Hamas’s blockade on women’s rights in Gaza

Guardian reporters and contributors have implicitly blamed the Israeli blockade for spousal abuse in Gaza, and even for one Palestinian man’s suicide, so a recent first person account by Najah Ayash (titled ‘Life in Gaza on International Women’s Day‘) addressing her life as a women in Gaza, which completely ignored Hamas’s violation of women’s human rights, was not surprising.

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It is likely that Ayash, head of a women’s development centre in Rafah, could face dangerous consequences if she were to criticize the Hamas regime, but, nevertheless, her essay, which appeared on the Guardian’s ‘Global Development’ page, is grossly misleading and does nothing to provide insight on the real problems facing women in Gaza.

Here’s her piece in full:

I was born and raised in a refugee camp in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip. My father worked as a tailor and his income barely covered our daily expenses. I was one of 10 siblings living in a cramped, two-bedroom house with asbestos ceilings.

When I was young girl, I remember my grandmother telling me about the journey of their suffering in 1948 during the Palestinian Nakba [when thousands of Palestinians lost their homes during the Arab-Israeli war]. The same journey of suffering continues to be carried by me and my family.

Our life in the 1980s was difficult, yet people shared a sense of community. Men were the breadwinners whereas women cared for the children. Despite our poor upbringing, I’m fortunate to have received an education. At first, getting an education wasn’t a priority due to traditional responsibilities and financial constraints, but eventually I managed to secure a university degree in English language.

Now I’m a mother of seven – four daughters and three sons. My husband is a carpenter, but his business collapsed due to the blockade [imposed after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip], and Israel’s restriction on the entry of raw materials, such as wood. We still live in Rafah, and occupy two bedrooms in a small, shared house belonging to my husband’s family.

Rafah borders Egypt, and has been a frontline in the constant fighting between Palestinian armed groups and the Israeli army. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed, leaving many families homeless.

I’m the head of a women’s development centre in Rafah, which provides training courses for women and young girls, and benefits around 300 women each month. Severely depressed women often visit the centre and talk about their problems, such as securing food, water, electricity, etc. I try to support them, but they’re living in great pain – and only think about their families’ daily survival rather their rights as women.

For five years I’ve been running a farm, part of an Oxfam project. As a woman, it’s been quite challenging but now I’m able to sell milk and cheese – which are usually expensive because of the Israeli blockade – at affordable prices.

Women in Gaza love life as much as other women across the world. Although we lack basic rights, partly due to the blockade and unfair policies, we are strong. We hope the world will pay extra attention so that Gaza’s women can help rebuild Palestinian society. [emphasis added]

The blockade, per Ayash, not Hamas’s Islamist ideology, is injurious to women’s rights.  

(Note that the only time the word Hamas is used at all is in the fourth paragraph down, added in brackets by a Guardian editor.)

If you’d like to get a real glimpse into the oppression of women in Gaza, see Freedom House’s profile, here.

Here’s a highlight from their report:

Under Hamas, personal status law is derived almost entirely from Sharia (Islamic law), which puts women at a stark disadvantage in matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and domestic abuse. Rape, domestic abuse, and “honor killings,” in which relatives murder women for perceived sexual or moral transgressions, are common, and these crimes often go unpunished. A December 2009 study by the Palestinian Woman’s Information and Media Center found that 77 percent of women in Gaza had experienced violence of various sorts, 53 percent had experienced physical violence, and 15 percent had suffered sexual abuse. Women’s dress and movements in public have been increasingly restricted under Hamas rule. The government has barred women from wearing trousers in public and declared that all women must wear hijab in public buildings, though these policies are enforced sporadically. In 2010, the government banned women from smoking water pipes and men from cutting women’s hair. In July 2011, police began arresting male hairdressers who violated this ban.

Guardian contributors and editors are simply indefatigable in their efforts to run interference for the reactionary movement in control of 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza.

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