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Widyan Sha'at Director of Ethar with Sinead MacLochlainn, Alanna Campbell and women of Ethar

My Dear friend Mags O’Brien (SIPTU & TUFP and Irish Ship to Gaza comrade) who lives in Dublin contacted me around the beginning of March 2012 just before UNISON’S International women’s day festivities which would be held on March 8th 2012 in Belfast. She said that a quilt had been made by women in Ireland who were members of the trade unions and they wanted it delivered to Gaza, was I up for doing it. I said “yes!” and agreed to meet her in Belfast on 8th of March for International Women’s day.

March 8th arrived and I boarded the bus form Derry as Mag’s boarded the bus from Dublin. I was excited about the prospect of delivering this message of love and solidarity to our sisters in Gaza. As I was already planning to travel out to Gaza on March 28th, delivering the quilt on behalf of Irish women could easily be added into my schedule.

International Women's Day Belfast

We both arrived in Belfast and attended the woman’s day march and speeches after. During the speeches I couldn’t help but think to myself “here we are in Ireland as women standing free, exerting our rights as women, marching for what women have achieved and what women will achieve as our struggle continues to move forward” yet, back in Gaza our sisters are struggling in a way many of us here cannot comprehend. See for yourself the reality of life in Gaza for poor women who have lost their homes and/or husbands in Cast Lead.

This woman and her children barely exist in this tiny one room space, nothing else

Barely enough room for one person let alone ten!!

Women with children forced to live in refugee camps, in tiny 3 metre areas that more resemble a stable or a shed rather than a inhabitable home created by a brutal inhumane collective punishment siege! Women who have had to watch their homes destroyed in a flash of white light from Israeli drones or F-16’s. Women who have had to watch their own children die for lack of medical supplies, or parts, and still others have been forced to watch as their child lies dying needlessly before their eyes, simply waiting for a little permit to be approved by Israel for the child to leave Gaza to go to a specialist hospital in Egypt or Israel. Women who have lost their homes and their husbands in Cast Lead and are now left to fend for themselves in the streets of an open air prison. The refugee camps will haunt you, cramped and filled with women and children, so many children. With horrible sewage problems because Israel won’t allow pipes in to fix the bombed out sewer system. The smell of this is a constant reminder and it is never far away, even the sea is polluted with sewage, and the tap water is nothing but contaminated sea water with waste in it. This is life in Gaza, this is a man made disaster of epic proportions which is being ignored by most of the world. And the women are suffering the most. So I was very happy to facilitate this Quilt with a message of Solidarity to our sisters in Gaza from women in Ireland.

“We call for the immediate and complete lifting of the blockade on Gaza. The ongoing siege is a denial of dignity; it is a denial of rights for a people, particularly its women, who yearn to be Free!”

The quilt was sponsored by UNISON and in 2011 it was taken from Belfast in small pieces down to the Women’s Seminar in Cork where women began working on it. The Quilt was then brought back up to Belfast where the finishing work was carried out by Vivien Holding of the Communications Workers Union. Vivien put it together and laboriously sewed the binding and backing.

Mag’s and I met up with Patricia McKeown the Regional Secretary of UNISON in the North of Ireland who facilitated us in making our way to the UNISON building for the remainder of the day’s events and speeches. As we made our way to the UNISION building we discussed with Patricia the possibility of Irish women doing some solidarity work with our sisters in Gaza.

Upon arriving at UNISON the quilt was presented to myself and Mags by Taryn Trainer of UNITE and the Chair of the Woman’s Committee in the North. In a message from Pauline Buchanan regarding the quilt, she said “ The women of Ireland thought that the quote which takes pride of place in the centre would appropriately express to our sisters in Palestine that we support them, and that we will continue to work towards the realization of their human rights.”

Taryn Trainor presents quilt to Mag's O'Brien and Sinead MacLochlainn

From the quilts idea and inception by women in Belfast shortly after Cast Lead, the quilt began its life in Belfast, travelled down to Cork where more women worked on it, then it travelled back to Belfast where still more women completed it. The quilt has travelled across Ireland, then by air across England, France, Italy, Greece to Cairo, Egypt. Where it then began the 7 hour ride across the Sinai desert where on March 28th it crossed into Rafah, Palestine, and then travelled to Kahn Younis where it was received and presented to Widyan Sha’at the Director of Ethar Woman’s Initiative. It is home now.

