InterviewsStoriesA Palestinian superhero

A Palestinian superhero

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The man in the picture is Palestinian photojournalist Mussa Qawasma who lives and works in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank. Mussa works for the news agency Reuters and is well-known, locally and globally, for his strong pictures of clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in the West Bank, mainly in Hebron.


BY MASIH SADAT


We are sitting in his office, talking about his work as a photojournalist in a riscy conflict zone as this one. He’s telling me about the more difficult situations he goes through when in the field.

Mussa has previously been shot by Israeli soldiers with a so-called rubber bullet while working as photojournalist. The “rubber” bullet – which is being used frequently by Israeli security forces, mainly during protests and clashes – is a bit of a misleading term as in reality it is a rubber-coated steel bullet and has been the cause of many killings of Palestinians.

 

Mussa Qawasma in August 2014 after having been shot in the leg by Israeli sniper. Photo: Masih Sadat/The Turban Times.

Mussa Qawasma in August 2014 after having been shot in the leg by Israeli sniper. Photo: Masih Sadat/The Turban Times.

 

This was not the first time Mussa Qawasma had been shot though. A few weeks ago, during a clash in Hebron, an Israeli sniper had shot him – this time with a hollow-point bullet.

If you’re not familiar with this little fella, the hollow-point bullet is an expanding bullet often intended to cause the bullet to expand upon entering a target. It is far more deadly and painful than conventional ammunition.

The bullet has a hollowed out shape in its tip and when it reaches its target it more or less explodes inside the body of the victim and usually stays inside. The Hague Convention prohibits the use of these bullets in war.

Mussa “got off lightly” as the bullet only hit his leg. “When it entered my leg the bullet split up in two parts,” he says.

Despite Mussa wearing his press ID when working in the field he still has been shot by Israeli soldiers, several times. I therefore asked him if journalists weren’t protected by international law, to which he says; “Yes. But in Palestine, Israeli law is above all.”

 

Mussa Qawasma showing us a video about the hollow-point bullet. Photo: Masih Sadat/The Turban Times.

Mussa Qawasma showing us a video about the hollow-point bullet. Photo: Masih Sadat/The Turban Times.

 

He was in the middle of the clash in Hebron between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers when he was shot. Mussa often finds himself being in the middle of every clash and it doesn’t seem to scare him. The bullet wouldn’t make him stop his work he tells; “I will continue as though nothing has happened.”

After he finishes his story, I find myself just sitting there, completely chocked, not knowing what to do or what to say. Mussa breaks the ice really quick however, with his rather ‘unusual’ form of humour; “and that is how I ended up with a bullet inside my knee bone,” he says while laughing.

Mussa is living a dangerous life, but he is doing what he loves the most. While telling me about all these things he has been through as a journalist I at the same get ‘chills’ by the fact that I myself am planning to work in this exact field, in this exact region.

 

Video of Mussa being carried away after having been shot during the clash:

 

I tell him that one day I myself want to do what he is doing now, also in Israel and Palestine. He then tells me that there are three “main tips” I should always have in mind if I one day get to work in this field:

1) Don’t stand in the way of the Israeli soldiers, 2) Know the law. The soldiers are stupid, they are just “boys with toys” and they can easily be fooled, and lastly, 3) If a sign says ‘Closed area’, don’t go in. Closed is closed. Don’t argue with them.”

I quickly write every word down as though he was my teacher who just gave me important tips for my exam.

Mussa’s life and work is rather scary and must take a lot of courage, but what is most fascinating about him is the fact he, despite his action movie-like life as a journalist, still seems so “ordinary”.

In the field, he was a man of steel, a photojournalist living under occupation, risking his life on a daily basis to report about what it does to him and his people, but at home he was just an ordinary man with an unordinary sense of humour, a strong love for computer games, and an addiction to Game of Thrones.

Most of all, this man reminded me of the superheroes you see in movies.

mm
24, Danish by birth, Afghan by blood. Studying Hebrew, Middle Eastern Studies at Copenhagen University. My main focus is on Israel and the Palestinians, with an emphasis on Israeli society, history, and culture, in addition to own travel stories.

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