Ehab Naser

Attacks on our women harm all Palestinians

A student in Ramallah expresses hope that the brutal death of a West Bank woman will reform Palestinian attitudes to women

November 27, 2019 18:46

I cannot fully explain how women are treated in Palestine, because I am a male and have never been socially restricted as much as a female. What I try to express here is my society’s evolution into fighting social issues.

In September, 21-year-old Palestinian Israa Gharib was assaulted and beaten by her family before she was taken to hospital, where she was again assaulted and beaten by her family. She died from the injures.

People heard and saw what happened and yet social considerations meant they did not involve themselves — this was a private family issue, the thinking went, and everyone should mind their own business.

The media called it an “honour killing”. These are acts of vengeance, usually death, committed by men against women in their family who are held to have brought dishonour upon the family by transgressing gender norms.

Israa’s family claimed that her death was due to a heart attack. However, by September 12, an investigation concluded she had died due to respiratory system complications caused by the beatings. Three members of her family have been charged and finally jailed.

As much as I want to stand with Israa, she is not in need of my or anyone’s compassion. Israa is dead but, after her death, she inspired Palestinians — with their complex social, economic and political demands — to demonstrate in streets, schools and universities.

They had two goals: to show the role of women in fighting those social, economic and political issues, and to stop discrimination and any act of violence against them.

Demonstrators everywhere held up signs and chanted. Some shared their stories, so that we can all learn and become aware of how damaging such violence can be for a small society facing huge issues.

They debated women’s role in society, the definition of honour and what women can do to resist and to fight for their rights.

“He who kills a woman, kills a society,” was one slogan. “We have enough of occupation, we do not need your masculinity” was another.

95 per cent of the Palestinian population is under 65 years old. Half of us are women. A young population and a high rate of education in an open and liberal society can lead to great changes to overall living standards.

We must understand that harming half of our society harms it all. Integrating half of this society integrates it all.

Women are at the centre of any society that wants to ensure progress, stability and long-term sustainable development. Women account for 43 per cent of our agriculture labour force and their role in education is undeniable.

My mother is an educator herself: women are the primary caretakers of children and elders in every society. It is deeply unequal for men to be responsible for productive labour, while women are assigned reproductive labour.

Palestine, the same place where Israa was killed, is home to some remarkable women. Hanan Hroub is an award-winning educator who won the Global Teacher Prize. Hanan Ashrawi is a leader in politics and civil society.

Susan Abulhawa, a Palestinian writer and political activist, wrote the novel Mornings in Jenin, the first mainstream novel in English to explore life in post-1948 Palestine.

Then there is the activist Linda Sarsour and Rashida Tlaib, who has become the first Palestinian-American woman in the US Congress.

The list goes on, and will only grow longer.

The author is a university student from Ramallah

November 27, 2019 18:46

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