Gaza: Four Suicides in a Week… a Cry of Pain or an Escape?

Mustafa Ibrahim
Palestinian Journalist
July 6, 2020
Suleiman used his brother's handgun to put an end to his life. He went upstairs to the rooftop and fired a mercy shot inside his mouth, trying by doing so to say what he could not say when he was alive.

In conjunction with the announcement of Suleiman al-Ajuri, 20, the number of suicide cases has reached four in Gaza strip at the end of the same week. These suicides included a woman in her thirties from Rafah who hung herself. She ended her life due to family feuds with her husband and because he had dealt with her incredibly harshly, according to the information that came out post the suicide.Also among the four cases, a young man from Al-Shati refugee camp died of his wounds after setting himself on fire as a protest against his hard living situation. Furthermore, a teacher at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) from Jabalia camp in the northern Gaza Strip committed suicide by hanging himself, due to circumstances known only to his relatives.

The suicide of Suleiman Al-Ajuri was a tragedy and a great shock in the Strip, and has launched a state of anger and grief among the Strip’s people. His friends were surprised by the incident, as Al-Ajuri was one of the most loveable characters in the Gaza Strip’s protest movements, the most recent of which was the “We Want to Live” movement in March 2019.

Suleiman used his brother’s handgun to put an end to his life. He went upstairs to the rooftop and fired a mercy shot inside his mouth, trying by doing so to say what he could not say when he was alive. The incident came as an expression of his and his friends’ screams, and their constant demands for the right to an adequate standard of living, as well as the right to expression and peaceful assembly. They also called for stopping security pursuits for those who have called for their basic rights in countering hunger, poverty, unemployment, division and blockade.

Suleiman al-Ajuri

Suleiman chose eternal silence to stop the bleeding of pain, oppression, injustice, marginalization and neglect, and to stand in the face of the state that has denied him his rights and the rights of an entire generation of young people. He posted before his death on “Facebook”, writing: “It is not an attempt of futility; it is an attempt of salvation. To complain to someone other than God, is to humiliate yourself and before God the rivals are gathered.”

Suleiman has lived in the Gaza Strip, where there is pain, injustice, oppression and attempts to overcome the deficit in the face of division, blockade, loss of hope and loss of dreams. In Gaza, crises and frustrations are worsened, economic and social rights decline daily, and unfortunate crimes and behaviors, primarily suicide, high rates of divorce, the inability to get married, addiction and theft are exacerbated. In the Gaza Strip, 73 percent of families are suffering from a rise in incidents of gender-based violence, and nearly 73 percent of these families are suffering from food insecurity as well.

Since the beginning of 2020, about 12 suicides have been recorded, compared to daily suicide attempts that are either rescued or not resulting in death, ranging from three to five cases, according to human rights organizations in Gaza.

The number of suicide attempts until the end of the first half of 2018 reached 373 cases, including 15 deaths, according to sources from Gaza’s government. Suicide attempts among females accounted for about 53 percent, with 199 cases, and 46.6 percent for males (174 cases). Clearly, most of the suicide attempts were among youth, especially those under the age of 30, accounting for 87 percent of the suicide attempts.

Suleiman chose eternal silence to stop the bleeding of pain, oppression, injustice, marginalization and neglect, and to stand in the face of the state that has denied him his rights and the rights of an entire generation of young people.

In 2017, there was a surge in suicides as 37 people committed suicide, whereas 759 made suicide attempts, marking the year of 2017 as the worst in the number of reported suicides or attempted suicides over the past few years.

Palestinian humanitarians and psychologists are concerned as this spate of suicides are an outcry for an economic, social, and political crisis. That crisis cannot be approached or regarded in the same context of suicide cases that occur in other countries which don’t live under the blockade and closure, but rather live in security and stability, enjoying the freedom of movement, travel, and openness to the outside world.

From their point of view, it is not a mere reflection for severe psychological cases, but rather a message of protest and rejection of the harsh reality experienced by the residents of the strip.

Despite the surge in these cases, specialists don’t consider it to be an alarming phenomenon, taking into consideration the international standards that depend on the ratio between the number of cases and the population.That’s regardless of the exacerbating problem of the hard-living conditions the Palestinians endured that made the besieged Palestinian enclave a fertile environment for even more aggravated crises.

Therefore, there are calls for putting an end to the political division and adopting urgent national measures and procedural policies, to promote and protect the Palestinians’ right to live a decent life, and to address the problem of suicides or attempted suicides.

During the 14 years of division, there were no real efforts exerted to develop policies correlated to social security and insurances and taking care of the vulnerable and the poor whose numbers are increasing. On the contrary, there is a more detailed examination of these rights, that humiliate people, shed them of their dignity and disregard their right to live a decent life.

In suicide cases, the government typically evades its responsibilities, even though it’s obliged to perform its duties and legal obligations, namely providing job opportunities, achieving equality among people, reduction of unemployment and poverty, and providing the basic minimum needs of a decent life and social security for its citizens.

In 2017, there was a surge in suicides with the number reaching 37 people, as well 759 suicide attempts

People are no longer concerned with the Israeli Occupation and its collective punishments and the blockade imposed on them isn’t their great calamity anymore. Still, the government is the party that should bear the responsibility since it took the helm of ruling and leading the people.

The government here is the government of the Gaza Strip which inexplicably examines the results of the crisis rather than its roots. It keeps failing to perform as required and evades the required benefits. The government of the Gaza strip is not able to persuade its people that it will shoulder its responsibilities or that it isn’t the cause of that catastrophic situation. It doesn’t make any sense while it is the government that collects taxes from the insolvent and those in abject poverty.

The lives of those who commited suicide are the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, the government, and the Palestinian factions and everyone are powerless. The Palestinians can no longer tolerate such miserable life and have lost any hope for change. Most of the time, they were unable to stop the catastrophic deterioration in their daily lives.

The much-coveted aspirations such as, respecting human rights, promoting the rule of law, achieving equality among people, combating all forms of discrimination and segregation, protecting the public freedoms, safeguarding the freedom of speech and press, fighting back the Israeli occupation, annexing the west bank and liberating Palestine had become a lackluster motto. The ruling authorities of Gaza and Ramallah and other Palestinian factions have failed to provide for a decent life and bolster the people’s endurance, at least by securing electricity and running water for human use. As long as these bare necessities of life are absent.. who would protect people from taking their own?

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