PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


'The Light in Her Eyes' Looks at Women's Education in Syria, on PBS and Online

Filmed before the protests against Bashar al-Assad’s regime began in March 2011, Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix's documentary offers a glimpse at the thin line some Muslim women must walk.

"The world is in turmoil," observes 20-year-old Enas al-Khaldi, a Qu'ran student in Damascus. "There's terrorism and a sheikh is talking about how thick a woman's socks should be!" Enas and her classmates describe their education as crucial to their futures, as well as Syria's. "Before, a woman was a prisoner in her own home," another girl says. "There is a saying that a woman only goes two places, to her husband's house, and then to her grave. This was a really dangerous thing."

The girls' understanding of history and enthusiasm for their future are at the center of The Light in Her Eyes. Filmed before the protests against Bashar al-Assad’s regime began in March 2011, Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix's documentary -- airing as part of PBS' POV series on TV and online -- offers a glimpse at the thin line some Muslim women must walk. It also shows how Enas came by her commitment, namely, her mother, Houda Al-Habash. A preacher who runs a school for girls, Houda remembers, "When I was growing up, in my religious school, there were only four or five girls who had memorized the Book of God. Now there are thousands." This despite a continuing effort by conservative clerics to suppress women's education, efforts made visible here in a series of video pronouncements: "If a woman does as the prophet says, then she should stay home as much as possible," or again, "Reading, for women, it is not required for them at all."

In resisting such attempts to keep women ignorant, Houda advances women and girls' rights in ways that are decidedly different from those of Western feminists. Persistent, upbeat, and determined, she's supported by her husband Samir Al-Khaldi. "I got engaged to Houda without knowing her" he offers, "I told her that in Islam, love comes after marriage." So too, apparently, varieties of enlightenment. Samir encourages her to hold classes, to teach other teachers, to maintain standards of quality. She, in turn, encourages her students to think about wearing the veil ("Wearing a hijab is a woman's right, her choice," she says, "There's no need to coerce yourself, because it’s a divine order"). She will miss Enas, Houda says, as her daughter is headed to university soon. They're clearly close, whether they're shopping at the mall, studying together or praying. They can't anticipate the uprising that will disrupt their lives -- as the film notes in an epigraph, Houda's school has been closed -- but they never doubt their course.

Watch The Light in Her Eyes - Trailer on PBS. See more from POV.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.