Saturday, January 24, 2009

child victims in Gaza

Children of Gaza: stories of those who died and the trauma for those who survived

10 children's stories in pictures


Friday, January 16, 2009

The Israelis killed my kid, not once or twice but a thousand times."

"Dad, I'm dying."

The words keep echoing in Kamal Awaga's ears, sending jolts of pain into his feeble, wounded body.
These were the last words uttered by his 9-year-old son, Ibrahim, before he ended up as a practicing target for Israeli soldiers.

"They killed my son in cold blood," says the grief-stricken father, still in a state of shock.
Ibrahim joined more than 350 children killed by Israel in its three-week onslaught on the coastal enclave.

But while others fell victim to killer bullets or deadly bombs, Ibrahim's fate was even more tragic.

He became a shooting practice for a squad of Israeli soldiers.

"The Israelis did not show mercy for his innocence," said his tearful father from his bed at the Al-Shefa hospital in Gaza City.

"They had no pity for his tiny body," added the heart-broken father.

Nothing in the day prepared the Awaga family for the tragic twist of events that unfolded.
They woke up to a sunny morning after days of being locked in one small room to escape the massive Israeli bombardment.

"Mom, let's have our breakfast out in the garden. I'm tired of staying in this room," the grieved mother recalls Ibrahim's plea.

An hour later, the table was set in the garden and the family was hoping to enjoy rare moments of peace, unaware of the eyes watching them from a distance.

A first missile stole the family's job before another destroyed their house.

"Dad, I am dying," cried Ibrahim to his father who rushed frantically to his side.

"Hurry, let's go," Awaga told his wife and two other children while carrying bleeding Ibrahim.

But even before they could reach the gate, a flood of bullets showered them.

One bullet hit the mother's leg and another hit the father's waist.
Ibrahim's two frightened brothers ran for cover behind the rubbles of their bombed-out house.

As the firing died down, the family thought their misery was over. But the Israeli soldiers were not finished yet.
"When the soldiers came closer, I thought they will kill me," said Awaga who faked being dead.

"But they were aiming at my young child," he said choking at the bitter memory.
One soldier came close to Ibrahim's body, turning him by his leg and laughing while another fired his gun to the dead boy's head.
Laughs got louder as they carried the body to a higher place to start their party.
For a whole hour, the father hushed his cries of pain as he watched the Israeli soldiers compete in sniping on his dead son's body.
"They were using his bullet-ridden, bleeding body as a shooting practice.
"With each bullet, they were humming with words I could not figure out, but it sounded full of rapture. It was as if they were celebrating."

When they finally had enough "practicing," the Israelis took their guns and left the house.

Four complete days passed before emergency doctors were able to find their way to the family and rush them to hospital.

"What did my son do to deserve that?" Awaga asks, shaking his head in disbelief.

"The Israelis killed my kid, not once or twice but a thousand times."


HasbunAllaahu wa ni'mal'mal Maula wa ni'man Naseer.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

our children and Gaza

Our children and what is happening in Gaza
Dr Muhammad Abdulaziz al-Shuraim

It is hard for us as adults to cope with what is unfolding in Gaza these days. How do we expect small children to cope? This is especially when they see and hear on television the tragic and bloody events that are taking place. Adults might be able to understand what they see on television and go on productively with their lives. Indeed, many have learned how to cope from the sheer number of crises and wars that the news exposes us to year after year. However, children need special care to deal with these tragic events without suffering adverse psychological effects.

Even if we do our best to shelter our children from the the most graphic depictions of what is going on in Gaza, the media will invariably expose them to images and events that they will find deeply disturbing. The following advice can be taken by parents to help their children cope:

1. We need to be receptive to our children's feelings. When children express fear or worry about what they see or hear, the role of the parents is to accept these feelings from their children as being natural. They need to convey to their children that everyone has these feelings – even adults. When a child knows that his or her feelings are normal, and that he or she is not alone in feeling fear, it allows the child to cope more positively with that fear, especially when he or she sees that the big people who share such fears continue to go about their daily activities in a normal manner.

