Avi Issacharoff
July 6, 2009 - 12:00am

Hamas security forces detained a Gazan journalist at a beach over the weekend because she was not wearing a headscarf.

Asma al-Ghul, who writes for the Palestinian daily Al-Ayam, said she was at the beach near the Shati refugee camp with a mixed group of friends when men in civilian clothing asked her why she was not wearing a headscarf. When she asked them who they were, they showed her Hamas security forces identity cards.

She said that when questioning her, the men accused her of "laughing out loud" and walking around the beach without a male escort.

They would have arrested her, Al-Ghul said, if she had not phoned the Hamas authorities. She was released after her Palestinian passport was confiscated. Al-Ghul also said the men threatened her life and that she cannot leave her home.

This is reportedly not the first attempt by Hamas security forces to enforce Islamic modesty rules. Hamas security forces are said to patrol the beach looking for lovers and to have confiscated alcohol at the Hamas checkpoint south of the Erez crossing. They also reportedly go to hotels catering to foreigners to check for unmarried couples.

Hamas has denied it enforces Islamic religious law, but it appears its security forces are trying to make the public behave traditionally, which includes women wearing the hijab, or headscarf. During Friday prayers at many mosques, imams call on parents not to allow their daughters to go to the beach without an adult male chaperone.

Fatah: Hamas men followed Abbas

Meanwhile, the Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, Fahmi Zaarir, confirmed Haaretz's report last week that detained Hamas men confessed to following PA President Mahmoud Abbas in order to observe his security arrangements. In an interview with the London-based Arabic daily Alsharq Alawsat, Zaarir said the confessions had been videotaped by Palestinian Authority security officials.

A Hamas spokesman, Mushir al-Matzri, denied the allegations, calling them "an attempt to find a pretext for the killings and arrests of opposition leaders in the West Bank.

"We have so far heard about arrests of those planning to kill senior officials, but not about any senior official who was attacked," al-Matzri said.


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