'I try to forget - but i can't'
- She was the 12-year-old girl filmed crying alongside her father and
siblings as they lay dying - victims of an explosion at a family
picnic. But what happened to Huda Ghalia next? Rory McCarthy meets the
shy, teased girl who became a symbol of Palestinian despair
'I try to forget - but i can't'
Saturday March 17, 2007
It was a Friday afternoon in June. The sky over Gaza was a broad wash
of purple blue, and along the seafront the surf was breaking into
small whitecaps. Ali Ghalia was on a day off from his work as a farmer
and decided to take his family for lunch on the beach at Beit Lahiya,
a few minutes' drive from their home. The beach on the Mediterranean,
with its rolling dunes and dry grasses, is a rare delight in a stretch
of land ground down by poverty, overcrowding, militancy and decades of
military occupation. It is free to the public and barely touched by
development - just a few half-built hotels are dotted along the
25-mile coastline, the shadow of a tourist industry that never was.
Ghalia had two wives, as is still sometimes the custom in the
Palestinian territories, and both were with him on the beach that day,
along with their dozen children and their beach kit: several plastic
armchairs, plates of food and cooking pots, flasks of tea, plastic
toys, blankets to sit on and a small cot for the baby. They ate lunch
and lazed in the sunshine, and were still on the beach shortly after
Although it was a Friday afternoon, others in Gaza were still at work,
among them Zakariah Abu Harbeed, 37, a cameraman with Ramattan, the
leading Palestinian news agency. He is based at the agency's
10th-floor offices in Gaza City, ready to report breaking stories.
Often in Gaza that means covering the conflict - dozens of times he
has filmed the dead and the dying, and he has been shot at and wounded
in the process.
That Friday, Abu Harbeed had been to Beit Hanoun, a town close to the
northern border of the strip, to film the scene of an Israeli attack
on a group of suspected militants. On his way back, he ran into
another story. The Israeli military had just destroyed a car that they
also suspected was carrying militants. He filmed that scene, too, and
went to the hospital to get footage of the injured. It was, for him,
an ordinary day's work. It was shortly after 4.30pm.
Then he took a call from a contact in the ambulance service: the
Israeli military were shelling the beach at Beit Lahiya and there were
casualties. He called his driver and they jumped into the car.
That afternoon at the beach, Abu Harbeed shot about 10 minutes of film
for which he later won two awards. He arrived just in time to record
the aftermath of a terrible explosion that had killed most of the
Ghalia family. Seven were dead: Ali Ghalia, 49, and one of his wives,
Ra'eesa, 35, together with five children: Haitham, five months old;
Hanadi, 18 months; Sabreen, four; Ilham, 15; and Aliya, 17. Several
others were injured, some severely, including more children from the
Much of the film Abu Harbeed made that day is so graphic it would
never be broadcast on television in the west. One clip, however, was
broadcast repeatedly that day and in the days that followed. It showed
Huda Ghalia, aged 12, distraught and sobbing by the body of her dead
father. It was an image distilling Palestinian despair, one that
recalled the film of Mohammad al-Dura, the 12-year-old boy who died in
his father's arms in Gaza in a hail of gunfire six years ago, at the
start of the intifada.
Abu Harbeed talked me through the footage in a cramped video editing
suite at the Ramattan offices. It begins as they drive up to the
beach, the film shot from the passenger seat through a cracked
windscreen with the blare of a siren in the background. There is one
ambulance, its back door open, and half a dozen men shouting and
panicked. Between them they uncover one limp body after another,
dragging them out quickly and either placing them on a stretcher or
running with them to the ambulance. They don't have time to notice
that several of the bodies they are carrying are dead, the wounds
horrific, impossible to survive. One of the men reaches for a girl,
grabs her black clothes at the shoulder and places her on a green
canvas stretcher. Her left arm has been blown off just above the
elbow. She is pale, unconscious and looks dead, but in fact she
survives. I learned later that her name is Amani. Somewhere among the
bodies is her sister, Ayhaam. She, too, is badly injured but survives.
As this was going on, Abu Harbeed just stood still and filmed. He is a
professional just doing his job, and methodical. "You can see I'm not
getting close to the bodies," he said, "that's too much for the
audience. I'm getting the wide picture. But then I felt there was
someone alive nearby, as if there was some life coming out of this
death. Suddenly Huda imposed herself on this massacre."
