Who’s afraid of a woman in Hijab?

My fiction writing is based on reality, thus – fictionalized realities.

The following fragment from “Taboos in Arabic,” the manuscript-in-progress, is based on actual incidents that happened during Israel’s military attack on Gaza in the Summer of 2014.



The whole country is on fire. And not because of the Tammuz heat. Another military attack on Gaza, the world watching, but silently. Bisan is on a train heading to the Jaffa flea market, it’s a hot and humid Friday morning, the train is packed with soldiers. Everywhere she looks, she sees khakis and machine guns. She finds a spot near the doors and leans on the metal. Her camera is slung over her shoulder, turned on, lens cap off, just like Abu Maysara suggested. Always be ready.

The first thirty minutes – Bisan manages to shoot some random photos. At the Binyamina train station, several passengers get off, and Bisan finds a free space on the bottom stairs between the two train floors. She plays back the photos she shot. Boots, sandaled feet. The bottom half of a machine-gun. Two pairs of legs facing each other. The silhouette of one half of a person, leaning against the door. A splash of sunlight caught in motion. Moments of life frozen in a moving train.

The train pulls from the Binyamina station, people rearranging, empty seats fill up, new bodily odours add up to the air-conditioned space. Bisan notices some commotion mid-way down the wagon, gets up, camera waist-high, casually slung over her shoulder. She holds it at an angle directed straight in front of her. Forefinger ready to push the button.

  • I’m not moving my bag for you.
  • I would like to sit down. I have a ticket, and as I see it, this seat is not taken. Now, can you move your bag so I can sit?
  • Hey! Soldier, come over here and check this out.

Bisan sees a soldier coming up to a woman in hijab. She comes closer. One shot. But she knows she didn’t get it right. She needs an angle that would show their faces.

  • Can you show me your ID?
  • What? You have no right! I am a passenger on this train, just like everybody else. What’s your reason for asking for my ID?
  • Listen lady, just show me your ID and open your bag. Then you can sit down.
  • Get off the train! You traitor!
  • Dirty Arab! Go to Gaza!

Bisan shoots but more people are collecting around the woman and the soldier, it’s just a bunch of bodies. Quickly, she turns on the video function and puts the camera now to her eye. Nobody is paying her attention.

  • Leave me alone. You have no right. What, because of my clothes? I’m a citizen like you, and entitled to public transportation without harassment.
  • Death to Arabs!
  • Ok, that’s enough. Leave her alone.
  • Go to Gaza. There’s no place for traitors here. This is our country. There’s nothing for you here.
  • I said that’s enough. Come, sit here.

Bisan’s hand is shaking. She makes a quick mental check to make sure she has no identifiers or any markers on her body that would betray her.

(c) khulud khamis, 2016

If you enjoy my writing, please consider supporting my work. To support my art, please visit my Patreon page at: https://www.patreon.com/khulud_khamis?ty=h

  • the photos were taken at a Kayan Feminist Organization network meeting of the Jusur (Bridges) – National Forum of Arab Women Leaders in December 2015.


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