JERUSALEM, (AP) – A Gaza art gallery owner said Wednesday that Hamas police repeatedly beat and abused him over allegations that he had had sexual relations with women who are not his wife, which is forbidden by Islamic law.
Gaza human rights activists say the rare admission by Jamal Abu Qumsan, who is unmarried, is the clearest evidence yet of a quiet but persistent Hamas morals crackdown in Gaza, as part of an attempt to implement strict Islamic law.
“They kept asking me as they beat me: ‘who are the girls you sleep with?’ I told them I’m not sleeping with anybody,” Abu Qumsan told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
He said police interrogators beat him across his back, legs and buttocks in hours-long interrogations over three days last week. To back up his claims, Abu Qumsan e-mailed reporters a photo of his bruises.
Abu Qumsan, 43, said he was also accused of hosting exhibitions in his art cafe and gallery without government permits.
Hamas officials were not available for comment.
Human rights activists say that since the Islamic militant group seized power Gaza three years ago, Hamas security officials have interrogated, beaten and detained other residents for belonging to rival Palestinian groups. Hamas officials have often harassed men and women to publicly abide by Hamas’ stern Islamic moral code, activists say.
However, this is the first time a Gaza resident has said publicly that he was interrogated over his sex life. Activists say other residents have been questioned in a similar manner, but they were too frightened to come forward.
“If I stay silent, I think they’ll take somebody else tomorrow, and then a second person, and then a third, and it will go on and on,” Abu Qumsan said.