West Bank Bedouin invite UN Expert on Minority Rights to visit Area C

20 December 2010

20 December 2010
East Jerusalem 

Mohamad Al Korshan speaking at the UN Forum on Minority IssuesThis week, a West Bank Bedouin participated in the UN Forum on Minority Issues in Geneva for the first time. Mohamed Al Korshan, President of the Jerusalem Bedouin Cooperative Committee, represented his community and called for the recognition of West Bank Bedouin’s rights, pending a just and durable solution for them as Palestine refugees and their need for protection as a minority living under occupation. He also asked the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Gay McDougall, to visit the region.

Al Korshan attended the Forum to raise awareness of the plight of Bedouin refugee communities living in Area C, the area of the West Bank under full Israeli control.

“If you live in fear for the safety of your family, you do not think about investing in your future,” Al Korshan told the Forum.

“Your economic life becomes day by day. When your existence in a place is threatened by danger and violence, your children are afraid, and you no longer have access to natural resources to sustain your livestock, you move into survival mode and nothing in that state is sustainable. In Area C we live not only in fear of settler violence and poverty due to our collapsing livelihoods, we also live in fear of demolition, forced displacement and forced re-location.” 

Most Bedouin living in Area C were displaced from the Negev in 1948. The communities have been drastically affected by ongoing closures and restrictions on movement, which have led to the collapse of their traditional herding livelihood. Over half the population are unable to afford basic food items.

The communities have also suffered settler violence and home demolitions. In 2010, 186 structures were demolished, displacing more than 300 people, of whom nearly 200 were children. Today, more than 3,000 structures in Area C have pending demolition orders.

Al Korshan requested that the Forum and the UN Independent Expert support the West Bank Bedouin’s call for recognition and protection, including through a visit to the region by Gay McDougall, and through a study on the human rights situation of Bedouin across the Middle East.   

While in Geneva, Al Korhsan also met with representatives of diplomatic missions, United Nations human rights experts and civil society organisations to raise awareness about the human rights situation of the Bedouin living in Area C of the West Bank.

UNRWA is sponsoring Al Korshan’s participation in the Forum thanks to funding from the European Union’s humanitarian aid department, ECHO. UNRWA’s Chris Gunness said that we are extremely grateful for this generous support. “This is not just about money,” said Gunness, “it is about support for advocacy on protecting endangered communities.”

--ENDS—

For more information please contact:
 
Chris Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0) 54 240 2659
c.gunness@unrwa.org
 
Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0) 54 216 8295
s.mshasha@unrwa.org
 

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 69 million.

For more information, please contact:

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