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Arabs who inspired us with their strength and courage in 2023

Arabs who inspired us with their strength and courage in 2023

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إقرأ باللغة العربية:

أيّدت الحق ودفعت الثمن… شخصيات ألهمتنا القوة والشجاعة في 2023

In a year of crises for the Arab world and its people, several individuals stood out for their commitment to upholding human values and championing freedom and justice. Despite the steep personal costs, sometimes impacting their mental or physical well-being, livelihood, and perhaps even their life, these figures stood firm in their strength and dedication.

From those who countered hatred with a call for love, those who risked their lives to aid victims of the Israeli war on Gaza, to those who dared to pursue a better political future for their people and homeland, Raseef22's presents its most inspiring figures of 2023.

1. Dr. Ghassan Abu Sittah

As he has done during every aggression on Gaza since 1987, Palestinian-British plastic and reconstructive surgeon Ghassan Abu Sittah rushed to Gaza just hours before Israel tightened its blockade on the besieged Strip following Operation Al-Aqsa Storm. He wanted to be there for the people of his homeland.

For over a month, the 60-year-old doctor worked despite a severe shortage of medical supplies and an overwhelming and disproportionate number of patients with serious and multiple injuries. The harsh Israeli blockade deprived Gaza of essential necessities, including food and water.

After the healthcare system in Gaza completely collapsed, Dr. Abu Sitta found himself unable to perform his work, forcing him to leave the Strip. He continued supporting the Palestinian people by raising awareness and publicly exposing Israeli violations on the Palestinian health sector.

From those who countered hatred with a call for love, to those who risked their lives to aid victims of the Israeli war on Gaza, and those who dared to pursue a better political future for their homeland.. Here are the Arab world's most inspiring figures of 2023

2- Photographer and activist Motaz Azaiza

Since October 7, 2023, people in Arab countries and across the world have formed deep connections with the journalists and activists on the ground in Gaza, tirelessly reporting on the war, despite the immense risks.

Motaz Azaiza emerged as one of the crucial voices covering the developments in the region, one that has captured the attention and hearts of many across the world. At the beginning of his coverage, Moataz tried to maintain an optimistic perspective, as it was before the war, photographing children smiling even in the ruins of their homes, and families gathered around a tea or coffee pot in the midst of rubble.

It did not take long for Azaiza's coverage to shift to the tragic and catastrophic. He has continued his coverage throughout the months-long aggression, risking his safety in the process, and expressing his helplessness and frustration. Covering the truth is his only option. Even after over 70 days of Israeli aggression, Azaiza exposes the harsh realities of life in Gaza, despite increased risks and limited resources.

3- Journalist Wael Al Dahdouh

Minutes after he buried 14 members of his family, including his son, daughter, wife, and grandchild, all killed in an Israeli airstrike on his home, Palestinian journalist Wael Al Dahdouh, a correspondent for Al Jazeera, stood tall in front of the news camera and suppressed his tears and pain to provide live coverage of the war.

Al Dahdouh has shown us the true meaning of sacrifice and professionalism. Believing that Israel targeted his family in retaliation and an attempt to silence him, he refuses to stay silent and let them achieve this goal.

This is not the only tragedy Al Dahdouh has faced this year. A few days after his family was killed, he was forced to evacuate to southern Gaza as the north became completely unsafe due to Israeli ground incursions.

He is not the only journalist in Gaza experiencing such heartbreaking loss. Dozens face similar tragedies, including journalist Moamen Al Sharafi, who has lost 21 family members, including his parents and brother.

When recently asked about the worst moment he experienced during the war, Wael said it was “the journalist [becoming] the news instead of seeking it, and [becoming] the image himself instead of capturing and publishing it.”

When recently asked about the worst moment he experienced during the war, Wael said it was “the journalist [becoming] the news instead of seeking it, and [becoming] the image himself instead of capturing and publishing it.”

4- Grandfather Khaled Nabhan

Stories of pain and loss during the Israeli war on Gaza are countless, but that of Palestinian grandfather Khaled Nabhan and his granddaughter Reem (4 years old), killed in an Israeli airstrike along with her brother Tareq, might be one of the most heart wrenching.

Nabhan received widespread sympathy after a video showed him delicately wiping the debris off his beloved granddaughter's face, all the while talking to her, embracing her, and kissing her as if she were still alive. When asked about her, he said, “This is the soul of my soul,” a phrase that has resonated in our collective minds and hearts since.

His story does not end there. After humbling audiences with his resilience in the face of his grandchildren's heart-wrenching fate, Nabhan was later seen assisting the injured and surviving families of martyrs in a hospital near his home. Perhaps he is finding solace in aiding others in his darkest moment.

