Town Bio

Iraq Burin was founded nearly 200 years ago when the Qadous family left the village of Burin to build new lives atop a nearby peak (an Iraq in Palestinian Arabic).

The village is hardly a kilometer from the West Bank city Nablus. However the distance can seem almost insurmountable when there are road closures due to Israeli checkpoints. This can leave Iraq Burin entirely cut off from the urban center on which it depends for municipal services such as hospitals, schools and universities.

On the hill across from Iraq Burin stands Bracha, an Israeli settlement fortified with watchtowers and barbed-wire just over two kilometers from the villagers. According to a 2010 report by the UNESCO Chair at An-Najah University, “Settlers from the Bracha settlement often provoke the residents of Iraq Burin by entering onto Iraq Burin lands carrying arms, praying on the land… and throwing stones at villagers.  Simultaneously, the Israeli army started accompanying the settlers on their way to the village… acting violently against Palestinians who are present.”

Bracha’s population exceeds 2000 residents, and continues to grow, despite the Oslo agreements calling for an end to settlement expansion and the Israeli government’s guarantee of a building freeze.  Bracha is but one of hundreds of Israeli settlements and outposts scattered throughout the Occupied West Bank, housing over 500,000 settlers.  Although violent confrontations between Israelis and villagers are a relatively new development that escalated in March 2010, with the murder of two teenagers from Iraq Burin, the village’s popular resistance dates back to the general strikes of the 1930s, when Palestinians protested against the British Occupation.

In November 2009, Iraq Burin’s population began staging weekly demonstrations to protest Israel’s continual confiscation of their land.  On Saturday, 20 March 2010, the Israeli military entered the village after the weekly demonstration and killed Mohammed Qadous, 16, and Usaid Qadous, 19, with live ammunition.

Education despite occupation
Abu Haytham, village mayor and local headmaster, sees Iraq Burin’s growing difficulties in the field of education as his major concern.  Students here find it increasingly difficult to finish high school, due to the road closures, stress and the constant threat of violence. The deaths of Mohammed and Usaid were particularly painful for Abu Haytham and other council members who are also educators. The boys had been their students.

For Abu Haytham, “childhood has died in Palestine.”

Not only is sustaining education difficult in Iraq Burin, but a decline in job prospects for Palestinian villagers due to consequences of living in an occupied land has worried the citizens of Iraq Burin. Parents are concerned that their children’s education and potential will be squandered due to the lack of opportunities.

“The Israelis wish to treat us as if we’re dead whilst we’re still alive’,” Abu Haytham said of his village’s current situation.

The village council
Abu Haytham travels as far as Ramallah and Amman in order to present the complaints of Iraq Burin’s families to the Israeli District Coordination Office (DCO) and, when that fails, to the United Nations.

However, his role is not solely an official one. Abu Haytham and the rest of the village council must act as leaders of a community under siege. For the council and the community their weekly demonstrations are an expression of their community’s steadfastness. Members of Iraq Burin march together towards the closed military zone on top of a neighboring ridge only to be repelled by soldiers firing tear gas and steel bullets coated with rubber.

To the men of the council, the murder of the two village teenagers in March 2010 was a warning from the Israeli government that Iraq Burin must cease their weekly demonstrations and submit to the Israeli authority. Yet throughout Iraq Burin, villagers consistently voice their determination to stand firm in their resistance.

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