Thuraya Al-Hafez

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Thuraya al-Hafez (1911-2000), (Arabic ثريا الحافظ) was a Syrian politician who campaigned against the niqab and for women's rights.

After schooling in Damascus, Thuraya became in 1928 one of Syria's first female primary school teachers. Around this time, Thuraya established the Damascene Women's Awakening Society to promote a female intelligentsia, and became a prominent women's rights activist in the 1930s. 1930 saw her establishing the Women's School Alumnae Association for educated women. In May 1942, she led a protest march by one hundred women to the government headquarters in Damascus, where they all lifted their veils. She gave a speech arguing that 'the veil we wore was never mentioned in God's Holy Book or by the Prophet Mohammad'. [1] In 1947, she became an instructor in Arabic literature at Damascus's prestitious Tajheez School.

In the 1950s, Thuraya became the first woman to nominate herself for a seat in the Syrian parliament. [2] Although she was subsequently defeated, her endeavours were significant steps toward achieving their goal of elevating the status of the women in the Arab world. She claimed that the vote itself was tampered with and that she had in fact secured 75% of the vote.

Thuraya's husband, Munir al-Rayyes, owned the Damascus daily paper Barada, for which Thuraya began writing in 1953. In the same year, she 'launched her own literary and political salon in Damascus, which was open to both genders. The salon was convened in her own house and was named after Sukayna bint al-Hussein, the great-granddaughter of Prophet Muhammad, who presided over the first literary salon in Muslim history'. [3]

Munīr al-Rayyis (1901–1992) was a prominent Syrian newspaper editor and writer.

Like her husband, Thuraya supported Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt both during and after the United Arab Republic. [4]

Gamal Abdel Nasser Second president of Egypt

Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein was the second President of Egypt, serving from 1954 until his death in 1970. Nasser led the 1952 overthrow of the monarchy and introduced far-reaching land reforms the following year. Following a 1954 attempt on his life by a Muslim Brotherhood member, he cracked down on the organization, put President Mohamed Naguib under house arrest and assumed executive office. He was formally elected president in June 1956.

United Arab Republic Former country in the Middle East

The United Arab Republic was a sovereign state in the Middle East from 1958 to 1971. It was initially a political union between Egypt and Syria from 1958 until Syria seceded from the union after the 1961 Syrian coup d'état, leaving a rump state. Egypt continued to be known officially as the United Arab Republic until 1971.


Sami M. Moubayed, Steel and Silk: Men and Women who Shaped Syria 1900-2000 (Seattle: Cune Press, 2006), p. 435.

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  1. Sami M. Moubayed, Steel and Silk: Men and Women who Shaped Syria 1900-2000 (Seattle: Cune Press, 2006), p. 435.
  2. Moubayad, Sami (July 30, 2010). "Niqab Ban Unveils Syria's Secular Past". Asia Times Online . Retrieved January 29, 2011.
  3. Ghada Talhami, Historical Dictionary of Women in the Middle East and North Africa (Plymouth: Scarecrow, 2013).
  4. Sami M. Moubayed, Steel and Silk: Men and Women who Shaped Syria 1900-2000 (Seattle: Cune Press, 2006), p. 498.