Leaders of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip announced a ban on July 18 forbidding women from smoking hookahs (water-pipes) in public places, deeming the practice "immodest".
Hamas has controlled the small Palestinian territory under Israeli embargo since June 2007, but began implementing stricter rules in public places since the second Intifada, in 2000. Alcohol consumption was strictly forbidden, many movie theatres were shut down. The water-pipe ban, however, has sparked a ripple of discontent among the population: hookah-smoking is a deeply engrained practice in Palestinian tradition.
Hakeep Bashir is a student in the Gaza strip.
Of course the law restricts women’s freedom. In the summer, sitting with a water-pipe by the sea is one of the rare pleasures afforded to Gaza citizens. But very few women smoked hookahs in public anyways. Most women were too poor to afford sitting at a café terrace anyway. I don’t think the majority of women in Gaza feel directly concerned by this decision – it mainly affects a handful of "liberated" or foreign women who will no longer be able to smoke hookahs with men. "
Asma Shaker is a Gaza-based journalist.