Iraqi American Woman Teaches Fellow Hijabis Self-Defense

Iraqi American Woman Teaches Fellow Hijabis Self-Defense

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CHICAGO — Following Donald Trump's election, hate crimes rocketed and Muslim women wearing the hijab felt it essential to learn self-defense or at least carry shielding products like pepper spray.

Zaineb "Zee" Abdulla, a Chicago native, said she looked up a self-defense move involving an escape from a "hijab grab" because many women had asked her for tips.

She couldn't find any.

The self-defense teacher subsequently developed her own "hate crime survival" sessions with the help of Misho Ceko, a chief Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert and the owner of Chicago Mixed Martial Arts.

"I tried looking it up, but found nothing," Abdulla said of a "hijab grab" defense. "After texting a few of my fighter friends, I eventually connected with Misho Ceko. The Saturday after the election, we met up to develop the moves at Chicago MMA and the very next day, Deaf Planet Soul held our first hate crime survival seminar."

The 24-year-old Iraqi American has been training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu for a few years and holding classes at Deaf Planet Soul— a non-profit organization helping and empowering the Deaf and hard of hearing— since the summer. But that's not all she has on her plate.

"I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with my b.a. in sociology," she said. "I'm at UIC again now for non-profit management and St. Joseph's University for my m.a. in Deaf education. I work as an

ABA therapist for children with Autism and as the vice president of Deaf Planet Soul."
Abdulla has uploaded the "Hijab grab escape" videos to Facebook. One has close to 300,000 views while the other has more than 3 million.

For the first move, she said as the attacker tries to grab the hijab from the front, the woman must grasp his wrist and twist it away from her. At the same time, she needs to step through with her elbow out and force him to the floor.

"From here, you can continue until you snap his arm or pull away and escape," Abdulla said.

The second move involves defending against an attack from behind. Abdulla said the woman must reach around his arm. Then, she seizes the bottom of her hand with her other one to bend the attacker's elbow, so he either lets go of the hijab or cracks his arm.

"Both moves must be practiced a lot," she said. "Success comes from repetition. This needs to become muscle memory, so your body reacts without thinking. Many people assume this won't work on larger men, but it's super successful no matter the size [of the attacker]. Both moves are based on Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a sport designed for smaller folks fighting off larger opponents."

Even though Abdulla is trained in self-defense, she said she still worries like many others because no one can ever be sure who may be an opponent.

"I'm worried because as prepared as I am to handle a fight, I'm still a fairly small woman and a visible minority living in Trump's new America," she said. "While I feel prepared to handle certain attacks, I don't know what could happen if I'm outnumbered or faced with someone who has a weapon. There's no way to prepare for everything."

Abdulla advised all minorities to remember they have allies.

"Just know that you're not alone," she said. "The one good thing Trump has done is unify American minorities. Muslims aren't in this alone. We have our brothers and sisters out there––immigrants, people of color, LGBT folks––all in this together."

Abdulla said other than new self-defense moves, she wants to focus on DPS' online fundraiser, which is concentrated on supporting newly-deafened refugees. She and her team are currently raising money to carry audiological screenings for 1,100 newly-deafened Syrian and Palestinian refugee children in camps in Lebanon through the supervision of the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund.

According to the DPS donation site, children who show need for hearing aids will be fitted with them. To donate or learn more, visit: