Monday, April 09, 2007

Veiled by force

Humiliating and discriminatory treatment of any kind, towards anyone, man, woman, black, Muslim, Asian or white, should always be denounced and reviled. I've been waiting for the hostage crisis to end before ranting about the treatment of Leading Seaman Faye Turney at the hands of the Iranian government. I was shocked but not surprised to see her stripped of her uniform and treated as a "woman" - i.e., obliged to wear a headscarf and "feminine" garments that covered her arms and legs - instead of what she was: a captured British seaman. In the end, the men were given "five-dollar suits" and she was costumed as what I can only describe as a homeless fashion victim. Fortunately, when the hostages returned to the "real world", they were all back in uniform. The fact that Turney was kept apart from the others and told that the men had been sent home, and she would never see her daughter again, just makes the entire situation all the more heinous. It's hard to think and write rationally when overcome with outrage, but I would like to point out one cold fact: women fighting in a war involving hardcore Islamic extremists are placed in special danger. Female soldiers are always exposed to more "up close and personal" violence than men (though men can, of course, be raped too). However, it is clear from the way the Taliban treated women in Afghanistan that the extremists' claim to "respect" women is completely hypocritical. Plainly, they see us as weaker, frailer, somehow "unclean" and unworthy of being treated as equals. Women have fought long and hard to wear the same uniform and receive the same treatment as men in the "Western" armed forces. Of course, this goal is still a distant dream, but not impossible. All of a sudden, by crossing an invisible border (or not, since it is much more likely that the Iranians staged an ambush in order to get hostages to trade for the members of the Republican Guard being held in Iraq), the one female, a serviceperson among her officers and peers, was obliged to follow precepts that are not of her faith - if she has one - and subjected to treatment that is alien to her culture and upbringing. If Muslim women in Britain are outraged because, in some circumstances, they are not allowed to wear the veil, I would like to see and express the same degree of fury at a non-Muslim being forced to wear one. A woman who is forced to wear any sort of garment - whether "modest" or "revealing" - is being objectified or, what is worse, made invisible. Turney's treatment was yet another example of the real-life reenactment of The Handmaid's Tale.
For more information, read the BBC article UK captive 'felt like a traitor'

No comments: