I was in Palestine.
One of them showed me their bag, it's empty except for a tattered book and short blunt pencil. His friend showed me his, and I saw the same tattered book and another short blunt pencil. Did all of them bought the books and pencils at the same shop, I wondered. They looked at me and I was mesmerized. Those grubby faces were smiling. Those aging eyes were looking at me innocently.
I heard a screeching sound. I turned. It was a tanker. Its rolling wheels were slowly gaining speed. Towards us. The occupational army were closing in. I looked back at the children. "Where are you going?" I asked.
"To school." They yelled and ran.
They clambered into a tiny hole in the wall, pushed the sharp barb wires with their tiny hands and disappeared.
I pulled my Regatta jacket close to me. I bought it at T,J Hugh Argyle Street in Glasgow for £20. The label said that it would protect me from the elements; wind, rain and snow. But, why do I still feel the chills?
I plodded further. This time I saw a group of university students queuing at check point. They looked anxious. I asked one of them what were they waiting for. They said they were waiting for clearance to pass through. They need to go to the university because today is their final exam. They had spent almost ten years studying their degree and today exam will determine whether they will graduate or not. Looking at them, I wouldn't have guessed that they were university students. They looked more like labourers who had finished backbreaking jobs. "No, no," they said. "We had to travel miles just to go to university and study. Even worse we have very limited courses in our universities. There are no professors to teach us. We lacked of equipment and books. Yes! We don't have enough books in our library and we are not allowed to use any books from other libraries".
"Please let us pass! We have final exam today." Someone yelled.
"Only five people can pass through!" A soldier yelled back. He is young. No older than the group of university students. "You!" He pointed at the student who spoke to me.
"I suspect you carry weapons. We are going to strip search you."
Three soldiers. Young boys who maybe had just finished high school and joined the army, started manhandling the student. They intimidated him, pointing their rifles at him. He looked at them with eyes full of fear. "What have I done?" he asked. "I am a student. I don't carry weapons. I carry only books."
Despite his pleas and reasoning, he was strip searched. Down to his underwear. It was very undignified. To be stripped down at check point, in public. In front of everyone. In front of girls. Especially when the girl he secretly admired was there, watching. It was embarassing. He tried to protest. His sudden movement shocked the inexperience soldier. I heard a loud bang. The sound reverberating in the empty road. Then, a deafening silence. He stopped moving. Still. The whole world stood still with him.
I saw blood flowing onto the tarmac. Red and thick. The soldiers moved away, leaving the body of the student clad only in his white underwear lying face down on the tarmac. Stripped from his clothes, stripped from his dignity.
Jibreel said: ‘Iqra!’ @ read. The Holy Prophet replied: “I do not know how to read”. The angel repeated the same words and the Holy Prophet repeated his answer. And so it happened three times. The fourth time the angel said: Iqra bismi rabbi-ka alladhi khalaq, i.e. read in the name of your Lord who created (the Holy Quran, 95:1).
The Prophet (saw) said: "Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim."
"They may have taken our lands but the real land to us is more than dirt and ground. It is inside us and they will never take that away from us." A palestinian.
Note : This is a work of fiction based on the talk I attended at Debate Chambers in Strathclyde Union this afternoon. The talk was organised by Stop the War Coalition. There were three speakers and all of them are university students. One is studying here while the two are from Hebron University and Birzeit University in Palestine. For the gist of the talk, you can read the sum up at Akuatik's.
nota : Adik-adik, janganlah malas pergi sekolah. Jangan malas belajar. Kita tidak ada kekangan yang halang kita belajar. Sahabat kita di Palestine terpaksa berjalan kaki berbatu-batu, menempuh halangan pagar batu pihak zionis semata-mata hendak menuntut ilmu. Tinggalkan ibu bapa dan keluarga demi pelajaran. Belajar dalam keadaan serba dhaif tanpa buku yang sempurna, semuanya demi pelajaran dan ilmu. Ikut pesan Rasulullah saw, menuntut ilmu itu adalah wajib pada setiap umat Islam. Jika sudah jatuh hukum wajib menuntut ilmu, berdosalah kita sekiranya kita berpeluk tubuh, tidak berbuat apa-apa, tidak menyumbang sedikit pun untuk membantu mereka.