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May 14, 2001
Iman: The Miracle of Birth and Death

By Ramzy Baroud


Note: Please support unbaiased reporting and regularly visit Middle East News Online at middleeastwire.com.

Iman: The Miracle of Birth and Death
www.middleeastwire.com/newswire/stories/20010511_3_meno.shtml Middle East News Online
By Ramzy Baroud Middle East News Online Managing Editor

Like Native Americans, Arabs regard names as symbols that retain value and character. They worry little about the musical sound of one's name, and they do not have much concern about being uncreative and redundant when choosing a name. It's not surprising to find five brothers in the same family all naming one of their children "Mohamed" after the great prophet of Islam.

The name Mohamed received an additional boost in Gaza after Israel gunned down a Palestinian child seeking shelter by his father's side in the early months of the Intifada.

Earlier, the name Yahya was also a favored choice for many Palestinian families when Yahya Ayyash (also known as the engineer) was blown to pieces after a bomb planted by the Israeli Mossad went off in a cell phone he used, as he spoke with his father.

Yahya was viewed by Israelis as a vile enemy. For Palestinians, the young university graduate was a hero.

I am an Arab. My pride too compelled me to carry on the legacy of names. But my story is a bit more complex.

I called my first born baby-girl, now two-years-old, Zarefah, after my late mother. My mother's childhood was turned into sorrow and despair when she was chased out of her village by Zionist gangs in 1948. She was only 5 years old then. She died 40 years later as a refugee in an impoverished house, never recovering from decades of sad memories and endless fear for the lives of her children.

I vowed to give my daughter the life that my mother was denied.

When I learned that my second born was also a girl, my eyes gleamed with happiness, and after considering our list of options, we settled on the name Boutheina, an old Arabic name, poetic and lovely.

But the Intifada exploded and many beautiful faces with beautiful names sadly wasted away.

Salameh, Ramiz, Alla‚, Mohannad, Mahmoud, Ismail, Mohamed, Mustafa, Raed, Eyad, Hossam, Khadra, Bilal, Sarah and hundreds of others were all gunned down while fighting for their freedom, protecting one another or even asleep or in school.

Active Muslim and Arab communities on the Internet transmitted the names of martyrs from one list to the other. It appeared as if it was a desperate search for closure and a hi-tech way to mourn their dead.

Or maybe it was an attempt to associate the growing number of martyrs with human faces, something that was stripped from them by a cruel media which sees Palestinian martyrs as faceless statistics.

But the list grew, and remembering all the names or even scrolling through the entire list in a hurry was no longer feasible.

So I decided to remember only one in a way that I can never forget.

When my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in November 14, 2000, we had no doubts about what we would name her.

"Iman" was the name we chose. Even minutes after Iman was delivered, I made it very clear to those at the Seattle hospital that we were giving our new daughter the name of a Palestinian infant that was martyred in Gaza.

I shared the news with my friends and I conveyed the story behind our choice.

Like her sister, Iman too received my assurances that I would do all that I could to give her the life that the martyred Iman was denied.

It was a little embarrassing when I realized that I had made a mistake, and no little girls by the name of Iman were killed by Israel during the Intifada.

Where did that name come from any way?

I went back to the lists of martyrs, thoroughly scanning everyone of them, looking for an explanation. The closest I found was a young man named Ayman who was shot in the early days of the uprising at the age of 21.

A misunderstanding, but it is the thought that counts, I assured myself.

As my little daughter, now six months old practiced crawling on the carpet, Qatar-based Al Jazeera television aired images of a four month old child named Iman Hejjo, laying dead in a Khan Yunis hospital on May 07, 2001.

Her body was crushed, and a big black hole penetrated her back and stomach.

Unlike mine, Iman Hejjo of Khan Yunis refugee camp didn't giggle or cry when doctors turned her back and forth displaying the girl's fatal wounds to television camera.

I held tight to my Iman, too tight that she cried. My eyes too brimmed with tears.

Names have meanings, as Arabs and Native Americans know best.

But I never imagined that I would name my daughter after a martyr who was not yet killed, needless to say even born.

Nothing is shocking about Israel's killing of children. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's military career is filled with names of martyred babies in Lebanon and throughout Palestine.

But even then, one can never come to terms with witnessing a child shattered with bullets and shells instead of making funny faces, crying for a bottle of milk or demanding more of her mother's attention.

In Iman's case, even while dead, her mother couldn't sit by her side, for she too was laying wounded, fighting for her life in a hospital bed. Iman's entire family was in fact wounded that fateful Monday when their house was shelled by the Israeli army.

And now Iman Hejjo's name has finally joined the ever expanding list of martyrs.

Too lengthy, that 'daily updated' list now, yet I cannot help but visit and gaze at the name and age of Iman residing in the bottom of a list that grew to nearly five hundred.

Names have meaning, but names of martyrs have a much deeper meaning than any other, and they can never be forgotten no matter how large the list grows.

Names have profound meaning, as Palestinians know best.

Note: Please support unbaiased reporting and regularly visit Middle East News Online at middleeastwire.com.