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We Were and We Are Still… Here: Memory is an undeniable human right, memory is identity

Bakri: a Palestinian born researcher moved by the nostalgia and emotion still held by many displaced Palestinians for their former homes and villages

Jerusalem24 – Tariq Bakri, researcher and visual documenter of the Palestinian history, and founder of “Kona Wamma Zilan –  We Were and We Are Still Here”, spoke to Jerusalem24, on the journey of his initiative which became a project of a team, working on sharing personal Palestinian histories.

“We wanted to start something new in documenting the Palestinian history and narrative, it’s true we have researchers, famous Palestinian historians, books, but now with the changing world we live in, people want something different. And this is why we initiated “We Were and We Are Still Here” project which is based on visual documentation and linking Palestinians in the diaspora with their homeland through human stories”.

“We Were and We Are Still Here” believes that, as Palestinians, keeping the Palestinian collective memory alive is fundamental, passing all the stories narrated by grandparents to children and keeping them alive is essential to their narrative. Using the original names of Palestinian lands, villages, and towns, to fight the Israeli continuous attempts to erase Palestine’s identity are all keeping their memory alive, therefore preserving the Palestinian history.

Tariq asks people to document stories of their grandparents, elderly Palestinians, anyone who has a story to tell, he says “don’t underestimate the stories, how small or big the information are, it could change a lot, which actually happened with us many times in “We Were and We Are Still Here”.

The whole project is very emotional to Tariq, who adds “sometimes when a Palestinian visits his/her homeland for the first time, you have to put yourself in his/her shoes when you make a visit to a city in Palestine with his/her, It feels like you’re visiting it for the first time ever, for example, when I went to a village near Jaffa, which I have been to multiple of times, it actually felt like I’m seeing Palestine through their eyes for the first time, and every one of them has a different reaction”.

“In the changing world, we live in, people used to get the news from certain news agencies and media. Now we have the alternative, which is social media, you can listen to another narrative, people can choose what they want to believe, and what media they want to follow after many media platforms were imposing their agenda on you”.

The future of “We Were and We Are Still Here” is expanding, the team is working on stories and documenting everywhere in Palestine, Tariq believes that whenever there is occupation and ethnic cleansing, and people getting displaced, and stories of Palestinians who still can share what happened, they will be documenting it.

The secret behind the relationship Palestinians have with their homeland is the memory related to it, Palestinians didn’t forget, Tariq says that it’s true Israelis claim that the old will die and the young will forget but confirms it’s not in this case. The new generation, many of whom were born in the late 90s, still remember every detail of their villages and homes, because Palestine lives in them.

“When Palestinians from the diaspora are able to visit their homes, and can still recognize their homes from a certain mark, for example, above their old window, this is the secret. People still have these stories that live in them from their parents and grandparents”.

Tariq recalls an encounter in which a Palestinian from Safad, expelled from his home in 1948, got to finally see it after tens of years, the man got the chance to tell the Israeli resident of his old house, “my name is Husseini Ghani, and this is my house”, to which the occupier replied, “I don’t want to talk about politics, God gave me this house”, this is the mentality we are dealing with”.

Although the stories are very emotional to Tariq who accompanies, mostly, the new generation visiting their homeland, he believes that this generation is not traumatized like their parents and grandparents, he says “they are brave, they have their own alternatives, their sources to know and learn more. This generation is more connected because of technology, social media, and the willingness to know more”.

For more details follow the link to the full interview!

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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