In the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), we worked to protect children at risk of involvement in conflict by supporting them to express their views through safe and positive artistic projects.

Background

Children in Palestine continue to suffer daily human rights abuses. The UN reports regular incidents of killing and injuring, arbitrary arrest and detention, and house demolitions by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Palestinian armed groups have recruited children for direct or indirect participation in combat. The IDF has also recruited Palestinian children as informers, and has used them as human shields during military operations.

Our approach for this project was to develop ways to reach children at risk of involvement in conflict and engage them in alternative activities, through projects that allowed them to express themselves and benefit their communities.

Case study

At the time of our project in 2017, Ali* was a 15 year old boy living in Dheisheh refugee camp. When the conflict between Israel and Palestine escalated again, he started joining protests against the Israeli army each Friday. One day Ali became caught up in clashes at the camp – he was fired upon and the bullet tore through the nerves in his hand. He is unlikely to fully recover the use of his fingers. Ali attended our workshops on Fridays, when the demonstrations occur. He made recordings and photo stories about his life in the camp, and worked on ways to express his feelings and opinions in this way, rather than in protests.

The issue

When violence escalates in Israel and OPT, children’s readiness to participate in resistance activities is often evident. Children have organised themselves to express their frustration with the Israeli military occupation by attending protests and throwing stones at the Israeli army. This puts them at a higher risk of death, injury, detention and abuse by the occupying authorities. Refugee children are particularly vulnerable. Once detained, children are at risk of being recruited and used by Israeli forces as informants. 

At the same time, children living in conflict environments should not just be seen as victims; they have their own capabilities and resources that must be protected and fostered. We aim to support children to become agents of positive change in their communities, and contribute to resilient, flourishing and peaceful societies.

Our impact

We worked in Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem (West Bank) in collaboration with our partner organisation, Shoruq, to support children with their own cultural, artistic and solidarity projects. Our workshops helped channel children’s activism positively and open up new and safe ways for them to exercise their right to self-determination and political resistance. We fostered children’s artistic and creative talents, and equipped them with the technical knowledge and skills they needed to become active and supportive members of their communities, as well as powerful child rights advocates, locally and internationally. Read our photo feature on the project here.

*The name has been changed to protect the child

Photo © Panos Pictures