus”.

Getting into severe depression during his last few weeks in Syria, he was afraid of loosing himself by “not doing any good” for himself or his country.

A decision has been made because of the suffocation of a peaceful movement yearned for freedom. “From March to September, the movement was pacifist then the security became so tight that we couldn’t move around anymore…people had to fire back and when that happened, I couldn’t have a place for myself there! because I didn’t want to die or kill”.

Life in Damascus has become a nightmare for him with the checkpoints…“Day after day, moving within and outside Yarmouk has become difficult as between two checkpoints, there is another one, so you will never know who will stop you and when you will be arrested! It was just like jumping into the fire”.

The regime then operated an organized process to get rid of activists like Salim, by arresting, torturing or constantly threatening them.   “It was a slow death of the civil resistance and peaceful social movement, I was at risk as everybody was!”

Beside demonstrating, campaigning, and being part of political gatherings, Salim’s special crime was blogging and telling jokes about the Syrian army. His poem “A day in Damascus”, says “passing by the checkpoint, I spit on it to return some of my dignity” and that was accused by the Syrian authorities as undermining the “prestige of the state”.

Once in Beirut for almost four months, Salim tried to recover from war trauma and reconnect again… “breathe again” by writing poetry. Despite dealing with his own healing process, Salim was managing a project with Al Ghawth organization in Syria. “Unfortunately the project ended after few months because we didn’t get the needed funding as international donors and NGOs were not interested in finding partners to respond to the urgent need of Syrian communities and kids under war but more interested to enslave organizations for their own agendas”

Travelled for the first time in his entire life outside Syria and Lebanon, he finally arrived to Sweden on 14th February 2012.

“When I arrived, I was surprised with the snow and the dark short days”. It took sometime for him to adapt to the new weather, language, space, currency, lifestyle and to understand  “the strange situation” in order to find his way in the new place.(It would be good for Salim to read the new book of Alexander Najjar “Millesgarten” about his journey in Sweden)

Despite the terrible situation in Syria, there is an ongoing debate about the legitimacy of the choice of activists who fled the country to seek refuge in the United States and Scandinavia.

Salim has clearly made this choice as an “individual salvation”… “I claimed political asylum because I can’t basically go anywhere as Palestinian from Syria but I made it to Sweden because I was just lucky!”

It is indeed a special case for the Palestinians from Syria.

When the UN adopted the Refugee Convention and established the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, it excluded those falling within the UNRWA mandate from coverage under UNHCR’s mandate.

“Outside UNRWA-mandate area, which is Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, or the West Bank and Gaza Strip, we are without protection”.

A concrete example of Salim’s frustration is the recent case of the four Palestinian Syrian activists detained in Sri Lanka a few weeks ago. “UNHCR Sri Lanka refused to give a statement on the issue. Husam, Muhammad, Ali and Baha are now at Buddha military prison where they have been badly treated psychologically and physically”.

Recently, Palestinians fleeing Syria are denied help even in Lebanon. 

Sadly, the tragic cases of Palestinian-Syrian refugees continue, not only in the global north, but even in the Arab region and especially in countries that sparked the revolutions in the region such as TunisiaEgypt among other countries.. “in Damascus, we were celebrating the day Ben Ali fled Tunisia, today when Syrian Palestinians arrived to Tunis, they remained stuck in Carthage airport with no support”…

As the spokesman of the Human Rights Palestinian LeagueSalim closely follows these cases and releases statements to support Syrian Palestinians without national or international protectionHaving the advantage to understand better such situation, Salim found himself working with refugees though he aims to work more with youth and children.

Beside joining the executive board of the Human Rights Palestinian League earlier this year, he helps a Swedish organization in group development of coming refugees, especially in terms of communication with Arabic and French speaking refugees from Syria and African countries.

“I’m still sad, frustrated… because of this ongoing war that is rewarding to international community powers and Syrian regime rather than the Syrian people but working with people here is also rewarding …”

Partially recovered from the war trauma …  Salim regained his life, strength and energy and he is moving forward in empowering himself and others.  

I contacted Salim again today to ask him of what the World Refugees Day would mean to him as a refugee. He immediately answered “you know… once you are a refugee, you are a refugee forever, at least for myself”.

He then took some silent moments and recalled the quotes of his friend Homi Bhabha

“the globe shrinks for those who own it… but for the displaced or dispossessed, the migrant or refugee, no distance is more awesome than the few feet across borders or frontiers” … then he continues “Today I achieved my few feet, and if I can make one more human being achieve those few feet, I will help!”

