Friday, October 1, 2010

An Act of Desperation?

“The tragedy of it is that nobody sees the look of desperation on my face. Thousands and thousands of us, and we're passing one another without a look of recognition.”
Henry Miller

The streets are crowded, filled with anticipation of the day’s celebration. Today is what they have called their independence day. But to me, this was the day my country was taken away from me. I walk with a sense of purpose heading toward the Parliament Building, at the same time I had to remain discreet. One mistake and this would have been for nothing. I see the faces of people I do not know, and yet they seem like everyone I have ever known.

As I take the steps towards my goal, I cannot help but to reminisce of days forgotten. When I was five, soldiers had appeared at my house. My family and I were told to leave the house as it was to be demolished for the purpose of constructing the segregation wall.

It was Eid.

Imagine, how would you feel if you were forced out from your home on the most sacred day in your religion?

My parents resisted. They told them that they cannot do this. Their pleas were ignored. When they had actually started to physically remove my family, my father couldn’t be silenced any longer. He fought. The soldiers subdued him, brutally. My family and I were forced to watch as they punched and kicked him till he could not move. My father was then taken away as a “security measure.”

We never saw him again.

My family had moved in with my uncle. At night, my mother would cry herself to sleep, missing my father. She didn’t realize I was always there watching. The years passed by in a blur after that. For distraction, ironically, I plunged into my studies. I was lucky, I was considered gifted for my age and was somehow fast tracked in education. Over time, I was offered a place in the negotiation team dealing with our occupiers and the international community.

Mine wasn’t a major position; I was merely an assistant to an assistant. During my time there, I was exposed to various people even those from the other side of the wall. To my surprise, not all of them were the evil, cruel and uncaring people we have made them out to be. Some of them had genuinely cared for our welfare and truly wanted peace in the region.

Despite this, in the two years I was there, I began to lose hope in the political process. Certain quarters of our occupiers would ensure that whatever benefits we gained from the negotiations was taken away for one reason or the other. The restoration of these benefits in turn would require more and more concessions. Every year we were pushed to make even further concessions, and yet no benefits were forthcoming; more concessions were demanded for more promises. If anything the negotiations cooled international pressure on the occupiers. It gave the impression of dealing with the matter seriously (sincerely?). However, our allies in the international community began to drift away; abandoning us to our own fate.

We were forgotten. I couldn’t do it anymore. I quit.

It would seem I was not the only one who lost faith. Barely two years after my decision to resign, my people took to the ballot box and voted a new representation for our people. The result came as a shock to most people. A wave of change was in the air, we felt maybe now our views would be more strongly voiced.

We were wrong.

The months that followed proved to be a very educational experience for my people when it came to the concept of “democracy.” Democracy was only good if you chose what they wanted you to chose. Instead of respecting our choice, the international community, even the leaders that had so adamantly advocated “democracy” to the point of war had refused to recognize the new representation. Economic sanctions were made against the representation; it was my people who were punished. Some of us even began to blame ourselves; did we make the best choice?

I took out the picture I had brought with me. It was an old photo of me and my brother together with both of my parents. Things were much simpler back then. Life wasn’t easy, but at least it was simple. I took a turn into an alley that would allow me to avoid security checks on my way to the building. What little intelligence we had managed to gather had shown that I should go; to the Parliament Building and the parade. My thoughts will not be silenced. I drifted back to the memories of the economic sanctions against the representation.

Both the representation and the occupiers were at a deadlocked. For a time it would seem conflict was to be a part of our life till a ceasefire was finally agreed. It was not to last. Negotiations after the ceasefire brought no new results; the deadlock continued. After awhile, tensions grew and accusations on both sides were high. That’s when it happened.

Already being made to suffer through economic sanctions which had also blocked water and power to even the most basic of necessities, the occupiers attacked. The representation accused the occupiers of breaking the ceasefire and the occupiers accused that the representation had broken it instead. Till this day, I am still not sure who did what. And quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter.

I had lost my mother that day.

An apache missile had destroyed my home; I later found out that it was because, allegedly, my neighbor of ten years who would not hurt a fly was a suspected “terrorist.” We were given a warning to leave by way of a phone call, ten minutes before the attack. In ten minutes, your whole life was to fall apart; everything you had built was to be destroyed. Suddenly, I was five years old again; powerless to do anything. My mother insisted on saving what little keepsakes she had left of my father; we left the house a little too late.

From the rubble that was my home, I was forced to crawl out dragging the dead body of my mother. She no longer has to worry about keep sakes. In a more hopeful world, it would be easy to tell myself that she is in a better place and has perhaps joined my father. However, this is not a hopeful world. It was far from it…

But even then, people called us the lucky ones.

We weren’t exposed to white phosphorus munitions which cause painful chemical burn injuries. Many who were exposed ended up having their flesh burned right to the bone. In the midst of all this chaos, the economic sanctions continued; humanitarian aid was also put to a halt. Those lucky enough to have survived the initial exposure would later die from lack of medicine and treatment. Those who did receive treatment would still be scarred for life.

In the days of the conflict, hospitals and mosques were to be targeted as well, leaving no treatment for the injured, no solace for the living and no peace for the dead.

“Mummy, that man looks like he is about to cry…?”

“It is not polite to point Luft.”

“I’m alright little one. I guess I’m just getting a little emotional from all the celebration.”

“Yeah, it’s been a long road since our country has gotten here. It’s sometimes easy to forget what we had to go through to achieve it with all those terrorists out there. Take care sir; I apologize if my daughter had bothered you. Happy independence day.”

