Rangineh Azimzadeh

Rangineh Azimzadeh (Democracy Workers Rights Center - DWRC): Rangineh graduated cum laude from Portland State University with an undergraduate degree in Communications Studies. She then went abroad to Nicosia, Cyprus where she studied International Mediation and Conflict Resolution. Rangineh also lived and studied abroad in Iran and Italy, and served as a fellow for the Institute for International Public Policy from 2003-2007. She undertook intensive Arab language training at Middlebury College before entering the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) as a graduate student. While at MIIS Rangineh participated in a 3-week intensive winter practicum in Cambodia on peace building in a post-conflict society. After her fellowship, Rangineh wrote: “The field experience helped to recommit me to working in the region and on this conflict specifically. It increased my global awareness immensely and provided a critical opportunity for introspection.”



The Haunting Reality of Hebron

21 Jul

I thought it had to be a dream, but really, it was more like a nightmare. It was only a few weeks ago that I visited the small villages residing in the hills of southern Hebron when I thought I had really “seen” the occupation – but it wasn’t until my more recent trip to the city of Hebron that the term ‘occupation’ suddenly gained a whole new meaning. The most startling aspect of Hebron is that the occupation is in absolutely clear view, there is no denying it and no attempt to even hide it. I could try to describe the situation to you but really, in this case, the facts speak for themselves: In the heart of downtown Hebron lies an illegal Israeli settlement where about 500 settlers reside. Over 1,000 Palestinian shops have been closed due to “security” reasons and have since not been allowed to re-open.

The city has been divided into 2 sections: H1 and H2 with Israel controlling one side and the Palestinian Authority controlling the other. Adjacent to the street that divides the city is another street that, although it falls within Palestinian jurisdiction, was shut down by the Israeli army trapping 40 Palestinian families inside of a man-made barricade. The families must pass through a check-point like crossing in order to leave their street, and when the crossing is closed due to “security” reasons, the families are unable to leave – even to get food. Our tour guide, a local Palestinian, Ahmad, told us of times when friends would literally carry food to the families and hand it to them because the crossing would be closed sometimes for weeks at a time.

Against the backdrop of the two boys is the checkpoint families must pass through to get to their homes

Against the backdrop of the two boys is the checkpoint families must pass through to get to their homes

The Ibrahimi mosque, one of the holiest mosques in the region, was more or less confiscated by the Israeli army in the mid 90’s after an Israeli settler opened fire on a group of Muslims praying inside killing close to 30 people. After that incident, Israeli security cameras were installed inside and now there are checkpoints for all Muslims to pass in order to get into the mosque. Close to 65% of the mosque has been turned into a synagogue and in the very room where Ibrahim’s tomb lies, you can actually see through iron bars into the synagogue. There are two entrances into the divided building: one to enter the mosque and one to enter the synagogue; the synagogue entrance has no checkpoints.

The juxtaposition of an occupation against an otherwise vibrant city leaves me struggling to find words to describe it. The trip to Hebron has by far been the most eye opening, heartbreaking and saddening experience I have had yet here in the West Bank. Perhaps one of the most horrendous sites we witnessed was walking down the streets where settlers live above Palestinian markets….the Israeli army eventually was forced to place a wire fence above the market to catch the bricks, bottles and garbage that the settlers were (and continue) to throw down on the Palestinians walking by.

Three days after the trip I am still haunted by images of the Palestinian home that settlers attempted to burn down only two months ago….the Muslim graveyard that has been closed to cars forcing Palestinians to carry in their dead in order to bury them…..and the countless homes that have been abandoned after Palestinians were forced to leave so that the space could be used for military purposes by the Israeli army.

The only room that was burned after settlers attempted to light the entire house on fire

The only room that was burned after settlers attempted to light the entire house on fire

One of the many Palestinian homes that has been taken over by the army

One of the many Palestinian homes that has been taken over by the army

 As human beings we are all entitled to basic rights…. but in Hebron, even the most basic rights do not appear to exist for the Palestinians.

Powerful image of the blockades used by the Israeli army to shut down streets and further restrict freedom of movement

Powerful image of the blockades used by the Israeli army to shut down streets and further restrict freedom of movement

Posted By Rangineh Azimzadeh

Posted Jul 21st, 2009

112 Comments

  • Lynda Bell

    July 21, 2009

     

    Dear Rangineh,

    I have just read your post on Hebron and must admit I had no idea what “settlers” were, until now. You are serving a great purpose by describing these situations in such straight forward and detailed language. What we read in the newspapers, assumes we know certain things – which most of us don’t really know. You give us the basics, and then more!
    Thanks for what you are doing. All the best to you and hang in there.

    Lynda

  • Mary Ellen

    July 22, 2009

     

    Dear Rangineh,

    I’ve just been catching up on your blogs. The Hebron story really is haunting, and you tell it beautifully.
    I do have a question: when you refer to a settlement as “illegal,” what do you mean? Under international law? Israeli law? Palestinian law? Something else? I think a description of the rules for settlements and their genesis would be really helpful.

    Keep writing!
    Mary Ellen

    • Rangineh Azimzadeh

      July 23, 2009

       

      Thank you so much for your comment and yes, the law to which I am referring is international law. Israeli laws are actually quite permissive of the occupation allowing settlements to be built and expanded upon, “legally” directing water to select areas (i.e. such as settlements) so on and so forth. I will do my best to address the benefits and limitations of international law, especially when applied to Israeli settlements, in an upcoming blog soon!

  • Melissa

    July 22, 2009

     

    My Dearest Cousin,

    It is hard to experience, watch and yet stay focused on your purpose. We would not be human if our hearts did not yearn to help people in need who are oppressed by the hand of others. You can make a difference and YOU ARE. Stay strong, remember your goals, be objective. Just having you there is bringing hope and optimism to a place that has had little for so long. Knowing that people care and understand their plight is half the battle. I love you. I keep you in my thoughts always.

    Love,
    Misser

    • Rangineh Azimzadeh

      July 23, 2009

       

      Thank you so much for saying what you said….I will keep your words of wisdom close and try to keep what you said about understanding the plight being half the battle at the forefront of my mind, this couldn’t be more true.

  • Aunt LaDonna

    July 23, 2009

     

    Niece,
    Keep writing, and writing, and writing. Document all that you see, hear, taste and smell.
    Describe what you can and hold your experience etched in your memory. We all need to know. My constant prayers and positive thoughts are with you. Stay in the curious…

    Lots of love,
    Aunt LaDonna

  • Stephanie Somanchi

    July 27, 2009

     

    Rangineh,

    What a precious act is kindness. Thank you for sharing this story. It forces me to look in my own heart and find kindness in my own “safe” neighborhood. If I cannot create it here, how can it be found in Hebron?

    Thinking of you. Be safe.

    – Stephanie

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