A Prisoner of the Occupation

25/01/2012 Amneh Abuawwad


 From the day you are born till the end of your life you are a prisoner of the occupation, surrounded by its conditions, and hurting the pain of others because when I see members of my family, neighbors and friends being killed, systematically humiliated, losing their lives and homes I could go mad. My suffering and that of my friends at school is driving me mad. I remember having been beaten with batons several times by soldiers and choking several times from tear gas.

The feelings of anger and fury and refusal to be so humiliated grew within me and with me. I was 17 years old when I decided to "shout" in my own way....I took a knife. This was the only option I had when I saw soldiers forcing a group of youngsters to stand by the wall degrading them in every way possible. The soldiers were enjoying themselves. I tried to give vent to my wrath by attacking one of the soldiers with my knife. The other soldiers caught me before I reached my target. I was beaten and degraded till I lost consciousness. I was taken to the Detention Center in Nablus, where living and dying are one and the same. I was not spared any of the means of torture at their disposal.

Afterwards I was taken to Jalama Prison, near Jenin, where I spent 17 days in a cell one square meter in size with a toilet bowl near my head. For the entire time I was there I was in complete isolation. From there I was transferred to Tel Mond prison. I was sentenced to 4 years in jail. Those years were a living hell.

The pain is not only the physical incarceration, sharpened by the imprisonment of the soul, when everything you do is by order: eating, sleeping, breathing, even thinking is by command of the prison guard. If you "feel like" being ill, even for a heart attack, they have the wonder drug Acamol.

Often sitting in solitary confinement I tried to remember one day that I lived as a normal child in this world. I hadn't played with a toy and had never been on a trip to the sea.

The only place where I had a good time was at school and even that was closed by the Israeli Army.

Therefore, I always knew that one day I would erupt as did my nation in the Intifada.

On the 23 March 1989, while in prison, my body and soul came to a standstill. My mother died and my father died and I was not allowed to take my leave of them. With their deaths I lost all contact with life. Now I am an orphan.

I met a woman in prison. Her name was Um Yussef and she and her family gave me the only consolation I had in my life. Her son Yussef asked for my hand in marriage when I was still imprisoned and I accepted and he brought me an engagement ring on the next visiting day. We were not allowed an open visit, but nevertheless I put a finger through the wire on the window separating us and wore the ring despite everything.

I was released from prison, married Yussef and we began building our own family. I gave birth to two children, a daughter Bayan and a son Yazan. Yussef with his good heart and his love for his family made our lives very special. These were wonderful years and I thought they would last forever but the monster called occupation raised its head for the thousandth time to steal happiness from me. On Thursday the 16th of November 2000 at the entrance to Beit Ummar one of the soldiers forgot his humanity and from 70cm away shot at Yussef who died on the spot. This criminal did not understand that he had murdered Bayan, Yazan and me since Yussef was my whole world. He was the father, the mother, the son and the head of the family.

I suffered years of pain, arguments with myself, and conflict. I came up with thousands of ideas for revenge but always I thought of my children. I did not want to become only a seeker of vengeance. The extent of my pain drove me to think of other ways to cope with my pain. From here I found my way to the Forum of bereaved Families. The Forum gave me time and a place to express myself freely, to pour out my pain and anger. For the first time someone from the other side who had always been my enemy is listening to me. The activities of the women of the Forum gave me the platform to talk without limit about my suffering and gave me the opportunity to understand that despite all the injustice and pain I do not believe in the use of violence and violence is not my way.

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