Women in Egypt’s restive Sinai makes Bedouin face masks

Now with the pandemic, Naglaa Mohammed has been designing face masks showcasing her Bedouin heritage. (AFP)
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Updated 04 June 2020

Women in Egypt’s restive Sinai makes Bedouin face masks

CAIRO: In El-Arish, the provincial capital of Egypt’s North Sinai, a group of women sew colourful Bedouin designs on masks to combat coronavirus, as an insurgency simmers in their restive region.

Egypt’s toll from the COVID-19 pandemic has reached over 28,600 cases, including more than 1,000 deaths, while North Sinai itself remains the bloody scene of a long-running Islamist insurgency.

“I learnt how to embroider when I was a young girl watching my mother,” homemaker Naglaa Mohammed, 36, told AFP on a landline from El-Arish, as mobile phone links are often disrupted.




Naglaa Mohammed lives in El-Arish. (AFP)

A versatile embroiderer, she also beads garments and crafts rings and bracelets.

Now with the pandemic, she has been designing face masks showcasing her Bedouin heritage.

Bedouins are nomadic tribes who traditionally inhabit desert areas throughout the Arab world, from North Africa to Iraq. Many have now integrated into a more urban lifestyle.

Egypt’s Bedouin textile tradition of tatriz – weaving and beading rich geometric and abstract designs on garments, cushions and purses – has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries.

It has survived in the Sinai Peninsula, whose north has been plagued by years of militant activity and terror attacks spearheaded by a local affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group.

Security forces have been locked in a battle to quell an insurgency in the Sinai that intensified after the military’s 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

In February 2018, authorities launched a nationwide operation against militants, focusing on North Sinai.




The beading process takes about two days for each mask, Gharib said. (AFP)

Around 970 suspected militants have since been killed in the region along with dozens of security personnel, according to official figures.

Local and international media are banned from entering heavily militarised North Sinai.

But for Amany Gharib, who founded the El-Fayrouz Association in El-Arish in 2010, the violence has not dissuaded her from keeping Bedouin heritage alive while at the same time empowering local women.

She now employs around 550 women like Mohammed – many of them casually or part-time – as part of a textiles workshop.

“The masks are composed of two layers – one inner layer directly on the face which is disinfected, and the colourful, beaded one outside,” Gharib explained to AFP.

All the women take the necessary precautions while working, including wearing gloves and masks while using sewing machines.

The finished products are washed, packed and shipped off to distribution centres in Cairo, where they are sold online in partnership with Jumia – Africa’s e-commerce giant – for about 40 pounds ($2.50) each.

The beading process takes about two days for each mask, Gharib said.




The finished products are washed, packed and shipped off to distribution centres in Cairo. (AFP)

Amid the volatile security situation, Mohammed has been able to eke out a meagre living with her embroidery skills.

“We work and are given our dues depending on the orders we get... with the masks it has been a new challenge we've tackled,” she said.

Dire economic conditions in Egypt have been even tougher for women of the Sinai since the pandemic began.

“Times are really tough for the women but we have adjusted,” Gharib said.

And while militant attacks on security checkpoints have continued, Gharib expressed confidence in the army.

“We feel a sense of security and stability with the military presence. We trust them,” she said.

The region witnessed the deadliest terror attack in Egypt’s modern history when militants killed more than 300 worshippers in a mosque in November 2017.

Gharib said that in North Sinai’s tight-knit community, each family knew someone who had been killed in an attack.

“Anyone of us who is killed, we consider them a martyr,” she said.

“We are in a war with terror... but the people have learnt to live with it.”


Johnny Depp denies ‘wife-beater’ claim in London libel trial

Updated 07 July 2020

Johnny Depp denies ‘wife-beater’ claim in London libel trial

  • The high-profile case has laid bare Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s turbulent relationship, which ended in divorce in 2017
  • The couple first met on the set of the 2011 film ‘The Rum Diary’ and married in 2015

LONDON: Hollywood actor Johnny Depp strenuously denied being violent to his ex-wife Amber Heard, as he launched a libel claim in a London court on Tuesday against a British tabloid newspaper that called him a “wife-beater.”
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star, 57, is suing the publishers of The Sun and the author of the article for the claims, which were made in April 2018.
Depp, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and facemask, was met by a throng of cameras as he arrived at court while Heard, a 34-year-old actress, used a separate entrance.
The high-profile case has laid bare the couple’s turbulent relationship, which ended in divorce in 2017, just two years after they married.
But Depp said in a witness statement submitted to the court: “For the avoidance of any doubt, I have never abused Ms Heard, or, indeed any other woman, in my life.”
He said it was a “strong and central part” of his moral code that he would never hit a woman, having witnessed domestic violence growing up and vowed never to do so.
“I find it simply inconceivable and it would never happen,” he added.
“She (Heard) is a calculating, diagnosed borderline personality; she is sociopathic; she is a narcissist; and she is completely emotionally dishonest,” he went on.
“I am now convinced that she came into my life to take from me anything worth taking, and then destroy what remained of it.
The couple first met on the set of the 2011 film “The Rum Diary” and married in 2015.
News Group Newspapers (NGN) is contesting the case, and is relying for its defense on 14 separate claims of domestic violence said to have occurred between early 2013 and May 2016.
It argues Depp was “controlling and verbally and physically abusive toward Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs” — and has evidence to prove it.
But Depp said it was the other way round, accusing Heard of violence against him during their “unhappy” time together.
In one alleged incident, he said she repeatedly punched him in the face, and in another severed his finger with a flying vodka bottle and stubbed out a cigarette on his cheek.
Heard has claimed she was physically assaulted over three days in Australia in early 2015 but Depp called the allegations “sick... and completely untrue.”
He rejected claims of being overbearing and instead said Heard had an “obsessive need” to control him, encouraging him to drink and take drugs, despite his well-known addiction issues.
Depp’s lawyers, in a written outline of his case to the court, also argued that although the couple’s relationship was at times “physical,” it was at Heard’s instigation.
Lawyer David Sherborne said his client on occasions had to defend himself from Heard’s violence, calling her allegations “complete lies.”
“He is not a wife-beater and never has been,” he said.
Heard was a “complex individual,” whose behavior was “extremely unpredictable,” with violent rages and prone to extreme mood swings, he added.
She sought attention, was provocative, had affairs, and was on a “wide range” of prescribed medication and other drugs.
Depp loved her but found her behavior “often bewildering” and “very difficult” to understand or deal with, he added.
Depp was the first witness called in the case and under cross-examination admitted using drugs and alcohol from a young age to “numb the pain” of a difficult childhood.
But he rejected suggestions from NGN lawyer Sasha Wass he had a “nasty side,” that saw him turn into a “monster” who would lose control, smash up hotel rooms and assault photographers.
“It wasn’t Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde,” he insisted.
The Sun story — “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beast film?” — came after he had already publicly denied domestic violence.
Depp said he had suffered “significant reputational damage” as a result, both in terms of his career and personally.
The High Court trial is due to last three weeks.