Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Story of One, In a Million.

Originally written on Sep 23, 2001, as an email to ummikusayang@yahoogroups.

picture courtesy of
Picture not directly related to story.

This is a true story. It is an excerpt from "Palestinians Speak" (pg 31-35).
I had taken the liberty to edit it for brevity. Even then, it is quite long.
I advise that you print this out or read it on your computer at your leisure. I also would like to advise you to read it when you're alone. I cried for an hour after reading it, and had to hug my children for comfort. But then again, I *was* pregnant, so it may just be hormones that's affecting my emotions.

"Souad Srour Merii (29 years old)"
I was born in Shatila along with 8 other siblings, 5 boys and 3 girls. I was the eldest. The story I'm abt to tell u is what happened to me and my family in the massacre at Sabra-Shatila during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It happened on the evening of the 16th and the morning of the 17th of Sept, after the assassination on the 14th, of the Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel, who was the leader of the Lebanese Forces, or the fascist Christian militia called Kata'ib (Phalange). This party was well known for its hatred towards Palestinians and for its collaboration with Israel.
On the 16th of Sept ... [she visited friends whose home had been destroyed and are living in a makeshift shelter] ... I went home, prepared dinner for my younger sisters and brothers, fed them and put them to sleep. My father refused to let me go alone to the shelter to pick up my friends, He asked me to take my brother Maher with me. At that time I was 17 and my brother was 12 yrs old. Shortly before we reached the shelter, we started seeing horrible scenes: bodies lying on the ground with blood flowing out of them. We heard moaning voices and people screaming in pain. Suddenly I was called by a voice that I knew to be that of our neighbour Abu Rida, who wanted us to help him.
"They slaughtered us, killed us, raped the girls and took away all the girls between 12 and 16 yrs old". Then he told us, "Escape from your house, don't stay in it. They will come back and kill all the people in the camp". I inquired about who did that, but suddenly we heard a voice shouting, "You dogs are still alive? Not dead yet?"
We ran away back home in order to tell our parents of the horrible events. We informed our father about what happened and about the advice of our neighbour. My father said , "Nothing will happen to us if God forbids. He created us and only He will end our lives". We stayed on our house till the dawn of next day, Friday, 17th Sept.
At 430 the next morning, our neighbour and my 11 yr old brother decided to go up to the roof of the house to see what was going on in order to decide whether to stay at home or run away. They were seen by the militia men stationed on the hills of the stadium overlooking the camp. My brother and our neighbour were frightened and came down quickly and told us what they saw, and shortly afterwards, we heard somebody knocking at the door.
My father inquired who was knocking and was told they were Israelis who wanted to search the house. He opened the door and saw 13 armed men outside the door. Some stayed outside the door, some went to the roof and some circled around us to frighten us.
I stood up with my younger sister beside my father, and the rest stood up beside my mother and our neighbour. My father welcomed them and asked them to sit down. One of the men answered that they wanted to take everything. I answered him back, and asked him why he wanted to take everything after taking away our most precious thing, which is our land. I said to him, "Why do you want to take more?" He answered me, "You'll see what we'll take more. I'll take you and your sister".
My father begged him to take everything except his children. He was hit on the face, and he started bleeding. I couldn't stop myself from shouting at their faces, asking them why they were hitting an old man. I was hit and pushed severely to the ground. When I felt the pain, I hit the soldier back. They took the money we had - LL40,000/- - and our rings, even my father's wedding ring.
One of them shouted and gave an order to take us inside the room. He ordered us stand up by the wall with our hands raised above our heads, with our backs towards them. They ordered us not to look back. My sister Shadia who was one and a-half years old raised her hands and called her mother because she was afraid. They started shooting us.
My baby sister was shot in her head, and her brains splattered over us.
My father was shot in his heart but was still alive.
My brothers Shadi,3, Farid, 8, Bassam, 11 and my sister Hajar, 7, and Shadia and our neighbour died right away.
My brothers Maher, 12 and Ismail,9, were safe because they were hiding in the bathroom.
My mother and my sister Nuhad, 16, were wounded, but did not die.
