Many times before sleeping I would start thinking: how many children are starving in this moment, how many humans are cold, how many prisoners are being tortured, how many women are being raped, how many criminals are having fun! I have now understood that these thoughts are common between all of us in the world.
No one can feel the same as the people suffering under the different conditions that I mentioned above, this world has many problems that caused by us as humans. It makes you always think how to make it better, safer and more just? How can someone ask to live normal life? How can someone sleep in his house without being arrested? How can someone feel safe and not be raped? How can someone feel what freedom is? How can someone get bread to eat without being killed? How can someone think without borders? How can someone live in his house without thinking that it would be demolished any moment? How can a woman walk in the street without being afraid from harassment or rape? Yes, they are huge questions, and sometimes when you start thinking about them all and the other millions of questions, you feel your head is about to explode!
I live in Palestine which has been occupied by Israel since 1948. When you ask yourself what the occupation is, you find many answers from those who live under occupation: occupation is stealing your dreams, stealing your rights, confiscating your land, stealing your sea, preventing your movement, killing your father, arresting your child, destroying your society, building walls to cover the sky. Occupation is the thing that enters all of your life’s details without any permission or respect, it prevents your right to live!
Life in Palestine is affected directly by the Israeli occupation, as they control the Palestinian economy, the borders and the daily life, making Palestinian life subordinate to the Israeli occupation.
As a Palestinian living here in the Palestinian society, and as in other societies, without any doubt we have social problems such as the struggle for women rights. But we must not forget that the main danger against the Palestinian peoples rights is the occupation, which is arresting, killing, stealing the Palestinian peoples rights. And when you are part of such a society living under occupation, you see that all the problems are linked to the main one: the occupation which controls all of life.
The women in my country are suffering as the whole of society. Mothers have children arrested by the occupation forces, with 198 children in the Israeli jails. Women are arrested, there are 12 now in the Israeli jails. More than 65 women have died during childbirth on the checkpoints. Hundreds of women were killed after being targeted by the occupation forces during the attack on Gaza and the West Bank. Women cross the Wall and escape in order to find a job to feed their children. And everyday women suffer from the apartheid system inside the land occupied in 1948 “Israel”.
When we are talking about more that 4700 prisoners in the Israeli jails, we have to remember that women will replace their role in their family. There are also those widows who have lost their husbands as a result of the conflict in Palestine.
There have been a main role for the Palestinian women in the whole Palestinian revolution, and I believe as a new generation that we have to learn from that and to continue their role in order to get our freedom.
Fighting to achieve the rights of women in Palestine, can’t be separated from fighting to achieve the freedom itself by ending the occupation. Freedom can’t be parts, it is one unit that you have to fight to get it all. Being in the streets protesting to support the prisoners in the occupation jails is in another way of protesting to protect your right as women, to protest, to speak, to shout, and to be in the public places expressing your opinion. Being active is refuting the idea of holding the honor between your legs. Being strong and telling your opinion will absolutely strengthen the other women in other places in your country to move.
It’s not easy to be a woman, but I believe it’s easy to break the borders and silence, and to keep doing your best to get your rights and to prove for your society that you are the strong half of it!
I believe that getting the women rights in my country should be also by raising awareness, putting pressure on the Palestinian leadership to enforce laws that prevent the harassment and honor killings. We need to raise the awareness about the women rights inside women’s groups as I believe that sometimes the women are the enemy of themselves – when the oppressed mother passes on the oppression to her daughters automatically.
I really believe that the human rights revolution is a bridge between the people of the world, so if you want to support women somewhere, you should start your own revolution inside your society. If you want to defend human rights in Africa for instance, you should first know about it, and talk about it and start from your own place defending it, alongside your own issues.
My participation with the Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program with the Nobel Women Initiative, gave me the chance to know more about the others suffering in other countries. It gave me the chance to talk about my own people suffering under the Israeli occupation, gave me the chance to know more about the hardships in the other part of the world, even in places like Canada. The whole experience taught me that everyone in this world is suffering for different reasons, but the common issue between them is about the colonization with different shapes. The experience gave me the chance to be linked with other women who are trying to make the situation better in their own societies.
Aghssan was one of the first participants in the Nobel Women’s Initiative Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program. Aghssan spent six weeks in Ottawa with our team and two other young women’s rights activists from Mexico and Sudan in 2012. All three returned to their home organizations and continue to work with us on short-term projects in support of women’s rights. These are her final reflections on participating in the program.