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veil-burning in somalia May 10, 2007

Posted by sindhub in Ayesha Dharkar, bodies, deception, Ethics, fashion police, Female Power, female soldiers, gender, ideology, in the news, International, islam, modesty, morality, nationalism, news stories, politics, Power, somalia, the state, The Terrorist, wartime politics, women and war, women in the military.
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There have been news stories in the past two days about government soliders in Somalia, which is currently in a state of civil war with explosions taking place recently in capital Mogadishu, taking women’s veils (ones where only the eyes are uncovered) and burning them.  When I first heard about it, I thought it seemed like what happened in pre-1979 revolution Iran, when women weren’t allowed to dress in religious garb in an avowedly secular state ruled by a monarch, but it turns out that the recent veil-burning wasn’t government-sanctioned.  The soliders did it because they wanted to make sure that the women weren’t part of the ‘rebel’ Islamist movement, and hiding bombs or weapons under their veils.

I thought this situation was interesting in its similarity to The Terrorist.  Malli is valued within her organization because she’s a woman, which means that she is underestimated and seen in a de-politicized way, which will enable her to get past security checkpoints–while carrying the ammunition she needs in the basket on her head, and not firewood or whatever the soliders may assume it is, showing that it is precisely her femaleness that allows her to get by–and get close enough to the politician to assassinate him.  It seems that the Somali soliders were concerned that they were letting Muslim women who might pose a threat get by because of their female religious need/desire to cover themselves modestly, and decided to take action, for their own safety presumably.

Something else that comes to mind is how this fits women into nationalism.  Malli works for her nation, but surreptitiously, partly because that’s the nature of terrorism, and partly because she’s a woman.  It seems that the government soliders didn’t see Somali ‘rebel’ women (I’m not sure if women were actually fighting like this, or if the soliders just took extra precautions) as significant enough of a threat before to take action against them.  I’m tempted to say that this shows just how bad the conflict in Somalia is, that the traditional gender roles are being broken down.  But that tends to happen during war, and I think framing it that way would make it seem as if it’s ‘unnatural’ for women to actually be significant to the state and to the military.

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