“A Letter from Gaza, June 2018” by Hanan Bashir

Hanan Bashir is a 21 year old student living and studying psychology in Gaza who has asked for assistance publicizing the following statement. Please share it widely:

I have always hated crying for help.

You may have read about Gaza’s plight in newspapers or academic articles and you may have heard about the many deprivations we the Palestinians face, like having just four hours of electricity each day, three extraordinarily brutal wars, the almost always closed border crossings and so on and so forth.

We, as humans with the human bodies and feelings, before any kind of divisions human beings may create, are all trying to send a message from inside the box (Gaza) to the humans outside the box. Our signal is intended to be sent everywhere that humans live, it is meant for all who want to listen. I am not worried about whether or not you are receiving accurate information. But what I do truly worry about is whether you people are able to reach the feelings zone, to feel the emotion in our words and be touched emotionally by our incessantly flowing blood. Our actions and responses, personality and memories, anger and impotence are what we are, the conditions of our lives don’t just affect but also build us. How we deal with every single day in our daily life when there’s no war, emergency or crisis (the ordinary days!), like how we move on and rebuild ourselves after crises. I know I am not explaining it well but what is normal for me is what you fear could happen to you in the worst-case scenario, the worst nightmare you can imagine.

Let me see if I can give you a little example. For instance, you are returning happily from a close friend’s wedding and you suddenly hear loud noise. If you are Gazan, you don’t think of the possibility that there may be children playing or fireworks going off somewhere; you think, oh—the war is back.

Another thing I wonder about is our memory: how bad or good is it to be a person holding memories of war? What might it feel like to not have such memories? Can one know anything about war not having experienced one personally? For a good, kind person, is there a connection between war memories and aggressive urges (like the ones Freud wrote about)? Who has stronger desires to hurt others—we who experience war first-hand, or you who watch it on television?

When I am not consumed with these psychological questions, I like to travel in my imagination. I do this every day. I don’t need travel documents in order to be able to do this, nor do I need anyone to open the crossing for me. In my imagination, I can try to live like a normal person—one with dreams and hopes—unaffected by all the mess that has been forced upon me. I escape from dirty roads, tragic events, terrible history and a grim future by hanging out in empty places or by watching movies telling me what young people my age are doing in their lives. Movies show me what it looks like to be a normal person living a normal life and how I could possibly become one.

If I didn’t have my imagination and could not fantasize about my personal future—like the academic courses I am going to take, my career path etc.—I would probably head for the fence, as many have already done.

I just want to take you as a reader to new places hidden away from the reporters’ cameras. I may not be able to explain much but I hope that I managed to drop a few hints that can help open some ears and doors.

Hanan Bashir would welcome emails from friends and colleagues around the world. Her email address is pal.hanan@hotmail.com