The glories of life in Northern Mali now that the Islamists have taken over.
Women and girls no longer have to suffer the indignity of having naked hair and necks, because they are all required to wear the hijab.
Poor Toula for instance used to be able to swim in the Niger river, but happily for her she can no longer do that.
“These barbarians have refused everything. They don’t want to see girls bathing,” says Toula who, like other residents, asked her last name not be used.
The freedoms formerly enjoyed by Toula and other women in Gao, previously one of the region’s most cosmopolitan and lively towns, disappeared almost overnight.
Most noticeably, women are now forced to wear the hijab, a broad scarf that covers the entire head and neck but leaves the face exposed.
“I can’t stand how I am at the moment, covered in a veil from head to toe. It’s as if I was in prison,” 15-year-old Aicha said.
She’s just confused. Being stuffed into a veil from head to toe is liberation.
Toula and Aicha were part of a group of girls and young women who recently spoke to AFP in Gao, one of the key cities to have been seized by the country’s Islamist advance after a March 22 coup in the capital Bamako left Mali’s army in disarray.
“We are no longer free. That’s all there is to it. Nobody for the moment wants to free us,” Toula said.
“I don’t want sharia. Mali is a secular country and should stay that way.”
All the girls who spoke to AFP said they have been living a nightmare since the introduction of sharia law.
Among the many new restrictions: They cannot smoke or drink alcohol and anything considered “haram”, or against Islamic law, is forbidden, including publicly listening to Western music or having sex outside marriage.
“We are totally against the implementation of sharia. But we can’t say that in public, for security reasons,” says Mimi, her eyes hidden behind a black veil.
Her neighbour fled town “because she could no longer handle the situation. Even at 45 degrees (Celsius, 113 Fahrenheit), we have to dress up as if it was cold. It’s just too much,” Mimi said.
Maybe things aren’t quite so harsh in Timbuktu…
A teenaged girl received 60 lashes in Timbuktu after Islamist extremists convicted her of speaking to men on the street.
The girl, about 15 years old, was allegedly caught standing alongside men by the Islamists of Ansar Dine who now run Timbuktu.
“The Islamists charged that the girl was warned five times by Islamist police but she continued to speak to men in the street. After the hearing, the Islamists gave 60 lashes to the girl.”
The Islamists “convicted” her? At a “hearing”? Please. Some thugs told a girl what to do, she didn’t obey them, so they assaulted her.
So there we have the glories of life in Northern Mali now that the Islamists have taken over