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PALESTINE: CIVILIANS LIVING A HORROR LIFE

How would you feel when you know that you can be killed at any time or at any point in your life because of your identity? What would you do when someone or a group come to you and start shooting in your house because of only you belongs to the certain country?

When we the Palestine’s children grew up, our parents tell us about the check points and Israel army. They make us mentally prepare to die, in a sense, they told us that we will be shot at any point/time so being killed by an army is common for us, says 18 years old girl, Bayan HishamSalaymeh from Hebron, west bark from south Palestine. She is the second child of three brothers and a sister. Her father is a business man…. and a mother is social workers who work with various NGOs. She is a student at Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh. While she was talking with me; I could easily see her pain and sorrows in her eyes and facial expression but she loves her tradition and culture. She covers her head with black scarf, wears long slips and pants. On 25 April, 2010, I have a chance to take her interview which filled my eyes with tears while hearing her stories.

Below is what she had told me during the interview, I have presented here as her life story.

Palestine has the longest and biggest history of war in the world. In 1917, Jewish came to Palestine with the help of British. The British government helped them to resettle in Palestine by providing experts and money. In 1948, the real Palestine were forced to fly to many other Arab countries such as Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Egypt and lived as refugees. After that the United State of America started to help Israel by providing weapons and tanks to fight against the Palestinians. Why do the US and Israel want to see our dead bodies? What is our fault of being Palestinians?

Barriers of Women’s’ Education in Palestine

Can you imagine other countries putting a check points in your country? … (Pause) ...No (answering herself)… We have in our country, (Pause and with louder voice) , in Palestine. We have Israelis’ check points in our land. All the cities in the west bank and Gaza strip are controlled by Israel, by their checkpoints and settlements. Some of these cities are Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus, Jneen and Jerusalem and they are controlled by the Israeli government. However, there are some small areas which are under the Palestinians authority. When you hear about Israel and Palestine war, you might have think that it’s a war between two countries armies but actually it’s not. It is a war between the Palestinians and Israel army. We don’t have Palestinians soldiers. We have police but they are traffic and for normal duties and they are not expected to save us from the outside attack because they look internal matters …………….

My parents are so supportive in my education from my childhood however the situation of Palestine often distracts my studies. When I was studying in class 8, there was a curfew in our area so I was reading a book sitting on the balcony. The life was dead; there were no means of transportation on the street. People were staying inside their houses.

Suddenly, I heard a voice Sash...Sasha...Sash, and then I saw a fog of smoke. The fog was coming towards our house; I ran to call my parents and told them about the fire which was nearby our house. My father brought buckets of water and threw to the smoke. Then all the gas and smoke came in our house, our first floor of the house was full of smoke. We all kneel down on the floor to save our lives. I could not open my eyes, (Pause) it was a tear gas bomb not a fire. It was very difficult to breathe. My brother, Moaweya, fainted because from the lack of oxygen. My parents were so anxious of our life. My father picked up the bomb and threw it on the street to save us. My father’s right palm was burned from the tears gas bomb. He didn’t have a choice because we would have killed if our father hadn’t thrown it. Then my mother brought the perfume and gave us to smell.

Similarly, when I was studying at Mohammad Ali Al Mohtaseb higher secondary school, I have to go to country side for my extra course and I needed to cross a check point. In the working days (Sunday to Saturday excluding Friday); there would be many people coming and going through the country side as it the only way for us as a Palestinians to go out of the city, I used to face many difficulties on the check point. The horrible things are that my classes started at 8am so I have to leave my home at 5am in order to attend all my classes. Every time, I am alone in the check point, I have to wait hours and hours in the sun looking at the police activities. Can you imagine in the whole check point, you, the armies and their dogs staring at you when you are alone. That is why I used to skip most of my Friday classes even I wanted to study.

