In the debate on the hijab I believe it is all about choice.
When certain countries seek to legally impel women to eschew the hijab, I am incandescent.
But equally, as in the case unfolding in Gaza this week, it is an infringement on a girl’s rights if she is denied education on the basis that she does not don the requisite attire.
According to Human Rights Watch, since schools reopened last week girls have been turned away for not wearing the jilbab and hijab in place of the usual uniform of a long denim shirt and skirt.
The order has originated from the Hamas authorities, though without a legal basis:
These new orders are simply arbitrary. No one should be forced to wear religious clothing, including the headscarf, to receive an education. [Source]
In addition, the Center for Women’s Legal Research and Consulting in Gaza reported that a school administrator slapped one female student in front of her schoolmates for not wearing the jilbab.
Interestingly, the rules on religious dress only apply to women; at least, thus far.
Since Hamas launched the “Virtue Campaign” in July the environment for women is becoming frighteningly familiar as Hamas police question women seen socializing with men in public places to determine their relationship (whether family or, God forbid, platonic friends) and beat up young men swimming sans shirts.
It is almost as though Gaza is morphing towards a miniature Iran; the crackdowns, the infringements of human rights, the abuse, the deprivation – all in the name of virtue.
One cannot distinguish between the tactics being enacted by the Hamas police in the above instances and those by the Iranian basiji in recent years.
The future does not look good for women in Gaza and something intimates that this is merely the beginning.