Oussama, 31. Deheisheh Camp, Bethlehem - 09/04/2009

Monday 28 December 2009
popularity : 11%

Read the whole report on our meeting with Oussama, on Thursday April 9

Oussama works at Al-Rowwad, in Aida. He lives with his parents in Deheisheh, where he welcomes us all.

Ossama 1
IMG/mp3/Ossama_1.mp3

So, I’ll try to tell you a bit about Deheisheh camp. There aren’t many differences between the refugee camps, be they in Palestine or elsewhere in the world. There are about 12.000 people living here, in Deheisheh camp, on a one-km² area... A very small one, as you see...

The people of the other refugee camps say that in Deheisheh we are very strong, stronger than they are... Because you can’t touch anyone here without all the others reacting. People here are like one body... You can find a lot of centres here ici, which are very important, very influential, for ex. the Phoenix centre where I worked as a volunteer about a year ago.

Talking about the political life inside the camp : today it is just like in the other refugee camps. But 20 years ago, people called Deheisheh Camp "The Red Mountain" because there were many Communists here... But as time passed, things changed. Today you will only find the two biggest political organisations in Deheisheh camp : Fatah and Hamas.

As you know, there are problems between the Palestinians, because of which party they belong to : Fatah or Hamas... The situation has become very tricky... As far as I’m concerned, I just feel I am Palestinian. I don’t want to support the one side or the other because I believe that there is only one way to help with the reconstruction of my country... and it is to be Palestinian, that’s all...

I think the Communists didn’t offer any solution to the problem. They spoke well, had great dreams, but no real solution to offer... I mean this was the case here, in Palestine... Meanwhile, the Hamas appealed to the religious feeling in the population... As you know, many people support the Fatah (which is the oldest organisation) and the NPLO. But we can say that since the beginning of the 1990s, Hamas has became stronger and stronger... Speaking a lot of Allah, Mohamed, etc, they touched the people’s heart. That’s probably the reason why you’ll find so many people respect the Hamas. At the same time, many people don’t trust the Fatah anymore… First because of the many problems there are inside the organisation, but also because of the way they deal with the Israeli, which many people think is a wrong way...

Personally, I agree to deal with the Israeli, but how ? Give them everything?... And then?… They are always speaking of peace but what kind of peace do they want ?… Does it only mean increasing the number of checkpoints and the Palestinians staying refugees for ever?… I have never seen my native village. I was born in Jordan and I grew up here, in Deheisheh camp, but I’ll tell you I have the strange feeling I was there because my father and my mother have talked so much about it and have made me repeatedly promise I won’t forget it... They put me this strong idea in the head : I must go back to it... And when I am back home there, then we can start talking of making peace. It is not a problem for me to have Israeli neighbours. It’s Ok with me, but what kind of neighbours ? That’s important… As for this country to be called Palestine or Israel, I don’t care really…

Ossama 2
IMG/mp3/Ossama_2.mp3

I just need to be allowed to live normally, like you… If, for example, you want to go to Ramallah or Jerusalem, or anywhere else, you can do so without it being a problem. For us, it is really difficult… I remember how shocked you were on the first day in Aida : you had asked me if I had already been to Jerusalem and seen all you had seen there, and I answered, yes, I went once; it was 10 years ago… Yes, this is all too crazy. Jerusalem is so close, so close/ Maybe if someone from Aida laughs or speaks a bit loud, he will be heard over there… OK, if you have any questions...

Can you tell us a bit about what everyday life is like , here in Deheisheh ? Is there also a popular committee like in Aida camp ?

Of course... There are popular committees in all the refugee camps... Simply because we need some people to organise our daily life…. There are fewer and fewer people from the UN to do so and people who know our rights… If you have been a refugee for 60, 70 years, nobody talks about your problem anymore.... And we don’t get so much flour or oil anymore... Now, whether our situation is different now from what it was before, yes, probably a bit... But the problem hasn’t been solved yet... Look, I still have a UN card, which means we are nothing more than refugees... We have no dignity anymore...

And then, when you see these UNO soldiers giving out flour and petrol… This situation is so humiliating for the refugees, so humiliating. The soldiers are loud, they shout, talk to them as if they were animals… Where is their dignity then ?… But, at the same time, you need to be strong, to be able to survive… The situation is still the same, but I believe it will change that one day. I don’t know when but you can’t live if you don’t have any hope

Ask any Palestinian that question : hope, this small word, what does it mean for him, what does it mean for them ? just do it, you’ll see. They probably won’t tell you what their dreams are. They just want to be able to live normally… Ask them…

The fact is we can’t afford to stop hoping. We can just cry and do nothing, feel hurt, miserable… When we saw what happened in Gaza in January, it broke our hearts. Yet we keep smiling. We don’t know why, believe me !My sister lives there. I often worry about her, and my mom cries a lot because she is concerned about her daughter, but what can she do ?...So, she goes and visits her, and tries to find tender words that comfort her, calm her and help her feel a little better……

(2)

Ossama 3
IMG/mp3/Ossama_3.mp3

As for our photo workshop « Images for life » you may think that we are only working on our image for the « outside », but at the same time, we are working on something really important : help the young people build their personalities, mould their character".

Let’s take the example of Mazen : yesterday, he had difficulty expressing himself during the interview : he is 19 but he was like a child, unable to find his words and tell about himself… Our aim is to give him and the young people of his age an opportunity to get some experience and skills to just at least know how to express themselves... That at least... You can see the difference between the teenagers who are involved in the activities organised at the centre and the other ones who aren’t.