Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

'Feminist boat' inspires hope

Lama Alhelou | 13-09-2016

Gaza is the world's largest "prison." Although it has a beach on the third-largest sea on earth, it is barely allowed to use it. The 10-year Israeli blockade led to a famous local resident to say, "Whoever's in, will stay in. And whoever's out, will stay out."

But even though we have lost hope of a solution to this strangulation, great souls across the world still haven't. On September the 14th, the Amal-Hope set sail from Barcelona, Spain, with two dozen women from all over the globe. The boat will dock at a number of Mediterranean ports along its route and its goal is to arrive in Gaza in early October. They could have chosen to simply show support by sending money and medication—which is very much appreciated—but these incredibly brave women in the Women's Boat to Gaza chose to show their solidarity with so much more.

Not only is this boat aiming to challenge the inhumane Israeli blockade on Gaza and bring a message of hope to the Palestinian people, but they are also contributing to the empowerment of Palestinian women by highlighting their undeniable contributions and the fact that they have been central to the struggle for justice.

The women’s boat pays homage to the countless numbers of Palestinian women who witness their husbands and kids suffer without the treatment they need to live in health. They see their youth sink into depression after losing scholarships to study in some of the world's most prestigious universities, simply because they are not allowed to travel by Israel or our Arab “brothers,’ Egypt and Jordan. The crossing with Egypt has been open only 14 days this year, with thousands more still on the waiting list. And the number of Palestinians allowed out by Israel is even smaller.

Our women weep as so many in the community graduate from school—to no jobs. According to the World Bank, Gaza has the highest unemployment rate in the world. More than 10,000 families are still waiting to rebuild their destroyed homes after the last Israeli assault due to the restrictions on importing building material.

Palestinian women continue to defend their rights, and the rights of their children and communities, with courage and determination. But to see strong brave women from across the world take a stand with them is not only heartwarming and honoring but strengthening as well.

Cigdem Topçuoglu and her husband

While reading more about the passengers on the women’s boat, I was awed and touched by the story of Cigdem Topçuoglu, a professional athlete and coach whose husband was killed on the Mavi Marmara, a boat that sailed in earlier “freedom flotilla.” How determined and inspiring this woman is, to have experienced such a tragic loss due to Israel's crimes and still have the will to be a part of the Women's Boat to Gaza in 2016. Cigdem is a woman to whom countless women in Gaza can certainly relate. 

Other participants on the boat include American playwright and screenwriter Naomi Wallace, who has honored Palestine in three of her plays; Nobel Laureate and peace activist from Northern Ireland, Mairead Maguire; and as well as a member of the parliament from the Green Party in New Zealand, Marama Davidson.

The mission statement for the Women's Boat to Gaza says this: “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” As a young Palestinian woman, I am very touched and proud to see this boat set sail. I will follow its every mile and hope to be one of the people welcoming its passengers as they arrive safe and sound in Gaza. And while Israel prepares to force the boat ashore before it reaches Gaza, as it has all the others since 2008, the boat will always be victorious in our hearts. 

Posted September 13, 2016

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