Unveiled Syrian Facebook post stirs women’s rights debate

The BBC reports that 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.”

It is of course quite frankly shocking that her decision not to wear a religious veil is in any way controversal, you would think that in this day and age we have the freedom to dress how we wish … yet sadly many don’t … if they just happen to be Muslim, female and live within an Islamic society of religious lunatics.

So how did people respond … remember now, this was a posting to a Facebook page dedicated to the rights of woman. As you might expect, many of her friends have un-friended her, but then I guess they are not really the type of friends she would want to keep anyway. Many others were impressed and have friended her. In fact, 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.

“I was so happy when I received lots of messages from girls wearing the veil. They showed their support for me, saying ‘we respect what you did, you’re a brave girl, we want to do the same but we do not have the audacity’. I even received messages from old women.”

And of course, as expected, the religious did their usual thing, she also got hundreds of messages of derision, and threats, including death threats. Yes really … “Death threats” because they don’t like how she chooses to dress, that by itself tells you all you really need to know

Now comes the bizarre twist to all this.

The administrators of the Facebook page have protested, both through the page and in local and international press, that Facebook administrators removed Dana’s photograph on 25 October, four days after its original posting, blocking Dana, along with the accounts of the administrators of The Uprising of Women in the Arab World page.

They also alleged that copies of the photo reposted by supporters of Dana were also removed, and that the group’s entire account was blocked between 29 October and 5 November.

How did Facebook respond? They commented, “a mistake was made in the process of responding to a report on controversial content“. In other words, the religious nutters complained and the knee-jerk reaction by some junior FB minion was to shut it all down.

That by itself does open up some rather interesting questions. In times of conflict, FB becomes a tool to be used and abused by all, so how exactly will FB handle it all in an impartial manner?

In the picture above she is holding up her passport showing her veiled photo. The text under it reads …

“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”.


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