Having his family arrived to Sweden 6 months ago, Salim now feels more safe, something he hasn’t felt for a while. Still hard for him to be disconnected “twice” from where he belongs… then to be asked to belong somewhere else…

I don’t identify myself as a citizen of any place…” at least his confusion has gone since our first conversation a month ago and now he can confidently identity himself as human being or citizen of the world…

 

 

Let the Jasmines Bloom Again

Hajer Tlijani posted:

Why do some people in my country Tunisia think that hope is lost and that we should surrender to an unknown dark fate?

Why is the dream seen as illegitimate in a country that lived and experienced a spectacular peaceful revolution, only three years ago?

Are we already tired after we have proved to all that dreams are our natural right and duty?

Shouldn’t we now, more than ever, complete the journey armed with hope?

I am a Tunisian woman and I will tell you why I still have hope.

I am an integral part of the nation which marked its history and present, and will mark its future.

I am Queen Dido , I am Aziza Othmana², I am Bchira Ben Mrad³, I am your mother, sister, daughter, friend,… I am the Tunisian woman, in whom hope never dies.

Long time ago, when my country had been under the French occupation, I joined the strikes. My participation was through the work of partisan struggle and during the protests where I was subjected to harassment and arrests.

I had a big role in transferring arms and information to the resistance fighters, and providing food and clothes for them, disguised as itinerant trader.

What was my only weapon at that time? Hope.

Tunisian women during the protests of April 1938

Many years later, when the breeze of the Jasmine Revolution had blown on my country at the end of the year 2010, I was not only present alongside my compatriots, but I also led the protests, bore pressures, inhaled tear gas and raised the slogans of freedom, justice and democracy.

What encouraged me at that time? Hope.

Tunisian woman during the protests of January 14th, 2011

It is during these three post-revolution years that I noticed a wave of hopelessness spreading among my friends and acquaintances.

Sometimes, when I try to convince them that we should not lose hope and that we are able to build a better future, they confront me with a kind of derision and even affirm that they regret the departure of the ousted president.

How sad and confused I feel when I encounter a young person giving up easily instead of standing up for the sake of his country!

A few other friends, however, are persuaded that, as long as we are alive, dictatorship will never come back on our land. They believe in a flourishing future, citing verses of our national anthem which became the slogan of our revolution: “If the people wanted life, Destiny must bow down”- Abu Alkassem Alchabbi³.

The change should stem from us. It is true that Tunisia is nowadays facing some political and economic issues, but it is with hope that we will be able to solve them and move on in building our country’s future.

So get up, my compatriot, and listen to me: let’s join our hands to carry on what we started 3 years ago, let’s learn from our history not to give up.

Let’s believe in ourselves and in each other and unite for the next generation’s life.

Listen to a Tunisian woman voice, a woman in whom hope never dies:  Let it be! Let the Jasmines bloom again.

Hajer Tlijani is a regional intern at the World Youth Alliance Middle East.

——————————————-

1 Aziza Othmana is a Tunisian princess. She is most famous for her charities. She freed all her slaves and took them with her to Hajj. She founded and helped to fund a hospital in Tunis in the 17th century (which still has her name).

² Bchira Ben Mrad is a Tunisian feminist. She founded and chairs the Muslim Union of Tunisian Women (Tunisia’s first women’s organization) from 1936 to 1956.

3 Abu Alkassem Alchabbi is a Tunisian poet, best known for writing the final two verses of the current National Anthem of Tunisia.

Note: Compared to other current revolutions in the “Arab World”, the political reforms in Tunisia have been a success stories. As long as democracy is heading in the right direction, Tunisia stability, security and development will out-pace the non-oil producing countries in the “Arab” world.

Women’s rights are saved, pending the frequent demands of women to preserve and keep their hard won battles.

Policemen, Rape, Tunisia, Girl on trial, Indecent exposure…

A 27-year old Tunisian woman was raped by policemen and could now face charges of indecency and months in jail.

On a recent night, two policemen raped a Tunisian woman repeatedly in her car and when they were caught, accused her of indecency! 

The woman and her fiance were driving back from dinner when the police stopped them.  One officer took the woman’s fiancé to an ATM to rob him, while the other two raped her. When the couple complained, the police alleged that the couple were found in an “immoral position,” a charge they both deny and that was blatantly invented by her rapists to cover up their crime. To make matters worse, the Minister of Justice has denied that the charges against the woman were even made.