When I finished high school, I wanted to study in Bier Zait University in Ramallah but I have to go to school by crossing 3 checkpoints. My parents have to suspect about my security every day. Usually when we reached at the check point, the Israeli army will ask us when our classes start and when it will finish. Then what did they do, do you know? ... (Pause)... (Louder) they will close the check points... Yes (answering herself). They will only open the check points when our classes finished. The male Israeli army often asked us to open our scarves and the button of our T-shirt till our chest in front of public, to see whether we have hidden any bombs in our body or not. Can you imagine yourself, being a girl, opening your T-shirt till your chest in front of public? We the Palestinian women’s have been through all these traumas.

Moreover, the Israel police may not let me go to the University, if they let me go, they will not allow me to come back to my home, they will ask me to return to Ramallah , but where will I go? I don’t have anyone there except my university. What will I do? Finally, I get the chance to come to Bangladesh and study at Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Now my parents are happy, they do not have to worry about my security. However, my Palestinians sisters are still there who are becoming the victims of war, what will they do? What will happen do their future?

Experience of Living in a Country with Turmoil

In the checkpoint, women and young people are pointed out to wait longer. Their hands are tied and they are asked to stand in front of the wall and the sunlight for hours. They are asked to be silent and not to speak loudly, if we do so, we will be beaten, arrested or killed depending on the mood of the soldiers. If you are a woman and a Muslim, they will not even hesitate to ask you to open your clothes. Who give the rights to the Israeli soldiers to stop us and open our dress in our own land? Aren’t their activities similar to the terrorist?
It was during an invasion on the second Intifada time, me and my sister were sitting in our balcony. We saw a tank coming on the street. Our Car was parked on the street. The tank comes towards our car and crashed the car. Our car smashed into pieces and we were stunned into a statue looking at the pieces of our car. Our eyes were full of tears.

However, on the top of the tank there was an Israeli soldier boy of about 25 years old. He was reading the newspaper and started laughing when he saw us. Why do the Israeli army’s seize our car which was parking on the street of our house? (I can see the fierce in Bayan’s eye). (Pause) Later we bought another car. During the same invasion, our city was shot continues for 5 hours starting from 12 am to 5am every day. As Palestine is surrounded by mountains, the Israel armies go to the mountain peak and start shooting in it is on the side of the mountain. We stayed inside our home for 3 months doing nothing. We had shortage of food and no electricity at all in the city. However, our school teachers taught us how to save our life during the war. We have a shooting room (the room we used to hide our self during the attack) in our house, which is our parents’ bedroom. Whenever there is an attack from the Israel army, we used to run to shooting room and slept on the floor.

I still remember once we had to sleep for 2 days because of the continuous attack. It was not an attack only in my home; it was in a whole city. Samah, my neighbor, went to receive the call during the attack, and she was killed while talking in the phone call. During these three months, all the things made up of glass including windows, lights, fans broke into pieces. The attacked from 2004- 2007 from Israel armies has forced us to live a dejected lives in Palestine; we have repaired our windows for three times.

Palestine People Situation in Israel’s Prison

Women and Men are tortured severely in the prison. One of my friend, Haneen’s uncle (Haneen is another Palestinian student at Asian University for Women), was arrested by the Israeli army. When he was out he told the family different stories of what he has seen in the prison. Every day girls wearing short skirts with “big boobs” come to the prisoners to collect more information about political issues. Also, they tortured them by putting sticks in their butts.

Likewise, Palestinian women have been treated so badly in prisons. While the women have menstruation, in the prison they don’t give them sanitary pad to use instead they give white dresses to wear and hang their hands on the wall. After some hours, the blood covers all the dresses and it will be seen for everyone. I still remember my school friend Swsan who was accused by Israel army for carrying the scale that is made up of iron . At that time, she was only 14 years old; she was in a checking at an Israel check post to go to school. As a student, she carried a scale made of Iron but the solider blamed her as a “terrorist” for holding that scale and said that she was going to kill a solider with that scale and arrested her. The army asked her parents $4000 but her parents were unable to pay. She was tortured cruelly by the army. Khaled Quzmar, who only looks all Palestine case in the border of Israel, heard about Swsan and asked her to act like a mad so that the Israeli court will let her leave the prison. Therefore, Swsan started to act like a mad, so the army took her to the hospital.

