As war captivates the world, International Women's Day warrants unanswered questions

Saturday, March 9, 2024
Amid war, International Women's Day warrants unanswered questions
On International Women's Day, the fight for freedom varies depending on who you ask.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- On International Women's Day, the fight for freedom varies depending on who you ask.

At the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, one walks past Holocaust reminders and quotes of solidarity to get to a corner of the building where an event is about to start. Once speakers take the mic, the fight for freedom clearly becomes against the echo chambers online, and the trauma that resurfaces as a result.

"I saw with my eyes that there was sexual abuse," said Talia Biner, who traveled from Israel and survived Hamas' attack on October 7, 2023. "No one can deny, no one can say that it didn't happen."

Between a full audience and a poster showing the Israeli women still being held hostage, Biner and fellow survivor Ron Gabay explained what they experienced. They are 28 and 24 years old, respectively.

"We were four girls and three guys in the trailer," said Biner. "For hours we heard people being slaughtered, shouting and begging for mercy before taken captive."

Her message Friday was that International Women's Day should be a reminder of the women who are still waiting to come home.

"We know those faces, we've danced with them," Biner said. "And we understand the girls that are being captive right now, they're in misery."

As soon as the event ended, another group started arriving to nearby Cheviot Hills Park for an unrelated rally under the same Women's Day theme. It's less than one mile from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, yet the two stand a world apart.

International Women's Day is rooted in activism, and the pro-Palestinian call to action has been undeniably amplified over the past five months.

"We want to end the genocide that is currently taking place in Palestine," said Rana Sharif of the Palestinian Feminist Collective. "We want to bring awareness. We want to advocate, push for a permanent ceasefire, not a temporary ceasefire."

Sharif is a second generation Palestinian-American.

Eyewitness News asked Sharif if it's possible to stand with Palestinian people and condemn - first and foremost - Hamas.

"A lot of Palestinians would actually take that position," said Sharif.

When asked about activist organizations' controversial tactics, she invited anyone with questions to engage directly.

Sharif says her priority, and that of those who stand with her, is to take down all forms of power deemed oppressive. Beyond the locked arms of a protest, a just outcome in this war isn't as easily defined.

"Often times it's very difficult for us to say that we should push back against power because power is so pervasive," said Sharif. "But we can do that, and we can do it in a way that's just and inclusive."

At what risk and at what cost are among the questions both sides ask in continuing this path forward.

An International Women's Day focused on international liberation has no clear answer on how to get there.