Monday, September 13, 2010

Gaza blogger bicycles the length of Gaza to defy Hamas

From Palestine News Network:
As girls becomes women in Gaza they slowly get dragged into the world of restrictions. These rules have become an art those who govern Gaza have perfected. They are meant to segregate women from men.

Now in Gaza there are rules that do not allow women to Smoke Arigla or Shisha in public places. Another law does not allow women to ride bicycles, the new laws went further more by making it illegal for shop owners to exhibit women’s lingerie. The given explanation is to maintain public decency.

These rules have made women fall in an endless cycle of what is forbidden and what is allowed. Women in Gaza have chosen to adhere to these laws, thinking it’s for the best not to draw attention; actively minimizing their rights risking the few freedoms they have now which may be restricted in the near future.

That was the case in Gaza until a local journalist, Asma Al Ghoul, came along; she decided to draw the line and say enough. In a hot summer day she took her bicycle along with three internationals who work in human rights organizations and cycled for 60 kilometers along the Rafah Egypt borders in southern Gaza.

The human rights defender’s main goal was to send a clear message that any person has the right to enjoy sport as granted by international law. Asma had something else in mind. She had a political and social objective; she wanted to say that the laws against women are unfair especially the latest rules Hamas government had made which looks at women in an eye of shame.

Her journey was difficult in the beginning, since Asma did not ride a bike since she was a child; during her journey she was verbally assaulted by people calling her vulgar names, and some went even further and spit on her; things that did not stop the young daredevil from continuing her trip. The first journey was soon finished, but Asma says it will not be the last. Asma dreams of recruiting more women to cycle with her to counter and cancel the unjust laws against women of Gaza.
An Arabic article goes into more detail of her adventures. While she said that most people were nice but that gangs of youths on motorcycles twice abused her and her foreign friends by claiming to be Hamas policemen.

Asma was one of the women arrested by Hamas on the beach last year for being with a group of friends - men and women - and for swimming in jeans and a T-shirt. In the Arabic article she says that she was arrested then for being in public without an Islamically-approved escort and for laughing.