Ethar Initiative-Gaza

Sinead MacLochlainn made the presentation on behalf of the the Women’s Committee Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ and a mention of the ICTU, NIICTU, UNISON, UNITE, Communications Union Workers as well. Ms. Sha’at speaking on behalf of Ethar Initiative said she wishes to thank the women of Ireland for their solidarity, especially Taryn Trainer and the Women’s Committee in the North, Pauline Buchanan of ICTU and Patricia McKeown of UNISON and Vivien Holding of the Communications Workers Union. The quilt will stand as a reminder to women here in Gaza of the friendship and solidarity between Ireland and Palestine.

The Ethar Initiative will be sending a personal letter of thanks to the ICTU/NIICTU and to those organisations and women who participated in this project of solidarity by creating and sending the Quilt to Gaza.

The Ethar Initiative was set up by women, for women, and is run by women who get no salary, all donations go to the poor women and children that Ethar helps. Ethar is a labour of love run by our sisters, who need our help!! So, please check back on this website as we will be doing an entire report on the Ethar Woman’s Initiative and we hope all the women of Ireland will get on board and get invovled with the campaign to help woman in Gaza by working with our sisters at Ethar. Coming soon in solidarity we will be launching an all Ireland Initiative for women to work with our sisters in Gaza dubbed the “Ireland Gaza Woman’s Initiative ” and we hope Irish women will join us in working directly with our sisters in Gaza! Bookmark our coming website here www.igwi.org and check back to learn about the new Initiative between Ireland and Gaza.

We Stand In Solidarity with Our Sisters

Big Greetings from Hassan Salama School Gaza

PRESS RELEASE
Tuesday 10th April 2012
For Immediate Use

Irish Freedom & Friendship Delegation to Gaza a resounding success

Local Derry/Irish Friends of Palestine delegates returned from the first Irish “Freedom and Friendship Delegation” to Gaza promising to redouble their efforts to build links with our sister city of Khan Younis and to support the people of Gaza by continuing with more delegations in future.

Delegates from Irish Friends of Palestine were Gerry MacLochlainn delegation leader & Charlie McMenamin activist (both former Irish Political Prisoners), Ruairi McLaughlin, Mickey McCrossan, Alanna Campbell and Cathal Og Donnelly (Students and members of Sinn Fein Republican Youth), activist Liam McConway and Freedom & Friendship Delegation organiser Sinead MacLochlainn.

Speaking on arrival home, Derry/Irish Friends of Palestine Chairperson Sinead MacLochlainn said:

“Our delegation was hosted by the Mayor of Khan Younis Mr. Mohammed Al Farra, and the Municipality of Khan Younis, who so graciously offered us the most incredible hospitality, given the current conditions in Gaza which remains under a brutal blockade by Israel. Mayor Al Farra received us on our arrival and ensured a packed programme of visits and meetings with all aspects of society throughout Khan Younis and Gaza City.”

Delegation pictured with Mayor Mohammed Al Farra of Khan Younis, Palestine

“The main purpose of the delegation was to build educational links with the Ministry of Education and HIgher Education and University students. As such our Delegation was received by the heads of some of the main Universities in the Gaza strip, including the Islamic University of Gaza, Al Aqsa University (both the Gaza and Khan Younis Campus) and Khan Younis College of Science and Technology. Despite the siege and lack of electricity or fuel, we were impressed to learn that some 40% of young people in Gaza have access to further or higher education and some 60% of these students are women.”

“The Delegation was invited to a lunch at the Ministry of Education where we were greeted by Mr. Ahmed Ayesh Alnajjar the Director of International and Public Relations of Ministry of Education and Higher Education on behalf of Dr. Osama Elmozini the Minister of Education and Higher Education. The Student leaders on our Delegation were presented with a beautiful Plaque from the Ministry of Education to be presented to the Minister of Education here in the North of Ireland. Additionally a Plaque was also give the the Delegation itself in appreciation of the Educational links being created between Ireland and Gaza.

