Being 'woman' in Palestine itself a struggle

  • women
  • 11:22 29 February 2024
  • |
ANKARA - Nidal Halef al-Nawasra, one of the Palestinian women who welcomed March 8 this year under war conditions, said: "Women are literally defying their pain in order to create life out of nothing."
Women and children are deeply affected by all aspects of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, which has continued for more than 100 years. For Palestinian women, who have been resisting Israel's massacres, violence and displacement policies for years, the struggle to exist as a "woman" in their own land is a resistance in itself.
The role of Palestinian women, who have been one of the visible faces of the resistance in recent years, in this process dates back to the late 19th century. Although participation in the struggle began with the emergence of the Palestinian national struggle, the massacre that took place with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, which Palestinians call "Nakba", became a turning point for women and the need for organization was realized.
The "General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPWom)" was established in 1965, shortly after the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In later periods, women were organized as the "Palestine Women's Union" and the "Haifa Women's Coalition". Many of the women who took part in the social struggle against the Israeli attacks in 1967 joined Palestinian resistance organizations and became part of political work. This period was known as the "golden age" for the women's movement in Palestine.
The "hijacking" action carried out by Leyla Halid, known under the pseudonym " Shadia Abu Ghazaleh" in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, spread the role of women in the struggle and their resistance to the whole world. Halid, who went down in history as "the first woman in the world to hijack a plane", managed to draw the whole world's attention to the Palestinian cause by hijacking an American plane, Los Angeles-Tel Aviv flight number 840, on August 29, 1969.
While a more radical generation emerged with the establishment of women workers' committees in the 1970s, the first benefit, which had the character of a rebellion of the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation, began in 1987. The process, which lasted until 1993, ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords, in which the "Palestinian National Authority" was accepted in Norway in August. In this process, women's committees were also formed within the framework of people's committees. Women tried to organize social life with the protests they organized despite Israel's sanctions. Acting with the slogan "The homeland cannot be fully free without freeing women from the shackles of patriarchy", women also fought against the impositions of Palestinian men during the war.
Although the women's struggle in Palestine has gone back in time, their determination to organize and fight has never ended. Thanks to a self-started movement in September 2019, the young generation took to the fields and this process turned into a movement. After the murder of Esra Gharib, women took to the squares with the slogan "Those who left the house and went to the streets" and founded the "Teliye Movement".
Palestinian women, whose lives have been spent in war and struggle, trying to survive against the attacks on the one hand and to continue their lives on the other, have been celebrating March 8, International Women's Day this year, under the ongoing occupation attacks of Israel since October 7, 2023. Speaking to Mezopotamya Agency (MA), the Palestinian woman activist gave information about the situation of the country and women. We give our source, whose name we cannot give in the news, with the name of 4-year-old Nidal Halef al-Nawasra, who was killed in Israeli attacks.
Halef al-Nawasra said about Gaza, "It is a place where the Palestinian woman is either a martyr, the mother of a martyr, the sister or wife of a captive" and stated that the al-Aqsa Mosque is under intense attack, especially to prevent worship. Halef al-Nawasra said: “Muslim worshipers are subjected to ill-treatment, torture, severe beatings and arrests. Since October 7, 2023, when the attacks on the Gaza Strip began, the invaders are doing everything to prevent Friday Prayer from being performed." 
Halef al-Nawasra said that Israel continues to commit the crime of genocide even though more than two weeks have passed since the International Court of Justice's decision to stop the genocide against civilians, adding: “Civilians are still being massacred on a large scale in Gaza. Under the ongoing siege, people are deprived of their most basic human rights: food, water and medicine. Settlement areas, civilian infrastructure and facilities in the Gaza strip are being systematically destroyed, making the region uninhabitable." 
Referring to the economic situation in the country, Halef al-Nawasra said: “The economy is in a very bad state due to the closure of the old city of Jerusalem and the citizens of Jerusalem being prevented from entering it. Only those living in the old city are allowed. This dealt a blow to trade and the economy. Commercial establishments and shops were closed. In addition, the Zionist occupation state fired Jerusalem workers and replaced them with foreign workers from abroad. This situation increased the unemployment rate.”
Drawing attention to the situation of women in the country, Halef al-Nawasra said: “Most of the time, they ignore their troubles and sorrows and challenge their pain in order to create a liveable life for their families. They are trying to ensure the safety of their families even under constant bombardment. Women and children stay in refugee camps consisting of schools and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) centres. This situation deprives women of privacy due to the lack of toilets and private areas. In addition to extreme shame and restraint in public places, women have to do heavy work such as chopping firewood for cooking under bombardment and standing in front of a fire outdoors for long periods of time. Closure of crossings, lack of aid, lack of feminine hygiene materials; At the same time, the lack of sanitation facilities such as water and showers leads to a disaster."
Expressing that the reactions to the attacks were insufficient, Halef al-Nawasra said: “The masses are organizing demonstrations and waving the Palestinian flag because of their belief in the just cause of Palestine and their right to free life. The international women's organizations we work with also reached out to us and expressed their solidarity and support of the Palestinian people. But this is not enough. They need to stand up and put more pressure to stop these fascist oppressors from slaughtering more innocent people and force them to stop the war."
Underlining the need for effective public pressure against Israel's attacks, Halef al-Nawasra said: "The case that South Africa filed against Israel on the grounds that it 'committed genocide' and whose first hearing was held at the International Court of Justice in The Hague was a great initiative. Even if it was a little, it raised hope and the morale of the Palestinian people. However, we know that these invaders do not care or respect any international laws. They acts according to their own will, as if they are the ruler of the whole world."
Halef al-Nawasra's message to the women of the world on March 8 is as follows: “On March 8, I call on all women of the world to stand in solidarity with Palestinian women who are subjected to oppression, harassment and displaced. I hope and wish that they will raise their voices against their governments and shout the truth.”
TOMORROW: A story of self-defence against violence
MA / Zemo Ağgöz

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