But if we raise our voices, we can save her from detention and pave the way for stronger protection of women’s rights in Tunisia.

Dalia Hashad posted on Avaaz.org

Dear friends across the Middle East and North Africa,

Now she could face months in jail unless we act immediately to demand the magistrate deny these outrageous charges and insist on stronger protection of women’s rights in Tunisia.

The Tunisian president has now issued an official state apology to the woman. The Magistrate beg to differ: is still considering “indecency” charges against her.

If we build massive pressure now and show the Tunisian government that this case is being watched closely by the entire region, we can shame the Magistrate to dropping this case. 

Any day now, the Magistrate will make a decision, so if thousands of us raise our voices, we can tip the balance and help ensure that state institutions stop the flagrant abuse. Click below to sign the urgent petition and share with everyone — when 10,000 people have signed, we’ll organize a major media stunt outside the Supreme Court in Tunis: 

http://www.avaaz.org/en/tunisian_rape_by_police/?bFAfecb&v=18874

Tunisia has historically supported women’s rights, but the new government has gone backwards.  An article has even been proposed in the draft constitution calling women ‘complementary’ to men, meaning unequal.

In a country where the female literacy rate of greater than 70% is the highest of any in North Africa, women can’t afford to lose vital government protection. 

The birth place of the Arab spring, Tunisia potentially has a bright future ahead of it and ideally the country will develop a fully independent judiciary that upholds the rule of law.

During this transitional period, there is still too much political influence over the court system. We need to ensure the magistrate here heeds the call of the world to exercise the highest calling of the judiciary: justice.

The 27-year old Tunisian woman who suffered through this monstrous experience will carry it with her the rest of her life, let’s show her she’s not alone. 

Activists across the globe have been protesting the Tunisian government’s backpedaling on women’s rights, and now is our chance to join them.

Together, the Avaaz community has fought to protect an Iranian woman from execution and delivered thousands of signatures to the Moroccan government for stronger women’s rights. Now, let’s bring our people-power to Tunisia to demand justice for women.

Dalia, Rewan, Bissan, Ian, Ricken, Mais and the entire Avaaz team

Note 1https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/legal-system-on-trial-in-tunisia/

Note 2: For more information:

Outrage in Tunisia after woman raped by police is accused of indecency
http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/09/26/240354.html

President issues ‘state apology’ in Tunisia police rape case (CNN)
http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/05/world/africa/tunisia-rape/index.html 

Tunis judge questions raped woman over indecency claims
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iaTKT211FrdlYC3ZzhwSdTNndZPw?docId=CNG.22011a6a4c26a3b31e175088bb6ae443.401 

Police Rape Victim Interview on IWPR
http://www.tunisia-live.net/2012/10/11/police-rape-victim-interview-on-iwpr/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+tunisia-live%2FyMtB+%28Tunisia+Live%29 

Tunisia: Protesters support woman in rape case (NY Times)
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/03/world/africa/tunisia-protesters-support-woman-in-rape-case.html 

Political or civil mass disobedience movements? Case studies of Occupy Wall Street, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia…

Are secular and national concepts anathema to Arab/Islamic spirit?

Except in Egypt, it appears that most upheavals are fundamentally violent civil mass disobedience, (not true any longer in Egypt), with no clarity or viable pragmatic alternatives of why reforms and change are needed, and what alternative reforms should substitute the existing dictatorial system…

In Egypt, we had a political mass disobedience and the western nations are adopting the Egyptian non-violent strategy.  Mubarak is gone, but the regime is still alive, and the Egyptians might resort to civil disobedience if no reforms takes place very soon.

Many US officials and policy-makers blame former Egypt dictator Mubarak for fomenting many religious sectarian riots between the Sunni Moslems and the Christian Copts (10% of the population) during his long reign.

The tactic was to keep the Copts allied to his corrupt system in fear of the “Moslem Brotherhood” fanatics.

Actually, Mubarak didn’t have to go to so much trouble fomenting sectarian riots: All he had to do is sit tight and fail to intervene ahead of time since his widespread internal secret services had infiltrated all movements.

Mubarak was asked several times to review the terribly biased religious laws that deliver permits within a week to build a Mosque and requiring the Christians to wait 5 years for a permit to emerge.

