Raise our voices for Refaat Alareer and Shymaa, his beloved daughter

The words of Refaat Alareer remain powerful. 

Maureen Clare Murphy

Every time we try to write about you, we shed tears.

We just want to know where you were targeted and where you were buried. We will dig in the rubble to know what you were carrying at that moment and what you left for us.

A poem that we can cherish in your memory?

Or a marker pen?

Or a piece of bread you had carried with you to feed a hungry cat?

Refaat Alareer, a poet, activist and scholar, was an enemy of Israel because he declared that the most dangerous thing he had in his home was a whiteboard marker.

The idea of someone facing a nuclear-armed state with merely a pen frightened Israel.

A tweet against a tank.

An opinion – expressed articulately – against a sniper schooled in oppression and brutality.

A poem against a warplane.

Israel was so frightened of Dr. Refaat that it assassinated him.

Israel killed a man who appreciated the beauty of words and knowledge. A man of hope who refused to surrender.

All the perfumes of the world will never be enough to mask the foul smell left by the crime Israel perpetrated against Dr. Refaat.

Even if he is dead, Israel still fears Dr. Refaat because he was an authoritative voice, someone who told the world about the oppression of Palestinians. Israel fears that another Refaat will rise up.

Less than five months after Dr. Refaat’s assassination, Israel has now killed his eldest daughter Shymaa, her husband Muhammad and their newborn baby Abd al-Rahman, whom Dr. Refaat never had the chance to see.

Dr. Refaat always spoke to us about his immense love for his daughter. Shymaa is now joining her dad in heaven – not by choice but because Israel has killed her.

Through this terrible crime, there are now fewer members of Dr. Refaat’s family left to tell his story.

But those of us still alive will continue to remember and honor Dr. Refaat and lament his loss.

You have left us with sorrow, Dr. Refaat. But also with hope.

A lot of hope.

We yearn to return to Gaza City and visit your grave. We want to thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do.

Even in your absence, you inspire us, Dr. Refaat.

You taught us to write and never despair, that language is a weapon against our arrogant enemy.

What is a kingdom without a king?

What is daytime without the sun?

What is the world without Refaat Alareer?

We ask these questions but we carry on.

Sometimes we weep. Sometimes we write.

Every time I think of you, I hear you telling me, “Write about Palestine. Write about the genocidal war on Gaza. Let the world hear your voice.”

Let us raise our voices for Dr. Refaat.

Let us raise our voices for Shymaa, Muhammad and little Abd al-Rahman.

If I must die, let it bring hope.

Razan Abu Salem is a writer and translator based in Gaza.