Hard Times in Gaza: the BBC looks at Domestic Violence in Gaza Strip

Krista recently did an analysis of a BBC profile of Egyptian women’s participation in mosques and saw the BBC profile as an example of how to cover Muslim women. The BBC has done another profile, this time of Gazan women dealing with domestic violence. I think the BBC has once again demonstrated how to cover Muslim women.

Image via BBC story.
Psychiastrist Suha Mousa. Image via BBC story.

With the exception of a few ethnocentric flubs, like telling us the women are in headscarves (uh, we could tell from the pictures) or saying that in eastern societies there is nowhere to turn for women in distress (Eastern societies aren’t a monolith and this leaves out places that do aid women), the BBC article was spot-on and an impressive look at domestic violence in Gaza. There’s no blaming Islam or portraying Muslim men as “evil bearded monsters out to kill their women”. The BBC gives us a nuanced look at the reason for the rise in domestic violence in the region, as well as how it’s being addressed.

Reading the article, we see abuse victims in Gaza much the same way that we see abuse victims in any part of the world. Like other abuse victims, it is hard to leave their abusive situation for a variety of reasons: economic hardships that might be incurred by leaving a family support system, not wanting to bring embarrassment to themselves or their family, not wanting to make a “private” situation public, etc. While the reasons they may not want to leave maybe shared by other women around the world, the BBC rightly shows how the situation for women in Gaza is also unique.

There’s no shelters for abused women in the area. This is obviously an issue since victims of domestic violence need a safe place to stay for themselves and their families if they want to leave. Without it, leaving the abusive situation is much harder. Fortunately, there are clinics for the women to receive anti-depressants and therapy, but at the end of the day, they still have to return to the same situation.

The author, Katya Adler, also looks at Hamas’ role. She interviews a a female MP from Hamas, who seemed to be very honest and frank in her comments about the situation of women in general in Gaza, saying things like “From the moment of birth, a baby boy is celebrated. A baby girl is accepted.” Unfortunately, she did not really address what Hamas is doing to help victims of domestic violence as well as the perpetrators. This is definitely a serious issue that Hamas has to address.

What I really appreciated about the article the most is the humanized look at what men in Gaza go through. The BBC points out the economic and social pressure that men are under in Gaza and how this unfortunately drives some men to become abusive. Adler points out how the blockade by Egypt and Israel has made it harder to Gazan men to find work and fulfill the societal gender role placed on them (that of economic provider). Abu Fahdi, a counselor and former abuser, sums up the situation for Gazan men in this quote:

“For us, the war really begins after the military war is over,” he told me. “Here in Gaza men are supposed to be providers. The siege, the strikes, in one way or another they affect all households in Gaza – poverty, hunger, homelessness.

“Men are really frustrated. They sometimes take it out on their wives. She’s in front of them every day.”

I’m glad that Abu Fahdi gave this quote and was interviewed by the BBC, because it shows that domestic violence is definitely not a black or white situation for women or men and that there are a lot of factors that create ripe situations for domestic violence to occur. While this quote may sound apologist in nature, it really gives a glimpse into why men take out their frustration on their wives and families. Additionally, since Abu Fahdi is currently a counselor and former abuser, it definitely shows that an abuser does not always have to remain one.

Adler has produced a well-thought-out piece on domestic violence in Gaza that highlights the frustrations of both abusees and abusers without relying on stereotypes. It was great to read an article that looked at the effect of economic deprivation suffered by Gazans, as well as economic and mental distress caused by the constant conflict with Israel on Gazan gender relations.

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