Mohamad Owedah

Al Quds Jerusalem

I grew up in the biggest village in Palestine, but it was also very popular amongst settlers due to its proximity to the City of David. When I was a child, my family lived in constant fear that we would be forced out of our home. Families from our village were regularly forced to leave the village in order to settle Jewish families instead. The first Intifada broke out when I was 15 years old. Most of the men and youths in our village were jailed for various charges, throwing stones or even simply hanging Palestinian flags. I was arrested and in-prisoned at the age of 15, as were all four of my brothers (aged 14, 13, 12 & 11). It was a very difficult and painful time for our family: humiliating and frustrating.

Every Friday at 5am, my mother would wait for the Red Cross and ask for help. She was very sick with cancer, but with all my brothers all in jail, had no other means of support. She was only permitted to visit each one of us once per month, and the ride was always long and hard. When she arrived at the prison, she was subjected to a humiliating inspection, after which she might not be granted access at all. Cancellation of visits due to collective ‘punishments’ or boycotts was routine. For months on end, this was our family’s life.

After the first Intifada came the Oslo Accords. In my heart, I thought, “This nightmare has ended and our dream has finally come true! We will be free and no longer have our children locked in Israeli prisons!” My brothers and I were all freed.

When the second Intifada broke out in 2000, our hope was destroyed. The  Occupation became more brutal, violence spread and I lost many friends in the fighting. In my hometown of Silwan, more and more homes were demolished and families were forced into refugee camps.

Together with friends from my village, I decided I had to do something to resist — but not with violence. I knew we had to do this without more bloodshed; without more dead friends…

My friends and I started training ourselves in nonviolent resistance, and began protesting against the settlements and home demolitions in the King’s Garden (Silwan), in the City of David. Throughout this resistance, I kept looking for the sane voice on the other side. I couldn’t understand why this voice was unheard. I knew there must be a partner for peace, somewhere. This  was when I found Combatants for Peace, at the time in its first year.

I attended a meeting to hear about the movement and to see its activities. I immediately felt a deep bond of connection to the other activists. Today we have shown that accomplishments can be made without violence, and more and more people have laid down their arms to join us.

Every nonviolent action, every small accomplishment, points us in the right direction: the way towards true peace and freedom. I have been active in Combatants for Peace for ten years now, and I firmly believe that our movement has the potential to make real change.

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