Palestinian women between the bitterness of occupation and the dream of freedom
Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish summed up what I need to say about Palestinian women with the words: "Mother, I will not name you a woman, I will name you everything."
In celebration of Women's International Day on March 8, I am unveiling the stories of five Palestinian women scattered from Ramallah, to Tulkarem, to Jalil to Lebanon.
Palestinian women have faced the struggle and continue sacrificing daily to fight for freedom, to reject humiliation, and to resist Israeli occupation. Through their struggle, they have woven myths of bravery and freedom.
Palestinian women played a key role in the 1936 revolution, the war of 1948, the war of 1967, the first Intifadain 1987, and the second Intifada in 2000, as well as the popular resistance adopting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in 2005.
In violation of international law, Palestinian women are in captivity - with statistics showing that 84 women and girls were arrested in 2017 alone. According to The Palestinian Information Center, at least 370 Palestinian women and girls were arrested by occupying Israeli forces since the second Intifada.
The treatment of Palestinian women by the Israeli occupation violates international law and includes subjection to various types of pressure - psychological and physical - and displacement from their homes.
After the 1948 war and during the 1967 war, hundreds of thousands were displaced from their homeland.
Palestinian women have transcended all traditional barriers and have been civically engaged in political life, in all forms of resistance, in preserving national identity, uniting their dispersed family, and clinging to the memory for Palestinians who were raised by refugee families and who never saw Palestine.
All of this helped preserve a clear picture of Palestine through the stories told by mothers, grandmothers, and aunts.
Despite all the efforts to erase Palestinian identity, the women - through oral history, embroidery art, and cuisine - were able to preserve this identity and pass it on to the next generation.
Tasaheel Burnat is a 37-year-old Palestinian activist from the village of Bilin near Ramallah in the West Bank. Together with her husband Iyad Burnat and their five children, they are considered organisers of the famed popular resistance in Bilin.
In 2004, Israel confiscated 60 percent of the village's land in order to build the separation wall on farmers' olive groves. Since 2005, Bilin residents have been engaging in weekly Friday demonstrations with international peace activists from all over the world.
She is a symbol of the Palestinian women who resist the occupation alongside their families. Tasaheel was subjected to violence many times and her husband frequently jailed.
Three of her sons were arrested before they reached the age of 18. Majd was injured and is currently receiving medical treatment in Turkey, Abed al-Khaliq is injured and is in prison, and Muhammad was injured and jailed but was released after paying a fine.
|Lamees Abu Baker, the author's seven-year-old daughter,
is also committed to her family's homeland [Image provided]
Mayar and Mohee Aldeen are still very young but demonstrate with the family and the rest of the villagers.
Resistance is a part of the Burnat family life, and even though their house, like many others in Bilin, is targeted for frequent night raids by Israeli soldiers, she and her family will not give up their right to protect their land and way of life.
Hiba Al-Jindawi is a Palestinian journalist living in Hilalia near Sida in Lebanon. Her grandparents were refugees from Nazareth during the war of 1948 and fled north. Hiba grew up in Lebanon and studied journalism at Al Beirut Arab university.
She is an activist in national student campaigns, including the International Campaign for the Preservation of Palestinian Identity. Palestinians in Lebanon refused to give up their Palestinian identity and dream of a return one day.
In 2017, Hiba was involved in a programme that collected stories and documented accomplishments of Palestinians in the diaspora. She loves photography and dreams of taking pictures of Palestine, revealing the beauty of her homeland when she is granted the right of return.
Farah Akef Hamouda was born in 1994 in the city of Tulkarem. She adored art at a young age and dreamt of becoming a famous artist. She earned her bachelor degree in art from An Najah University and graduated in 2016.
Farah chose art to serve her country by preserving the Palestinian identity through art. She believes that art brings people together. She likes to teach children that art is the language of nations and the language of freedom. One day she will become an international artist.
Rola Khalid Ghanem is a Palestinian novelist and lecturer who teaches literature. She was also born in the city of Tulkarem in the northern West Bank. Rola earned her bachelor degree in Arabic literature also at An Najah University.
She is currently preparing her doctorate in Tanta University in Egypt. Her influential stories - containing many tales about life in Palestine during the uprising - have won many competitions. She considers herself a rebellion novelist and an ambassador of Palestinian women in the Arab world.
Her desire is to use the power of her words to speak the truth and show that despite the tragic circumstances of the occupation, creativity and beauty is born from the womb of suffering.
Her two published novels are The Green Line and Feelings Out of the Law.
Rana Bishara is a Palestinian artist born in the Palestinian village of Tarshiha in the Upper Galilee. She studied Fine Arts and graduated from New York University and is one of the most active Palestinian artists inside Israel.
Rana has organised many exhibitions both locally and internationally and wants to draw more attention to the story of Palestine. With her art, Rana is raising awareness about Palestine, its people, and its history. Despite the occupation, Rana's message has become stronger - as art has the power to break many barriers.
Palestinian women with their contributions and accomplishments highlight the history of Palestinian resistance. Palestinian women are activists, martyrs, prisoners, teachers, writers, poets, and artists.
They are moving history forward, echoing our lives and fighting for freedom.
Born and raised in Palestine, Wasan Abu Baker is a writer and academic currently based in Texas.