An American history professor: The suffering of Gaza women is unlike any other tragedy

In 2008, General Patrick Cammaert, deputy force commander of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, described the harsh reality of women in war there, saying, “Being a woman can be more dangerous than being a soldier.” armed conflict.”

The United Nations and international relief organizations say women are the worst victims of war. This is evident in Sudan, where the World Health Organization has warned that more than 4 million women and girls are at risk of sexual violence as a result of the war. war, and in the Gaza Strip, where UN Women estimates indicate that… two women every hour, and with the collapse of the health system there as a result of Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip from October 7, 2023, women give without Birth by cesarean section under anesthesia.

Women show survival skills, leadership and creativity in crises and wars (pixel)

deliberate aim

“Death is coming,” said Haya Abu Jarrar, a twenty-year-old Palestinian woman who was displaced from her homes in Gaza along with nearly a million women and girls elsewhere. Haya settled in Palestinian Rafah, another target of Israeli bombardment. Khan Younis.

Wedding and event photographer Haya got married two years ago and lived with her husband in the Saraya area of ​​the Gaza Strip. As the war there intensified, she took her eighth-month-old child to her husband's family home in Rafah. The fetus in her womb.

“Jaffa.” Speaking to Al Jazeera Net over the phone, Haya said that she and her husband had chosen this name for their expected first child before the war. Like 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, Haya is afraid to give birth there or face death. “I'm afraid, so afraid of dying here.”

Matthew Evangelista, professor of history and political science at Cornell University, argues that when war involves harming civilians, women, children, and unarmed men suffer the most because they do not have weapons to fight.

Matthew Evangelista is Professor of History and Political Science at University
Matthew Evangelista, professor of history and political science at Cornell University (Source: Al Jazeera)

An opinion supported by United Nations figures, which show that about 70% of the approximately 25,000 Palestinian martyrs were women and children. In an interview with Al Jazeera Net, Evangelista said he does not enjoy combatant privilege, which is the right to kill a soldier of an opposing army without being charged with murder. International humanitarian law and the law of war therefore give “protected” status to the life and property of civilians. Evangelista stressed that they should never be directly targeted, and “when armies attack military targets any damage they inadvertently cause must be proportional to the military advantage gained from the attack.”

However, Evangelista pointed out that some wars deliberately target civilians. He said that wars aimed at “ethnic cleansing”, such as the removal of people from a specific area, “amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and, in the extreme, genocide.”

UN Women estimates two women are killed every hour in Gaza (Pixel)

the worst war

Haya Abu Jarrar stopped monitoring her pregnancy after the beginning of the war. “For almost 3 months, I have not had a medical checkup or received vitamins. There are no hospitals. They bombed the hospitals.”

Haya added, “There is only one small hospital in Rafah, but it is without equipment or medicines. I want to go out and give birth in Egypt.”

Haya described the recent Israeli war as the worst ever in Palestine, with shortages of supplies of food and women, “And I, my mother-in-law, and my predecessors (the wives of my husband's brothers) who live with me now, Always try to act in some way to secure options for survival, and for the sake of family and young children, especially my husband and his partner all stranded in the Gaza Strip.

Haya said, “War could be the worst thing for me. I have been through more than one war, but I was a young girl who was only responsible for myself, but today I am responsible for my husband, my daughter, my in-laws. I am responsible for.” and my family. The war made responsibility the worst thing for me.”

For her part, Evangelista said that during war, women often bear a disproportionate burden of trying to maintain families in the face of food and water shortages and deliberate attacks, especially when men are away from home.

Although one positive effect of this tragedy, in Evangelista's opinion, is that the challenge of dealing with war situations often brings out strengths in women that may not be evident in peacetime, where survival skills, leadership and creativity come to the fore.

Recent developments in Gaza have weakened hopes of reducing the suffering of women in wars (Pixel)

without anesthesia

“What I fear most today is a cesarean section without anesthesia,” Haya Abu Jarrar said in a trembling voice. Haya did not make any plans for the birth, nor did she buy any clothes for her first child.

