Children of Conflict: Growing up in Gaza

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Around the world, millions of children are the unheard voices of war. And the horrors they witness today will inform the adults they become tomorrow. Will they grow up to be the next leaders, teachers or freedom fighters?

Gaza is a virtual prison with hardly any way in or out. In 2007, Al Jazeera entered Gaza to talk to the grandchildren of Fatima al-Najar, who had achieved a strange kind of fame as the oldest female Palestinian suicide bomber.

Bewildered and grieving for their grandmother, these children, whose lives had been shaped by the oppressive conditions imposed on the territory by Israel, spoke about the hopes and fears for their future.

Ebtehal was just 10 at the time and wanted to become the first female president of Palestine. She said she had three priorities: to clean up the mess left behind by the Israeli bulldozers, to give children their rights, and “to build a new Gaza”.

Another young girl, Rana, hoped to become a journalist, “so I can tell the people how we suffer here. I am a child, I know what death means, I know what war means, I know what blood means. Me and all the children here know what it means.”

A decade on, Rewind returns to Gaza in search of the children featured in Children of Conflict, now young adults. Once again they speak to Al Jazeera, contrasting their aspirations of 10 years ago with the reality of today.

Ebtehal is now 22 years old and a graduate, with a degree in health administration. However, owing to the ongoing terrible conditions in Gaza, she is unemployed, and has experienced personal loss several times over the years.

“The Palestinian people don’t live in safety nor do they feel safe in their homes. One reason being the occupation and the other the siege,” says Ebtehal.

“Because of the wars, we’ve lost two brothers. And we lost our house many times. This created a big wound in our family … one that will stay forever,” she adds.

Zana Bashir was only 11 years old at the time of filming and is now studying dentistry – her long-desired profession of choice – albeit not where she had anticipated. 

“I had decided to study dentistry in Germany, as my brothers are there.” says Zana, “I had no idea that the Gaza crossing would be the end of it. [I thought] the crossing will eventually open and I will travel. Until I found myself [here] studying at Al-Azhar University.” 

“I don’t remember a childhood of cartoons and toys. I remember the army a lot, I remember how scared I was. At five years old, I saw a lot of the army … I tell myself that I want to do all that I can to be a very well-known dentist. So much that they will recognise me, from the army. That they remember a very long time ago they had locked me an my family in a room but today she is very successful. I always imagine this scenario.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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