It started with a LinkedIn post in which he talked about his family in the Gaza Strip and the violence taking place there. He asked people for help. He did not expect that the post went viral. From then on, the ball started rolling. So far, he has raised more than 35 thousand euros. His family in Gaza helps him distribute the money to people who need it.

He also arranges scholarships for Palestinian students. Many students from Gaza studying abroad can no longer pay tuition fees because their families have become refugees. Together with a friend, he matches those students to people who help the students financially. Thanks to their initiative, 23 Palestinian students in seven different countries are able to continue their studies.

As if that were not enough, he is trying to raise awareness about the situation in Palestine. He is going to organise talks between Palestinian and Israeli students. He himself holds conversations with different parties within the university, from students to the university council, about the role the university can take on around the conflict.

LivingRoom okt2023_Esther Dijkstra

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Frustration and helplessness over the war between Israel and Hamas. ‘People have moved past the point of looking for comfort’

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How do you feel about the nomination?

“I was surprised, of course. A few days before I heard about the nomination, I had a heavy heart. But your call lightened that dark period. On the one hand, I find it uncomfortable to talk about what I did, but on the other, I am so grateful that there are still people who think of Palestine and of me.”

What motivates you to advocate for Palestine?

“What else can I do? It makes no sense for me to live a normal life while my loved ones, my people, are being killed. I tried to ignore it, but the more I did, the more it started to gnaw at me. It is my homeland, where I went through my childhood. I lost family members and people I love in Gaza. My school, my mosque, the places that made an important part of my life, have been destroyed.”

What do you find most difficult?

“The dehumanisation we experience as Palestinians. When the war broke out in Ukraine, EUR immediately showed its support. Now with Palestine, it is horribly silent. Palestinian students get no support from the university, as if we are less human than Ukrainians. Even in the world outside the university, many people are sticking their heads in the sand regarding Palestine.”

What have you learned from your activism?

“That you have to start taking action yourself. And that you shouldn’t expect everyone to react understandingly. I do understand that this issue raises strong feelings and opinions, and that there is a fierce debate. And that is okay. It is just so unfortunate that humanity is often forgotten because of political interests, for example.”

Tell us something no one knows about you.

“Hmmm, difficult question. Maybe many people don’t know that I am a sensitive person. I always make jokes and it seems like I am very light-hearted about everything, but actually I am very sensitive. Everything touches me deeply.”

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