Gaza’s Voices: “After every escalation, we resume living in fear of the next one.”


Sanabel Ahmed Abusaid, 39-year-old mother, works at Women’s Affairs Centre in Gaza. Photo: Courtesy of Sanabel Ahmed Abusaid.

Sanabel Ahmed Abusaid, 39, lives with her 13-year-old daughter, parents, and brother in Gaza. She is divorced and raises her daughter on her own. Her ex-husband lives in the Gulf. Apart from being a human rights and women’s rights activist, Sanabel has worked with civil society organizations in Gaza, including Women’s Affairs Centre, a UN Women Partner, where she is a Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability & Learning Advisor working to empower women and advocate for gender equality.

“When the drums of war are beaten, we put our essentials, along with our dreams and memories, our past and present, into a small bag that we leave by the door in case we need to flee quickly. That bag may survive with us or outlive us to be a witness that we lived there.

We have lived through too many escalations. Each escalation takes the lives of many, leaving survivors reeling from loss and destruction. Each war buries more dreams and memories under the rubble.  

During these escalations, I am filled with so many fears. I fear seeing my daughter panic, hearing her heart beat so hard. I feel responsible for putting her in danger simply because I gave birth to her in Gaza. No matter how hard I try to give her a good life, I always feel that I fall short. I can’t help but think that I am the reason she does not have the childhood she should have.

I fear having to flee our home and starting over elsewhere, leaving all our memories behind. Every time violence erupts, I decide to leave Gaza to spare my daughter more danger and anguish. Not that leaving Gaza would be easy. Obtaining the required travel permits in ‘normal circumstances’ is extremely difficult, let alone during crises. My seventy-year-old father refuses to leave his house. For him, the loss of his home is akin to the loss of his soul. I wish I could leave with my daughter and the rest of my family to save what remained of our humanity, but I can’t. 

When a truce was announced, I felt relieved that we survived this time around.

I often hear people say that Gazans have grown used to war. We have not, and we will never get accustomed to death and destruction. No one can get used to pain or stop feeling it.

Unlike its predecessor, the latest escalation lasted only five days. I wish I could say that we are safe now that the raids have stopped. We are not. After every escalation, we resume living in fear of the next one.”


Read in Arabic