JAFFA, Israel – Protesting the economic conditions in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, university graduates in the territory on Sunday launched a campaign protesting rampant unemployment and their inability to find jobs, setting up a tent encampment in the city center and starting a hunger strike in protest of their “uncertain future.”
Said Lulu, a resident of Rafah and one of the leaders of the protest movement, told the pan-Arab Asharq al Awsat newspaper that he couldn’t find a job after graduating from Al Azhar University’s school of communication.
“I refuse to take my own life like so many other young people do,” he said. “I’m determined to go on living despite my terrible living conditions.”
Lulu, who together with his comrades launched the hashtag #want_work, invited all unemployed university graduates to join hands and make a difference.
Lulu said that he worked at a restaurant in Rafah, making 700 shekels (less than $200) a month, not nearly enough to help support his family that returned to Gaza in the 1990s after years in Iraq.
The paper said that the exact unemployment rate among young people in Gaza was unknown, but according to international estimates it stands at around 80 percent.
Thousands of students graduate from Gaza’s four universities every year to find a depleted labor market, with 60 percent unemployment and 70 percent of the population living in poverty, according to Gaza’s Union of Workers. In real numbers, it amounts to 213,000 unemployed people.
Gaza’s rampant unemployment and consequent poverty has sent the number of suicides through the roof, experts say. Last month, human rights groups said that in the first few months of 2016 alone 35 people took their own lives. Clinical psychologist Dr Fadel Abu Hen claimed that the cause of the suicides was depression that resulted from extreme financial distress, the absence of hope for a political change and the frequency of war.