“I don’t want to say we are victims. We are victims in many ways, but mostly we’re freedom fighters and just people who want to live in freedom and peace and equality.”
This was what 12-year-old Palestinian activist and the world’s youngest journalist, Janna Jihad, said as she explained that she believed her generation would “make a change and free Palestine”.
Speaking on Thursday at a discussion hosted by the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in Johannesburg, Jihad said she wanted every child to be able to live their childhood.
“Let every child live in peace, live in love, live in equality. Let every child know what a childhood means,” she said.
Jihad began her journalism career when she was seven years old after she saw that nobody was reporting on her West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.
“I saw there were not enough journalists to cover things that happen in Nabi Saleh – like when my friend Mustapha had been killed and my uncle Rushdie had been killed.
“A lot of things started to happen and the world didn’t know about it ... so I wanted to cover everything that happens with us as Palestinian children living under occupation and to send our message to the world.”
She would like to work for CNN or Fox News one day so that she can “show the truth, because they do not show the truth”.
“Or I can make my own channel – JNN News,” she laughed.
Jihad is also an ambassador for 2 Suns Shamsaan, an initiative which aims to capture the voices of children.
“Shamsaan in Arabic means two suns,” Jihad explained. “We tried to make a platform for Palestinian children to send their message to other people in the world,” Jihad said.
The idea came from the drawing of a 5-year-old Palestinian child who was recovering in hospital for almost a year after his family home was attacked by Israeli settlers, 2 Suns Shamsaan founder Nadia Meer said.
The settlers petrol-bombed the home in the middle of the night, killing the boy’s parents and his 18-month-old baby brother.
“This child did a drawing of two suns in the sky. When he was asked why, he just said ‘I want the world to be extra sunny and bright’,” Meer said.
“Generally a sun to a child is a life force. This clearly stood for the two parents that are now missing.”
Meer said 2 Suns Shamsaan was also working on a child prisoner campaign as there are currently almost 400 children in jail.
Jihad said life under Israeli occupation was extremely tough.
“There are lots of difficulties like seeing people getting killed in front of you, getting injured, getting arrested, and issues like child prisoners ... It’s a very hard life living under occupation.”
Even getting to school can turn into a nightmare. Jihad’s school is about 25 minutes from her home, but with the Israeli army’s checkpoints, the journey can take three hours.
Jihad’s mother, Nawal Tamimi, said she was afraid for her daughter’s safety but she supported her.
“For me Janna is a baby, but I am going to support her. I am really proud of her,” she said.
But Tamimi was also worried about Jihad being arrested now that she was 12-years-old and viewed as an adult by the Israeli army.
Jihad’s cousin, 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi, was arrested in December last year for slapping a soldier outside her home. She was sentenced to eight months in prison and will be released on July 29.
“Ahed is my cousin and my best friend,” Jihad said.
“She was arrested for trying to defend her home and not letting soldiers come into her home and shoot [gas] cannisters at children who were playing.”
Despite the difficulties she faced, Jihad firmly believes there will be peace in Palestine.
“We can live together ... under one government, one law, with the same equal rights,” she said.
And to those who believe that Israel was not an apartheid state and that the Palestinians were the problem, Jihad had this message: “You’re welcome to come to Palestine and see for yourself.”