Monday, January 22, 2007

Our children are disappearing

I have just been sent to following letter from Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem:

"Last week during interrogation at Maskobia Sation in Al Quds (Jerusalem), Israeli interrogators extracted a statement including a list of around 30 names of children from Aida Camp. The ‘confession’ was taken from three youths arrested in early January. The three were arrested during a night-time raid on the camp after being found in possession of flags which it is thought were to be used in demonstrations against Saddam Hussein’s execution. Their supposed ‘confession’ claims that all those mentioned had taken part and/or where planning to take part in demonstrations. As I explained recently everybody in Aida Camp knew what would come next, and as usual our worst fears are becoming reality. ‘The List’ is being ticked-off, the round-up has begun…

"In the early hours of January 18th Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) forces invaded Aida Camp for the second time in a week. A few nights earlier a mother and her daughter were taken from the camp by the Occupiers after one of her sons, who had been arrested a few days earlier, had supposedly confessed that they were planning some kind of act of resistance. The man in question, who is 19 years old, has a history of mental problems and receives treatment at a Bethlehem psychiatric unit. But when the IOF invaded Aida Camp very early yesterday morning it was to begin ticking names off ‘The List’. Our children are disappearing.

"A father watched helplessly as two more of his sons disappeared into the night, dragged away by the hunters. They were 16 and 17 years old. Another son had already gone, he was taken around one year ago and is still in prison. The third youth arrested that night was also 17 years old. He comes to Lajee Center ( a community centre in the refugee camp). A few years ago it transpired that this boy’s father had been pressurising him to stop coming to Lajee and hanging around in the camp’s streets at all. When asked about the reasons for this he replied: “I am not against Lajee, I like you all, but I have five girls and one son, I really want him beside me...I can not bear seeing him get shot or arrested...big responsibility is waiting for him..”

"The father did not believe that Lajee would get his son into trouble, he just didn’t want him going out, he wanted him by his side. Being the only son a large responsibility will fall his way after the passing of his parents. The father just wanted to protect his son, to keep him close and save him from the fate of so many teenage youth from Aida who disappear into the Occupation’s prison system.

"A friend in the camp spoke to Jamal, the father of the two brothers who were arrested yesterday: “They (the IOF) have done me a favour by arresting all of my sons…”

"When asked what he meant he continued: “They knew I was unemployed and had no money to pay for their schools, so now they will raise them instead of me…”

"Apparently Jamal couldn’t make eye contact during the brief conversation and was clearly, and understandably ‘very, very stressed’ as though he may break down at any moment. Imagine the pain of a father who has watched as all three of his sons were stolen from him in a long, dark year or so.

"All three youths who were arrested on January 18th were named on ‘The List’. The others now just sit there and wait, knowing it will happen soon. Everybody knew this would happen but is forced to just sit helplessly and wait, unable to project their children. No doubt the hunting will continue until all names have been ticked off ‘The List’. Hunted like escaped convicts and taken to interrogation centres, detentions centres and prisons.

"Places where 185 Palestinians have died since 1967 mainly as a result of execution, torture or denial of medical treatment. Israeli institutions such as the ‘Negev Prison’ where on Tuesday January 16th, just a few days ago, a 37 year old Palestinian from Hebron, Jamal Sarahin, was murdered, dying from internal bleeding. These are the kinds of places that children end up in.

"It seems like Palestine’s children, deserted by the world, are just waiting for the inevitable. Watching as friends, brothers and sisters are rounded-up, and simply waiting until there time comes. Until they become part of another ‘disappeared generation’…"

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