Hamas: Gaza Women Learning To Drive Must Have A Chaperone : Parallels Hamas police say male driving instructors can't teach female students without a chaperone present. Some teachers have been suspended. But one driving school owner says the policy is good for business.
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Hamas: Gaza Women Learning To Drive Must Have A Chaperone

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Hamas: Gaza Women Learning To Drive Must Have A Chaperone

Hamas: Gaza Women Learning To Drive Must Have A Chaperone

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Authorities in the Gaza Strip are making a tough job a little tougher. Driving instructors there already have to watch out for hazards on the road. In recent months, male instructors have been detained because they were alone with a female student in a car. NPR's Emily Harris reports from Gaza that some resent the crackdown while others see a new opportunity.

ABDEL-NASSER EL-BOBBO: (Speaking Arabic).

NIHAD HAJHAJH: (Speaking Arabic).

EL-BOBBO: (Speaking Arabic).

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Driving in Gaza isn't easy. There aren't that many cars, but there aren't that many stoplights either or lane lines.

HAJHAJH: (Speaking Arabic).

HARRIS: Her third third behind the wheel, Nihad Hajhajh successfully misses a horse cart. She signals a lot, but unlike other drivers, she doesn't honk that much. There's another student riding along for her lesson because the teacher, Abdel-Nasser el-Bobbo, got pulled over by police for teaching a female student alone.

EL-BOBBO: (Through interpreter) The Internal Intelligence took my ID and told me to go to the station and promise I wouldn't do it again.

HARRIS: This happened to Mohammad al-Hatab, too. He's been teaching driving in Gaza for more than a decade.

MOHAMMAD AL-HATAB: (Through interpreter) I remember two guys on two motorcycles. They were in civilian clothes. One stopped in front of my car. He started shouting, stop; stop; we're police.

HARRIS: His student, a young woman, was mortified. Hamas' internal police took his ID and said they would not give it back until he signed a statement promising not to teach a woman alone.

AL-HATAB: (Through Interpreter) I'm like, why? Have you caught me in some bad situation? They said, we've already arrested a number of instructors with moral failures. For me, with all due respect, how many - two or three? You can't punish hundreds of instructors for the mistakes of a few.

HARRIS: It turns out Hamas can. Gaza is nowhere near as strict as Saudi Arabia or Iran, but the militant Islamist group which runs the Gaza Strip sometimes hauls young men in for certain hairstyles or low-rider jeans. Hattab complains this driving school crackdown makes his job more complicated. But for others, it's turned out to be an opportunity.

The The al-Awael driving school just gave a young woman a job as a chaperone to ride along with students who don't come with friends or family members. Her name is Rawan al-Nateel. She laughs when I ask if this is a good job.

RAWAN AL-NATEEL: (Speaking Arabic).

HARRIS: "I accompany people," she says. "In the car, I sit." When she's not riding around, she helps around the office, earning about a $125 a month. It's a job she would not have if Hamas had not put this restriction on driving teachers. School owner Adham Mushtaha says the extra cost is worth it.

ADHAM MUSHTAHA: (Through interpreter) If a female student feels more comfortable, she might ask for another lesson. That's much better for us. With this, I believe a father would encourage a daughter to learn to drive.

HARRIS: Still, the Association of Driving Schools in Gaza has lobbied the government to quit enforcing this policy. The two sides agreed to let religious authorities decide. Emily Harris, NPR News, Gaza.

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