Naheel, a young woman with a motor disability living in the Gaza Strip, told a Palestinian disability activist living in the same area her story of forced displacement which took place on the 18th of October,2023. Naheel gave us her consent to disseminate her story which describes the difficulties she faced as a woman with a physical disability during the evacuation from her home in the heart of the al-Karama district, north of Gaza city in the Gaza Strip.
Naheel and her family were compelled to leave their home due to intense Israeli airstrikes affecting her neighborhood. Relying on crutches for mobility because of her disability, Naheel vividly described the hardships she encountered during the challenging journey to a safer location.
Naheel's story stands as a powerful testament to the determined human spirit of Gaza Palestinian in general and people with disability there in particular. It sheds light on the serious difficulties people with disability endure in a war-torn environment. Despite the obstacles, Naheel's determination shines through, illuminating a path of hope and resilience amidst the darkness of an unjust war resulting in death, injury, disability, destruction of all sorts and displacement.
Naheel's Story: The challenge faced by a lady with a physical disability navigating through piles of rubble in the Gaza Strip.
In the heart of the al-Karama district, where life once bloomed with simple joys, a harrowing tale of destruction and survival unfolds. We, the residents, were once nestled in our homes, but the echoes of normalcy were shattered by the thunderous roar of Israeli airstrikes.
Our home, a sanctuary of memories, was obliterated, reduced to a heap of debris. Every cherished possession, every memento, was devoured by the ruthless onslaught. Amidst this chaos, my personal battle became even more daunting. I depended on crutches and assistive devices for mobility, yet amidst the chaos, these aids were lost, leaving me vulnerable and powerless.
The quest for safety led us to seek refuge elsewhere, a desperate attempt to escape the relentless assaults. But in the besieged Gaza Strip, safety was an illusion. Israeli aircraft circled overhead like vultures, showing no mercy. Every corner, every shadow, became a potential target, leaving no one spared – not the children, not the mothers, not the adults, and certainly not people like me, struggling with disabilities.
After a mere two days staying in the area we were displaced to thinking it would be safer than our home and our neighborhood, we were driven out again, forced to relocate for the third time. The future appeared bleak and uncertain. There was no promise of safety in Gaza; it had become a land where peril lurked at every turn.
The situation, dire for everyone, magnified its challenges for people with disabilities like me, who faced not just the difficulties of movement and walking but also the formidable task of evacuation. Israeli airstrikes showed no mercy, providing no opportunity or warning for us to flee our homes. And even if a warning echoed, the time granted was woefully inadequate for people with disabilities like me, trapped in immobility, unable to relocate independently.
Moreover, even if we managed to find a seemingly safer spot, the ordeal persisted. Those of us with mobility disabilities, especially reliant on wheelchairs and crutches, encountered additional hardships when navigating spaces that failed to accommodate our specific needs. The assistive devices we depended on became useless, as they were not tailored to our unique disabilities.
In the aftermath of the bombardment, the once simple acts of moving and navigating turned into insurmountable challenges. What was once a fundamental right – the freedom to move and access – was now a distant dream, stolen from us amidst the chaos. Yet, in the face of adversity, our resilience endured. With unwavering determination, we persisted, even if it meant relying solely on our hands and palms to navigate this tumultuous terrain.