Samer Issawi: the stolen youth

febbraio 7, 2014 in Palestina, Traduzioni da Anna Zorzi

Written by Sonia Trovato, translated by Anna Zorzi Bandierina-Italiana

IMG_0250The Issawi family live in Issawiya, a suburb on the outskirts of Jerusalem. You don’t know if the place was named after the Issawis or vice versa, but it doesn’t matter. The coach is reaching its destination through narrow alleys crowded with kids hanging about, when all of a sudden two of them start throwing stones at your bus. One of the stones hits the side window you have just stuck your nose against to spot some blurred details  of what is outside in a pouring rain. ‘I hope  the third Intifada isn’t breaking out against us right now’ you think but immediately you wonder if it is the yellow car plate to provoke them (everything in Palestine reminds you of Apartheid) or the disappointment they feel for a sort of humanitarian tourists  who, once back home, leave them behind  with their broken dreams of a denied childhood in an occupied country.

Nevertheless, the driver, perhaps unaware of the accident, drives on to the  next stop:  Samer’s house. While hardly forgetting the angry, disillusioned faces of the previously mentioned  stone- throwers ,  you  look forward  to meeting the man who has been to you a name and an icon  so far. You remember writing “free Samer Issawi”  on a banknote once when you took part to the campaign in support of that young who had been on a 200-hundred day strike to expose to the whole world  the existence of  Palestinian political prisoners and the atrocities of the administrative detention ( i.e. the possibility for Israel to arrest a person without a regular process and proper accusations).

Samer is there, flesh and blood,  and waits  for you at the entrance of the tent which has been put up on the terrace just to host all the friends, acquaintances and supporters who have been visiting him since Israel  set him free, after  the heavy pressure made by the international community. Both the translations (Arabic- English- Italian) which overlap one another, and the voices of gay kids around (his nephews or neighbours: who knows?) let you understand very little of what he is saying. Everybody takes pictures of him, and you too.  And once back home you realize you took a lot of photos of him, probably because you wanted to capture his sad, dull eyes, which are in contrast with the optimistic, albeit a bit rhetorical, message he’s delivering to you. How could it be otherwise? You think. How can you  be expected to spend 12 years in prison and not to carry the burden of a stolen youth, while  throughout the world  young people in their twenties and thirties  can study, fall in love, travel around and make projects for their future? No, a picture cannot reveal this suffering.

Samer claims that the Italian Resistance has always been an example for the Palestinians. a matter of fact , Samer  could look like Johnny, the protagonist of Beppe Fenoglio’s novel, with his proud, melancholic  and intrepid face.  But unlike Milton in Una questione privata, who the author described as ugly, Samer is gorgeous, very different from the usual stereotyped Arab guerrilla, with a headscarf around his head and a rifle in his hands. You look at him and you think that you could take him for any Italian young man in his jeans and leather jacket, but his sad eyes give him away and make him look 100 years older.  Around him are standing his parents, silent figures and a bit suspicious of all those flashes and  crowd of people,  they look like  worn-out survivors of the unlucky destiny of their family (Samer’s other brothers were killed), which is the same destiny shared by most Palestinian families.

After Samer ‘s speech, the kids invite you for “another picture”, and then one more and one more; it sounds like a chant these children sing as if they want to tell themselves and others that you have called in on them, despite the wall of indifference and the fact you are to go back home to your country very soon. A country which, all in all, is a normal one, where there are no yellow car plates or green car plates and where the passage from childhood to adulthood is not sanctioned by the trauma of jail.

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