The Palestinian war against Israel is multifaceted. IAM has been documenting the abuse of the academic platform to advance the delegitimization of Israel.
For instance, the theory of Pinkwashing, which has been very popular, illustrates this point. The theory, embraced by such academic luminaries as Sarah Schulman, says that Israel celebrates LGBTQ rights to conceal the “occupation.” Of course, the fact that the Palestinians are oppressing and persecuting their LGBTQ community is not mentioned. This type of obfuscation meant to obscure reality.
The same modus operandi is behind the celebration of International Women's Day by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC). It has announced that "On International Women’s Day we celebrate the leadership of women fighting oppression and militarization." Their message is disseminated globally to countries such as Israel, Chile, Argentina, India, Brazil, the United States, and Europe. The BDS leadership is working to persuade the international community that the women of Palestine are "at the forefront of our struggles," which will lead to "a more just, beautiful and dignified world." They stress in their message that "Women leading justice movements worldwide recognize more and more Israel’s involvement in systems that oppress them." The BNC also added that "From the 1920s to today Palestinian women have played a leading role in resisting Israel’s decades-old regime of military occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid, while simultaneously fighting social oppression, sexism, discrimination and prejudice domestically."
To elaborate on their message, the BNC has published a picture of Palestinian women demonstrating in the streets, taken on September 26, 2019. However, the demonstrations of Palestinian women in Haifa, Ramallah, Rafah, Nazareth, Beirut, Taybeh, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Arraba, Jish, and Berlin, all marching at the same time, was for something entirely different. These Palestinian women rejected the grim reality of gender-based violence and oppression, the patriarchy and patriarchal violence, which includes Femicide, or "Honour Killing," that subsists in the Palestinian society for many decades. These are acts of violence and murder of girls and women thought to have shamed their families.
The women-protesters decried the case of Israa Gharib, who was 21 years old when she died, after being severely injured at home by family members. Her attack was sparked by a photograph on Instagram of her with a man who proposed to her. The photo incensed her family so much that they instructed her brother to punish her physically. Gharib was beaten nearly to death by her family, who then followed her to the hospital to finish the crime. A video taken at the hospital documenting her screams shows that no one around intervened to help her.
According to Palestinian feminists who marched in the streets, it is an "aggressive patriarchal culture and adherence to barbaric traditions as well as the misconception of honor that leads to such murders."
One of the organizers of the demonstrations, Riya Alsanah, of the group Tal3at (Arabic: stepping out), explained that the latest Femicide of Gharib shook the Palestinian society because of its brutality. It is not an "individual matter but a broader social one in which institutions are deeply complicit," she said. According to official figures, as real numbers could be higher, 28 Palestinian women were killed in 2019 and 35 women in 2018. This practice is a "widespread issue and it is an epidemic that is spreading throughout our society," she added.
Already in 2000, Palestinian Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian of the department of Criminology and Social Work at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and an Israeli citizen, has spoken at the UN at an event organized by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM, now part of UN Women). She is a leader in the fight for the rights of women victims of gender-related violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and spoke at the inauguration of a trust fund in support of actions to eliminate violence against women. Shalhoub-Kevorkian explained that the deaths of women from these crimes are often not reported and not adequately documented, which makes it difficult to advocate for these and other potential victims. "We realized we needed to map and get a landscape of femicide in the Palestinian areas and study not only the victims but also the larger problems contributing to the violence, such as attitudes and beliefs." Shalhoub-Kevorkian admitted she was a victim of rape when she was ten years old. She gave an example of a case of a girl whom she was assisting, a 14-year-old who was raped by her 35-year-old cousin and was forced by her family to marry him. The girl's father said that his first thought upon hearing about the rape was to kill his daughter. The girl's mother also said that she wished her daughter had died. As part of her work, Shalhoub-Kevorkian reaches out to tribal heads, religious leaders, and the police, searching for background information on cases and how they are dealt with. "We interviewed all the police officers in the West Bank, and what we found was amazing — the gender bias, stereotypes, the degrading way they treated women." She added that there is much-hidden information that has not been comprehensively studied.
