Home>News Center>World

Hamas' campaign among women helped victory
Updated: 2006-02-04 09:59

Pollsters now say that the secret to Hamas' victory in Palestinian elections was support from women, who voted in record numbers. One reason was Hamas' army of women campaigners — veiled university students knocking on doors and promising housewives a better future.

Hamas activated female supporters in unprecedented numbers. It staged rallies for women, and also reached them through mosques and female preachers, particularly in rural areas.

"Hamas had the most organized campaign targeting women," said pollster Nader Said of the West Bank's Bir Zeit University.

Thousands of volunteers, including female university students, were sent door-to-door to deliver Hamas' message — that Islam protects women, that it offers them equal partnership with men, on the job and at home. While short on details, Hamas campaigners also promised free education for girls.

"We had many activities, such as visiting women in their houses, giving them advice on how to vote," said Hamas campaigner Sahar as-Sharif, 29, who has a science degree from the Islamic University in Gaza City and works in a private laboratory. "Our ideas are what they were looking for."

Women voted in record numbers, the Bir Zeit pollster said. About 46 percent of those casting ballots last week were women, compared to 42 percent in the parliament election a decade ago and 44 percent in the 2005 presidential vote.

Hamas believes it had an edge among women voters, a view supported by Said and another pollster, Nabil Kukali of the private Palestinian Center for Public Opinion.

The Bir Zeit pollster said Hamas won such a decisive victory, 74 of 132 parliament seats, in part because Fatah candidates competed against each other in most districts, with some running as independents. Hamas won about 440,000 votes in total, compared to 403,000 for Fatah, he said. Yet in the districts, where 66 seats were up for grabs, Hamas won 45 mandates, mainly because of the internal Fatah competition.

Rabiha Diab, a Fatah lawmaker, said her party did not do enough to reach out to women, particularly in villages, where religion plays a strong role.

Seventeen of the 132 new legislators, or nearly 13 percent, are women. That's twice as many female legislators as in the outgoing parliament — ostensibly a breakthrough in the male-run Palestinian society.

However, with Hamas commanding a majority parliament and women lawmakers divided over their agenda, change is unlikely. Some women's rights campaigners even fear a backlash against efforts to curtail polygamy, raise the age of marriage for girls or get tougher on men who kill wives or daughters over "family honor."

"It's not just a question of numbers," said liberal legislator Hanan Ashrawi. "There will be more women (in parliament) who are conscious of women's rights ... There will also be women who are not committed to equality."

The female Hamas legislators are newcomers to politics, recruited by the male leadership because of their appeal in their communities.

Mariam Saleh, an Islamic law professor from Ramallah, said she was drafted because of her work with the wives and mothers of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

Another rookie legislator, Mariam Farhat of Gaza, won fame when she appeared in the farewell video of one of her sons who later was killed in a suicide mission against Israel.

While many of the female Hamas activists are educated and accomplished, the group is pushing a conservative agenda.

Saleh said she would not oppose polygamy, which is practiced in the West Bank and Gaza, because it's in line with Islamic law. While under current practice, only men can end a marriage, Saleh believes a women should be able to end matrimony if she agrees to leave without a penny.

In Ramallah, local Hamas women celebrated victory in a small social club, separate from the men. One of the activists, Kifah Amaaz, a 32-year-old mother of two, said the Quran should be the legislators' guideline. She said Western countries are trying to destroy Islamic nations by pushing for legislation that gives women too much freedom. "To fix a television set, you need a handbook," she said. "And to fix humans you need the Quran."

At a nearby Internet cafe, manager Amal Shaker, 30, who grew up in Michigan City, Ind,. said she hoped Hamas would be pragmatic. She said people voted for Hamas to make things better.

"If it gets worse, I will buy my ticket and go back to America," she said.

USS Park Royal crew await for Rice
Coffin of Milosevic flew to Belgrade
Kidnapping spree in Gaza Strip
  Today's Top News     Top World News

Australia, US, Japan praise China for Asia engagement



Banker: China doing its best on flexible yuan



Hopes high for oil pipeline deal



Possibilities of bird flu outbreaks reduced



Milosevic buried after emotional farewell



China considers trade contracts in India


  Journalist's alleged killers held in Iraq
  No poisons found in Milosevic's body
  US, Britain, France upbeat on Iran agreement
  Fatah officials call for Abbas to resign
  Sectarian violence increases in Iraq
  US support for troops in Iraq hits new low
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
Manufacturers, Exporters, Wholesalers - Global trade starts here.