She Held a Palestinian Passport… That Was Her Fault.
“I am sick, let me in” Said Layan to the Israeli soldier who was enjoying the view of the long queue of the Palestinians who were waiting for his permission to enter Al Quds (Jerusalem), after he went through all the prepared documents that they had been holding in their hands for hours while waiting for their turns, to go in, or to be asked to turn around and go back home, away from Al Quds.
Layan, a young girl who had cancer –attacked her when she was around 18- and had to go for a treatment in a hospital that could have been one hour away from where she lived, but with the occupation, the circumstances that she was brought to, and because of the fact she held a Palestinian passport, not an Israeli one, nor any other foreigners’ passport, the trip was much longer, hours longer.
I am not getting political here, I am getting personal. This is my worst “discrimination” experience I can ever share.
Palestine, her home country, yet Layan could not move easily between the cities, same as for all other Palestinians who need passports and special permissions to visit some of the cities which are occupied by the Israelis. Having a special medical condition may get you a permission to be able to visit the hospitals in Jerusalem or the nearby forbidden cities, but it does not get you the easy access, the simplest human right of being able to move at ease as a sick person to be able to reach the hospital with what’s left of your health. But no, human rights are not considered when talking about the case in Palestine.
Layan, with her pride, she fought barriers, she escaped some at a late night, and before the dawn she managed to pray in Jerusalem where she was not allowed to go to in the normal way; which was to just take a drive there. But that was the first and last time to break the rules of the occupiers, as her health started getting worse, escaping through fields, running and hiding in the mountains was no longer within her capability. She got the “special medical condition permission”, she was able to visit the hospital for her treatments (finally after many trials from before to be treated there), but by the time she reached the hospital, she would need double the treatment, as the wait itself under the sun for hours just to get approved to go in was in charge to let her reach the hospital out of breath.
Layan, went back and forth many times to get treatments in the hospital, but with a visit after visit and going again through barriers her life just got miserable all over again, instead of getting healed.
She never used her medical condition as an excuse to cut the line or to make an Israeli soldier let her pass in faster; her pride was bigger than begging for the mercy of an occupier. Until one day, life had no mercy, no pride was to be considered, and no waiting in line would have managed to give her time. Layan needed to visit the hospital, she did not know it would be her last, although she would always hope each visit would be the last, the final visit was indeed the last, but not the way anyone hoped for.
Layan, that day, you cut the line, you told the others who were waiting that you were sick, you couldn’t keep waiting under the sun, you reached the soldier who sarcastically asked “what’s wrong?” and you just said “nothing, just a bit tired” you hated the fact that he asked you.
You got in, with your sister, who accompanied you whenever she managed to get a permission to go to Jerusalem, using a different excuse every time. Unlike your parents, they had to take turns to visit you, no human rights granted you the visit of your family, and no other member was able to go see you. Your mom, with her heart filled in grief, sorrow and despair, she was able to manage a schedule with your father to take turns, as they were not allowed to both go visit you, even though your medical condition was clear that you needed support, but no, discrimination won.
Layan, went to the hospital, she was strong as ever, yet so weak and fragile. Her mother was not able to be with her in this last visit, as it was her father’s turn. Layan stayed in the hospital with her father and sister. She visited the hospital, for one last time, she was able to go in, without ever going out.
My words may seem to be all over the place while sharing the story, but this is Layan, I can’t be fine when I tell the story, and I can’t make sense because what happened to her at the age of only 22 doesn’t make sense, yet.
But this discrimination we face as Palestinians, this humiliation we go through to go to Jerusalem, whether to visit a hospital or the souq, and this long wait in line to see if we are lucky today to go in, this is not okay, this is not mentioned in any papers of human rights. This incident, the fact that you are not able to go for your treatment because of the passport you hold, to be forbidden from visiting your sick daughter, because of the passport you hold, and to have to go through a long process to be allowed in, this is a wound, a wound that cannot be easily healed, never I shall say.
Again, I am not being political here, but no matter what the situation is, no matter what country we are talking about, regardless of the conditions, may it be at peace or at war, human rights should not be ignored, they should be cherished.
This is the story of Layan, the amazing Palestinian artist who passed away at the age of 22, because of cancer. This is the story of the artist who had to go through checkpoints to be treated in the hospital, and who was deprived of her simple human rights; to move freely in her own home country, and to have her family see her before she left, for good.
Photo Credit: “Ladies of Gaze” – By Layan Shawabkeh
Published in BROAD Feminist and Social Justice Magazine / Chicago – Feb 2014, Pages 25-26
By ABEER ALLAN