Huda is at the corner of the screen, watching the men remove the
bodies. She stands still, her arms by her side. She is in a blue
T-shirt, her black hair curled down to her shoulders. As the last body
is removed, Huda turns around and starts to run, her hands reach
forward, the fingers splayed. Abu Harbeed follows her with his camera.
"I couldn't tell where she was going. I just followed her." Huda
reaches a dune, stops running and clasps her arms across her chest.
She begins to scream: "Oh father, oh father", and the screaming
continues even as she throws herself into the sand. The camera pans
back to show her lying next to the body of her father, Ali Ghalia,
broad-shouldered with a grey moustache and lying on his back. His
mouth and eyes are open, but he is dead, his pupils rolled up under
his eyelids. Huda is still screaming.
By now Abu Harbeed was quietly crying in the editing suite. After a
minute he looked up. "I don't like to see these pictures. They make me
suffer," he said simply. "I wanted people to see that this is a family
that did nothing to anyone. There are no weapons, no military
uniforms, just a picnic."
Beit Lahiya is a poor neighbourhood in the far north of the Gaza
Strip. Many of the householders used to work as labourers in Israel,
but since a clampdown on permits for work that income has dried up.
Most now make a living farming the fields that lie just to the north,
between the town and the concrete wall and steel fence that marks the
border with Israel. But Gaza's farming industry is also struggling,
thanks to Israel's repeated closure of the major crossing points out
of the strip. Those closures have so damaged farm exports that many no
longer bother investing in the seeds to plant cash crops such as
strawberries and cherry tomatoes in the first place. Israel says the
closures are justified on grounds of security. In effect it means that
poverty levels have risen (unemployment in Gaza is running at 40%,
according to the UN) and many families, like the Ghalias, have run up
credit at local grocery stores which they hope to pay off in the future.
The Ghalia family house is unexceptional: a two-storey breeze block
structure that looks at least partly homemade. It has a red-tin door,
and next to it a spindly cactus that rises up to the height of the
first floor and bows under the weight of the family washing line.
Outside, there is a constant noise of children playing and the
occasional donkey-drawn cart that passes by: the first has a boy with
a loud-hailer advertising his tray of freshly caught fish; a few
minutes later another cart goes by with baskets of live chickens. The
family live on the ground floor, in a couple of empty rooms furnished
only with mattresses and blankets that are rolled up and stacked
against the wall each morning. Huda shares a bare bedroom with her two
younger sisters, Hadeel, eight, and Latifa, seven.
In the months after the explosion on the beach, I went to visit Huda
and her family many times, to listen to the story of a household
struck by a tragedy, a family that captured the headlines and then
dropped from sight. I ate with them, went to school with them, drove
with them to see relatives and visited their injured in hospital.
The first time I met the Ghalias, they were sitting on plastic chairs
in the sunshine outside the front door of the house. Ayham, 20, the
oldest son, receives visitors. He is quiet and surly, and like most of
the men in the family he smokes, though not in front of his mother or
uncles. Since his father's death, he has become responsible for taking
a lead in family decisions. He also works as a part-time guard at a
local UN office and has begun a two-year secretarial diploma at the
Islamic University in Gaza City. The university is affiliated to
Hamas, the Islamic militant movement elected into power a year ago,
and the course is to be paid for by Hamas: one of a small number of
official contributions made to the family since what they call simply
After a while, Huda appeared. She was barefoot and dressed in a black
cloak with a white veil on her head. A gold bracelet hung from her
wrist. She was quiet and monosyllabic: still visibly affected by what
had happened. Huda and her two younger sisters have started at a new
school, a Hamas-run girls' school in Gaza City, their tuition another
gift from Hamas. She said she preferred the new school. "I have new
friends now," she said. "I don't see the old friends any more." She
had just returned from a visit that she, her two sisters, her mother
and her aunt made to the United Arab Emirates. "It was fine," she
said. It was her first time out of Gaza.
Some weeks later, Huda produced a photo album of that trip. The visit
the family described to me was part political and part medical. Huda's
mother, Hamdiya, 41, who had been badly injured in the right hand, was
treated in hospital, as were Latifa and Hadeel. The film of Huda on
the beach turned her into such a symbolic figure that many Arab
officials queued up to see her. One photograph shows Huda standing
with her fingers in a V for victory salute, in front of a poster of
Abbas and the late Yasser Arafat. Another shows her sitting on a sofa
in a pink dress and wide-brimmed hat, talking to the deputy prime
minister of the Emirates. But the pictures the children most enjoy
show them incongruously dressed in red ski outfits and helmets,
holding plastic sleds at a vast indoor ski centre in Dubai.
