The unthinkable choices of Gazan mothers

The unthinkable choices of Gazan mothers

Written by Zainab Amanullah

Photo: Levi Meir Clancy / Creative licence

Zainab Amanullah, gaza, mothers

Two days after International Women’s Day, while scrolling on Instagram I came across a video posted by Eye on Palestine, featuring five-year-old Faisal Al Khalidi. “My mother was pregnant… they entered the living room and shot my mother in the stomach. She was pregnant in the seventh month,” he says in the clip. I sat in my room, staring at the screen of my phone, questioning whether morality and humanity have a standard. Is our activism selective? 

What metric is used to gauge who we raise our voices for? When and how did we choose that what’s happening in Gaza to these mothers is acceptable? Who is going to sit down with little Faisal and explain to him the hatred and brutality his mother has been subjected to? 

Palestinian photojournalist Mohammed Asad, shared a video recently of a mother searching for her son, Hammad, under the rubble of her home. Her search wasn’t fruitful. Like her, countless mothers have endured the heart-wrenching loss of their children, who vanish without a trace due to the colossal impact of the direct missile strikes.

To our absolute shame, we are witnessing mothers losing their children to this unfathomable genocide. Silence makes us complicit, selective efforts implicate us. For five months now, the indiscriminate killing in Gaza has led to 37 mothers being killed daily. On average, this translates to the loss of two mothers every hour. 

While searching for a route to send dignity kits to Gaza, I discovered that in the next six months, 50,000 women will give birth. With the healthcare system completely collapsed, medical provisions nearly exhausted, it made me contemplate how such a joyous moment in someone’s life can be reduced to an absolute nightmare. The mothers of Gaza have undergone C-sections without anaesthesia. They have given birth amidst the falling missiles and destruction around them. As if that wasn’t enough to ask of them, now they witness the systematic starvation of their children. 

The silence surrounding the atrocities inflicted upon Gazan mothers is repulsive. First-world feminism and the shameful silence from champions of women’s rights across the globe has shown that lips can stay sealed even when there is irrefutable evidence. Words are uttered without any plausible action, governments will back out stating the complexity of the situation, when the reality is that we have surpassed the unimaginable mark of 9,000 dead women.

We can’t claim to be feminists, women, or humans if we are muted over the atrocities that mothers are enduring in Gaza. What kind of world is it, in which after giving birth, a woman isn’t offered comfort and medical care? What deformed reality is it, where she must scrounge through tents to seek two scoops of powdered milk to satisfy the hunger of her newborn? What hypocritical and cruel society forces a mother to choose between buying diapers for her child and food for the day? What sort of hatred compels those in power to remain silent as children perish inside their mother’s wombs because of starvation?

As women around the world marched to celebrate International Women’s Day, my thoughts were stuck on the open-air prison where a colonial regime is killing mothers indiscriminately. As I observed Western feminists celebrating their victories and achievements, I saw the distinct limits of their performative activism for Gazan mothers. No mother should ever be faced with the cruel choices these mothers are confronted with. I will forever remember a mother quietly sitting, hugging the shrouds of her child, whispering all the love that the apartheid regime failed to give; the mother refusing to wash the blood of her children from her hands; mothers searching for their children under rubble, clutching at a shoe or toy; mothers dragging kids in their prams while being forcibly displaced from their homeland. 

It made me wonder if maybe, just maybe, the world is horribly biased against the suffering of brown Muslim women. There is no justification for those in power not to call for an immediate ceasefire, to hold Israel accountable for its continuous breaches of the Geneva convention. If this isn’t the reason, then what is? 

Today, a mother in Gaza will sleep on an empty stomach, unable to feed her newborn, forced to watch her children starve, her heart forever pierced by the loss of her other children. She’ll wake up tomorrow, another day in an occupied land, with the genocide still raging and no sign of a ceasefire. That mother, despite the falling missiles and shooting bullets, with no aid entering Gaza, will fight hunger, disease, and even death. She will question, one day, why there was complicity and silence. She will ask about the price she paid while the world watched. Who will look her in the eyes and answer?


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