Earlier this week, a group of Palestinian students kept away from their schools and universities by the closure of the Rafah crossing organized a protest at the borders. Naturally, there were dozens of students and hundreds of supporters who demonstrated to protest the Egyptian closure of the border by the army in the wake of their July coup.
Since the border closed, life has been getting harder in Gaza, and a day old baby passed away as his mom waited to be let in. While the siege on Gaza preys on its residence, there was another predator taking part in the demonstration. A young stud was standing behind a young woman, and, taking advantage of the chaos and the large number of protesters, groped that lady not once, but twice which shows this was deliberate touching. What he probably did not expect was that the young woman would turn around to slap him and push him away. It does not end there; a Palestinian policeman was standing in proximity, pitched in and slapped that man, and pushed him away.
What none of the people involved had realized, is that the camera was rolling and the incident was caught on camera. When the video was made public, they blurred the young woman's face to protect her privacy. They exposed the offender, but what unfolds is rather new to the Palestinian streets. The young woman that was harassed did not want to hide, and spoke via social media, "I am not the one who should be ashamed, he is and all those who are like him." Shahid Abu Salameh is her name and she wrote in Arabic "I will stand tall", "I am the victim of this low-life, and I want to make an example out of him", "I will not be victimized, and I have taught him a lesson, he should be ashamed and rub dirt on his face." She added "I am a woman, but if I had to be I will be tougher than a hundred men." She is really addressing the root of the problem and making it clear to others who may find themselves in similar situations: stand up for yourself.
Many Palestinians at home and away feel especially proud of Shahad and the way the community, the police officer, and the local government have dealt with the situation. I do not think this incident should be dismissed or even hyped as a few people have done with it already. exposing and later arresting the harasser is a step in the right direction. Standing in solidarity with Shahad goes a long way.
The local government in Gaza commended her, and visited with her family to file an official complaint against the offender who has been arrested since the incident. What's moving is the outpouring support Shahad received from both the people and the government. They celebrated her action, saluted her and put the young man to shame. And when a person dared to blame her like in one comment below, dozens took that anonymous poster to task. Traditionally, women who face such harassment tend to keep it private out of fear of being ostracized. Not this time, and most are rooting for Shahad and supporting her all the way. I am sure Shahad is not the first person to experience such assault, and sadly she might not be the last, but she has handled this episode with grace and showed that when wronged Palestinian women are as tough as nails. This is not just an issue in Palestine, as I took the metro here in DC yesterday, I spotted a poster that read "I'm not the one who should be ashamed" which echoes what Shahad from Palestine was saying.
Now, one thing remains: it is a mystery when Shahad will be allowed to join her university in Turkey, where she is the recipient of a scholarship to finish her masters degree.
Hat Tip: Kellee