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Amani Al-Hissi The Vision of a Blind Woman

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 25.02.2006:

This Week in Palestine

April 2005

Amani Al-Hissi, a 25-year-old blind Palestinian woman from the poor refugee camp of Al-Shati (“The Beach”) in Gaza, studies Arabic literature, plays music, works as a radio presenter and depends on “help yourself” as her strategy for managing the details of her own life. Al-Hissi was shot by an Israeli soldier when she was six years old. One week after the shooting, she lost sight in one eye. Four years later, she completely lost her eyesight.

With black sunglasses, she confidently moves between the rooms and the kitchen as if she suffered no problem in her sight. She proudly talks about her distinguished success at university. “Now I am studying literature at the Islamic University (of Gaza) and compete with my colleagues. I have 98% accumulative average,” she says, smiling. “Actually I like literature and arts, I work at (the local) Voice of Youth radio station as programme presenter. I present ‘Birds at the Window,’ a weekly programme which deals with creative writing and arts for youth.”

Al-Hissi believes that her wound had a role in increasing her horizon of imagination and the talent for writing. The point of despair was turned into the point of hope and creativity. Through systematic movements, she passes her forefinger over protrusions on the Braille sheets and reads one of her poems. She then climbs an old wooden staircase that leads to a third room upstairs and brings down her old-fashioned accordion, which she plays.

She thinks that loosing her sight was one of the turning points in her life. She also believes that God bestowed on her abilities and skills to overcome this dilemma. She cooks, bakes, fries, washes clothes, plays music and does everything without help from others. She depends on her senses to implement the principle of help yourself. Through her senses she controls everything.

Al-Hissi clearly recalls the day she lost her eyesight. She remembers the Israeli soldier who shot the teargas grenade at her during the 1987 Intifada. It was on 18 December 1987. She was at my home. The Israeli soldiers were on the roof of a building close to her house, where they could clearly see that she was just a little girl. One of them directed his gun at her and shot a metal gas bomb. It struck her left eyebrow. Blood streamed out and she inhaled a big amount of gas and went into a coma. She can never forget that day.

After one week, Al-Hissi lost sight in one eye. And after four years she became blind. She was in fourth grade, going to school with one eye, but still able to see her friends, her neighbourhood and the sea. While in class she had a headache and felt gloomy. The sight in her other eye failed and she returned home blind.

At the beginning, Al-Hissi faced many problems, especially concerning education. Her parents were in a shock, hesitant about whether she would be able to continue studying or not. The situation gave her a huge sense of challenge. Seeking different sources of knowledge, she attended training courses in playing music, first aid, and many others. She felt pushed to challenge the Israeli attempts to defeat her.

Her father, Kamel Al-Hissi relates that the Israeli occupation forces did their best to abort his attempts to get urgent treatment for his daughter and to hide the evidence proving their involvement in the crime. When his daughter was shot, he headed to see the Israeli commander of Gaza, who threatened him and ordered him not to tell anyone that the little girl was shot by an Israeli soldier.

As to her disability, she admits that it is really difficult. “Imagine, the sea is just 200 metres away from our house but I cannot see it.” But when she remembers the people who lost their lives or their children, or became quadriplegic as a result of Israeli strikes, she feels okay. In the event of meeting the Israeli soldier who shot her, Al-Hissi would shake hands with him and tell him “thank you.”

The interview with Al-Hissi was conducted by Sami Abu Salem, a reporter from Gaza working with the Palestinian News Agency WAFA.

This article is published courtesy of WAFA, on whose website it first appeared.

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