France, Yemen: Vanishing Women

Disparition by Bouchra Almutawakel

“Disparition” by Yemeni photographer Bushra Almutawakel

Eloïse Lagrenée [fr] has posted on her Facebook page a picture by Yemeni photographer Bushra Almutawakel, illustrating how women could vanish into darkness and invisibility, step by step, under fundamentalist pressure and the full niqab. It has been shared over 1,500 times.


  • Michael Murphy

    My god, the kind of specious garbage being represented below would be awful coming from a man, but coming from a woman it’s unforgivable. Why on earth would the first thing that Claire Sale says be that *some* women choose to wear this? I won’t get into the relative merits of accuracy or whatever as this is nonsense. It’s not intended to be an accurate representation, it’s a metaphor. A clumsy one but a sincere one from a woman directly affected. Good enough for me.
    The real question is why do these garments exist at all??! Why on earth would anyone support a human being covering themselves up like this? Unless they had some kind of mental illness. Related as it is to male dominated theocracies makes a lie of the ‘reasoning’ that it’s a choice for ‘some women’. Fine, when we get to a point where there are a very few women (and men I suppose as equality should be taken into account) who want for whatever reason to do this very uncomfortable, socially exclusive, divisive and ugly thing (the human face and body being a beautiful thing) then I say ‘fine, let them’. As we stand now most of the women who do this are directly or indirectly threatened into wearing varieties of this and no amount of Western women bleating about ‘choice’ is going to change that. Wake up and support our sisters!

  • Rosita

    Does anyone care about what a man wears?

    • Dean McInerney

      Yes, if they were forced to hide their faces or become invisible I would respond negatively. It’s creepy.

    • Dawn

      Muslim faith does. There are standards for modest dress for both sexes.

      Side note: The abaya isn’t a Muslim standard in and of itself, but one interpretation of the religion which is disagreed with by other people in the faith.

  • Zsuzsi

    But you can’t chose not to wear it. Men don’t have the same imposition.
    Btw can you drive a car? Go out with a male friend, not relative?
    Kudos to France for being tough in this.

    • perdue1111

      Now your bringing out more of the truth that women are thought of as “the lesser” in their society…, fashion is not just the subject here. Boy…..wouldn’t those men just LOVE AMERICA’S FEMALE MILITIA!!! Only in our dreams would that be a hoot to see with our own eyes! Try selling them that “crock”!

    • Cassandra Cato Tarfa

      well, we muslims should not go out with non relatives since we are not WHORES, do you understand? i say: kudos to saudi arabia cause they have banned the whore´s attire.

      • Ryuk

        Well , even normal(women) people go out with other people (men) in almost every other places , not just whores . Just because you go out with other men doesn’t mean that you are a whore ..

      • Shirasaya

        Cassandra, perhaps you don’t understand the definition of the word “whore” – it means a woman who trades sexual acts for money. Do you really think that every female who is in the company of a male who is not blood related is engaging in prostitution? Very sad to see that kind of complete ignorance flaunted with such pride.

      • Ana

        LOL ARE U FOR REAL CASANDRA CATO???which planet do u live on??

        • Dawn

          She’s not for real. Anyone who’s actually lived in Saudi Arabia would never make the mistake of claiming a certain attire is “banned”. Women throughout the country wear bikinis, miniskirts, etc. They might cover this up in public by wearing an abaya over those clothes, but when with friends in private, “whore’s outfits” are perfectly acceptable.

    • Dawn

      I don’t understand your objection. Because women don’t in Saudi don’t have the choice to drive, women in France shouldn’t have the choice to cover up?

      • Ana

        Dawn, when a European /American woman visits the Arab world she is required to cover up – as the lows of the land dictates it! RIGHT? Right!
        When you go to France the law of the land is different so u should respect the wishes and laws of the country! IF you are not happy and do not accept the laws of this country – you can freely go home and cover up from head to toe and be happy!
        I can not believe that someone will come into MY home and tell me what to do and what not to do in MY home! You have NO respect for anyone but expect to be respected? Who gives you this right??

        • Dawn

          I am a bit confused as to how this addresses the topic. To paraphrase my question,”How is Saudi’s refusal to allow women to drive related to France refusal to allow women to cover up?” I agree that these are both laws limiting freedom, but I don’t see how suggesting one law is wrong somehow supports the other law being right.

          I disagree with the law that forbids women to drive; I disagree with the law that requires women to cover up. Why? Because I think countries should not limit freedom more than necessary.

  • Jerônimo

    First of all, demanding accuracy here is just plain silly: as the last picture in the series clearly show, this a metaphor, not meant to show things as they really are, but to represent them in a visually effective way. Second, this may well be offensive (but not, by any means, hateful), but that´s not the photographer´s fault. Some christians may regard The Life of Brian as offensive – so what? Third, some women may choose to wear the niqab, but that does not mean the niqab is less oppressive. Let´s think for a minute, just as an hypothesis, of an individual who claims to be happy as a slave. (Think, for instance, in Samuel L. Jackson´s character in Django Unchained). Would the existance of such person make slavery alright? And last, and most important, not everything is cultural. There are some biological facts in our social lives, and they don´t change wheter you move east to west or west to east. We are a social species, and our sense of smell is poor. Therefore, our social life relies heavily on seeing each other´s faces. Covering your face out of “respect for god and family” is, quite effectively, an impediment for a full social life. I am not French, but I stand for the French law.

  • The AdMan

    This is not completely accurate. Please watch the clip: a point of view from an actual ‘Niqabi’, who chooses and insists on wearing the Niqab.

    • Shlomo Amar

      Free choice? Not at all ,it is a peer pressure situations. Whats happen when a women choose not to wearing ‘Niqabi’?

    • Unavaran

      The net is full of such such debates. Want to lose a debate? Get a not so intelligent or vocal person to take on a smart person. NDTV, TIMES NOW, HL TODAY etc. have all been doing this for years!

      The premise on which this debate gets going itself is faulty. To save muslim women in France from a debasing slavish tradition. Who the hell cares! If the Muslim women want to be slaves, they are welcome to be, IN THEIR OWN MUSLIM LAND. The French should say, this is our land, our country, our nation. Fall in heel or GET OUT. Including those french who have converted to Islam. All this “secular” stuff is toxic garbage. Once inside the system, impossible to take out.

  • Edit

    You really believe, those women are free,and happy and we should “respect”that sort of culture, where women can not even drive a car!!!

    • Dawn

      You’re confusing issues. The question is, “Should women be allowed to choose if they wish to cover up their face or not?” The question is not, “Should we support everything about Saudi law?”

      The fact that you’re afraid to give women a choice scares me.

  • Bev

    For me the most significant factor is that the photos are taken by a Yemini woman. It is the perspective of a woman who lives in a society that enforces this dress code on some of their women who would, given the choice, not cover their faces. To me it is far more emotional because of who has taken it. Its not a western women saying this is wrong, it is a woman who sees oppression in her own society speaking out.

  • frank

    It’s the same old story when I hear people like Claire stating that some women could find these images offending. Well dear Claire give these women a chance to live a different world, to live free, to participate actively in modern societies, to have equal dignity and rights and then show them these images again.

    verdict: they will never want to go back!

  • Shlomo Amar

    Free choice?Not at all ,it is a peer pressure situations.

  • In what biblical or koranic verse does it mandate that women should wear-head-to-toe masks such that you can’t even be sure they’re actually women? Even if it does, why the cherry picking of this one, given that the death penalty is likewise mandated for all kinds of other legal activities, like picking up sticks on the Sabbath?

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