Women in Gaza spend post-war International Women’s Day

Oum Abdallah Elwan, 44, spent her International Women’s day with her seven children in a cemetery mourning her husband, who was killed in a 22-day Israeli military offensive carried out on Gaza ended on Jan. 18.

Elwan is just one among many Palestinian women in the enclave strip, whom lost their husbands or sons in the Israeli military operation, and became the sole supporter of their family.

Wearing traditional Islamic dress (burquo), Elwan was fully covered with only eyes exposed. She sat next to her husband’s grave, desperately and helplessly.

“He was killed and left me with five sons and two daughters, who will take care of us?” She told Xinhua reporters.

Israel carried out a 22-day massive military offensive on Gaza Strip since December 27th of 2008, leaving some 1,400 Palestinian skilled and more than 5,000 injured.

“My husband was peaceful, he was killed with seven others by an Israeli missile when he went out to help the medics to rescue the injured people. He was a civilian without weapons. Why did the Israelis kill him?” Cried Elwan.

Elwan now is facing a difficult psychological and financial situation after her husband died. “I try to start my new life, but I can’t help missing him and so do my children.” Elwan said.

Now Elwan lives in a very humble house in Ber El Naaja area, northern Gaza Strip, relying on aids from some local organizations. She cooks food for her children with kerosene everyday due to the lack of gas in Gaza since Israel imposed tight blockade.

Some Palestinian human rights activists mentioned that the Palestinian women, especially those who lost their husbands or sons, still suffer very “hard shocks.”

Samar Shahien, Palestinian activist for the woman rights, said that the Palestinian society suffers from shock after the Israeli military operation in general, but women suffer more.

Women, in a direct, or indirect way, are facing huge responsibility because of this unstable situation, and no woman is able to accept quietly the death of her husband or son, Shahien said.

Shahien said especially when a woman has to take the man’s role to support the whole family; she has to undertake more than she can.

In a very traditional Islamic community like Gaza, if the man became a martyr, the wife will be deprived of remarriage, she has to raise all the children by her own, and this may cause her fear for the future, said Shahien.

Talking about her children’s future, Elwan said she is encouraging her sons to devote into “resistance” when they grow up, and she said this happened only when her husband was killed.

But at the same time, Elwan added that, she is also encouraging them to study and leave them the choice to define their goals in the society, which she believes is ruled by armed factions.

Asked about her comment on the first post-war Women’s Day, Elwan replied that the day is supposed to be an important occasion for the women all over the world, but “women in Gaza only experience a joyless Women’s Day.”



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