Her work bore fruit, and in 2011, the Palestinian Cabinet endorsed a national strategic plan to combat violence against women in the Palestinian territory, the first of its kind. It was announced by the Palestinian Ministry of Women’s Affairs. The Ministry, with the support of UN Women, has led the development of the National Strategic Plan to Combat Violence against Women. The UN agency also stressed the importance of such a strategy and assured a strong UN involvement in the implementation. The strategy unifies existing efforts to end violence against women, such as improved policing, applying forensic science to cases of violence, extended social services, and better training for social workers. The Cabinet agreed on by-laws requiring all shelters of survivors of violence to uphold quality and human rights standards and established a new helpline, backed by web-based counseling and referral mechanisms, to give 18,000 callers access to life-saving information.
Still, with the many efforts to stamp out the violent tradition, there are too many cases of Femicide within the Palestinian society even today. The cynical use by political groups, such as the BDS movement, of Palestinian women marching and fighting for their lives, should be called out as outright lies and falsification of reality.
We should also be alerted that, like with Pinkwashing, which was spread by the academy and used in Gender Studies, scholarships presenting Palestinian women's struggle subverted as a tool against Israel, could be flourishing — serving as a scapegoat to disguise the Palestinian violence.
This highly deceptive practice robs the academic community of its legitimacy and does a disservice to the Palestinian women who are fighting for their rights.
Palestinian women to march against gender-based violence
Women across Palestine and the diaspora will stage a march on September 26 to assert that the struggle of women is intrinsic to the broader struggle for the liberation of Palestine
September 25, 2019 by Zoe PC
Palestinian women mobilized outside the prime minister's office in Ramallah after the killing of Israa Gharib to demand action be taken to stop violence against women. Photo: Twitter
On September 26, Palestinian women and communities across Historic Palestine and the diaspora will mobilize to reject gender-based violence and oppression, stressing the idea that the liberation of Palestine cannot be achieved without the liberation of women. The call for the mobilization was issued by Tal3at, a collective of Palestinian women across Historic Palestine who were moved to action following the brutal femicide of 21-year-old Israa Gharib who was murdered by members of her family in late August.
Tal3at (طالعات in Arabic), translated as “Going out into the streets”, seeks to break with the NGO-ization of the fight of Palestinian women and to re-center the struggle against patriarchy and patriarchal violence as an integral part of the political, economic and social struggle for the liberation of Palestine.
So far, mobilizations are planned to take place in the Palestinian cities of Haifa, Ramallah, Rafah in Gaza, Nazareth, Beirut, Al-Taybeh, Yaffa, Jerusalem, Arraba and Al-Jish, as well as in Beirut in Lebanon and Berlin in Germany.
Riya Alsanah, a Palestinian researcher and activist and a member of Tal3at collective, spoke to Peoples Dispatch about the women’s struggle in Palestine and what was the catalyst to organize the mobilization on the 26th.
Peoples Dispatch: How have women, feminists and anti-patriarchal activists been organizing in Palestine? What are the challenges?
Riya Alsanah: Palestinian woman have always been part of the struggle against Israel’s colonial rule. However, with the NGO-ization of the Palestinian struggle, we increasingly saw that women’s organizations sectionalized the struggle of women and framed it through a rights-based approach, rather than being part of a much bigger fight for social, economic and political change.
This process of NGO-ization framed our struggle as one solely against patriarchy, without taking into account our specific context of being a colonized people, living the adverse consequences of Israel’s over 7 decade-long settler-colonial regime. This has led some organizations in Palestine ’48 (Historic Palestine) to work with Israeli organizations, because for them, the central question is women’s oppression, which is something that is universally shared by all women.
For political parties and within the general discourse, the issue of women’s emancipation is treated as a secondary and an isolated matter and is not seen as a central element of our fight for justice for the Palestinian body politic as a whole.
Our group, Tal3at, which is organizing the actions on the 26th of September, came as a response to these narrow framings and to the heavy weight of the institutional response. We came to say that ordinary women can unite in action and solidarity and that the struggle for gender-based liberation and justice is intrinsically political and has to be integral to our struggle against the violence inflicted on us by the political and economic system we live under.
PD: How did the femicide of Israa Gharib ignite an urgency in the struggle of women in Palestine?
RA: The killing of Israa shook Palestinian society not because it was the first, but because of its brutality and how it exposed the multi-layered nature of institutional complicity. It showed how violence against women and their killing is not an individual matter but a broader social one in which institutions are deeply complicit. In fact, Israa is one of 28 Palestinian women who were killed in 2019. In 2018, 35 Palestinian women were murdered. These, of course, are the official statistics and we know that the real numbers would be even higher. So in a sense, we see that this is a widespread issue and it is an epidemic that is spreading throughout our society.