Plaque Presented to Student Leaders, Alanna Campbell, Ruairi McLaughlin, Mickey McCrossan and Cathal Og Donnelly

“Members of the Irish Delegation also met with representatives of the main political parties in Palestine, including Dr. Hisham Abdelrazic the Fateh leader in Gaza, and Dr. Yousef Al-Mansi, One of Hamas leaders and also the Minister of Telecommunication in the Gaza Government and finally Dr. Ahmed Bahar, Deputy Speaker of the Palestine Legislative Council.”

“In Khan Younis we visited the site of a large play park and International Garden area which is still under construction, here the student delegates joined local families in a soccer game with an idyllic view of the Mediterranean sea in the background. The Students played ball with local children at the park. Even here the realities of Israeli occupation were evident with armed Israeli drones and F-16 fighter planes flying over head. During our stay the F-16’s were our alarm clocks and the early morning call as they criss-crossed Gaza skies terrorising the population. They also dropped leaflets warning that anyone who went to within 300m of the border would be shot. Welcome to life in Palestine.”

“Visiting the packed refugee camps bears witness to the reality of life for many poor or homeless people in Gaza. Many of them had once been in full-time employment before the blockade, still others had their homes destroyed by Israel. Up to 4 generations all living in a 6 by 6 metre shed with broken walls, collapsed roofs and dirt floors with sewage problems. And still they smile at us for visiting them, this is the unbreakable spirit of Palestine!”

Delegation meeting with familly in Refugee Camp

“On our last morning as we had our breakfast we were again reminded of the realities of life for the innocent civilians of Gaza. Fishermen in small wooden crafts who attempt to gather the ever shrinking available fish which swim in the three kilometres of their own waters, the only place that Israel allows them to fish, were to come under fire from Israeli naval ships. We could hear the heavy naval canons interspersed with the pulse of heavy machine guns. We were left wondering if we’d be hearing of yet another fishermen killed for trying to support his family.”

“We also learned that three young children had been burned to death during the night while attempting to read and study by candlelight. The candle fell over and they were trapped in their bedroom, God help them, all that was left of the three children were the scorched books on the floor which they had been studying from. Yet more tiny victims of the collective punishment siege as Israel only allows 6 hours of electricity each day, these few hours can come at any time even in the middle of the night when the population is asleep, so many students rely on dangerous burning candles to study! Myself and Ogra Alanna Campbell of Coalisland attended the children’s wake with other local women. Their Mother came over and handed me her last remaining child to hold in my arms as we cried together. The tiny 3 month old baby sister who was the only survivor, found under a pile of blankets which somehow managed to save her little life by protecting her from the smoke and flames which consumed her 3 siblings.”

“Leaving we were all very silent heading to Rafah to cross back into Egypt and then home to Ireland, just trying to absorb the gravity of what we had all witnessed for the last 8 days. But we pledged we would do all we can to support our friends in Gaza and to tell their stories to the world. Therefore Irish Friends of Palestine and Derry Frinds of Palestine will continue with more Freedom & Friendship Irish Delegations to Gaza until the murderous siege is lifted!”

BOOKMARK OUR PAGE AS WE WILL BE POSTING INDIVIDUAL REPORTS ABOUT ALL THE MEETINGS AND EVENTS WE ATTENDED IN GAZA
some of those inculded are:
Ministry of Education and HIgher Education
Islamic University of Gaza
Al Aqsa University
Khan Younis College of Science and Technology
Jabalia Martyrs Primary School
Refugee camps, meeting the poor and homeless
Global March to Jerusalem/Land Day Events
Khan Younis meetings
Political Meetings with Fateh, Hamas, and the PLC
Ministry of Youth and Sport
Effects of the Siege First Hand
Gaza Harbour
Local Weekly Prisoner Protests
Prisoners and their Families
UFREE Prisoners Conference Gaza City
Ethar Initiative
Emaar & Albasmah Centre
Khan Younis Park and Garden Development
plus much more…..

