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Sep-05-2009 15:51printcomments

Voices from Gaza: I Live in a Tent, With No Privacy

“I miss our home, I want to play with the swing that my dad made for me, so I don’t have to play in the street.” -Ryman, six years old
Photo courtesy: Ayman T. Quader

(GAZA CITY, Occupied Palestine) - "I Live in a Tent, With No Privacy".

And every time, she tries to understand what happened to her, she asks herself : what was my fault?, what’s going to happen to me i my tent?

Ilham, a 30-years old a mother of 6, lives in Al-atatra district, in the northern part of the Gaza strip. The Israeli war had a huge impact on her, it actually destroyed her house, her parent’s house and killed her brother.

Ilham and her family spent 25 days in one of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s schools (UNRWA), to take shelter from phosphorous missiles of death that was chasing all the population of the strip.

She was saying: "Israeli armed forces bombarded our house with many missiles, destroyed its walls, set fire in its rooms, and spread darkness all around us (she meant the missiles fumes), to a point that we couldn’t breathe anymore… and after hours, during which we were facing death, the ambulance transported us to the hospital.

"We moved to ASMA’A GAZA AL JADIDA school, looking for some security, since we were fifty persons from different families, sleeping in the same room: men, women and children, I haven’t felt safe at all. I couldn’t close my eyes during the war and during all the period that we spent in the school, not mentioning the horrific sounds of the missiles and the rockets surrounding us from everywhere."

She continued, "I’ve worn the niqab for several years, but when I found myself in the school with fifty other persons, most of them were men, in a room that didn’t exceed sixteen meters of surface, it forced me to abandon it. I lost my freedom during the war and even after it."

"Now I live in a tent that doesn’t exceed eight meters, with no privacy. After being in that school, where I couldn’t even get the basic human needs, there was no water, the women had to go to the hospital of 'dar Shefa' to take a shower."

Ilham says she used to walk many miles each week or every other week, as a group of women, just for bathing.

"I had a feeling of humiliation and despair, especially when we were forced to leave the hospital, because of the high numbers of martyrs and victims, their bodies took over the whole place, moreover, the hospital is not a place for taking baths."

She knows that there are few alternatives.

"In the war, my house was destroyed, all I own now is a tent that does not exceed few meters, my children and I sleep on the sand. My nights became like my days, everything has changed in my life after the 27th of December 2008. All I kept now is memories on which I live me and my children, till this day, I feel deeply oppressed. What was my fault? And why do I live in this humiliation? Who could bear what we are all facing?"

In another scene, Ilham was smiling, she remembered that her husband came back to her today, and brought a present from the ruins of their house. He used his daily trip there, wishing to salvage some kitchen utensils among the rubles.

Ilham said, "Today he came back with the food-processor."

It was a gift from her brother, the one that just killed in the war. Despite all her sadness for his death, she was so happy to have it back, and she was also glad to prepare with it some food and cookies for her children, but cooking for her kids was just a dream, a dream that was never fulfilled, in Gaza there were no food and no electricity."

Ilham taps on her son’s (Samed) shoulder, one year and a half, while holding him with her other hand, as if she were apologizing for what is happening to him, and for being unable to ease his suffering and agony after he breathed white phosphor, which exhausted his little body, in front of her six years old sister Ryman, who got into the conversation, saying : “I miss our home, I want to play with the swing that my dad made for me, so I don’t have to play in the street.”



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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.