Press Release – ISSI organizes students’ art competition on “Expressing Solidarity with the Children of Gaza”

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Press Release
ISSI organizes students’ art competition on “Expressing Solidarity with the Children of Gaza”
February 22, 2024

The Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East & Africa (CAMEA) at Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) organized an art competition for children aged 8-12 years, titled, “Expressing Solidarity with the Children of Gaza,” which aimed to pay homage to the courage and resilience of the people of Gaza, particularly its children, who have borne the brunt of the conflict.

The Chief Guest on the occasion was H.E. Ahmed Rabaei, Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Pakistan. Mr. Brian Witbooi, Counsellor at the South African High Commission in Islamabad; Ambassador Sohail Mahmood, Director General ISSI; and Ms. Amina Khan, Director CAMEA, ISSI also spoke.

In his remarks, Ambassador Ahmed Rabaei expressed his deep gratitude on behalf of the State of Palestine to the people of Pakistan for their profound support and solidarity in such testing times. He expressed pleasure on seeing the participating students, who shared their heartfelt sentiments and contributed efforts in support of the Palestinian people in the wake of ongoing conflict. He reiterated the concerns of UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, ‘who feared that there may be no life in Gaza’. He added that seventy percent of the victims in Gaza were children and women, which meant more than 21,000 human lives. Further, he said, more than 20,000 buildings in Gaza had been demolished by Israel’s occupation forces. People in the south of Gaza – more than 1.4 million – were waiting in the small congested area for hope. However, Israel was attacking Gaza continuously. Speaking about Pakistan, Ambassador Rabaei stated that he felt at home, as the people in Pakistan spoke about Palestine through their hearts which showed that Palestinians were not alone in facing the challenges while they pursued their struggle for inalienable rights.

DG ISSI Ambassador Sohail Mahmood, in his remarks on the occasion, highlighted the human suffering in Gaza as a result of relentless Israeli military operations, and especially the devastating impact on Gaza’s children. He noted that over 12,600 children had been killed, while those who survived were psychologically traumatized, displaced, homeless, and short of food and safe drinking water. Thousands had lost body limbs and would be forced to live the lives of disability and dependence. This was the worst part of the ‘collective punishment’ being imposed on the civilian population. He particularly lauded the courage and resilience of the people of Gaza, who remained steadfast in the face of unspeakable atrocities and continued to fight for their freedom from illegal occupation. The ISSI was overwhelmed with the response, when it approached young Pakistani students to raise awareness about the plight of Gaza’s children and to express solidarity with them. They had composed powerful poetry and drawings and paintings – affirming their support and extending a message of hope.

Ambassador Sohail Mahmood lamented that the latest Security Council attempt to effect a ceasefire had been stymied by another veto. Noting South Africa’s approach to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for proceedings against Israel for violation of its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention, he lauded the ICJ’s landmark preliminary ruling that called upon Israel to take all measures in its power to prevent genocidal acts against Palestinians. Ambassador Sohail Mahmood concluded by stressing that everyone should know that there can be no peace in the Middle East without justice for the Palestinians.

Ms. Amina Khan, in her remarks stated that the recent events in Gaza and the West Bank have witnessed an unprecedented level of brutality from the Israeli occupation forces, which have been highlighted by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, describing them as, “We are witnessing a killing of civilians that is unparalleled and unprecedented in any conflict – in modern history.” She further said that the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis has robbed the children of Palestine of their childhood and denied them basic rights that every child deserves. Unfortunately, this conflict has tragically given birth to a disturbing acronym used by aid workers ‘Wounded Child No Surviving Family’ (WCNSF) which reflects the sad reality of this conflict. She further said that while South Africa has given us some hope by filing a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice for committing acts of genocide in the Gaza Strip in violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention, unfortunately the recent veto of the ceasefire resolution at the UN is yet again not only devastating but tantamount to tacit approval of Israel’s ongoing war crimes and   genocide. She ended by saying that let us pledge to be champions for the children of Gaza, who have shown remarkable strength, determination and resilience to face such an unprecedented brutality.

Mr. Brian Witbooi, in his remarks on the occasion, said that the atrocities are blatant and bold and for the entire world to see. He explained that journalists have run out of adjectives to describe the onslaught and the horror that we see every day on our television screens, on our mobiles, on social media and the mainstream media. The atrocities are well documented and Israel and the West want to start the narrative from October 7, 2023 but we know that what we see today is a culmination of what started 75 years ago with the creation of the state of Israel. 75 years of the robbing of the land of Palestinians, 75 years of their deprivation of their human rights, 75 years of dehumanization, and 75 years under the throngs of an apartheid Zionist regime. He concluded by saying that the South African struggle was a just struggle for human rights and that human rights are universal.

The judges of the art competition were, Mr. Nader Al Turk, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Palestine, Mr. Brian Witbooi and Mr. Aqeel Ahmed Solangi, Associate Professor, Department of Painting and Sculpture, National College of Arts, Rawalpindi. The participating schools included Islamabad Grammar School and College (IGSC), SLS Montessori School and College, Pak-Turk Maarif International School and College Islamabad, Froebel’s International School  and HeadStart School  along with their teachers.

The event concluded with a prize distribution ceremony, where students who won prizes were given trophies and certificates as a token of acknowledgement by Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman BoG, ISSI. Later, the participants saw the display of paintings and poetry, which was inaugurated by chief guest Ambassador Ahmed Rabaei.