Women with strong views campaigning in Gaza

Palestinian feminist Asma Al-Ghoul pushes for secularism in Islamic Gaza.

It’s vital that growing Islamisation under Hamas is challenged:

Recently Asma garnered media attention for two incidents with the Hamas police. In the summer of 2009, she walked on a public Gaza beach with a mixed gender group, and visited a former male colleague and his family at a beachside villa. Asma and her friends were interrogated by Hamas moral police, and the men were forced to sign papers promising not repeat their “inappropriate” interactions with women. Asma later received anonymous death threats and was followed and closely monitored by police.

But there are glints of hope for secularists in Gaza. This August, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Asma and three foreign activist friends biked up the Gaza coastline in defiance of a Hamas ban on female bicycle-riding. To Asma’s delighted surprise, local Hamas police officers pursued two motorcyclists who had followed and harassed her. And she found that most civilians “were shocked in a funny way. They said, ‘Let’s go! Bravo!’ They asked, ‘Are you fasting [for Ramadan]?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I’m fasting!'”

Asma’s biking adventure led her to conclude that the discriminatory laws against women are “flexible.” She now believes that Hamas is “between two fires—how to keep civil society satisfied, and how to satisfy extreme groups.”

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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