From the war diaries

Day 19: “Life Used to be Beautiful” – Hanin Mousa, 18

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14 January 2010

On the evening of 14 January 2009, ‘Izzeddin Mousa, 52, his wife Samira, 53, their 16-year-old daughter Nour and their three sons, Waheed, 29, Ahmed, 28, and Mohammed, 25, were killed in a missile strike as they sat in their living room in a densely built-up neighbourhood of Sabra in Gaza city.
A fourth son, also sitting in the living room, Mahmoud, 25, was severely injured.
Three other daughters, Hanin, Fathiya and Sabrine, their sister-in-law Hiba and her two young children who were in a nearby bedroom survived.
Al Mezan interviewed Hanin, now 18, about how she is coping with the loss of her parents and siblings almost a year after the attacks.
          I used to be carefree “I used to be carefree,” says Hanin who was 17 when an Israeli missile strike killed her parents, three brothers and a sister.
“I only had to think about my studies.
Everything changed after my family was killed.
That night we were sitting together in the living room listening to the news about all the attacks on the radio.
My nephew started to cry and so Fathiya, Sabrine, Hiba and I went into the bedroom to check on him.
Just as I was about to go back into the living room to ask my mother something, I heard glass smashing.
Then I heard an explosion.
We opened the bedroom door but all we could see was fire so we slammed it shut.
I thought that my family had run away and left us in the fire.
We started yelling for help but no-one came so we opened the bedroom door again to try to escape.
This time I could see.
I saw the dead bodies of my father, my mother, my brothers Waleed, Ahmed and Mohammed, and my sister Nour.
I can’t describe to you what it’s like to see your mother torn to pieces and your sister on fire.
Mahmoud was the only one who was alive.
He was covered in white dust and severely injured.
He was shouting, ‘Help me! Help me! I can’t feel my legs!’”    Although Mahmoud was severely injured by shrapnel, he and the other survivors managed to escape from the house.
Mahmoud has yet to recover from his injuries explains Hanin, “He’s in Egypt right now for more treatment.
They admit him and discharge him and then readmit him all the time.
They say he has tiny shards of shrapnel lodged throughout his body and they can’t get them out.
He’s still in so much pain and can only walk on crutches.
”    After the attack, Hanin and her sisters went to live with their grandfather.
“For the first month, I hardly spoke at all.
Some psychologists came to see me but I couldn’t speak to them and they didn’t come back again.
After that I focused on my studies.
I was in second secondary school year (11th grade) and I managed to get 86 percent in my May exams.
But then I decided to get married.
I think I just wanted to escape from my life and from the difficult situation I was in.
Even this didn’t make me happy.
When we went to sign the marriage papers at court in November, I was crying so much the judge thought I was being forced to get married.
He even asked to speak with me in private to tell me that my family couldn’t make me get married.
I had to explain that I was crying because I don’t have a family anymore.
The wedding was also tough, people kept telling me to dance with my husband and smile.
But I felt like I was suffocating and completely alone, I could only manage to smile for the photos.
”   A lost education Since getting married, Hanin has been unable to complete her education.
“My husband doesn’t want me to stay in school,” she explains, “He thinks I’ll be too busy to be a proper wife.
Everyone says it’s a waste because my marks were so high.
If my parents hadn’t been killed, I wouldn’t have got married.
I’d have taken my tawjihi (end of high school) exams and tried to go to university.
”    As Hanin struggles with the loss of her loved ones, her relatives try to encourage her to move on with her life.
“They say that they understand how much I’m suffering inside, but they tell me that life goes on; that I have to let myself live.
Even now, I still avoid talking to people and just stay in my room when I can.
I’ve put pictures of my family up on my dresser and I look at them all the time and cry.
My mother-in-law wants me to take them down because I cry over them so much.
I know I was 17 when my mother was killed but I still felt like a child.
I miss my mother so much.
There are so many things I want to ask her, especially now I’m married.
I’ve got no-one to ask for advice.
I used to have a beautiful life before they killed my family.