Khiam Center's trip to the South (15 - 18 August 2006): Scenes and impressions
The interview is by GHINA NAHFAWI (Media Unit coordinator of Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture-KRC)
Southern Beirut, Saturday 19 August 2006
Ghina: Tell me about your trip, what did you see, what did you feel you need to say?
Mohammed: We first went to the Southern Suburb of Beirut. How can I describe the area, as if the destruction was caused by an earthquake, a very furious one. I felt that this war was a monster that ate the babies, women, children, old men, families. I didn't encounter any single military base for Hezbollah. The destroyed areas were for civilians; Gas stations, offices, bakeries, libraries, etc. I can even say that if the warplanes were given the chance, they would have devoured even the rubbles and ruins of the buildings.
[I can even say that if the warplanes were given the chance, they would have devoured even the rubbles and ruins of the buildings]
One thing can cause all this brutality, an enormous feeling of hatred.
If anyone have forgotten how was it when Hiroshima was bombed, you can refresh your memory when you see the destruction in Beirut Southern Suburb. I swear i am not exaggerating. It is obvious that they wanted to exterminate any symbol for life!
And here I ask, is "their war of self-defense" like that?! How can a self-defense war kill babies!
Ghina: Tell me about the people you met?
Mohammed: In spite of all this, I found people everywhere checking their homes and offices. They had high morals and an enthusiasm to re-build.
A person whom i never met, approached me and told me that the price of releasing Samir Al Kantar was very expensive but we accept it. (Samir Al Kantar is the longest-held Lebanese detainee in the Israeli prisons, detained on 22 April 1979 during an operation against the occupied forces in Palestine and sentenced for 542 years imprisonment, one of the strangest sentences in history. Hezbollah demanded his release in exchange for the two Israeli soldiers detained inside S Lebanon - editor)
Ghina: Tell me about your scenes after leaving Beirut Southern Suburb?
Mohammed: The KRC team headed to the South and while we were driving to there, we met the "bridges" which the Israelis have bombed to prevent people from seeing each other.
Ghina: Is there any bridge that is still standing all the way from Beirut to the South?
Ghina: What about your village?
Mohammed: When I first arrived to my home in Borj Rahhal village, I only wanted to check my mother because she refused to leave her village and she insisted that she wants to stay or even to die there. In spite of all my requests for her to leave, she refused! When I arrived, I found my 70 year-old mother inside her "shelter". My mother invented her shelter and spent the 33-Israeli War days under a table where she slept and ate bread with water!
I smiled and said to myself, this is one episode of refusing the war and resisting.
Ghina: Tell me about nutrition in the villages, food, water...
Mohammed: of course all the villages at the south suffered from deficit in clean water and in food. So the KRC team consisting of doctors and social workers, took with them food, water, nutrition units..etc.
We were the first to arrive to Borj Rahhal where the residents declared through the village microphone that Khiam Center arrived. We made a station in the clinic of the village and people started flooding to the clinic where our doctors started working with them.
Having a medical team in the village was very positive and the people were happy specially that they had no visit from anyone specially from the government for 33 horrible days.
After we finished from Borj Rahhal, we went to Bedyas where our doctors examined around 60 patients of course for free and prescribed (and gave) the needed medications for free as well. The people were happy and surprised for this essential service which we offered for free.
As you can see in the photos that I took by my camera (see below), the Israelis bombed even the trees, small bridges, even the pipes needed for watering plants and trees.
In each village and along while moving from one to another, we distributed the 10 commandments that the psychological specialist doctor of KRC wrote to relief the daily life of the people who were subjected to wars or fleeing. along while walking
On the next day, we went to Der Kanoun Annahr village where there exists an area called the triangle, i swear that it was as if that thick concrete plates of stones were drilled by an extraordinary machine!
Unfortunately, the clinic of Dr. Hussein Safa (of the KRC Medical team) was bombed and badly damaged.
Der Kanoun Annahr lost 30 martyrs whom they were bombed while hiding. There was unbelievable destruction, and in a moment I was confused and I lost recognition: Is this Der Kanoun Annahr village?
On that same day, a citizen called Ali Izziddine was killed due to a smoke bomb that the Israelis left to add to their "glory" more blood! It blew while he was checking his home and left life leaving two small kids.
The Israelis are professional in leaving traces and planting mines to increase the hurt and pain.
