Hamas has decreed that female student drivers must be accompanied by a chaperone when taking lessons, NPR reported Wednesday.
Driving schools were informed of the new rule by the government last fall.
One driving instructor, Mohammad al-Hatta, described being pulled over by police last fall with a single female student in the car, even though in his decade as an instructor he had never heard of the law. The police confiscated his identification papers. When he returned the next day to retrieve them, he was forced to sign a declaration that he would never again take a female student driving alone.
Due to the infraction, Hattab was temporarily suspended from his job by the police. He objected that finding a chaperone for female drivers is “complicated” and an unnecessary burden. “You can’t punish hundreds of instructors for the mistakes of a few,” he declared.
Driving schools now often book two female student drivers for simultaneous lessons so that they can chaperone each other. At least one school has hired a woman to work full-time as a chaperone.
The association of driving schools in Gaza has petitioned the government to stop enforcing the law. The matter will now be decided by a religious judge, who will issue a fatwa, a religious ruling, on the law’s acceptability.
Hamas has been harshly criticized in recent years by human rights groups for its infringements on personal freedoms, such as when it rounded up men three years ago who had too-long haircuts or wore “un-Islamic dress” like skinny jeans. Shortly afterwards, Hamas began mandating gender separation at all levels of education.
New China TV also reported on the newly-imposed restriction on female drivers.
[Photo: New China TV / YouTube ]