Speak Up

“A person can only be born in one place. However, he may die several times elsewhere: in the exiles and the prisons, and in a homeland transformed by occupation and oppression, into a nightmare.”

Mahmoud Darwish

I have recently been thinking about the reality of being a Palestinian woman IN Palestine. This has been provoked by my own recent experiences there, research into the health rights for all women and stories from others.

When I think about this Mahmoud Darwish quote in relation to the women I know and also based on my own experience as a woman in Palestine, I feel that I too have died many deaths as a result of the occupation and continue to do so….. it’s so multi layered, and there seem to be soo many threads, leading to a ball of mess, that sometimes one doesn’t know where to start and which thread to pull, to effect positive change.

Recently, some of you have heard about the story of a young girl from Bethlehem - Israa Gharib- who passed away. Whilst we don’t know exactly what happen and we may never know, her death and the speculation surrounding it, that it was an honour killing has sparked a movement of energy and dialogue that is long overdue.

I don’t want to focus on laying blame for her death or the reason the patriarchy exists in Palestine (as it exists everywhere and that is another conversation!!), however I wanted to share some excerpts of a statement I wrote for some work I was doing, to shed light on some of the realities being faced. I want to focus on the CHANGE we want to effect and look forwards, rather than looking backwards.

Unfortunately- despite the fact that this should go without saying- I need to stipulate that this is NOT an ARAB thing, NOR is it a MUSLIM thing and NOR is it a PALESTINIAN thing. It is a gender based inequality, that exists all over the world.

Even in my birth country and previous home, Australia, which for all intents and purposes seems outwardly progressive and pro woman, a woman is killed as a result of domestic violence every week! Even worse, indigenous women in Australia are 40X more likely to suffer domestic/gender based violence!

I hope the below encourages you to speak up about whatever change you are passionate about effecting. I hope the below shows some insight into the necessary legislative changes that need to occur in Palestine.

Some info:

  • According to Palestinian Police statistics in 2018 there were 24 GBV deaths in the West Bank and 12% were reported as honour related. In addition, GBV within the Occupied Palestinian Territories according to OCHA’s report in 2018, affects approximately 37% of married women. Further to this, statistics revealed by UNFPA’s GBV report in 2018, indicates that 1 in 4 men stated they had grown up witnessing their mother’s being beaten by their fathers or male relative and 63% indicated that they thought a woman should tolerate violence to keep a family together.

  • Palestinian women, are increasingly being subjected to GBV both from Israeli Occupying Forces and from their own families and communities. Whilst studies indicate that there is an increase in the perpetuation of GBV against women and an exacerbation of patriarchal dominance as a result of occupation and adversity, this can no longer be used as a mitigation for these human rights violations, against our women.  

  • The fact remains that, Palestinian legislation is discriminatory against women. According to Palestinian Judge Ahmad Al-Ashqar “Legislation in place contributes, to a large extent, to building a social awareness that killing under the pretext of honour is acceptable. Legal justifications and legal processes known as pardoning excuses and extenuating excesses and reasons contribute to that, as the majority of perpetrators benefit from these excuses based on Article 99.”

  • These inequalities remain today, due to a 100year history of occupation and political turmoil. Article 99 only exists due to the Palestinian penal code being a combination of Ottoman, British, Egyptian (Gaza), Jordanian (West Bank) and in some areas, no system i.e. Area C. In 2018, president Mahmoud Abbas committed to repealing article 308 and amending Article 99, however we are still waiting for these changes.

  • Furthermore, in 2014, the State of Palestine agreed to many international conventions for human rights without reservations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, however, the rights situation of women in Palestine has not improved.

  • Gender Based Violence is a human rights issue and we strongly request the Palestinian Authority adhere to its commitment to repeal and amend article 308 on the matter of rape and article 99, allowing the mitigation of sentences, for serious crimes such as the murder of women and children. Perpetrators of violence against women need to know there will be consequences.

  • We need to think differently about the way we educate our youth. It is not enough to educate women about their bodies and rights, young men and older men need to understand these rights and needs.


Palestinian women dancing in traditional Thoub (dress).

Palestinian women dancing in traditional Thoub (dress).

Amira Nimerawi