I shielded my eyes and wiped away my tears. Lies come easy to me now. It was necessary if I am to succeed. It may have been easy for him to forget, but I never will. The anger is still there. It is always there. Terrorists he called us. A word often used to describe my people. He had the audacity to call us terrorists.

Yet why is it when they have destroyed our homes, they are not the terrorist?

Why is it when they have killed our families, they are not the terrorist?

Why is it when they have caged us behind walls like animals, they are not the terrorist?

To them, the sheer terror and chaos cause to my people has never been terrorism. It was always an act of preemptive self defense. It was always for security concerns. It was always for one thing or another but never terrorism. I took a deep breath, reining my anger. I had to continue walking past the street; I had to get myself as near to the Parliament Building as possible. As I walked, my thoughts return to the little girl from before. She reminded me of my own niece who was six.

On the day of my mother’s funeral, I can still recall her asking me to stop them from burying her grandmother still being unable to comprehend the death of my mother and her parents. Her grandmother had promised her that she would teach her baking this coming Eid. “She never breaks her promise,” she reasons with me. “She can’t teach me if she’s buried.” Tears flow down my eyes, I hugged her in silence. We were all that was left.

Three days later, it wouldn’t matter to my niece any longer. She was shot dead. I found her next to her grandmother’s grave; she had gone to visit without me. Amidst the conflict, she had slipped away from our tent.

I should have been paying more attention to her. I should have told her not to go anywhere without me. I should have done a lot of things differently…

I am alone now. All I have left is the ashes of my home and the memories of my family.

God. I hope that man and his little girl would not be near the Parliament Building in the next half an hour… No child deserves any of this; God let her be spared of any tragedy. I forced myself to refocus my thoughts back to my anger. My niece didn’t deserve to die; neither did the rest of my family. They deserve justice. Instead, she, like so many others in my people’s history, was abandoned and forsaken.

Once the media had actually gotten around to reporting the conflict, public outcry against the attack was immediate. Those of us who had survived waited for the international community to take action; we had dared to hope that they would. Surely such heinous acts would have been enough to finally provoke a reaction from the international community. For a time it seems that it would. A United Nations Fact Finding Commission was established and a report was filed about the incident.

The report sparked controversy amongst my people and our occupiers, but most of my people believed that it was a fair assessment of the facts that was to be subjected to a further investigation. We looked forward to such an investigation. Maybe now, all the cruel inhuman treatment my people have been made to suffer would come to light. The sacrifices of my mother, niece and so many others who had died would have had a meaningful end.

This was not to be.

The international community debated the action to be taken; a majority of them even endorsed the report. They had done everything short of acting against those responsible for the incident. Slowly but surely, the incident was being forgotten by the public. The media went silent on the issue and once again, we were forgotten.
Months went by, though forgotten by the media and the international community at large; there were still a few souls not willing to see this injustice continue. They attempted to deliver aid to us via the sea. Willing to brave the occupiers’ blockade on what is left of my country. Before they could even reach us, they were attacked in international waters.

The humanitarian aid workers were accused of smuggling weapons to my people. In the attack that followed, some were killed and injured. Once again public outcry against the attack was incredible; perhaps more so then the conflict that stole my family away. It reminded me that it wasn’t my people alone who were killed in this conflict but others- Americans, Britons, Turks who are one with us. Calls for a United Nations inquiry filled the air. The Occupiers resisted. And as usual, no one could pressure them into anything, having allies on the UN Security Council does that for you I suppose. Predictably, the media went silent once more. The voices calling for justice fade.

We were silenced. And forgotten once more.

During the course of events, more and more of my country’s land was taken away. Illegal settlements on my country’s land continued to be built in defiance of past UN Security Council Resolutions. It would seem that the laws so ideally professed by the world have no bearing or effect on the occupiers. The international community continues to turn a blind eye to our plight. Our pleas for help had fallen on deaf ears, much like how my parents’ pleas were ignored when my home was destroyed. We were forsaken.

For months I wondered without purpose. Barely surviving on food packets from do-gooders- the Red Crescent and the UNRWA etc. I felt I was dead inside. I guess I had been slowly dying ever since I was five. How did we get here? How did we become so perverse in nature that the suffering of a whole people can be silenced? When murders and suffering to the point of genocide can happen and yet the world can still be made to forget…

I will not be silent.

I will not be made to disappear, forgotten. My country will not be like my home, broken and in ruins. The international community must be made to listen. They must be made to see. Everyone has forsaken us, what choice do I have left? My people shall have its day. And I will do whatever is necessary to see that they do. I decided it was inevitable, something had to be done.

Here I am six months later; already at the gates of Parliament. I position myself as close as possible. I take comfort in the fact that people have told me that my actions will be viewed favorably in the eyes of my religion. I will not allow myself to be made to lie still and die.

Maybe now they will listen. Maybe now my people will gain the attention they need. I took one last look at the picture of my family. I allowed myself one thought of hope.

Mother, Father, I am coming. Wait for me.

I release the pressure trigger.


My will was done.

* The purpose of this Article is to neither condemn nor support suicide bombing, but rather it is an attempt to present the readers, through the perceptions of the person involved, as to the possible motivations and reasoning’s for such activities. He may be a terrorist or simply a man forced into an act of desperation. *

An article by:
Amir Isyam Abdul Rahim
Tan Sri Ahmad Ibrahim Legal Research Group
28th September 2010

Read This Article and more in the TAILeRaG Revival Coming out this coming October!