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Women's voices: Q.B. - Freedom of expression

Name: Q.B.
Age: 26
Location: Gaza Strip
Date of incident: 26 August 2010
Nature of incident: Freedom of expression
On 26 August 2010, a 26-year-old pregnant woman from Gaza describes how she was denied medical attention at a hospital in Gaza because she was not wearing a headscarf.
“I live in Gaza with my husband and our young daughter who is three months old,” says a 26-year-old mother from Gaza. “It is not easy to be a young woman in Gaza these days. Unlike most women I don’t wear a headscarf and often people comment on this and make me feel uncomfortable. Although I am a Muslim I feel it is my right to dress the way I like. Religious groups in Gaza wish to impose their ideologies and dress code on everyone, I find this unacceptable. Refusing to comply means trouble.”
“On 26 August I went to the hospital to deliver my child. I had to wait for a long time for bureaucratic reasons before a doctor was able to see me. I was in pain and quite anxious because this was my first child. Finally a female doctor came and did an ultrasound examination and decided I needed to have a cesarean section. I was kept in the hospital from 10:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. when a nurse came to the room I was in and started to shout at me saying 'how dare you come here without a headscarf?’  I told her I didn’t wear a headscarf and complained that this was not the time for such things since I was in severe pain. I said this in a loud and assertive manner which upset the nurse. When the doctor heard all this he was upset too and threw my medical file in my face and told me he wasn’t going to perform the surgery. I was kicked out of the hospital. I felt humiliated, scared and helpless. It was a horrible experience.”
“I had to go to another hospital which my health insurance did not cover. I had to pay a lot of money because I had no choice. I had my baby at the other hospital. Although everything went well in the end, I will never forget this experience. Each day I wake up in the morning and worry about people mistreating me because I don’t wear a scarf. I feel my choices are limited.”

keyword: Gaza Women