Is the suffering of Palestinian women limited only to what happens to them under occupation? And is it enough for us to focus always on this suffering, while ignoring the corresponding suffering of Syrian and Jordanian and Egyptian and other women in this region which struggles under of the yoke of a male-chauvinist mentality in every way?

The occasion for these questions is the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs' festival dedicated to Palestinian women under the title: “Palestinian Women in International Humanitarian Law,” during which a number of events were held about Palestinian heritage and which sought to shed light on the violence that Palestinian women are exposed to under occupation, whether directly or indirectly, despite numerous treaties and international declarations.

No one can deny the violations that Palestinian women are exposed to directly or indirectly as a result of the various facets of life under occupation, about which a great deal has already been said and written. And the matter before us here is not these violations as such. Though it could be said that while the Committee’s project has certainly struck a chord in light of the current conditions afflicting Palestinian women under occupation, what is most striking is that the limitation of “International Humanitarian Law” to the occupation alone forms in itself a kind of discrimination against women, a discrimination based on the fundamental failure to recognize women as human beings with the same rights and responsibilities as those other human beings: men.
This festival, like other such festivals, addressed the laws which affect civilians under occupation and related issues, yet it ignored totally the status of Palestinian women under the local Palestinian “authorities” in all of their official and unofficial forms. This is the reality which most political parties try to obscure and conceal and quash any discussion of under various pretexts, foremost among them that the parties are “presently under occupation”, thus demanding silence about every other violation that Palestinian women are subjected to by Palestinian laws and authorities.
Like all women in the region Palestinian women also suffer from a tangled web of legal, party, religious and social abuses, including the phenomenon of “honor crimes”. One study documented 60 murders “in defense of honor” in 2006, 31 in 2003, and 15 cases only through the middle of 2007! And these women were killed by their families, not by the occupation! Particularly noteworthy is the case of the triple-murder of three sisters (in the Gaza Strip, July 2007) which rocked the Palestinian community, although it still lets the murderers go free!
Two surveys undertaken in 1998-1999 showed that the percentage of women “raped within marriage” (i.e. forced to have sex with their husband without their consent) was around 22% of women polled! Another study showed that 60% of women were victims of one or more kinds of abuse.
A study published in 1999 reported that 40% of women polled in An-Naqab are in polygamous marriages!
And despite the fact that the Palestinian community is considered to be among the most successful in terms of combating illiteracy (6.5% of those over the age of 15, as of 2006), there are more than three times as many illiterate women as there are men!
Recently, women working in media in the Gaza Strip have protested being prevented by the authorities from entering media centers because they were “un-veiled”!
This is in addition to the pressures and antagonism that the Palestinian authorities impose on centers and organizations working to combat violence against women, with the excuse that “confronting the occupation” currently takes priority, or under the usual, ridiculous pretexts that working to combat this violence means submitting to a foreign agenda or attempting to destroy Islam!
Thus, Palestinian women are not just exposed to violence from the occupation, but they also suffer from discrimination and abuse from their society and the authorities that rule it. Violation of their rights as human beings in the society where they live is also a violation of humanitarian law. And humanitarian law is not just about the Geneva Conventions or treaties related to civil and political rights under occupation. It also comprises agreements and protocols and declarations aimed at abolishing discrimination and abuse of women, for example the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEADAW) of which the Palestinian National Authority was not a signatory until 8/3/2009!

Bassam AlKadi, 9/4/2009, (Palestinian women are not just victims of the occupation, but of the local “authorities” too!)

Translated by: Tyler Golson

source in Arabic..