Hamas imposes travel restrictions on unmarried women

The Supreme Sharia Court Council in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has imposed travel restrictions on unmarried females, drawing sharp criticism from Palestinians and human rights organizations.

In a circular issued on Sunday, the council ruled that “an unmarried female may be prevented from traveling if she did not obtain permission from her guardian,” who is often her father, or in some cases her own son.

“Her guardian may prevent her from traveling if there is absolute harm in her travel or if there is a lawsuit requiring a travel ban,” the council ruled.

The council also ruled that a child over the age of 18 may be prevented from traveling by one of his parents or his grandfather “if his travel could result in absolute harm.”

The ruling, which went into effect on Sunday, was issued by Sheikh Hassan al-Juju, Chairman of the Supreme Sharia Court Council.

The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) criticized the ruling and called on the council to withdraw it because it “violates the dignity of women.”

ICHR said that the circular discriminates between Palestinians citizens on the basis of gender.

The Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said that the travel restrictions imposed on unmarried males and females in the Gaza Strip “clearly violate the Palestinian Basic Law and relevant international conventions, as well as the right to travel.”

“The Supreme Council of the Sharia Judiciary should revoke the recent judicial circular since its provisions contradict the principles of the law and guaranteed right of the people to travel,” the group said in a statement.

“The ruling authorities in the Gaza Strip should ensure the application and respect for human rights principles and refrain from issuing discriminatory directives that violate relevant domestic and international laws.”

The Palestinian Authority’s Chief Justice of Palestinian Sharia Courts, Mahmoud al-Habbash, said that the ruling violated the teachings of Islam. “Palestinians are not bound by the circular issued by the Gaza-based council,” he said.

“Restricting public and private freedoms without a legitimate justification is a clear violation of the spirit of sharia, and an assault on the rights guaranteed by Islam,” al-Habbash argued.


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