Gaza is in turmoil.
Today, Gaza is in complete lock down. Ordinary Palestinian women, men and children are confined in Gaza with all links to the outside world effectively sealed. Now with both Israel and Egypt blockading the Gaza Strip, the people of Gaza are trapped in a society lacking basic freedoms.
Since 2007, the Sunni Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, have been in violent control over Gaza. Many nations including the United States classify Hamas as a terrorist organization, while Russia and many Arab nations do not. But in 2007, Hamas fighters overthrew the Fatah government officials, in what is referred to as the Battle of Gaza. The United States and Israel tried to strengthen the military might of the Fatah government, but to no avail as Hamas took over the majority control of Gaza.
Hamas have controlled Gaza with an iron fist, striking fear into the inhabitants of Gaza through police brutality and forceful mandates. Ayman as-Sayyed, a 19 year-old Palestinian male who lives in Gaza, was arrested by the Hamas police because of his long hair. They threw him into a jeep filled with 10 other young men, and transported them to the Hamas police station. While shackled with handcuffs, Ayman and the other boys had two rows cut into their hair, and were sent on their way. Other youths have been beaten and forced to sign written commitments to not sport strange haircuts or wear certain clothing.
Palestinian writer and activist Mustapha Ibrahim says, “When Hamas won the 2006 legislative elections, many Hamas officials promptly reassured people that they would not harm public and private freedoms and would commit to implementing the law. However, thing were different on the field.” Hamas police have restricted the freedom of the people and have made an effort to impose certain values and modes of behavior on them. Gaza has become the very essence of a totalitarian system, using means of direct and symbolic violence to execute their authority.
And the oppression doesn’t stop there. Last year, the Hamas cabinet announced that it has implemented a new education law banning mixed-gender classes in all Gaza schools beginning at the age of nice. In addition to this, women have been ordered to wear abayas, which are Muslim religious garments that completely cover the woman from the neck down, aiming to consolidate virtue in young women. Hamas police have even gone as far as to stop couples on the street, asking them to produce identification and their relationship background.
Christians are also under heavy persecution from Hamas in Gaza. This persecution has in turn forced many Christians to flee Gaza. Whereas sixty years ago the Christian population in the Middle East numbered around 30 million people, today their numbers have dwindled to about 15 million (the majority reside in Egypt with numbers around 10 million). According to one of my sources, a missionary in Gaza who cannot be named for his personal safety, “in Palestine (60 years ago) there were about 10-15 percent of Christians residing, but now less than 2 percent are left.”
Hamas have held a tight grip over the activities of Christians and the church in Gaza. “In general, Christians in Palestine desire to live their lives in peace as the minority, without getting in conflict with Hamas or the Israeli blockade,” says my source. “There are coalitions of Muslims and Christians in the West Bank & Jerusalem, and their goal is to protect the Holy places like churches in Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock from Israeli occupation.” Although very small in number, Palestinian Christians are have a hard time residing in Gaza, caught between Hamas persecution and the Israeli occupation.
The freedoms of the Palestinian people are being squelched by Hams. And now with the inclusion of the Egyptian blockade, it’s not certain what will become of Hamas and the chaos in Gaza. The twin blockades of Egypt and Israel have left the Gaza Strip’s industry and construction sectors gasping for resources, pushing unemployment to new lows and deepening poverty. Time will only tell, if the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza will come to an end.