All around the world there are people, and organizations, who believe in human rights. Some fight to their last breath to protect these rights. I ask myself if we in Gaza are included in the group of "human beings", or if we are excluded from the ranks of those who should enjoy such rights? Today the beliefs and values I developed in my childhood have disintegrated; I have no choice now but to believe that the Palestinians of Gaza were created to suffer.
So much effort is being made to steal every joyful moment from our lives. We’re treated like strange creatures that should be shown no mercy. From destroying the happiest moment a family can have - the wedding of a son - to the slow killing of an entire people by denying their right to water, fuel, electricity, heating and food. Aren’t these basic needs that no human being should be denied?
Until two years ago, Gaza never suffered a shortage of electricity: we had enough for our needs. Then the boycotts and the cuts began, and, overnight, electricity became available for no more than eight hours a day. How we complained, especially with the severity of winter in our region! Yet today, with the new measures that deny electricity to people throughout the Gaza Strip, we are really living in the cold, in the dark ages. Children, the elderly, sick people and pregnant women – nobody is being spared.
Tonight I‘ll sit once more in the gloom and the cold with my three children. I’ll do everything to try and keep them busy, but the time will be long and the room will have no heating or lighting. They’ll become frustrated; one of them will cry or cause trouble… Oh, God, how exhausting it is to live in this way in the 21st century!
Leaving my home for work this morning, I waited more than an hour in the street for a taxi. There’s no fuel, so the streets were empty and quiet - too quiet, the kind of hush that tells you there’s something not normal. I went to four bakeries in search of bread. All were closed or crowded with long queues of people. Pregnant and tired I left, chastising myself for not keeping flour at home. But what’s the point of keeping flour at home if there’s no electricity to bake the bread?
It’s really funny to find yourself in such a situation. You feel so helpless and then watch as your helplessness turns to apathy – not because you don’t care but because you have no power to improve or change anything.
At the end of a long day, I find myself not looking forward to going home. My work office is warm and has lights, but going home means another long wait for a taxi then a long night in the freezing dark, waiting for my children to start crying. How do I explain to them this sudden darkness which has enveloped their young lives?
Gaza, February 2008
Najwa Sheikh Ahmed is a Palestine refugee, who lives in Nuseirat camp with her husband and three children. These are her personal stories.