GAZA – Hundreds of Palestinian women and girls gathered near the eastern Gaza border fence on Tuesday, in what the protest organisers called the “Palestinian Women for the Return and Breaking the Siege” event.
In a press conference held in Gaza on Monday, the Higher National Commission of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege called on Palestinian women to “widely participate in the protest” and call for their right of return.
“This event comes to support the Palestinian women who are still steadfast despite the siege. It holds a clear message; that no one can deny our rights, especially the right of return and our demands to lift the siege” said Iktimal Hamad, the chairman of the Womens Committee of the Higher National Commission of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege, in the press conference.
Mothers, wives, daughters and sisters of those killed and injured during the Great March of Return protests, as well as female journalists and university students, held Palestinian flags and signs calling for the right of return and affirmed their willingness to keep the protests alive.
“Who said women cannot fight just as effectively as men?” exclaimed Suheir Khader, 39, who came with her family and friends.
“We were brought up on the fact that resistance is female. Our grandmothers always assisted our grandfathers and fought along with them during the Nakba and the first Intifada”
Palestinian women protest in Gaza (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
“I am here today because we [women] cannot just sit there and watch our fathers and husbands being killed and injured. It is our duty to at least share this struggle with them” added Khader.
Women injured during the protests also participated in todays protest, calling for their right to proper treatment and demanding the right of return.
Amani al-Najjar, 25, said that nothing can prevent her from attending the protests, “not even my injury”.
“I got injured with a tear gas canister to the chest during the third week of the protests," she explained. "Three days later after I started recovering, I came back here to protest again”
Najjar, who lost her brother after an Israeli soldier shot him in the chest while he was participating in protests near the eastern border fence last year, thinks this is another reason why she has to continue.
“I am here to continue what my brother started. If they [Israeli soldiers] killed him to intimidate us and force us to stop, they are wrong. They just gave us another reason to continue”
'Palestinian women did not only raise freedom fighters, but also fought along with them and protected them against the occupation for several decades'
– Israa Areer, journalist
The Great March of Return protests kicked off on 30 March, and continue for the fourth month in a row, to demand Palestinians right of return and the lifting of the Israeli blockade of the coastal enclave.
According to Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, 134 Palestinians, including 16 children and one woman, have been killed, and 15,200 others, including 2,536 children and 1,160 women have been injured, since the beginning of the protests.
Um-Khaled Loulo, 71, said she has been attending the protests at least once a week along with her sons and grandchildren. “I always bring my grandchildren here to teach them about the right of return practically,” she told MEE.
“I do not let them approach the border fence because I know Israeli soldiers will spare no effort to shoot them, but at least they get to understand that returning to their original homeland is a something to fight for when they grow up”
Loulo added that bringing her grandchildren to the protests is part of teaching them basic life values, and raising them up to defend their own rights.
“I bring them here every week and we start chanting national songs. This is how you raise a child under occupation”
Loulo said she used to participate in protests and throw stones at Israeli soldiers when she was young.
“The woman is equal to the man at home and on the front lines. If he is fighting for a cause, so does she” she added.
A wounded Palestinian protester is carried on a stretcher (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
Israa Areer, a 26-year-old journalist thinks that the participation of women in the Palestinian struggle is “nothing new”.
“More than 60 years ago, my grandmother kicked the Israeli soldiers outside her home when they tried to detain her husband and children. This, too, is a form of resistance”
Areer said although the Israeli authorities disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005, they are directly “affecting and controlling Palestinian womens lives”
“Although Gaza is not occupied, the Israeli authorities are still practicing all forms of oppression against women by imposing a severe blockade that deprives them from their basic rights,” she added.
“Palestinian women did not only raise freedom fighters, but also fought along with them and protected them against the occupation for several decades” she said.