Although she knew to reassemble the legs and the heads of dolls that was given by psychologist, she put the legs instead of head and prove herself as a mad. Her parents went to radio station and tell about the situation and started doing fundraising to rescue their daughter. Finally with the support of FM station and the people of her city even with small amount of money, the daughter was rescued but due to the torture she became handicapped. Still today, she has the problem with her legs and my mother’s is helping her. She is not only a girl there are many more who are living the similar life after persecuted from the prison.

The political turmoil between Israel and Palestine has become a part of our life. I am proud to be a Palestinian. I still love my country more than anything. May be I will travel outside of my country, but I will not leave my country. No matter where I go for my study, I will return back to my country and help to bring the peace.

Comments

JaniceW's picture

Heartwrenching

Sunita,
I cannot even begin to imagine what life has been like for Bayan. Thank you for telling her story and shedding light on some of the horrors she and her family have had to endure in this endless conflict. You provided insightful and compelling information into a young girl's daily routine as she confronts checkpoint abuse, war and fear as she fights for her basic right to an education.

Your sensitivity to your fellow sisters around the world and your strong desire to share their voices is so inspiring. You open our hearts and compel us to listen, to truly hear the cries from forgotten regions of the world. Your voice, rising up on behalf of your sisters, is so strong and a powerful instrument for change. Through you we hear Bayan, we hear Mursal and I have no doubt, we will hear many more voices.

You are truly a life force Sunita and many lives will be transformed for the better because of your compassion and courage. I am proud to be your friend. With love,
Janice

sunita.basnet's picture

Hello Didi, Namaste, Thank

Hello Didi,
Namaste,
Thank you so much for your insiring words. The comment I received from pulsewire provide me energy and courage to speak up for the truth. That is for sure that there are many more stories comming up. I have just finished interviewing Fatima from Afghanistan who was forced to live as a refugees in pakistan. I will be posting about that very soon.

Before talking with Bayan, I never think that women in Palestine have to suffer alot in the checkpoint. We all need to speak out for the truth and for our sisters right.

Again I am saying it is not me, its all of you who provide a strong plateform and encourage me to speak up. That is what I am doing, Now I am addicted of writing, in a sense that I love writing and thanks all of you fro helping me to increase my interest in reading, writing and speaking. Additionally, it has also bring bring a huge positive impacts in my academic writing.

Thank all of you and especial thanks to you for reading my journal and writing a wonderful comment.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Nusrat Ara's picture

Thanks Sunita for telling her

Thanks Sunita for telling her story.

Love

Nusrat

sunita.basnet's picture

Glad you like it!

Dear Nusrat,
I am glad that you likd this story. Another story is also soming soon. Hopefully the next day.
Love you much dear!

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Phinnie's picture

Bayan's Story

Sunita--

I've just read your account of Bayan's story and the inhumane conditions and abuses that Palestinian women endure on a daily basis. When I lived in Beirut, Lebanon 1967-1972, there were already 3 generations of Palestinians living in refugee camps and by now, it is 6 or 7 generations! Whether they are in camps or in land occupied by Israel, the abuses and lack of hope for a future without harassment are intolerable.

If women were in charge, would they be setting up these crazy "checkpoints" and would they be requiring women to expose their chests and to be humiliated during their menstrual cycle?

Thank you for your compassionate reporting with a commitment to telling the real story.

Phinnie

Dear Sunita,

I just found this article and I was so moved by your account of Bayan's stories. I work for Gender Across Borders, an international feminist blog, and I'm organizing a series of articles on the role women can play in bringing peace and maintaining peace in the Middle East. Would you be interested in contributing?

Please feel free to email me. You can check out our website at www.genderacrossborders.com.

All best!
Kate Wiseman

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