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Wednesday, 26 August, 2009

Eighteen-year-old student Zaina Abu Hamda blogs about the humiliation and helplessness she endures at the Qalandia checkpoint on her way to school.

I always heard others say that whenever we as Palestinians learn and get educated, we serve our country. When I was young I didn’t understand how but I really wanted to do something for my country. I was very much influenced by the events going on and felt that Palestine needed me. This started to be my goal, but I had to face my own challenges - which in my case came in the form of Qalandia checkpoint.

I live in Qufor Akab (near the city of Ramallah) and my school is located in Beit Hanina, and the Qalandia checkpointis between the two. I witnessed its birth and as I grew up, it was growing with me: it turned from just a few blocks and soldiers into a fully organised terminal with an endless number of soldiers.

The troubles I faced changed and got more complicated as the checkpoint advanced from one stage to the next. At the beginning, waking up early was the major problem, but then humiliation became the problem I worried about most. Not only did I have to wake up early to reach school on time - that is if I made it at all - but I had to face all kinds of humiliation such as being screamed at, bothered and being made fun of by the soldiers. It seemed like I lived a whole other day even before reaching school - again that is if I reached it at all.

Add to all this, the lack of order, respect and helplessness as no one can defend themselves there. To actually think that you will be treated kindly just because you’re a student or an old man is just one of those dreamy thoughts.

I would wake up every day thinking of what they might have prepared for us this day, and if it would end peacefully. How much of my dignity will be wasted just by being at that terminal? And I thought to myself, if I was denied my most basic rights and was treated with no respect as a little girl, then how will it be when I grow up?

Zaina Abu Hamda is an 18-year-old Palestinian student who recently graduated from the Rosary School in Beit Hanini, Jerusalem. She will start her first year at Birzeit University where she will study business administration and marketing. She also loves to write and is a reporter for PAYALARA, a Palestinian youth organisation which she has been involved with since she was 13. She has also volunteered in the Helen Keller Centre Camp for the visually impaired for two summers. Email: justme_withu[at]hotmail.com

Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation.

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