Gaza marathon cancelled as Hamas bars female runners

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A picture taken on 5 May 2011 shows a Hamas policeman talking on the phone as Palestinian Olympic athlete Nader Masri (L) and a fellow runner speed along the waterfront in Gaza City as they compete in the Gaza Strip's marathon. (Photo: AFP - Marco Longari)

Published Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Gaza's third international marathon has been cancelled after Hamas refused to allow women to run, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said on Tuesday.

“The decision to cancel the marathon came after discussions with the authorities in Gaza who were adamant on restricting women from participating in the marathon,” said the UNRWA in a statement.

UNRWA officials say 807 people had entered this year's race – 551 locals and 256 international runners. Of that number, 385 are female – 266 from Gaza and 119 from overseas.

Another 1,600 schoolchildren, girls and boys, were also to have joined the race.

A senior Hamas official confirmed the ban on women runners but expressed regret that UNRWA had cancelled the entire event.

"We regret this decision to cancel the marathon but we don't want men and women running together," Abdessalam Siyyam, cabinet secretary of the Hamas government, told AFP

"We did not tell UNRWA to cancel the marathon and we haven't prevented it, but we laid down some conditions: We don't want women and men mixing in the same place," he added, citing Islamic law and traditions.

The ban was in place for female runners aged 16 and over.

UNRWA said it was working on an alternative program of events for those who had signed up for the race, which would have seen entrants running either the full 42-kilometer marathon, the half marathon or a 10-kilometer dash.

"UNRWA sincerely regrets the inconvenience this causes those who planned to participate in the marathon," the agency said.

Women took part in the first and second international marathons in Gaza.



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