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Palestinian women take driving lessons in Gaza (4)

Xinhua)  08:16, August 30, 2012

A Palestinian woman takes a driving lesson at a school for teaching driving cars in Gaza City on Aug. 28, 2012. (Xinhua/Wissam Nassar)

GAZA, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- Women driving cars are no longer a rare sight in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, nowadays they are seen in every corner of the Israeli-besieged enclave.

Until a few years ago, the number of female drivers could be counted the fingers of one hand. But now the number of women applying for driving licenses is in its thousands.

University student Heba Sleem, 22, is one of those who used the college holiday to get a driving license.

The young lady is already a driver as she was taught by her parents. She says she enjoys driving on the streets of Gaza, but she is attempting to get her driving license fearing she may be stopped by policemen any day.

"It is a normal thing to drive a car in Gaza now," said Heba as she was getting ready to start a private driving lesson. "Many girls are getting driving licenses, my friends have also got licenses," she added.

Driving was always welcomed by many women in the city, though the society in general has not always been supporting this behavior. However more women are now taking the wheel and drive around on the streets of Gaza.

In 2007, the Islamic Hamas movement wrested control of the Gaza Strip by force. Since the first day of its rule, Hamas has attempted to enforce Sharia law in Gaza. Women were briefly barred from smoking in restaurants and public places while female lawyers were banned of entering the court without headscarves, but these decisions did not sustain.

But when it came to driving, Hamas was tolerant and allowed girls to attend driving lessons. Moreover, the government has even taken some decisions to enable women from getting driving licenses easily.

Hamas is attempting to make Gaza a more moderate place to avoid criticism that it's planning to create an Islamic regime in the seaside territory.

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