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Kurdish Women Protest After Being Told to Wear the Hijab
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​Turkish-backed jihadi militiamen, who seized the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria earlier this year, have put up posters carrying instructions about obedience to sharia law beside the outline of a woman wearing a full niqab – a black garment shrouding the body and face.

The posters sparked angry street protests by Kurds, who are mostly Muslim but have a secular tradition and have remained in Afrin since the invasion by the Turkish army and Syrian militiamen, often members of jihadi groups, of which Isis and al-Qaeda are more extreme examples.

The posters were taken down after a few days by Turkish military police, but are only the latest sign of pressure on Kurdish women by the jihadis to accept second-class status and to wear the hijab (headscarf) or the niqab.

Gulistan, 46, a teacher from Afrin, told The Independent that the aim of what she described as “the wearing-the-hijab campaign” is to force women to stay in their homes and not to take part in public life as Kurdish women have traditionally been able to do.

“Just because I wear jeans, I always hear words such as ‘whore, disbeliever, dogs of Assad and the Shia’ from strangers in the street,” she says.

“A group of women held protest vigils to demand the removal of the posters,” she adds, explaining that the wearing of the niqab is a social rather than a religious custom and not one that is part of Kurdish tradition.

The demand that Kurdish women, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, wear the hijab or niqab comes from Arab militiamen and from settlers with similar fundamentalist Islamic beliefs who have been forced out of eastern Ghouta by a Syrian government offensive.

Reported to number 35,000, they have taken over Kurdish-owned houses and land abandoned by some 150,000 Kurds who fled the Turkish invasion that began on 20 January and ended with the capture of Afrin city on 18 March.

The United Nations says an estimated 143,000 Kurds remain in the enclave.

Bave Misto, 65, a farmer from the town of Bulbul, north of Afrin city, confirms that Kurds are under pressure to abandon secular practices.

His family is one of less than 100 Kurdish families who remain in Bulbul, compared to 600 before the invasion.

He says only older people are being allowed to return to their homes and that Arab militiamen, who say they belong to the Free Syrian Army, are barring young men and women from doing so.

Mr Misto says the militiamen are calling on the Kurdish inhabitants of Bulbul to attend mosque, and Arab families displaced from Damascus and Idlib are praying there to five times a day and are “asking our women to put on the hijab”.

He was told by one of his new neighbours, Abu Mohammad from eastern Ghouta, to get his wife to wear the hijab, saying: “It is better for this life and the afterlife.”

Many Kurds in Afrin suspect that the enforcement of fundamentalist Islamic social norms on secular Kurds is intended to encourage the ethnic cleansing of Kurds from Afrin.

During the invasion, several Arab militia units filmed themselves chanting sectarian anti-Kurdish slogans commonly used by Isis and al-Qaeda.

Kurds in Afrin face extreme difficulties in making a living.


Mr Misto owns a small field on the outskirts of Bulbul, in which there are olive and cherry trees, but when he tried to enter it he was told by Arab militiamen that it was full of mines planted by the PKK (the Turkish Kurd organisation, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party), though he was sceptical of this because the militiamen were grazing cattle there.

Mr Misto was able to recover his house from an Arab family who had taken it over with the help of local police, headed by a Turk.

This may be an indication of divisions between different parts of the Free Syrian Army, which is an umbrella organisation, about how to treat the Kurds and whether or not to confiscate their property.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reports that Ahrar al-Sham, a jihadi movement closely allied to Turkey, has evicted at gunpoint seven families of displaced people from eastern Ghouta, who had been living in houses in Afrin, because they insisted on paying rent to the Kurdish owners.

The displaced people from Ghouta, who were brought in convoys to Afrin, said that they themselves had been dispossessed of their homes by the Syrian government, but did not think it right to take the homes of others.

SOHR says that Ahrar al-Sham has threatened to imprison the evacuees from e astern Ghouta if they return to the houses they had rented, on the charge of “dealing with Kurdish forces”.

