Do Palestinian Youth Have the Right to Participate in Decision-Making?
*A young Palestinian from Al Rachidyia Camp
that it is your right as a Palestinian young man to take part in decision-making? What if you did not participate in anything; what would you miss? Does this issue have such a big impact on you?
Those questions flowed when conversing with Iman!
Iman, what does it mean to not have any role in what is going on around you? Leave Palestine cause aside for a moment, I am talking here about the camp, about us as refugees in this country. What does it mean to be always waiting? Waiting for others to decide your destiny! As if you were not concerned with their decision, as if it does not affect your present and your future. What if they decide something that you do not want?
Iman, life takes its toll on you: the traits of youth are fading from your face; your children started to choose their clothes alone; and many of your friends are no longer here, they sent you their pictures standing in the Arab Street in Germany, or in front of the Niagara Falls in Canada or on Edgware Road in London. Maybe you are the only one left in the camp! Until this moment, you have never had an opinion, not even once, and none of those who appointed themselves as your rulers ever asked you. They did not ask you once, what do you want Iman?
You studied and graduated from a university here. You were lucky to find a job. You built some relationships that enabled you to be productive in some areas. You are dynamic and you love the camp and its people. They are your family too. You work hard and would love to make this place a better place, even a little bit better, until you leave the camp, or it leaves you. But your efforts go in vain as you do not find a way to fulfill your desire. How can you make it a better place?
Dear God! How can I, as a young Palestinian man or woman living in the camp, show them the way? How can I make them hear my voice? You are trying in vain!
Do not look at the Canadian Prime Minister and say he is only 48 years old. He is not so young, yet he is younger than all those who are sitting behind the tables and ruling us. Do not say that the French President is thirty-nine years old and that the Prime Minister of New Zealand is only thirty-seven years old.! Do not look at the Prime Minister of Ireland who was the youngest prime minister of that republic and who was only thirty-eight years old. Forget them. You do not even know how you can be a member of the Popular Committee in the camp!
We cannot participate, Iman. We cannot even express our opinion regarding those who are sitting on these chairs despite all the crises that happened in the camps, the easiest of which they failed to manage. You are not allowed to criticize them, nor hold them accountable, even with their clearly miserable performance!
You hear people complaining about UNRWA’s underperformance. A woman, having a degree in interior design, complains about the lack of employment opportunities. Your friend, a teacher who gives private lessons in one of the educational centers, is about to lose his mind because of the poor level of education in the camps. Waiting at the camp entrance to go in, you read a whole list of restrictions, which includes building materials, electricity generators, etc… and foreigners. Jamal El Ghalayini, the travel broker to Europe, has become a celebrity, and camp’s young men are on an appointment waiting list to visit his office. Unauthorized arms and drugs have claimed the lives of many of our young people in the camps. Then, your phone rings, and someone asks you to introduce him to a charitable NGO or a benefactor to help him pay for his sick mother’s treatment. We feel we are breathing our last breath, Iman. And when your voice rises after all that pain to say that this life is not suitable to raise a generation that can liberate the country, you become the enemy, someone who is destructive to the national project and disrespectful to its firm principles. You are accused of supporting external agendas; To that you answer: what sort of external agenda am I standing for? What are the internal agendas that you uphold?
In response You will only hear the echo of your voice coming from the other alley!
Those people are being paid to find solutions to our problems, to improve our living conditions, and to protect us. All their budgets, privileges, cars and guards are “for us”: to provide us with a decent life! Where is our dignity? Look at us, are you happy with how things turned out for us?
I am fully aware of the difficult conditions and their complexities. But I am also definitely aware that we are responsible for what we are going through. I also know that this level of difficulty and complexity requires leaders and officials who have the qualifications, competencies, and determination that rise to these challenges. But do you know that we still have leaders who are illiterate? They are only there because they shot our enemies once or many times. That was in the eighties of the last century. Their time stopped right there, and we were forgotten!
I don’t know who is benefitting from all this. Maybe I know, but it is definitely not us.
It is my right and our right to decide what we want, when and how we want it. It is in our nature as human beings. Unless we believed that we were no longer human beings, and hence have no right to what they are entitled to!
What I do know is that I am a normal person, and I will strive to keep myself that way!