In Gaza, Huda had already met Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime
minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. Both spoke of
adopting her, as did other dignitaries she met. They meant that
loosely - not taking her into their families to bring up as their own,
but offering her moral and financial support. They were public
gestures, singling out a girl suffering a private grief.
On their return from the Emirates, Huda crossed back into Gaza through
Israel with a special VIP pass. Her mother and the rest of the family
had to cross from Egypt, through the Rafah crossing, which is
frequently closed and always overcrowded. They had no special passes.
With so much attention paid to the young girl, it is perhaps not
surprising that the family began to feel a degree of frustration.
For one thing, their neighbours presumed that this political
attention, international travel and talk of adoption would translate
into great financial wealth for the Ghalias. Hamas stepped forward to
pay for the children's education, and a Qatari charity paid for the
rebuilding of a house for Amani, the eldest daughter, married with two
children, who lost most of her left arm in the incident. President
Abbas provided around ï¿½1,000 and there appears to be the promise of
money from the Emirates to pay to rebuild the family house - although
eight months on from the incident, no work has begun. But there has
been no more than that. Only after some time did it become clear to
the neighbourhood that the Ghalias were still living as precariously
as everyone around them.
Secondly, there was the extraordinary attention Huda received.
Although she featured prominently in the footage shot on the beach,
she was only lightly injured. The family was upset by the iconic
status she had been given and angry that the others, who suffered much
more serious physical wounds, had been overlooked. Huda's younger
brother, Adham, 10, suffered serious shrapnel wounds to his stomach
and mouth, and was eventually transferred to the US for treatment. He
is still living there, looked after by a series of expatriate
Palestinian families who ensure he receives the medical care he needs
and that he is attending school. He calls home several times a week.
Huda's two elder sisters, Amani and Ayhaam, who were the most
seriously injured, have been in and out of hospital, and still have
months of serious operations ahead of them.
"Huda was seen on television, that's all," said Hassan Ghalia. "But it
is not only Huda, believe me. She is the one who saw everything and
was seen by the world, but other people lost so much and nobody saw
them." Hassan, 33, is one of Huda's uncles, the thinner and younger
brother of her dead father, Ali. Of the several uncles who live nearby
and take care of the family, Hassan is perhaps the most mature. He,
too, is a farmer, but can't afford to plant this year and has no other
work. He is carefully spoken and always points out that though he
blames the Israeli military for the explosion, he does not blame the
Israeli people, with whom he hopes the Palestinians will one day find
peace. He told me, "The Palestinians firing rockets at Israel are
doing it out of ideology. The Israeli military who fire at us are
doing it out of ideology. And we are just crushed in the middle."
In the months ahead, it was Hassan who volunteered to look after his
niece, Ayhaam, accompanying her on the trips to hospital in Israel and
taking care of her physiotherapy on her return. And after all, he
said, this was not the first crisis to hit the family. A year and a
half earlier, in January 2005, several of his nephews were involved in
another, equally traumatic incident: seven children, all under the age
of 18, were killed, and seven other people, including five more
children, were severely injured when they were hit by Israeli tank
shells. The children, most from the Ghaben family, were in farmland
just north of Beit Lahiya, picking strawberries. Witnesses said
militants had been firing mortars from the fields over the border into
Israel that morning, but disappeared as the Israeli shelling began.
The Israeli military said it targeted a group of masked men preparing
to fire more mortars. Three of the children lost both their legs -
including Issa Ghalia, now 15, who is a regular visitor to Huda's
family. He was treated in Israel and later in Iran. He was fitted with
a pair of prosthetic legs, but prefers not to use them and instead
would swing through the gate, up the steps and on to a chair using his
arms alone. "The legs are good, but sometimes I just get tired of
them," he said one day as he sat listening to the family's news. It is
attacks such as these that have discouraged farmers in northern Gaza
from going anywhere near their fields by the border.
