Palestinian reality is debated across the globe. However, often by international academics, journalists and politicians. The Danish House in Palestine has invited a number of Palestinians representing different outlooks and areas of expertise to share their perspectives.
Diala Isid, born in 1990, is co-leader and organizer in the running community Right To Movement Palestine and is also part of the core Right To Movement group. In 2013, she graduated as an architect from Birzeit University. Though she works full time as an architect, she now considers herself a running architect, due to her big involvement in Right To Movement.
What is Right To Movement?
“Right To Movement is a global running community running for the human right of freedom of movement. We try to create communities around the world, to send messages regarding the people who are deprived of that right.
We are using running as a tool to send different messages. Our slogan is ’we run to tell a different story’. Our main aim is to highlight the importance of the right to freedom of movement for everyone. We are also trying to encourage women to run and participate and do whatever they want – run, dance, sing, speak, and to be proud of themselves. We are also using running to show the restrictions imposed on the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation in our everyday life.”
How did you get into Right To Movement?
“I lived in Bethlehem after I finished school in 2013. At that time, Right To Movement only had one running group located in Bethlehem. I met the group, started running with them and really liked the idea of running for a cause.
The first run I had with Right to Movement was in an area called Al Makhrour, which lies in area C in the West Bank. Area C is administered by Israel. So I went there and I felt like we were resisting that area and claiming our rights to exist there. I moved back to Ramallah in November 2013, and as I continued running, we had the idea to expand Right To Movement groups, so a friend and I started the Ramallah group.
In the beginning, we were only running once a week. The group wanted to train more, so now we have four trainings. They include running in the streets, indoor strength training and yoga.”
What is the message that Right To Movement is trying to communicate through running?
“The basic message is that we want to live freely in Palestine, and we want to have our freedom of movement, so we are running to claim our basic human rights.
We are running to show the world that we deserve to be free and we deserve to have our land free from the occupation, free from the apartheid wall and free from settlements. So we are hoping that by sending these messages to the world, we can put some kind of pressure on the world to help us get our freedom one day.”
How do you think Right To Movement can help create change?
“On the individual level, I meet a lot of people who never ran before, but joined Right To Movement because it makes them run for a cause. When you are running for a cause, it’s different than if you are only running as a hobby. So when people join us, they feel that this group is representing them, and this group is making them express themselves in a different way.
On the social level, for example we did a run from Google to Apple, in Silicon Valley in San Francisco, demanding Google and Apple to put the Palestinian villages on their maps. So we ran to deliver the message that we want Palestine to be recognized on Google Maps and Apple maps, and we want the big companies to acknowledge Palestine and every small detail in it. Because having the illegal Israeli settlements that are located in the West Bank on their maps is totally not fair to us! Our homes and villages are only a few meters away from some detailed maps; we ran to demand our right to be able to direct people through maps to our cities.
The amazing thing is that Google Maps studied our proposal and accepted our letters and now they are sending Google Maps cars to Palestine. In April, we also received an award from an organization in the US, where they were thanking us and acknowledging the importance of our campaign to make a change.
If you open Google Maps today, you can see the walking distance from Al-Manarah Square to different points in Ramallah. So we consider this a success story for Right to Movement and a good step towards a change.”
Together with ten other runners, you recently participated in the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon in South Africa. How was this experience?
“The idea developed because South Africa used to live under apartheid, and they experienced some of what we are facing right now. We are still facing occupation now, and in South Africa they are now free to do whatever they want.
In South Africa, they can now run from one ocean to another. That’s why it’s called the Two Oceans Marathon. So we hope that one day in Palestine, we can run for example from the West Bank to Nazareth or Haifa. Because that’s what freedom is. We are very inspired by the South African path and how they got their freedom, so we hope that we can get ours.
We try to take our committed members to marathons around the world, so we don’t have to wait for people to come to Palestine to hear our stories. We started this by participating in the Copenhagen Marathon in 2014. Since then, we have been in San Francisco, Beirut, Italy, Ireland, Chicago, Switzerland and now South Africa. We try to run the marathons around the world to represent Palestine and to tell a different story from here.”
About Right To Movement
Right To Movement started in Bethlehem in 2012 as a conceptual project, together with the Palestine Marathon. It was founded by Signe Fisher Smidt (Denmark), Lærke Hein (Denmark) and George Zeidan (Palestine). Today, Right To Movement has nine communities in Palestine, and 22 communities in total, all over the world.
Read more about Right To Movement at www.righttomovement.org
Photo: Çağlar Çalı, Ali Soydaş