Palestinian women: Trapped between occupation and patriarchy

Reblogged from Random Shelling
Post: Palestinian Women: Trapped Between Occupation and Patriarchy
by 

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On a warm and bright Sunday morning, three-year-old Saqer was cuddling with his mother when she was shot several times in the head and chest. Dishevelled, tremulous, and smirched with his mother’s blood, Saqer was spotted by a neighbour pleading for help, but was unable to give utterance to what had just befallen his household. Saqer’s mother, Mona Mahajneh, had just been murdered in cold blood in front of his own eyes; the only suspect so far is his maternal uncle, whose detention has been extended in order to allow the investigation of the murder to progress.

Mahajneh, a 30-year-old mother of three from Umm al-Fahm in the Northern Triangle, is the latest martyr of domestic violence against Palestinian women in the Palestinian territories occupied by Zionist militias in 1948 (hereinafter referred to as the Green Line, Israel’s internationally-recognised armistice border). She tried to start a new life after her divorce, despite being separated from her other two children. However, in a patriarchal society, where divorced women are often dehumanised and treated like scourges and onerous burdens, Mona paid with her life for seeking independence and the freedom to choose.

Tragic Irony

Ironically, Mona was murdered only two days after a protest against killings of women under the cloak of “family honour.” On Friday, 26 April, the Committee Against Women Killings, a coalition of 20 Palestinian feminist groups, toured Palestinian villages and cities in the Green Line in two separate motorized processions. Dubbed “The Procession of Life,” the protest called for an end to the phenomenon of “honour” crimes. Two motorcades, one that took off from the Naqab in the South, and another from Kafr Manda in the lower Galilee, eventually converged for a joint protest in Kafr Qare’ near Umm al-Fahm. The processions passed through Palestinian villages in the South and the North, sending a vociferous message against violence throughout Palestine. Names of women killed by their family members, as well as placards and signs that read “No honour in honour crimes,” and “She was killed for being a woman” were raised on the cars. The impressive turnout for the protest and the media attention it attracted, however, could not prevent Mona’s murder.

This is not the first time that a Palestinian woman had been murdered shortly after a protest against gender-based violence. On 10 March of this year, Alaa Shami, 21, was stabbed to death by her brother in the northern town of Ibilline, just two days after International Women’s Day. On 7 February, 2010, Bassel Sallam fatally shot his wife, Hala Faysal, and left her to bleed in her bedroom. Hours before the murder, his father Ali Sallam, deputy mayor of Nazareth, participated in a demonstration against violence on women and gave a speech denouncing it.

Shocking Spike

Six Palestinian women have been killed in the Green Line so far this year, two more than those killed in all of 2012. Statistics provided by the Nazareth-based organisation Women Against Violence show an even more distressing picture: Since Israel ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1991, 162 Palestinian women in the Green Line have been killed by their husbands or other family members. Since 1986, 35 Palestinian women have been murdered in the towns of al-Lydd and Ramleh alone. Numbers provided by “Women Against Violence” also show that an overwhelming majority of the women killed in the Green Line are Palestinians. In 2011, for instance, 14 women were killed in the Green Line, nine of whom were Palestinians. Of the 15 women killed in 2010, ten were Palestinians. A total of eleven women were killed in 2009 and nine of them were Palestinian women. In that same year, 13 Palestinian women were killed across Gaza and the West Bank. Accurate figures about women killings in Gaza and the West Bank are harder to obtain, and not all cases are documented or covered by the Palestinian media, but by no means is the situation less disturbing than that in the Green Line.

De-Politicising Violence

A recent high-profile initiative targeting violence against women and challenging the concept of “honour” killings was the music video “If I could Go Back in Time,” released in November 2012 by the Palestinian hip hop group DAM. The moving music video, co-directed by Jackie Salloum and funded by UN Women, has drawn over 200,000 views and received positive feedback in Palestine and beyond. A major drawback of the video, though, was that it de-politicised violence against women and traded depth and intersectionality for populist drama and reductionism. As Lila Abu Lughod and Maya Mikdashi wrote in their critique of the video, “it operates in a total political, legal, and historical vacuum.”

