This is part 3 in a 3-part series on the closure of Shuhada street and its impact on the community of Hebron.
by Sarah, Hebron team Group 50
Open Shuhada Street demonstrations from 2011. This year’s week of solidarity will be February 21-25. Photo EAPPI/L. Tuominen.
For years Palestinian residents of Hebron have been prohibited from walking on the majority of the city’s main road, Shuhada Street. Even those who live in the houses lining the street are denied access. An entire generation of Palestinians have never set foot on the main street of their city. Instead they are required to search for detours to access the mosque, the market, and several schools. As Hebron resident Jawad explains:
“Shuhada Street is the lifeblood to Hebron. Shutting down the street is like someone who has a sick heart. So he needs to have open-heart surgery.”
According to the “Agreed Minute” in the Hebron Protocol of January 1997, the process of reopening Shuhada Street “would begin immediately, and would be completed within four months.” It is now January 2014, 17 years since the agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organisation was agreed upon, signed, and ratified, and yet Shuhada Street remains closed, empty, and useless. There appears to be no plans by Israel authorities to follow through on the internationally recognized agreement.
There are several organisations committed to realising the reopening of Shuhada Street most notably the Youth Against Settlements (YAS) initiated Open Shuhada Street Campaign (OSC). The aim of the campaign is simple: put pressure on the Israeli government through non-violent means to allow access to Shuhada Street for all people regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or religion. The campaign “protests the segregationist nature of the closure of the area and of the division that has been created in Hebron”, says Irene Nasser, a Palestinian activist.
The South African based organization Open Shuhada Street “aims (to) raise awareness about the lack of freedom of movement in Hebron in the West Bank, and how this reflects some of the worst manifestations of the ongoing Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories.” Like YAS and OSC, Open Shuhada Street is committed to bringing about change using non-violent means such as advocacy and protest.
You may wonder why such a fuss is being made about a single street when there must be multiple other streets available in Hebron.
For Jawad, born and raised in Hebron:
the “reopening of Shuhada is equivalent to a return of Hebron and life returning to the body.”
He explains that today he is required to walk 5km to a destination that he previously only had to walk 1km to reach. The simple inconvenience of a closed street not only interrupts daily activities but also reiterates the separation and access control policies of the Israeli occupation. The restrictions in force on Shuhada Street exemplify the imposed inequalities in Hebron and across the West Bank.
What can you do to help the struggle for freedom to Shuhada Street? Join the Open Shuhada Street Campaign (OSC) from 21 to 25 February 2014. Activists and organisations across the world will stand in solidarity with the residents of Hebron and all Palestinians through protest and other non-violent actions. The initiative began in 2010 to “demand the opening of Shuhada Street to Palestinians and an end to the Israeli occupation.” Connect with your local OSC or create one in your area. Use the hashtag #OpenShuhadaSt to spread the word and join the resistance. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
In the occupation every action, regardless of how small it is, has an eventful impact. Nothing is insignificant. Nothing is unimportant. One street in Hebron represents so much suffering, so much discrimination, and so much hope. Let’s struggle to open Shuhada Street together!