Randa Siniora is the General Manager of the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) and a Palestinian human rights activist in Jerusalem.
Randa George Yacoub Siniora is the woman at the front of the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC) and Palestinian human rights activist.
For more than three decades, Siniora has dedicated her life to the Palestinian people and to the defense of women’s rights. Her tireless commitment led her to become the first Palestinian activist to address the United Nations Security Council in 2008. She did so to draw attention to the high rate of domestic violence and femicides occurring in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, where Siniora serves as general manager, was founded in Jerusalem in 1991 and has a consultative status through the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Its aim is to address the causes and consequences of gender-based violence within Palestinian society, and the impact of the Israeli occupation on women’s lives from a gender perspective.
Often, the Israeli system denies temporary residence permits and the right to family reunification to Palestinian women in the West Bank and other parts of the Palestinian Occupied Territories. This happens despite the fact that they are married to Palestinians from Jerusalem or that their husbands hold the Israeli citizenship. This causes that those women who stay or manage to reach Jerusalem avoid leaving their homes at all costs. Their presence in the streets is considered illegal and they fear being captured by the police.
However, the nightmare for Palestinian women does not end there. In situations of divorce where the husband has the Israeli nationality, they face many difficulties in accessing the courts and following up on their cases, as they lose their temporary residence permits. Israel’s laws restrict their movement, they are not allowed to live in the same city as their children, or even visit them, and they are denied many other basic services such as health care.
On the other hand, when there is gender-based violence, many of the women who do have temporary residence feel forced to stay with their abusive husbands in Jerusalem so as not to lose it. If that happened, they would be separated from their children forever.
Thanks to the work of Siniora and WCLAC, we know the double oppression that Palestinian women suffer, as women and Palestinians. In addition, the organization also provides legal advice to Palestinian women. According to WCLAC, 70 % of the legal and social services provided so far to women victims of gender-based violence have been destined to West Bank women married to citizens of Jerusalem. Israeli family reunification policies and residence permits leave Palestinian women vulnerable to both the patriarchal system and Israel’s occupation policies, thus exacerbating their suffering.
However, the work of Palestinian NGOs in Israel is not easy. They are harassed daily by the Israeli authorities. Many of them are treated as illegal and criminal and their offices are closed. In 2021, the Israeli government declared “terrorists” to six non-profit organisations, including the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, a feminist entity dedicated to the defense of human rights.
From Mujeres al Frente we wanted to contribute to give voice to the important work that WCLAC and Randa Siniora, as woman leader, carry out in Palestine. We share their desire and hope that Israel will put an end to occupation and discrimination in the Palestinian Territories and that no Palestinian woman will have to suffer the sentence of a life without a home, a family, and freedom.