22 October, 2008
By Samah A. Habeeb
Gaza Strip, 18, Oct, 2008- Severe terror and traumas are de facto storms for children in the occupied territories, especially those who exist in the Gaza Strip.
The ongoing Israeli military operations and violent retaliation induce psychological maladies and wretched conditions. The recent CEASEFIRE in Gaza allows a temporary rest but not the cure for their fears and nightmares.
The summer of 2007 was a start of a mayhem for a poor Bedouin family of Sahar. Sahar Owaidat, 6, remains in state of shock or perhaps is exhibiting symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder ever since Israeli soldiers stormed her home and brutally beat her father and siblings while she and the rest of the family members helplessly observed.
In all cultures the Father of the family represents safety and security to the family. The Israeli soldiers routinely rob Palestinian fathers of their role.
Sahr fixed her large eyes upon me and informed me, "I asked my mum to hug me and keep me safe. I was scared when I heard the voice of my Dad moaning and screaming. I saw the blood covering our house and many ghosts tried to snatch me. In the corner of the room, three soldiers were beating my younger brother Emad. I cried and cried and cried until my mum awakened me. I am afraid to sleep because they keep coming back."
Tears filled my eyes, but Sahr's were blank and empty as she recounted that night one year ago when the Israeli army repeatedly invaded the area where she lived. The family informed that the Israeli soldiers had burst into their house, arrested all the brothers and beat them in front of the family.
Sahr said , "I wanted to go to my kindergarten and I prepared my pens and papers. I went to sleep but I could not, I heard a sound of close shootings. Then the tanks came over and I heard the voice and hurried to my mum. I saw all my siblings and dad beside her. She hugged me and I cried a lot."
On the day of which Sahar speaks of, after three grueling hours of military operations, the soldiers powerfully and angrily burst into some neighboring houses. The house of Sahr's family was just one of many homes where male family members were detained by Israeli forces. While many were released after 48 hours, Sahar's brother Samer was not.
Samer was sent to court and sentenced for 5 years convicted of engaging in "military actions."
Later in summer 2008, the army got back to cause more panic and fear for children.The Israeli army has bulldozed the agricultural land of the Owaidat family and multitudes of their olive trees that sustained the family were uprooted.
The Owaidat family includes four girls and five boys who like their neighbors live in constant fear and are traumatized by the shelling and invasions from the Israeli army ever since the disengagement in 2005.
The mother told me, "Sahar changed that day she witnessed the savage storming into our home. She became introverted and she now suffers from involuntary urination and nightmares. Her two young siblings also have the same symptoms."
The current focus in Gaza is directed to humanitarian needs such as food and water and the absence of psychotherapy in Gaza is reaping a generation of children weaned on fear and trauma.
Sahar ended my visit with her pleading, "I want to go to my kindergarten and I don't want to see those ghosts again. Please, if you see them tell them I'm afraid. Don't let them come again."
People of conscience wonder what would happen if another people attacked the USA in the manner that Israel has attacked the indigenous people of the land these last sixty years: stealing and destroying their land, bombing their homes, killing their children and families, depriving them of the basic needs to live and robbing them of human dignity.
Would Americans passively allow such abuse of their families for 60 years?
Or would they revolt and retaliate with violence?
Or, perhaps, the good people of America would launch a massive movement for peace, resolution and reconciliation based on international law and equal human rights for all people?
Samah A. Habeeb, B.A.
Photojournalist & Peace Activist
Humanitarian, Child Relief Worker
Gaza Strip, Palestine
Skype: Gazatoday, Facebook: Sameh A. habeeb