On a Saturday morning I went to Huda's new school, the Dar al-Arqam,
which is large, clean and imposing. Three newly-painted buildings
stand on three sides of a large concrete playground. It has been open
since August 2003 and around 1,500 children, aged between five and 15,
study here. Nearly all are girls, although there are temporarily a
small number of boys, too, because their school was damaged in recent
fighting. All the teachers are women. "It is our kingdom," the deputy
head, Eman Nassar, 34, told me. She took a degree in biochemistry at
an Egyptian university and spent six years as a kindergarten teacher
in Gaza before coming to the school.
Around a third of the children are loosely termed "orphans", meaning
one or both of their parents have either died during the conflict or
are among the 10,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Like Huda and
her sisters, they do not pay school fees. In addition, any child in
the fourth grade or above who scores more than 95% in their end of
year exams is exempt from school fees, which range up to 320 Jordanian
dinars (ï¿½240) a year.
The school is openly affiliated to Hamas - although the teachers are
at pains to insist that does not make them signed-up members of the
movement - and there is a strong religious element to the teaching.
Qur'anic learning is a key part of the children's curriculum, as are
Arabic, English, science, maths, geography and history, all taught
from government textbooks. Almost all the girls wear a uniform of a
black cloak and a white veil over their hair. At home I noticed Huda
now almost always veiled her hair, though her hair was not veiled that
day at the beach.
"We work for God, not for Hamas or Islamic Jihad or anyone else," said
Nassar. "We work for God and we want our children to be the best." The
children themselves are not all from Hamas-supporting families - the
Ghalias, for example, are almost wholly divorced from politics and
show no particular loyalty to any of Gaza's political factions.
Nassar said the goal of the school is to teach the children to think,
not to prepare them for any set role as women or in politics.
"Everyone has to learn. But how you use that knowledge, that's what's
important," she said. The teachers are all well-educated and the
school is in far better condition than government schools in the area.
The school day is longer, and the class sizes smaller. Huda, with her
government school background, found herself well behind other girls of
her age. Her English was particularly poor and she was extremely
reluctant to speak up in class. It didn't help that she was teased a
lot by the other children, and even now in between classes she plays
with her sisters more than her classmates. "The other children would
run after her saying, 'Huda Ghalia, Huda Ghalia', and, 'Oh father, oh
father', just like they'd seen on television," said her teacher, Nadia
Shurafa, 25. "Her response was to be shy and not talk to anyone. She
tried to forget about what happened, but no one lets her forget. She
just wants to be normal."
The conflict in Gaza has such a huge impact on all the children's
lives that the school does its own psychological work. There are
several others like Huda who have seen members of their families
killed in front of them. Sometimes it is a matter of stepping in to
prevent fighting in the playground. "They fight very easily," said
Nassar. "They form themselves into different militia groups and act
out what they've seen. Or they play 'I'm a Jew, you're a Palestinian'.
You have to keep your eyes on them and try to get them to talk about
what they feel. And sometimes you just have to accept what they do."
One teacher, Asma'a Obaid, 24, runs one-on-one sessions for the most
traumatised children, including Huda. She encourages them to talk
through their experiences and to draw scenes from the incidents they
have been through. Obaid flicked through some of the most recent
paintings on her desk. They show pictures of dead children,
helicopters firing missiles into buildings and key events in recent
Gazan history, including the killing of the Hamas spiritual leader,
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. "Sometimes the children say they want to kill the
person who killed their father, or brother, or whoever it was," Obaid
said. "We tell them it's better to educate themselves."
She often asks the children to draw a happier picture than the
violence all around them ,and she produced one painting drawn by Huda
that showed a large, multicoloured house next to a row of trees, with
flowers and seven people in the garden and a smiling sun in the sky.
"A specialist psychologist visited the school and saw this and said
this represents where Huda wants to be, this place of stability and
sunshine," Obaid said.
Huda's days are spent at school, or playing with brothers, sisters and
cousins at home or the house of one of two uncles, Hassan and Yahya,
who both live across the street. Every few weeks she is driven down to
the south, to a house in the sand dunes near Khan Yunis, to see the
woman she knows as her grandmother, who for 20 years has acted as a
I went with her once and watched as the old woman talked to Huda,
reading to her from the Qur'an and feeding her a sweet-smelling juice
made of amber and musk, a potion rumoured to have special remedial
"This helps to push out the fear," said the 70-year-old woman, Um
Khalid, the mother of Ali Ghalia's second wife, Ra'eesa, who was
Huda's stepmother and who was also killed in the beach explosion.
