UN cancels Gaza marathon after Hamas says women would be banned from taking part

 

Gaza

The annual marathon race run through Gaza has been cancelled by the UN agency responsible for staging the event after Hamas said women would not be allowed to take part.

The third staging of the race, due to be run on 10 April, was cancelled by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) after Hamas, which controls the Palestinian coastal territory, said that having female runners would contravene Islamic tradition. The Islamist group said that it would be happy for the event to go ahead, but only if “local traditions” were observed.

“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 the AFP news agency.

“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 said.

UNRWA, which has at times had a tricky relationship with the Hamas administration, said that school children would be the ultimate victims of the decision: “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 250,000 schoolchildren,” said Adnan Abu Hasna, the agency's spokesman in Gaza.

As many as 1,500 children, who run a few hundred yards of the main course, were due to start the race. According to UNRWA a record number of women – 379 – had entered this year’s race, including 260 Palestinians. As many as 800 people were registered to run this year’s 26.2 mile race, which winds its way through Gaza and along the Mediterranean coastline.

The cancellation of the race will also deny Nader al-Masri, a Palestinian athlete, of a hat-trick of wins, after he headed the field last year and in 2011.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007, when a brief, but bloody civil war with the other main Palestinian faction, Fatah, ended in Hamas’s favour. Since then, the group has had several rows with UNRWA, particularly in relation to what is taught as part of the curriculum in UNRWA sponsored schools. Several rights groups have criticised Hamas for placing restrictions on what women are allowed to do.

UNRWA is tasked with providing assistance to Gaza 1.6 million people, who live in one of the world’s most densely populated areas.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Content Manager

£26000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Content Manager is re...

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee