Gaza writer complains of Hamas mistreatment

Friday 05/02/2016
Palestinian journalists calling for the release of journalist Ayman al-Aloul, in front of the Hamas information ministry in Gaza, on January 5th.

Gaza City - The detention of Pales­tinian journalist and social media personal­ity Ayman al-Aloul in the Gaza Strip showed the re­newed intolerance of the militant Hamas against those who dare to speak against it.
Since forcibly taking over Gaza from the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2007, Hamas has ruled the enclave with an iron fist. It has maintained zero-tolerance poli­cies towards dissidents, detained critics and carried our extrajudicial executions of alleged Israeli spies. It filled public offices with loyalists to ensure supremacy.
The group often arrested, beat and tortured opponents, includ­ing suspected supporters of Is­lamic State (ISIS) militants, who were blamed for explosions that instilled fear of further instability.
Nonetheless, after the July 2014 Israeli war on Gaza, Hamas ignored widespread public criticism of its handling of the conflict and for provoking a mightier Israel, a deci­sion that dragged the enclave into devastation and chaos.
Salama Marouf, director of the Hamas-run Government Press Of­fice, said Aloul was arrested be­cause he was a security officer on the PA’s payroll, “not by the other status he uses being a journalist”.
“Regardless of the tips and infor­mation that some of our security has against Mr Aloul, he was re­leased,” Marouf said. She declined to elaborate.
Aloul, 44, was arrested at his home in the Sabra neighbourhood in central Gaza on January 3rd. He spent nine days in custody, after­ward claiming he was beaten, tor­tured, offended and intimidated by his Hamas jailers.
Following his release under pressure from Palestinian rights groups, Aloul told The Arab Week­ly that he will “quit criticising Ha­mas”.
He said Hamas used techniques that “affected my general psyche”.
“I was physically tortured and beaten,” Aloul said, adding Hamas police used their hands to beat him but only on certain areas of his body so as not to leave bruises or marks.
“They humiliated me,” Aloul said.
Aloul was arrested a day after he posted on Facebook a video that re­buked Hamas deputy chief Ismail Haniyeh. With 80,000 friends and followers, most of them in Gaza, Hamas saw that the posting would spread quickly, Aloul explained.
“I accused him and Hamas of miscalculating and committing mistakes that brought upon Gaza three destructive Israeli wars and left the people out in a limb,” Aloul said.
“My conclusion was that Hamas failed in both the military resist­ance and in politics.”
Aloul, who has reported on the area for two decades for Arabic publications in Gaza and has often posted comical criticism of Hamas on his Facebook page, said Hamas charged him with inciting public sentiments against it.
Like other Hamas critics, Aloul blamed the group for the con­tinued power blackouts, closure of the Rafah crossing point with Egypt, high taxes, record poverty and unemployment and a chock­ing Israeli siege.
In many places in Gaza people vent frustration with their lives in the enclave. Some, mostly the young, have been trying to escape to Israel to find jobs, and others hope to flee to Europe to look for better opportunities.
Aloul said violations of press freedoms are rampant in Arab soci­eties ruled by totalitarian regimes. “But when it came to beating and torture, I felt that I was brutally hurt,” he said.
The early January detention was not Aloul’s first time in a Hamas-run jail. “Two years ago, I was arrested for six hours and was severely beaten also by Hamas in­terior security officers,” he said. “But this time, I spent more time in jail and, of course, the torture was more severe.”
Sami Zaqoot, an activist at Al Mi­zan Centre for Human Rights, said violations are committed daily by Gazan authorities.
“But who would dare to speak out?” he asked. “Anyone who does will probably face Aloul’s destiny, if not worse”.