Al-Ahram Weekly Online   5 - 11 August 2010
Issue No. 1010
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Kites defy the barricades

Gaza's children demonstrated their determination and creativity this week by breaking two Guinness world records at the Gaza summer games, writes Saleh Al-Naami

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Abdel-Salam Moussa, 54, closely watched the expressions on his children's faces on 29 July, as Gamal, 12, Saad, 10, and Fatma, nine, excitedly prepared to participate in the world kite-flying event sponsored by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the Waha region north of Gaza.

Moussa, who lives in the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza, had taken his children to the event, where they found hundreds of other children. After some warming up, and with their parents cheering them on, the children released their kites, a world record-breaking 7,202 of them.

One of the kites had the name of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton on it, Ashton having recently been in Gaza and met the children in one of the summer camps sponsored by UNRWA.

Many of the kites had messages written on them calling for freedom and children's rights and expressing these children's hopes for a better life and one like that of other children around the globe.

Salim, 12, who comes from Beit Lahia, said that he was taking part in the event to express children's need to live in freedom and without a state of siege. "We want to remind the world that the children of the Gaza Strip are just as creative as those in the US, Asia and Europe," Salim said. "And they have the right to live in freedom, with dignity and full rights."

Many of the participating children come from families whose homes were destroyed in the most-recent conflict, including Moussa's. Last year, 3,000 children at an UNRWA-sponsored summer camp broke the record for the number of kites, and this year it looks as if they may have done it again.

A delighted UNRWA Gaza director, John Ging said "we still have to await final confirmation from the Guinness Book of World Records, but according to our figures the kids have done it. What an amazing achievement -- two world records in a week!"

A few days earlier, on 24 July, thousands of Palestinian children had broken the world record for basketball dribbling at an event held at the destroyed Gaza International Airport in Rafah south of Gaza. The children simultaneously dribbled 6,000 basketballs, doubling the previous Guinness Book of World Records record set in 2007 in the US.

"Children in Gaza are talented and capable of proving to the world that they are the best in the region, and they deserve a chance to prove they can set world records and accomplish innovative creations," Ging said.

"I would like to thank all our staff and of course the children. But I also want to send a word of special gratitude to our three donors to the summer games, the Finnish Government, the European Commission and UNRWA's largest donor, the United States. Without this amazing partnership between these donors and the children of Gaza none of this would be possible."

"Like children anywhere in the world, children here need to have a sense of normality, despite the abnormality they face in their daily lives. Today's achievement has lifted the spirits of the entire population here in Gaza," Ging said.

UNRWA Commissioner Filippo Grandi also congratulated the children on their second world record in a week.

"The significance of this event goes beyond the achievement of a world record," Filippo said. "It also symbolises the ability of the children of Gaza to seize the opportunities they are given to rise above their circumstances, pursue their dreams and achieve them like all other children."

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