AN ANNUAL marathon race in
Gaza, organised by the United Nations, has been cancelled, after
Hamas banned women from competing.
The UN agency for
Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said that it had been forced to make
the decision after Hamas ruled that it was against local custom to
allow men and women to compete together.
The marathon has been held
for the past two years, with male and female competitors. The
26-mile course runs the length of the Gaza Strip. Out of more than
2400 people registered for the race, some 370 were women, most of
them from Gaza. About 1500 schoolchildren were also due to start
the race - although they were due to run only a few hundred
A spokesman for UNRWA said:
"It is with sadness and regret that we have been forced to make
this decision. But our work in Gaza is based on UN values,
standards, and codes of conduct, and we could not go ahead with an
event from which women were barred.
"The marathon was an annual
event to show solidarity with the Palestinian people, and to raise
funds for summer camps organised by UNRWA, which serve at least
A team from the Christian
arts festival Greenbelt had been due to run the Gaza marathon. The
director of Greenbelt, Paul Northup, who would have been running a
marathon for the first time, said that the team had felt "huge
disappointment and frustration" at the news.
"The cancellation diverts
atten-tion from the real issues we were trying to raise, such as
human rights, and focuses it on the fundamen- talist Islamist issue
of gender," he said.
The team have now
transferred to run the first ever Palestine Marathon, which will
start from Manger Square, Bethlehem, in April.