“Asma”a, the 27 year-old mother of a four year-old son, was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. She went into the water fully clothed. Apparently, that was not modest enough for them.” And so the morality police sprang into action. An update on this story. “Palestinian Taliban Arrest Palestinian Feminist. Government Promises Investigation: An Interview with Asma”a Al-Ghoul,” by Phyllis Chesler for Pajamas Media, July 8:
Asma”a Al-Ghoul is a Palestinian secular feminist who has written poignant, heartbreaking pieces about honor killings and women’s rights in Gaza. Last month, Asma”a quit her job at Al Ayaam because her subject matter got her into “trouble” at work. She is also the journalist who was arrested over the weekend by Hamas”s “morality” police, ostensibly for “laughing immoderately” and for “immodest” clothing at the beach.
Asma”a, the 27 year-old mother of a four year-old son, was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. She went into the water fully clothed. Apparently, that was not modest enough for them.
According to Asma”a, with whom I just spoke, the Palestinian police detained her and took her passport away. They also beat up four male friends: two right there on the beach, all four back in police custody. (One of these men was not sitting with them at the time but came to their aid when the police attacked them). Due to the intercession of a journalist-friend with whom the beach goers were visiting, the police let Asma”a go””but with a warning; they told her “they would be following her case.” The police also returned Asma”a’s passport to her. In addition, the police wanted to confiscate her laptop but luckily, they were unable to find it.
Since then, Asma”a received a written death threat. She has been staying home, and has, understandably, had trouble sleeping.
“But,” she tells me, “Both my friends and the media have been supporting me.” Indeed, Asma”a wrote to thank me for my recent piece which mentioned her plight.
“And” she points out, “yesterday at noon, the government, possibly for the first time ever, announced that they will be looking into this matter.”
Asma”a explained that many other such incidents have happened and been covered up. “People are afraid to speak out. But we must speak out in order to stop this. We fear that the government will banish those who speak.”
It has been said, that the Palestinian people once were the most educated people in the Arab world. Over the years, I have known and worked with both secular and religious Palestinian Muslim and ex-Muslim feminists who are in favor of modernity and women’s rights.
Nevertheless, increasingly, Hamas officials have been cracking down on women and on western ways. They have “urged shopkeepers to take down foreign advertisements which show the shape of women’s bodies and to hide lingerie which is currently displayed in windows. Officials search electronic shops to check if they are selling pornography on tiny flash drives.”
According to human rights activist, Isam Younis, “There’s an open, public program to preserve public morals in Gaza,..In reality that means trying to restrict freedoms. Hamas denies that any crackdown is under way. But they have failed to take any action against the groups that have been attacking hairdressers and internet cafes.
Under Hamas, women have been increasingly veiling: wearing hijab, wearing versions of the Iranian, Saudi, and Afghani abayas, chadors, burqas, etc.
Asma”a tells me: “Palestinian feminists have not called to support me. They are afraid. Some have told me that I am so “˜strong,” (which means that they think) they are not.”…