Theater of Cruelty

The heavy yoke of double oppression

For the women of Gaza, nationality and gender act together in a double pursuit. Partner violence increases in a society characterized by frustration, war and conflict.


In a pile of clothes, Taghreed (30) sits and sorts her husband's clothes from the garments belonging to her eight kids, to fold them. At the same time, two of her children are crying with non-stop fever as they lie sick in the temporary, UNRWA-run housing facility in Gaza. Nearby is Taghreed's husband trying to sleep on some dirty wool blankets in one of the classrooms. He shouts and threatens to divorce if the kids do not stop harassing him. Taghreed spends his days and nights in a school converted into temporary housing by UNRWA for about 350 families who lost their homes during the war in Gaza last summer. The women who live here say that they live in an endless series of problems related to their own husbands and neighbors in other classrooms. "The women here are treated as if they were created to be violated and threatened with silence by spouses and administrative staff. They have two choices: to do as they are told, or to cry in silence ", says Taghreed to Ny Tid. The women of Gaza believe that the various forms of humiliation and violence are the result of a masculine culture that has been strengthened and aggravated during the long years of Israeli siege and war. Women, who make up half of the Palestinian population, suffer from a double persecution: one national, due to the Israeli occupation, and one gendered, inherited from Arab tradition, based on gender discrimination. Behind the school where Taghreed lives, Yasmin tries to wipe up sewage that has flowed into her kitchen – which is also equipped with an asbestos roof – after a leak in the Al-Shati refugee camp in the western part of Gaza City. Yasmin is 41 years old and lives with an unemployed man and seven children in a 60 square meter home. She says that her life is inconsolable due to harsh living conditions combined with the fact that she and her daughters are mocked and looked down upon by her husband and his relatives.

Less than one percent of women who are victims of violence report to the police

"My husband and his relatives have become losers who use the time to play cards and insult and beat their wives and daughters, after losing their jobs as painters in Israel in 2001. They have become more violent, and feel that they are achieving a kind of strength through this behavior, while we women can do nothing but remain silent, "says Yasmin. And she adds: “My husband used to make good money from his work in Israel, but now, after years of siege, he blames me, and he threatens and beats me when we have no more food left. He becomes like a wild animal, but I keep quiet, because I know how black men without work suffer. " Regarding the possibility of reporting to the police, she says: "If he or any of his relatives had been told that I went to report the situation to the police or the judiciary, I would be beaten, divorced, maybe even killed." A frustrated society. Studies show that husbands who are violent towards their wives live in marriages where cohabitation is governed by one having control over the other. In practice, this means that it is the women in such relationships who are inferior to the man. Amal Seyam runs a women's center in Gaza, and believes that many men are used to having fun, pushing, dangling and lugging their women. "Less than one percent of women who are victims of violence report to the police," Seyam told Ny Tid. She adds that one aftermath of the last three wars is that unemployment is the main cause of unrest between spouses, and points out that about 56 percent of married and unmarried women have experienced violence from their husbands or fathers in the last twelve months . Seyam is convinced that beliefs and traditions justify the use of physical violence against women. The continuation of the eight-year blockade, Hamas' control of the Gaza Strip and the conflict with rival Fatah have created a frustrated society, along with the many political setbacks for almost a decade. The Palestinian woman has become the man in whom the man eases his despair and frustration. The siege and the deteriorating economic situation force many women to become breadwinners. They are now 9 percent of all breadwinners in Gaza, while women without income make up 39 percent of the 1,8 million in the densely populated area.

Women's stories are not only marked by physical and verbal violence. There are also forms of economic violence, for example by withholding inheritance.

Maha Harazin (28) says that her father has repeatedly refused her to marry her boyfriend Ammar, because her father fears that Maha's inheritance will go to the groom and his family. The women's stories do not end with physical and verbal violence. There are also forms of economic violence, for example by withholding inheritance. Maha, who has inherited a property from her father, sent mediators to visit to convince him that it was time to give up the old-fashioned ideas and allow her to marry the one she loves without financial obstacles. None of the three attempts have been successful. "If I defied my father's wish and married Ammar, the family would deny me the inheritance and pass it on to my brothers, and they would never talk to me again," says Maha. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, about 88 percent of married women in Gaza miss out on their legacy because they do not know the laws that protect their rights. Probably they would not complain to the courts anyway, for fear of getting on edge with their brothers. Kills. "Being a woman in Gaza means you can be killed at any time. You can be stabbed or shot if you are suspected of talking to a man on the street or on the phone. It's about honor killings. " This is how feminist Mariam Abu Daqa describes the situation for women. And there have been cases in Palestinian areas where girls and women have been stabbed to death, shot or hanged by their male relatives on suspicion of a relationship between the victim and a man. In 2007, a young man and his cousin killed three of the young man's sisters. The brother tried to bury the bodies in an unknown place, but witnesses informed the police. The investigation concluded that he defended the so-called family honor. During 2013, 26 cases of honor killings were registered in Gaza and the West Bank in the police annals. Human rights activists say Palestinian courts impose lenient sentences for honor killings, with sentences ranging from six months to three years. Lawyer Ismail Jabr confirms that there are no special laws on honor killings, but that these are treated as ordinary murder cases. Observers believe that safeguarding the rights of Palestinian women requires comprehensive measures. Among other things, an end to the occupation, which is a significant obstacle to improving the status of women, and an end to the siege and division of Palestinian territories, which makes it difficult to create laws that can improve the situation for Palestinian women.

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