Image Credit: Katrine Dige Houmøller

‘No Feminist Struggle Without Gaza’: UN Women Protest Takes Stage on International Women’s Day

Under the crisp morning sun of International Women’s Day, one woman stands among many outside the United Nation (UN) Women office in Sin El Fil in Beirut. She elevates a white placard emblazoned with the declaration, ‘International law kills women.’

A diverse assembly gathers, each participant adding their voice to the cause. Keffiyehs – the iconic Palestinian scarves – wrap around some demonstrators, while others definitely wave the Palestinian flag. Within a tight-knit circle, a group unfurls a grand Palestinian flag, its vibrant red, green, black, and white dancing in the wind.

Amidst the fervor, protesters wield banners, each a poignant statement echoing their collective call for justice.

Imperialism? Now branded as “women-friendly”? Fuck off, UN-Women! Stop dehumanizing Palestinian men. They are martyrs and heroes of our brave armed resistance, is written on one of the banners.

Photo by Katrine Dige Houmøller.

The crowd chants and cheers, expressing solidarity with the people in Gaza. But most importantly, they aim their voices at the staff inside the UN Women building, expressing strong objections to their position on the genocide of people in Gaza. The protesters criticize the UN’s statements and justifications of the crimes committed by the Israeli occupation. 

“We want to raise our voice against the genocide that is happening now in Palestine,” says Hiba Jneed, one of the protesters.

While another protester says: “We are here to save Gaza.”

Occasionally, both women and men from the UN staff peer out of the windows of the UN building’s glass structure.

Photo by Katrine Dige Houmøller.

Photo by Katrine Dige Houmøller.

‘Death to white feminism’

March 8, acknowledged as International Women’s Day, stands as a worldwide celebration that pays tribute to the social, economic, cultural, and political accomplishments of women. The UN is also marking International Women’s Day this year with the theme ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.’

“As the world navigates diverse challenges in the quest for gender equality, UN Women continues to lead the charge, pushing for investments and transparency to prevent violence against women and girls everywhere,” as highlighted on UN’s official website.

Photo by Katrine Dige Houmøller.

However, the protesters assembled outside the UN Women office today reject this assertion. Their conviction is clear. They advocate for the comprehensive dismantling of the UN agency and any international body associated with the global network of imperialist powers. 

Their argument is rooted in the belief that such entities fail to represent women and girls or embody the core principles of their decolonized feminism. At the heart of this decolonized feminism lies a profound desire for Palestinian liberation.

Free Palestine Front’s protest poster reads, “This agency is nothing but a tool that serves imperialist, white, liberal, and capitalist interests, manifested through its policies, processes, and positions in the name of “gender equality.”

Hiba Jneed. Photo by Katrine Dige Houmøller.

“We will do whatever we can to end the genocide to the Palestinian people. It’s better than staying home and doing nothing,” says Hiba Jneed.

Most Gaza casualties are women and children

This diverse group of protesters, including individuals from Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and beyond, gathered to voice their concerns over the tragic loss of innocent lives in Gaza.

“Having witnessed the impact of the war on my country, Syria, I am here to put an end to the genocide occurring in Palestine,” says Hiba Jneed, a refugee from Syria.

Photo by Katrine Dige Houmøller.

Israel’s military has killed at least 30,717 individuals in Gaza since October 7, according to the Gaza health ministry. Current estimates suggest that approximately 70 percent of those killed in Gaza are women and children. UN Women reports that two mothers per hour have been killed since the onset of the crisis.

“We have seen evidence once more that women and children are the first victims of conflict, and that our duty to seek peace is a duty to them. We are failing them. That failure, and the generational trauma inflicted on the Palestinian people over these 100 days and counting, will haunt all of us for generations to come,” as the UN Women Executive Director, Sima Bahous, has highlighted in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains steadfast in his commitment to continue the campaign aimed at dismantling Hamas, whether before or after any potential truce agreement.

Photo by Katrine Dige Houmøller.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has emphasized that the hostilities in Gaza and Israel have resulted in appalling human suffering, physical destruction, and collective trauma across both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He stressed that the international community bears a responsibility to leverage all its influence to prevent further escalation and bring an end to this crisis.

However, the protesters in front of the UN Women office today claim that the UN plays a significant role in perpetuating the oppression, assault, and killing of women in Gaza and across all of Palestine.