[Belfast] Resist to Exist Photographic Exhibition + Film Screening (Belfast Palestine Arts Festival)
Aida Refugee Camp, located in the city of Bethlehem has around 5,500 inhabitants, refugees from 27 separate villages across historic Palestine.
During the Second Intifada, Aida Camp suffered a great deal from daily invasions by the Israeli military. Many things were happening in the camp but it was not documented because people were not able to take photographs or film and the media overlooked most things. In 2005 I learned how to use cameras and practised taking photographs until 2009. I began to exhibit my work in Palestine and internationally and make films about different aspects affecting people in the camp. Now I am the Director of the Arts and Media Unit in Lajee Center and teach children how to produce short story films and take photographs. As a Palestinian it is very difficult to cover the Israeli abuses and what is going during the clashes in the camp because we do not have the right or freedom, many Palestinian journalists have been shot or killed because they are documenting what is happening. In 2013 I was shot in the face with a steel bullet covered with 1mm of rubber, while on the balcony of Lajee Center, taking photos of the soldiers entering the camp and shooting at the children and youth.
Every year I think about making photography exhibitions not only about occupation, but I cannot. When the 2014 war started in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians in the West Bank, especially in Aida Camp, were watching the bombings and the killings of Palestinians on television. After the second day of the war the people of the camp went to the streets and started demonstrating, clashing and protesting against the killings and the impunity of the Israeli army. There were clashes every day in the camp, which continued from July 2014 until the beginning of 2015. The soldiers suppressed the protests, shooting more than 500 tear gas canisters a day, shooting plastic, rubber and live bullets, throwing sound bombs and injuring more than 100 people of all ages. During the nights, more than 100 soldiers would occupy the camp, raiding houses, arresting children and youth.
In October 2015, another wave of violence started across all Historic Palestine, and clashes broke out again in Aida Camp. At the beginning of October, the Israeli forces killed Abdelrahman Obeidallah, 13 years old, with a bullet to his chest. Not long after, in January 2016, 21-year old Srour Abu Srour, from Aida was also killed by the Israeli army in Bethlehem. During this time three other youth from Bethlehem were killed by the Israeli forces, and over 200 Palestinians in total across all Palestine. Since October until today, clashes and incursions by the Israeli army have been common occurrence in Aida camp, and several youth have been arrested during night raids.
Mohammad Alazza (2016)