Maijabeen Gaihlot Chaudhary
Who are the unsung heroes of Gaza? There are many, but as Maijabeen Gaihlot Choudhary takes us through in this piece, the children of Gaza are in a category of their own.
No soft toys to hug, no flavours of ice cream to choose from. They seem as distant as the moon when even a glass of clean water is a dream. Welcome to Gaza. No schools, only ruins. Its students are trapped under mountains of rubble of what was once their home. Crushed and gassed to death.
Yet, the bombed schools impart new lessons. In grammar, self-defence takes on a new synonym – ‘genocide’. The list of acronyms has a new addition- WCNSF (Wounded Child No Surviving Family). Chemistry has it that the people of Gaza should not bother themselves with the dangers of internationally banned white phosphorus, it was not just meant to burn them faster, but to even disintegrate tissues deep inside the body. And then there is discovery – almost three months of ruthless pounding of a defenceless population of 2 million people, 47% being children, has untangled for me the strangest of all puzzles- how could the world let Hitler have his way? It isn’t very difficult after all. ‘The Holocaust’ no longer belongs to the dusty archives of history. It is unfolding right away under the watchful eyes of a highly opinionated world that is yet to decide how many more innocent children can be terrorised and bullied to death before it unites for a ceasefire. Deaf to their sobs and screams, blind to their wounds, their amputations, their trauma.
An unfair world it certainly is. Children of Gaza mourn and bury each other while ours fantasise about the Archies and Disneyland. What is happening in Gaza is the deadliest conflict for children in modern times. Catherine Russel, executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund calls it “once again, the most dangerous place in the world to be a child”. One child was killed and two wounded every 10 minutes, excluding the hundreds trapped under the rubble. Wounded implies, most of the time, loss of limbs and organs. ‘Save the Children’ , an international NGO that works to improve the lives of children worldwide, reported that the number of children killed in Gaza over just three weeks had surpassed the annual number of children killed in global conflicts every year since 2019. Gaza has lost thousands more in
the following months. The shock, the trauma, the psychological and emotional baggage can never be weighed. Two months after the U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres called it a ‘graveyard for children’, the massacre rages on. While children world over are excited about Santa and their presents, the Gazan children in every fourth household are on the verge of starvation. (World Food Programme report).
As a dedicated routine, I delete, and block disturbing images of blood-splattered and maimed bodies of Gazan children to save my 8-year-old from possible sadness and mental strain the images may cause. How does a Gazan child cope with the deadly horrors a rain of ‘dumb bombs’ brings along? The entire neighbourhood comes crashing down literally like a pack of cards. Secure one moment, dead or orphaned the other. No toilets for them, no play area for them. No chirping of birds, only deafening sounds of deadly blasts. Taps are running dry, no access to electricity even for life-saving support in hospitals that are running out of even anaesthesia for surgeries. Neither moms and dads nor teachers and doctors to run to. Inhaling every moment oxygen heavy on dangerous chemicals and choking on toxic dust all the time. While we snuggle our tiny tots in warm blankets, the children of Gaza are shivering under the open sky, mostly hungry. Their innocent eyes carry no mischief, no dreams. They stare in horror at a civilised world that could only work out for them a ‘humanitarian pause’ or rather a breather before they could be freshly pounded with more precision and deadlier weapons. What is it that keeps them alive intrigues me deeply. With what courage do they write their names with oil paints on their bodies to help their families identify them when pulled out dead from under the rubble?
The most moving images coming out of Gaza are those of little children comforting and caressing each other, behaving like parents to their little siblings. The laments, the wailings all seasoned with a rallying cry- God is sufficient for us! What a defiance! What bravery! Telling the world that we don’t care that you don’t care! To one of the strongest militaries in the world backed by the most powerful countries, these children do not surrender but show them how weak and powerless their ammunition is! The children haven’t given up but are trying their best to survive by caring and with compassion, not leaving even their pets behind. They play hide and seek well, even with bombs. It’s a great wonder that even after being thrashed with thousands of tonnes of explosives, far surpassing what was dropped on Japan, the children were out on the beach to play in the temporary ceasefire. You can dent holes in their buildings and hospitals, not in their spirits. The children of Gaza will continue to frustrate the bombers while teaching the world that bombs can only kill not defeat.
Children, I believe, are the best teachers because their worldview is made up of pure innocence, unadulterated by the malice of the grownups. If only the powers of the world behaved like children, the world would be cleansed of so much pain. If only there was a UN general assembly with child representatives from all countries, including the warring ones…we could have a riot of fun, laughter and hugs in no time putting to shame the haughty superpowers who become richer with every war (they make up 75% of global arms exports). Four of the five members of the Security Council are the world’s leading arms sellers fuelling wars everywhere. They cannot but risk ceasefires that can drain them of their monopoly.
Extraordinary weapons made more accurate with artificial intelligence that follow a perfect trajectory to kill point blank and more fiercely hardly impress me. During the last 10 years, more than 10 million children have been killed due to war. Pointing guns at diapers and dolls makes you a coward and you dare not boast of your military expertise. You lack humanity, a poverty that makes you weak with all your sophisticated technology and wealthy banks. What lies under the rubble are not dead bodies of innocent children but your conscience that pricks not when you bomb little souls into oblivion. May the little martyrs haunt you to deep regret every time you hug your child.