Palestine Pulse

New hotline offers support to Gaza’s blackmail victims

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Article Summary
Gaza's all-female police unit has launched a campaign to offer women support and protection from emotional blackmail, a crime many are afraid to report.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The all-female police unit in Gaza launched a campaign in October dubbed “We Are With You” to protect girls of high school age and older from blackmail by men.

Lt. Col. Nariman Adwan, chief of Gaza's all-female police unit, told Al-Monitor, “The campaign’s primary objective is to provide women with a safe haven if ever blackmailed. We have established a free hotline and held awareness and guidance lectures that targeted schools, universities, wedding halls and workplaces such as hospitals and factories. The main problem that women face is the lack of a safe haven and confidentiality of information shared by female victims of emotional blackmail. The campaign is providing them both." 

The campaign’s media coordinator, Hana Karsoue, told Al-Monitor that the unit's officers approached 33,000 girls and women from all over the Gaza Strip and that 200 complaints have been reported over the hotline to the police unit since the campaign began on Oct. 11.

American psychotherapist Susan Forward wrote in her 2002 book “Emotional Blackmail” that emotional blackmail is “a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten to punish us for not doing what they want. Emotional blackmailers know [their victims'] vulnerabilities and deepest secrets.”

Safa (a pseudonym) told Al-Monitor, “I was secretly dating a guy, but after a while, we started having problems. He threatened to post my pictures online. I was very scared. After my friends insisted, I sought help from the female police without having to file a complaint.”

She told Al-Monitor, “I am afraid that my family will learn about it, seize my mobile phone and laptop, lock me in the house and keep me away from the outside world. This is why I just asked the police to prevent him from posting them and to threaten him, without filing a complaint against him.”

Indeed, the police threatened to arrest him and stopped him from posting Safa’s pictures.

Mohammed Safi, who works on ethical issues and cyber crimes for the intelligence agency affiliated with the Interior Ministry, told Al-Monitor, “We constantly receive complaints from girls who have been victims of blackmail. They fall in love and become subject to threats of posting their pictures on social networks. They are scared of their families learning about the issue. We follow up on the problem and threaten the perpetrator. Many girls do not come to us, out of fear of the scandal.”

Al-Monitor learned the story of Riham (a pseudonym) from the security services in Gaza. She had sent her boyfriend a nude picture. Soon, the relationship between the two started deteriorating, and he threatened to post the picture online if she did not have sex with him. She refused to do so and turned to a relative who works for the security services.

The relative summoned him, confiscated all his electronic devices and made him sign a document vowing not to publish Riham’s picture. He was threatened with arrest for extortion and blackmail.

Young Gazans face difficult economic circumstances. In 2014, unemployment reached 43.9%, the highest rate globally, according to a United Nations Relief and Works Agency report issued June 16, 2015. Spinsterhood is rising, given the exorbitant cost of marriage.

Scandal is what girls fear the most in Gaza, where the consequences may reach the point of being killed by relatives to preserve the family’s honor. In an investigative article for al-Akhbar published June 22, 2014, writer Amjad Yaghi stated that 64 girls died under mysterious circumstances in the Gaza Strip from 2010 to 2014, and the cases were closed and labeled "honor killings."

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Found in: women's rights, women's issues, psychological, harassment, gaza strip, blackmail

Moath al-Amoudi is a Palestinian writer who has been working as a journalist for eight years, specializing in public issues. He holds a master's degree from the Islamic University and has worked for several Palestinian and foreign media outlets. He helped conduct research for the book “The Palestinian Prisoners,” which has been published in several languages.

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