3. Laila Hussein Al-Irr, 50, Gaza
“2015 was the year my six painful years in displacement ended and I finally lived in a house of my own. I hope in 2016 that there will be no displacement in Gaza and that all destroyed houses would be rebuilt. I hope that peace would prevail and that no wars and no violence ever takes place again.”
Laila is an ICLA beneficiary who received counselling and follow up on her legal case. If it was not for ICLA’s intervention, Laila would have been still displaced with no access to HLP rights whatsoever.
Below is a story on Laila’s case were produced earlier in June 2015:
Laila Hussein Al-Irr
Laila Al-Irr never thought the quiet life of her family in their peaceful house would be changed forever in a blink of an eye. Laila and her family were living in their house during the Israeli ground offensive on the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009. On 3 January 2009, the land next to their house had been targeted with several shells during the night. Fearing for their lives, Laila asked her husband and children to move to her brother’s house nearby. Laila’s husband and three of her children were killed during their attempt to flee. Her stepson’s wife suffered severe injuries and died the next day, unable to receive adequate medical assistance. Laila and her daughters went through a very tough experience, filled with pain and humiliation of displacement after their house was destroyed.
As the offensive was over late January 2009, Laila and her four daughters moved in with her brother. The home was overcrowded, so Laila and her stepson bought an apartment, using financial assistance from UNRWA, and the apartment was registered in the name of all her late husband’s (male) heirs. Before long, however, her stepson developed a drug problem and eventually became violent towards Laila and her four daughters. After two years, they could not stand it anymore, so they moved back in with her brother. In the meantime, the stepson sold the apartment without their permission to buy a land for himself, and left Laila and her daughters with no rights whatsoever in terms of housing and property. Laila and her daughters had been living in cramped 70 square-meter concrete apartment above her brother’s house, a two-floor building shared by two brothers and their 16 family members, in substandard living conditions. Laila reported feeling largely uncomfortable, unsafe, and not having any privacy. Additionally, she felt that she and her daughters were a burden on her brothers.
Laila brought this case to NRC’s legal team, after all mediation efforts with her stepson had failed. NRC’s lawyers have tried to assist Laila through direct follow up with UNRWA shelter department. NRC lawyers addressed Laila’s struggle with the stepson and encouraged UNRWA not to give the unit to the stepson without resolving the family dispute. NRC further recommended UNRWA to give two separated housing units to the family, one for Laila and the four daughters and other one for the stepson. NRC Gaza has highlighted Laila’s case in NRC 2013 report “Realities from the Ground: Women’s HLP rights in Gaza” and Laila was interviewed in the unpublished documentary film on women’s HLP rights. NRC with UNRWA and the Ministry of Public Works and Housing held endless communications and follow-up meetings, and all these efforts have finally saved the day.
After years of resilience, Laila finally signed the undertaking and received a new house on 11 June 2015, after a journey of more than six years of painful displacement. The house, consisting of two bedrooms, kitchen, and bathroom is located in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, in a housing project funded by UAE and implemented by UNRWA to house 449 families. Laila was overjoyed when she walked into the new house, and her tears were telling the whole story: “I felt I was going to faint out of joy, I could not believe myself. I will finally have a house to shelter my daughters. I feel like my life has just started again. I am not afraid anymore; not afraid of my stepson or of anything. I feel safe now, and if I would die now I will not be afraid, because I know my daughters will be safe in a house of their own.” For the first time in years, Laila and her daughters will celebrate Ramadan and Eid in a house of their own. They can now enjoy the privacy and security they missed years ago.