Mutaz Washaha’s mother sat in the middle dressed in black with eyes that have known nothing but tears this last week and fought a smile. It was a smile encouraging strength, embodying strength. Around 30 people enter the home of one of her relatives- (as her house was burned and demolished with an Israeli commander telling her husband “what you built in 60 years I’ll ruin in a minute”)- to give their condolences after demonstrating in Nabi Saleh. Although some of the youth had been injured by Israeli forces at the demonstration and required some medical attention all of them stepped down and went to the pay respects, saying “Mutaz was our brother too.”
As each one kisses her hand and forehead, she looks at them and says “you have to keep fighting, take what Mutaz began and keep going, may God give you strength, may he give you all the strength.” She repeated a message to the youth visiting. Looking at each one of the shabab present as though they were her sons she asked everyone to not forget the struggle and to continue what Muataz was doing, resisting. She treated all of us as though we are all her children and any resisting Palestinian is her Muataz.
Suddenly, 3 year old Qais walks into the room playing with a plastic toy and walks out, completely unaware that his uncle has been killed just a week earlier by Israeli forces. In the midst of crying, condolences and bitter coffee a 3 year old kid walks out wanting nothing more than to play with his toy. The innocence of a toddler.
When I asked him how old he was he replied with “two years older than you.” That’s partially true, after witnessing what the colonization inflicts, Palestinian children have the jaded souls of 70 year olds.
At 11:35am on February 27th, the Palestinian firemen in the house trying to turn off the fire started by Israeli soldiers were forced to leave due to violent threats from army commanders. Simultaneously, Israeli forces enter accompanied by dogs with cameras attached. “We went out from one end and soldiers spraying bullets go in from the other they went in spraying the house with bullets, everywhere they were just shooting blind” explains the firefighter on the scene.
There had been two groups that raided the house in which Muataz was in, one group went to the roof and the second through the house whilst shooting a large amount of live ammunition.
The firefighter on the scene (who wish to remain nameless) explain the incident in detail:
“After they went into the house spraying it with bullets the second group goes out to join the first group on the roof, they all began shooting at the water tank. I think they thought Muataz was in the water tank as we have told them no one was in the house and when they went in they couldn’t find him under all the mattresses. After shooting the water tank they threw it off the roof and then some of them went back into the house and began shooting again, that’s when we heard a scream presumably it was Muataz being shot.”
Although Muataz was shot in the bedroom, his body was found drenched in blood with his brains scattered out in the veranda. “They dragged his body from the room to the veranda after filling it with bullet holes, but that wasn’t enough. When they dragged his body out I saw a commander go in and with a handgun, not a M16, shot him 4 shots directly. They wanted to make sure he’s dead.”
Sandy recalls the aftermath saying “the soldiers were hugging each other and laughing after all the shooting, they were laughing! Laughing! They were happy of their massacre.”
Muataz’s body was found with two fingers missing, drenched in blood and his brains scattered out. The home that once housed Muataz and his family now lays destructed with two sides completely demolished and the inside burned. The coffee cups from the night before still lay on the kitchen table. The album with wedding cards that Muataz was using for his wedding lays partially burnt in one of the rooms. The house is completely demolished and stays to be the constant reminder to the murder of a son, brother, friend.
The trauma left behind
As Muataz’s martyred body lays in a cemetery in Birzeit the effects of his tragic death remain, haunting his friends and family. His younger brother Fadi Washaha just 16 has repeated the story of his brother’s murder countless times, it’s as though he’s a broken record on repeat replaying the events over and over again. His mother is like a walking zombie, proud of her son’s defiance, but nostalgic towards her son. She is a mother that had lost her baby boy.
As his cousin Sandy was showing the bullet holes and mattress that Muataz was hiding under she kept hysterically repeating “bullets, these are bullets, this is blood! Blood! Muataz’s blood! Look! Look! Look!” until her 12 year old sister had to tell her to stop.
Muataz’s other brother Thaer walks around in the ruble of their home with a blank face and eyes that are constantly fighting back both tears and the reality.
And today, March 7th, three year old Qais, who is Mutaz’s nephew walks in and out of a funeral home unaware of what happened, all he knows is that there will be no more Amo Mutaz.
The firemen on the scene concluded their testimony with “Muataz is a resistor with the very meaning. We need to learn from him. He refused to be controlled by oppression while living and in death. He didn’t listen to injustice.”
Sandy’s last words as we stood on the very spot he was killed and before she broke into tears were “Muataz taught us all what it means to be defiant. Here we are outside and when the soldiers tell us come, we come. When they tell us to go, we go. However, he stood his ground. He said no to complying to an oppressive regime, and stuck to it. He died fighting for resistance, he stepped out of the barrier we place ourselves in. He didn’t comply. Muataz is a hero.”
Today, almost a week after his assassination, Mutaz’s mother repeated a message to the youth visiting. She looked at each one of the shabab present as though they were her sons and asked everyone to not forget the struggle and to continue what Muataz was doing, resisting. She treated all of us as though we are all her children and any resisting Palestinian is her Muataz.