Ahmad Abu Daqa
It is extremely difficult to look at any of these names and not be reminded of some of the horrors that the world has had to face last year.
The subway system in New York a few weeks ago was filled with awestruck passengers reading about the massacre that shook Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut last month. Daniel Barden, Charlotte Baker, and Olivia Engel, all six years old, were just some of the names of the victims that appeared in these reports, shot and killed for no reason, sparking what appears to be the most heated gun control debate the US has seen in years.
A few weeks ago, on the 12th December of 2012, what was referred to as a “once in a lifetime date”, Mohammed Salayma celebrated his seventeenth birthday with his friends and classmates. He was more excited, however, to celebrate his day with his family. He was so excited he actually volunteered to choose and pick up his birthday cake himself, but sadly never got to try it. Just a short distance away from his home, Sulayma was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint in Hebron. Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint claimed that Sulayma was holding what turned out to be a plastic gun. No evidence suggesting the presence of a toy gun surfaced.
Ahmad Abu Daqa of Gaza was shot dead by Israeli artillery fire while playing soccer with his friends just a few blocks away from his house. He was wearing his favorite Real Madrid jersey. A picture of him wearing it on the Gaza shore last year spread like wildfire on Facebook. This wasn’t the first time a Palestinian was killed playing a sport, but it was this case that caught the attention of global soccer celebrities, including Didier Drogba. These players expressed their solidarity with the “people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom.”
Al-Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan
O’laa Jarbawi, the last name on the list, is one of more than 4000 children reportedly killed by Assad’s forces since March 2011. The 2 and a half year old from the besieged city of Latakia was shot in the head as she and her parents attempted to flee the city. Their car came under fire. Children in Syria have not been spared, and have been killed in the most gruesome of ways. Those who manage to escape and make it to refugee camps must endure horrible living conditions, cold nights in tents, and little water and food.
Violence is rooted in the history of many countries. Whether these have been in the Arab World or here in the US, many of the populations in these countries are considered “conquest societies,” where organized militia groups collected as much fire power as possible to fight off government tyranny and gain independence. It is from these historical moments that the founding ideas for freedom, justice, and the right to live peacefully arose.
What our world has come to today challenges these principles. The hurt caused by the Newtown elementary school tragedy reverberated across the globe. Videos and images emerging from Syria showing several massacres and child victims are unbearable to watch, and children in the West Bank and Gaza have consistently been shot and injured without any evidence to support justifications provided by the Israeli army.
No matter the context, no matter what kind of violence, when children are the victims it definitely hits closer to home. As we welcome the New Year, here’s hoping our governments and societies gain the capacity to take responsibility for the mourning and loss they cause. For whether in a small town in Connecticut or a small town in Syria or the West Bank, the grief felt by the families of the victims is uniform, and in all cases impossible to recover from.
*This post is dedicated to Maryam Al Khawaja, whose activism and bravery in pursuit of freedom is inspiring to us all.
*If you’re in Jordan, visit this page to donate to Syrian refugee camps.