'Free Homeland, Free Women': Palestinians Take to the Streets to Protest Femicide

'From Beirut to Haifa, women are murdered in the streets and at home. It is time to protect them,' demonstrators call, marrying the fight for gender equality with the national struggle

Protest against murder of Palestinian women in Haifa, September 26, 2019.
Rami Shllush

Hundreds marched on Thursday in Haifa, protesting murder of women in the Palestinian society, with similar marches taking place in nearly a dozen other cities in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the world, including Jerusalem, Beirut and Beirut.

The death of Israa Gharib, a 21-year-old from Bethlehem, who was allegedly murdered by family members in late August, sparked the latest wave of protests.

>> Read more: 'I met a mom whose son murdered his two sisters. In her view, one of them deserved it'

Protest in Berlin, September 26, 2019.

According to the Aman center – The Arab Center for Safe Society, 11 Arab women were murdered in Israel by their partners or family members this year alone.

The demonstration, under the slogan "Free homeland, free women," was organized through an Arabic-language Facebook page carrying the same name, and spread on social media with the hashtag #Tal'at ("coming out") in Arabic.

Participants marched through the streets of Haifa's lower city, near the port area. "From Beirut to Haifa, women are murdered in the streets and at home. It is time to protect them," protesters shouted, "We want to be free, live in respect, solidarity and safety."

"We cannot free the homeland without harnessing the power women bring," said the organizers. "All we need is freedom and protection and we will be on a safe path."

Protest against murder of women in the Palestinian society, Haifa, September 26, 2019.
Rami Shllush

Similar protests took place in other cities including Rafah, Ramallah, Jaffa, Nazareth, Arabeh and Taibeh.

On Friday, dozens protested in northern Israel, blocking the Wadi Ara road, over what they say is police inaction on gun violence in the Arab society.

Shahira Shalabi, the deputy mayor of Haifa, also participated in the demonstrations. “By crying out against femicide, we also aim to break the patriarchal structure of Arab society," she said.

One of the protesters, Mai Sada, related the struggle for women's safety to the Palestinian national struggle: "There is a connection between living in our own autonomous land and the right that every person is entitled to – especially women – to decide for themselves and choose how to live their lives."

Protest in Jerusalem, September 26, 2019.

Nusra, another protester, said: “Palestinian women suffer everywhere. In Beirut, for example, women are not only exposed to violence at home, they have no safe spaces. We need a home to be protected."

A social activist who participated in the protest, Kamar Hiyub, said she hopes the demonstration “will reach even the isolated villages and places where violence against women occurs and is not always counted.”

“The situation is bad. Every day you hear of another murder, it is not something we can deal with alone,” said Lamis Farah, who attended the protest. “People came here because they identify with the struggle. Over time, we have understood how important this gathering is, and I hope our activities will only grow."

Maher, a resident of Haifa, told Haaretz about losing a friend to gendered violence. Because of his loss, he says it's important to him to go wherever the battle against femicide is being fought. "If I had been there when I was needed, maybe that great tragedy could have been prevented," he said. "But now I'm here, like many others who identify with the need to deal with this."