Israa was beaten nearly to death by family members who then followed her to the hospital to finish the crime. A widely circulated video that was taken at the hospital documents her screams and the fact that no one intervened in her defense. Following her murder, the family started spreading a number of theories about what happened to her and why. Their explanations were predictable and went along general tropes that are used in the defense of violence against women worldwide. They claimed that she was mentally ill and/or that she was possessed, as if even if these were true, that they would be legitimate reasons for murder. Then even her autopsy was a farce.
Israa’s case came at the point where people just felt that enough is enough, and that something had to be done.
Illustration of Israa Gharib.
PD: On September 26, there will be mobilizations across Historic Palestine. What is the central message of this mobilization?
RA: On the September 26, Palestinian women and communities across Historic Palestine and in Lebanon, and in the diaspora, will unite in action against violence against women in its varying forms – verbal, physical, psychological and political. We want to highlight that the violence women are subjected is not inflicted by an unknown monster, but often by a family member within the supposedly safe space of the home.
We want to say that this is not an isolated or an individual matter. It is part of a broader social and political issue that we have to confront and fight against collectively. We see our struggle for women’s emancipation and liberation as part and parcel of our broader struggle for liberation for an equal, just, and safe living for all. We want to centralize women’s struggles in our broader political struggle for liberation. These for us are interconnected and one cannot happen without the other. The act of taking to the streets and publicly calling out the system that we are fighting against is our first step in fighting against isolation and fragmentation and building a collective base that can strengthen us and unite us; and to fight for a better society and a community for women but also for all of its members.
The following was written by another member of the Tal3at (طالعات) collective as a reflection on the mobilization tomorrow:
“We are a group of Palestinian women from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and beyond, struggling against all forms of violence against Palestinian women everywhere.
We struggle to put an end to all kinds of physical, psychological, sexual and economic violence that women face on a daily basis.
We are struggling as Palestinians based on our understanding of our reality within a colonial system. As such, we are trying to create solidarity that breaks the geographic, social and political fragmentation imposed on us by this system.
We are also trying to restore our society to be a just and safe society for everyone as part of our struggle against colonialism.
We refuse for the struggle of Palestinian women for freedom to be postponed until after national liberation and with this in mind, this movement aims to redefine national liberation as comprehensive, holistic liberation for all. Indeed, national liberation means not only liberation and emancipation from Israeli domination and oppression. It also means complete freedom, justice and human dignity for every Palestinian.
Today, we are in serious need of a movement that acknowledges that national liberation is also the liberation of Palestinian women. Therefore, we stress the need to build an organized Palestinian feminist movement capable of addressing Palestinian women that serves them and meets their needs.”
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2019
Palestinian women demand action over femicide
THOUSANDS of Palestinian women marched against femicide and misogyny on Thursday following the murder of a Bethlehem woman, allegedly at the hands of her family.
Protests took place in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, the Israeli city of Haifa and elsewhere across the world under the slogan “Free homeland, free women. ”The day of action was organised in part through a Facebook page of the same name, with social media users spreading the call using the hashtag #Tal’at — Arabic for “coming out. ”Protesters marched through the streets of Haifa, chanting: “From Beirut to Haifa, women are murdered in the streets and at home. It is time to protect them. “We want to be free, live in respect, solidarity and safety. ”Organisers said: “We cannot free the homeland without harnessing the power women bring. All we need is freedom and protection and we will be on a safe path. ”Anger has been fuelled by an increase in murders of Palestinian women. According to the Aman Centre — Arab Centre for Safe Society, 11 Arab women have been murdered in Israel by their partners or family members this year alone. The latest protests were sparked by last month’s death of Israa Gharib, a 21-year-old from Bethlehem allegedly murdered by family members. Haifa Deputy Mayor Shahira Shalabi took part in Thursday’s protest. “By crying out against femicide, we also aim to break the patriarchal structure of Arab society,” she said. Fellow marcher Mai Sada told the Haaretz newspaper that the struggle for women’s safety was inseparable from the Palestinian national struggle. “There is a connection between living in our own autonomous land and the right that every person is entitled to — especially women — to decide for themselves and choose how to live their lives,” she said.
Palestinian 'honor killing' sparks outrage, calls for women's protection
The death of a young Palestinian woman in a so-called honor killing in the West Bank has sparked protests and calls for justice. Critics say the authorities must do more to ensure women are protected.
