Cars & Bombs & VHS

Cars & Bombs & VHS

The Awkward Legacy of Sana’a Mehaidli

Sana’a Mehaidli

Sana’a Mehaidli was just 16 years old in 1985 when she drove her car packed with explosives into an Israeli army convoy in Lebanon. She was a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and died willingly in their name. Sana’a is widely regarded as the first female suicide bomber and came to be remembered as The Bride Of The South. Like most militants and penniless party magicians, she left behind a legacy that is actually quite sad, chilling and stupid.

Most people probably have no idea why the SSNP were so pissed off with everybody. Basically their 80 year old political campaign had been fought on land-grabbing ideology and a Zionist paranoia. Like every extremist organization on Earth, their actual manifesto is so fucking boring that people simply tune out rather than try to keep up. And like every extremist organization on Earth, the SSNP lacks a crucial sense of humour. No one wants to listen to a muddled, earnest lecture about historical land rights when we now have Spotify and Tinder. Modern extremists have learnt to grab our attention in a way that The West has not. This, in essence, is the awkward legacy of Sana’a Mehaidli.  

Sana’a drove her battered Peugeot into that Israeli army convoy to prove someone else’s point which no one can now remember. These days, as a footnote in the grim theatre of global terrorism, her deliberate act of destruction alone would barely merit a line in the news. Only two Israeli soldiers and Sana’a herself actually died in the attack. Sana’a Mehaidli, however, was different from most suicide bombers. Sana’a Mehaidli was quite cute.

The western media has always been happy to depict every extremist foot soldier as a crazy-eyed and over-bearded zealot. This is an editorial policy which could easily have been created by Trey Parker and Eric Cartman. Most suicide bombers do not live in mountain caves with a cache of ancient Russian weapons and tattered maps of capital cities. Sana’a Mehaidli lived a normal life in Anqoun, near the port of Sidon in Lebanon, with four brothers and one sister. Her father was said to be domineering and patriarchal but not militantly active. The family lost a relative during the war against Israel and experts believe this could have been a trigger event. Sana’a was undoubtedly politically motivated. But most teenagers are politically motivated since they believe that the system is irrefutably skewed against them and it’s so unfair. They’re just too stupid to articulate a reasonable alternative.

Sana’a worked in a local video store in 1985 and it was in this store that she recorded her last will and testament. She apologised to her mother and delivered a pro-Palastinian speech in a voice that sounded like, well, exactly like a disgruntled teenager. She then hopped into her car packed with 200lbs of explosives and drove to the town of Jezzine where she attacked the Israeli convoy. You could accuse Sana’a of being naive and wrong, but you could never accuse her of being complacent.

And if you’re looking for someone to blame for a young extremist such as Sana’a Mehaidli then why not blame Hollywood?

Basically every movie released in 1985 was absolute shit. If I too had to work in a video store surrounded by VHS copies of Police Academy 2, Porky’s Revenge and The godawful Legend Of Billie fucking Jean, then I would probably have pursued a more violent career path. Christ, even Pat Benatar – that epitome of ’80’s rock bombast whose album track Invincible was featured prominently in …Billie Jean and consequently saddled her band with a huge hit single, used to introduce the song every night as “the theme tune from the worst movie ever made!”

To be fair, The Legend Of Billie Jean was not the worst movie released in 1985. Once you get past the plot, the script, the acting, the saccharine morality and the creepy sense that the whole thing was made in Victor Kaufman’s toilet, it’s a movie that Rob Zombie could probably re-make today as something half decent. And although forever damned by association, Invincible itself is not a terrible tune. It’s just of its time. Like Nancy Reagan and Swatch watches.

The worst movie released in 1985 was undoubtedly Out Of Africa and Pat Benatar had nothing to with that one.

It’s unlikely that Sana’a Mehaidli’s video store was bedecked with all the usual promotional dross scraped from the bottom of Hollywood’s rancid barrel, but you never know. Ironically, a version of Rambo: First Blood II was released with Arabic subtitles. That is actually beyond irony. That is beyond fucking comprehension.

Sana’a Mehaidli might have been the first female suicide bomber but she was certainly not the last. In the years from 1985 to 2006, 15 percent of all known suicide attacks were carried out by women. The brutal Boko Harem organization in Nigeria, for example, are the latest terror group to use predominantly female suicide bombers. The Tamil Tigers – previous winners of this dubious award for gender equality – have been relegated to third place behind ISIS. Losers.

Baader-Meinhof Chic

Crucially, Sana’a Mehaidli also became an unwitting pin-up poster girl for the region’s fragmented terrorist militias. When her body was returned to south Lebanon in 2008 – as part of an exchange deal brokered by Israel – the funeral procession was escorted by thousands of supporters amid scenes of chaos and unadulterated heroine worship. The riotous reception included a local ‘bride’ – wearing a white wedding dress and waving a semi-automatic weapon in the air – who was showered with rice and roses by the crowd in honour of the village’s fallen martyr. The only other female militant of the modern era to surpass Mehaidli’s posthumous celebrity and infamy is Ulrike Meinhof – co-founder of the radical Red Army Faction in Germany during the early ’70s. Unlike Mehaidli, however, Ulrike Meinhof was a middle class intellectual who seems to have based her criminal exploits on nothing more substantial than Bonnie & Clyde. Arrested for murder and bank robbery in 1972, Meinhof committed suicide in jail whilst awaiting trial in 1976. In 2002 it was discovered that her brain had been retained without the family’s permission following an autopsy to discover the cause of Ulrike’s controversial death. The autopsy results have never been published.

The violent death of Sana’a Mehaidli achieved almost nothing in the grand scheme of things. Her awkward legacy, however, continues to confound and amaze the peace-keeping war machine and that in itself is to be applauded. We’ve all seen Robocop and Terminator and The Matrix and we know that machines will one day destroy the planet. The problem with the coalition armed forces is that they look too much like proper soldiers. They look like some warmongering billionaire’s idea of soldiers. Toy soldiers in a sandpit. In the battle for hearts and minds they have once again been truly bitch-slapped by a 16 year old girl.

The legacy of Sana’a Mehaidli – this cute, angry and unremarkable teenager – should never be ignored.

“I am not dead; I am still living amongst you; I am singing, dancing and fulfilling all my ambitions. My last wish is that you call me `the bride of the South`.” – Sana’a Mehaidli, April 9, 1985


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