Organisers centralised the annual Women’s Day protests this year in order to increase the number of participants into one collective event. The main demonstration was accompanied by smaller localised conferences and exhibitions on Women’s Rights, participation and human rights.
The protest was held on Saturday, the day before Women’s Day was marked internationally, and buses from across the West Bank brought activists to Qalandiya refuge camp where speeches were made celebrating the role and sacrifices of Palestinian women in the national struggle.
With anti-occupation chants ringing out through the streets, the Ramallah demonstration made its ways to the infamous Qalandiya checkpoint. Heavily-armed Israeli soldiers lined up behind locked metal fences, the balance of power clearly in their favour. As activists reached the barricades some raised Palestinian flags on the gates but were soon repelled as soldiers emptied cannisters of toxic pepper spray directly in to their eyes. Barrages of tear gas soon followed. At least 30 people are reported to have been injured including several who received hospital treatment due both tear gas inhalation and pepper spray.
Other events marking Women’s Day in the Ramallah area included human rights conferences and photographic exhibitions documenting the role of Palestinian women in village life including those working in the agricultural sector.
Originally known as International Women’s Working Day, this global event has socialist roots and a history stretching back more than 100 years. In many countries across the world the original and deeply political roots of Women’s Day have today been diluted although this is not the case in Palestine where the event continues to be dedicated to the historic and ongoing participation of Palestinian women in the national struggle.
Following these political traditions, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society released a statement on International Women’s Day dedicated to 20 Palestinian women who are locked up within the occupation’s prison system.
Images by MEMO Photographer Rich Wiles.