“It’s Never Forever!” Women in Hebron at SOAS University
“I’m not a violent woman, but I fight with my tongue.” On a Wednesday evening in October, Laila Hasan proved this true in front of a packed audience at SOAS University, speaking about the hardships and injustices of life in Hebron, the most segregated city in the world.
PCF hosted Laila in partnership with SOAS Palestine Society, and after hearing what Laila had to share, we then had the opportunity to look through and buy some of the hand-embroidered products made by women from the Women in Hebron co-operative.
At almost 60 years old, Laila would prefer not to be having to come to the UK all the time, armed with suitcases of products to shift. She’d rather be at home in Palestine, enjoying life with her six children. But with their shop in the Old City more and more under threat due to settler pressure, this is her best chance to keep business going. A business that sustains the livelihoods of hundreds of Palestinian women and their families from across the South Hebron Hills.
“I should have my rights. I should have my freedom, like you,” she told the room of mostly students, who responded with a round of concurring applause.
After beginning her talk with a short video contextualising the situation of Hebron, where 500 largely international settlers live in the Old City, protected by an army of 2000 soldiers, Laila reminded the room, “This is what we face every day. Not just for a five-minute video. 24 hours a day!”.
Laila Hasan runs the Women in Hebron stall at the market in Hebron’s Old City. Asked by an audience member if her job was made even harder by not only being Palestinian but being a Palestinian woman, Laila responded in her strong-willed manner, “It’s not easy being the only female at the souk. Not easy. But it’s easier for me because always I want to do more than the man will do!” Laila waved what’s become their signature purses around in the air, with the tongue-in-cheek phrases ‘men can do something’ on one side and ‘women can do anything’ on the other.
Laila lived well up to standards of Palestinian hospitality, inviting the entire audience to come and stay with her, in order to see Palestine for themselves. “My house is open for you all! I will give you food! Just come and see how it is.”
Laila also reinforced the resistance element of embroidery. When you sit with the women embroidering, she explained, they tell you their story. “About her life, about her children, if they’re in prison, if they got killed.”
“If we lost our heritage, we already got lost. We never can find ourselves again.” Laila says people suggest she change her business to other things, but she wants to protect Palestinian heritage for the new generation.
She will not give in to the occupation and its desire to stamp out Palestinians and Palestinian heritage alike. “It’s never forever” she repeats throughout the evening, a rousing shout of resistance.
Thank you to SOAS Palestine Society for partnering with us on this event.
Inspired to help, we are now selling some Women in Hebron products on our online shop.
We also created a Fact Sheet on Palestinian Embroidery for the event, which you can view here.