Fifty weeks have passed since the Great March of Return demonstrations began at the fence separating the Gaza Strip and Israel. Since March 30, protesters in Gaza have demanded the right to return to their homes and villages in historical Palestine, and demanded an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities. Palestinian woman have been a part of the protests from the beginning. According to Gaza Health Ministry, more than 250 Palestinians have been killed during the Great March of Return, including six women.
On this Friday, more than 7,000 Gazans demonstrated, more than half of them women after the leaders of the protest called for Palestinians to join in the “Friday of Palestinian women” in honor of International Women’s Day.
On the cusp of nearly a year of weekly demonstrations, I asked women in the Malaka area, east of Gaza City, what is it important to know about being a woman in Gaza? And, how long will they continue to join the protests?
Huda al-Noory, 33, unemployed
“Despite being shot twice in my abdomen and arm; I am willing to protest for another year until those [Israeli] snipers disappear and let us replant these farmlands with oranges and olives like our fathers did in Jaffa.
We as Palestinian women grew up to be a sister of martyr, a mother of prisoner, or aunt of an amputee. This pain can not be imagined unless you are a Palestinian woman.”
Sherin Nasrallah, 31, hairdresser
“Sadly, I have to say that we have achieved nothing till now, but I lost half of my spleen and liver to a bullet in the same place last November. However, it does not matter; it seems liberation will cost more blood and organs.
For a Palestinian woman there is no time for celebrations nor dance parties, and that explains why my clients are rare. It seems moments of joy are vanishing in Gaza women’s life, as long as Israel is existing.”
Khetam Shallouf, 21, volunteer paramedic
“Oh man! Nothing could stop me from participating as a medic today or a demonstrator next week. This is a kind of heroic adventure down to the last round to kill the monster without losing more blood. I am a sister of a martyr who was killed by Israeli shelling in 2012, since then my mother had an anxiety attack.
For women in Gaza, living in poverty and deprivation means struggling to hunt for moments of normality that are taken for granted in much of the rest of the world.”
Lamya Shehadeh, 50, mother of three injured protesters
“No one should inquire about the end of the protest until the Israelis are made aware of their brutal policy against the rights holders [Palestinians]. Not a single house in all of Palestine is free of the oppression caused by Israel since its establishment. What a destiny!
The women here are still able to give love to their children, since we are human and want to live in peace without any kind of controlling or occupation that puts us back to the slavery era.”
Kawther Saeed, 45, teacher
“Our time of being refugees is over, so all these crowds must return eventually. It’s the Israelis turn to try the pain, for even a week, that Palestinians have had during more than seventy years of oppression.
Why should unemployment, poverty, and death be integral parts of the Palestinian women’s life? Here, there is only a spider silk separating life and oppression.”