Africa/Middle East / Global
A look at the wardrobe of Western Saharan activist Aminatou Haidar and an interview with Tel Aviv election hopeful Nitzan Horowitz.
The builders are in
Extensive repair work on the runways at Dubai international airport begins next May. The resulting 80-day disruption will reduce flights to and from the second-busiest hub in the world by over 20 per cent.
Style Leader No.47
Aminatou Haidar — WESTERN SAHARA
In her glasses and loose-fitting robes, Aminatou Haidar may not look like the seasoned leader of a troublesome resistance group but she certainly has the credentials. For more than 20 years, she has been fighting for independence in Western Sahara, a New Zealand-sized desert territory on the southwestern edge of Morocco
In that time, her slender frame has seen four hunger protests and her eyesight has dimmed – hence the glasses – after years of malnutrition and gloom in prison; four months of one of her two stretches behind bars were spent blindfolded. She was first jailed in 1987 after attending a peaceful demonstration and was held for four years without trial and without her family even knowing where she was.
The history of the struggle in Western Sahara is complex and fraught. The territory was colonised by Spain in the late 19th century. In 1975, the International Court of Justice recognised the native Saharawis’ right to self-determination, rejecting claims by Morocco and Mauritania to the territory. Morocco’s King Hassan II saw things differently. He marched 300,000 soldiers over the border and Morocco has ruled the territory ever since. Haidar hopes her quiet determination will one day win it back.
- Aminatou says she began wearing her spectacles 15 years ago after her eyesight was damaged by malnutrition and being held blindfolded and in the dark during her years in prison. The tinted lenses are to protect her weakened eyes.
- Morocco is known for its leather goods, with tanneries dating back to the 11th century. Aminatou says her handbag is good for carrying ID documents in: having had them confiscated in the past, she is evidently keen to keep them close at hand.
- The traditional Saharawi melhfa can be made from a variety of fabrics but is always colourful. Very practical in the harsh Saharan climate, its full coverage protects the skin from bright sunlight and regular sandstorms. It’s also a striking visual statement of her commitment to Saharawi traditions.
- Slip-ons are easy for putting on and taking off. As in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa, people remove their footwear when they enter homes in Western Sahara.
Iran, Turkey, Syria — kURD
While Iraq’s Kurds have their own defacto state, Kurdish populations in Iran, Turkey and Syria do not. But things are changing:
- Syria: With the country in crisis, Syrian Kurdish forces have asserted themselves in the north. The Democratic Union Party has gained strength.
- Turkey: Talks between the government and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) have led to a ceasefire and the hope of a peaceful settlement.
- Iran: The nation’s Kurdish population has unified, thanks to a reconciliation conference in neighbouring Erbil.
Nitzan Horowitz, Israel’s only out gay MP, is challenging Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai in October’s municipal elections.
How will you challenge Huldai?
On social justice in housing, education and public transport. The cost of living in Tel Aviv is extremely high, schools are overcrowded and transport is in chaos.
What solutions are there to the housing issue?
We are enslaved to the property market; the number of salaries needed to buy a property is double the OECD average. Most land in Tel Aviv is publicly owned so the city could build affordable housing and long-term rentals. Currently, it gives land to property sharks for luxury apartments.
How do you see Tel Aviv’s global brand?
Tel Aviv has great beaches, restaurants and culture but there is also poverty, neglect and crime. I want to advance it as a just city – a place with values.