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I see my daughter Razan in the eyes of every young Palestinian

Her absence consumes us, but we are determined to continue her humanitarian work
Volunteer medic Razan al-Najjar was shot and killed by Israeli forces on 1 June while treating wounded protesters in southern Gaza

This year is as bitter as wormwood. What meaning does life have when I can no longer see Razan surprising me with a special gift on Mother’s Day? 

She used to hide the gift behind her back, then give me a kiss and sing the famous Arabic song “Sit il-habayeb, ya habiba” (“Dear mother, my most beloved”). 

She will not this year. Her absence consumes us; we are filled with melancholy. But at the same time, I am determined to continue on her path of humanitarian and nationalistic work.

A sovereign Palestine

Razan was a vibrant young girl, full of hope, and generous to all. She dreamed of returning to our home village, Salamah in Jaffa, from where we were forcibly expelled in 1948 - and she believed in the realisation of an independent, sovereign state of Palestine. 

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Razan was the buttress that supported our household, and a good model for her five brothers and sisters.

It provides me with strength and perseverance to continue in the footsteps of my daughter. It proves that Razan is still alive

My daughter was 20. Her short life was constrained within the boundaries of the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, where she witnessed three Israeli military aggressions that wounded and killed thousands of innocent Palestinians. Nonetheless, Razan maintained her determination and commitment to serving her people through her voluntary humanitarian work. 

She aspired to be a doctor. But my husband’s unemployment and our poor economic conditions, resulting from the Israeli blockade, deprived her of the opportunity to pursue this dream after high school. Yet, she did not give up; instead, she studied nursing and took several intensive courses, in which she excelled. She reached out to the sick and injured everywhere, providing them with pro bono healthcare services.

Since Razan’s martyrdom, I have also been volunteering as a paramedic in the medical tents for the Great March of Return protests. It provides me with strength and perseverance to continue in the footsteps of my daughter. It proves that Razan is still alive, with her spirit and everlasting message of humanity.

‘We have to remain strong’

The day the Great March of Return started, on Land Day last year, near the eastern borders of Khan Younis, I was surprised to see my daughter wearing her white uniform and telling me resolutely: “I will take part in the marches of return. We all have the duty to peacefully resist the occupation in order to regain our usurped rights. We have to remain strong and to have an ironclad will to save our people.” 

She sold her ring and cellphone, and bought medical supplies to provide patients with healthcare, even though we urgently needed money. Razan’s role in the marches was to rescue and evacuate injured protesters.

Razan Najjar and her mother, Sabreen, in Gaza (courtesy of Sabreen al-Najjar)
Palestinian paramedic Razan Najjar and her mother, Sabreen, in Gaza (courtesy of Sabreen al-Najjar)

Armed with unusual tenacity and an emboldened spirit, Razan was fearless and energetic until her last breath. Indifferent to the barrage of bullets fired by Israeli soldiers at point-blank range, she moved courageously from one place to another to rescue the injured. 

Razan became increasingly energised with each passing day, despite being subjected to a dozen injuries, from tear-gas inhalation, to fractures to her arms and chest, to being hit by shrapnel.

One day, I rushed madly to the medical tents upon hearing of her injury; while riding with her in the ambulance, she opened her eyes and said, “Get me down. I am here to treat others, not to be treated.” Indeed, she rested for a few minutes and returned to complete her work.

Razan told me dozens of stories about the difficult experiences she had while treating injured protestors. One of the most touching was her attempt to save the life of Tahrir Abu Sibla, a deaf boy killed in a peaceful demonstration by an Israeli sniper, who shot him in the head. My daughter was horrified, but unhesitatingly offered him first aid until the ambulance arrived. 

Exposing Israel’s crimes

Fear took hold of us each day Razan went out to the marches. We knew full well that the Israeli military was deliberately targeting paramedics and journalists, who expose the crimes of Israel to the world. 

The question I often ask myself is: What crime had my daughter committed, wearing her white uniform and trying to rescue the injured, to be shot in the chest by an Israeli sniper? What is the stance of human rights organisations and the international community towards Israel’s massacres and continuous violations of international conventions?

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Despite the bitterness that rages in my heart, I am proud of my daughter. She is a bright model for the struggle of Palestinian women, showing that the Israeli military occupation has not weakened our legendary steadfastness and resistance.

Razan paid with her life for what she believed in. Her story testifies to Israel’s continuing attempts to assassinate the dreams of Palestinian youth. 

I see Razan in the eyes of every young Palestinian. Today, I ask you to watch her interviews with the media - to hear the messages of humanity she shared with her colleagues.

Razan is now gone, but her ideas and spirit live on. I promise to continue on the path of my eldest daughter until we realise our right to self-determination in our home, Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Sabreen Juma’a al-Najjar is a Gaza-based paramedic and the mother of Palestinian paramedic Razan al-Najjar
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