Letters from Gaza by Hanan Abubashir

Hanan Abubashir is a 21 year old student living and studying psychology in Gaza who has asked for assistance publicizing the following statement. Please share it widely:

“Thank God! The child was not with her.” November 2018 by Hanan Abubashir

At 7:30 am on a Monday morning, I get a call from Zainab, my supervisor, asking me if I still want to join her in facilitating a psychological support group for traumatized women in Rafah – south of the Gaza Strip. I say “yes” – mainly because I am not yet fully awake. Fifteen minutes later I am outside, looking for a driver to Rafah while sending a text message to Zainab to please start the session on her own and I’ll join in the moment I arrive.
Zainab and I provide social and psychological support for women and children in Gaza Strip. The Rafah group, intended for women who feel they are suffering and overwhelmed, is scheduled to meet ten times. Fourteen women have signed up, women whose bodies may be health but whose souls bleed. “It’s hard for people to believe you are not okay when you are physically healthy, they simply don’t see what you mean”.
In 45 min, I enter the room where the group is meeting. Everyone is already there, so I say hello quietly and take a seat. Zainab has put her phone on speaker and everyone is listening to her conversation concerning a participant named Samah (made up name), who cannot make today’s meeting. There is a man on the other side of the line, so I know right away that something is very wrong with Samah – if she were well, she would’ve called herself!
The man tells us everything is alright. He is lying on the hospital bunk bed, we learn, and his wife Samah is on the bed just above his own, recovering from her surgery. I find myself disconnecting emotionally. I am not that curious about that person, I tell myself.
After the call ends, one of the women says angrily, “she should’ve known this was going to happen!” What is it that she might have done that they have no compassion for her, despite her illness? “Remind me to tell you during the break”, Zainab whispers. She then skillfully refocuses everyone by offering water and a 10-minute relaxation exercise.
The time runs fast and before I know it, Zainab is telling me Samah’s story: “ This woman was injured while looking for her husband at the Great March, but what’s different about her is that she wasn’t planning to participate in it. She was there to tell him that his mother passed out and was hospitalized – chances are, she had forgotten to take her medicine. Samah had a 4-week-old son. She packed a bag with everything the baby might need but as she was walking towards the fence, she realized she had forgotten the baby himself! There must have been too much on her mind. She panicked for a moment, trying to remember if she had locked the door. Should she go back at once or continue on her way? She decided to keep walking, planning on asking the first person she met to relay the news of her mother-in-law passing out to her husband, so she could go home immediately.”
As she kept walking, she soon met someone who told her that her husband had been injured. Forgetting everything else, Samah began to look for her husband – but before she found him, she herself was injured!
I was feeling dissociated and confused. How did all this happen??
Zainab somehow manages to maintain a positive view of the situation: thank God, she says, that the child was not with her!
Samah, her husband and his mother were all taken to the same hospital. What happened to the child, I wonder? The neighbors heard him crying, Zainab explains, climbed into the house through the window and took care of him that night.




June 2018

I have always hated crying for help.

You may have read about Gaza’s plight in newspapers or academic articles and you may have heard about the many deprivations we the Palestinians face, like having just four hours of electricity each day, three extraordinarily brutal wars, the almost always closed border crossings and so on and so forth.

We, as humans with the human bodies and feelings, before any kind of divisions human beings may create, are all trying to send a message from inside the box (Gaza) to the humans outside the box. Our signal is intended to be sent everywhere that humans live, it is meant for all who want to listen. I am not worried about whether or not you are receiving accurate information. But what I do truly worry about is whether you people are able to reach the feelings zone, to feel the emotion in our words and be touched emotionally by our incessantly flowing blood. Our actions and responses, personality and memories, anger and impotence are what we are, the conditions of our lives don’t just affect but also build us. How we deal with every single day in our daily life when there’s no war, emergency or crisis (the ordinary days!), like how we move on and rebuild ourselves after crises. I know I am not explaining it well but what is normal for me is what you fear could happen to you in the worst-case scenario, the worst nightmare you can imagine.

Let me see if I can give you a little example. For instance, you are returning happily from a close friend’s wedding and you suddenly hear loud noise. If you are Gazan, you don’t think of the possibility that there may be children playing or fireworks going off somewhere; you think, oh—the war is back.

Another thing I wonder about is our memory: how bad or good is it to be a person holding memories of war? What might it feel like to not have such memories? Can one know anything about war not having experienced one personally? For a good, kind person, is there a connection between war memories and aggressive urges (like the ones Freud wrote about)? Who has stronger desires to hurt others—we who experience war first-hand, or you who watch it on television?

When I am not consumed with these psychological questions, I like to travel in my imagination. I do this every day. I don’t need travel documents in order to be able to do this, nor do I need anyone to open the crossing for me. In my imagination, I can try to live like a normal person—one with dreams and hopes—unaffected by all the mess that has been forced upon me. I escape from dirty roads, tragic events, terrible history and a grim future by hanging out in empty places or by watching movies telling me what young people my age are doing in their lives. Movies show me what it looks like to be a normal person living a normal life and how I could possibly become one.

If I didn’t have my imagination and could not fantasize about my personal future—like the academic courses I am going to take, my career path etc.—I would probably head for the fence, as many have already done.

I just want to take you as a reader to new places hidden away from the reporters’ cameras. I may not be able to explain much but I hope that I managed to drop a few hints that can help open some ears and doors.

Hanan Abubashir would welcome emails from friends and colleagues around the world. Her email address is pal.hanan@hotmail.com