"Thanks to God and this liquid, everyone gets better. I have a
connection with God, you see. I just make the treatment and it all
comes out of her. She calms down and she has really improved over
time. They will forget eventually."
One afternoon, Huda was standing on the roof terrace of her family
house in Beit Lahiya, picking passion fruit off a vine with her mother
and younger sisters. The terrace looks over the back garden, which is
small but full of trees: figs, oranges, lemon, a date palm and a
banana tree that needs cutting back. It was several months after the
incident on the beach and Huda was slowly beginning to open up. She
was still shy, but less withdrawn than when I first met her. We talked
about the new school, which she seemed to prefer. She talked about
perhaps being a lawyer in future - this is what Sheikh Hamdan, the
deputy prime minister in the Emirates, had suggested: "Become a
lawyer, defend your rights." She talked about the television - the
footage of her still reappears occasionally on the Arabic news
channels. "We don't have a television and I won't go to any house that
does have a television," she said. Her teachers say she is too
frightened to look at any photographs of herself. "I remember that day
and what happened," Huda said. "I can't forget it and sometimes I
dream of it. I am trying to forget, but I can't."
As is often the case in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the cause of
the explosion that afternoon on the beach is much disputed. The Ghalia
family and others hold the Israeli military responsible for the blast,
saying an artillery shell hit the family. The Israeli military had
fired thousands of shells into Gaza in the preceding weeks, aimed at
preventing Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli towns, and admitted
firing a number of shells from the sea and the land on that Friday.
But the Israel Defence Force denied responsibility at the time and, in
a written response for this article, said the explosion that killed
the Ghalias was "without a doubt, not caused by the IDF". This
conclusion was based on "intelligence analysis, Palestinian claims,
media coverage of the incident and IDF filmed footage that documented
all IDF activity during that day". It admitted the Israeli military
had fired six artillery shells: the IDF could account for where five
of those shells landed, but not the first shell, which it said was
fired at 4.30pm. "The possibility that this shell landed in the area
of the incident is close to zero," it said. The IDF concluded, based
on clips of video footage, that the blast happened some minutes later
and not before 4.57pm. The IDF also said that two pieces of shrapnel
taken from two of the people injured at the scene did not come from
155mm IDF artillery shells. In its written response, the IDF offered
no other possible cause for the blast, though in the days after the
incident it suggested there had been a coincidental separate explosion
on the beach at that time in the afternoon, caused either by a buried
old shell or a mine planted by Hamas.
Several human rights groups and press reports at the time raised
points of difference with the IDF account. In particular, a detailed
article by the Guardian's Chris McGreal on June 17 showed that the
timings noted in hospital records, and by a doctor and an ambulance
driver, indicated that the blast happened some minutes earlier than
the IDF maintains - so challenging the IDF's central claim that its
shelling had stopped by the time the Ghalias were killed. The article
also cited a former Pentagon battlefield analyst working for Human
Rights Watch who believed that the crater size, shrapnel, types of
injuries and their location on the victims' bodies (particularly to
the head and torso) pointed to a shell dropping from the sky, not
explosives under the sand. Witnesses spoke of hearing other blasts at
the time, consistent with a pattern of shells falling at the beach.
It happens quite frequently that severely ill or injured patients in
Gaza who cannot get adequate treatment in the strip's hospitals are
allowed to cross into Israel. And so it was with Huda's two elder
sisters, Amani and Ayhaam: shortly after the incident, both were taken
to hospitals in Israel. Amani, 23, whose left arm had to be amputated
above the elbow, was taken to hospital in Be'er Sheva and travels back
and forth from Gaza on a regular basis. Ayhaam, 17, suffered severe
injuries to her shoulders, chest, throat and legs, and for many months
was confined to a wheelchair. Of all those on the beach that day, she
was perhaps the worst injured.
Six months after the incident, Ayhaam was back in hospital in Israel,
sitting on a metal-framed chair in a third-floor room at the Assaf
Harofeh Medical Centre, near Ramla. With her was her uncle Hassan, who
spent every day and every night in the ward at his niece's bedside. It
was his first time in Israel since 1993. He spoke little Hebrew, the
doctors spoke little Arabic, but he could talk to the cleaners, most
of whom were Arab Israelis. He found many of the Jewish families in
the hospital welcoming. "It's more human than political," he said as
we sat together in the ward. "Most people we've met are compassionate.