When it comes to violence against women in the Middle East in general, and in Palestine in particular, there are two dominant and completely opposing paradigms: The first blames the violence on a backward tradition and an inherently misogynistic society, choosing to focus solely on the category of “honour” crimes, as if they represent the only form of domestic violence women are subjected to. The other paradigm, meanwhile, holds Israeli colonialism and its institutionalised discrimination responsible, claiming that one cannot expect women to be free when Palestine is under occupation. Both paradigms are obviously too simplistic and unrepresentative. They avoid asking the tough questions and ignore both the multi-layered reality and the politics of daily life that Palestinian women on the ground face.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Arab bourgeois feminist movements, including the feminist movement in the West Bank, shot themselves in the foot and chose to ally with tyrannical Arab regimes in order to promote their social rights through legislation. By standing with the authorities and power structures, they operated as a fig leaf for so-called “secular” dictatorships. Moreover, by opting for an elitist and apolitical “feminist” struggle, bourgeois feminists ignored that real social change cannot be brought about in the absence of political freedom, nor can it be achieved by groveling before a repressive system. Feminism is not just about fighting for gender equality; it is about shaking the hegemonic dynamics of power and domination. Gender subordination is a fundamental factor in this matrix of power, but it intersects with political oppression and exploitation on the basis of class, religion, ethnicity, physical ability, and related aspects of personal identity.

Despite its many structural problems and shortcomings, the feminist movement inside the Green Line, to its credit, understood early on that the personal cannot be separated from the political, precisely because the state of Israel plays an active role in marginalising Palestinian women and strengthening local patriarchal elements such as clan leaders and religious courts that oppress women. Most Palestinian feminists also never had the illusion that advancing the rights of Palestinian women can come from the Knesset, the Zionist parliament.

No Protection

It is naïve to believe that the police, a violent, militaristic, and intrinsically patriarchal organ of the state, could be genuinely committed to eradicating violence against women. It is even more naïve to think that Israeli police, a law-enforcement tool for the occupation, would be determined to abolish violence against indigenous Palestinian women unless it is under immense pressure to do so. The stories of Palestinian women who complained to the Israeli police about threats by their family members – only to be turned down by the police and later killed by their family members – are too many to recount. For instance, few months ago in Rahat, the largest Palestinian city in the Naqab, A young woman approached the social service office and reportedly informed the police that she feared for her life. Police officers reportedly told her to go back home, assuring her that she would be safe. Almost 24 hours later, she was found dead.

The latest incident occurred on 21 May, 2013: Two girls, aged three and five, were strangled to death in their home in Fura’a, an unrecognised Palestinian village in the Naqab. The girls’ mother had approached the police station in the nearby Jewish colony of Arad and said that her husband threatened to kill the girls, but her plea was ignored. These horrific events demonstrate marriage between the state – a patriarchal, masculinist entity – and the conservative patriarchal elements in the community.

The Israeli police treat domestic violence among the Palestinian minority as a “private affair” that should be left for the clan and its leaders to solve. It is much more comfortable for the police to link domestic violence against Palestinian women to “family honour” and thus absolve themselves of the responsibility to intervene under the pretext of respecting “cultural sensitivity.” Using this pretext to justify lack of enforcement of women rights stems from Israel’s racist presumption that the abuse and oppression of women are intrinsically tied to Palestinian culture and tradition. It also stems from Israel’s double standards in respecting and protecting multiculturalism.

On the one hand, Israel claims to respect the principle of multiculturalism to buttress and sustain the oppression of women. On the other hand, Israel shows little respect to multiculturalism when it comes to the recognition of minority rights: The ostensible status of Arabic as an official language is solely ink on paper; Palestinian culture, history, narrative, and political literature are intentionally snuffed out of school curricula; and collective memory is targeted through constant attempts of Israelification. In addition, the same Israeli police that evades its duty to protect women from domestic violence because it is a “family” affair is, in the end, has no such concern for “Palestinian family affairs” when its forces demolish homes and displace entire families on a regular basis in the Naqab.

Not only is protection desperately scarce in all of this, but so is accountability. The majority of cases involving violence against women are closed either for lack of evidence or lack of public interest. Although Israel, unlike many Arab states, does not have a provision in its criminal law that mitigates punishment for so-called “honor crimes,” women’s rights organisations repeatedly accuse the police of not investing enough effort in the attempts to find the killers and hold them accountable. Some of the worst cases of violence against women occur in Lydd, Ramleh and the Naqab. Those places also happen to boast some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates; they are also subjected to a targeted Israeli policy of extreme discrimination, denial of basic rights and services, and constant threats of eviction and home demolitions. Add to that the inaccessibility of the Israeli justice system for Palestinian and under-privileged women, and the social retribution that women face for approaching the police and complaining about their family members, and it should be no surprise, then, that Palestinian women do not trust the state to protect them.

