MEMORIAL on the 50th Anniversary of the Kafr Qasem Massacre
The Kafr Qasem Massacre of 1956
Testimony of Abu Butros Amer AKA Lamumba Kafr KasemInterview with Abu Butros Amer who was a witness to part of the massacre
Recorded in Kafr Qasem on November 8, 1999 by Samia A. Halaby
After I told him that I was interested in details and in the historical facts and not in fiction he told me himself that he has no respect for those who invent out of their own minds.
We began talking about the shepherd Uthman Isaa. I had told him what I had already heard from Kafr Qasemites. He said, “The son was killed. He was killed first.” In seeking to develop a mental picture, I asked later how the son fell and did his body fly in the air from the power of the bullets. Abu Butros said: “He just collapsed on the ground, he just went down. They all shot at him at the same time even the Bryn. There were three weapons aimed at that boy, the Bryn, the Oozy, and a shotgun (barude). Ba ba ba ba ba ba [ Abu Butros made the sound of the automatic repeat shooting of the Bryn] they rained the bullets at him.”
“There were three soldiers doing the killing including their captain, Malenki, who had the Oozy. One more came in a Jeep.”
I asked about the color and makeup of the goats.
“The flock was of black goats. They were their own goats. The family owned nearly a thousand goats. The herd that day was much more than a hundred black goats. They were all black.
The son was in the front of the herd and the father in the back they were passing us and we were going to the same direction. They were going opposite of the shooting coming at them. They then turned and ran in the other direction and the father instead of running with them, he began to run forward and to shoo the goats forward trying to get them back on track. They killed him. We were stopped. We were stopped on the right hand side of the road and the shepherd and his flock were walking on the lower, red soil on the left hand side of the road. It was wilderness and empty at that time.
They shot at the boy when he had come nearly abreast of them, just at the location where the memorial stone is located now. When they shot at the boy our driver stopped the truck and turned off the engine. I was sitting on the left side and saw how they shot the boy and father. I saw it all clearly. We all began to believe that we would all die. One person said that that was it and that we should prepare ourselves. Many of us prayed and said the “Fatiha” [opening passage of the Koran] and believed completely that we too would all be killed.
As we were stopped, the jeep came and stopped near us. One of them stood on the jeep and aimed his gun at us who were sitting in the open back of the truck. One, Malenki, stood at the door of the truck to the right opposite the driver with his elbow on the window where Muhammad Said, known as Abu Ruda, was seated next to the driver. Abu Ruda was wearing an umbaz and a hatta wa igale [traditional clothing] and he was a heavy man.
Malenki asked: ’Where were you?’ (‘Fein kanyeen’ ) and the Abu Ruda answered ‘At work sir” (Fil-‘amal ya sidi)’” I asked Abu Butros if in fact Abu Ruda being older than Malenki did in fact use the term ‘sidi’ in talking to him. Abu Butros assured me that he did. Abu Butros continued, “Then Malenki said: ‘If you want to live, then all of you go to one house. Follow me!’ The driver, Abdallah Ismail asked, ‘Shall we go in front of you or follow you Sir?’ He answered, ‘In front of me’ And so they turned on the motor and proceeded. Our truck moved on and no one shot at us. Our wheels were not shot. They were whole.”
I had been given an earlier description by another survivor of this truck who he had claimed that the slow ride was very bumpy and that they were going over dead bodies. To confirm this, I asked Abu Butros if the wheels where shot at, making the ride bumpy, or if they had driven over bodies He said, “We did not drive over bodies.”
“By then there were four already dead beside the boy and his father and they are Ghazi, Abu Samaha, Abdal Raheem Al Sameer and Ahmad AlSous. Mahmoud AlSous had run away and escaped. The soldiers doing the killing were two standing and one lying on the ground with the Bryn. When the jeep came it was the third soldier. There were three all together doing the killing”
I asked what they where wearing and the entire family answered that the workers in the back were all wearing work clothes with the exception of one man in the back who was wearing an umbaz. (Probably abu Samaha since he was a trader.) The work clothes of the time were heavy and course cotton Kaki of a dark color. I asked if it was the color of the dark Kaki that the British soldiers then wore and Abu Butros said: “Yes, exactly.” I asked about the hat the workers wore and if any wore a hata wa igale coming home from work. Abu Butros said no. We discussed the hat that many of the workers wore and we drew it until I understood what it might have looked like. Still, not until I discovered an old photograph of one, did I realize what it looked like exactly. Abu Butros had described it as the Arab hat except a bit bigger and deeper. So it was a rounded cone fitting the scull but with a band at the base.
Abu Butros told me that in those days the plains were planted with wheat and that watermelon was still very little planted as it was brought to the area only in 1953.
Then I asked about Wednesday October 31, 1956, when everyone went out for the first time after the long curfew, searching for what happened. Abu Butros had told me that his mother was in the last and final wave of the killing and had died in it; and that his brother had escaped the first wave of the killing. This uncle is the paternal uncle of Rose Amer. Abu Bustros said: “On Wednesday, of course, every one went out searching and looking and asking. We looked for remains of my mother and we found her grey Abaye which she wore over her clothes and we found both her shoes.”
I asked the color of the Abaye and they said grey. I asked if they saved the clothes and they said of course but that now they do not know where they are. At that point Rose interjected, “My uncle always kept the pants he wore that day. They had two holes where the bullet had gone in and come out.” She then pointed to the spot behind the knee where the bullet went in and out without injuring her Uncle.
Rose’s paternal uncle was a quarry worker. Rose Amer had told me earlier that her father being very political and activist was called Lamumba Kafr Qasem apparently because he was African in origin. Abu Butros told me that he wanted to avenge his mother and immediately became an activist. He said that the military judge used to call him that. [Arab villages were kept under military rule in order to more easily deny their civil rights.]
The uncle’s name is Mustafa Khamis Amer and he was known as Abu Injeem. When he was injured he ran in the direction of the sea and eventually went to Jaljulia and hid for two days.
I asked Abu Butros if his brother when he returned from Jaljulia was able to speak and describe what happened to him. The answer was that all was normal with his ability to communicate with them.
Web posting: Samia A. Halaby, September 2006.