I am still marching

Gaza’s weekly Great Return March protests soon will complete their 16th month. To date, more than 13,000 protesters have been injured and 208 have been killed by Israeli snipers. It is true that the number of participants has declined as the months go by with no response to our demands for an end to the blockade and the number of injured and dead continues to climb. But many of us continue to march to our prison “wall” to demand freedom. Why, you ask?

My name is Naema Aldaqsha, a Palestinian refugee living in the besieged Gaza Strip. My family is originally from Hammama, a Palestinian village that was ethnically cleansed in 1948 by Zionist forces creating the state of Israel on our homeland.

I march because I want my full human rights, and the RIGHT OF RETURN is at the top of the list. I have never been allowed to return to my village even just for a visit, which is only 24 kilometers away from where I live. My right to return is enshrined in UN Resolution 194, which was adopted by a majority of 35 out of 58 members and has been reaffirmed more than 135 times. Yet no one has the courage to enforce it.

I march because it seems there is no other way to get the attention of the so-called “international community.” Governments are worthless. There have been many accords and agreements signed by governmental representatives, but none are more than paper.

I march because I am a member of the new Palestinian generation that has begun to think collectively and revolutionarily. We are impatient. We want comprehensive and radical solutions that will bring the insulting life we are forced to living to an end.

I march because I almost lost my home during the most recent Israeli war on Gaza. It was in the middle of the night in the summer of 2014. We were all sleeping. Of course, the bombing came then; isn’t that when we are the most vulnerable? A missile hit our neighbors’ home, killing the father. Thank God, my family was ok, but our kitchen collapsed and we were forced to flee to a relative’s home.

I march because I lost my dear mother to abdominal cancer after she waited in vain for five years for permission to leave Gaza for the surgery that could have saved her life. Physicians in Gaza simply lacked the necessary supplies and skills.

I march because I do not know whether I will be permitted to leave Gaza this year to further my studies in the UK. I have earned an International Excellence Scholarship to study international relations at Swansea University and I must be there by the 13th of September. Will I suffer the same fate as my mother?

I march because my favorite hang-out spot, the Al-Meshal Cultural Centre, was demolished by an Israeli missile. The center had one of the few libraries in Gaza, and I was named one of its best “customers” because I spent so much time reading there.

I march because I want to honor othe sacrifice of martyrs like the volunteer nurse Razan Al-Najjar, one of the many unarmed Palestinians killed during the protests by the Israeli army. It is our internationally guaranteed right to fight back against oppression, and yet she and others like her are accused of being terrorists. The terrorist is not the ones who have been forced to leave their homes and spend their lives imprisoned as they dream of return. The terrorists are those who killed Razan for simply trying to help those who resist, and who allowed my mother to die rather than give her a little freedom.

I march because what other choice do we have? Life without dignity is no life at all.

_We are not numbers.

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