GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Years ago, Faten al-Naqla, president of the Women’s Board of the Palestinian Wushu Kung Fu Federation, received intensive kung fu training from her husband and trainer, Sameh al-Naqla, to gain confidence and ability to defend oneself.
In light of the growing number of women dying from severe beatings by their husbands in the Gaza Strip, Naqla began thinking about training other women to defend themselves.
According to 2021 data from the Institute for Palestine Studies, social violence in Gaza reached 41% in 2019, compared to 20% in the West Bank. As for women who have suffered domestic violence, psychological violence reaches 76%, physical violence 34% and sexual violence 14%.
More recently, on February 19, a 31-year-old woman from Gaza City was beaten to death by her husband. This prompted Naqla to start the kung fu self-defense training, calling on all women in Gaza to head to Deir al-Balah beach in the central Gaza Strip, where she teaches the classes.
Women pay a modest amount of money to attend training on the beach – depending on the type of training – where Naqla rents a small space for the classes.
Naqla, who was surprised at the large number of women who responded to her call, scoffs at the criticism she has received, saying that training women in self-defense is meant to incite them to attack their husbands. “Any decent man would encourage his wife to learn self-defense because violence is everywhere, not just between couples,” she told Al-Monitor.
Monallah al-Duraimli, 20, from Gaza City, told Al-Monitor that she was very interested in learning kung fu skills so she could defend herself if ever needed.
She pays no attention to the criticism she received for her training with Naqla. On the contrary, she says it motivates her to keep going. “People are going to talk, and we need to make our defense a priority in light of rising rates of violence,” she noted.
Magda al-Balbisi, an independent women’s affairs researcher and women’s activist, told Al-Monitor that it is very important for Palestinian women to learn self-defense if ever they are exposed to social or family violence. .
She said that self-defense is part of the protection mechanisms that feminist organizations and civil society organizations can work on in general. “Women and girls have the right to defend themselves if ever they are exposed to harassment or any form of violence. Families should encourage their daughters to practice self-defense, kung fu and karate as cases of violence have increased recently.
Mohammed Salim, who coaches the Palestinian national taekwondo team in the southern governorates of Gaza, told Al-Monitor that the younger generation of women (under 14) are increasingly seeking to learn self-defense.
He regrets that the older generation never paid attention to these sports due to cultural and societal restrictions, as well as lack of awareness.
“Organizations concerned with the protection of women should create special classes that the community finds acceptable. As coaches of the taekwondo team, we are currently trying to do that and train women so that they can teach self-defense to other women,” Salim noted.
Independent sports affairs researcher Nelly al-Masry told Al-Monitor that self-defense classes such as karate, taekwondo and kung fu have been available at sports clubs in the Gaza Strip for more than 20 years. “The Gaza Sports Club was one of the first to offer such courses to women. Many young women have high-level belts in self-defense sports,” she said.
However, she criticized women’s organizations in Gaza for their lack of interest in sports projects, noting that 10 years ago the Palestinian Olympic Committee sent an official letter to some of these organizations to cooperate in the field. women’s sports. According to Masry, the responses have unfortunately been negative due to the various funding programs that focus more on violence against women, inheritance issues, etc.