Although there is sporadic guerrilla warfare waged by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in Afrin, it is unlikely that the demographic changes that followed the Turkish invasion will be reversed.

Gulistan says that life for Kurds who have stayed in the enclave is chronically insecure because they are at the mercy of groups such as Ahrar al-Sham.

She says that her uncle owns a grocery store but this is heavily taxed by the militias, who often take goods without paying for them.

When he appealed to the police, the militiamen then mistreated him even more.

She says one of her neighbours was kidnapped three weeks ago and his wife and brother received a demand for $50,000 in ransom for his release.

SOHR confirms that there is widespread looting and fighting between militia factions, and that one Kurdish official has been tortured to death.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Islam, Kurds, Syria 
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  1. Renoman says:

    Please tell me “is there anything good about the Turks”?
    No? Hence the phrase “turned Turk”!

    • Replies: @Colin Wright
  2. It’s mildly comic to see Kurds presented as champions of female emancipation and equality. I believe female genital mutilation is more widely practised among Kurds than any other group in the Middle East.

  3. @Renoman

    ‘Please tell me “is there anything good about the Turks”?
    No? Hence the phrase “turned Turk”!’

    We’ve been to twenty seven countries or something. Turkey’s among our favorites. Great folks!

    • Replies: @Parbes
  4. @Colin Wright

    I always thought it so ironically stupid that the Kurds being filmed were communists, yet that wasn’t even worth a mention.

    The important thing was feeding the virtue-signaling urge: women in combat, how progressively sexy.

    • Replies: @Parbes
  5. Anonymous [AKA "Common Knowledge"] says:
    @Colin Wright

    You are incorrect and a racist clown.. Wahabbi’s like the American allies in Saudi Arabia are zealous followers of female genital mutilation. The Kurds are much more western civilized then the head choppers in Saudi Arabia.

    • Replies: @Chuck
  6. Here’s how this plays out. The Syrian Army will recover Southwestern Syria first.

    Meanwhile, the Kurds in Afrin suffer their unpleasantness, while at the same time, the Kurds in northeastern Syria will be forced to deal with the growing US betrayal in the form of its accommodation with Turkey and its preference for the Arab — ie jihadi — contingent of the US puppet SDF.

    Then the Syrian Army will retake Idlib and Afrin, displacing the Turks currently “encamped” there. While that is going on, negotiations between the Kurds and Damascus will reach agreement on Kurdish “autonomy”, after which the US will “be invited by the Kurds to leave” and Pres.Trump will turn “his” Syrian victory and disengagement into yet another Trump Accomplishment for Peace and Stability in the Mideast.

    So here’s a question for you readers:

    Trump, at the Singapore Summit famously said, “Anyone can make war, but only the most courageous can make peace.”

    With Generals Kelley and “Mad Dog “Mattis, and fire-breathing Pompeo, and “Bonkers” Bolton, as Trump’s “closest” advisers — not to mention madwoman Nikki Haley as US ambassador to the United Nations — who if any, among these might possibly have been author of that comment? “Impossible” you say “to imagine those words coming out of any of those mouths.” I agree. This leaves Trump alone as the only possible author of these words, and I would suggest that it came straight from his heart passing through his brain on the way to his mouth. Trump’s desire for peace and an America First foreign policy — exactly as he expressed it during the campaign — is here on display.

    The answer then to the conundrum –“How could he hire Bolton and Pompeo and Haley and the generals, and yet be faithful to his campaign positions?” Friends close, enemies closer.

  7. @Colin Wright

    What is really ironic is the fact that female genital mutilation is originally an African practice that predates Islam, and that is practiced most aggressively in christian countries there. The beginning of such practice cannot currently verified but it is believed to be related to religious customs going back thousands of years.