Tacit Justifications

It all begins with the huge difference between the way Palestinian media covers the killing of a man and the killing of a woman: the first is often referred to as a “tragedy” while the latter is referred to as an “ambiguous incident”. When Palestinian politicians, religious leaders, and public figures are asked to speak out against women killings, they begin by blaming the police and then reiterate that violence against women is part and parcel of mounting violence in the Palestinian society in general. Indeed, hardly a day passes by without hearing of shooting or stabbing incidents involving Palestinian men in different Palestinian towns. So pervasive has violence been that almost 10,000 demonstrators flocked to the streets of Haifa – one of the largest protests in Haifa’s history – on 7 May to say enough is enough. People who conflate gender-based violence with violence in general ignore the reality that women are murdered simply for being women; they are also killed in places that are supposed to be the most secure, and by people who are supposed to be the closest and most intimate to them. It is trendy to voice condemnations and call for respecting women’s rights immediately after a woman is killed… and then to completely and utterly forget about it two days later and wait until the next killing. Women killings, under whatever euphemism, are only one manifestation of patriarchy. The root problem is much more entrenched and less spoken about.

The seasonal and rhetorical condemnation of physical violence against women by those who promote or remain silent over less visible forms of patriarchy helps explain the failure of the society as a whole to take a firm position on crimes against women, let alone prevent them. The Northen Branch of the Islamic movement, for instance, condemns physical violence against women while it rejects participation in mixed-gender political protests and segregates women in their public events. How can Talab Arar, a Knesset member for the Unified Arab List, have a moral ground to denounce violence against women when he is polygamous?

Misogyny and patriarchy are, by no means, exclusive to religious and conservative Palestinians. Many left-wing activists and politicians do not hesitate to use sexist language, give tacit justifications for sexual harassment, or claim that fighting for women rights is not a priority as long as we are under occupation. How can we ever be free, as women and Palestinians, when a protest leader and a poster boy of Palestinian popular resistance is implicated in sexual harassment and everything is done to cover-up for him? As long as Palestinian women are expected to push their demands for gender liberation to the fringe, and as long as a large chuck of the population cannot concede that women are structurally oppressed, women will continue to be killed with social and legal impunity.

A first step towards challenging the hegemonic lexicon of the local and colonial patriarchs would be to quit using the term “honour crimes,” even with quotation marks. Its very use legitimises the concept and gives the false pretence that “honour” is the real motive for the crime, when it is really only a guise to strip women of their autonomy and dignity. The second step is to speak out, for silence is complicity. Sweeping the ugly truth under the rug will not hide it; it will only make its force more brutal and intensify the cycle of violence that has literally destroyed the lives of large numbers of women over time. The third, and most important step, is not to wait for the police to protect us. Women should take up arms to protect themselves and organise street militias to combat sexual harassment.

Cliteracy

I love when I discover new *stuff*. I certainly spend enough time just jumping from tab to new tab in my browser… If I spent this much time actually working my career might be in a different condition… (-;

But back on point: CLITERACY. How did we live without it till now????

Sophia Wallace is an American conceptual artist whose topics include queer representations and the of gendering of aesthetics. I really love her work and recommend spending an inordinate amount of time on her beautiful website.

But this post is all about Cliteracy, which can be found on her Tumblr:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Cliteracy Eye Chart

Tel Aviv Slutwalk 2013

This year I decided to organize the Tel Aviv Slutwalk. Last year, the event was sabotaged by the police (and the weather), while this year a non-feminist organization tried to co-opt the Slutwalk to promote their own political agenda… All very vexing, and so I decided that the event would be safer in my radical little hands.

One of the added values my cohorts and I are trying to bring about in this year’s march is to underline how rape culture affects absolutely everyone, but also how voices that are often silenced anyway, are doubly or triply silenced when it comes to sexual violence. So we’ve invited women from all walks of life, from different ethnicities, refugees, trans* folk, people who are discriminated against for being deaf or in a wheelchair or for any other disability, fat women, lesbian and bisexual women, young and old women… And so on – to share a text saying why she needs the slutwalk. We make a poster of it, and put it on the event page. The results have been nothing short of amazing. The images are in Hebrew, so here is just one sample (though you can see the entire album here if you’d like):

As a teen, I need the Slutwalk because the fact that my breasts have developed does not mean that anyone has the right to mention it all the time, or to touch my breasts. Because I’m tired of all the adults around me interfering with my sexual life, and thinking that is legitimate. As a teen, I have not yet entirely learned how to say no, or to run away or protect myself, and I find myself just freezing in shock and waiting for someone to come by and help me.

As a teen, this is my opportunity to learn to say no, before I get used to being harassed.

I usually do not do any type of fundraising on this blog… But today I decided to make an exception. This event is just that important to me. I set up a page for anyone who want to buy a tank top for the event, or just make a donation. So I thought I’d open up the opportunity here as well, on the off-chance that someone here wants to support this effort. 