Their reaction is: 'We suffer in the same way you suffer.'"
It was Ayhaam's third time at this hospital, and when she had arrived
about two weeks earlier, the doctors had been deeply concerned and
advised an urgent operation. The problem was with her windpipe, which
had narrowed so much that she was having difficulty breathing. It
wasn't clear to the doctors whether the narrowing was caused by a
shrapnel injury, or was the result of a long intubation in another
hospital, or whether a small opening in the windpipe had become
infected. Whichever, Dr Ilan Bar, one of Israel's leading
cardio-thoracic surgeons, concluded that he needed to cut away the
narrowed section of the trachea and then reconnect the remaining ends.
In a small office off the wards, Bar opened his textbook to show me
the procedure. "You pray to God that it doesn't disrupt," he said. "It
is very rare and very risky."
For the first few hours after the operation, it appeared to have been
successful. Then, when Bar was out at a Saturday night football match
at his Tel Aviv local club, he was called back to the hospital:
Ayhaam's condition had seriously deteriorated.
"That Saturday night the doctor told me there wasn't anything more
they could do," Hassan said. "We were just waiting for her to die."
But by the Sunday morning Ayhaam had recovered. "For now I can say the
procedural technique was successful," said Bar. "Now I want to take
care of all the other problems she has, like walking and movement,
clearing her lungs, healing her bladder. Our procedure was
life-saving; now let's deal with the other problems that can make her
On the Tuesday after her operation, Ayhaam was sitting up, alert, in
her room. Her feet, sunk in a pair of pink slippers, had been gently
taped to a simple pedal machine to begin the first stages of
physiotherapy. Bar, on his morning rounds, seemed pleased with her
condition. "Today for the first time I saw her smiling," he said.
"Before, she used to just lie on the bed like a sack of potatoes."
I asked him about the politics of the case, but he was dismissive. It
was not the first time he has treated Palestinian patients: seriously
injured children are quite often sent to his hospital and he has once
visited Gaza to meet doctors there.
Two weeks later, Hassan and Ayhaam travelled back to Gaza by
ambulance. The driver stopped at a hospital in Be'er Sheva to pick up
another Palestinian patient, an elderly women in the final stages of
cancer who was heading back to Gaza to die at her family's side. But
the woman was sicker than the doctors had thought and she died in the
ambulance. The driver had no choice but to carry on his journey. They
passed quickly through the Erez crossing into northern Gaza. At that
point, Hassan noticed, the driver suddenly speeded up and took a
corner too quickly. The ambulance lurched over and toppled on to its
side, throwing Hassan, Ayhaam and the dead woman on top of each other
across the vehicle. The pair were bruised but not badly hurt, and as
he told the story later, Hassan shrugged as if this sort of bad
fortune was something they had come to expect.
The last time I saw them, Ayhaam was sitting on the porch of Hassan's
house, warming herself in the afternoon sun. Most of the rest of the
family were around her, apart from Adham, who was still in the US.
Huda, who had just finished her end-of-term exams, was there, along
with her younger sisters and her mother, as well as Amani, back
briefly from hospital in Israel and soon to be fitted with a
prosthetic arm. Her husband and their two children were with her. The
family were laughing among themselves, and it was the first time I had
seen them like this. They were happy to have the two elder girls home,
and celebrating the news that another of Huda's uncles, Yahya, 38, had
finally got himself a job working as a gardener for the municipal
authority. It was to pay him just 1,000 shekels a month, but this was
the first time he'd had work for many months. Yahya, who is always
quick to make light of their lives, joked that he was so important at
work, he'd soon be able to supply bags of flour and food for the
family. "Ask God not to fire him," said Hassan, feigning a look of
despair. He talked about Ayhaam and her slow recovery, and finding
suitable medical care for her in Gaza, which has now become his main
As the family chatted, there was no mention of the day on the beach
last summer. I asked Hassan what he felt now about that day. "Eight
months have gone by and nothing has changed," he said. "I know life
goes on, but the scars are still deep." Ayhaam was soon to start
physiotherapy, and to demonstrate her recovery she took a dozen
uncertain and uncomfortable steps across the courtyard, supported by
Hassan. Huda walked alongside, holding Ayhaam by her fingertips.
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