Saturday, 9 March 2019

Divina Levrini – A Star that will forever burn brightly in our memories


Fearless and brave – the tortured activist on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla whose only thought was for others



When I read yesterday an announcement that Divina Levrini, a Swedish activist who I had met in June had died, it didn’t sink in at first. How could Divina, a beautiful, young, talented musician, caring and kind, a brave and fearless activist die so young?
Although I’m not any good judging age I guess she was in her late 20s or early 30s.  I’ve since learnt that she has two young children and came from Sweden’s third largest city, Malmo.
How was this possible? I still don’t know and can only hope that what she went through when in the ‘care’ of Israel was not responsible.
We first met when The Freedom, part of the Gaza Freedom flotilla, which had set out from Sweden, docked at Shoreham Harbour near Brighton on Tuesday 5th June. The ship first sailed by Brighton Marina where we gathered but it was unable to dock because the boat was too big. It went on to Shoreham harbour about 7 miles away where it found a berth. We rushed over by car, overshooting an obscure beach before turning back in time to see The Freedom come sailing in.
On the last night in Brighton Divina entertained us at the Verdict
Over the next two days we had a number of street activities and stalls together culminating in a party at The Verdict in Edward Street on the Thursday night. The local MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle came along to show his solidarity as did other Labour activists.  Divina spoke and played on guitar and sang and we ate and drank.
In Brighton's Old Steine
On Friday we got up early to see The Freedom and the crew off on the next stage in Spain where it received a rapturous welcome. I kept in touch with Divina by email and envied the difference between the relatively small reception in Brighton and what appeared to be half the town turning out in Spain.
A stall at the  Old Steine in Brighton
Divina reassured me that we had nothing to be ashamed about.  We kept up intermittent contact until we heard that the first boat Al-Awda had been intercepted by the Zionist navy in international waters, some 42 miles off Gaza. Divina had transferred to the Al-Awda after Palermo and they had been extremely roughly treated, beaten and tasered.
Flying the flag
I learnt that Divina, who was taking medicines for an unknown condition, had been prevented from taking half her medication and the Swedish Embassy had intervened with the animals that call themselves Israeli guards.
These are 3 replies from Divina to emails we exchanged after The Freedom left Brighton
Divina’s last tweet was on 10th October last year so it would appear that something had happened since which led to yesterday’s sad news. The second to last tweet of hers was a retweet of Brighton PSC’s stall in solidarity with the threatened village of Khan al Ahmar.
Below are some of the blogs I did and a link to another story by Divina and also a tribute. Below that is the description that Divina sent me of her experiences when Israel illegally and violently boarded the Al Awda.
Tony Greenstein

See also The World has lost a Beautiful Soul

Divina's Account of Her Experiences When She was Kidnapped by Israel

We were 42 nautical miles on international waters when we got boarded by the Israeli navy. They had talked to our radio operator, who repeatedly told them that we were on international water and had no intention to cross the border to Israel. That it is a right according to international law to travel on international waters.

They had masks and guns and tasered many of the peace activists. Some got tasered in both face, head and neck, wich could be deadly. Our captain got a death threat, they told him that they were going to take him somewhere to execute him. I witnessed him get brutally beaten up by a soldier. Many, including myself got beaten. Some were thrown down a ramp and could have broken their necks. One got injured on his foot and there was a lot of blood. He also was beaten on his chest and stomach and last time I saw him he carried a catheter in his hands. 
The welcome party at Shoreham Harbour

We were taken to Ashdod, a closed military camp, and got interrogated by military about why we were illegally trying to go to Israel. We of course answered that we wanted to speak to our lawyer and would not answer anything they asked us. We were strip searched several times and all of our belongings were stolen. After a while they pushed me outside and I found all our clothes, bags and stuff on the ground. Clothes were torn out from the bags and everything mixed up. I was pushed by a soldier while others stood by and laughed as I was yelled at to collect my belongings and I got 20 seconds to take what was mine. I found two empty bags and my guitar, maybe some t-shirt or other clothing I don't remember because I am still traumatised about it all. 
We were taken to Givon prison where we were tortured in different kind of ways. The women were sleep deprived more than the men. We were six women in one dirty cell with a hole in the ground. The guards would come in and yell every one or two hours (it's hard to know how often because we had no watches. Only the clothes we had on us.) They beat at the walls and lockers and made us stand up in the middle of the night, sometimes they just came in and counted the beds with a loud voice or came in with a huge stick and beat the walls. Sometimes they had gloves and handcuffs they showed but never used. 
Welcoming The Freedom

The mind games were really awful. They could give me cigarettes but no lighter. They said that I can use the payphones outside when ever I want but would not give me my money to use them. 

