The distinctive black and white scarf or Kuffiyeh (Arabic) has marked much of history (from political annexation and geographical roots, to social class, fashion, and global connectivity). The Palestinian headscarf has become a detail associated with semiotics. The headscarf is more of a symbol than a necessity. The past of the headscarf is not exactly established, but it is certainly long and varied.
A black rope called ‘agal’ is tied to the scarf (it originally served as a bridle for camels and was worn on the head when not in use). The scarf has two types of pattern: corn cobs or fishing nets. They originate from Mesopotamia. They suggest two main natural assets. Scarves are usually made of cotton, sometimes silk and fine wool. It is square in shape, measuring 1m X 1m.
It was originally a political symbol during the Arab revolt during the British mandate over Palestine from 1936-1939. The headscarf was primarily a sign of social status before the anti-imperialist uprising against British rule and before Zionist colonization. It was worn by Arab peasants and Bedouins to protect themselves from the sun and cold weather. It differed from the upper and middle bourgeoisie who wore tarbush or fes.
The Arab revolt was initially represented by farmers driven from their land when the Zionists began buying large chunks of land from Lebanese landowners. The headscarves of these peasant freedom fighters during the struggle appeared as face masks to hide identities from British soldiers. The insurgents’ demand that all Arab Palestinians replace “tarbush” with “kuffiya” served to pass unnoticed in the cities. It was also a stimulus for national unity that transcended social differences. When the revolt finally failed, the headscarf remained a national symbol. She came to life a couple of decades later, at a time when Yasser Arafat is coming to head the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization).
The headscarf became popular outside of Palestine in the late ’60s and early’ 70s, when Palestinian guerrillas with headscarves wrapped around their heads began appearing in international news. The headscarf then became a symbol of the revolution associated with leftists and radical movements around the world. It first appeared in the United States during a protest against the Vietnam War, as a sign of international solidarity. During the 1980s, for some, wearing a headscarf was a sign of solidarity with Palestine, and for others it was a fashion hit. Thus, for example, communists, Marxists and punks in the Netherlands wore a headscarf but were not necessarily motivated by support for the Palestinian goal.
The political significance of the headscarf came to the fore again in 1987, after the Palestinian uprising (intifada) against the Israeli military occupation. For Palestinians and others living in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank, highlighting kaffiyya marked these people as Palestinians or their sympathizers and kept them from stoning Palestinian youth, but did not save them from Israeli soldiers.
During this period, kaffiyye in a variety of colors and patterns could be purchased on the streets of the United States. Different scarves appeared in the occupied territories. Namely, the standard black and white referred to the main political current Fatah, red and white to parties close to socialism and Marxism, and green and white to the Islamic party Hamas (green was Muhammad’s favorite color). Black, white, green and red also make up the colors of the Palestinian flag. The headscarf was worn by women and men. The black-and-white pattern became a motif that appeared in everything – from national art to the collars on togas of graduates.
The Palestinian entered the Western world through British Colonel T. E. Lawrence, who was better known as Lawrence from Arabia. He wore a Palestinian during the First World War, and his character was so popular that the film ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, starring Peter O’Toole, was later made. At the time of silent film, the Palestinian scarf appeared in many film productions.
There are 3 types of this scarf:
(Ya) sh (e) magh – made of cotton or linen with many colors on it. Red and white predominate on the scarf.
Ghutrah – made of very soft cotton. It is used in Iraq and neighboring countries.
Kuffiyeh – made of cotton and wool. It is mostly white and black. It is used mainly by Palestinians.
The scarf of a specific pattern is today a symbol of rebellion but also a trendy fashion detail used by some celebrities from the world of show business (Jonas Brothers, singer Rihanna, actress Kirsten Dunst and others).