On Thursday, 07 December 2017, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education (MoE), and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), organized a ceremony to honor the winners of the child human rights art award for 2017. Paintings by children all over the Gaza Strip from UNRWA and government schools competed for the award.
Mrs. Shirin Al Shobaki, Al Mezan’s Training and Mass Communication Unit coordinator, opened the ceremony by welcoming his Excellency Minister of Education Dr. Sabri Seidam, Mr. Matthias Schamle, director of UNRWA, Dr. Kamal Al Shrafi, Advisor to the president for Human Rights and chair of Al Mezan’s board, Mr. Issam Younis, Al Mezan’s director, a group of head teachers and supervisors from UNRWA programs, human rights teachers; the contest winners and their parents; and representatives of civil based organizations.
Mrs. Al Shobaki provided a brief about the award, which was held for the ninth consecutive year, and thanked those who had contributed for their efforts. She noted that more than 3,000 paintings were made by schoolchildren on human rights related themes, including the right of children to protection from violence and conflict, the right to a safe environment, the right to treatment, right to return and many addressed the Palestinian reconciliation. She added that the number of winners this year was 36; three from each of the 12 schoolyears. The prizes handed out to the winners comprised a collection of scientific encyclopedias, short stories and honors certificates for every winner in addition to small cash awards for each winner.
Mr. Issam Younis welcomed the audience and thanked the MoE and UNRWA for their continuous cooperation. He then discussed the importance of this celebration, which coincides with the Human Rights Day, and the importance of the messages conveyed by the participating children whose artwork expresses the tragic reality of children’s life, as they witnessed three wars in less than six years and live under continuous Israeli violations adding to the closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip. He added that some of the children paintings reflected hope and love of life despite the sorrow they may be living after a demolition of a house or a death of a kin.
Mr. Younis noted that the celebration coincides with US President declaration to recognize Jerusalem as a capital of Israel, adding that the decision constitutes an infringement on the rules of international law and legitimacy, as Jerusalem is a Palestinian city under occupation. Mr. Younis expressed the significance of Jerusalem for Palestinians and affirmed that the Palestinian population is protected under International law.
Dr. Al Shrafi noted that the main message to be delivered from this celebration is the determination of Palestinians to live as they want and not as what others want. He said that the celebration also enhanced the joint work between civil and governmental institutions.
Dr. Al Shrafi confirmed that Palestinians should all work together to face the internal and external challenges, especially the last US president decision. He added: “We are not surprised of what he [Trump] did, as the US is the first country who used the right of veto and violate security council resolutions”. “This shock must awaken us and be a motivation to work together”, he said.
Mr. Matthias Schamle, thanked Al Mezan for the organizing this activity and congratulated the winners and their parents and teachers. He asserted that each painting has a message to the world. “Palestinians should not surrender to the blockade and occupation and there is a day to come when Palestinians will enjoy all their rights”, he added.
Mr. Schamle pointed out that the UNRWA invested in human rights and this contest is a result of the efforts they made. He expressed that all children have the right to education and the right to a safe environment and said that since he was appointed as the director of UNRWA, he has been amazed by the positive spirit of Palestinians and how they always seek to live in dignity.
His Excellency Minister of Education, Sabri Seidam, thanked Al Mezan for carrying out this activity as it contributes in promoting the concept of human rights among students and expressed his pleasure at participating in the celebration. He also talked about the ongoing violations against Palestinian children and pointed out that although children in Gaza lived through three wars, they proved to the world that they deserve to live. He also mentioned the suffering of Palestinian children in the West Bank and how they cannot visit Jerusalem and they have only heard about it in schools and books. He stressed that this coming generation will never surrender to the unjust US decision.
He added: “I felt so frustrated with the US [Jerusalem] decision yesterday, but we have to take a lesson from it. We should believe that we ourselves who build the future and that the challenge requires determination. We have to draw a bright future for our children”. He also congratulated the winners.
Al-Annka group performed a debka dance from Palestinian folklore, and Rusika Band performed music.
After that, honors certificates and prizes were handed out to the 36 winners of the contest from 34 schools.
Mrs. Al Shobaki concluded the ceremony by congratulating the winners of the contest and announced the opening of a gallery displaying the 36 winning paintings from the contest, which is attended by thousands of people every year.