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Palestinian student in Prince George worried for family in Gaza

Ahmed Shubair’s parents emigrated to Canada, and he was raised in Prince George, but both sides of his family are originally from Gaza.
Ahmed Shubair speaks to the crowd at a Palestinian peace rally in Prince George.

Ahmed Shubair, a fourth-year Palestinian psychology student at the University of Northern B.C., is worried about his family in Gaza.

Shubair’s parents emigrated to Canada, and he was raised in Prince George, but both sides of his family are originally from Gaza.

He said it’s hard to put into words what it’s been like to watch the destruction taking place in his homeland.

“There are people being just killed every single day, like countless people being brutally murdered, and it's just so terrible and you see all these videos online…. There's so many terrible things,” he said. “These are people with hopes and dreams and goals, just like you or me, right? Now, they're spending their entire day trying to drag mangled corpses from underneath layers and layers of rubble, just so that this person could have a proper funeral. Things like that just really strike me because that technically could have been me, I could have been one of those youth.”

Shubair said he has been amazed by the resilience of his family that are still living in Gaza like his aunt Sahar El-Farra, his cousins Wa'ed and Mohamed, and their father Ayman.

“My aunt, she's been raising, basically, several orphans. She took them into her own house and she doesn't have much food or money, but she's taken care of all these people in her neighborhood,” he said.

Shubair said there are many people in her neighbourhood whose families were killed with only the children surviving.

“Many of these kids don’t know if they have any other family left. They probably don't. They're most likely the only people left in their family, which, I don't even know what to say about that,” he said.

“My aunt knows that it's her duty to take these children in as if they were her own children.”

Shubair said he keeps losing contact with his aunt but in the few times they’ve been able to call, she’s the one telling them to be courageous.

“She's the one inspiring us and just amazes me because we're the ones who are struggling to sleep, because we don't know if she'll be alive when we wake up.”

Shubair said he can tell that his aunt is not telling them just how bad the situation is because she does not want them to worry. He said his cousins have literally been taking turns staying up all night, just so that at least one person can warn the rest in case of an emergency. He said they are psychologically tormented. 

“We know the simple facts, which are, she could walk out of her home or apartment, and all around her buildings are just leveled, and there are corpses in these layers of rubble that people still can't get to - and they've probably been there for weeks now. It's just a very horrifying scene.”

Shubair has organized a couple of rallies in Prince George in support of the Palestinian people, which drew crowds of about 150 to 200 people.

As a Canadian Muslim, he said at first he was uncertain about the reaction he would get from the public, and has been hesitant in the past to initiate direct action to support the Palestinian people.

“But it was incredibly touching and uplifting. I've never felt that way. Living in this town before, I've kind of tucked away my identity for a long time, at least in public spaces, so that was incredibly empowering and words can never express my gratitude for everyone,” he said.

“We had a wide range of people that came, we had like teachers, professors, doctors, all kinds of people who have significant roles, and huge hearts in this community.”

However, despite the support from the community Shubair said it’s difficult to hold onto hope.

“After everything I see and everything I hear, even though we're doing our best in this relatively small community that we have, it's hard not to be cynical, because you still know that it's not actually ending,” he said.

“We're not going to waste time arguing about the history of this whole thing. We're just focused on the current situation, which is that many people would who never deserve to be punished are being brutally punished. We need to end that right now. We need an immediate ceasefire. A four-day pause has its benefits, but we need to be going further than that in my opinion.”

Shubair has created the group 2rivers4palestine to raise awareness for the cause locally.

He said all they are asking for is peace which is the bare minimum of what any human being should have on the globe.

“We want that for everybody. So, I'm positively saying from the bottom of my heart, and as a very faithful Palestinian person, come join us and see that we all want the same thing.”