Palestine: Closing of tourist places in Gaza for non-compliance with Islamic customs


The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is gravely concerned over the unjustified intervention of the Ministry of Interior into public freedoms, closing a number of tourist places in Gaza City, imposing restrictions on their work and arresting one of these places' owners under the pretext of gender mixture and non-compliance with the Islamic customs. PCHR calls upon the government in Gaza to take all necessary measures to ensure and respect public freedoms which are constitutionally guaranteed under relevant international standards.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, during September 2010, the Ministry of Interior in Gaza closed a number of resorts, including cafés and restaurants, in Gaza City under various pretexts, and imposed restrictions on their work. The Orient House Hotel and Restaurant, Gaza Sky Restaurant and Café, Crazy Water Park and al-Sammak Restaurant were among the ones that were closed. They are all located on the beach in the west of Gaza City.

In his testimony to PCHR, Ahmed al-Yazji, Director of the Orient House Hotel (previously known as the Beach), said that, in the last week of Ramadan, the Ministry of Interior had sent them a notice banning any parties without obtaining prior permission from the Palestinian police. Al-Yazji added:


"We obtained the license from the police to hold a party on Sunday, 12 September 2010. During the party, eight armed persons wearing civilian clothes came and introduced themselves as members of the General Investigation Bureau (GIB). They moved among the customers and found a lady smoking hubly bubbly. As a result, they prevented her from smoking although her husband was accompanying her. They confiscated my ID card and requested me to refer to al-'Abbas police station. At approximately 15:15 on Tuesday, 14 September 2010, I went to al-'Abbas police station to take my ID card, but they requested me to sign an oath (obliging me to abide by the closure decision, which was issued by the Chief of the Palestinian Police, for three days starting on Wednesday, 15 September 2010, due to violating our Islamic customs and Palestinian traditions). When I refused to sign the oath, they threatened to detain me. So, I signed and left without taking my ID card."


Earlier, at approximately 21:00, on Tuesday 7 September 2010, a force of the GIB broke into al-Sammak Restaurant in the west of Gaza City, where a cultural evening for the Film Club was held. The force asked to stop the cultural evening's activities and requested the attendees to leave immediately although the organizers had informed the GIB members of obtaining a license in advance. The restaurant's owner, Mo'een Abu al-Khair, stated to PCHR:


"I intervened to know the reason of preventing the cultural evening. The GIB members told me that it was mixed and they are against gender mixture. They asked me about my name and career, and then requested me to go with them. They transported me to Ansar security compound in the west of Gaza City and imprisoned me until the next day after beating me. Before I was released, they forced me to sign an oath obliging me to show commitment to the law and public order and to pay 10,000 NIS in case of breach."


In another testimony, one of those who are responsible for Gaza Sky Restaurant said:


"At approximately 23:30, on Wednesday 1 September 2010, a person in civilian clothes and riding a motorbike came and introduces himself as a member of the GIB. He informed us of the decision closing the restaurant for three days starting on 2 September 2010 and that we had to abide by the decision. On the following day, I headed to the GIB office to find out the reason of closure. The officer said that the restaurant had held a party on 22 July 2010, where the party was mixed and hubly bubbly was served for women. On 4 September 2010, I went again to the GIB office, but they asked me to sign an oath obliging me to abide to (non-mixture, not to serve hubly bubbly to women and to pay 12,000 NIS in case of breach) although they were previously informed that there is a section for families and another one for men."


In the same context, on 5 September 2010, the Attorney General in Gaza issued a decision closing Crazy Water Park for 21 days, as the police and a force of the GIB headed on the same day to the Park and closed it. When the Park's director contacted governmental bodies, he was informed that the reason of closure was for digging an artesian water well in the Park without obtaining an official license in advance. The Palestinian police and GIB went to the Crazy Water Park on 19 August 2010 and informed them of the decision issued by the Minister of Interior to close the Park for three days.  The Park's director went to GIB office to know the reason of closure, and then he was forced to sign an oath to abide to (non-mixture, not to serve hubly bubbly to women and to pay 10,000 NIS in case of breach)."


PCHR is gravely concerned over the unjustified intervention into public freedoms through closing a number of resorts in Gaza City and imposing restrictions on their work, and:


1) Calls upon the government in Gaza to take all necessary measures to ensure and respect public freedoms which are constitutionally guaranteed under the relevant international standards;

2) Believes that intervention of GIB and moving around resorts is unacceptable, unjustified, makes these resorts infamous and scares customers to be infamous as they visit such places. It further stresses that such places are private ones and they can only be searched with a permission from the Attorney General and according to the law. PCHR also stresses the rule stating that the person is innocent until he is proved to be guilty under legal measures and just trial, and that not all persons are suspected in the eyes those who are responsible for law enforcement until these persons are proved to be innocent;

3) Believes that using loose words (mixture, customs and traditions) to restrict work in such resorts constitutes a violation of public freedoms, and that the relationship between the government and civilians is governed by the rule of law and the laws in force in the Palestinian Authority which organize punishments for each violation or crime, and that such measures violate the laws in force, which must be implemented in accordance with the constitution.

4) Emphasizes that private meetings and similar parties, which are held in closed places, are not included in the Act on Public Meetings # 12 of 1998, and they can be held without the presence of police officers according to article 26/5 of the Basic Law which states that "Private meetings can be held without the presence of police officers as long as they are held in accordance with the law."   

Thursday, 16 September 2010 12:30