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> Ashira Ramadan, journalist
> Kamel Al-Mughani: Resistance Artist
> Tawfik Zayyad, politician and poet
> Mervat Essa, artist
> Makbula Nassar, photographer
> Palestinian artist Emily Jacir awarded top prize
> Dahoud Tawfiq Nasser, tile designer
> Fawzy Jiries Nastas, sculpturer
> Nadia Abu-Ghattas, silver designer
> Ibrahim Haddad, industrialist
> Rania Elias-Khoury, cultural entrepreneur
> Mohammed Omer, journalist
> Jowan Qupty: a Palestinian Swimming Champion
> Sadeq Damrah, swimmer and swimming trainer
> Rimon Najib Salim Zabaneh, sports leader
> Rafat Al Aydeh, actor and drama teacher
> Abou Radwan family of Jaffa city
> Notable Palestinians in the Recent History of Lebanon
> Yousef Katalo, painter
The Road to Journalism
By Ashira Ramadan
I woke up on the ground with wooden sticks coming at me from every direction and camera flashes blinding me.
I was only 16, protesting peacefully the closure of the Orient House in Jerusalem.
I was carried by men in blue to the jeep were I was slapped around, humiliated by a group of young Israeli soldiers who cursed my very own existence, all the way to the Russian Compound Detention Centre in Jerusalem. It is a name that brings shivers down my spine. I was questioned and then released only after signing a paper to say that no Israeli soldier had hurt me and that my injuries were incurred when I had fallen down on the way to the protest. The police also ordered me to stay away from Jerusalem for 15 days. Jerusalem, where I live, the place people love and die for.
That was my first encounter with justice, journalism, idealism and reality.
It is on that day that I chose my path and career. I could not tolerate the silence and the camera flashes in my face. I was being exposed as vulnerable and weak in front of everyone around me, and that disgusted me. I decided I wanted to be the journalist that lends out a hand to pull the 16-year-old girl off the ground rather than takes photographs of her being led away.
I knew journalism was not the easiest career not only because of the political situation but also because of the social problems that face women journalists; the constant struggle to prove that it is not a man’s job and to fight for your place in a patriarchal society. But I have seen my mother struggle as a single blind woman to get her education, bring up two daughters and educate generations. I have seen mothers lose their children in wars then get back on their feet to take care of their remaining children. And I just hoped that I could one day be that strong.
After studying journalism abroad I returned to Palestine filled with ambition, strength, and a true belief that I could change the reality in which I lived; that I could serve my community and find a window of freedom from my occupation.
I started working in a South African station that believes in equality and justice, but only three months into the job, my dreams and ambitions were again shredded by the reality of occupation. I was arrested for conducting interviews with wanted Palestinian militants. I realized that what I was taught in university about freedom of expression, and the public right to information exists, but the laws of war were completely different.
There were no laws in my dark, gloomy cell in the Russian Compound. It was only then that I realized what freedom is. In the solitude of my cell everything was clear: I had no control over my life, no control over my food and no control over anything. Every time my prison guard came to take me into interrogation, and put what seemed to be a ski mask on my face, and handcuffed me I was terrified. I have always been afraid of the dark ever since I was a child, but there is nothing darker than that mask. There is nothing darker than being driven to the unknown. But what gave me strength to hold on was remembering how my mother hugged me as I was being dragged into the station. I watched her grabbing hold of the prison gates, shaking them and screaming for me to be strong.
Until today, I am not sure who to be angry with over what happened. I was released with no charges after being found innocent of all charges, but who was to blame? Do I blame the Israeli government, the Israeli prison services, myself or the story?
A lot of people told me that at that point I should have just given up on journalism that I should have retired from the world of politics, but I could not. It is like an addiction. I stayed in my job and was arrested almost a year after but, this time I had company. I was arrested alongside most of the employees in my radio station, so I shared a prison cell with my colleagues, which also happened to be in the Russian Compound. We spent one night there and then were released to 15 days of house arrest.
Following this it became quite difficult to continue living at home. Every soldier, every wall, every story changed. It is true I have not spent half the time or seen half the pain people endure in this country, but I felt that I had never left the Russian Compound.
People often think that occupation is about checkpoints, humiliation, killings and walls. But for me occupation is at its worst when your soul, imagination, and freedom of thought are occupied. When the air you breathe becomes so heavy with hate and anger. Surrounded by the crowds of people in the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, in Ramallah, I could hear silence. Everything looked normal, even peaceful, beautiful, calm; but there was still a tremble in the heart of it all: unrest, like a volcano, waiting for the right moment to erupt.
I left the country in search of myself in order to protect my ambitions and dreams. To regain my freedom and sense of humanity that I longed for, in order to put back the pieces of my puzzle so I can return again to my Jerusalem, my Ramallah, and start all over again to tell the stories of the people, the places, the ghosts and where possible make a small change, somewhere somehow.
Ashira Ramadan is a 24-year-old Palestinian broadcast journalist from Jerusalem and is currently living in London. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This Week in Palestine March 2009