A filmed report produced as part of the BBC’s fourth “100 Women” season appeared on the BBC News website (including the Middle East page) on November 26th under the title “The woman defying Gaza’s biking ‘ban’“.
The issue of women’s rights under the Hamas regime is one which has long been under-reported or downplayed by the BBC, meaning that audiences suffer from a serial lack of information about the restrictions on the rights of women (and other groups) and the religious ideology that lies behind such policies. While this report gives audiences a brief glimpse into one of the symptoms, it does little to contribute to the series’ stated aim of examining the issues behind their cause.
Audiences hear from the woman featured in the film, Amna Suleiman.
“I posted on social media that I was going on a bike ride with two female friends. Many women got in touch and said they would love to join us. But on the day, none of them showed up. I’m sure what stopped women from coming is fear of the authorities.”
And later on:
“Gaza women have to abide by a strict social code. If a girl tries to defy cultural restrictions, she becomes an outcast.”
Leaving audiences to fill in the blanks for themselves, the BBC informs viewers that:
“An unwritten rule in Gaza bans women from riding bicycles after they reach puberty.”
“The Islamist movement Hamas has been ruling Gaza since 2006.”
In fact the violent Hamas coup which brought the end to Palestinian Authority rule in the Gaza Strip took place in June 2007.
This all too rare glimpse into a social issue faced by women in the Gaza Strip once again avoids providing BBC audiences with the context necessary for its full comprehension.