Middle East

Photoless campaign posters in West Bank spark controversy

Instead of showing faces of female candidates, most campaign posters use roses or shadow of woman

Qais Omar Darwesh Omar   | 09.12.2021
Photoless campaign posters in West Bank spark controversy Photo Credit: https://twitter.com/PalElections

RAMALLAH, Palestine

As Palestinians in the West Bank gear up for local elections, a new phenomenon during electoral campaigns has drawn the ire of feminists and activists in the occupied territory. 

Instead of showing the faces of female candidates, most campaign posters are using roses or a shadow of a woman.

Palestinians are set to cast their votes in local elections on Dec. 11. A total of 765 electoral lists are competing for the seats of 329 local bodies in the West Bank, according to the Central Elections Committee.

The commission said 277 party lists and 488 independent lists were registered for the vote. The number of candidates in the lists reached 6,299, of which 1,599 are women.

The phenomenon is "a tribal societal behavior,” said Areej Odeh, a feminist who heads the Women's Affairs Team, a non-governmental organization in Ramallah. “It has nothing to do with religion."

"The man does not want the picture of his wife or daughter to appear,” Odeh added.

According to Odeh, the concealing of the female candidate’s picture is not only limited to Islamist groups, noting that there are women whose pictures have been withheld by leftist parties and others belonging to the Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas.

She also said some of the female candidates are not real candidates. Rather, they were chosen to complete the quorum of the lists as provided by the law.

The Palestinian Local Elections Law stipulates that an electoral list must include at least two women.

Odeh criticized women candidates hiding their pictures in campaign posters, questioning how such a candidate can deal directly with the community and provide them with services.

In a Facebook post, Nour Odeh, a Palestinian journalist, described the phenomenon as “a mockery and an attack on the status of women, their history, their struggle and their dignity in this tormented country."

She called on the election commission “to prevent any list that withholds the images or names of female candidates from running in the elections.”

Insult to women 

For their part, civil society institutions registered as election monitoring bodies called in a statement on all electoral lists to respect the dignity of female candidates and to publish their names and pictures in electoral campaigns.

“Placing the pictures of women contributes to strengthening the presence of Palestinian women and their historical role in the Palestinian national struggle," the statement said.

It warned that “replacing images with symbols or slogans diminishes the role of women in political participation and insults their human dignity.”

However, the election body said in a statement that it cannot force the lists to publish pictures of female candidates in their campaigns but noted that it contradicts the voluntary commitment agreed upon in the codes of honor and codes of conduct.

Bullying

On the other hand, some of the female candidates, whose photos were withheld, rejected any criticism of the practice.

Maram Hanani, a candidate in the upcoming elections, told Anadolu Agency that she was bullied by the community and on social media for withholding her image in the electoral campaign.

"The decision (not to publish my photos on campaign posters) is personal,” Hanani said. “I am a candidate in my village of 4,000 people. They all know me, and I am a community activist and teacher."

Hanani is a candidate for the Binaa and Liberation List affiliated with the Fatah movement.

My decision is my “absolute freedom. No one can dictate what I want or do," Hanani said.

*Writing by Ibrahim Mukhtar


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