A grown-up child in a conflict-zone, by Aseel S, Palestine

My name is Aseel and as a girl who was raised in a conflict, I got through a lot of stories I could tell you about. Still, I chose this one because it was the first time I realised that I was living in a conflict zone, and I will always suffer from it until the day I die. 

I lived in a small town called Tulkarem, they call it a city, but in comparison to the big cities such as New York or Cairo, Tulkarem is a tiny town.

I was 9 years old, and as many Palestinian children, I used to go on trips with my classmates and teachers. I have always hated the uniform I used to wear. I hated my hair because everyone and every teacher told me I should straighten it, because that’s how a good looking student looks. Anyways I’ve never listened. I was a stubborn and angry young child. It didn’t bring me anything useful, though. It got me into a lot of troubles. 

Once we left the city for a school trip, we went to an amusement park. I was so excited that I spent all my money there, even though my parents told me not to. They were trying to raise a responsible child, but it never really worked. So one of the things I bought there was a balloon fully coloured with the Palestinian flag colours. I also got a shirt with a Palestinian flag on it. I don’t remember if they were even beautiful stuff to wear or to hold all the way home. Still, for a young child who spent all her money buying such things, I think they were. 

On my way home, I was a dirty, hungry and tired child sleeping on the bus. I woke up all of a sudden on a sound of my teacher saying, “CHECKPOINT!!”, she said it in Hebrew. Sometimes, Palestinian people use some Hebrew words to express stuff that cannot be expressed in Arabic. My teacher was terrified because they detained a bus with a group of  children only one hour before we came. Hence, she told us to throw our  balloons out of the windows and hide anything that refers to Palestine. I  was so young and childish! I wanted to show my mother what I got from the park, so I kept mine, while my classmates didn’t.

The first soldier who got on the bus was holding a heavy weapon, in front of 30 young children. He said, “EVERYONE!  OFF THE BUS”, in Arabic. I was the first one who got body-checked. He pushed me toward the bus, raised my arms, then kicked me with his iron boots. Well, I didn’t really know what his boots were made of but it felt like iron. He kicked me because I refused to open my legs, then ripped my shirt and the balloon that I had bought.

Eventually, I got home safely, same for other children, but they didn’t have their balloons  with them! I know mine had been destroyed, but at least my mother saw it and saw the shirt with the Palestinian flag. I didn’t understand why I was hit back then, or why this soldier ripped my shirt. I thought I was wrong for refusing to open my legs and started thinking that I should’ve listened to the teacher and threw the balloon away. I began to blame myself for being aggressively violated. 

They destroyed my balloon and ruined my shirt. The ugly truth is that this kind of stories is still happening but with different time, locations, and to different me

I’m all grown up now. I understand that I live in the most controversial conflict in the world. I understand that I was born among the weaker side of this conflict, the side that is accused of terror. It sounds terrible for any reader who lives a normal life, but to me, it’s actually amazing! I’m so proud that I have built my character in such a conflict. I believe I’m mentally older than teens in my age living normally, and for me, normal is boring.

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