Friday, November 26, 2010

Gaza's Women: Who Is Defending Their Rights?

by Khaled Abu Toameh

It is not easy to be a woman living under a fundamentalist Islamic regime like the one in the Gaza Strip. Over the past three years, women in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip have been facing a campaign of intimidation and terror that has forced many of them to sit at home and do nothing.

The fact that women are oppressed under radical Islamic regimes is of course very disturbing. But what is even more disturbing is the silence over abuse of women's rights in the Gaza Strip.

Has anyone heard prominent Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi come out in public against Hamas's repressive measures against Palestinian women? Where are local and international human rights organizations, especially those that claim to defend rights of women in the Arab and Islamic world?

Has any major media outlet in the West thought of making a documentary about the suffering of women under Hamas?

Or are they so obsessed with everything that Israel does [or does not do] that they prefer to turn a blind eye to what is happening in the Gaza Strip?

Has anyone dared to ask Hamas why sending women to carry out suicide bombings is all right, while it is not ok for them to walk alone on the beach or be seen in public with a man? Have "pro-Palestinian" groups in North America and Europe ever thought of endorsing the case of these women by raising awareness to their plight?

Since Hamas seized full control over the Gaza Strip in 2007, Palestinian women have been deprived of many of basic rights, such as strolling along the beach alone or smoking in public. Under Hamas, female lawyers are not allowed to appear in court unless they are wearing the hijab.

They are also barred from going to male hairdressers. A woman who is seen in public with a man is often stopped by Hamas policemen and questioned about the nature of the relationship between them.

Women in the Gaza Strip who have dared to participate in public political and social events have been repeatedly harassed by the Hamas government. As a result, many of them have been forced to stay at home out of fear for their lives.

Even Palestinian women's groups in the West Bank do not seem to care much about the conditions of women under Hamas. Have any of them thought of organizing demonstrations or campaigns in protest against abuse of women's rights under Hamas?

Khaled Abu Toameh

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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