Yasser Hirbawi opened his factory in 1961, soon building a thriving business which by the early 1990s employed 25 workers who operated 15 machines and annually produced 150,000 keffiyehs. But following the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords and the adoption of a free-market policy, the import of cheap keffiyehs made in China began to flood the markets worldwide. By 2010, only four machines remained in operation in the factory, with its annual production dropping to a mere 10,000 scarves. Not one of these scarves were exported since on the one hand, overseas suppliers produced mass quantities at a much lower price and, on the other hand, the shrinking Palestinian economy and the Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks created further hindrances to the production and trade for Palestinian small businesses.
Since 2010, several international media have written about us, warning that the production of original Palestinian Keffiyehs risked disappearing. This raised awareness around the world and led international resellers to start purchasing our Keffiyehs for their shops, for political activities or some fashion designers to use our Keffiyeh fabrics in their collections. In 2012, we started a cooperation with MADEinPALESTINE.de with whom we launched kufiya.org, an online shop based in Germany, which sells our Keffiyehs to private customers worldwide.
Thanks to this initiative, sales are increasing and we could make four hirings for the first time in 20 years. With the support of MADEinPALESTINE.de and their customers worldwide, we hope to be able to produce again like in the 1990s, create more jobs in Palestine and keep a vital and symbolic tradition alive.