|Beating the siege with a surfboard!|
Sabah Abu Ghanim, a girl who has now 12 years old. You can see her, as usual, walking over the sand of Gaza’s shore, dragging her beloved surfboard. That day, the sun was rising, the sky was windy: A great climate to get over the waves and ride the sea. Sabah is one of very few girls practicing this sport in the western strip. Due to social restrictions, she will not be able to keep doing it very soon… or maybe not, thanks to a project launched by group of surfing activists under the name “Gaza surfer Girl project”
Surfing is one of the rare activities Palestinians can do in Gaza. In a blockade imposed by occupation authorities, sea is the place where Palestinians can have a little fun in a difficult life. A small but growing community of surfers is rising in Palestine, an activity that is somehow monopolized by males, since commonly; it’s not allowed for women and girls to play sports. Sabah is an exception: She is surfing every day with many other young Palestinians, trying to gain their freedom inside an inhuman and cruel siege.
“We lack equipments. We manage to make some boards from broken woods, and we get some support from the outside surfing community that makes a big effort to to get us what we need. Always people in siege are trying hard to find a sort of activity that can soften their suffering, it’s important for them” says Mahfouz Kabariti, president of the Palestine Sailing and Surfing Federation.
Sabah’s father is the trainer who taught her how to surf. Years ago, he used to practice with his board, the same used by his daughter now. “The first time, I put myself in God’s hand. I was afraid to the point that I said my last prayers” recalls Sabah. Now the little girl is not afraid anymore. Many boys in her age can’t surf on the waves the way she does. Her friends consider her as a coach; she teaches them now “They have become surfers like me… not exactly like me, not quite as good as me actually!”
Rajab Abu Ghanim is the father of Sabah. He says he is very proud of his daughter’s prowess and is planning to introduce eight-year-old Saja, Sabah’s sister, to the joys of surfing. “Many people criticize me for letting my girls play in the sea, that’s why I asked my older daughters to stop because of the community”
In the eyes of conservatives, Sabah feels some disapproval of what she does “People consider boys different from girls. In a certain age we can’t go to the sea anymore. My older sister used to surf when she was young. Now she has 16. She can’t do it anymore. Sometimes she comes to watch me surfing. I see frustration in her eyes. She wants to ride the waves with me, but she can’t anymore. Me too when I grow up I’ll not be able to surf. My society won’t accept this. I’ll be sad then, but until, I’ll keep surfing as long as I can”
The good news is: Maybe Sabah and her sisters will be able to enjoy their beautiful sport, today and in the coming future too. A group of surfing activists launched in 2011 a competition to deliver surfboards and “socially-appropriate” swimsuits to the girls of Gaza, so they can feel the joy of surfing that young men do. Designers from all over the world presented different designs and colors for the suits that will be delivered by “Surfing 4 Peace” before the end of 2011. So actually maybe after few years we will see Sabah and her sisters while keeping surfing and enjoying the sea, and probably not alone, but also with the company of all the young girls in Palestine..