Asmaa’s Mecca Visit: Who Will Make It Happen?

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Palestinian children in Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip

Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 1386 (XIV) of 10 December 1959 states:

“The child shall enjoy all the rights set forth in this Declaration. Every child, without any exception whatsoever, shall be entitled to these rights, without distinction or discrimination on account of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, whether of himself or of his family.”

This includes Palestinian children, I suppose? The story of little Asmaa, who lives in Jabalyia refugee camp, founded in 1948 after the massive ethnic cleansing carried out by Zionist gangs against the indigenous people of Palestine, tells otherwise. The Jabalyia refugee camp is considered the most crowded Palestinian refugee camp ever. The camp had a registered population of 103,646 inhabitants on June 30, 2002. It only covers an area of 1.4 km² making it one of the most densely populated places on earth.

The 11-year old Palestinian girl is fighting several diseases including kidney and spleen problems and bleeding. This, her father explains, caused teeth problem to her. “She might suffer bleeding at anytime. She might be taken to the ICU at anytime,” her father clarifies. “Her teeth medication costs me 36,000 NIS,” her father complains.

In the big world, kids her age dream of a green playground full of toys and cupcakes. But Asmaa’s dream is different. The idea of death, despite her young age, haunts her. After all, there is no guaranteed dream under the occupation, even if it’s doing one last thing before death.

Her dad, feeling the pain of his little daughter in this unjust world, does his best to meet her demands. Making Asmaa’s dream true is all he is thinking about, day and night.

Despite the ordeal her daughter is going through, despite the many diseases she is fighting shoulder by shoulder with her family, Asmaa has a dream. “I want to visit the Holy Land of Mecca to pray for God and ask Him for His mercy,” she aspires. One last prayer before a looming death is what she dreams of, dear world.

What can child rights organizations tell Asmaa? Can they push death away from her family’s door? Can they include her in the well-worded Declaration of the Rights of the Child? Can these organizations give her family an answer?

Sometimes, being sick gives you “privilege” in Palestine over the-same-as-you displaced refugees.

Asma, unlike most of the residents of the besieged costal enclave called the Gaza Strip, can go and visit what is the horizon to most of her neighbors: 1948 Palestine. That’s what most of people in the world call today “Israel” but not all Palestinians. She does not go there to “enjoy” that beautiful landscape. The sick-to-death Asmaa goes there twice a month for medical purposes, of course after obtaining a permit from the occupation authorities.

The Ministry of Health covers some expenses, but this does not include all medications she is in desperate need of and her poor family can’t afford.

In his recent trip to the Middle East, the president of the U.S expressed solidarity with the kids of Sederot, a town that is regularly targeted by Palestinian resistance fighters. Can the president also empathize with Asmaa’s dream?

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