Occupied minds: Looking for hope

by Mariam Qabas, MSF psycosocial worker

“I was trying to protect my family house so it was not destroyed when the Israeli soldier pointed his gun at me.  To defend myself I pushed him away. They accused me of attempting to kill the soldier.” Randa* started her story with these words, looking around herself nervously. She asked for a safe place where children can live in peace.

Randa is 24 years old and lives in an area called Mfaqarain Massafer Yatta, South of Hebron. Mfaqara is one of the villages threatened to be demolished because it is considered a military zone by the Israeli army.

“I was sleeping when the Israeli army came to destroy my parents’ house. They asked the whole family to go outside. One of the soldiers pointed his gun at me trying to frighten me. I pushed him away and shouted to him that it was my parents’ house, where we have been living for the last 25 years, and that they were not allowed to demolish it. The other soldiers sprayed gas in my face and I lost consciousness. They put me in the military jeep not allowing my father or brothers to be with me. At the same time the other soldiers started to demolish the house in front of my family.

First they took me to Atsyiun jail and then to El Maskubia jail for questioning. It took three days before they took me to court. They asked my family to pay 5,000 Israeli shekels (€1,100) to release me. After 10 days in jail I was released on the condition that I wouldn´t go back to Mfaqara for a period of three years and that I wouldn't  participate in any demonstration or activities against the Israeli army.

Being arrested affects the reputation of a Palestinian girl who lives in the south of Hebron. No one will want to marry her in our tradition. So I was deeply affected by this incident. I didn't go out, I couldn't sleep and I was angry at myself.

And then I met the MSF psychosocial worker and started seeing the MSF psychologist, who helped me get my self-confidence back and showed me how to overcome the psychological effects I was suffering from the incident.

I decided to finish my studies in social work and I am now working with students in the school of Tawny. I participated in the MSF training for community leaders. I have learned many things in this training: how to improve my communication skills, how to keep calm, how to look for affected people in the community. I know how to provide them with psychological first aid if they have suffered an incident and where to refer them if they need further social help. I am happy.”

And with that, Randa finished telling her story. With a big smile and deeply hoping she can bring about change to her community, she is ready to move ahead for peace.

*The name has been changed to protect the privacy of the patient.