Razan al-Najjar; a symbol of Palastian nationhood
A year on from the Great March of Return I still mourn my daughter Razan, killed in cold blood, writes Sabreen Al-Najjar
She was 20-years-old when she was shot. It was June 1 2018, and Razan, the eldest of my six children and a volunteer medic and nurse from Palestine, was helping to treat wounded protestors taking part in the Great March of Return, which had begun on 30 March last year
In spite of her white coat she became a target for the Israeli Defence Force. As she tried to help evacuate the wounded near Israel’s border fence, she was hit. Her death transformed her into a symbol for an entire nation under the boot of Israel. But her mere presence at the 2018 protest, even in a medical capacity, was never guaranteed. Denied a career as a doctor by our financial circumstances, she studied nursing, and in anticipation of the Great March of Return, sold her phone and ring to buy medical equipment.
She defied those in Gazan society that would not have a young woman take part. And from the very first day of the protest, she was tending to the wounded. As at so many times during a life cruelly cut short, she evinced a determination that was born out of the rubble of Gaza following the 2008 attack on the city.
Razan was insistent that she support her countrymen and women at the Great March. As she saw it, she was not only a paramedic, but an active member of the resistance. She joined activists and writers, journalists and youth group members, and found herself at home among the mass of peaceful faces that together reflected the spirit of Palestine.
Like so many of them, she held the simple dream of one day returning home – in her case, to her family’s village in Jaffa. She was optimistic that she would meet her grandparents, from whom she was separated by the illegal blockade. But those who put that same blockade in place would make sure she never did.
The bullet that struck her was not the first aimed in her direction. IDF snipers, sat safely in military towers, had been trying to prevent her from carrying out her work in the field. It is a testament not only to her bravery and resolve, but also her ability as a paramedic and nurse, that she moved through gunfire to comfort, treat and evacuate men, women and children.
In what was an unprecedented violation of international humanitarian rights and international humanitarian law, medics, journalists and even the disabled were gunned down in cold blood that day. The compassion Razan showed is an example for us all to follow. We must learn from those like my daughter who risk their lives for others in the name of peace, fairness and freedom.
It is a love for those values that gave rise to The Great March of Return, our cry for justice. Confined to a densely populated, prison-like strip of land, surrounded by Israeli blockades and walls, we are a forgotten 1.8 million people, living in an unjust society. This is why we march every Friday. This is why we will march this weekend. We will protest peacefully against our oppressors, and stand together for the rights and freedoms freely given to others without hesitation.
Seventy years after our expulsion, we, the people of Palestine, still yearn for our homeland. The vast majority of the land lived on before the Palestine War and the Nabka remains underpopulated, as if waiting for the return of those who once called it home. And those who did so will not rest until that dream is realised.
The right of return is more than a political position, more than a principle: wrapped up in it, and reflected in literature and art and music, is the essence of what it means to be Palestinian. It is in our blood. As we approach the anniversary of the Great March of Return this weekend, my daughter, Razan al-Najjar, remains a symbol, not only of Palestinian nationhood, but of the courage and defiance that defines the people of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Unmoved by time or place, the exodus of 1948 is as fresh in our collective memory as ever. A solution exists; an end to this dark period is now in the hands of Israel. This piece first appeared on The Independent website.