The 8th of March has brought women’s rights to the forefront of the debate on Palestinian politics. Scores of women have took to the streets worried about their fate under a country run by the Islamic militant group, Hamas. The Palestinian prime minister delegate, Ismail Haniyeh, spoke to the crowd in an effort to reassure them that their calls for equal rights would not go unheeded.
“I would like to confirm our committment to women’s rights, which is based on our understanding of Islam that we are proud of, according equality to women in serving in the highest levels of society. We will be extremely committed to that,” he said.
At the legislative elections, Hamas accepted the obligatory quota of 20 percent of women on the electoral list. Some 13 women contested the poll against 12 who stood for Fatah. Many of the candidates are widows or mothers of suicide bombers, like Mariam Farhat, who defends the holy war. Three of her six sons have been died in the violence. One was a leading Hamas bombmaker.
She defends the most strict interpretation of Islamic laws. But such views are not shared by many in the West Bank, where men and women mingle freely outside of work. Palestinian MP, Hannah Ashrawi says “I think it would be very premature to assume that Hamas is going to carry out such a drastic transformation, because they would lose a great deal of support.”
For now, the Hamas leadership agrees. It says the Islamisation of society will not be imposed by force but softly by force of conviction.