Yemeni women are playing an increasingly important role in protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. In one of their most striking acts of defiance yet, a group of women burned their traditional black veils to denounce the regime’s brutal clampdown on recent anti-government demonstrations, in which at least three women were killed.
A week after a group of women protested in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calling for Saleh’s resignation, hundreds met again on Wednesday to burn their black veils, also known as makramas. They laid the veils on the ground, covered them in oil and set them alight.
Although this video has been widely viewed around the world, few are aware of the Bedouin origins of this defiant act. Our Observer in Sanaa explains why she decided to burn her veil.
Video published by Avaaz on Vimeo
“We women have been attacked in the most serious of ways”
Doctor Jamila Al-Kameli is an activist living in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen.
We’ve lost faith in the international community to do anything, so we decided to burn our veils to send a message to our country’s tribal chiefs that something must be done. We’re asking, ‘Where are the men to protect us?’
This type of protest is nothing new. It’s a tribal tradition practised throughout Yemen. The veil protects the dignity of a woman, so to burn it is to let tribal chiefs know we women have been attacked in the most serious of ways.
But let’s be clear, this doesn’t mean we want men to take up arms to protect us - quite the opposite actually. We want tribal chiefs to tell their children who serve in President Saleh’s army what’s going on and make them see the truth. Each tribe must put pressure on its men, and even denounce those who continue to serve in the army.”