The sense of outrage can be felt on the streets and online. In the wake of the death of Israa Ghrayeb, dozens of Palestinian women demonstrated in Ramallah on Monday.
Ghrayeb, 21, died on August 22 after being severely injured at home two weeks earlier. Activists say she was severely beaten by family members in a so-called honor killing.
Protesters have sharply called into question the circumstances which they say caused her death. They decry the aggressive patriarchal culture and adherence to barbaric traditions as well as the misconception of honor that leads to such murders.
The attack was reportedly sparked by a picture with a man who had recently proposed to her that she posted to photo-sharing platform Instagram. The photo evidently incensed her family so much that they instructed her brother to physically punish her.
Indeed, it is a tragedy! Israa experienced the most heinous forms of abuse. Honour killing will never be justifiable. May she Rest In Peace and justice be served. #WeAreIsraa
When she tried to escape his violence, she fell from the second-floor balcony of her parents' home. According to media reports, she broke her spine. The family says she jumped after being "possessed by demons."
In the hospital, Ghrayeb posted another photograph with her injuries on social media: "I'm strong, and I have the will to live — if I didn't have this willpower, I would have died yesterday," she wrote. "Don't send me messages telling me to be strong, I am strong. May God be the judge of those who oppressed me and hurt me."
'Any woman could be a victim'
After those next posts, her brother, along with other male relatives, reportedly brutally beat her inside the hospital.
According to reports, Ghrayeb's family claimed that they are not responsible for her death, and that their daughter died of a heart attack. The Palestinian police have not yet commented on the case.
Palestinian documentary filmmaker Imtiaz al-Maghrabi, however, is without doubt: "Any Palestinian woman could be a victim of such a crime," she told DW.
Al-Maghrabi, who is currently making a film about honor killings, was recognized for her work by the Arab Women's Media Center in the Jordanian capital of Amman in March.
The Palestinian territories have modernized laws dealing with honor killings, but al-Maghrabi says that, in reality, the effect of these laws is limited: "Palestinian society is influenced by custom, tradition, and religion. These all bear more weight than the law, and crimes relating to a violation of honor are often only lightly punished."
Violence against women
Sociologist Iyad Barghouthi from the Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies told DW that, in practice, the permittance of honor killings is likely to continue. He believes that's because — from a male perspective — the concept of honor has no relation to values such as morality, integrity or success; it is solely defined by the reputation of the female family members. A man is willing to take violent action against a woman if she does not meet his expectations, he said.
Using the term "honor killing"
- exoticizes murder
- distracts the convo and redirects focus on culture
- hinders solidarity among women across cultures
It's "murder," a variation of the domestic violence that kills wmn in every country on earth.#WeAreAllIsraa
Barghouthi views a prevailing sense of fear and frustration in society to be a contributing factor: "These feelings then erupt into violence, often against the female family members."
He points out that these difficult living conditions do not just impact men, and for women, they amount to a twofold in suffering.
[In Photos] “There is no free homeland, without women’s freedom”
Thousands of Palestinian women mobilized in towns and cities across Palestine to demonstrate against patriarchal and colonial violence
September 30, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Thousands mobilized across Palestine against violence against women. The mobilization in Ramallah saw hundreds take to the streets. Photo: Sharif Mosa
On Thursday September 26 thousands of women and activists across Historic Palestine and the diaspora took to the streets to reject gender based violence and proclaim the centrality of women’s liberation to the social, economic and political fight for broader Palestinian liberation.
The call for the mobilization was issued by Tal3at, (طالعات in Arabic), translated as “Going out into the streets”. It is a collective of Palestinian women across Historic Palestine who were moved to action following the brutal femicide of 21-year-old Israa Gharib who was murdered by members of her family in late August.
Mobilizations were held in Palestinian cities and towns including Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip, Ramallah, Jish, Jerusalem, Haifa, Taybeh, Tiba, Jaffa, Nazareth, Arraba, and internationally in Beirut, Lebanon and Berlin, Germany.
The rally in Jerusalem was met with police repression, but it did not deter the spirit of the protesters who defiantly marched on.
Following the successful mobilization, the Tal3at issued a statement applauding the efforts taken by women and communities in the cities and towns that mobilized and recognizing the moment as a crucial step in fighting for freedom wherein both the homeland, Palestine, and women are truly free.