The other sensible law was to separate building Mosque and Church by 200 meters. It turned out that by the time Copts got their permit “stamped”, the Moslem had built within the 200 meters of the potential allocated plot…

After Mubarak was evicted, nothing changed in the skewered religious treatments.

In early March, a church was burned in Halwan.

On May 7, three churches were burned in Embaba, resulting in 15 deaths and over 200 injured civilians.

On June 24, the fanatics among the “Moslem Brotherhood” movement attacked a church in Aswan.

On Oct. 5, the Copts demonstrated and the army dispersed the march violently.

On Oct. 9, the Copts reacted and tried another mass protest in Cairo that ended with 25 killed and 320 injured.  Two tanks ran over protesters and Moslems threw Molotov cocktail bombs on the Copt marchers.

The Egyptian military lied through its teeth:

First, not a single soldier was killed as it claimed; and

Ssecond, the official media harangued the Egyptians to descend in the street to support the military!  Mubarak would not stooped that low to confirm his authority.

The goal of the current military is to maintaining their hold on power, directly or indirectly.  The reasons for this mania are:

First, preserving all the previous advantages and benefits, and whatever review is to be for more power.

Second, sending the same signal, as during Mubarak, to the world community that only the army is in a position to maintaining security and unity.  Consequently, the military is ready to using heavy handed methods as the Mubarak regime to demonstrating its brute power…

The greatness of the Egyptian revolt is that it is still non-violent and the masses get to the streets at every critical junction:  They are ever ready to warn anyone in “power” that the revolt is never going to be over, until the common people have a say in the decision making process…

The other solid factor in the success of the Egyptian revolution is that the “elite class” is far less violent than their counterparts in almost all other Arabic/Islamic countries, and particularly in the Near East such as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon…and even in the western culture.

It is mainly a historical tendency and current heavy dense population in Egyptian cities…that remind street leaders of the consequences of inflaming the masses by violent means and rhetoric.

In a nutshell, historically, the Egyptian natives of the Nile Valley hardly opposed any occupation troops with arms.

In Syria, all war-like empires invaded the land, but never any occupation force managed to administer or centrally hold any power, not even the Romans or the Arabic/Islamic Empires.

Ask the French mandate power how it quickly withdrew from Syria: In revenge, France ceased valuable northern Syrian lands to Turkey in 1936 (the Alexandretta city and the strategic region of Adana).

Historically, Syria was mostly governed by intermediary tribes or coalition of tribes… The Emir of a city relied on youth hoodlums to tame virulent tribes, and this is what the Syrian regime is exactly currently applying. Those “shababs” of local militias paid by the regime will have the same destiny, if history repeats itself in Syria.

For example, in Syria, the son of Aleppo Mufti was assassinated by fanatic opposition extremists.  Not a single “insurgent: faction or opposition movement condemned this unnecessary assassination: They even declined to mention the event in public and discuss it.

A “deep terrifying silence” is hovering over the horror wrong-doing, according to Lebanese journalist Jihad el Zine. How could we expect a better alternative social/political system in Syria if what is happening in horror stories during this uprising is not discussed and stands taken?  How could we expect any peaceful transition to the Bashar el Assad clan regime?

How could we condemn a violent regime if the culture in society is not prepared and trained to act non-violently? Period.

This deep scary silence was witnessed in Lebanon after the Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon in 2005.  Scores of hard-working Syrian workers were assassinated in various districts in Lebanon, and not a single voice from the elite class or civic movements reacted to these barbarities. Actually, not a public official dared to lament the “revenge” behavior on Syrian civilians…

The brutal civil war in Libya has demonstrated the violent revenge reactions of the people.

Iraq is still suffering from suicide car bombing in crowded streets (random violence tactics) after the US occupation in 2003. What is happening in Yemen? Can anyone follow the story or the world community has given up on Yemen, as it had given up on Lebanon during 17 years of civil war?

There is this stupid excuse that current Sunni Moslem Brotherhood” movements are “moderate”.  Moderate in what?

Is saying that the women will not be subjugated to the same servile standards as in Saudi Arabia, the most obscurantist Wahhabi sect, a good enough proposal to enhancing freedom of opinion, liberty, and equal rights?

Can anyone point to a single Islamic movement, a majority religious sect in any country, coming to power and ever being defeated in any “democratic” election?

Do anyone believe that the “Moslem Brotherhood”  currently in power in Turkey can ever be defeated in election from now on?

