Gaza writer Tarneem Hammad receives award at the Gaza AFSC office.
Tarneem Hammad, 24, was born in Saudi Arabia, but now lives in Gaza and is an English literature graduate from Al-Azhar University. For part-time work, she is an English language trainer. Tarneem loves languages and in addition to English and Arabic, knows a little French. Writing and reading are both hobbies. Tarneem wishes to help develop a public library in Gaza that looks like it came from Harry Potter stories. She also wishes to deliver the voice of voiceless people through her writing. She says, “I write because I can.”
I was 14 when I first met you. You never asked me to be friends, you just took over my life. You grew as I grew. I’m writing to you because you’re a part of my life. Blockade, you’re wrong and I want you to know that you’re wrong. You make things difficult, more difficult than I can imagine. Some days I can’t get out of bed; other days I can’t stop crying.
You’re wrong because you forced me to adapt my life to the humiliating shrinking electricity schedule that could be cut for three days in a row. You’re wrong because when I made it to high school, I had to study using candlelight while mum was awake, worried at some point this candle would fall down and burn us sleeping.
My brother Ali walks around wearing a half-ironed T-shirt, knowing that people will excuse him because they know the power went off in the middle. I know that some people can afford the cost of a back-up power generator but not all.
You’re wrong because water is an essential right for all living beings, including animals and plants, but you made it polluted for us or even cut off our supply completely. You’re wrong because for some families, running water is just a far off dream.
You’re wrong because when I made it to university, I had to work 10 times harder than students all over the world using charged lanterns. I graduated thinking my hard work will pay off and I’m special enough to get a decent job. This time I was wrong, I turned out to be special just like everyone else, a graduate and jobless. I had to volunteer for two years and be exploited by managers. Then, you rewarded me with a job that wasn’t enough to cover expenses for a week. When I thought that I got a decent job, I shared my happiness with my foreigner friend to find out that she gets paid three times more salary than I, doing the same work just because she’s not living under blockade.
You’re wrong because you taught me it always hurts to be the one who survives. I survived three wars, expecting death every second and hearing familiar names dead on the news.
You caused me nightmares, you made me so removed from my feelings and so cut off from the world. I became so careless and depressed at the same time. I’d like you to apologize for ruining me psychologically.
You’re wrong because you turned seeing disabled youth in the street into a norm. You’re wrong because you made stories of death, injuries, loss and suffering a daily basis in my life.
You’re wrong because you made my passport questionable to every security crossing guard in the world. Oh, sorry, you’re wrong because you don’t allow me to travel. You’re wrong because you deprived thousands of hard-working students from their scholarships. You’re wrong because at some point we, Gazans, have to change our dreams because a very old blockade would crush our dreams as it crushed our people.