“My friends should be named, not numbered!”

d'Lëtzebuerger Land du 27.10.2023

My name is Ishraq and my husband is Iyad. We are a married couple from Gaza living in Luxembourg, but our families, relatives, friends and memories are back in Gaza. We lived through three assaults on Gaza in 2008, 2012 and 2014. Wars are never merciful. We know how war tastes and smells. But this is not a war; it is a genocide against “civilian” Palestinians in Gaza. So far 7 028 Palestinians including 2 913 children [according to the Gaza health ministry this Thursday, ndlr] have been killed. We do not know if our families will be the next to be bombed, or if we will have the chance to hug them tight when/if the assault has ended.

We wake up to the news of bombardments in Gaza, and before we sleep, we have to check on our families if we are lucky to catch the mobile network. I called my sister yesterday, and she told me that she is trying to find flour to bake bread, as there is only one bakery in the neighbourhood – all the others got bombed. Imagine that her husband had to wake up today at 5:00 AM to queue at the bakery till 7:00 AM because 200 people were in line ahead of him and 500 behind. Imagine that you are looking for drinkable water, but you cannot find more than two gallons for three families with children, and this needs to last for a whole week. With every news we get that some family in some area get bombed, our hearts go out of their place. We imagine that we have lost our families, especially when they are cut from the mobile phone network. I start to imagine the loss of my two little sisters, whom I love more than anything in this world: Raseel, 12, and Gharam, 10, who both dream to be artists. Their drawings are lovely and creative. I miss them, as I have not spoken to them for days now.

Our nights become heavy and scary, full of stress, worry and imagination about the loss of our beloved. I wish I were with them; I wish I could live with them and die with them. I remember when I was in Gaza witnessing three offensives on Gaza, and how we were gathering in the middle of the corner lest we be hit by a missile. Every time I hear the sound of a plane, I flash back to the terror and fear that my little sisters and I were feeling. I get scared of the sound of any plane flying over, as if it is the sound of the F16 plane which is going to kill me in the middle of my head. This trauma is never going to fade.

In this assault on Gaza, I lost three of my school and childhood friends, a cousin, his wife and his four children. I could not believe that I lost them all at once. All of my friends are clever, warm-hearted and life-lovers. One of my friends, Lubna, was a patriotic Palestinian; and she was always saying that we love life when we can, but life deceived her and her little child, and took them away to death. My other friend, Nadia, was an IT innovative developer, and she was awarded and honoured on multiple platforms for her IT projects. She had many dreams she wanted to fulfil, but she was killed, along with her dreams and her little child. Shama, my childhood and primary school friend, whom I have most of my memories with, was wiped away, along with her husband and four children. The only way I console myself is by saying they are in heaven now without bombardments, with lots of light, water and green trees. They escaped the genocide against them. But what is genocide like on 365 square kilometres made up of 2,3 million people? What is it like in a city that has what are called ‘camps’, where Palestinians were forced to live after they were forcibly expelled from their original lands in 1948?

These camps contain many adjoining buildings, which means the wall of your house is the same as your neighbour’s, so any missile hitting one house will also hit the others. The bombs hit a city which has three passages to the outside world. The Beit Hanoun “Erez” checkpoint is between Israel and Gaza, and no one can pass through, except with a permit from Israel; even for patients it is not easy to get. I am a PhD scholar working on patients from Gaza who are waiting to get their permit to receive treatment, and many of them (including children) died while waiting at the checkpoint, as their health deteriorated and they suffered humiliation. My mother passed away in 2008 while waiting for a permit from Israel to get treatment outside Gaza. The second checkpoint is Rafah between Egypt and Gaza, controlled by Egypt. You have to wait for months to get your name on the list, and of course the permit is also reserved for certain categories, and for certain reasons, and it is not always open. The Karm Abu Salem checkpoint is for cargo. All of these crossings are completely closed now; therefore, there is no water, no electricity or fuel. And, of course, patients who should have travelled through these borders to get their treatments cannot go out. Can you imagine that this dense, besieged city is being bombed from all areas? In times like these, they use tons of explosives to bomb a fifteen-floor building in less than a minute. Can you imagine what these bombings can do to those people? How many persons will be killed?

