Abu Yazan Photo: Tom Dale
Gaza Youth Break Out came to global attention in January 2011 with a controversial manifesto that began ‘Fuck Israel. Fuck Hamas. Fuck Fatah.’ Some dismissed them as a Facebook phenomenon but nothing more. Two months later, on 15 March, they brought tens of thousands of Palestinians onto the streets to demand an end to squabbling between the factions. Hamas and Fatah appeared to give way, and signed a unity accord in May. However, as in the other countries where elites have appeared to give ground to the Arab Spring, there has been resistance to real change. Abu Yazan is a leading member of GYBO.
I’m not the kind of person who knows how to shut up. In 2005, me and some trusted friends wrote a manifesto talking about the Palestinian Authority and the way it rules us. It caused some trouble. I didn’t put it out under any name, but the Palestinian intelligence found out.
They arrested me and two other friends. They took us to their leader. He started telling us, “what you did is dangerous, you’re gonna be killed, executed.” We told him, whatever: as long as we believe in what we’re doing we’re gonna keep doing it. They took us to prison and they left us there. Our families did not know anything about us for 45 days.
We still had a corrupt regime, and we had a stupid situation. Gaza is one country and the West Bank is another country. One is runby Hamas and one is run by Fatah.
We needed to change that situation. And if you look at any youth in Gaza when they graduate they never get a job. And if ever they gets a job, it’s not really well paid. And you never have a dream, to think of the future. So you either leave the country or you start thinking, how do I change this situation?
I started reading books about non-violent resistance, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, all these people. I had a new understanding. And I talked about it with my friends. We were sitting in a coffee shop, we started thinking about GYBO, how to do it. We wrote the manifesto in 30 minutes. We put it online. Then we started planning for the future.
Before the creation of GYBO, before March 15, we had this phenomenon in Gaza: you never criticise the political movements. If you criticise Hamas you’re always gonna be called a collaborator. If you criticise Fatah you’re never going to have a job. If you criticise Israel you’ll never be able to leave Gaza. You never criticise anyone. But when we created GYBO we thought of breaking this wall of silence. To say what we have in mind without taking into consideration what other people think of us.
We had a revolution in Gaza. We were able to get almost 100,000 people on the street on 15 March. And this revolution was for the reconciliation between the political movements. Our message, to our leaders, was to stop looking at their narrow political interests and look at Palestine. Fatah and Hamas were created to serve Palestine, not the opposite. But today they’re using Palestine for their own interests.
We started planning how to do it, when to do it, where to do it. We started studying scenarios of what Hamas’s reaction is gonna be. Where we need to move if Hamas attacks us, how we need to move. We started gathering all the plans we needed until we put them into operation on the 15 March. We put a lot of pressure on.
Our movement lasted until the 30 March. They attacked us on the 15 March, so we didn’t continue that day. But every 2 days we started going out from universities, from markets, from hospitals. Talking about the situation, saying “we’re not satisfied people, we need to end this division, we need to have reconciliation.”
Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement after a few months. But we paid a very great price for that. Many of my friends got arrested by Hamas. I got arrested several times. Every time they arrested me they used to ask me ‘who’s Abu Yazan?’ Abu Yazan is my fake name, it’s not my real name. They didn’t know me.
They sent a notice saying that I should come right away to the internal security office. They left me for four or five hours without asking me any questions. I was sitting in a small chair, facing the wall, and I couldn’t even move. If I did, I was gonna have someone hit me, so I didn’t move the whole time, for 5 or 6 hours. They gave me water and food, but the first day when I ate the food I threw up, it was really disgusting. So I just didn’t eat.
They started asking me about the activities of GYBO. And I always gave them stupid answers. Because I know how this goes. Either you give them no information or you give them lots of information. They interrogated me for three days. But there was a huge campaign outside the jail against the arrest. Many people started calling Hamas leaders asking for my release, as fast as possible, as soon as possible. And I got released after that. But they never left me alone. I used to get interrogated every two days or three days. They send me a note, I go to the internal security, I have this stupid interrogation then I go back home. Every once in a while, for 5/6 hours a day. It was really bad for me, especially the last month before I came to Egypt, so I had to leave.
They never used violence against me. Because they know what’s going to happen next if they do. They know that I’m not the kind of person who shuts up. I’m gonna tell everyone about what happened to me.
Hamas people think that they’re superior, that they came from God, that they’re senators of God on earth. If anyone stands against them, they won’t mind killing him. Your cost is only a bullet to them. If they feel that their movement is at risk, if they feel that they’re in danger, they won’t mind killing people. We saw that in 2007, when the clashes happened between Fatah and Hamas, they killed 700 people.
But Fatah is not better than Hamas. Fatah is corrupt and they were killing inside Gaza before Hamas. And that’s what forced me to vote for Hamas when the election happened in Gaza. Because I wanted to get rid of the dirty forces, the corruption of Fatah. And now I’ve lost faith in everyone, in Fatah and Hamas.
The problem in Gaza and the West Bank is the regimes. They’re international hands that are meddling in our cause. The leaders of the movements in Gaza and the West Bank are not following their own faith they’re following demands they get from the outside. For example, Hamas in Gaza is following the demands they get from Syria, Iran, and lately from the Brotherhood in Egypt. And Abbas is getting his orders from America, from the US, from whoever gives him money. So… our situation is really desperate.
I’m looking for the election, the chance to vote. It would give us a chance to vote to get rid of all these dirty faces. I mean, we might have people from both sides, from Fatah and Hamas, but the clean people, not the dirty ones.
Nothing. I’ve been arrested since the signing of the unity agreement. I mean, I was arrested before, but I got really screwed up after the unity agreement. They found it amusing to arrest me every once in a while. And nothing concrete on the ground. I mean, the only thing that has changed is you can see a Fatah flag waving inside Gaza now, which had been banned for four years. But some people are speaking up. And if some things do not change on the ground, you’re going to see a revolution very soon in Gaza.
No. No way.
Let them come with their sticks. People are depressed to the extent that they don’t care about what’s going to happen next. They won’t mind being hit with a stick, because they’re hitting a dead body.
Most people in Gaza don’t have a life. The only thing that is covering their pain is the walls that they have around them. They don’t say anything. But at some point they’re going to explode and say everything that’s inside their minds. All this frustration is going to explode. They’ll say, ‘no, we’re not going to listen any more, we’re gonna say whatever we want, we’re going to act against you, against Fatah, against all this corruption.’
They can’t finish us off. GYBO became an idea more than a movement, for many of the people. It gave us the right to speak up, to say what we have in mind. We broke the wall of silence at last. Now, people can criticise Hamas inside the Hamas internal security building. They can tell them, “you’re wrong.”
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
Greenwald speaks Trump, War on Terror, and citizen activism
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn