Muhammad of Donostia

He wept the first night when we saw the Chinese film, 'Blind Mountain' which is about a woman sold into marriage in Northern China.
He sobbed when he saw 'Jihad', looking deep into my eyes and saying it was about his life.
Muhammad has just arrived in the little paradise of San Sebastian-for six months he has walked the streets of Spanish cities, a refugee and penniless. He fled Mauritania, one of six countries with Sharia in a shipping container and lost more than half of his body weight. When his family in Mauritania found out he was gay, his father beat him with iron rods-he showed me the marks. They would not let him eat at the family table and he would sit by the door, like a 'dog', he says.
In Spain, he hopes to find home.
I hope he will.
He said to me, 'Parvez, 'rich' people like you never talk to us, in Spain'.
I carry Muhammad in my heart as I arrive in Torino, on the last leg of this journey of Jihad, in Europe (a journey that is just beginning).

My friend, Asif has just arrived in Palestine. He is sending remarkable posts from the frontlines of an apartheid policy and a nation I have clearly decided not to show the film in, till the occupation continues. I will be reproducing them here and I do wish him luck.

Ahlan wa sahlan to Settler Saturday...

Ahlan wa sahlan (welcome) is a phrase every person uses around here, especially if you speak little Arabic an they speak little English. It's a good thing to say whenever there is a lull in the conversation and you are at someone's home and having the obligatory tea/coffee (you can't say no around here).

So I say it many times between sips of very hot and very sweet brew. People are always amazed here that I don't speak Arabic. Also, Asif means "im sorry" around here, so when I say my name, I always get a puzzled look and then usually some sort of laughter. I remember this in Toronto at Uni, but every single person I meet here says the same thing when I introduce myself.

Of course nobody really believes me that I'm from Canada, so when I say "hindi", there is usually excited look on their faces cuz now they can practice all of the "bollywood" phrases on me and talk about Amitabh Bachhan, and Shah Ruhk Khan etc.

That being said…Good morning from Nablus. Hope you are all well and enjoying the wonderful spring weather back at home or wherever you are.

So far it has been wonderful here, the people at the Project and local volunteers are really amazing. I have an hour before my Arabic lesson (part of the service Project hope provides) so I had a few minutes to write to you all.

I went to Yanoun this weekend on a short trip. Yanoun is a small village of about 100 farmers in the Northern West bank that is surrounded by illegal settlements and outposts. A few years ago, setters started to come into the village to harass the local residents into leaving the land they had worked on for generations. Now when I mean harass, I mean walking around with machine guns, beating up men in front of their children, killing their sheep, swimming in their well with their dogs, destroying their electricity generator. The setters usually come on Saturdays, during the Shabat.

"Nearly all residents in the upper Yanoun evacuated the village in October 2002. They soon began to return accompanied by Israeli and international activists of all faiths, outraged at the situation. Since then, a house in the village has been home to a permanent, voluntary international presence. Since 2003, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestne and Israel has provided the presence. (EAPPI)".

Yanoun is considered part of Area "C" which means it is "under the full security and administrative responsibility of Israel. The villagers feel they have never been offered any protection by anyone." The Palestinian Authority is not allowed to have any forces in this area.

The EAPPI works in teams of 4 and stays in Yanoun for 3 months. On weekends other internationals go to relieve them for a few hours or a day or two so they can go to Nablus or other areas of the region for meetings etc. This time they were headed to Nablus for the Samartin Passover ritual at Mt. Gerazim. For more on the Samaritin community (the only place one can get liquor in Nablus) please see the following link:


Yanoun is a very pretty village, and the people are very hospitable although unsure when you first arrive if you are a settler or not. Jacob from the EAPPI started to show us around and introduce us to some of the villagers and then had to leave for Nablus. As we were drinking tea at Kemal's house, he got a phone call. His wife (whom we had assumed spoke no English) turned to us and said: "Settler's are coming". It had not been more then 15 minutes since the EAPPI had left! We quickly said our goodbyes and went outside to see what our visitors were up to. We, turned a corner and low and behold saw 3 settlers dressed in white turning the corner. Behind them was the EAPPI who had just left, but decided to accompany the "visitors" back. They looked pretty harmless, except they had machine guns around them and looked pretty annoyed to see us. I went to watch the well (where they had tried to swim the week before but could nott fit so they decided to strip down to their underwear and shower in plain sight of a traditional Muslim village.)

The settlers walked through the olive grove and up towards their outpost at the top of the hill (outposts are usually at the top of the hills so they can monitor the land they are occupying). They asked that their picture not be taken and then gestured something that looked like a finger towards us…and off they went. So they were not really violent (perhaps because we were there) but they did achieve their goal to prove to the sheepherders that they could walk through their land without any repercussions. Note: if any one of the village folk steps onto the settler's "land" to run after a stray sheep, they can be shot or arrested for trespassing.

As the sun goes down, a quiet night approaches the village. It is almost perfect, except the huge spotlights which shine down on Yanoun from the settler outposts, so even while the villagers sleep, their every move is monitored from the hills.

So far, the international presence has deterred any major attacks by the settlers but they cannot be there forever, so it is a sad reality that Yanoun will face the same fate as so many defenseless places in Palestine.

It's important to note that not one setter has been harmed my resident of Yanoun. In fact there is a story of when the settlers first started coming to Yanoun, a local offered them tea and said : "ahlan wa sahlan "

It didn't go over so well, but I think you already knew that.

Ma' salaama



Isa said...

my stay in palestine is one of the most painful I have ever experienced anywhere. Two young men about 16 years old, twins: one of the them partially paralyzed in his right arm, and one day his brother helped him take off his shirt and showed me the bullet holes in his chest and the huge holes in his back where they came out. It is inconceivable that these machine gun rounds did not hit and tear out any vital organs. His liver and his lungs were pelleted but the sugeons in Palestinian and Jordanian hospitals literally perform miracles. Hospitals operate with nothing or less.

My own physical disabilities while I was there were treated and I was treated with such incredible goodness.

By the same token, there was some painful political scenes. Routinely certain people would talk to me from behind my back in Hebrew, convinced i was teaching there as a n Israeli agent.

No one anywhere with any degree of humanity could rest in peace when Palestinians live under these conditions. Among the people acting as International observers are US American Mennonites and Quakers and others who reject the ideology of violence and hate.

I met good people on both sides of the wall, in Nablus and in Jenin. Unfortunately I never realized my dream of visting Kudus but Palestine whatever side you are on is the Holy Land. Every grain of its dust is special.

Isa said...

Muhammed wherever you are: prayers for peace. I wish I had any words at all.

Small Blue Thing said...

Salaam Hermano! :)

We have quoted your presentation at spanish site webislam.com. I hope to watch soon your film, and Inshallah hug Muhammad if I go by San Sebastian.


Anonymous said...

I lived in Teheran in 1974. I was tall blonde and apparently like nothing anyone there had ever seen. I constantly had to change he side of the street I was walking on. Every man wanted to have sex with me. Finally some English teachers introduced me to a man who really liked me and I like him - at first sight. I had never experienced real love before.
From what I understood, boys were encouraged to have "special friends" growing up with which they had sex - this was socially acceptable as women were completely off limits and had to remain chaste until marriage. "Gay" was non-existent in the language and behavior of the Middle East.
The story goes on but you'll have to wait for the film - the ending was tragic.

Breaking News from Mohandessin in Cairo

I have another friend Yousry. (Different from the other amazing Yousry I just interviewed for a Mondoweiss exclusive) I have blogged about h...