UN Cancels Gaza Marathon After Hamas Bans Women Competitors

March 5, 2013 – Next month’s Gaza marathon has been canceled after Hamas banned women from participating, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said Tuesday.

Some 551 local people, including 266 women, as well as 256 international runners, including 119 women, were registered to compete in the race or one of the associated events which included 2km and 10km walks. Gaza children attending UN schools were also set to take part in marathon relay teams.

“UNRWA regrets to announce that it has cancelled the third Gaza marathon which was to be held on 10 April,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday. “This follows the decision by the authorities in Gaza not to allow women to participate.”

Last year’s race was won by Nader el Masri, who is from Gaza and participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He had been helping UNRWA train locals for this year’s event, the agency said.

Hamas, who have ruled Gaza since 2007, previously banned women from riding on the back of motorcycles and banned men from working as hairdressers for women as part of what is called the group’s virtue campaign.

Funds raised from the marathon were to aid a summer program for Gaza’s children. 

The marathon course was planned to start at one end of the approximately 25-mile long Gaza Strip and end at the other.

– Denis Fitzgerald