International Women’s Day in Gaza: Nothing to Celebrate

Earlier this week, UNRWA said that it “regrets to announce that it has cancelled the third Gaza marathon which was to be held on 10 April. This follows the decision by the authorities in Gaza not to allow women to participate.” (Source)

The announcement made news around the world. But Hamas’ prohibition is not surprising at all, if you consider the many other prohibitions Hamas authorities have imposed on the women of Gaza since they came to power.

Gaza Marathon 2012 (Photo: UNRWA)

Gaza Marathon 2012 (Photo: UNRWA)

If you read Hamas’ platform, you would be led to believe that women under Hamas authority in Gaza enjoy all of their rights and are treated with respect:

“Women’s rights will be guaranteed so that they can contribute to the building of society: socially, economically and politically. Women’s organizations should be encouraged.” (Source)

Unfortunately, the opposite is true. After Hamas made this promise, they began to impose numerous restrictions on the women of Gaza. For example, women are banned from dancing or smoking in public, riding behind a man on a motor scooter and even from getting salon treatment from male hairdressers.

The emancipation of women in Gaza is an empty slogan. Even the rising violence against women in Gaza is not a major concern for the Hamas authorities.

These disturbing restrictions on women’s freedoms are being enforced by Hamas members, although not all of them are imposed by law. For example, there is no legal provision that states that all students need to wear headscarves for school, but girls who don’t wear them are harassed. On the beach, which is Gaza’s main entertainment area, there is a strict separation between men and women. (Source)

Two articles in the Hamas official covenant explain the role of the woman in the fight to free Palestine:

“The Muslim woman has a role no less important than that of the Muslim man in the battle of liberation. She is the maker of men.” (Article Seventeen)

The convention proceeds to break down the role of the ideal woman, as Hamas see it:

“a woman in the home of the fighting family, whether she is a mother or a sister, plays the most important role in looking after the family… she has to teach them to perform the religious duties in preparation for the fighting role awaiting them.“ (Article Eighteen)

From reading these quotes, you can see that the ideal women according to Hamas is a woman who never leave her house. Her only job is to take care of her children and inculcate them with Hamas values.

And if you are still wondering what exactly those Hamas values are, take a look at this video, where Umm Osama, wife of senior Hamas figure Khalil Al-Hayya, tells viewers that “a woman’s role is to instill love of Jihad and martyrdom in her children”.