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Gazans bemused by Hamas ban on New Year celebrations

Hamas celebrates military victories, but disapproves of New Year parties [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 December, 2015

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Blog: The Gaza Strip's besieged residents take to social media over the ruling Hamas movement's decision to ban New Year celebrations in the blockaded coastal enclave.
Hamas has banned public New Year's Eve parties in the Gaza Strip because they offend the territory's "values and religious traditions", police said on Wednesday.

"The interior ministry and police department did not give permits to any restaurants, hotels or halls for end-of-year parties," after several venues requested permission, police spokesman Ayman al-Batinji told AFP.

He said New Year's Eve celebrations were "incompatible with our customs, traditions, values and the teachings of our religion".

Parties had also been curtailed in "solidarity with the families of the martyrs of the Jerusalem intifada", Batinji said, referring to violence that has swept the city and other parts of the West Bank in recent months.

Residents of Gaza quickly reacted to the news on social media with bemusement and frustration.

"On the pretext of religious values we impose the gloom of Hamas brothers on our people," said one Twitter user. 

"Joy in Gaza is forbidden… unless it involves a victory celebration," tweeted Mostafa Farra. 

Some commented that in the context of the siege, an electricity crisis, post-war depression and other problems, Gazans deserved a new year party.  

Belal Debour tweeted that it was an odd way to attempt to improve public opinion of the Gaza's ruling movement, adding that the most virtuous course of action would be to first "prevent the theft of electricity".

Others viewed the decision as unwise on the part of Hamas.

In previous years, New Years parties have been popular in the restaurants and cafes of Gaza City, a relatively affluent area compared with the rest of the beleaguered Strip.

These parties still required a permit, and Hamas police would sometimes shut down events due to "security concerns".

Other Gazans complained about Hamas' tax-heavy economy and stringent restrictions on goods and businesses, which hurt restaurants and other potential New Year venues even when there isn't an explicit ban on enjoying life.

One Palestinian Facebooker reasoned that if cafes were to give Hamas more "tax" revenue, the movement would believe New Years parties to be beloved by Islam. 

The social conservatism of Hamas has frustrated many young Gazans who have grown up under the group's rule.

Despite the group's strict moral codes, young Palestinians often make their feelings clear. Hamas previously U-turned on an attempt to impose a dress code on young men in the Strip, after receiving widespread criticism.  

Germany has also banned New Year celebrations at some refugee reception centres, ostensibly due to safety concerns, and out of fear of firework explosions triggering traumatic flashbacks for refugees.

One Twitter user commented that Germany was "following in Hamas' footsteps".  

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