By Naheel Bazbazat, YWCA of Palestine.
I want to share with you the situation in Palestine and what it is like to live under occupation. Earlier this year I was part of the World YWCA delegation attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and I participated in a demonstration as part the International Women’s Day Celebrations. I was thinking about the Palestinian women back home and what if just imagine one million Palestinian women came along to that demonstration in New York. People would be asking- “Where do you come from?” and the women would reply- refugee camps, Palestinian villages, Palestinian cities, refugee camps outside Palestine in Lebanon, Jordan, one of the 48 occupied territories, East Jerusalem, Bedouin community etc. In every place where Palestinian people live they have special cases and when I say special I do not luxury, I mean a hostile situation, were their human rights are not respected.
On 25\11\2013- International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and 29\11\2013 International Day for Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I would like to highlight that violence against women happens everywhere in the world BUT in Palestine it is a unique situation. Palestinian women face two types of violence on two levels- firstly they face the aggressive occupation from the Israel state. Israel has occupied Palestine since 1948, hundreds of villages and communities have been displaced and masses of land confiscated. The Bedouin community who lives in al Negev west of Palestine are today experiencing exile and displacement. More than 800 thousand Dunums (197684 Acres) of Palestinian land in the Negev has been confiscated, which has meant the displacement of more than 50,000 people and demolishment of 36 villages. Palestinians make up 30% of the population of al Negev yet they live on only 1% of the land area of the region.
This forced and aggressive level of violence is known as occupation and is not presented as conflict. The occupation increases the level of violence inside the Palestinian society because it affects all the components of society not just the women. However women experience a double effect from the occupation through both inequality and domestic violence which exist inside our communities. The occupation contributes to the further marginalization of women from the formal framework, either directly or indirectly. All Palestinians are routinely harassed, intimidated and abused by Israeli soldiers at checkpoints and gates. Palestinian women, in particular, are humiliated in front of their families and subjected to sexual violence by both soldiers and settlers. Violence can be indirectly, through the obstruction of the judicial system for example, which hinders the provision of legal protection for women or impeding the work of organisations working on women’s rights to amend laws and legislation on women’s rights because of the disabling of the Legislative Council.
The second level of violence its domestic violence which I believe is rooted in patriarchal practice inside the community. This resulted in increases in all form of violence such as honour killing, violence against women, verbal and nonverbal violence, emotional and psychological violence which extend from inside families and impact the wider community. We as Palestinians, especially as Palestinian women need to work towards changing national legislative law, engage politics and run for political office and engage in advocacy at the international level.
Finally, if we take time to reflect and think deeply on the Palestinian situation, it is clear that we need more effective advocacy actions to make the occupation end and Israel accountable. We must work to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. Resolution 1325 urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts.