This February marked the 11th anniversary of weekly protests against Israel’s occupation and Israel’s illegal separation wall in Bilin. Every Friday for the past 11 years peaceful protestors gather after Juma prayers from their local Masjid. While peaceful protestors from Bilin, surrounding villages, international activists and a few Jews gather, Israel deploys its military might with smoke grenades, stinker bombs, snipers and machiene guns to confront them.
In 2009, Bassem Abu Rahmah was shot and killed, while his sister Jawaher died in 2010 as a result of tear gas inhalation. Hundreds of people have been injured and arrested and detained over the years for demanding their rights through peaceful means.
Hamde Abu Rahma is an award winning Palestinian photojournalist and activist and author of photo book ‘Roots Run Deep – Life in Occupied Palestine.’ Hamde was born and brought up in the village of Bilin close to Ramallah, the village has been known to be at the forefront of peaceful and nonviolent resistance over the last 11 years.
Friends of Al-Aqsa speaks to Hamde about what life is like as a photojournalist in Palestine and what he has witnessed during the weekly protests in Bilin.
FOA: Can you tell us about yourself and your work?
HAR: My work focuses on the Israeli occupation, the wall, checkpoints and the daily suffering Palestinians face. I am also an activist and I use social media to send my message to the rest of the world. Social media has become the most successful tool for me to share my work. The mainstream media hides a lot, and therefore, it is important for me to show my work on social media.
I became a photographer in 2009 after Israel killed my cousin, Bassem Abu Rahmah. I wanted to show the world what is happening in Palestine and the injustice that is taking place.
I have a brother who has also been shot and severely injured. I have seen many of my friends and family members injured and killed, these experiences has directed my work and me.
FOA: What is it like working as a photojournalist in occupied Palestine?
HAR: It is very dangerous doing what I am doing, sometimes it is really scary, but I think to myself if I stop who will do this, I consider it my duty.
Every time I leave the house I don’t think I’m going to come back. You don’t know what’s going to happen, it all depends on the soldier’s mood.
FOA: What are some of the most difficult things you have witnessed covering the protests in Bilin?
HAR: One of the most difficult things I’ve had to go through is seeing many of my close friends being killed. Last October I lost 2 friends, who I studied with, I used to see them everyday and their deaths have really affected me.
But the most difficult thing I have witnessed during the protests is seeing children being injured and killed. Children are so innocent, yet it has become normalised to see them unjustly being killed on a regular basis by Israel’s occupation forces.