UNRWA forced to cancel third Gaza marathon after Hamas bans women from particpating
Hamas's decision to ban women from a fund-raising marathon leads to more questions over its priorities
The UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) has been forced to cancel the third Gaza marathon, which was to be held on April 10th, following the decision by the authorities in Gaza not to allow women to participate.
The decision was taken due to Hamas's insistance that it did not "want men and women mixing in the same place", Abdessalam Siyyam, cabinet secretary of the Hamas government, told AFP news agency.
A total of 551 local people were due to participate in the 2013 UNRWA Gaza Marathon, of which 266 are women. Of these women, 51 were hoping to participate in one of the running events (marathon, half-marathon or 10 kilometres), while 215 were aiming to participate in walks of two or ten kilometres.
A total of 256 international runners had signed up so far, of which 119 are women.
As in 2012, a total of 1,600 children from UNRWA's 243 schools across Gaza were meant to participate in relays.
The purpose of the annual Gaza marathon is to raise funds for UNRWA’s summer programme for children in Gaza. Hamas's decision to ban women from the event will therefore inevitably lead to questions over its priorites; the terrorist organisation is often criticised for viewing the wellbeing of its citizens as a secondary concern.
This news follows a steady stream of reports highlighting the plight of women in Gaza.
Just last month the Hamas daily, Falastin, ran an article blaming women for the spread of swine flu in the West Bank. The influential newspaper argued that men could play an important role in halting the disease by "imposing stricter constraints on the movement and gatherings of the womenfolk, as broadly as possible".
The statement issued by UNRWA adds: "[we are] working on a programme of other events, which will be forwarded to those interested as soon as possible".
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