Occupied Minds: Daily obstacles

By Mohammed Imter, MSF Psychologist – Hebron project

Wady Lighrous is an area located in the east of Hebron city where some 4,500 people live. This enclave is between two settlements (Kiryat Arba and Kharsena) and there is a military base along Road 60. It is considered an area C, which means no one is allowed to build a new building or to extend their house. Some houses have been demolished by the Israeli forces in the past and the people living there are facing a lot of obstacles.

MSF has followed one of the families as they have suffered many violent incidents during the past years. Two years ago an MSF psychologist did therapy with one of the girls, 17, and her mother, 52. The girl was attacked on her way to school at the age of seven by a settler who exposed his private parts and ran towards her. She managed to escape physical assault, but as a result she developed serious psychological problems, like aggressiveness, fear, nightmares and constant worry; she dropped out of school.

Another son, 14, was used to being beaten and detained by the Israeli army on his way to school: last year he changed school to avoid facing the soldiers at the check points but the soldiers from the military base, which is very close to their house, have since made very violent incursions and arrested him, beating both him and his father. Last October, the boy was taken to the detention centre for six hours where he was beaten during interrogation. His mother called me asking for help. She explained that he came home with bruises on his body, showing signs of fear but with no serious physical complaints. I contacted various human rights organisations to help the family and I also made a house visit and offered psychological first aid to the boy and his mother.

I followed up on them after two weeks to see if they needed further psychological support, and found that the girl and her mother were in need of psychotherapy. Her mother suffers constant worry as well as sadness and high distress. She is suffering for the wellbeing of her family.  Currently, an MSF psychologist is taking care of them and the family highly appreciates MSF’s support.

The latest incident happened very recently. The grandfather, 85, was sick with hypertension, diabetes and Alzheimer. He was beaten several times by the Israeli army. In November 2014 it took two hours until the Israeli authorities allowed the ambulance that was taking him to hospital to pass the checkpoint. It was not easy for him to reach the hospital because of the blocked roads.  From then on, his health steadily worsened until he finally died in December.

Due to the on-going violence, MSF regularly checks the situation in the area providing psychological and social support.