BLOODY SUNDAY 38 YEARS FOR THE TRUTH TO BE SET FREE

On 15 June 2010, the people of Derry were waiting with great anticipation for the long awaited Saville report to be released. The town was filled with people, thousands gathering and assembling at the Guildhall Square and overflowing down to Williams Street and up Shipquay Street waiting for the Truth to be Set Free. It was as if the whole town was “one” That day.

At 3:15 the first sign emerged to the thousands waiting outside, a thumbs up from the windows of the Guildhall to the crowd below,

The cheers spread across the crowd in all directions. A short time later the families emerged victoriously, with cheers of “Innocent” ringing from the Guildhall steps. I remember the faces of people in the crowd, a day I will never forget, there were cheers, tears and joy in Derry that day. I thought of the poor family members who fought for the truth to be set free for so many years, yet who had passed away never having the chance to see this day come. I noticed someone in the crowd was flying a Palestinian flag, and I found myself thinking of the hundreds of innocent Palestinians murdered, and wondered would their truth ever be set free. And I thought of how many Bloody Sunday’s, Monday’s, Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s, Thursday’s, Friday’s and Saturday’s they have suffered for so many years.

As the Truth was finally set free in Derry, and as each Bloody Sunday family member spoke of their murdered loved one, followed by the word “Innocent!” we all stood and cheered as one. But we were more than one that day.

As people in our little corner of the world were rejoicing at the coming of a day they had dreamed of for 38 years, yet far away in Palestine, others were also affected by our victory that day. In our sister town of Khan Younis the news spread about what was taking place in Derry. It was soon decided that an official celebration for the people of Derry should be organized, so that the people of Khan Younis could show their solidarity in our long awaited victory, a victory they also have dreamed of, with regard to their own innocent civilians who have been murdered by their occupiers and oppressors.

And so it was that on 22nd June 2010, the people of Khan Younis came out in a show of solidarity for Derry. Hundreds assembled in front of the Khan Younis Municipality Building, a place that has fond memories. As I viewed the photos of the day’s event, it was almost overwhelming. To see the people of Khan Younis holding the placards of those faces we know only too well here in Derry, the 14 murdered on Bloody Sunday, this illustrated what our victory in Derry meant to others around the world, it represented “hope” that their day of truth would one day come as well. And this was voiced so eloquently in the speech given in Khan Younis that day, a copy of which is provided below the video.

Full Text of Speech Below:

I am very pleased to speak on behalf of the people of my city Khanyounis and all the Palestinians inside Palestine and the Diaspora to extend our hearty congratulation to and support for the people of Derry and all the Irish people on the release of the Final Report of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.
Though it is said: better late than never, it is still very sad that justice took 38 years to be served in Derry. On this historic day, the city of Khanyounis shares with Derry and the families of the martyrs of Bloody Sunday happiness that their beloved heroes were declared innocent.

We call upon all humanitarians and people concerned to exert all their efforts to bring the murderers to justice and specially Brigadier General Robert Ford who was the one to give orders to kill. It is not only Ford and his soldiers that should be charged, but all those who committed the massacres in Derry. All the soldiers that have committed atrocities against Palestinians and the people of Gaza should be charged for their crimes against humanity.

Bloody Sunday brings to mind Black Sunday in 1990 when 6 Palestinian workers were slain by the hands of a criminal Zionist who opened fire on them while trying to find work to sustain their offspring.

This event also brings to mind the Balfour declaration that resulted in the suffering and misery of our Palestinian people after he promised a home for the Zionists on our land in 1917. We take this opportunity to call upon the present British Government to apologize to the Palestinian people for the agonies resulted from this promise.

The people of Derry and Ireland have stood steadfast and in solidarity with the people of Gaza and all Palestinians that live both inside and outside of Palestine. For the struggles you have endured in the past are similar to those that Palestinians continue to face today. A humane and just world implores that all concerned humanitarians from the Irish to Palestinians, from Ireland to Gaza, and from all over the world, join together in the struggle against injustice, suppression and the innocent killing and massacre of people.