Many of those kind of things happened all the time. One thing was sure, and that was that when they said something, 9 times of 10 they were lying. Suddenly they separated us for a while and me and Dr. Swee were put in another cell. I think that it happened because we rioted when we heard that our friend Larry, who got hurt in the foot asked for a doctor. Since I was on hunger strike they maybe got scared about my embassy to react if I got ill, but still wanted to punish us, they thought that it was a good idea to have me together with a doctor. No one knows. 
Inside The Verdict last June

They hit my friend, a 75 year old woman who four months before got a hip replacement surgery. They did not really beat us anytime before or after that in jail so we thought that they are so used to beat Palestinians so they forgot that our embassies were ready to act if something like that would happen. We asked for a doctor and when they came to let us visit him they had certain conditions I don't want to go in to. We refused so we were told that we would not get to see him. After several hours me and the woman got to see him, but were put in a small cell outdoor in gassing hot sun and hard benches so she couldn't sit. We waited for hours there and when we finally got in the doctor told her in perfect English that he does not understand English so she had to explain in hebrew. She got no help. 

I was depraved of my important medicines for 36 hours. After that my embassy complained, but I got just the half dose of the most important one, none of the other medicines. The embassy yelled at a guard to give me my medicines and he said that I would get an appointment with the doctor. But he told me in perfect English that he doesn't understand English and I have to speak Arabic. 

Later the embassy and our Swedish state department sent a doctor to the airport to immediately meet me after my flight home. 

We were stolen of our driving licenses, medicines, phones, money and creditcards. Most of our luggage is gone. I came home with only a small bag with random clothes I found. I was 2,5 months at sea, so I had much more with me. 
Outside the Verdict in Edward Street - Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP is in the middle

They said that we tried to enter Israel illegally, which was laughable. We were kidnapped in international waters.

 I was on hunger strike until I knew that my friends would come home safely. Of course some of us, the last ones went at the same time. We were the last ones. Amy was on hunger strike as well, but she didn't do a big deal out of it. She is a strong women, like the rest of my friends.

Even though I wanted to stay to make a legal process in Israel about theft, kidnapping and torture, because I know they wanted to deport us as soon as possible my country made sure that we would come home as soon as possible. They were worried about the depravation of my medicins and hunger strike. We were two swedes onboard on Al Awda. Charlie Andreasson and myself. Charlie has been on every attempt to break the blockade besides the "Womens ship to Gaza". Our foreign minister Margot Wallström said earlier that she supports Ship to Gaza. 
The Freedom comes in

Most of the peace activists knew nothing about them getting deported before five minutes before, but I had an extra meeting with the head of the embassy in Tel Aviv because of my medical condition so they told me the time in advance the day before.
Our mission was never about us or the treatment we recieved by the government in Israel. What the Palestinians go through is much worse. There is a genocide going on by an apartheid regime and the world must act, even if it happens in small acts like these. We had a cargo full of medical supplies with us and the four ships were supposed to be a gift to the Palestinians of Gaza. Of course there are two million souls living in Gaza and we had only four ships, but the symbolic act is important anyway because the fishermen are shot in their own waters and medical supplies much needed does never reach Gaza. It was and has always been about raising awareness, making politicians to act and make sure that the Palestinians knows that we never will forget them. The ships will continue to sail until Gaza is free. 

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is deeply saddened by the death of Divina Levrini in Sweden a few days ago. She was a good friend and shipmate to many of us who sailed with her on the vessels  Freedom and Al Awda in 2018 or met her in different ports. Divina was a passionate advocate for justice, a talented musician and gifted communicator who touched many lives. We mourn her early loss and extend our heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.

Crew and participants on Freedom in Portugal. Freedom crew and participants in Naples

Participants in Messina prior to departure: Chris Graham, Divina Levrini, Lucía Mazarrasa, Mike Treen, Larry Commodore, Mohd Afandi Salleh. Al Awda (The Return): final leg participants, July 2018.

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