It's true that we can criticize Ramallah, but especially from the point of view of women, it's a place for freedom. Especially when we discuss with younger women. For them, being in Ramallah is gaining a space that is free from what is imposed or what is perceived to be imposed by the family. What do you think?
I'm actually from Gaza. And this is very important because it defines what I'm going to say and perhaps where I stand.
I think there is a like a very huge relation between loving Ramallah and how the people from the outside look at Ramallah as the liberating city - it's not! As a Gazan who came here in 1990 to study at the university maybe I was deceived by this 'Oh Ramallah, the liberal city!' The city where women can do everything that they want, where they feel this is like a free place for them. It gives them back their rights and their freedoms. But after one year of being in Ramallah I discovered this is deceitful. This is not true. As far as you're not from Ramallah, you don't carry the privileges of Ramallah people. You will always be labeled as a stranger who is not a 'Ramallawi'.
In 1995 I decided to go back to Gaza. I decided that this is my place. And if I am a free woman, I call myself a feminist, and if I am a feminist then I have to try it there, not in Ramallah. In Ramallah you cannot tell what's true and what's not true. And you cannot read the faces of the people. You cannot tell do they like you because of who you are, or because you are really making an effort to look like them.
My position is not to be attacking Ramallah. Not to highlight the positive or the negative side of Ramallah. I moved to Ramallah 10 years ago. I grew up in Damascus and if you look to Ramallah it's the same. When women want freedom they go to Damascus, when youth want more opportunities they go to Damascus.
I see Ramallah since the 40s as the open city and was the centre. We know that Umm-Kulthum used to come to Ramallah to record her songs, there were famous restaurants that people from Lebanon and other places came to. Ramallah was always an icon of openness an icon to receive everybody. I don't attack Ramallah, because Ramallah is accepting everybody. It's accepting the Muslim, it's accepting the Christian, it's accepting the conservative or the religious people, it's accepting everybody.
I want to say to Wafa', can you keep smoking and doing what you do in Gaza when you know people don't like it? You can do what you like in Ramallah. This highlighting of the negative side, it's as if, I see you as if, you are closing the only hope of a place that is receiving everybody, of a place that is giving you yourselves the space to be do be who you are and what you are, to do what you want to do.
For us, for women, Ramallah is the only place where women not only can live alone but can have a boyfriend. I'm not sure you can have a boyfriend in… can you do it in Qalqilya?
When you say everyone is accepted in Ramallah, I think everyone is only accepted within certain parameters. Ramallah is a space of consumption, this is what it has become. If you want to be politically active or critical then no, you're not allowed to do that. You're not allowed to go and demonstrate. I went to the Manara to demonstrate over the attacks on Gaza, and I saw a child beaten up.
[Extracts from conversation No. 5]