“We went out today to be together and to fight and support each other in the face of erasing and marginalizing the stories of violence that we experience on a daily basis…We have come to the streets under the slogan ‘There is no free homeland, without free women,’ to redefine the concept of emancipation in our homeland, and to emphasize that there is no horizon for national liberation without justice, dignity and freedom for each of us. This day was a space for us, Palestinian women, in defiance of the fragmentation and colonial geographic divisions, to declare that we refuse to be a deferred issue, and that our dignity and freedom should be a priority in the essence of Palestinian liberation discourse and political action.
This day was a reflection of the reality of violence that we face with our lives and our bodies every day. In the demonstrations, we faced multiple male and colonial repression; we turned to medical institutions involved in failing to protect battered women, and we launched a cry against “enlightened” violence and harassment in the political and social space. We clashed with the Israeli occupation police. In doing so, we will continue to engage with these forces of repression, and we will work tirelessly to ensure safe spaces capable of empowering women and creating potential to destabilize deep-rooted violence and corruption.”
Below are photos and videos of some of the mobilizations:
Hundreds marched in Ramallah in the West Bank.
Photo: Sharif Mosa
Photo: Sharif Mosa
Photo: Sharif Mosa
Dozens rallied in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza strip.
Mobilization in Rafah, Gaza
Mobilization in Rafah, Gaza
Mobilization in Rafah, Gaza
Mobilization in Rafah, Gaza
Haifa had one of the largest turnouts.
Dozens mobilized in Arraba
Dozens mobilized in Arraba
In Jish, protesters held up photos of the victims of femicides.
Mobilization in the town of Jish
In Jish women displayed shoes as a symbol to represent the women who have been murdered. “The shoes stay and the woman is killed”
Protesters in the town of Jish.
Israeli police repressed the protest in Jerusalem but the women marched on.
Hundreds of Palestinian women and activists came together in Beirut, Lebanon.
Dozens mobilized in Berlin, Germany.
Ghrayeb's killing sparked a show of solidarity in Berlin
The Palestinian Cabinet recently adopted the Arab region’s first national strategy to combat violence against women. With UN Women’s support, survivors of violence took part in drafting it. The strategy unifies existing efforts to end violence against women, covering: improved policing, the application of forensic science to violence cases, extended social services and better training of social workers. As one step towards implementation, the Cabinet agreed on a by-law allowing the Ministry of Social Affairs to require all shelters for survivors of violence to uphold quality and human rights standards. It draws from good practices developed at the UN Women-backed Mehwar Centre, a pioneering initiative offering women a full range of services to recover from violence, seek legal redress and develop livelihood skills. A new helpline, backed by web-based counselling and referral mechanisms, has given 18,000 callers access to potentially life-saving information.
Palestinian Cabinet Endorses National Strategy to Combat Violence against Women
The Palestinian Cabinet endorsed a nine-year national strategic plan to combat violence against women in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), the first of its kind in the Arab region developed through a bottom-up approach. Officially adopted on 11 January 2011 and announced at the Palestinian Ministry of Women’s Affairs during a press conference today, the strategy takes on a cross-sector approach, recognizing violence against women as a development issue affecting the social, economic and political systems of Palestinian society.
The Palestinian Ministry of Women’s Affairs, with the support of UN Women, led the development process of the territory’s National Strategic Plan to Combat Violence against Women (2011-2019). The Strategy includes inputs from a range of sources, including women’s organizations, civil society, community organizations, private sector, ministries and women refugees.
UN Resident Coordinator for the oPt Maxwell Gaylard stressed the importance of such a strategy for women in the territory’s context, and assured strong UN involvement in supporting the implementation of the Strategic Plan. Gaylard was one of a number of participants at the press conference, attended by the Palestinian Minister of Women’s Affairs Rabiha Diab and Director of the Palestinian Government Media Centre Ghassan Al-Khatib.
While Palestinian men are most vulnerable to conflict-related violence, women are frequently exposed to violence from a wide range of sources, including the conflict with Israel, the intra-Palestinian divide and domestic violence. According to a 2010 World Bank gender study of the region, the conflict has permeated various aspects of Palestinian life, from the economic to the domestic level.
The work behind the Strategic Plan took part within the framework of the three-year Millennium Development Goals Trust Fund Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment programme, financed by the Government of Spain and bringing together six UN agencies. The Strategic Plan is complementary to the Palestinian Authority’s 2011-2013 Cross-Sectoral National Gender Strategy, which considers violence as one of its main themes.
