Cairo, October 2023.
It's not easy to look them in the eye.
War has come between us.
Yet, even when I lower my gaze, they don't press me, they continue to look at me questioningly, incredulously, they don't judge me; they are often on the verge of tears, interrupting meetings to respond to friends, relatives and colleagues in war zones.
No one escapes Gaza; the girls are in a panic at times, they look at the phone: in the audio you can hear bomb whistles, explosions, screams. They cry in silence.
In Cairo every day in different areas of the city the electricity goes out for 2 hours, due to the war, with all the resulting consequences in a country of 100 million people. It's difficult to work this way, the generators are no longer available. We work with candles, we don't stop.
Friend journalists are stopped in Rafah, together with humanitarian aid convoys, Israel does not let anyone in for any reason, not even humanitarian.
Torn apart by impotence, we can do nothing. We can only try to give shape, in the ways we know, to a pain that becomes greater every hour.
Video with: Simonetta Ottone, Dalia El Abd, Heba Korashi.
Video Direction: Ashraf Tawfik
Concept: Simonetta Ottone and Ashraf Tawfik
They keep asking me why.
They ask me, who come from a Europe that is now renegade from its foundations, which instead of being an outpost of civilization for "peace , for the free movement of goods and people", as we were told at school, is actually a place where people have become second-class citizens, who have no say in the politics of their country, nor the dignity of concretely belong to a community that can be called such.
Our culture is accepting that in crucial issues there are more weights and more measures, depending on the lobby (political and financial especially ) which suits the status quo; he is also accepting that depending on our nationality and ethnicity we can have the right to live or die.
I grew up during the cold war “at home”, now “at home” we are in the midst of a hot war.
Daughter of the “European dream”, I feel that I will grow old together with my generation, in a reverse dream, dystopian compared to that period in which we thought that the best was yet to come.
I feel that I won't have enough time to leave my son a more hospitable world, at least a little more similar to how I have it found io.
In front of these girls enchanted by the myth of Italian art and culture, I am ashamed of my West, and I feel bad.
I feel bad about being associated with a policy that not only does not respect the Constitutions of all European countries, the beautiful one of my country , that of the European Union, once created to repudiate war, so much so that it did not have an army.
How could we become an open-air fan base?
How can we be complicit in all this?
I explain to these Egyptian women, humiliated, offended, prostrate, that I do not agree, that I would like not to belong to those in my country, institutions in the lead, in a complex and long-standing conflict like this, unconditionally supports only one side, without trying to do what our civilization says it has taught us: mediation, moderation, respect, rights humans.
It's been three months now.
To get news of what is really happening you have to look for information outside Europe, with those who are in real contact with those areas : our press only repeats the same news with the same point of view, changing the language as much as possible.
We have become sick of control and censorship (even more destructive because it is covered and indirect), we have become faithful to the line, even when this line is the furthest thing from what we believe we are.
Meanwhile, the war in the Gaza Strip continues, recording a series of war crimes and unprecedented numbers at all levels. With this war, Israel adds more violence to its bloody past, targeting all Palestinian civilians to kill them and pushing the rest of them to leave.
Since October 7, the war has claimed the lives of more than 21,000 Palestinians, including 9,000 children and nearly 7,000 women, more than 56,000 injured, mostly children who have been mutilated and permanently injured: if you want to strike a population, fill it with disabled children and family members.
This is not a war, it is a genocide seen worldwide.
Gaza was 90% destroyed.
People are dying of hunger: it is an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.
Former UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, Michael Lynk, said: “The volume of Palestinian civilian deaths in such a short period of time is the highest rate of civilian casualties in the twenty-first century.”
While the civilian population, especially children, faces various types of attacks and violations, the United Nations Relief and Works Fund childhood (UNICEF) stated that "the Gaza Strip has become the most dangerous place in the world for children", in light of the prolongation of the Israeli occupation aggression against it.
The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world for women: Action Aid International said in a report published on December 10 that women and girls in Gaza suffer unprecedented levels of violence during the military escalation Israeli on the Strip.
