Hours before International Women's Day, demonstrators call for end of occupation, release of Palestinian prisoners and end of Gaza siege
RAMALLAH, Occupied Palestinian Territories - Hundreds of Palestinian women from across the West Bank marched on Saturday to protest against the Israeli occupation.
Just hours ahead of International Women’s Day, the protesters proceeded towards the Israeli Qalandiya checkpoint, one of the main symbols of the occupation from which an estimated 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank are not allowed to pass to go to Jerusalem or Israel.
It’s also a place – like other Israeli checkpoints – where Palestinian women, restricted in their movement, have given birth to children.
The women shouted slogans calling for the end of the occupation, and carried banners and posters, some of them calling to boycott Israel and end of the normalisation of relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Others called for the end of the siege of the Gaza Strip, and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
In a spirit of unity, organisers asked all participants that they only raise Palestinian flags during the march.
“Our greetings to the Palestinian female prisoners in Israeli prisons and the female martyrs and wives of martyrs,” organisers said in a statement ahead of the march. “We promise them to continue the way until freedom.”
Rahma, 58-years-old from Hebron, said she felt the need to participate to defend her rights.
In her family alone, she said, Israeli officials have ordered the demolition of five of her sons’ homes and they are unable to rebuild because they live in Area C, placed under Israeli jurisdiction during the Oslo Accords.
“We have settlers all around us,” she said. “People outside must see that Palestinian women suffer both from the occupation, and from restrictions in our society. We must defend our rights,” she added.
Dina, a 33-year-old member of SHAMS, a Palestinian human rights organisation, said despite the occupation, she is not afraid of Israeli soldiers.
“We are used to it. The soldiers do not differentiate between men and women and they will attack us,” said Dina. “But I am here to say no, to stop the occupation and the killings of our children.”
As marchers approached a closed gate, some tried to climb and put Palestinian flags on top when Israeli soldiers used pepper spray, stun grenades, and tear gas to stop them. Several women were reported to have been evacuated to hospitals.