Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Family of young Palestinian artist killed at checkpoint last week reveals shock and anger

By Samuela Galea - November 17, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [Features]
Tags: [Nablus] [Zaatara Checkpoint]

(archive photo)


“We had a football match together with our friends, just two days before he was killed...he was such a peaceful and talented man...and then, in one moment, done - no more Bashir...'' related Wael Samir, cousin of Bashir Sami Hananin who was shot and killed last week by Israeli soldiers. ''I was with him the day before he was shot,'' remembers Salim Sameh another cousin, ''he was laughing, living a normal life...''

According to Ma'an News Agency, Israeli soldiers claim Bashir started shooting fireworks towards a bus station at the Zaatara checkpoint outside of Nablus late Thursday evening, 7 November. Soldiers at the checkpoint returned fire, killing Hananin instantly. 

Yet when talking with his family on Wednesday 13 November, they repeatedly claimed that everything is confused and the whole truth of what happened is not known. They say the video from the surveillance camera streamed online and on Israeli news is undated, unclear and due to its bad quality, one cannot make out whether the man lighting up fireworks is actually Bashir himself. 

''The video is not clear...we do not know what really happened. What did he do against Israel...nothing. We keep asking ourselves - why did this happen?'' explained Salim. ''There are so many questions...we want the truth,'' he said.

''That same day we saw the video on online news and said to each other, 'whoever he is... may God give him peace now' - we had no idea yet that it was our cousin...'' said Wael, explaining that he was shocked when he found out, and still is. 

The family explained how they received a phone call around 3am last Friday morning from a friend working with the Palestinian police. He recognized the dead man's family name from his identification and immediately contacted them. ''We could not believe it. We could not believe that he had been killed. We went to see the body at the hospital in Jenin... then we knew for sure that it was him.''

“Israeli soldiers came to our house and searched his room... they searched through all his papers and books, looking for something to accuse him of... but they found nothing. Even them, they said 'It seems he was an intelligent man,’” said Bashir's brother, Mohammad Sami as he shook his head in disbelief. He brought out his brother's University certificates and art design portfolio, showing humbly and lovingly his brother's achievements and capabilities. After studying art in Egypt Bashir had returned to teach in Tulkarem and was also planning to further his studies in Germany. “Look at all his work, he was an artist... He was greatly loved by his students, his colleagues - ask any one of them, they will tell you what a good and harmless man he was. He loved life,” said Mohammad. 

Friends, family, students, colleagues and neighbors are all visiting Bashir Sami's family to mourn with them all, especially Bashir's mother and father who are barely able to talk, a vacant look of sorrow in their eyes. They hold on to their subha beads and pray. ''He never caused any trouble. I saw him leaving for work in the morning, I know nothing else. The next time I saw him he was dead...and now I still imagine him walking in the house...my son,'' she starts to recount but tears stop her. ''What can I do, what can I feel, my heart is burnt...'' she said. 

Just within 12 hours of Bashir's death, another young Palestinian from Hebron had been shot, this time at a checkpoint near Bethlehem, after he allegedly threatened Israeli police with a knife, Ma’an News Agency reported. 23-year-old Anas Fouad al-Atrash’s family refuses to meet or talk with anyone and, just like Bashir’s family, believes him to be completely innocent and want to investigate the case properly.

Hundreds of Palestinians have attended the funerals of both young men, putting up banners, photographs, flowers and words of hope all over the village and upon their respective graves. Three similar deaths occurred last month, adding up to a total of nine killings by Israeli armed forces of Palestinians since the renewal of peace talks earlier this year. 

During last week’s killings, US Secretary of State John Kerry was in the region to encourage and push forward the negotiations; however, such incidents of violence will clearly hinder them.

''At this point we are all going to work not knowing whether we will come back home...this has become our life,'' said another member of Bashir’s family.

As they walked to the grave and prayed there, cousin Wael gently poured water over the flowers planted over his grave. Life keeps on amidst death. "I will keep alive each moment I had with him, each moment he lived,'' said his brother, with a mix of anger, remorse and love in his voice and expression. Bashir's memory and energy will definitely live on through his vibrant, inspiring works of art, now spread all over the house, and most of all through his family. 

With the reality still fresh and too shocking to digest, the atmosphere in their house is silent, sorrowful, and yet full of color and love. "We hope he is in peace now,'' they said, "we have to support each other in moments like this, that is the only thing we can do."

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