Fighting Femicide against Palestinian Women
Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian makes a formidable opponent to anyone she takes on, whether they're government officials, judges, police officers, clergy, or angry fathers. Tall, articulate, and intense, Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a Palestinian activist and professor, is a tireless advocate for female victims of gender-related violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"I'm a crazy person when it comes to my cases," says Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a member of the Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) and a professor of criminology and social work at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "I'll stop at nothing to help the women that come to me for assistance."
That's not hard to believe. As Shalhoub-Kevorkian describes her days helping girls and women who are victims of so-called honour crimes, the force of her sense of outrage and dedication becomes apparent. "Honour crimes" are acts of violence, including murder, against girls and women who are thought to have shamed their families as victims of rape, sexual abuse, incest, or alleged adultery.
Shalhoub-Kevorkian calls this "femicide," a term she has broadened to include not just murder, but any abuse that puts women in a state of "living death."
"In this work, I've learned that death is the inability to live, that is, society is making these women dead inside by forcing them to marry their rapist or abuser in an attempt to cleanse the family's shame. Others are imprisoned at home, just to safeguard the so-called family honour. This, to me, is a kind of death," she says.
The deaths of women from these crimes are often not reported or properly documented, which makes advocating for these women and other potential victims very difficult, Shalhoub-Kevorkian says. "We realized we needed to map and get a landscape of femicide in the Palestinian areas and study not only the victims but also the larger problems contributing to the violence, such as attitudes and beliefs. Only this way could we establish a comprehensive intervention strategy," she says.
This is where UNIFEM's Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women comes in. The grant provided by UNIFEM has helped WCLAC study, in depth, cases that have come to WCLAC's attention. "There's a lot of hidden information that has never been studied comprehensively," Shalhoub-Kevorkian points out. She sought out tribal heads, religious leaders, and the police, searching for background information on cases and how they were dealt with. "We interviewed all the police officers in the West Bank and what we found was amazing — the gender bias, stereotypes, the degrading way they treated women. It really opened my eyes," she says.
The UNIFEM grant helped Shalhoub-Kevorkian and WCLAC examine difficult cases such as that of Laila, a 14-year-old girl who was raped by her 35-year-old cousin and was being forced by her family to marry him. Shalhoub-Kevorkian remembers the girl's father saying that his first thought upon hearing about the rape was to kill his daughter. Marriage was the next best way to deal with the catastrophe that she brought to this family, he said. The girl's mother said that she wished Laila had died.
"Laila was sitting and looking at me, very sad, but never said a word," Shalhoub-Kevorkian said. "But I read her eyes, the fear, grief, and pain. I tried to talk with her, but how could I talk with someone who had been muted for years? How could I make her speak out or voice what she needed?" Six months after her marriage and several suicide attempts, Laila came back. "She told me that she felt as if they had all raped her," Shalhoub-Kevorkian says. "She said she had become a slave to the one who had raped her and death was nothing compared to her life now. But at least she had me to come to."
Working with girls and young women like Laila strikes close to home for Shalhoub-Kevorkian. "I was a victim of rape when I was 10 years old," she admits, quietly. "I had no words or ways of explaining what happened to me and it took me so many painful and hard years to voice it. Everything I do today is trying to help those who are voiceless and powerless. By this I try to reduce, as much as I can, other girls' and women's pain and agonies."
She first became involved in women's issues as a community worker in East Jerusalem, but became more intensely involved during the Intifada, when she saw women suffer not only from political violence, but also domestic violence at the hands of family members. She began her current work when, as a professor, one of her students brought her a case about the rape of an 18-year-old in a refugee camp. She hasn't stopped since. In 1994, she started the first hotline in the Middle East for abused women and those fearing violence or abuse.
"When I talk to victims, I feel that I can't fail them. They're not a story to me, but a person that needs help. If I'm listening, I'm responsible. I'll do anything not to let them down. I'll never stop doing this even if I have to do it alone."
The battle against femicide is just beginning, she says, but significant progress has been made. "People are talking about it more and it's more visible, so I think that's the first step. Gender training for judges and other officials is the next important step," she says. "Collecting women's stories through grants like the Trust Fund is vital to bringing femicide out into the open, getting society to acknowledge what's happening, and to open up a national dialogue. It's only then that we can empower women to speak out and help themselves."
Professor of criminology and social work at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and founder of the Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian fights for the rights of women victims of gender-related violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. WCLAC received a grant in 1998 from the Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women for the project titled "Legal Victimization of Women in the Arab World: The Palestinian Case Study."
(Story Date: 24 November 2000)