Photo: Mia Bulnes

On Oct. 17, my family and I attended a protest in support of Palestine.

Walking up to the protest, I saw people waving their Palestinian flags and wearing their traditional Keffiyeh, showing the strength of their people. I saw signs that said: “End the Occupation”, “Bombing Hospitals is Not Self-Defense!”, “Justice for Palestine”, “End Israeli Occupation”, and so many other calls to action.

I created signs too showing what I was there for. They said: “Free Palestine”, “Save Palestine”,  and “We Love Our Family”.

There were many people from our community who came out to support and be part of the voice for those suffering in Palestine, but for many families, including mine, we were being the voice for many of our family members physically living through this horrific reality. 

Aliah Shaath stands in solidarity with her poster. Photo: Mia Bulnes

My name is Aliah Shaath and I am Palestinian-Mexican with family in Gaza. In the last few weeks, it has been difficult being so far from my family, but it has been horrendous, unjust, and inhumane for my family as well as over 2 million other Palestinians in Gaza.

Every morning I wake up and I text or call my family, praying that they are alive and okay, that I would get a response. I say I love you to my family and my cousins, worrying, in case it is the last time I would hear from them or talk to them. I say I love you because I want them to remember that, especially when they’re scared.

Sometimes, they will have no electricity so the WiFi will be down and we won’t be able to talk, but even a message is something we are grateful for everyday. On the occasions that we can call or text for longer, I have heard what my family is living through: what they have seen, heard, smelled, and experienced. I have even called and heard bombs going off in the background on several occasions.

The people in Gaza, including my family, have seen people dying on their streets, heard and felt every bomb in the city, received the “unknown” call to leave because their neighborhood was the next to be bombed, and received the devastating call or text that another person was killed.

My family is one of the lucky ones, as of now. They were able to get out of their house in time, but more than 7,000 people in Gaza alone in less than two weeks were not lucky and were taken by the airstrikes sent by Israel. That number only continues to grow.

But just because a family found refuge, does not mean they are safe.

On Oct. 13, families in the center of Gaza were told to move south of the strip because there would be heavy bombing in the center and a possible invasion by foot. Many families did not have cars to travel there, a place to stay once they got there, or even a plan. Israel had promised the citizens they would be safe if they left, but again broke their agreement and bombed trucks and cars full of people trying to make it to safety.

Those who made it are staying on the streets, in tents, or families are all gathered in one room. They struggle with the fear every day, every second, of being killed or someone they love being murdered as well as the circumstances of an open air prison with no food, water, or electricity.

People began drinking unfiltered and sometimes even untreated water causing diseases, and kids are arriving at the hospital just begging for a drink of water. Many have not eaten a meal in weeks and many have rationed their food.

I follow a journalist who is on the ground in Gaza and has shown that after long days of being out covering what is going on, he comes back home to one date to eat for a meal. 

Women in Gaza do not have the supplies needed for their menstrual cycle or no water to stay clean during that time, so they have had to resort to taking pills to prevent the start of their cycle, something no woman should have to do.

Everything they need to live is taken away from them, and those dying do not have the medical resources to help keep them alive.

Photo: Mia Bulnes

I have seen doctors begging for help, having to use vinegar to treat bacterial wounds of their patients. They have had to use shirts and other cloth materials to stop their bleeding and have no anesthesia as they try to save their people.  

I continued to think that I couldn’t do much except having faith and being there for my family emotionally and constantly communicating with them. I asked one of my cousins what I could do to help her and she said, “Please talk to the world about it, tell them what is happening to us.”

She wanted me to share with everyone I could what was happening, to use my voice, to educate people, and to show the world what the news was not. One form of using my voice I found is coming together with other people in the community and advocating and demanding change. This is what pushed me to attend the protest we had in Fresno. I needed to be part of the voice that my family and millions of Palestinians had taken away from them when Israel took away their electricity and internet connection.

Being at the protest, I felt and saw people’s anger, frustration, sadness, and hundreds of emotions that many including myself are feeling. The protest was on the day that over 500 people were killed in a hospital bombing. Everyone was furious, not understanding how this is what they call “self-defense” and how the world is sitting and watching without doing a thing.

Over 100 people attended this protest. Our community came together and we created a bigger voice for our people. We shouted “Free Palestine” and “Save Our People”, all wanting an end to the killings, the deaths, the occupation, and the inhumanity.

Aliah Shaath (she/her/hers)

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