Sat, Nov 23, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Shedding light on life in the shadow of the world’s security walls

From Mexico to Morocco, barriers separate communities. While some say they offer a sense of security, others claim they create a feeling of imprisonment

Lee sometimes wishes he could sell his land and farm somewhere more predictable. With inter-Korean relations remaining poor, however, the possibility of conflict scares away potential buyers and pushes down land values, so he knows he would not get much if he did sell his land.

“It’s my responsibility to maintain this so I don’t have much choice,” he says, crouched down while pulling weeds. “I just hope the politics can stay calm so we can keep up with our work.”

West Bank

By Harriet Sherwood

The Guardian, AL-WALAJA, West Bank

Omar Hajajla, 47, is a construction worker from al-Walaja, a village surrounded by the barrier. Hajajla’s house is on the Israeli side, accessible only through a tunnel under the barrier:

“In 2008, we were surprised to be told by the occupation authorities that this house would be the only one in the village outside the wall. They told us this would create a lot of trouble for us and they offered us money and land to move. My answer was that the only thing I want is my house and my land, nothing more, nothing less.

“Then they threatened me, but I said I am supported by someone even stronger than the state of Israel — God.

“They suspended my permit to work in Jerusalem. They used dynamite close to the house in the hope it would be destroyed. They harassed us every day. But we refused to leave.

“Now the tunnel is the only way to connect the house to the village. My children go to school two minutes away, but now it takes 45 minutes to go round the barrier. The truth is, the psychology of my children has changed. Their friends don’t come to visit them; people are scared because we live in a military zone, they can be stopped and asked for ID. The children feel like they are living in a jail. When the barrier is finished, the whole of al-Walaja will be surrounded, with only one gate. People will be suffocated inside a cocoon. Israel says the wall is for security, but the real reason is to confiscate as much Palestinian land as they can and to isolate us in the hope that we go away.”


By Delwar Hussein

The Guardian, BOROPANI, India

Lamin is from the Indian side of the village of Boropani, which has been divided by India’s formidable attempt to build a 3,380-km) border fence between it and Bangladesh. He works as a coal miner. Lamin, 30, is part of the minority Garo community, who are indigenous to this part of the borderlands. Like many Garos, Lamin has family on both sides and often crosses back and forth:

“There are some border guards that are reasonable and they will let you cross if you give them money, especially during Christmas or one of the other religious festivals,” he said.

However, his usual experience is anything but convivial. “If the BSF [border security force] catch you crossing, they will first stamp on you with their boots, then beat you up and only then ask which country you are from.

“They get drunk and attack anyone. It doesn’t matter to them whether you may be Bengali or an Indian. The BSF don’t see anyone who lives in the border area as human. I do not have a problem with the Bengalis coming here to work and us going there to visit family or to shop in the bazaar. We are known to each other and have always done so. It is the border guards who create the problems, not the people.”

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