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.”
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
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'
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
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
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
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