Time passed slowly in the garbage shed where Iyad al-Hallaq ran for shelter before three soldiers came in screaming. Diagnosed with autism since he was two, and after three decades, I can imagine the features on his face, the puzzlement and the anxiety. He didn’t understand them or know what they wanted. They scared him. He could not express himself (not only because he was shy!) and no one offered him an explanation — when he needed it more than ever.
Iyad feared two things in his life: blood and armed police. His caring mother used to shave him out of fear he would cut himself. The sight of blood made him panic.
Iyad could not integrate into any school when he was a child, and six years back, his parents enrolled him into a special needs center in the old city of Jerusalem. On the first day, his caregiver, Warda Abu Hadid, told him not to be afraid of the police as she guided him through the way. “They wouldn’t do any harm to you,” she promised. It took Iyad a month before he dared to walk the route by himself — around a kilometer from his home in Wadi al-Joz.
“Walking on the street, his head was usually hung low. If he passed someone he knew he might wave hello but wouldn’t stop to speak.” He enjoyed going to the school and during the COVID-19 lockdown, his mother had to walk him into the building many times just to prove to him it was locked. Iyad, who was being trained to become an assistant cook, made the first vegetable salad in his life for his parents one week before he entered the shed.
Inside, Iyad was alone, scared and confused. His leg was shot as he tried to flee. He had to face his two fears: the armed police and his wound. All he said was “I’m with her,” pointing at his caregiver, Warda, who was shouting to the police men, “He is disabled, he is disabled!. Wait a moment, take his ID card, check his ID.” She shouted in Arabic and in Hebrew for 3 long minutes. The answer arrived at last, but in another language. Three bullets were fired into the center of Iyad’s body at point-blank range, killing him on the spot.
Iyad passed away as he was holding his surgical face mask and his rubber glove.. and the world didn’t care for any explanation.
Between April 2011 and May 2020, Israeli occupation forces have killed more than 3,408 Palestinians but only 5 murderers have been convicted.
This artwork was painted digitially in Procreate.
“Muhammad at-Tayieb” al-Hyari
Freelance Digital Artist & Illustrator, Khobar, Saudi Arabia