By Dr. Aayesha Soni
The Gaza strip is a piece of land 41 km long and 6-12 km wide, with a total area of 365 square kilometers. Situated on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean sea, it has a strong population of 1, 8 million people, making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world as well as having the sixth highest population growth rate in the world, with a rate of 3,2% per year.
This piece of land is also the world’s largest open air prison, being under complete siege by land, air and sea since 2007. Its neighbors, Israel and Egypt, have been complicit in the persistent and debilitating strangulation of the people of Gaza, with the limitation of all basic goods from entering the region.
A land almost forgotten by mainstream media due to its peoples’ suffering having become an almost acceptable norm, it is through social media that we are constantly awakened to the true reality of living in Gaza. Up to twelve hours a day of no electricity, severe water restrictions with a very minimal percentage of Gaza’s water even being fit for consumption, and unemployment rates amongst the highest in the world; Gazans are suffering immeasurably under the iron fist of Israel’s Apartheid-like laws.
One of the ways that justice-loving people across the world have attempted to break the inhumane siege is via the sea. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) was formed in 2009 after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza during 2008/2009 and in May of 2010 the FFC headed to Gaza with the Mavi Marmara and five other boats. Tragedy struck when the IDF attacked this non-violent humanitarian mission, in international waters, in what can only be labeled an act of piracy. 9 Turkish civilians were killed and at least 400 people and the crew were arrested, robbed, physically abused and detained for unknown crimes in international waters.
Since then, there have been almost annual boats launched from locations around the world in a bid to break the illegal siege of Gaza in a peaceful way. This is a truly global action and with 11 campaigns represented spanning many countries which include; South Africa, Canada, Norway and Spain. Until now every mission has been intercepted by the IDF and the boats unlawfully confiscated, once again highlighting Israel’s absolute disrespect for international law.
2016 is going to be a momentous occasion as the Freedom Flotilla Coalition sends out its first ever Women’s Boat to Gaza later this year. These well-known women from all over the world intend to break the siege in a bid to awaken the globe to the dire humanitarian crisis that Israel has imposed on Gaza. Their aim is to stand in solidarity with the women of Gaza who are renowned for their strength, courage and unconquerable spirit of resistance.
The women of Gaza are the epitome of the resilience and faith, that lies in the heart of every Gazan- they have an invincible hope and steadfastness you will never find in another population in the world, a certainty that despite their devastating circumstances their freedom will soon be a reality.
South Africa has always been a forerunner in its support for the Palestinian people, with the ability to relate intimately to the occupation they endure every day. It is therefore no surprise that there is a working committee, part of the global Women’s Boat to Gaza Campaign, based in South Africa who are tirelessly working to bring awareness, endorsements and support to this campaign. We have no doubt that with pure intentions and truth on our side, this historic project will be a huge success.
The defining essence of the Gazans, their will to live, their resolute spirit, their “never say die” attitude and their magnanimity towards visitors, is more powerful than all the struggles of a siege the Zionists can muster.
Let us rally behind the women from all over the globe who intend on uniting and bravely defying Israeli terrorism head on to show the world what Gaza must endure every day.
– Dr. Aayesha Soni is Vice Chairperson of the Media Review Network (MRN). She wrote this article on behalf of the Women’s Boat to Gaza.