    • Replies: @Colin Wright
    , @Anonymous
  8. @Gleongelpi

    ‘What is really ironic is the fact that female genital mutilation is originally an African practice that predates Islam…

    Oh yeah. It’s primarily a subsaharan African thing rather than a Muslim thing — and this is particularly so for the more horrific forms of the practice.

  9. take part in public life as Kurdish women have traditionally been able to do

    Sure they did.

  10. @Colin Wright

    Comic? Ignorant, more like. People forget the Kurds massacred hundreds of thousands of Assyrian Christians only a hundred years ago in the Sayfo genocide, the Assyrians suffering more losses proportionally than the Jews of WW2. A plague on all their houses, wrote a long dead great white man.

    • Replies: @Colin Wright
  11. @forgottenpseudonym

    ‘Comic? Ignorant, more like. People forget the Kurds massacred hundreds of thousands of Assyrian Christians…’

    The Kurds were also heavily involved in the various late-nineteenth century massacres of the Armenians.

    The awful truth is that at least in principle, the Kurds would be no more virtuous and certainly no more pleasingly ‘one of us’ than any other group in the region — yet there was a concerted effort to make them into the ‘good guys’ in some kind of morality play.

    I see two causes for this; one mischievious if relatively innocent; the other positively Machiavellian.

    The innocent cause is the natural human tendency to look for the good guys in any conflict; to decide who is right and who is wrong. Well, that can be appropriate — but it’s usually not. There’s no particular reason to think that the Kurds are either better or worse than anyone they may be fighting at the moment.

    The machiavellian cause is that the Israel brigade saw in the Kurds a tool to create still more Israeli power and influence in the region.

    What’s sad about all this is that the Kurds are winding up the victims as much as anyone else is. They were encouraged to over-reach, and now they’ve gone out of fashion, and everyone they antagonized is turning on them.

  12. Parbes says:
    @Backwoods Bob

    So Al Qaida and ISIS jihadis are preferable to Kurdish “communists”, eh, you worthless prick?

    POS like you need to die.

  13. Parbes says:
    @Colin Wright

    So, just because some local Turks at tourist spots “treated you good” for the sake of your dollars and a chance to take a look at your women, it means that everything’s A-OK with today’s Turkey and Turks and it’s not a country ruled by Islamist assholes that is supporting jihadis in Syria and elsewhere and sending Islamic migrant/invaders to Europe, then?

    What an utter piece of garbage you are!

  14. Parbes says:

    That’s a lot better than “Muh ‘good jihadis’”, chuck-fuck.

  15. Parbes says:

    So, WHERE are all the self-righteous Western “human rights organizations”, loudly protesting this ethnic cleansing and sharia-oppression of civilians? WHERE are all the responsibility-to-protect-the-entire-globe “liberal values defenders”, jumping up and down and demanding that the Turkey/U.S./Saudi-backed “moderate jihadis” carrying out these atrocities be bombed by Western airforces RIGHT NOW?

    Oh yeah, that’s right – I forgot they’re all completely dishonest insincere cucks without a shred of integrity or objectivity, who merely function as a selective demonization-propaganda appendage of the Western establishment nowadays…

  16. Jssh says:
    @Colin Wright

    They’re ferociously clannish. They’re overrepresented among Muslims for honor killings in the diaspora. Perhaps that’s what you were thinking of.

  17. Anonymous[850] • Disclaimer says:

    FGM is an East Africa-Middle East thing. The only African countries that practice it are Cushitic-influenced like Kenya, Somalia, Mozambique and Tanzania. In these countries, FGM goes back to pagan times. It’s extremely rare among Christian families even there.

    The Islam trouble is that because the female circumcised are mentioned in the most authentic hadiths, the practice is encouraged by the most pious, religiously educated families who want to mimic “the greatest generation” of believers. Its incidence in South Asia is entirely explained by Islam.

    How it got into the Islamic canon is via the indigenous culture of South Arabian pagans rather than Abrahamic orthordoxy. The full-face covering of married women is another South Arabian import into Islam as well as running around the Kaaba seven times like stars.

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