"O mother of the martyr, I wish it was my mother in your place!"
That was the song of the young people processing through the streets of Abu Dis until they reached the house of the martyr. My little cousin, the handsome 26 year-old, the fiancé, the brother and son, Ahmed Mustafa Erekat.
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He was executed by the Israelis after he lost control of his car and crashed into a checkpoint. They left him bleeding for more than an hour. The occupation army prevented an ambulance from getting to him, it prevented civilians from approaching to comfort him, it prevented witnesses who could record the details of the crime.
When my uncle arrived at the checkpoint barrier, he could see his son Ahmed writhing on the ground. He called out to the soldiers, he begged them, he cried out to them for help, but they offered no mercy. They stood by as Ahmed’s lifeblood left him.
And killing him wasn’t enough: Israel’s criminal authorities weren’t satisfied, so they detained Ahmed’s dead body.
We as Palestinians are used to Israel’s attempts to blame the victim, to swing the blame for each field execution back on us. In Ahmed’s case, we saw the same inhuman injustice, the same effort to humiliate us, with the invention of a narrative to implicate Ahmed, to make him responsible for his own murder.
Ahmed was a regular guy. He enjoyed keeping fit. He had his own business printing graphic designs on T shirts.
And he was a young man in love. He was due to get married at the end of May, but the wedding was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. His fiancée has spoken about the new house they were getting ready, and the wedding preparations, the dress, the festive jewellery, the furniture that they’d purchased.
Ahmed didn't attack anyone. This is the true story of his life. Don’t let the occupation rewrite his story.
Today, the day after, was the wedding day of Iman, Ahmed's little sister. Every scene is imprinted in my mind, all the pain.
I stood there next to his traumatized sisters. My eyes scanned the details of the house, decorated with such expectations, joy and care: from the lace adorning the banisters, the chairs that filled the house in preparation for the guests, the beautifully laid out chocolate, wedding favors and coffee: everything was ready for Iman's pre-wedding reception.
Ahmed is not the first member that the Erekat family has lost to Israel’s occupation, and I fear he won’t be the last martyr from among the Palestinian people.
I hope those who genuinely want to console the family will help share the truth, and expose the occupation. Raise your voices to call for Israel to release the full footage from the ten security cameras that recorded Ahmed’s last hour on earth.
In Occupied Palestine, there is no right to life, no right to joy, no right even to say farewell. Young Palestinian men are just numbers, not individuals, and Ahmed's body has now joined that cold audit.
Our fight is to stop the killing of our people. When we cry for help, will anyone listen? Do Palestinian lives really matter?
Dalal Iriqat, PhD is the vice president for International Relations at the Arab American University in Palestine and a weekly columnist at the Al Quds newspaper. Twitter: @Dalaliriqat