Gaza is not alone against the siege!

gazzeli-kadinlarla-dayanisma_14-9-16-7In 2007, a year after the legislative party backed by Hamas won the open and legal elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006, Israel and Egypt applied a siege on Gaza. Gaza, which is recognized by the United Nations and international human rights organizations as remaining under Israeli occupation, is the highest-density population zone in the world and its essential services like water, electricity and telecommunications are dependent upon Israel.

After the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2014, the lives of people in Gaza have become hellish. 18,000 houses, in which 95,000 people lived, were totally destroyed. The reconstruction of these buildings has been made impossible because of the siege and closure. According to the report by human rights organization Oxfam, if Israel maintains the unlawful closure of Gaza, the reconstruction of these buildings will take exactly 100 years. In addition, the Red Cross also reported that the siege causes a massive restriction on access to basic medical needs like painkillers and x-ray films.

The people of Gaza are not leaving their homeland; they can’t leave even if they want to.

The destruction and harm caused by the siege affects the women of Gaza above all. When women lose their spouses, they lose their source of income. When they lose their houses, the burden of creating a new home for their family – and in some situations this home is a tent – falls completely on their shoulders. When they lose both their spouses and their homes, they are often pressured to accept remarriage to another male member of their late husband’s family. When their houses are destroyed and they have to move in to shared space or close proximity to other families, they are deprived of their privacy. And almost all of these women, while struggling with these and related problems and knowing that it is only a matter of time before they are once again subject to bombardment, are struggling to support their children who are suffering from the psychosocial and psychological effects of war, such as nightmares, bed-wetting, waking up with screams at night and other experiences with mental illness.

The UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) points out in a report prepared in 2011 that Palestinian women and girls are exposed to multiple forms of violence coming from both Israeli soldiers and settlers on their lands and that these incidents are rarely documented.

For example, note the cases of Israa Abed, who shot in Afulah by Israeli occupation police for no reason and of 18-year-old Hadeel al-Hashlamoun who shot because she refused to open her bag at the army checkpoint and died because she was kept waiting, bleeding, for half an hour before an ambulance took her to the hospital.

In order to bring an end to the siege on Gaza, first small boats were sent to Gaza and then freedom flotillas, which faced attacks from Israel. 9 people were massacred on the Mavi Marmara ship sent in 2010. This time, a flotilla formed only by women is sailing towards Gaza. One of the ships in the fleet is named Amal, meaning hope; the other is Zaytouna, meaning olive. Hopes – for the day that the siege and the occupation will end and Palestinians scattered around the world will return to their homes – are what gives strength to the people of Gaza and throughout Palestine against all the oppression they face. The olive is one of the most important sources of income and nourishment for Palestinians and the occupation forces constantly attack this source by cutting or burning olive trees.

The women on the ships Amal and Zaytouna include politicians, peace activists and writers, some of whom have lived in Gaza or visited there in the past. Some Jewish women are sailing on these ships, including those who have taken part in past freedom flotillas and were, in their words, taken hostage by the occupation forces. Naomi Wallace, a writer from the United States who will sail on the Women’s Boat to Gaza, says: “We must fight against systems that diminish us, like racism, occupation and brutality.” The women of the Women’s Boat to Gaza have declared that their aim is to draw attention to the harm the siege causes women, bring hope to Gaza and make the role of women in the resistance against the occupation more visible.

Their aim is to make the world see the struggle of thousands of women, like the icon of Palestinian resistance Leila Khaled, the 13-year-old girl Malaak al-Khatib who was imprisoned for throwing stones at the occupation forces, the feminist legislator and parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar who was taken from her home in a pre-dawn military raid and subject to administrative detention without charge or trial and then military courts,  the poet Dareen Tatour who was arrested because of her poem posted on Youtube, the student and dancer Lina Khattab arrested for protesting at Birzeit University, the prisoner Hana Shalabi who went on a hunger strike during her administrative detention without charge or trial, the artist Rafeef Ziadah who tells the world about the Palestinian cause with her poems and many more, most whose names are unknown…

Peace activist Mairead Maguire from Ireland, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976, says, “We know what occupation and siege mean… from our own experiences.”

We also, know very well what occupation and siege mean.

Naomi Wallace says, “Israel’s army is funded with our taxes. We know that our government has been funding the occupation for years.” We also, know that the recently signed agreement between Turkey and Israel is supporting oppression and violence against Palestinians, especially Palestinian women and the children they care for. Palestinians don’t want mere aid; they want Israel to be isolated politically, diplomatically and militarily. Palestinians know that the aid and supplies coming from ships entering the Ashdod port under the control of the Israeli occupation, with the permission of the occupying power, are not a means to end the siege and closure of Gaza.

We, as the Women’s Initiative for Peace and women from BDS-Turkey, salute the Women’s Boat to Gaza and declare our solidarity with Palestinian people and the resistance against occupation.


Women’s Initiative for Peace                                                      Women from BDS-Turkey