“I wish you can know a little bit about our suffering as children living under occupation,” 12-year-old journalist and 2 Suns Shamsaan ambassador Janna Jihad said.
“We are not victims,” she said of the Palestinian people. “While we’re victims in many ways, mostly we’re freedom fighters. We’re people who just want to live in freedom and peace and equality,” Jihad was speaking at a discussion hosted by the Institute for Advancement of Journalism (IAJ) in Auckland Park on Thursday morning.
Jihad is well-known for reporting the injustices Palestinians face living under Israeli occupation on social media. As part of the 2 Suns Shamsaan Children of Palestine Tour, Jihad and other Palestinian child activists visited South Africa in 2017.
Two short video clips were screened at the event. One showed footage of Jihad’s home in a village in the West Bank called Nabi Saleh as it was shot down and destroyed in day raids and the other was the makings of a film about child prisoners.
“Shamsaan is an initiative born under the desire to capture the voices of children,” 2 Suns Shamsaan founder Fatima Meer said. The South African project has documented about 200 Palestinian children through interviews and art – drawings that they made that reflected their life stories.
“Shams” in Arabic is sun. The name came after a five-year-old, recovering in hospital after an Israeli arson attack that killed his parents and 18 month old brother, drew a picture of himself with two suns, Meer explained. He drew two suns because he said he wanted the world to be extra sunny and bright. Generally, to a child a sun is a life force and the two suns stood for his two parents that were killed.
Past campaigns that the initiative has been involved in include a children’s art calendar where Palestinian children’s drawings were made into calendars and sold for charity and a global walk to create awareness for their lives under occupation.
Shamsaan will now focus on a child prisoner campaign. With almost 400 in jail, the initiative hopes to raise awareness by making a film incorporating the drawings of imprisoned children.
Imprisoned 17-year-old Palestinian activist – and Jihad’s cousin – Ahed Tamimi – who had been part of the Children’s Tour to South Africa – was arrested in December last year. Her drawings featured in the short clip about child imprisonment.
“Ahed was sentenced eight months and she is coming out on July 29. She was arrested because she was trying to defend her house. Soldiers wanted to raid her house because it was in a really high area and there were children playing under her house. They also arrested her mom for filming Ahed defending her house,” Jihad said.
“That’s what happens with every child in Palestine. Children are arrested for silly reasons: for being Palestinian, for defending your house, for trying to go to your school,” said Jihad.
“Maybe tomorrow you will find me in jail because of me reporting right now,” she added.
Jihad’s mother Nawal Tamimi, who accompanied her, is scared that her only daughter will be arrested for speaking out once they return to Palestine.
“I’m afraid so much because she is a child. I am proud of her because she can talk about herself and other children and what they feel. I am all the time with her, I support her,” Tamimi – who is the director of women in the Palestinian ministry of social affairs – said in an interview with The Daily Vox.
“We are the generation that can free Palestine. We are the generation that can make a change. Let’s let children who have never seen freedom before see peace and love and equality,” Jihad said.
Jihad will be in South Africa until next week. She will be taking part in awareness projects with Shamsaan, visiting civil society organisations and schools. On Saturday, she will be at the Image Lifestyle Centre in Fordsburg where there will be a film screening of her documentary ‘Radiance of Resistance’.