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April 23, 2013 11:55 am

Gazans Tiring Of Hamas Authoritarianism, Fatah Gains

avatar by Zach Pontz

Women wearing the Hamas headband. Photo: Kimdime.

Hamas’s increasingly draconian rule of law isn’t sitting well with many Gazans, writes Now Lebanon. In fact, the support for the ruling-party is eroding, especially among Gaza’s youth.

Take for example Ayman as-Sayyed, who describes being put in a Jeep along with ten other young men, who were then taken to the police station “under the pretext of sporting an indecent haircut.”

The article continues: “The young men were forced to stand while handcuffed: two lines were cut into their hair and they were told to go to a hairdresser to have the haircut completed. According to the Palestinian Human Rights Center, other youths were beaten and ‘detainees were forced to sign a written commitment whereby they would not wear their hair long, sport weird haircuts or put on tight pants.'”

According to Now Lebanon, Palestinian writer Majed Kayyali writes that such practices are the result of a mentality based on monopolizing power. “This is how totalitarian systems – especially ideological ones – work, using means of direct and symbolic violence to impose their authority.”

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Many people in Gaza see Hamas’s iron-clad grip not only as a threat, but as having reneged on a promise. Palestinian writer and activist Mustapha Ibrahim told Now Lebanon: “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, things were different on the field.”

Citing a new law that bans mixed-gender classes in all Gaza schools beginning at the age of nine, Zeinab al-Ghoneimi, a women’s rights activist and director of the Council for Women’s Legal Research and Counseling in Gaza, comments: “Hamas wants to Islamize society, which is already Islamic and conservative in Gaza. In reality, male and female students are already separated as of Grade 3 in most schools, except for two or three of them. The prevailing culture here is for women to cover their hair. So what do these decisions mean?”

What is being imposed here, she argues, is a “political rather than ‘religious’ version of Islam.” Hamas is seeking to forcefully consecrate its presence by relying on religion, and to portray itself as the guarantor of ethics and values.

“On the one hand, they want to show that their decisions are being heeded; that they set moral criteria and spread virtue as though people were all devoid of any morals. On the other hand, they are issuing these laws to hamper the work of any new government seeking to initiate change in the future. Furthermore, these practices instill fear and allow them to demonstrate their strength to people and portray themselves as absolute rulers.”

When human rights organizations protest against such unconstitutional laws, Hamas recants its decisions, “but not before having caused a stir among the people and allowing the movement to interfere with the details pertaining to people’s lives,” according to Zeinab al-Ghoneimi.

Now Lebanon writes: “Hamas’ monopoly over power, its use of violence, its interference in the private lives of citizens and its exclusion of all organizations – even allied ones – from the Gaza Strip have led to an outcry against the movement, which is losing support among the youth.”

Majed Kayyali supports this assessment and offers proof.  “This was manifested in the festival celebrating the launch of the Fatah Movement in Gaza in January 2013, knowing that Fatah had been banned in the Gaza Strip for the past six years.”

“[The festival drew] a massive crowd and this was surprising not only for Hamas, which controls the Strip, but also for Fatah, which is in a state of organizational disrepair and is riddled with domestic conflicts. In this sense, an approximately one million-strong crowd on the Gaza square and surrounding streets voiced the complaints of Gaza’s Palestinians against Hamas violations. [Their participation] had more to do with opposing Hamas [practices] than with supporting Fatah.”

Now Lebanon concludes that no matter the differences between Hamas and Israel, for the residents of Gaza, Hamas’s “repressive practices and the current division between the West Bank and Gaza are no less damaging.”

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