Many feminine candidates’ faces hidden as West Bank votes

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — During the campaigning for the West Bank’s native elections, a lot of the faces of feminine candidates have been changed with a rose or silhouette on electoral lists and marketing campaign posters.

About 65% of eligible voters turned out for the primary spherical of voting on Dec. 11. The second spherical, to be held March 26, will decide the make-up of 66 native councils for bigger municipalities.

A complete of 765 electoral lists competed for spots on 329 native councils within the West Bank. The 6,299 candidates included 1,599 ladies, 25.9% of the whole.

Areej Odeh, director of the a civil society group Ramallah referred to as the Women’s Affairs Team, criticized the lacking pictures.

“It reflects men’s domination over women in Palestinian society,” she instructed Al-Monitor. “It is most likely that the female candidates were pressured by their fathers, husbands or sons to withhold their photo from the electoral lists. Women showing their faces in public is still considered shameful in Palestinian tribal traditions.”

She went on, “I don’t think this has to do with religion or affiliation with Islamic parties. Some ladies whose photos were withheld belong to leftist parties and the Fatah movement. It is more about social traditions and custom and not religiosity.”

Odeh additionally positioned some blame on the candidates themselves who accepted this association.

“How can a woman who would become a member of a municipal council and have a role in serving her town accept having her photo hidden? How will they promote women’s rights in their community?” Odeh requested.

Candidate A.F., who spoke to Al-Monitor given that the checklist she was working on and the city she represents not be revealed, mentioned that she confronted stress from her household to not present her face.

“My husband and father asked me to hide my photo or not run for the elections. So I agreed because I wanted to throw my hat in the ring. Should I win in the elections, I intend to work hard in collaboration with women’s rights institutions in a bid to change society’s views of women and enhance their role and status in society as well as highlight the importance of their participation in decision-making circles without interference,” she mentioned.

Mara Hanani is a candidate for the Fatah-affiliated Building and Liberation checklist within the city of Beit Dajan east of Nablus with a inhabitants of some 4,000 inhabitants. She instructed Al-Monitor that it was her option to maintain her picture off electoral lists and posters.

Hanani, who is understood in her city for being a neighborhood activist, mentioned, “I think all the talk about the female candidates’ photos is bullying and encroachment of personal freedoms.”

“I received dozens of phone and social media messages attacking my choice not to have my photo on electoral posters and banners. I just wanted to say that this was my own decision and I was not coerced into making it. I don’t have to make excuses to anyone. This is freedom of choice,” Hanani mentioned.

Many native residents expressed their views on social media.

Women’s rights activist Zainab al-Ghonaimy wrote Nov. 29, “The electoral lists that hide the photos of her female candidates are not to be trusted. Do not vote for them. Those who undermine and marginalize women are not worthy of trust.”

Another Facebook person, Amin Abed, wrote Dec. 1, “Some electoral lists replaced the female candidates’ photo with a rose or a silhouette, reflecting their demeaning view of women, who have always been partners in struggles and makers of revolutions.” Abed referred to as on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Central Elections Commission (CEC) to “punish those who made this decision that undermines our struggles and women and not recognize these electoral lists.”

Civil society organizations registered with the CEC as election monitoring our bodies expressed in a Nov. 29 assertion the need “to respect the women candidates’ personhood and dignity and publish their names and photos on electoral lists, as including them honors women’s presence and historic role in the Palestinian struggle.”

CEC spokesperson Farid Tamallah instructed Al-Monitor, “The Palestinian electoral law does not obligate female candidates to have their photos published.” He went on, “The CEC, however, believes that hiding the female candidates’ photos undermines women’s dignity.”

Tamallah added that this observe violates the CEC’s code of conduct voluntarily signed by representatives of political forces, civil society establishments, ministries, activists and journalists.

Talib Awad, president of the Arab World Observatory for Democracy and Elections in Ramallah, instructed Al-Monitor, “The CEC’s position on this arrangement is murky, unclear and does not do justice to the female candidates.” He went on, “The CEC ought to have explicitly rejected the admission of any electoral checklist that obscures feminine candidates’ photos.

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