As for me, I was paralyzed right away and couldn’t move. The soldiers thought that we were all dead and left our house.
I started screaming and asking who was still alive. My mother, my younger sister and my 2 brothers in the bathroom answered. Then my father answered, but he was mortally wounded. I asked them to escape and send somebody to rescue me and my father. So, they escaped and I was left with my wounded father, surrounded by the dead members of my family. It was a horrible situation that I'll never forget in my whole life.
At 10 am, 3 militia men came back to pick up the money they forgot, and they saw me approaching my father. They cursed me with very dirty words and told me: "See what we will do to you in front of your father" The three of them raped me, one after another, in front of my father, shot me on my left hand, and went away. My father told me, "God be with you" , and passed away. He couldn’t bear what he saw, because at that time I hadn’t menstruated yet, and what happened was horrible for me, especially as it happened in front of my wounded father.
They came back again on the same day, in the evening, and saw me having a drink. They were furious because they found me alive. They shot me twice and hit me over the head, and I fainted right away. Later during the night, I woke up hearing the noise of cats that were roaming around the dead bodies. I tried, with my uninjured hand, to cover their bodies, but I didn’t succeed completely.
The next morning, Saturday 18th Sept, they came back again, but I pretended to be dead.
On Sunday morning, a Lebanese soldier came to enquire about his relatives and our neighbours. I shouted for help, but I couldn’t talk when I saw the soldier, who took off his jacket and covered my naked body. He took me with him. On my way out of the camp, I saw swollen corpses of those who had been slaughtered. I heard cries and moaning all the way. The soldier handed me to the Lebanese Red Cross, who at once gave me artificial respiration. They took me took me to a hospital, which refused to admit me because I was a Palestinian. I was then taken to the American University Hospital. There were many reporters and journalists there, but I couldn’t speak to anyone. I had lost my ability to speak.
[ she was treated, then reunited with her mother, but she continued to become hysterical and required tranquilizers every time she recalled the massacres and every time she sees a military man. She was then told to be sent to Tripoli for further treatment, in a car with a driver and a bodyguard]
We drove along the coastal road towards Tripoli. We reached 'The Barbara Check-point', which was very famous during the Lebanese civil war. The driver asked me not to move and to pretend I was sleeping. The militia men at the check-point who belonged to the fascist Lebanese Forces ordered the driver and the bodyguard to step out of the car. They explained about me that I was being taken to be treated. The two militia said, "We know the girl", and looking at them I immediately recognized that they were in my house during the massacre.
The three of us were taken away in a Jeep with "The Lebanese Phalange" written on it. They told me "now you will die", and they ordered the bodyguard to take off his clothes and sit on a bottle. Then they hit him on the head and he died immediately in front of my eyes.
Then they snatched away the urine bag and the I.V. [that she was using]. They took away the blankets covering me. They raped me in front of the driver and put me naked on a rock at the beach in order to die. "Now she will die by herself", they said. I stayed the whole night in that situation, with the driver looking at me with pity. The next day the militia men came back and ordered the driver to take me back to where I had come. I was taken back to the hospital in Beirut in a much worse condition, unable to speak at all, refusing to see anybody and having continuous strong hysterical attacks.
For two years after that date I was unable to speak. I was in a wheelchair with all the suffering which I had to live with inside me. I was hospitalized for 4 years and underwent 6 operations. I have left Shatila now. I cannot stand to live in that same house in which half of my family was massacred. My mother rebuilt the house and now she and my brothers, Maher and Ismail and my sister Nuhad are living there. Slowly I started my life anew. I can walk now with the help of special shoes and a cane, and I am working in the Norwegian Aid workshop, making and selling handicraft items.

This is one, out of thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions, of stories.

Imagine. This happened more than 20 years ago, and it is still happening now.
Will people look back at these events like they did the holocausts and wonder how they could have let this happen? Will they wonder why nobody did anything?

I will tell my children that I did my bit. It may not be much, but at least I did something.

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