At Der Kanoun Annahr village, the villagers opened for us the Cultural Center for our medical team to use it as a clinic and the team started examining the people and giving the medicines.
Ghina: What can you tell about the remarks of the medical team?
Mohammed: The medical team is preparing a full report but i can say that they realized the same diseases in the three villages.
Infections resulted from the weird dust which gives you the impression that you are in a desert. Infections in the throat, lungs, dermatologist disease, scabies, skin parasite, diarrhea, dizziness, over hypertension and stress. We met some whom if they hear the sound of car, they think it is a raid and they run to hide!
And of course, the psychological traces resulted from this war are more dangerous than anything else.
For a moment, i felt that it wasn't a funeral, i felt it a wedding where the people holding the photos of their beloved danced with them and waved to them saying that they will meet again some day. We all cried.
Ghina: Tell me about Sreefa village, the notorious village of the 40 martyrs?
Mohammed: Before we went to Sreefa, we headed to Maaroub village on the 3rd day of our trip. But it is not a village anymore, it is only a field of dust, sand and rubbles. A man waved to us, we do not know him, he was sitting on the roof of his home which is not anymore a roof since it was on ground, he was sitting eating.
We didn't see a single military base for Hezbollah, neither a destroyed one nor an existing one, all destruction was on citizens, all along the way.
Ghina: Can you tell me the villages that can brief the situation of the destroyed South of Lebanon?
Mohammed: I can start by Sreefa, Qana, Sedeekeen, BintJbeil, etc. All are examples to what happened in the South of Lebanon.
That night, We returned to Abbasiyyeh (Tyr). I wanted to spend the night in my village. It was very dark, we slept in darkness under the moon. It was a nice calm night, I felt that I am part of this society, these people, my family, I felt peace.
In the morning, we had Za'atar as breakfast, for that food is not available at all in the villages.
My nephews kept asking me all through the visit whether the MK (Israeli warplane type) will return or no!?
They are filled with horror and fear to the extent that my 5 year-old nephew, Zein Al Abedeen, was walking where he suddenly stops when he saw a Lebanese army soldier. He was shocked, frightened and burst into tears towards me telling me there are Israeli soldiers in the village! I hugged him tenderly and told him that this is here to protect you, he is Lebanese just as you are.
Ghina: Are the villagers happy from the services offered by KRC?
Mohammed: I do hope so because I really felt their appreciation and thankfulness from the way they smiled after each examination or after each reception when arriving and even when we had to hardly leave the village.
They were happy but I believe that anything we offer is very small and minor to what is really needed!
Ghina: When did you return to Beirut?
Mohammed: We returned Saturday but i started feeling dizzy upon leaving the South. The smell of the corpses under the rubbles in Sreefa haunted me.
Ghina: Do you think that the KRC did its duty fully?
Mohammed: I believe that whatever we do to these people, we are far beyond their needs. We need to do more and we will do more.
The feeling of the wedding, the man over his roof eating, I felt that these people are from the kind of human beings who can retrieve life from everything, even from death!
Ghina: What is the KRC future plan?
Mohammed: First and above all, to document the war crimes of Israel. We are preparing for a huge data info with voice (videos, recorded tapes, etc) and of course images and photos taken by the KRC camera to maintain true real proofs for all the Human Rights Violations of Israel in this war.
In addition to the professional photographers who started documentation, this war made me a good photographer for that I tried to take photos through our trip to the South. (N.B: The photos below are taken by Mohammed Safa).
We are heading on Sunday to Der Seryan, the village where there is our KRC Southern Center. We knew that our center was bombed there, we still do not know the full details but I will know Sunday.
Ghina: How did the KRC manage the crisis of the war?
Mohammed: Of course, the KRC would never have done it without the assistance and the great support in every aspect of the INTERNATIONAL REHABILITATION COUNCIL FOR TORTURE VICTIMS (IRCT) and the UNITED NATIONS VOLUNTARY FUND FOR VICTIMS OF TORTURE (UNVFVT).
I want to thank them in my name and in the name of the KRC staff and team on everything.
Ghina: Tell me in a sentence your impression about this war?
Mohammed: What I saw is beyond logic and thinking. This is the terrorism attacking people and civilians. Indeed, I can say that the scenes are from the World War I or II!
I can tell you that LIFE IS STRONGER THAN DEATH.
This interview was done in the afternoon of Saturday 19 August 2006.
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