Haya gets Rafa permission to leave Egypt to live with her mother-in-law who is suffering from cancer. She was happy because she would give birth outside Gaza, and after a few hours of anticipation, the mother-in-law decided she would not do it. Despite the lack of medicine, Rafa is forced to leave. “I will not leave a house full of women, my sons' wives and their children,” she told Haya, “unless you die because there is no medicine.”

Haya lost hope. She accepted her mother-in-law's decision, but as the birth approached, her fear grew every minute. Haya said her cousin gave birth to her baby last month by cesarean section without anesthesia. “She saw everything, the scalpel and the scissors, and she felt pain that she told me she had never felt in her entire life. I don't want to tell about birth by cesarean section, I don't want to give birth without anesthesia “

Care International in Gaza monitored pregnant women undergoing emergency cesarean sections without anesthesia due to lack of fuel and essential medicines.

For her part, Evangelista condemned cesarean sections without anesthesia and said, “Never in history have I heard of the kind of trauma that women are now experiencing with the widespread Israeli destruction of the health system in Gaza , which has led to a shortage.” Anesthesia medications and basic health supplies.”

his hair turns gray

Like Haya, Ahlam Bakhit suffered from the war that broke out in Sudan in mid-April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces. In a few words, the fifty-year-old woman said in an interview with Al Jazeera Net, that she witnessed all the sadness and grief from leaving Khartoum amid fire and bullets to reaching Egypt.

“We woke up on April 15 to the sound of cannons and bullets, as well as thick smoke in the sky,” Ahlam said. After her daughter entered university in Turkey, Ahlam was living alone in the Jabara area of ​​the capital, Khartoum.

The diabetic patient fled with only the clothes she was wearing along with some of her neighbors to avoid flying bullets, and spoke to her relatives in different areas, “God protected me, and I knew how to get out of Khartoum and How to reach the Egyptian border”, and I lived with my relatives, but on my way out I did not get sugar injections for several days and I fell into a coma.'' ''Temporary. I ran away wearing my nightgown and remained as I was for several days. ,

Ahlam received stories from his neighbors and relatives that described him as having “white hair”. Ahlam further said, “Rapid Support Forces entered the houses and looted. They stole gold, money, furniture, cars, clothes and everything.”

3- Nadia Abkar al-Senussi told how a shell fell on her in her house and how she was trapped in the fire
More than 4 million women and girls are at risk of sexual violence as a result of the war in Sudan (Al Jazeera)

Ahlam mentioned that an acquaintance of hers was raped in West Darfur while she was fleeing. She said, “Everyone around me had similar stories of violence against their families, and there were many incidents of rape, even with pregnant women.”

Human Rights Watch highlighted that dozens of women and girls in Darfur were raped by the Rapid Support Forces and their allied militias in Sudan.

Evangelista said rape is sometimes used as a deliberate tactic to weaken community cohesion by creating fear and chaos.

The professor of history and political science at Cornell University said that for many cultures, rape of women is an “honor crime”, which is against the honor of men when enemy combatants attack their women.

“This places a double burden on women, who suffer physical and psychological trauma as a result of rape and then the shame they face in their communities, who often wrongly blame them for being victims of the attacks,” she said. “

He described wartime rape as being committed by more “opportunistic” and undisciplined combatants. “Rape and sexual violence are closely related to war itself, because war is a matter of a dominant side and a submissive side, the winner versus the loser.” In this sense, war is qualitative. Soldiers often do this.'' By feminizing their enemies, male soldiers also commit sexual violence against men and women to assert their dominance.

Women are facing the worst conditions of war, especially the current war in Gaza, Professor of History and Political Science indicated that recent developments undermine hopes of reducing the suffering of women in war This is because states and actors clearly ignore the comprehensive safeguards provided by international law. Law.

Evangelista stressed that Israel's focus on war preparations and its unwillingness to find any kind of solution to stopping the war led to “untold suffering for Palestinian women and children in Gaza.”

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