Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Children's toy turned into weapons

The weapon of choice by the angry young men and the soldiers (when they are not firing their guns) is marbles. Apparently the bazaar is sold out of the little glass bobbles. They are light, hard and can pack a good whallop when used in a slingshot. Yesterday I was given one. I buried it deep into my purse, taking one tiny piece of ammunition out of the conflict.

Two days ago, 50 days of mostly nonviolent demonstrations came to an end. On Sunday 17 March a small group of young men began to throw rocks and marbles at the security forces. This lead to gunfire and people being beaten brutally with batons. Yesterday our team of 4 went early to the square. There were few people but the ones who were there were angry and fired up. They are frustrated. The young ones want change. They want a chance at jobs without agreeing to support the ruling parties. They want a voice in their world. We talked to them of non-violence, told them that any news reports getting out to the west would concentrate on their violence. They seemed quite skeptical, but maybe one of them listened.

As the morning progressed we heard evidence of gunshots in the distance and heard of two young teenagers being injured by bullets. We saw evidence that the soldiers were coming closer: men running into the square gagging and eyes streaming from the tear gas. Lukasz and I stood on a low wall watching the crowd. All of a sudden the action escalated, young men grabbing large bricks out of the wall and smashing them into more manageable pieces. These projectiles were sailing through the air toward the oncoming forces. Then the shots began to ring out, coming closer. Lukasz and I headed for our escape route and the shots became more rapid. It was hard to tell how close as the square echoed with the sound. We headed behind a wall and then looked for the next protection. It seemed very far away and I must say that I lost it. I had never been in this situation before. On my delegation to  Palestine the guns were merely pointed, not shot.

Lukasz grabbed my arm and an Kurdish person pulled me out down the road, out of the square. I felt rather embarassed. No one else was crying. And a man with a big camera was trying to take a photo of me. I kept turning my back to him. Another man said, "don't worry, it will be alright, it's just politics". I wanted to laugh at the craziness of it. Just politics...

After I had calmed my head, and heart down we decided to walk out to where the taxis were. We had made contact with the two other team members and they were OK.

My one little marble taken out of the fray did not change much. I don't think that our presence that day changed much. Here we have a supposedly democratic government who is not very democratic. I am learning more each day.

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