During the past week, the Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip arbitrarily arrested approximately 25 young Palestinian men. The men were detained, many had their heads shaved and some were beaten by police officers while in detention. All of the men were accused of sporting unconventional hairstyles and wearing indecent clothing. One of those arrested, who wishes to remain anonymous, had his feet beaten while in the police station.
The police spokesperson in the Gaza Strip, Ayman al-Batniji, explained that the arrests followed calls from a number of school principles complaining about the behavior of young Palestinian men, including loitering next to girls’ schools and harassing female students.
Al-Haq expresses its grave concern at the latest efforts by Hamas to restrict Palestinians’ liberties and impose increasingly conservative social behaviour under the pretext of religion on those in the Gaza Strip.
In December of last year, the government-run Al-Aqsa University announced that students, particularly female attendees, would be forced to wear appropriate clothing on campus. Subsequently, a Christian female student was prohibited from attending her class because she was not wearing a head scarf ‘hijab’. The authorities in the Gaza Strip have also recently enacted a new law prohibiting mixed schools for children above the age of nine. The law also states that only female teachers can work in girls’ schools.
Ahmad Khalil Abu Sab’ha – Khan Younis Governorate
On 4 April, Ahmad, 16, of Abasan al-Kabira town, was waiting for a shop to reopen after the noon prayers when three men in civilian clothing emerged from a police vehicle and approached him. Without introducing themselves or producing any arrest warrants, the police officers ordered Ahmad and another Palestinian man to get into the vehicle.
Ahmad, along with two other Palestinians, was taken to a police station in Bani Sahla town, where the officers mocked their hairstyles and their low-hanging jeans. The officers promised that “they would make them look like real men”, and threatened to shave their heads. When Ahmad’s parents arrived at the police station, his father was ordered to cut his son’s hair. Ahmad was told that he would be arrested again if he was seen with an unconventional hairstyle or found to be wearing low-hanging trousers.
Ahmad was released that day and immediately went to a hairdresser. He later learned that the two Palestinians arrested with him had their heads shaved and were forced to sign a paper committing not to wear inappropriate clothing or to have unusual hairstyles. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 8533/2013)
Ayman Basim al-Sayyid – Gaza Governorate
On the evening of 4 April, Ayman, 19, was waiting for a taxi when a police officer ordered him to get into a police vehicle, which already held 13 Palestinian detainees. None of those arrested were informed of the reasons behind their arrest and when one of the men asked for an explanation, he was beaten by the police officers.
Ayman was taken to al-Shoja’iya police station in Gaza city, where he was ordered to stand in a queue and hand over his belongings. He was then taken to a room with the other men, where the police officers insulted them and mocked both their hairstyles and clothes. One of the men that protested against the mockery was slapped several times on the face. In the time that Ayman was in the police station, the police officers brought in another 12 Palestinians, who were also ridiculed on account of their clothing and hairstyles.
Thirty minutes later, Ayman witnessed the officers shaving the men’s heads, while continuing to insult them. Afterwards, the men were forced to sign a paper guaranteeing that they would never wear long hair, sport an unconventional hairstyle or dress in low-hanging trousers.
At 6:30 pm, Ayman and the other Palestinians were released. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 8535/2013)