Women Suffer Behind Veil of Silence in Mali’s North

Source: Jakarta Globe.

Women wearing the hijab as they walk in Gao, Mali. The freedoms formerly enjoyed by women in Gao, previously one of the region
Gao, Mali. It was just six months ago that Toula, a young woman from Gao in northeastern Mali, could swim and do her laundry in the nearby Niger River. Not anymore.

Since late March, her dusty desert town and others like it across Mali’s massive north have been under the control of hardline Islamists who have imposed tough sharia law.

“These barbarians have refused everything. They don’t want to see girls bathing,” says Toula who, like other residents, asked her last name not be used.

The freedoms formerly enjoyed by Toula and other women in Gao, previously one of the region’s most cosmopolitan and lively towns, disappeared almost overnight.

Most noticeably, women are now forced to wear the hijab, a broad scarf that covers the entire head and neck but leaves the face exposed.

“I can’t stand how I am at the moment, covered in a veil from head to toe. It’s as if I was in prison,” 15-year-old Aicha said.

Toula and Aicha were part of a group of girls and young women who recently spoke to AFP in Gao, one of the key cities to have been seized by the country’s Islamist advance after a March 22 coup in the capital Bamako left Mali’s army in disarray.

Categories: Africa, Mali, Niger

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