He explained that the numbers paint a clear picture and shocking, at a time when two mothers are killed every hour in Gaza and seven women every two hours, as nearly 7,000 women have been killed since October 7, women and children have accounted for around 70% of the total number of victims. .
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) describes the 2023 as the "deadliest" in the West Bank, since the United Nations began recording and documenting the number of victims of Israeli army and settler practices in the West Bank in 2005.
Israel is waging a war on Palestinians in the West Bank and inside the Green Line, to suppress and silence any form of expression of the collective Palestinian identity and to make the occupied Palestinian territories unlivable for the Palestinians.
The researcher and specialist in Jerusalem affairs, Fakhri Abu Diab claims that 2023 is one of the worst years that have passed for occupied Jerusalem: "I was born in Jerusalem and I am now 62 years old, and I have worked as a field researcher for many years, but I have never seen the city like this before, especially under the current Israeli government, the most extreme one that has put the Judaization of Jerusalem at the top of its agenda."
Abu Diab points out that Israeli authorities have carried out 265 demolition orders for homes in Jerusalem and the people of the city have been forced to pay a total of 52 million shekels ($14.4 million) for "construction violations" until the end of last November. Abu Diab states that these policies aim to empty the city of its people to create a new demographic balance for the benefit of the settlers within the plan to "restore the city" in the sense of Judaizing it completely.
Prisoners' institutions (the Prisoners' and Publishers' Affairs Authority, the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, the Addameer Foundation for Prisoner Care and Human Rights and the Wadi Hilweh Center - Jerusalem) have published a special document on the total crimes and violations committed by the occupation after October 7th. The document highlights ongoing arrest campaigns in the West Bank, including Jerusalem and the horrific crimes that accompany them, as well as the reality of prisoners inside Israeli occupation prisons: the crimes, torture and systematic abuse to which they are subjected and the retaliatory measures that have affected all aspects of their lives, including the policy of starvation and the denial of legal protection.
For its part, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor called on the international community to put pressure on Israel to reveal the fate di dozens of women who were arrested from their homes and asylum centers and to put an end to the case of forced disappearance.
According to the observatory, the Israeli army continues to arrest dozens of females, including elderly women, mothers with their children and minor girls, all subjected to appalling conditions of detention.
The Observatory has called for an impartial and urgent international investigation into the liquidation of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army after their arrest from different areas of the Gaza Strip. The Observatory underlined that the testimonies collected coincided with what was revealed by the Jewish newspaper Haaretz regarding i field execution crimes committed against detainees, while others died due to severe torture and ill-treatment in a military camp known as "Sedeh Timan", located between the cities of Beersheba and Gaza in the south, which has been transformed into a new prison "Guantanamo" in which prisoners are forced into very difficult conditions, locked in outdoor cages, without food and water for hours and hours.
The Wall Resistance and Settlement Commission documented le forced deportations of Palestinian Bedouin families, caused by direct occupation measures and militia terrorism of settlers in the West Bank, taking advantage of the emergency and war laws that protect them from responsibility and punishment.
The number of martyred journalists in the Gaza Strip has risen to more than 100.
According to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, the Israeli incursions have destroyed the headquarters of 63 institutions and press offices and disrupted the work of 25 local radio stations, one of which was in the West Bank, and the arrests of 43 journalists, including 41 in the West Bank and two in Gaza, 30 of whom are still in detention.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres confirmed that 136 United Nations personnel in Gaza have been killed since October 7, underlining that “this is something we have never seen before in the history of the United Nations.”
In a dark period for the fate of humanity, in a large part of the world, the Arab and Middle Eastern ones, struck by pain collective excruciating, in the absence of symmetrical comparisons with a West that has become so hostile, it is not easy to convey, in the forms we know, the idea of hope.
However, our work grants us the burden and honor of becoming witnesses and "bridges". And perhaps this is why, as in the Palestinian dance Dabka, we are learning with them to push our feet into the slippery mud, to beat them until the roof of our dreams will return to guard our homes, our communities, our traditions , our future.
Research sources in collaboration with Ashraf Tawfik
Thanks to all the women who dance with us, the Dance To Live Egypt Program, Danssabeel Cairo