Note 1: The topic on the Egyptian Copts’ tenuous situation was inspired by an editorial of Sarkis Naoum in the Lebanese daily Al Nahar.  Naoum visits the US frequently to interview officials, current and former, and policy-makers and foreign research institutes.

Note 2:  What is the new “democratic” alternative of the US in the Greater Middle East?  https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/us-administration-tacit-green-light-power-in-the-middle-east-shared-by-military-and-moslem-brotherhood-movements/

Note 3Tactics of scary random violence  https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/scare-tactics-for-masses-on-the-move-arab-uprising/

Headdress (June 16, 2009)

 

            Versatility and creativity in women headgears and hair fashions are the sure sign of a rebellious spirit among women.  When uniformity in hair design and headdress are witnessed in a society then the system is veering toward a one-directional path in religious beliefs, ideological indoctrination, or political structure. 

            During the Arab Islamic civilization that spanned from 640 to 1400 al kinds of hair fashion and headgears were designed and adopted.  The western fashion didn’t catch up until the last three centuries and most of the styles are varieties on what have been used many centuries ago.

            The grand daughter of Caliph Ali Sukayna refused to wear the veil; she adopted a special hair fashion that even men emulated. Caliph Omar Abdel Aziz had to whip men using Sukayna’s style and shaved their head.  Sukayna refused to keep distant from male society and conversed with poets and entertained erudite in her cultural salon. She denied her husbands (five in total and descendent of noble families) marrying another wife, having extra-marital relations, or even forbidding her to meet with her woman friend.

            The grand daughter of Caliph Abu Bakr Aicha Bint Talhat was very beautiful and refused to wear any kind of veil saying: “God distinguished me from the other women with beauty. I would like men to notice and recognize my superiority.”  Aicha toured the Kaaba without any veil and the governor of Mecca changed the schedule of prayer to suit Aicha.  The governor was sacked but Aicha couldn’t care less.

            In fact, in all civilizations only rich women could afford to wear veil or fashionable headdress.  Working women in the field or active securing a living for her family could not be encumbered with redundant headgears. Veil and “designer” headgears were the domain of the super class in social hierarchy. Clothing and headgear were codified and regulated at all periods so that every class would remain within its limit of fashion.

            Olayya, the sister of Caliph Haroun Al Rasheed had a mark on her forehead; she wore a bandana to cover the spot; bandana became the rage. Women loved turban and imposed that style most of the time regardless of the reticence of the clergy.  Actually, headdresses were more targeted than other garments. The Mamelouk Sultan Qayitbey interdicted women of Cairo to wearing bonnets exhibiting coq crests in 1471; women rebelled and preferred to go out head naked.

            During the reign of the Moslem Mogul Genghis Khan exuberant hair fashion reached the zenith.  The more the number of fine plaits (reaching over 40 plaits) the higher was the rank of women; the longer the length of the plaits (reaching the small of the back) the nobler was the woman.  Only princesses were permitted to wear hats and then covered by colorful veil.  The other women of various ranks wore scarf of white gaze or flowery.  In the 13th century, princesses imposed on elegant women to stick feathers on their hair and then covered by veils (chechias).

            Mini skirts were the fashion at a period; shirts with extra large sleeves (for example as the musketeers are shown in movies) were predominant in Egypt in 1390; the vice-Sultan regulated the size of the sleeves; when the Sultan returned from his trip then women returned to their preferred fashion adding more tissues to their sleeves.  The more tissue entered in clothing the higher the sign of rich status.

            Wearing veil can sometimes send a strong message of revolt in political direction. For example, in Tunis of 1975, a woman professor of philosophy wore the veil (Hijab) to teaching in class as a political stand against President Bourghiba’s laws discouraging women to wearing head covering.  Moslem women were expressing the desire to advance Islam values after the ideological defeats of western capitalism and Marxism. The veil was a counterattack on cultural aggressions by the western civilizations.

            The more women care for elegance the healthier is society in cultural diversity and freedom of expression. A European lady was touring Egypt in mini skirt and very short sleeves; she complained of mosquitoes to an acerbic Dutch priest; he replied “I certainly cannot complain as much as you do. The airport surface for mosquitoes in my case is far reduced”.  Man also created varieties in headgears; mainly for protecting their skulls in battles; frightful and ugly metal helmets protected of a few injuries but never of concussions. Women had to face dangerous situations after their men returned from wars.


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