To be divorced in Palestine is to be branded as unworthy.
Women have to declare themselves as divorced on their ID cards, creating problems in getting a job, affecting them economically and psychologically. Divorced women move from the control of their husband to the control of their family: their family tracks where they go, who they talk to and what they wear.
Re-marrying is barely a possibility and in a society where marriage and family is everything to be divorced is to be nothing. Success stories are rare but I have managed to find two: Fadia Zadeh and Aseel. Here is part one of our short series on divorce in Palestine, I met with Fadiah and she told me her story:
My family wanted me to get married young so they chose for me a husband at 16 against my will. I wanted to continue studying but I had no financial independence to have the power to do this. My passion is and has always been art.
I started to create pieces of paper art and put them on Facebook. They were popular and I realised I could sell them. I began to create a business for myself online but my husband and his family were against it. Despite this I continued and my popularity grew. I attracted press interest and the press came to interview me at my house. This only grew the tension between my husband and I, causing me to fear for the safety of my children. I was so frightened I stopped working.
I then decided to get a divorce. My family told me to ‘shut up and continue your marriage.’ However it was now impossible for me to do so. I decided to take this huge decision completely unsupported, completely alone. They took my children and I left to study and start my own business. I studied graphic design at university and won a national prize for showing the most initiative.
I am proud of my success, but the journey was hard, with no shortage of obstacles:
Once I had left my husband, in my pursuit of freedom, my own family attempted to gain control over my life – much in the same ways my husband had. They controlled what I wore, who I spoke to and even tried to have me re-married.
Once I started to make money I opened my own shop and I began to draw international attention. My husband’s family, in response to seeing my success, dumped my children at the door of my shop. They were 7, 11 and 13, it was the middle of winter and they were barely wearing any clothes.
Only now do I feel happy and free. I have my own business, my children and a life I have chosen and built myself. I have many marriage proposals and I think I will marry again but not just yet- I have bigger dreams than just to wash cups and dishes!’