Why Iranian women cut their hair
Editor’s note: A version of this story first appeared in CNN’s newsletter Meanwhile in the Middle East, a three-times-weekly overview of the region’s biggest stories. Register here.
Abu Dhabi, UAE
A crying Iranian woman is seen kneeling by the coffin of her deceased brother as she cuts his hair with a pair of scissors. Her loved ones demand justice as she throws wicks at the coffin.
They were mourning Javad Heydari, 36, who was shot and killed last week during 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 she was pulled off the streets of Tehran by morality police and taken to a « re-education centre » for modesty lessons.
From the Middle East, Europe and the United States, women around the world have shown their solidarity with the plight of Iranian women at rallies and demonstrations. Some also cut or shaved their hair in public or while being filmed.
Now in their 12th day, the protests have swept through more than 40 Iranian cities, including the capital Tehran. Iranian security forces cracked down on protesters, with hundreds arrested and at least 41 killed, according to state media. Some human rights organizations say the death toll is 76. CNN cannot independently verify these numbers.
So why do women cut their hair?
For many Iranian women, cutting their hair – a hidden decree of beauty 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 what they think we should look like, » said Faezeh Afshan, 36, an Iranian chemical engineer living in Bologna, Italy. Italy. who was filmed shaving her hair. « It’s to show that we are angry. »
Afshan attributes the practice of cutting hair to historical cultural practices. « In our literature, cutting hair is a symbol of mourning, and sometimes a symbol of protest, » she told CNN. « If we can cut our hair to show we’re angry…we will. »
The practice is cited in Shahnameh, a 1000-year-old Persian epic and cultural mainstay in Iran written by Ferdowsi. Consisting of almost 60,000 lines, the poem tells the stories of the kings of Persia and is one of the most important works of literature in the Persian language. In more than one instance throughout the epic work, hair is pulled out 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 Shara Atashi, writer and translator based in Wales. “The moment we have been waiting for has arrived. A policy fueled by poetry.
In the Shahnameh, after the death of the hero Siyavash, his wife Farangis and the girls accompanying her cut their hair in protest against injustice, Atashi told CNN.
The characters portrayed in the poem « are used daily as symbols and archetypes, » she said, adding that the poem has helped shape the identity of Iranians, Afghans and Tajiks for 1,000 years.
“But there is also haircut in the poetry of Hafez and Khaqani, always about mourning and protesting against injustice,” she said, referring to other Persian poets.
The practice is also common in other ancient cultures. The Epic of Gilgamesh, a 3,500 year old poem from ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) covers themes of grief and despair, where cutting or pulling one’s hair is used to express anguish. The poem is considered one of the oldest works of literature in the world and is said to have influenced neighboring cultures.
Shima Babaei, an Iranian activist residing in Belgium who said she was arrested by Iran’s notorious morality police in 2018 for publicly removing her hijab in protest, told CNN the haircut had « historical significance ». for Iranians. Women who lose a direct relative sometimes cut their hair as a sign of grief and anger, she said.
« For us, Mahsa was our sister, » she said. « And so, in this way, we are protesting. »
Cutting the hair, Atashi said, « is in itself a mourning ceremony to better expose the depth of pain at the loss of a loved one. » And in the current context, she adds, it is a sign of « protest against the murder of our people ».
Saudi king appoints MBS 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 state media. Saudi state.
- Background: The Crown Prince has been promoted to Minister of Defense and has been de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia for several years. Khalid previously served as deputy defense minister. MBS said the kingdom had increased its self-sufficiency in military industries from 2% to 15% and planned to reach 50% under the new defense minister, the Saudi Press Agency reported. King Salman will still chair any cabinet meetings he attends, the decree says.
- why is it important: MBS has radically changed Saudi Arabia since he came to power in 2017, leading efforts to diversify the economy from its reliance on oil, allowing women to drive and limiting the powers of clerics. His reforms, however, have been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, with activists, royals, women’s rights activists and businessmen imprisoned.
Turkey summons German envoy after politician likens Erdogan to ‘sewage rat’
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned Germany’s ambassador to Ankara on Tuesday to protest comments 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, Deputy Speaker of the German Federal Parliament, about our president in a speech during the Lower Saxony election campaign, » the spokesman said. Turkish Foreign Ministry Tanju Bilgic in a statement. .
- Background: Kubicki confirmed to Reuters that he made the comment at an election campaign rally as he tried to draw attention to an increase in the number of illegal migrants from Turkey along the so- saying Balkan route to Germany. « A sewer rat is a cute, but at the same time smart and clever little creature that also appears in children’s stories, » Kubicki said, citing the popular animated film « Ratatouille » as an example.
- why is it important: Turkey is a candidate for EU membership, but negotiations have long stalled due to disagreements over a number of issues, including Ankara’s human rights record, the migration and geopolitics. Insulting the president is a criminal offense in Turkey, where Erdogan and his ruling AK party have been in power for two decades.
At least 4 Palestinians killed, dozens injured in one of this year’s deadliest Israeli raids in the West Bank
At least four Palestinian men were killed and 50 injured in 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, which has already seen more than 100 Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the raid was linked to an attack in Tel Aviv in April that left three people dead, and the suspects retaliated with explosives and gunfire on Wednesday.
- Background: For months, Israel has regularly attacked towns in the West Bank, particularly focusing on Jenin and Nablus, saying it targeted militants and their arms caches before they had a chance to cross into Israel and to carry out attacks. The operation, dubbed « Breaking the Wave » by the IDF, was launched after a series of attacks against Israelis. At least 20 Israelis and foreigners have been killed in attacks targeting civilians and soldiers in Israel and the West Bank since the start of the year.
- why is it important: It is already the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2015, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. More than 35 of those killed were in Jenin. Israel says most of those killed engaged violently with soldiers during military operations, but dozens of unarmed civilians were also killed, human rights groups including B’Tselem said.
Henna, a reddish-brown dye famous for body art in many parts of the Middle East, may be joining UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Being nominated by the United Arab Emirates and the Arab League, henna has long been part of the heritage and identity of the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.
Dating back thousands of years, the temporary dye is used to create elaborate designs primarily on the hands, often for religious holidays and celebrations.
Representatives from 16 Arab countries met this month to discuss the nomination, according to the Abu Dhabi government’s media office, stressing 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 encourage a shared sense of identity.
The list includes practices such as falconry, yoga and Arabic calligraphy.
By Nadeen Ebrahim