Unveiled Syrian Facebook post stirs women’s rights debate

http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/64115000/jpg/_64115097_dana.jpgDana says she has had responses from women of all ages to her image 

(BBC News)Among the dozens of Facebook groups spawned by the Syrian uprising, a page supporting women’s rights has suddenly received a wave of attention, because of an image posted there by one of its followers. The picture was of 21-year-old Dana Bakdounis, without the veil she had grown up wearing – and it polarised opinion.

Dana Bakdounis has been brought up in conservative Saudi Arabia, but it was as a reaction against conformity that she first removed her veil in August 2011.

“The veil did not suit me, but I had to wear it because of my family, and the society,” she says.

“I did not understand why my hair was covered. I wanted to feel the beauty of the world… I wanted to feel the sun and air.”

By then, she was already following The Uprising of Women in the Arab World page on Facebook.

With nearly 70,000 members, it has become a forum for debate on women’s rights and gender roles in the Arab world. Women, and men, from non-Arab backgrounds also comment on its photos.

On 21 October, Dana decided to do something for the page, and for oppressed women and girls around the Arab world by posting a photo of herself.

Looking right into the lens, her short-shorn hair in full view, she held an ID picture of her previously veiled self, along with a note that read: “The first thing I felt when I took off my veil” and “I’m with the uprising of women in the Arab world because, for 20 years, I wasn’t allowed to feel the wind in my hair and [on] my body”.

The image proved hugely controversial, attracting over 1,600 likes, nearly 600 shares, and more than 250 comments.

Dana has received much support, and while many of her friends have un-friended her, many more have sent friend requests.

Some previously veiled women have even posted copycat pictures in support, and the Twitter hashtag #WindtoDana has been created as a channel through which to express solidarity.

‘Brave girl’

She has also received hundreds of messages of derision, along with threats.

http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/64263000/jpg/_64263195_danaprotest.jpgDana has protested in both the real and virtual worlds 

Her mother, with whom relations have cooled because of her disapproval of her daughter’s actions, received a death threat against Dana’s life.The debate is growing more nuanced. One woman comments that opposition to the veil is misplaced, saying instead “our fight should be for equality in society… that’s what we should be fighting for; when a veiled woman is refused a job because she covers! Take pride in your veil women, it’s a blessing!””Everything has changed for me since I took my veil off,” says Dana.

Read more at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20315531