The Accused Was Found Palestinian
“We reject all those who Palestinianize and Islamize everything in their life. We believe in none.” I woke up feeling breathless with terror, still torn between the two worlds: dream-like reality and reality-like dream. Both seem hideously alike, though. Those words were written exactly the way I quoted them above (and in English) on an envelope of a rejection letter I seemed to receive after I applied for I don’t know what scholarship. That was the nightmare I had the other day, a nightmare that reflects much of reality, a nightmare whose sophistication petrifies me and whose interpretation I need not know. Given that I have always prided myself on being luckily born both a Muslim and a Palestinian, still I haven’t yet reached the point where I consider myself a true follower of Islam or where I am ready to sacrifice my very soul to my Palestine. I must be happy, however, for I, according to my dream, seemed to pose a serious threat to the world owing to the way I Palestinianize and Islamize my life as stated therein. This nightmare left me in wonder at how we, the Palestinians, are denied access also in “our” dreams! Could “our” dreams as well be unknowingly colonized by the occupation which has turned them into nightmares conspiring against us! How could “our” dreams rendered anti-us and pro-them? Am I living a reality or a nightmare, anyhow? Which is which? I wonder!
Yesterday, Friday 20th of April 2012, I went with my friend, Belal, along with two Swedish doctors, Mani and Rebecka, to pay a visit to a wife of a prisoner. A young woman, of my age, entered the room welcoming us with a shy smile. “Are you Ibtisam whom I phoned earlier today?” I asked doubtfully. “Yes, I am” so came her answer as a surprise to me, probably, because I pictured her an old woman whose wrinkles speak for the agony I sensed in her voice through the two calls I had with her that early morning. We were there to listen to a story the media seems to overlook and so is the case with other thousands stories: untold and unheard. Therefore, I feel prompted to give a detailed account of her story which has been hidden for two years beneath a veil of negligence and inattention. It is time to unveil and expose the ugly face of the IOF. And the world has to listen, believe and act accordingly.
On a day that coincided with the Valentine’s day, 14th of February 2010, her beloved husband, Awad Ghaleb Ramadan Al-Sultan, went with his cousins into a fishing mission along Beit-Lahia shore where they were all suddenly attacked and arrested by the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) which led them to an unidentified destination. After a series of interrogations and severe punishments, all were released but Awad, her husband, to whom Ibtisam happened to be married only three months until then. Thenceforth the newly-wed couple started a journey of a painful separation: he in hell-like prison, she in prison-like Gaza. Awad was sentenced to 8 years in jail, two of which he has spent so far, thus bestowing him the age of 27 now.
“Of what was he accused?” we all wondered. “Of nothing,” she chocked out, “but of groundless allegations, some of which the Israeli Court claimed he belongs to the FLP, the Popular Liberation Front, and that he is suspected of firing rockets and causing many deaths. Yet, lies were these. He was such a calm person of no political interests. I spent 3 months with him, and I never saw him involved in any political activities. I was aware of every single moment I spent with him.”
After the kidnapping of her husband, Ibtisam found out she was pregnant. The very thought of being left behind all alone terrified her to death. She had to experience the hardest moments of her life during her pregnancy despite the fact of having a wonderful family who seemed to have taken good care of her. I could feel how her father, whose presence during our visit was of much help, was deeply pained by his daughter’s tragedy. While Ibtisam was reminiscing about the best moments she enjoyed with her husband during these 3 months, I could sense the special bond of love that tightly holds the couple together and hence intensifies this pain of separation between them. Looking at my engagement ring, she asked “are you engaged?”. I nodded. I wanted to tell her that I, too, experience a current moment of separation because of the apartheid-like system under which I am deprived of my freedom of movement and due to which my fiancé is still confused about all the complicated procedures he has to undergo to make it into Gaza. Nonetheless, I didn’t since I wasn’t there to recount my own story but others’.
Ibtisam has a beautiful daughter whose name is Sumoud –steadfastness and resilience the meaning of her name suggests –a name that encapsulates all the virtues the Palestinians has long stood for. Sumoud has a confused version of how to use the word “baba” correctly. Whenever she hears a child running after his father calling him “baba”, she copies him and calls him so. She is used to calling her grandpa “baba sedo”. Ibtisam has struggled to familiarize her daughter with the face of her father; however, each time Ibtisam stretches out her hand pointing at the photo hung on the wall to tell her daughter that this is her baba, Sumoud would pause for a moment, then say: “weeno baba?(where’s dad). How could a two-year-old child grasp the absence of her own father while other children enjoy the real presence of their own fathers! Doesn’t she at least have this right of not confusing her baba with others! Sadly, Sumoud will have to wait six more years to learn how to match this word to the right person.
When Ibtisam was asked what pains her the most, she sighed “time”. She spends her days waiting, begging each moment to move on as fast as possible. She feels that a second is like a day which sounds like a week which seems like a month which feels like a year. She still has six years of waiting in a struggle to speed things up. Her father told us that he is quite amazed by the way his daughter counts the years and counts what age each member of her family will be the day Awad will be released. It agonizes her that her parents will be very old by then, and this worries her that they wouldn’t be able to hang out all together as they used to do during her engagement period and her 3-months of marriage. Ibtisam, though, can’t stop daydreaming about the day on which her husband will be released after eight years of unfair detention.
Ibtisam suffers sleepless nights and constant nightmares, most of which about her husband being all chained up in a dark filthy cell, screaming for her help while she seems helpless, unable to reach him. She usually wakes up screaming and gasping for a breath. Again, even in her dreams her husband seems unreachable. Ibtisam still hovers between both merciless worlds: the real and the unreal; both weigh heavily against her, ripping her to pieces. The glimmer of hope lies within the unknown, the unpredictable. Awad frequently reminds her that exactly as she never ever expected his abduction and detention which took place all of a sudden, no one can ever expect what would tomorrow hold for them. His release could be among the unexpected happy news of tomorrow. So, my dear readers, If you ever happen to be detained by the IOF, you must be born a Palestinian. This is indeed our very charge, a charge of the unwanted identity which proves our undoubted right to exist in the land of Palestine.