The funds will go towards signage and such, and any leftovers will be sent to our sister slutwalks in other cities.

  Donate here, or check out the page with the shirt for sale. Not sure what I would do with international orders for an actual shirt, I guess it depends on the amount of the donation 🙂 The shirt without shipping is about $8-10. So I guess I would send it to you for a donation of $20 and above. Just let me know!

Indian Women Teach Us All Feminism

In the wake of the horrific gang rape (*tw) that resulted in a young woman’s death last week in India, major protests have been going on, in the face of police violence, in spite of a justice system stacked against the women… In protest after protest women are standing up to the violence against them. I have no words to describe how I feel reading about this and seeing the images, I am in awe of them, and I don’t understand why we all aren’t out in the street right now. Really lacking the words, so here are some pictures.

See more amazing pictures of protests and vigils

Protests with Police 121222042816-02-india-protest-1222-horizontal-gallery 121223120022-01-india-protest-police-tear-gas-1223-horizontal-gallery 121228052457-01-india-1228-horizontal-gallery india_delhi_rape_protests_dec_2012_6 TOPSHOTS-INDIA-RAPE-PROTEST india_delhi_rape_protests_dec_2012_6 (2)

Obit of the Day: Tiquicheo’s Fearless Mayor Maria Santos Gorrostieta

Revolutionary Woman

Obit of the Day: Tiquicheo’s Fearless Mayor Maria... | Obit of the Day

Maria Santos Gorrostieta became mayor of the town of Tiquicheo in 2009, when she was only 33 years old. She recognized the risks as her town was located in the state of Michoacan one of the many battlegrounds in Mexico where cartels, police, and the government are fighting for control.Michoacan is also prized for its access to the Pacific where cocaine from South America and synthetic chemicals from Asia are brought into the country.

While she only served for two years, during that time she was the target of two assassination attempts. The first, in October 2009, she was the subject of the ambush. She survived but her husband was killed. In January 2011, she escaped another attempt but this time she was shot numerous times. After the second attempt she held a press conference showing her wounds and talking about her injuries.

Obit of the Day: Tiquicheo’s Fearless Mayor Maria... | Obit of the Day

After her term ended last year it seemed all would be over but on November 12, 2012, Ms. Gorrostieta was taken from her car, while her five-year-old daughter sat there, and was beaten in public. While she pleaded that her daughter not be harmed she was dragged away into another car. (Her daughter was left alone, screaming in her mother’s car.) On Saturday, November 24, Maria Santo Gorrostieta’s body was discovered. She had been handcuffed, beaten, tortured and killed.

She was 36 years old. She leaves behind three children.

Note: According to the BBC, two dozen Mexican mayor have been murdered since 2006.

Sources: The Daily Telegraph, The Huffington Post

(Top image: Facebook photo of Maria Santos Gorrostieta, courtesy of idigitaltimes.com. Bottom image: Maria Santos Gorrostieta showing her wounds from her second assassination attempt is courtesy of arklatex912project.wordpress.com)

via Obit of the Day: Tiquicheo’s Fearless Mayor Maria… | Obit of the Day.

Binder Madness

How fun to see the Internets go wild over the latest Romney gaffe, namely his “binders full of women” comment in the debate:

‘I went to a number of women’s groups and … they brought us whole binders full of women,’ former Gov. Romney said about his search to find more women candidates towork in his Massachusetts cabinet.The term went viral, spawning its own Twitter account and Facebook page

(Read more in The Daily Beast)

Of course, not only was the ostensibly positive claim offensive…Turns out it was also a lie.

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So here is some of what's going on online:  

On Twitter, check out #BinderFullOfWomen and #RomneyGaffes hashtags

For more fun, check out the dedicated tumblr

Tribe of Women

ASGARDA
Amazons of the Ukraine

In the Ukraine, a country where females are victims of sexual trafficking and gender oppression, a new tribe of empowered women is emerging. Calling themselves the “Asgarda”, the women seek complete autonomy from men. Residing in the Carpathian Mountains, the tribe is comprised of 150 women of varying ages, primarily students, led by 30 year-old Katerina Tarnouska. Reviving the tribal traditions of the Scythian Amazons of ancient Greek mythology, the Asgarda train in martial arts, taught by former Soviet karate master, Volodymyr Stepanovytch, and learn life skills and sciences in order to become ideal women. Little physical documentation existed on the tribe, until recently, when renowned French photographer, Guillaume Herbaut, met the Asgarda back in 2004 in the midst of the Orange Revolution.

via Asgarda | PLANET°.