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Pain, protest and power: why Iranian women cut their hair | CNN


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Abu Dhabi, UAE
CNN

A crying Iranian woman is seen kneeling by the coffin of her dead brother as cut through her hair with a pair of scissors. His relatives cry out for justice as she throws strands over the coffin.

They were mourning Javad Heydari, 36, who was fatally shot last week in one of the anti-government protests that have gripped Iran.

Images like these have galvanized women around the world to join Iranian women protesting the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. She died in hospital on September 16, three days after the morality police took her off the streets of Tehran and took her to a “re-education center” for modesty lessons.

From the Middle East, Europe and across the United States, women from around the world have shown their solidarity with the plight of Iranian women at rallies and demonstrations. Some have also cut or shaved their hair in public or while being filmed.

These protests are different, says famous Iranian author

Now in its 12th day, the protests have spread to more than 40 Iranian cities, including the capital Tehran. Iranian security forces have been cracking down on protesters, with hundreds arrested and at least 41 dead, according to state media. Some human rights organizations put the death toll as high as 76. CNN cannot independently verify these figures.

So why do women cut their hair?

For many Iranian women, cutting their hair, a sign of beauty that is secretly decreed in the Islamic Republic, is a poignant form of protest.

“We want to show them that we don’t care about their standards, their definition of beauty or how they think we should look,” said Faezeh Afshan, a 36-year-old Iranian chemical engineer who lives in Bologna, Italy. who was filmed shaving her hair. “It is to show that we are angry.”

Afshan attributes the practice of cutting hair to historical cultural practices. “In our literature, getting a haircut is a symbol of mourning and sometimes a symbol of protest,” he told CNN. “If we can cut our hair to show that we are angry… we will do it.”

The practice is cited in Shahnameh, a 1,000-year-old Persian epic and cultural mainstay in Iran written by Ferdowsi. Composed of nearly 60,000 lines, the poem tells the stories of the kings of Persia and is one of the most important literary works in the Persian language. In more than one instance throughout the epic, he tears out his hair in an act of mourning.

“Women cutting their hair is an ancient Persian tradition… when the fury is stronger than the power of the oppressor,” tweeted The Welsh-based writer and translator Shara Atashi. “The moment we have been waiting for has arrived. Politics fueled by poetry”.

In Shahnameh, after the hero Siyavash was killed, his wife Farangis and the girls with her cut their hair to protest injustice, Atashi told CNN.

The characters portrayed in the poem “are used every day as symbols and archetypes,” he said, adding that the poem has helped shape the identities of Iranians, Afghans and Tajiks for 1,000 years.

“But there are also haircuts in the poetry of Hafez and Khaqani, always about mourning and protests against injustice,” he said, referring to other Persian poets.

Women burn their hijabs after the death of a woman in police custody

The practice is also common in other ancient cultures. The Epic of Gilgamesh, a 3,500-year-old poem from ancient Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) covers themes of grief and despair, where cutting or pulling out one’s hair is used to express anguish. The poem is considered one of the oldest literary works in the world and is said to have influenced neighboring cultures.

Shima Babaei, an Iranian activist based in Belgium who said she was arrested by Iran’s notorious morality police in 2018 for publicly removing her hijab as a sign of protest, told CNN that cutting hair had “historical significance” for Iranians. . Women who lose a direct relative sometimes cut their hair as a sign of grief and anger, she said.

Iranian women open up about hijab law and morality police

“For us, Mahsa was our sister,” he said. “And so, in this way, we are protesting.”

Cutting hair, Atashi said, “is itself a mourning ceremony to better expose the depth of suffering from the loss of a loved one.” And in the current context, he adds, it is a sign of “protest against the slaughter of our people.”

Saudi king appoints MBS as prime minister

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz has appointed his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as MBS) as the kingdom’s prime minister and another son, Prince Khalid, as defense minister, according to Saudi state media. .

  • Background: The crown prince was promoted from defense minister and has been the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia for several years. Khalid previously served as deputy defense minister. MBS said the kingdom has increased its self-sufficiency in military industries from 2% to 15% and plans to reach 50% under the new defense minister, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported. King Salman will continue to chair cabinet meetings he attends, the decree showed.
  • why does it matter: MBS has radically changed Saudi Arabia since coming to power in 2017, leading efforts to diversify the economy from its reliance on oil, allowing women to drive and restricting the powers of clerics. However, his reforms have been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, with activists, royals, women’s rights activists and businessmen jailed.

Turkey summons German envoy after politician compares Erdogan to a ‘sewer rat’

Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned the German ambassador to Ankara on Tuesday to protest comments made by a senior German politician who compared President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to a “little sewer rat,” Reuters reported. “We condemn in the strongest terms the insulting statements made by Wolfgang Kubicki, the deputy chairman of the German Federal Parliament, about our president in a speech during the Lower Saxony state election campaign,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Tanju Bilgic, in a statement. .

  • BackgroundKubicki confirmed to Reuters that he made the comment during an election campaign rally while trying to draw attention to a rise in the number of illegal immigrants moving from Turkey along the so-called Balkan route to Germany. “A sewer rat is a small, cute, but at the same time smart and cunning creature that also appears in children’s stories,” Kubicki said, citing the popular animated film “Ratatouille” as an example.
  • why does it matter: Turkey is a candidate for EU membership, but talks have long stalled amid disagreements over a range of issues, including Ankara’s human rights record, migration and geopolitics. Insulting the president is a criminal offense in Turkey, where Erdogan and his ruling AK Party have held power for two decades.

At least 4 Palestinians killed and dozens injured in one of the deadliest Israeli attacks in the West Bank this year

At least four Palestinian men were killed and 50 wounded during an Israeli military raid in Jenin on Wednesday morning, Palestinian officials said, making it one of the deadliest Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank this year, in which they have already more than 100 Palestinians killed by Israelis. soldiers The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the raid was linked to an attack in Tel Aviv in April that left three dead, and that the suspects responded on Wednesday with explosives and gunfire.

  • Background: For months, Israel has been regularly raiding cities in the West Bank, especially targeting Jenin and Nablus, saying it is targeting militants and their weapons caches before they have a chance to cross into Israel and carry out attacks. The operation, dubbed “Breaking the Wave” by the IDF, was launched after a series of attacks on Israelis. At least 20 Israelis and foreigners have been killed in attacks on civilians and soldiers in Israel and the West Bank so far this year.
  • why does it matter: This is already the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2015, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. More than 35 of the dead have been in Jenin. Israel says most of those killed clashed violently with soldiers during military operations, but dozens of unarmed civilians have also been killed, human rights groups including B’Tselem have said.

Muhammed Semih Ugurlu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Henna, a reddish-brown dye famous for body art in many parts of the Middle East, could be about to join UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage.

In the process of being nominated by the United Arab Emirates and the Arab League, henna has long been a part of the heritage and identity of the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.

Dating back thousands of years, temporary dye is used to create intricate designs primarily on the hands, often for festivals and religious celebrations.

Representatives from 16 Arab countries met this month to discuss the nomination, according to the Abu Dhabi government media office, emphasizing that henna plays an important role in Arab and Gulf culture and identity.

UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage includes both inherited and modern traditions, and aims to promote practices that contribute to “social cohesion” and foster a shared sense of identity.

The list includes practices such as falconry, yoga, and Arabic calligraphy.

By Nadeen Ebrahim

Visitors look at artifacts displayed at the Egyptian Museum as Egypt's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities celebrates World Tourism Day, in Cairo on Tuesday.





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