Last Words

8 November 2023

Amidst mass death and agonising uncertainty for innocent civilians and hostages in Gaza, 48-year-old Iman, the mother of one of our service users, Hashem, shares what she expects to be her final words from Khan Younis, Southern Gaza.

On 13 October, Iman, her daughter, and six members of the extended family left the UN school where they were sheltering in the North of Gaza and evacuated to the South. They left  behind elderly grandparents who could not make the journey and haven't been heard from since.

Like 1.1M others they received a recorded message telling them to move within 24 hours where it was supposedly safe. Here are Iman's words. 

I am a mother of five. I grew up in the alleyways of the refugee camps in Khan Yunis and lived through all the wars in the Gaza Strip. 

I know very well the meaning of hardship and the harshness of life, but we have not experienced anything worse than these 33 days.

The meaning of poverty for me was the inability to provide basic needs that can be bought with money. This war added another meaning to poverty that cannot be bought with money, which is survival.

The war is full of details that are impossible to describe in words or depict in a video. This war is so terrifying that I cannot pretend to be reassured in front of the children.

This war is so exhausting that it makes me wonder if having my children in this place is a merciful decision or a death sentence.

I do not wish any of my children to read this, but I will express only part of what I feel as a final appeal to those who believe in the right to life.

I raised my children far away from the battlefields of conflict. I always hoped that they would be ambitious people and grateful for the blessings around them, and so are all mothers. 

This conflict is knocking on the doors of our homes, forcing us to be one of its parties, a party without any expected gains. On the contrary, it is watching its losses and hoping that they will not increase.

All the media talk about the lack of food and medicine and thousands of victims, so there is no need for me to repeat it here. What I see around me that the world, which chooses to close its eyes, does not see, are innocent dead and mutilated living people.

I see my brothers' young children (aged between 1 and 10 years old) losing their ability to speak, which they recently learned, and another one losing his courage to play with the other children because he wet his pants after he was frightened when hearing the sounds of explosions. I see a 4-year-old girl talking about her journey from north to south. About the corpses she saw lying on the sides of the road, eaten by dogs and birds. 

I see children in the street running to their mothers with human remains they found in the alleys while they were playing, and the wife of one of them crying for her forty-year-old husband, whose dignity was tampered with by Israeli soldiers - who had barely reached the age of majority - when they tried to migrate to the south.

I feel afraid for myself and everyone with me due to the uncertainty of events in the coming days. I wish that this war, the explosions, and the vile reconnaissance plane that would explode our heads with its non-stop noise throughout the day and night would stop, even if only for 15 minutes, so that I could control my nerves and gather my strength.

Sometimes my thoughts completely disconnect from the war and I become distracted by thinking about the small piece of land and our house into which my husband and I poured everything we earned over more than 30 years. I don't know if he will survive, and even if he does, is this a safe haven for my children? Or will the brutality of the occupation be overlooked in the coming wars?

What the world cannot imagine is that we have the right to life like any other person, that I taught my children the etiquette of food, which we barely provide currently, and that I wished that we had a warm house in which my children and grandchildren would gather to eat a meal that I prepared for them. 

Unfortunately, I do not see myself now learning and teaching my children anything except how to escape. The problem with learning is that it involves failure and then success, but failure in the Gaza Strip is an irreversible path.

Stop killing children and mutilating lives.

(Jamal Al Mahamel II (2005), by Palestinian artist Suleiman Mansour is one of the most famous Palestinian paintings. It features a porter carrying Jerusalem on his back. The work, also known as Camel of Burdens, is iconic across the Arab world. The original painting, which was destroyed in the 1980s, is one of the most iconic paintings in the Arab world. “This painting represents the essence of my artistic journey over the past 50 years. It is emblematic of my identity, my concerns, my struggles and the centrality of Jerusalem to my life,” Mansour says.)





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