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Bicycle Riding in Gaza

March 2, 2016
Plain English Version
Young Palestinian women cyclists take a break in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip. MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

Young Palestinian women cyclists take a break in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip. MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

Hamas controls Gaza. It follows strict Islamic rules. Hamas has tried to stop women from doing sports. For example, women could not run in a marathon in 2013. Officials cancelled it. Female athletes practice in closed stadiums. Gyms are either single sex or have strict hourly divisions by gender.

In most of the Arab world, it is rare to see women on bicycles.

Women are not supposed to ride bicycles in Gaza. There is no law or fatwa against women riding bikes. There is an unwritten rule barring women past puberty from cycling.

A few women have started to do so. They get cheered and jeered. The women began riding together in December. They are the first in years to pedal in the open in Gaza.

Two different Arab women took up riding together. One is 33 years old. She teaches the Quran to children and volunteers in an orphanage. A younger woman is 23 years old. She smokes (in private). She likes Jimmy Fallon of American TV and reads books from around the world. She dresses in track suits and shows her hair. Her older friend dresses in a modest fashion. Recently they two female friends joined them in cycling.

Nearby, a Jihad fighter called the women “detestable and ugly.” He went on, “The role of our women is to obey their husbands and prepare food for them inside the house. It is not to imitate men and ride bikes in the streets.” Many Gaza men share this opinion. The Palestianian news media reported the news of the women bicyclists.

Of course they have supporters. A young girl seeing the cyclists said, “Mama: look, there are women who are riding bikes!”

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