They only want to be seen as human beings

Ciaran Tierney
7 min readOct 12, 2023


A young woman from Gaza addresses a shocked audience in Galway this week. Photo: Ciaran Tierney

By Ciaran Tierney

Imagine feeling so heartbroken about the life you left behind that you never tell anyone, ever, not even a workmate or a housemate, that your younger brother was murdered.

Imagine feeling that you were “not even human” when you lived in a tiny place, fenced in like a caged animal, for most of your life.

You had to leave, to find a new life a long way from home, before you even began to feel human for the first time.

This week, in Galway, I heard a young woman from Gaza speak powerfully in public about her brother’s murder for the first time in her life. In her second language, in relentless drizzle, a long way from home.

She stood in the rain in Galway on a midweek night and decided it was time to tell her story.

Meeting up like this in the relentless drizzle had provided just a little solace while the news from home was breaking her heart.

After three years in Ireland, she had never told anyone. Not privately, not even to a close friend, not to mind in front of crowd who had gathered in the rain in the heart of the city.

But she wanted to speak out.

About Gaza. The place she left. And the guilt she feels this week, because her own life is not in danger while there is so much destruction, yet again, in that crowded place back home.

She spoke of loss, of that terrible day back in 2014 when her younger brother was travelling on his motorbike.

He was not Hamas, she said. He was not a member of any political organisation. But a young man travelling a short distance on his motorcycle before an Israeli missile destroyed his young life.

She never felt comfortable talking about it in Ireland before, but she wanted to tell it now.

Her brother’s death never made the TV news in Ireland. Why would it? He was just one of 2,250 people killed in Gaza in just six weeks in 2014. 551 of them were children and, eventually, they just became statistics. We weren’t supposed to know their names or remember them.

Life just moved on, except maybe not for the people of Gaza, besieged now since 2007, where every grain of food or medical supply that enters is controlled by occupiers.

Standing for Gaza in the relentless rain in Galway on Tuesday night. Photo: Ciaran Tierney

On this cold and drizzly night in Galway, her audience was visibly moved. She didn’t even have a microphone. She didn’t need one, because there was so much power and passion and pain in her voice.

She asked what the world’s response would be if two million people were locked into an area half the size of Co. Louth here on the island of Ireland.

What if that area was surrounded by a fence and the two million people had no right to leave by land, air, or sea?

If they tried to leave by a trawler, they’d be attacked by the navy. Hell, if they even trid to fish a few miles off the coast.

If the IRA bombed a target in Britain, and those two million people trapped inside the fence were carpet bombed, would the world just stand idly by? If they had their power cut off and entire neighbourhoods were razed to the ground, would the international community just shrug and say that Britan “had the right to defend itself”?

Would they allow hospitals to go without electricity as entire neighbourhoods were being razed to the ground?

Or would people care about those two million human beings?

Would they just say that the attackers had the right to “defend” themselves? Or, in the case of the United States, provide billions in aid to the attackers whose missiles are raining down on those trapped children. And then give them the green light to carry out what looks like a mass slaughter of innocent human beings?

A large crowd gathered in Galway in the relentless rain. The vigil was organised at 24 hours’ notice on Tuesday.

Beside her in Eyre Square on Tuesday, another young woman from the West Bank made a very poignant point.

When she first came to Galway, she shuddered when she heard a helicopter flying overhead. When her Irish friend saw her wince, she told her to relax.

This helicopter flying overhead was from the Irish Coast Guard, she told her, on a mission to save lives.

That, she said, was the difference between Ireland and Palestine. In Palestine, when people hear or see helicopters flying above them, they fear imminent bombing and death.

Stunned by how articulate and passionate these young women were, the gathered crowd produced a sustained round of applause.

They had come together at 24 hours’ notice, in response to the Israeli military assault on Gaza, and it was amazing to hear Palestinian voices.

The voices we rarely get to hear on the radio or on TV.

They told us about the system of Apartheid.

It means that a person living in East Jerusalem has the right to fly in or out of Tel Aviv, because he or she has a blue ID.

Since 1967, long before the speakers in Galway city centre were born, the occupied territories have been declared as closed areas by the Israeli military authorities. Palestinian residents of the West Bank need special permits to enter or leave.

A person living in Bethlehem or Ramallah, under military occupation, can travel by land via the Allenby Bridge, through security checks, and then onwards by air from Amman in Jordan. The simplest of journeys becomes a bureaucratic nightmare taking a couple of days.

And God help a person in Gaza, even before this latest bombardment, if he or she wanted to travel at all.

Because Israel maintains various levels of Apartheid for Palestinians all across the Occupied Territories, and indeed inside the 1948 borders, depending on where they live or where they were born.

They live under an elaborate system of population control.

So the Palestinian students can call around to each other’s houses on a rainy night in Galway to discuss the current massacre back home, but they can never visit each other if and when they go back home.

But we don’t talk about that.

Just as we don’t talk about the fact that over 70% of the people of Gaza are refugees from what is now Israel. Older people in the tiny coastal enclave still have the keys to the homes their families were forced to flee by armed terrorists in 1948.

More than 50% of the people trapped in Gaza are children, who can hardly be blamed for atrocities carried out in their name by Hamas. Just as it would have been ridiculous, not to mention criminal, to carpet bomb children in Derry or Dublin in response to the activities of the IRA during the ‘Troubles’.

The Israeli authorities control demographics, control residency, and control Palestinians’ ability to obtain ID cards or passports, so that the freedoms Irish people take for granted are a far-off dream for millions of people.

They make it almost impossible to build a house and indeed continue to build illegal settlements on stolen land.

In the past couple of years, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Israeli NGO B’Tselem, have all described the system imposed by Israel on the Palestinians as Apartheid.

And yet, as the Israelis prepare for what may transpire to be the worst massacre ever witnessed in the country’s 75 year history, our American and European “overlords” want to convince us that the settlers and the occupiers are the victims. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

On a horrible Tuesday night in Galway, the young Palestinians living in Galway only asked us to see them as human beings. Articulate, passionate, and compassionate, it’s the least that they deserve.

And we all somehow felt helpless and inadequate as we stood in the relentless rain and watched them grieve for a people who have been voiceless for far too long.

It was a privilege to hear them speak. But if only they didn’t have to stand in a cold city centre telling strangers that they grew up under Apartheid and there was nothing they could do about the incredible suffering in their homeland.

NOTE: I have omitted the names of the speakers because the Israeli authorities have a history of harassing people who speak out about the occupation at demonstrations throughout the world. Just another consequence of living under a brutal, racist, settler-colonial Apartheid regime.

  • The Galway Palestine Solidarity Campaign are hosting a vigil for Gaza in Eyre Square on Saturday, October 14, at 2.30pm.

#Gaza #Slaughter #Apartheid #Palestine

Gathering in Eyre Square to express support for the innocent children of Gaza.



Ciaran Tierney

A former newspaper journalist, with an interest in human rights, travel, and current affairs, Ciaran won the 2018 Irish Current Affairs Blog of The Year award.