By Ignacio Martin-Baro
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They created new strategies and bureaucracies that imposed new codes of dress and behaviour solely for the purpose of controlling women. Abdulhadi quotes a feminist Bir Zeit University professor: As the Intifada declined, an emerging laid-off army of Shabab, or young men, launched a campaign of ‘social violence’ against their own people … Self-assigned the role of morality police that operated in the streets of the West Bank and Gaza, the Shabab embarked on ‘rooting out’ what they viewed as moral decay.
Fear of Isqat turned any discussion of sexual crimes and sexual abuse into a very sensitive, heavily loaded discussion, and it increased officials’ and indeed societal reluctance to address the issue and thereby help victims of such abuse. During and following upon the First Intifada (primarily between 1988 and 1995), I was working to establish the first hotline for abused women, and in the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling we dealt with twelve cases of sexual abuse against women due to Isqat (see ShalhoubKevorkian 1998a).
In addition, my work with the JCW gave me the opportunity to learn more about the city I reside in and to personally intervene and work with women facing direct political violence. In my work with groups of women, I also promised them that I would share their ordeals with international activists and scholars and bring their voices and stories to the attention of people beyond Palestine (see Shalhoub-Kevorkian 2003b, 2005a, 2005c). I am still working, supporting, and learning from the young women at the JCW, mainly in our last focus group on the crime of house demolitions and its gendered ramifications.