Gaza: Chaperons must accompany women learner drivers

Gaza: Chaperons must accompany women learner drivers
The ruling Islamist Hamas-led administration in Gaza has made it compulsory for women learner drivers to be accompanied by a relative of female chaperons during lessons with male instructors.
2 min read
29 Feb, 2016
There have been concerns about creeping Islamisation in Gaza under Hamas [AFP]
Women who want to learn to drive in the Gaza Strip have to now be accompanied by a mahram - a chaperon - who has to be a male relative as required by Islamic Sharia or a female chaperon. 

Women are allowed to drive in generally conservative Gaza, which has been under the rule of Islamist militant group Hamas since 2007.

Driving instructors have complained about the decision imposed by the Hamas-led authorities, according to the Palestinian Maan news agency.

"The police has issued a decision requiring the presence of a mahram with every woman learning driving, whether it is a male relative or a female friend," said Jabr Radwan, head of an association representing driving schools in Gaza.

The decision is wrong, Radwan added.

"Instructors have been in the business for over 30 years. They all have certificates of cood conduct. It is not a crime for young women to learn driving," he told Maan.

He pointed out that his association has reached out to the authorities, who said the decision was aimed at "preserving the country and the ctiziens".

However, Radwab said, the authorities could consider relaxing the decision for male instructors who are "old".

The decision does not apply to female instructors.

Violators are threatened with two days in jail and seven days of suspension in addition to pay fines.

"The decision is not new. It was taken by the interior ministry due to a shortage in female instructors and based on complaints from people concerned about traditions," said Khalil al-Zayyan, head of the general directorate of schools and institutes in Gaza.

Since coming to power in the coastal enclave in 2007, Hamas has sought stricter Islamic social practices.

Its attempts, however, have often been met with stiff resistance from locals, which has pushed the Islamists to reconsider.

In previous cases, Hamas has retreated from a decision banning women from smoking shisha in cafes. It also gave up attempts to make female high school students wear the hijab, and one banning males from working as hairdressers for women.