Often the veil, rather than being a constraint, is used by women as a way to navigate restricted spaces permeated with occupation, masculinity, and danger. Sometimes it is a cultural choice, other times it is born out of religious convictions; and in some cases it is not a choice at all.
Muslim women, covered or not are not a homogenous group. Muslim women’s struggles, dreams, and resistance cannot be reduced to their dress codes; their stories are multi-layered. Defying the odds and living in resilience. Finding love amidst war, serenity amidst confinement, hope amidst destruction, laughter amidst death, and striving for dreams despite losing a home. Defiance is the definition of these women.
In a time where Islamophobia is widespread, dismantling the discriminatory discourse about Muslim women is intrinsic to women’s rights.
For the past nine years, Tanya Habjouqa has been documenting the lives of young women across the Occupied Palestinian Territories and refugees from the outbreak of the Syrian Civil war. As a photojournalist, Tanya was often assigned to cover the spillover into Jordan of Syria’s disaster. Tanya worked collaboratively with the people she photographed to create a set of performed portraits, diary, testimonies, and a human rights record.
Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is an interactive web documentary, exhibiting around the world in gallery and museum spaces as an installation. Tanya has curated a blend of visuals of inspiring women and their mini biographies with Refinery29 to recognise Muslim Women's Day.
Ala'a, 30, downplays the suffering of her family and celebrates what she has. She works in money exchange, and has managed to keep her job working remotely connecting to the exchange in Damascus. She lives alone now with her sister, who was an agricultural engineer (from Deraa) but works part time in a beauty salon. They helped extended fleeing family stay in their place, and at one time, the bedroom apartment hosted 20 family members. She works day and night, sitting with her bird Hassoun and singing. "Starting from scratch, but we are living," Ala's says.
"We break our children’s spirits, eclipsing them. If one gets into a fight with another child, we tell them to respond with, 'may God forgive you.' Even if they are hit, don’t fight back. We don’t want to be deported. It is not ideal, but I will do whatever it takes for my children to survive. "
— Um Saleh, from Daraa, urban refugee, remarking on her daughter, pictured, in reference to not fighting with a Jordanian child.
Young community volunteers (girls in their last year of high school or just beginning university) from a neighboring village visit the Bedouin community of Zanba are working with Bedu women from the community to set up psycho social and safe play area services with the children.
Here, they prepare a back drop for theatre, showcasing East Jerusalem and the Dome of Rock, which they are not able to access despite proximity.
Um Basel, 38, combs the hair of her 11 year old daughter, Rola. Um Basel is a Syrian refugee from Dara’a and now living in Irbid. She is part of the growing "female head of home urban refugees" since her husband, Adham arrived in Saarbrucken in Germany via Turkey at the beginning of September.
Um Basel says life in Jordan has become much more difficult since her husband’s departure. "When my husband was here, I used to depend on him for everything. Now it all falls on me and it’s so much harder," she says. "I’m just so tired, I can’t handle it. I sometimes wish he hadn’t gone." A short while later, though, she says there was no other choice. "We can’t stay here, and there’s nothing left for us in Syria."
Two sisters, while mother was in hospital having a difficult delivery, the youngest was watching the news with her grandmother and discovered in this way that her father had been killed. She was told to keep it a secret, even when she visited her mother in the hospital. She had to keep the ruse up for over a month.
Hayat (left) teaches yoga to the residents of her village. Her students are increasing in number each week. They call it “inner resistance,” and it’s proving to be the ultimate release. The woman on right teaches religion in high school. She says prayer (Islam) and meditation in yoga give her some sense of peace.
Occupied West Bank, 2018, Bedouin women of Palestinian community of Zanba throw an impromptu celebration, armed only with a small boom box and clapping, with visitors from a mobile community theatre. Zanba is a Bedouin community in the Occupied West Bank, close to Zaayyem village, just on the cusp of the staggering Ma’ale Adumim Israeli settlement.
Travel is next to impossible for the majority of Gazans due to the siege, but the Palestinians remain creative and hopeful. Most of the young girls I spoke to had an intense longing to interact, to move, to see. But, they felt stifled. So for most, time with the family, a picnic on the sea, and internet remain the main creative and recreational outlets.
Little has improved since 2009 and opportunities to "breath" have lessened. The young literature student's eyes widened as she spoke about her field of study. "Ah I adore Jane Austen...all the British classics really." The young Palestinian university student from Gaza had just experienced the 2009 bombardment. She was coming of age the midst of the blockade by Israel and Egypt — ongoing to this day. She was romantic and hopeful.
Tanya Habjouqa is a Jordanian/Texan photographer and educator. Known for producing sensitive work underscored by the absurd, her long-term projects focus on gender, representations of otherness, dispossession and ever-shifting sociopolitical dynamics in the Middle East. She is a member of NOOR Images. She provided captions for the photos.
Dana Erekat is a Palestinian American with a passion for photography, architecture, planning, travel, and sweets. She is the author of "Colonial Planning of my Grandfather's Hilltop" in Jadaliyya, and of "Four Generation in Resistance," in the Colour of Violence, The Incite Anthology.