Gaza – “I love the school atmosphere and my friends in school. Every day, I go to school happy. We spend half the day together. But today I am afraid, after hearing that the government made a new law for education and wants to separate the guy and girl students. Why is that? I won’t be happy if I go to class and can’t find my friends.”
With these words, Nariman al-Rayess, a 9-year-old pupil at the Holy Family private school in Gaza, tries to make sense of the situation. Under the pretext of protecting Gaza’s Islamic identity, the Hamas government is planning to institute gender segregation in schools.
Nariman’s feelings are shared by her fellow male pupils. Mahmoud al-Shurafa, 12-years-old, is a student at the American School. Despite his young age, news of the law filled him with indignation.
“The law killed the spirit of childhood,” he said. “What is the government trying to do? We are children of good people and well-mannered. Who are they to come and tell us how to deal with the girls in our school?”
“I am thinking of leaving the country to study freely,” Mahmoud continued, as if he had suddenly turned into an adult. He added that he is accustomed to the explanations of female teachers, so “how will I understand it from a male teacher?”
The draft law approved by the Hamas government is composed of 60 articles that regulate the educational process. Its provisions will apply to all grade levels at Gaza’s public, private, and international schools.
Article 46 is the most serious of these provisions. It prohibits the mixing of male and female students over 9-years-old in educational institutions. The law, however, does not apply to institutions of higher education.
Sana Yassin teaches at a primary school run by the UN refugee agency UNRWA. The law, which will affect all UNRWA schools, was implemented without any feedback from teachers, Yassin complained. In her experience, gender integration at schools has never led to any negative outcomes, as the legislators claim.
Rights activist Mustafa Ibrahim believes that the Hamas government wants to impose several laws to strengthen its control over Gaza. “Each step they take only serves their project to take control of Gaza and impose separation in what remains of our homeland,” he said.
Hamas Says: Pull Up Your Pants
Gaza – Hamas’ police force in Gaza can no longer tolerate the sight of boys wearing their pants sagging low or using hair gel. These things are a blight on the Islamic environment.
The police, “by the will of God,” launched a campaign, dubbed “Pull Up Your Pants” by Palestinian youth in Gaza, aiming to eradicate all phenomena of sagging pants and stylized hairstyles.
Police cars stake out popular hangouts to monitor and pursue young men wearing sagging pants. They give them a warning, but sometimes the police rip the pants up.
The campaign does not stop at pants. Unfamiliar hairstyles and “exaggerated” use of hair products also provoke warnings and reprimands.
Ahmad Ghalayini was on his way to university when he was intercepted by Hamas policemen. They gave him a mouthful then tore up his pants from the front, forcing him to go back home and change. Mostafa Khalaf, 16-years-old, was stopped by a policeman on his way to school early in the morning. He was reprimanded for his hair gel and low-riding pants.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.