Derry and the Irish have aided the people of Gaza since the Israeli massacre of Palestinian women, men and children. The aid and, more importantly, the support given will be forever remembered in the hearts and minds of Gaza’s wee ones, as well as the old.

Like the martyrs of Bloody Sunday, one day the martyrs of Palestine including Palestinians and Internationals will be vindicated and commemorated worldwide. They will be forever remembered for their heroic actions because the voice of the voiceless will not be relent until injustice is reversed and justice is prevailed and until the Gaza siege has been completed lifted and a Palestinian state declared.

So as the Truth was finally Set Free in Derry, we must remember our friends who are still waiting for their truth to be set free. And pray it does not take another 38 years for them inshallah

from AnPhoblacht

Sinn Féin politicians visit Gaza

Derry City Sinn Féin Mayor, Paul Fleming, Bairbre de Brún MEP, British Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn at Rafah

Photo: Derry City Sinn Féin Mayor, Paul Fleming, Bairbre de Brún MEP, British Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn at Rafah

Sinn Féin representatives Bairbre de Brún MEP, Mayor of Derry City, Councillor Paul Fleming and Derry City Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn were among a contingent of 50 politicians from 13 different European countries who travelled into the Gaza Strip on Friday, entering the Palestinian region at the normally closed Rafah crossing. The heavily fortified frontier was opened on Friday in order to admit the large number of foreign politicians.

Derry Mayor Paul Fleming was en route to Gaza’s second city, Khan Younis at the invitation of Muhammed al Farra, mayor of Khan Younis, to see the devastation caused by the Israeli bombardment and to discuss matters of mutual interest.

Fleming delivered a gift of medical supplies donated by Derry medical professionals to the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, which serves the whole southern Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn from Derry and MEP Bairbre de Brún joined other politicians in a fact-finding mission.
MacLochlainn, who led a medical aid convoy to the Strip last May, was met by Dr Khamis A Elessi from Elwafa hospital. He revealed to MacLochlainn that a nine-year-old child the Derry representative had met during his trip in May had died soon afterwards, having been refused permission, under the conditions of the blockade, to be transferred to a hospital outside Gaza for treatment of his extensive injuries.

“This terrible news was not unexpected but I find it impossible to comprehend how any country could deliberately forbid a young boy from being transferred to a facility that might have been able to save his life,” said MacLochlainn. “I believe that the Israeli authorities must stand accused of the most wicked of war crimes against a defenceless, innocent child.

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún, who had been one of the first politicians to enter Gaza after the Israeli invasion, expressed her anger at the effects of the Israeli imposed blockade which is causing such misery and hardship to an already beleaguered people.

Delegation leader, Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, addressing the assembled Gazan MPs and government ministers, said the delegation would bear witness to the suffering of the Gazan people and while they are prevented from speaking out the assembled parliamentarians would carry their voice but “would not replace it.”

The visiting politicians were then taken to the parliament chamber that had been devastated by Israeli bombs and rockets, where they joined local representatives for a meal in the shell of the destroyed building.

Articles may not be reproduced without the consent of An Phoblacht. For further information, please contact editor@anphoblacht.com

 

Derry mayor accepts Gaza Strip visit invitation

 

Mayor of Derry Paul Fleming (Left) pictured with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (right) and former Hungerstriker and MLA Raymond McCartney (center)

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Derry mayor Paul Fleming has announced he is to travel to the second city in the Gaza Strip following an invitation by the Mayor of Khan Younis.

Mayor Muhammed Al-Farra issued the invitation with the purpose of the visit being to discuss matters of mutual concern and possible co-operation.

The move comes after local Clr Gerry MacLochlainn participated as the Deputy Leader of the 2nd convoy to enter Gaza. The convoy organised by the ECESG and dubbed the HOPE for Gaza convoy travelled to Gaza via Rafah with 40 ambulances medical and humanitarian aid.

Speaking ahead of the visit to the Middle East, Mr Fleming said: “I am keen to visit Gaza and meet with the civic leadership of Khan Younis. The city has suffered greatly from the conflict and is struggling to provide a better life for its citizens.

“Khan Younis is the second city in the Gaza Strip. It is not much bigger than Derry and the North West region with about 130,000 residents.

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