By Julie Holm
Tomorrow, the 8th of March is International Women’s Day. It’s a day to celebrate women and how far we have come in out fight for equity, equality and women’s rights. It’s also a day to look at our own society, and the world around us to see what has yet to be done and which fights still need to be fought. The day is commemorated by groups, organizations and individuals around the world and in many countries it’s a national holiday. Women on all continents, divided by national boundaries, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences can celebrate the day with a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.
Internationally, Women’s Day is a day of both celebration and struggling and drawing attention to women’s rights. Although some people deem this day unnecessary, the women of the world have a lot of victories to celebrate and even more fights still to be fought. I hope that this year, women and men everywhere will stand together in solidarity with those who still have this road ahead of them.
In the Middle East, as here in Scandinavia and any other part of the world, women are far from equal to men in many regards. And as Women’s Day is celebrated throughout Palestine, it seems that this year, one strong woman and her brave act is the symbol of all women still fighting to be free and equal. Hana Shalabi is fighting for the rights and dignity of all women, but especially those of her own people, the Palestinians.
One of many Palestinian prisoners in Israeli administrative detention, held without charge or trial, Hana Shalabi has been on a hunger strike for more than 20 days. This is her second round of administrative detention as she was held from 2009 to 2001 and released in the prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas last October. On February 16 of this year, less than four months after her release, she was once again taken from her home. During her arrest, Hana and her family were beaten and harassed by the Israel army. After being taken to the Salem Detention Center, Hana was subjected to additional beatings, humiliation and other violations including an attempt to strip search her in front of male soldiers. She immediately began an open hunger strike and was subsequently placed in solitary confinement as punishment. She has expressed determination to refuse food to highlight the injustice against all Palestinian prisoners, especially those held without charge in administrative detention. Refusing to give in, Hana Shalabi persists against efforts to break her spirit and force her to ingest food. She is determined to have her message heard and as a result her health is deteriorating.
Ahead of Women’s Day, Hana Shalabi sent a message through her lawyer to Palestinian women and women everywhere. According to the message, Hana Shalabi stressed that she would continue her strike for the dignity of the Palestinian people and for all struggling women in the world. For her own dignity, as well as that of all women, she said she would not compromise her freedom and rights at any price. She saluted Palestinian women and said that they “… will always be the spearhead of resistance against the occupiers.”
As Hana Shalabi is protesting and fighting for the dignity and justice of all women and Palestinians, on Women’s Day this year our thoughts and hearts go out to her. Putting her health and her body at stake, Hana Shalabi is an inspiration to women everywhere to stand up and demand their rights.
Julie Holm is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at [email protected]