Yes, I think you know, and the whole world knows. The US, the UK, and the EU have given Israel diplomatic and military support to carry out the genocide. Literally no one has an excuse to say that they did not know. But we know, and we should not see news of the numbers of Palestinians killed and injured as merely numbers. We have to tell everyone we know about them because they do not deserve to be treated as subhumans, or as if they never existed. I feel that I have to tell everyone passing in the street about my three lovely friends whom I will never talk to, hug or see again. My friends should be named, not numbered! Do you ever think that they also have dreams?

Palestinian lives are usually listed as statistics: 1 000 killed, 3 000 injured, no names, only numbers! Do our lives matter? Half of Gaza’s population are children. Does the world ever wonder what they dream of? Their only dream now is to be remembered as names, not numbers. Children’s names are now being written on their hands.

They write their name and ID number as if to say, “If my only hand survives, this is my name.” People’s bodies are being torn apart. It happened in many families that one child became the only survivor in his family, and it happened also that many children are now unknown, without any ID as their families are wiped out. Can the world tell me what is left for them?

Does the world ever wonder what the parents’ dreams are now? They dream that they can collect their children’s body parts, as happened in the Baptist Hospital in Gaza, which was bombed and where more than 500 people were killed [according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, ndlr], most of them children. A father carried his children’s body parts in a plastic bag, and another child was asked what do you carry in your school bag? He said my brother’s body parts.

Another father said: “I did the strangest thing today. I exchanged some of my children with my brother’s. I took two of his children and gave him two of mine. So in case I get bombed, one of mine will survive and if he gets bombed, one of his will live on.”

These are only a few of the stories that can be told, but there are thousands upon thousands of untold stories, and more may be buried under the rubble where they sleep forever. There is something wrong with humanity, and the humanity of everyone who watches and does not intervene. Our wish should be to record people’s names, never forget them, and write about them. Awni, a 13-year-old boy, was hoping to be a reporter. His goal was to reach 100k subscribers this year. But Awni is saying to you now from heaven, “I have 2 000 subscribers now, I think I got the 2nd thousand subscribers right now after I was killed by an Israeli airstrike. Thank you for subscribing and trying to make me feel better. But I am already in heaven. I am okay.”

When you need to have hundreds of protests just to tell the world that bombing children is not okay, that is when you know that humanity had failed. How many innocent Palestinian people need to die before we break the cycle and end the occupation? How many children need to have operations with no pain killers or anaesthetics to end the bombings?

Surgeons have started to use vinegar instead of antiseptics to clean wounds because hospitals are running out of them, and as 22 hospitals got bombed and part of them are out of service, 23 ambulances were hit, and 25 doctors were killed. The Indonesian Hospital in the north of Gaza announced a complete cut of power, and doctors were doing surgeries with the flash light on their mobiles. No assistance was given. Today, the ministry of Health announced that the health system in Gaza has already collapsed.

All of what I have said earlier has not been happening only for two weeks; this has been happening since 1948: massacres, kidnapping, dehumanising people, including prisoners in the Israeli jails who have been denied water, electricity and medications now by Israel as an anger reaction against them. There are 170 Palestinian children in the Israeli jails, including six children without any charges, and 1 264 administrative detainees.

Children now are not dreaming; they are busy writing their wills before they die, scribbling down who should get their toys, shoes and clothes. For this reason, I no longer believe in any humanitarian organisation, or in any international laws, because they have proven to have failed, but my wish is that your humanity has not failed yet.

Ishraq Othman, 32 years, is a PhD scholar in Human Geography. Iyad Rashid, 34 years, is a violinist. They are both living in Luxembourg

Le Land publie cette semaine deux témoignages de personnes qui ont à la fois un lien avec le conflit israélo-palestinien et le Luxembourg. Un point de vue est israélien, l’autre gazaoui. La rédaction ne prend pas parti, mais veut ainsi documenter la douleur et le désespoir des deux côtés

Ishraq Othman &, Iyad Rashid
© 2023 d’Lëtzebuerger Land