years ago in March, 2009, only two months after the 22-day Israeli attack on
Gaza, I was on a CODEPINK: Women for Peace international delegation
of 60 women who traveled to Gaza for International Women's Day. In the week in Gaza,
we met with women where their homes used to be before they were destroyed by the
Israeli attack that killed 1,450, wounded 5,000 and left 50,000 homeless. We also met with women in 13 community centers throughout the country, to
listen to their stories of life under attack and under siege.
Five years later, I joined an international
delegation of 100 women
from seven countries to travel to Gaza in solidarity with
the women of Gaza for International Women's Day. Women of Gaza are over 50 percent of the 1.7 million people who live in tiny Gaza. As they care for their families, they face extreme
circumstances with daily attacks from the Israeli military, lack of electricity
and water, environmental disasters of sewage flooding into the streets, and a
lack of basic necessities.
Hundreds of tunnels under the border
with Egypt that previously brought food and supplies denied by the Israelis in
their land blockade of Gaza, have been destroyed by the Government of Egypt,
reportedly to prevent weapons smuggling by militant groups. Travel
in and out of Gaza through the Egyptian border for medical treatment, education
and family visits to relatives around the world has become even more difficult
have in the past. The Egyptian border with Gaza now has been closed for 28 consecutive days and was only opened once in February for a number
of pilgrims to Mecca to return.
who have never been charged with a crime, never seen the inside of a court are
now treated as convicted prisoners in the "open air prison" called
Gaza -- the walls on all sides of the prison, the Israeli land and sea blockades
on three sides and the Egyptian blockade on one side, are closing
tighter and tighter.
is because of those conditions in the lives of women of Gaza, that our
delegation wanted to join women in Gaza to show our concern and solidarity as
women -- to let them know we have not forgotten them.
on International Women's Day, 16 of our 100 delegates are celebrating
International Women's Day in Cairo, Egypt, not Gaza. However, 62
of our delegates were refused entry into Egypt by immigration authorities and
are sending their greetings from their home countries of France, Belgium, the
United States, Algeria, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Switzerland and
Australia. Twenty-two of the 100 initial delegates decided at the last minute not fly to
Egypt, including Djamila Bouhired, the 79-year-old Algerian independence
Our message on International Women's Day to
the women of Gaza is:
"We, the International Women's Delegation to
Gaza, greet you on International Women's Day.
"Although we can never know
your suffering as you feel it, we hold you in our hearts, and pledge to you our
continuing, ever-deepening solidarity. We will tell your story to all who will
"We will tell your story to our Parliamentary and Congressional
representatives so they can better understand the injustice they support and the
suffering they cause by the billions of dollars they send to Israel and Egypt."
Our sisters who were not allowed even to enter Egypt have a strong
additional motive for solidarity.
We celebrate International Women's Day
in different parts of the world, but our hearts and our perseverance in the
struggle make us one.
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