2. We must not criticize the fear our children feel or deny their feelings. Many parents say things like: "There is no reason to be afraid" or: "Don't be frightened." They believe that such statements placate their children's fears. This is not the case. By denying the feelings that our children are experiencing, we actually aggravate their fears, because they feel that they are doing something wrong for feeling the way they do. They need to know that everyone feels fear, just like they do.

3. We need to encourage our children to communicate their feelings. Some children need to put their feelings in worlds before they can deal with those feelings. Moreover, some children confuse their genuine feelings with imaginary ones. Just talking about what they feel gives many children comfort, since they know that they have an outlet whenever they come under stress. As parents, we need to encourage communication and also accept from them what they feel, without criticism or condemnation, as we have already explained.

4. We need to answer their questions honestly. In the face of such a crisis, children will definitely have many questions going through their minds. Moreover, the fertile imaginations that children possess can make them construct things in their minds that have no grounds in reality. This is why it is critical – no matter how complicated or silly our children's questions might seem to us as parents – that we do our best to answer those questions accurately and honestly. If we do not know the answer, we should be able to say: "I do not know."

Honest answers help children to distinguish what is reality from the constructs of their imaginations. If children cannot find answers from the people they look up to, their imaginations will run wild.

5. We can help our children to describe what they are feeling. After a child speaks about what he or she feels, it is possible for the parents to identify or describe that feeling for the child. For instance, a parent can say: "You are scared for your brothers and sisters in Palestine." or: "You are worried that the same thing could happen to us here."

Helping to put their feelings into words does not make things worse, like some people think. Rather, it helps children psychologically, allowing them to better understand what is going through their minds, and by letting them know that the people around them understand and respect their feelings.

6. We must teach our children how to best cope with their fears. By showing sympathy for our children's fears, we help our children to overcome them. When a child says that he or she is frightened that bombs will fall on the house, it is an opportunity to explain to the child that such things are indeed frightening but they are taking place far away. We should feel worried, but not for ourselves, but rather for our brothers and sisters over there who are living through the tragedy. We can take this occasion to teach our children to supplicate to Allah to protect and help them.

7. We should channel their feelings in positive ways. Children are more disposed than older people to feel sympathy for others and make sacrifices for them. We can ask our children to make suggestions how we can help our brothers and sisters in Gaza. Maybe the children can donate some of his or her money – no matter that it is very little – to grant relief to the victims of the tragedy. This increases their sense of solidarity while reducing their feelings of fear. It increases the desire of the children to be more charitable in their future lives, and to be more ready supplicate to Allah to help those who are suffering.

8. We should use the occasion to teach our children. Many children do not appreciate what they have. They are born into a life where they are blessed with a comfortable home, enough food to eat, and toys to play with. They take all of this for granted. When they are disturbed by a tragedy like what is taking place in Gaza, we can use the opportunity to teach our children the importance of thanking Allah for the blessings that He has bestowed upon us. We can make our children aware of the fact that others do not have these things that we take for granted. There are children who do not have the food that maybe our children disdain to eat. Parents can remind their children that what they complain about cannot be compared to the suffering the children of Gaza are going through who have lost almost everything except their hope in Allah.

9. We must explain what our faith in Allah teaches us about life's difficulties. We need to explain to our children that the trials Allah deems to have the people of Gaza endure is also part of His love for His creatures. Allah graces those in adversity with the chance to show patience and to strengthen their faith in the certainty of His promise. In this way, we teach our children how they, as believers, can cope better with adversity in their own lives.

10. We need to show our children that we love them. Sometimes children need to be reassured that their parents will do everything to protect them from what frightens them. They need to know that their parents are there for them. We need to hug our children and kiss them when we see that they are frightened or under stress. At the same time, depending on the child's age, we need to give the child confidence that Allah, in His wisdom, has decreed everything for humanity and that we must rely on Allah and go on with our lives, though there are dangers out there.

I hope that these words of advice will help our children cope in a positive manner with the crisis that is taking place, though our children's difficulties are nothing in comparison to what the children of Gaza are suffering from.

Finally, I pray to Allah to help our brothers and sisters in Gaza. Truly, He is the one who is All-Powerful, and He is the one we turn to for help.


rationed food in the land of milk and honey

Palestinian children eating their rations at an UNRWA center in the Jabalya refugee camp. (AP)

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