The women of Gaza can now seek shelter at a safe house created by Hamas, an Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip for victims of domestic violence and abuse. The Safe House was established two months ago by Hamas, an Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip.
The shelter, established 2 months ago, aims to protect all Palestinian women who are trying to escape domestic violence, honor killings and rape victims.
It is situated in a large compound at Gaza's Welfare Ministry and is protected by the Hamas Police. The Safe house has so far sheltered eight women, and it can accommodate up to 50 women in large clean rooms.
Sohad Qanita the resident psychiatrist said that some of the victims residing at the compound were minors.
Sohad: "When a case arrives, the social workers sit with them and then refer the person to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist first of all stresses the concept of complete secrecy: that her problems and her story will not be divulged under any circumstance. We try to give her emotional support, let her release all her emotions through exercise, like drawing -- to let her let out all her interior anxieties".
Ms. Qanita said some women visit the safe house from time to time, seeking professional advice and support.
One of the victims, a minor, sought refuge at the safe house after being forced into prostitution by her family members. She preferred to withhold her name fearing reprisal.
Victim: "The safe house is truly safe. I have felt very safe here, I feel comfortable emotionally. I thank those who opened this place, I thank them very much. God-willing they will have a place in heaven."
According to the Hamas lawmaker, Huda Naeem, there were no records of so-called honor killings in 2010. Ms. Naeem added that the newly-opened safe house could help prevent domestic abuse and honor killings.
Huda: "This house hasn't been opened for long. It opened up recently two months ago. But through our short experience we have found that the presence of the women here, aids in solving the source of the problem which caused them to be branded under the term of battered."
Many women in the Middle East, in Gaza or elsewhere, choose to tolerate physical and mental abuse over issuing formal complaints, in order to protect the family integrity.
Discussing family sexual abuse issues and honor killings remain a sensitive topic for many Palestinian women. Specialists say that encouraging women to speak up against sexual abuse is an ongoing issue.
Sohad Qanita - Psychiatrist at the safe house
Unidentified victim residing at safe house
Huda Naeem - Hamas lawmaker
Ikram Al Yacoub
Eman el Shenawi