Palestine Marathon spotlights the right to movement

Gaza athletes among the thousands

27 March, 19:15

    Palestine Marathon run in Bethlehem Palestine Marathon run in Bethlehem

    (by Michele Monni) (ANSAmed) - RAMALLAH, MARCH 27 - Thousands gathered again this year in Bethlehem, located in occupied Palestinian territory, to participate in the Right to Movement - Palestine Marathon. The race, which also symbolizes the aspiration of Palestinians to end the occupation and restrictions imposed by Israel, has attracted athletes from Jerusalem, Nablus and Ramallah, and has seen the participation of representatives from 51 nations who met to discuss the route that runs along the main artistic and historic attractions of the city as well as through the Dheisheh and Aida refugee camps.

    Now in its third edition, the marathon is organized by the Palestinian Olympic Committee and the Danish association Right to Movement, with the intention of spotlighting the difficulties of Palestinian citizens due to lack of free movement imposed by to Israeli restrictions. Among these is a series of checkpoints and the separation barrier surrounding the Christian town, 85% of whose territory is classified as Area C, which has been under full Israeli control since the Oslo Accords. In addition to the classic marathon (42.195 km), participants talked about the half marathon and the more manageable 10 km. Participation was high for young Palestinians, especially girls, who the organizers estimated made up around 40%.

    "It is nice to do something normal, like participate in a marathon. It makes me feel the same as all the other foreign (young people) who are here today," said Huzma, a 19-year-old who was still out of breath at the finish line.

    In contrast to past years, Israeli authorities of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (or COGAT) allowed a large number (46) of Gaza marathon runners, including the marathon's past winner Abed El Nasser Awajneh, to participate. The organizers had originally requested permissions for 55 runners.

    ''From the beginning, we set up the event to draw attention to the lack of freedom of movement for Palestinians, but today, the lack of attention to the occupation shows a progression towards normalization: people have begun to accept the occupation as a normal part of their daily lives," lamented Signe Fisher, one of the event's organizers.

    "The Bethlehem marathon, however, highlights how the freedom of movement for Palestinian women, men, girls and boys continues to be severely limited under prolonged Israeli military occupation," declared James W. Rawly, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Territories (OCHA). (ANSAmed).

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