Isra Almodallal, Hamas' new spokeswoman, secures the role of being the first female appointed to represent the group.
Hamas has been reeling since the removal of its best friend and ally, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Marginalised, and with diminishing power, Hamas has decided it needs a drastic change if it wants to be heard outside of its prison. That is why, for the first time ever, it has appointed a woman to represent the organisation to the world.
The difficult task has been assigned to 23-year-old, Isra Almodallal, who will try her best to give Hamas a friendlier image, no doubt using her fluent, British-accented English. She will be responsible for the Gaza government's communications with the international media.
The change of policy was spearheaded by Ihab Ghussein, the new head of the government media department, who has been determined to hire younger social-media oriented members, and has started a new official government website. Ghussein explains that he appointed Almodallal in an effort “to be more open to the West.”
Almodallal was raised in Gaza but spent five years in Britain as a teenager, studying at Grange Technology College; a high-school in Bradford, U.K. Upon returning, she studied journalism and worked as TV reporter for a local station.
What makes her appointment very surprising is the fact that Hamas has previously been notorious for its aggressive restrictive attitudes towards woman’s rights. Hamas has been pushing women to cover up in the traditional Islamic dress of long robes and headscarves, also banning them from riding on the backs of motorbikes, and from smoking shisha. These bans aren't always enforced, but earlier this year, the Hamas government officially barred women from participating in a U.N.-sponsored marathon, prompting a U.N. aid agency to cancel the race.
It's probably because of these bans that Almodallal doesn't find herself fully aligned with Hamas. Differing from previous spokesmen, she refers to "Israel" rather than the "Zionist entity." She also claims that she would be equally willing to work as a spokeswoman for the rival Palestinian government in the West Bank. "I am not Hamas. I am a Palestinian activist who loves her country," Almodallal explains.
All in all, this appointment is a refreshing change and might just be the first brick in reconstructing the group’s marred image. However, if they keep considering women as unequal partners and restricting their rights, then this appointment will be all for naught.