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May 2002
Other Voices

Violence: Through the Eyes of Children



As the West Bank city of Ramallah was besieged in March and April, Manal Issa collected some comments from neighboring children and translated them from Arabic. Issa is the Finance Director of the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre in Ramallah (, a non-governmental organization that promotes Palestinian art and culture. There is also the chilling testimony of the arrest of the father of two of the children.

In the midst of reports of daily violence, it’s easy to lose sight of the people whose lives are being forever altered—on both sides. Captured here are narratives both moving and charming as only the perspectives of children can be. We sought narratives from Israeli children but were unsuccessful. However, we suspect that their thoughts are quite similar: disbelief, confusion, terror and horror at all the violence; then the universal tendency to see how it immediately affects their world: they can’t go to school, are afraid to play outside and can’t even get candy!

My name is Alyyan Zayed, I am 9 years old. I can’t play in my back yard. I can’t step outside of my front door because of the curfew. I’ve hidden my toys because I am afraid that the Israeli soldiers will take me away for having toy guns and toy tanks. I can’t even walk to the store to buy candy because of the curfew. The Israeli soldiers are killing the young men and frightening the children. They are imprisoning the Palestinian soldiers and killing the pressmen. Support us and protect us. (3/30/02)

I am Lema Zayed, 11 years. I want to go to school to finish my study this year. I want to be free during summer, to go swimming and playing. I want the Israeli soldiers to leave our land and stop the occupation and stop using these heavy tanks. We have nothing to confront them by. I don’t want them to occupy our schools or shell them. (3/30/02)

I am Yanal Zayed, I am 4 years old. I want to swim. I want a home, a house and a window to look through. (3/30/02)

Mustafa Mulhem, 8 years: I want to thank the foreign countries for they intend to help the Palestinian children. We are in a very bad and poor situation. Our towns are occupied. I am in Ramallah and we are under a total occupation by the Israeli soldiers and the city is full of tanks and military vehicles. I feel sorry for the dead (martyrs) and wounded people, but our hospitals and doctors will protect us. (3/30/02)

Hiba Burkan 12 years: we’re longing for peace and security. We want love and affection. Give us childhood, and freedom. (3/30/02)

I am Ala’ Jibrin, 12 years. I live in Ramallah in an old house consisting of one room. It doesn’t include a bathroom. Our neighbors and us use [one that’s] outside. It is 30 meters from our home. The Israeli soldiers prevent us from using it, or going to the kitchen, which is also outside our home. We can’t even prepare food. We are eight siblings [who] live in a very difficult situation. We are confused and don’t know what to do, if we go out they might shoot us. What’s more, the Israeli soldiers throw their rubbish in front of our house door. They use the bathroom in front of our home. Light has been cut off since yesterday. We ask God, and everyone who has human feelings over this earth to interfere and put an end to this nightmare.

While we were sleeping, we heard the sound of broken glass. We peeped through the window and saw the Israeli soldiers breaking cars’ glasses and stealing the [stereos]. They broke our car windows. On that morning, 15 soldiers entered our home shouting. They turned the house upside down, arrested my dad, and kept us in our small kitchen. I think they took away my dad because he had a Palestinian flag. We saw them beating the arrested men very hard. Isn’t that terrorism itself? Oh my God! (3/31/02)

Mizer Jibrin, 15 years. (Ala’s brother). The Israeli soldiers prevented us from going out to the kitchen or bathroom. We were in an unbelievable situation. My younger sisters used an empty garbage can; I refused to, and insisted to go to the bathroom outside. I wanted to confront the soldiers, and my parents tried to prevent me, and due to my insistence they agreed, warning me to take care. When I finished using the bathroom, the soldiers surrounded the place and asked me to raise my hands. One of them pushed me forcefully, and started questioning me: “What are you doing, what’s your name, how old are you?” I answered them, and they were about to beat me, when my father cried: “Stop it, he is a child who went out to use the bathroom!” They released me and broke into our home. They imprisoned my sisters, brothers and me in our small kitchen. They arrested my father and beat him with the other men. Then they covered their heads with plastic bags, taking them to an unknown destination. I experienced the occupation and I will never ever forget. I want to say stop your occupation, stop your tyranny and stop your killing, stop… (3/31/02)

Words from the Father of the Jibrin Brothers
Monday April 1, 2002: I was arrested yesterday with a number of young men. Our hands were tied and we were blindfolded. We were taken to an open space where it was very cold and the rain was pouring. We sat on the ground, hands tied, blindfolded and heads bent. We were detained like that for 13 continuous hours in the same position. They would beat us brutally, yell at us and urinate on our heads. The blows were coming from all sides, on our faces and genitalia. One of us was taken away, we asked about him after a while and were told he had been taken home. After midnight our heads were covered with bags and we were told to go home. The soldiers confiscated our identification cards and said they would kill us all, but three by three. They said they had already killed a number of us and would finish the rest in the coming days. The man who had been taken away is a 17 year old neighbor of mine who has a brain tumor. After we returned home, we were told he had spent the whole night under torture, as the neighbors had heard his screams and cries for help. In the morning, we found his naked dead body in the street mutilated, his head pierced, and his heart riddled with bullets. They still have my ID. I know they will come and get me. What I fear is not death, but that I will die in cold blood, without being able to do anything.


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