January 06, 2007
What's with Ismail Haniyeh's new headdress?
When I saw the photos of the meeting between Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and his president Mahmud Abbas, I was surprised to see Haniyeh wearing a red kuffiyah. And it wasn't a one-time occurrence, either. (Although he still seems to get used to it.) Now, I know he just went on hajj and hence has shaved his head ... but still, I wonder if his change of appearance has any larger significance.
Previously, the only time when he wore any kind of headdress was during the electoral campaign. (On that note - what's up with the wearing of baseball caps among Islamists? Not just the Hamas people, but also Hizbollah does it. I wonder if it all originated in the Iranian officer corps, whose usage of US-Navy-like caps has always puzzled me ...) On all other occasions, he went bare-headed.
And now, after his return from Mecca, we see him wearing a kuffiyah. Now, I understand that he is not wearing the famous black-and-white one, which Yasir Arafat used to wear in such a way that the part falling over his right shoulder would look like an outline of Palestine in its pre-48 borders. I've only seen Khalid Mashal (the Hamas leader exiled in Damascus) wear a shawl with that pattern, but never any Hamas people inside Palestine, since this pattern is clearly associated with Fatah.
The red ones used to be worn by members of the PFLP, however only slung around the shoulders or to cover head and faces in combat (or at demonstrations), but never as an everyday headdress. Also, PFLP members never wore the black cord ('aqal) on the kuffiyah, which makes it easy to distinguish them from, say, the Jordanians. (Also, the Jordanian kuffiyas are not just red but also all have fringes and tassels, as opposed to the Syrian and Saudi ones.)
Honestly, seeing Ismail Haniyeh sitting there next to Mahmud Abbas ... he looks like a Saudi royal, wearing a red, fringe-less kuffiyah with an aqal on top and a gold-rimmed abaya.
Does that mean something? Is he styling himself to be seen as a traditional leader? Will he now be called "Shaykh Ismail"?
PS: Those "Instructions on how to cover one's head and face with a keffiyeh" linked from the Wiki site gave me a good laugh ...
Posted by MSK at January 6, 2007 02:25 PM
Filed Under: Levant
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Ah the core of nationalism and identity: hatwear and hairstyle. I still want those Turkish fez things to come back. I'm sure there's some meaning in that.
Posted by: matthew hogan at January 6, 2007 02:50 PM
ow my head is hurting from reading all that.
that's why there are links to pictures. I thought about making it a picture gallery article ... but I didn't want to trouble Ms. Eerie.
Posted by: MSK at January 6, 2007 07:17 PM
At a guess, Haniyeh is trying to make up with the Sa'udis after spending time in Iran (and giving a sermon at Friday prayers in Tehran, no less). Surely the Sa'ud are not completely comfortable with the notion that Hamas, an organization which was once a virtual appendage of Saudi intelligence, is now being kept afloat by Ahmadinejad, et. al. No doubt they took advantage of the opportunity provided by the Haj to tell him this.
Posted by: Yuri Guri at January 7, 2007 07:25 PM
". . . that Hamas, an organization which was once a virtual appendage of Saudi intelligence. . . "
That part sounds a bit stetched.
But the point about the Saudis not comfortable with Hamas cozying up to Iran is probable.
Though I tend to suspect that hatwear is usually something aimed at the domestic audience.
Posted by: matthew hogan at January 7, 2007 10:24 PM
Hamas was never an appendage of Saudi intelligence, virtual or otherwise. And while I agree that they will, during Haniyeh's hajj, have inquired about the extent and level of the Hamas-Iran relationship it is also quite clear that a mere "dressing like them" wasn't quite what they had in mind nor would it suffice to mollify their fears.
As Matthewsaid, sartorial symbolism is for an audience although, in this case, I am not sure just exactly for which (domestic? Arab?) and why.
Posted by: MSK at January 8, 2007 04:08 AM
It is quite educational to read this blog. I agree with Matthew. Bring back the fez! Only make it a female fad this time. I think it would look quite fetching over a gauzy, barely-there, gypsy-tied style Cairo hijab.
Posted by: Anna in Portland (was Cairo) at January 12, 2007 12:21 PM
@ Anna: something like this?
is the red keffiyah a fairly recent thing for the pflp?(it does make sense, but despite its association with Arafat, I'd never seen the black + white as a particularly Fatah symbol... doesn't the black/ red have its origins in different tribes from parts of Yemen or somewhere..)
re Haniyeh, quite a patrician look maybe? possible bid for gravitas locally?
Posted by: outis at January 12, 2007 09:47 PM
there is a very specific type of the black/white that is associated with Fatah. PFLP used the red kuffiyah since the '70s, then also with the PFLP, but their leaders never wore them as headdress. Followers slung them around the neck or used them to cover head & face in battle. These days you can see, at demonstrations, head coverings (with only 2 holes for the eyes) made from red kuffiyahs and those are PFLP guys.
As for the black/red origin ... I don't know. Up to the early 20th century, it seems that (in the Levante) men bought their headdress based on personal style and preference. The black/white kuffiyah became a symbol of Arab Palestinians during the 1936-39 Great Arab Revolt, where insurgents tried to enforce a mandatory wearing of the kuffiyah (as a national symbol) instead of Fez or European hats.
The red kuffiyah with fringes & tassels became the "Jordanian" style after its adoption by the Hashemite kings and the Jordanian army.
The same goes for the various styles in the peninsula - with the development of national cultures there was a development of national styles.
Re: Haniyeh ... well, yes, that's what it looks like. Still, I do wonder just how exactly his new style is perceived among the people in Gaza and the Westbank.
Posted by: MSK at January 13, 2007 05:45 AM
he's wearing it again today + suit in Gaza ..
my yemeni idea comes from what some palestinians told me when I asked about red/black + white kuffiyehs years back ... thanks to google, now think it was a reference to Qahtanites/Adnanites; if so, given Hashemites of Jordan are Adnanite bedouin, could suggest Adnanite's red and so's Haniya's family, and maybe that his makeover could play well with potential sponsors in Gulf (eg Kuwait, Bahrain) as well as locally as a 'supra faction' image.. wild conjecture involved in that though
sorry, I'm lousy at links: above broken refs should have been to a "shatweh" pic - (? somehow related to the wimple?) - at www.arabheritage.org - which I've also seen with those long diaphonous white veils on top; the second to a Palestian veteran of 1948 in an identical outfit to Haniyeh's in 2005..
re PFLP: I just asked cos I can't remember red kuffiyahs in evidence back in the first intifada (and then there's those Leila Khalid images..) But unity among PLO factions was a big issue at the end of the 80s, which could explain my impression it was a recent "fashion statement".
Posted by: outis at January 13, 2007 02:41 PM
"PS: Those "Instructions on how to cover one's head and face with a keffiyeh" linked from the Wiki site gave me a good laugh ..."Yes that was hilarious!
Posted by: Hakim at January 15, 2007 05:32 AM