A Young Girl on Bicycle: Anwar Burqan vs Two Border Police officers

With everything else that’s going on in our part of the world, the incident in Hebron, at the end of July, with the two Border Police officers and the young girl on bicycle, seems like ages ago.

To refresh the reader’s memory, here is the story as it appeared in Haaretz on August 2nd: “Two Border Police officers were filmed driving a Palestinian girl, who was riding a bicycle in Hebron, away and then, once she fled, one of the two picked up her bike and threw it into the bushes”

Obviously this incident has serious implications, how is it possible that two adults in their official capacity would scare a little girl to death and chase her away? Focusing on the story one important detail comes to mind: Anwar Burqan was not just another little girl, she was riding a bicycle.

The bicycle has been a feminist symbol, and an icon, of self reliance and freedom since the last part of the 19th century. The development of the safety bicycles, in the late 19th century, was especially crucial to women as they were also produced in a special form for skirted women.

Some feminist writers consider this point a revolution and a beginning of a new order.  Ever since the late 1880s women have started riding bicycles and it has given them a certain degree of independence. All of a sudden, quietly, women and girls gained freedom of movement and were able to come and go as they pleased and on their own.

For a long time, and in most part of the world, bicycling has ceased to be a symbol and became an integral part of life for everyone.

But in more traditional societies girls/women and bicycle just don’t mix. The Saudi Arabian film Wadjda which tells the story of  a bright girl who is determined to win money to buy a bicycle she’s forbidden to ride. She hopes to accomplish this feat by winning a prize in a Koran competition and for that dream she is willing to memorize endless verses of Koran. But when she finally wins the competition honestly and naively admits that she intends to get a bicycle with her money, she is denied the prize.

Apparently, Hebron is not different than Wadjda’s world, here too the   bicycle is regarded as a dangerous symbol of independence which threatens the world order. Young Anwar Burqan was not allowed to exercise her right to freedom of movement when she rode by herself around her home town on her bicycle.

I would like to end with a quote about bicycling from the Feminist and leader Susan B Anthony: “Yes, I’ll tell you what I think of bicycling, I think it has done more to emancipate woman than any one in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on wheel. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat and away she goes.”

Keep riding Anwar Burqan, away you go!

About the Author
I have a PhD in English literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and I usually write about issues concerning women, literature, culture and society. I lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994). I am widow and in March 2016 started a support/growth Facebook group for widows: "Widows Move On." In October 2017 I started a Facebook group for Older and Experienced Feminists. I am also an active member of Women Wage Peace and believe that women can succeed where men have failed.
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