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Living Under Threat of Expulsion: Palestinian Women Photograph Life in Susiya Village

[Members of the Nawaja family in their tent. Image by the women of Susiya/Activestills.] [Members of the Nawaja family in their tent. Image by the women of Susiya/Activestills.]

These photographs were taken by women residents of Susiya village from the Nawaja family, ranging from teenagers to the elderly. Here are their names: Wadcha, Basma, Iman, Iam, Hitam, Ula, Rabicha, Samicha, Sane, Samma, Hadija, Sanaa, and Khitam.

In 2011, the women of Susiya documented their lives as a part of a participatory photography project conducted by Activestills photographer Keren Manor and guest photographer Mareike Lauken. This project was one of many activities of the village’s Creative and Learning Center.

The Palestinian West Bank village of Susiya is again under threat of demolition by Israeli government authorities. Around four hundred people from forty-five shepherd and farmer families are living in the village, located in Area C (which is under Israeli military and civilian control) in the South Hebron Hills. They have lived in this region on a seasonal basis since at least the nineteenth century. In 1986, the Israeli Civil Administration expelled the residents of Susiya from their original village and declared the zone a national park within an archeological site, where the Jewish settlement of Susya was later built.

The Palestinian families re-established residence on part of the agricultural lands they own near their previous homes. In 2001, the Israeli army expelled the villagers from their lands for the second time, demolishing structures and damaging property. Although they were allowed to return, they have not been permitted to build any new structures. Building permit applications have all been denied.

According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem,

Since the expulsion of the village residents in 1986, the Civil Administration has not offered them an alternative place to live, nor prepared a building plan that would enable them to live legally on their lands. The Civil Administration refuses to connect the village to nearby water and electricity infrastructure that Israel built to serve the settlements and outposts, on the grounds that the village has no building plan. In 2011, the Civil Administration demolished fourteen structures in the village, among them ten residential tents in which 87 people lived, including thirty children. As the occupying power, Israel is obligated to act for the benefit and welfare of the residents of the occupied area. Israel is violating international law in not preparing a building plan for the village of Susiya while instead attempting to expel its residents.

On 12 June 2012, Israel’s Civil Administration distributed demolition orders to over fifty structures in the village, including residential and kitchen tents, a shop, a clinic, a community center, and solar panels. Appeals by the residents have been submitted. If the demolitions take place, this will be the third time Israel has tried to expel the residents of Susiya from their lands.

To see more photos from the project go to the Activestills story of Susiya.

For further information:

Susiya Demolition Orders Not Simply a Law Enforcement Issue (An op-ed by Eyal Hareuveni, first published 29 August, 2012 in the Jerusalem Post)

B'Tselem report: Civil Administration threatens to demolish most of Susiya village, 14 June, 2012.

Susiya Forever blog

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