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A kite flown with the statement, ‘Free Gaza’. Photo: Benjamin Everitt.
A kite flown with the statement, ‘Free Gaza’. Photo: Benjamin Everitt.

SocietyJanuary 20, 2024

‘It was like coming from hell’: Gaza residents return to kites in Aotearoa

A kite flown with the statement, ‘Free Gaza’. Photo: Benjamin Everitt.
A kite flown with the statement, ‘Free Gaza’. Photo: Benjamin Everitt.

Last Saturday, at Takaparawhā, Kites flew in solidarity with Gaza as Palestinians spoke of their experiences. Benjamin Everitt was there to document.

Sami Salman and his two children, Yakoub and Abraham, watched as a soar of kites flew over the grass at Bastion Point Park in Mission Bay. The kites were all colours, but red and green were particularly strong. The event, which saw a turnout in the hundreds, was part of a social media global movement of kite flying in solidarity with those suffering an ongoing genocide in Gaza. For Salman and his sons, it was particularly close to home: They had just arrived in New Zealand last week from Gaza.

People at the park had picnics and flew kites with messages demanding Israel to hold a ceasefire. One kite that particularly stood out, was a kite raising a pennant of South African flags, referencing the country’s claims against Israel of committing genocidal acts towards the Palestinian people during the war with Hamas. The case was brought on December 29, 2023, with a request for provisional measures held this week on January 11 and 12. 

Abraham Salman (11), the son of Sami Salman stands as he holds a Palestinian flag. Photo: Benjamin Everitt.
Helium balloons holding up a sign in the air. Photo: Benjamin Everitt.

Yakoub Salman, Sami’s eldest son, was born in Ōtāhuhu but calls Gaza his home. He and his brother Arbaham have lived between Aotearoa and occupied Palestine throughout their lives. He described the experience of leaving Gaza: “It was like coming from hell, and there was very little food and water. You’re just searching for food everyday. It’s hard to find. The water is not pure, but that’s all you can find.” In Gaza, “we were having a very hard time. Our neighbours were beheaded by rockets. My best friend passed away,” said Salman.

His younger son Abraham was born in 2012 in Gaza, and throughout his life he has witnessed five wars. 

The brothers hold New Zealand citizenship, and have lived between Aotearoa New Zealand and Occupied Palestine. The family were able to return to Aotearoa by contacting the embassy in Cairo. As Israel checks the names and identification of every person that enters and leaves the Gaza Strip, it took them a month and ten days for their sons to be enrolled and approved to leave the border. “Once [my sons] were enrolled in the embassy, I felt better,” Salman said. But due to issues with citizenship, his sister and mother are still in Gaza. “As of two days ago, the [Israeli Defence Force] cut the internet in Gaza and I don’t know anything about them.” He worried that because many of Gaza and the West Bank’s roads aren’t documented on Google maps, the IDF will destroy much of them “without the media knowing about them”.

To conclude their time at the event, the Salman family and friends called for prayer, looking outwards towards the sunset glistening on the water along the Waitematā Harbour. Since October 7, over 24,620 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, according to figures from the Gaza Health Authority on Thursday. Last Monday, the day after the kites flew, marked 100 days of relentless attacks on their home.

Sami Salman (left), and Iyad Quqa (right), begin a call for prayer in Bastion Point. Photo: Benjamin Everitt.
Prayer in session, looking out onto the Waitemata Harbour.
Prayer in session, looking out onto the Waitemata Harbour. Photo: Benjamin Everitt.
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