Grandfather Khaled Nabhan received widespread sympathy after a video showed him wiping the debris off his beloved granddaughter's face, all the while talking to her, embracing her, and kissing her as if she were still alive, saying, "This is the soul of my soul”

5- Egyptian dissident Hisham Kassem

Months before the Egyptian presidential elections, Hisham Kassem, an Egyptian political activist and opposition figure – the leader of the Free Current (al-Tayar al-Hurr), a coalition of mostly liberal parties such as the Conservative Party, the Reform and Development Party, and the Constitution Party, along with prominent public figures and businessmen – was arrested.

The charges against him included “slander, defamation and harassment” of the former Minister of Labor, Kamal Abu Eita, on social media. Following the investigation, Kassem refused to pay bail, which he deemed political persecution, and was subsequently held at the Sayeda Zeinab police station.

The next day, two officers from the station filed a new complaint against him for “verbally assaulting a government employee during the performance of his duties.” Kassem began a prolonged hunger strike, and his lawyer, Nasser Amin, argued that he faced “political persecution as punishment for criticizing the government and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.”

Kassem insisted on confronting what he deemed political repression with legal measures. Earlier this month, he appealed the verdict of six months in prison and a fine of 20,000 pounds. As of this article being published, he remains in detention.

6- Palestinian Doctor Mohammed Abu Salameh

Since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza, particularly during the Israeli army's siege on the Al-Shifa Medical Complex, Dr. Mohammed Abu Salameh, the director of the hospital, gained prominence for shedding light on the situation in Gaza and keeping Western media outlets informed.

After Israeli forces stormed the complex, Dr. Abu Salameh, along with 37 other members of the medical staff, was arrested and kidnapped. According to relatives of the missing staffers, they have been subjected to torture, starvation, and severe psychological pressure.

Despite knowing the gravity of the situation, Dr. Abu Salameh and the medical staff refused to flee, risking their lives for the sake of their patients and to uphold their moral and professional values.

The same was done at the Kamal Adwan Hospital. After besieging it for a number of days and violently storming it, the director, Dr. Ahmed Al-Kahlout, and around 70 members of the medical staff still inside, were arrested. Their fate remains unclear.

7- Nagwa Ibrahim (Mama Najwa)

Those who grew up in the 1980s have a strong connection to the Egyptian characters ‘Mama Najwa’ and the puppet ‘Baqlaz’. Despite Nagwa Ibrahim’s many talents, the artist and presenter remains etched in the minds of many as ‘Mama Najwa’.

Recently ‘Mama Najwa’ faced hateful comments online that she met with immense love and calls for tolerance, revealing her serious battle against multiple cancers, concluding her message with a simple yet powerful, "Love one another".

Despite being 77 years old, ‘Mama Najwa’ had maintained her on-screen presence, even retaining the same demeanor and hairstyle. However, times change, and so do people. Mama Najwa recently faced a string of hateful comments online, which she met with immense love and calls for tolerance. She also revealed her battle with multiple cancers and hinted at a potential retirement from the screen. She concluded her message with a simple yet powerful message, “Love one another.”

Followers of ‘Mama Najwa’ were shocked by the announcement regarding her health, and took to social media to express love and gratitude for legacy on children's programs, talk shows and the arts.

8- Abdel Rahman Battah (Abboud)

With his distinctive sense of humor and an unwavering smile, the Palestinian teenager Abboud Battah, 17-years-old, took to social media to share the latest developments in the Israeli war on Gaza.

The young Gazan shared even the toughest details of his daily life in Gaza in a humorous and light tone, remaining brave despite the unrelenting sounds of Israeli warplanes above.

"Welcome from the world-class studio.. Studio Abboud!" and "The situation is like iced coffee, freezing to the max!" are phrases that have become associated with Abboud – the first one marks the beginning of his videos, and the second, he would sign off with at the end. Abboud's periodic absence from his page, though expected due to power cuts, internet disruptions, and ongoing airstrikes, regularly causes hundreds of followers to worry about his safety and well-being.

9- Lebanese journalist Nada Abdelsamad

After a slew of social media posts about the war on Gaza, the British BBC network suspended its longstanding correspondent and program director in Lebanon, seasoned journalist Nada Abdelsamad, putting an end to her 27-year tenure with the British network.

Wael Al Dahdouh, Dr. Ghassan Abu Sittah, Motaz Azaiza, Abboud, Nour Al-Najjar, Dr. Mohammed Abu Salameh – These are names of individuals from Gaza who risked their lives to deliver the truth and/or aid the victims of the Israeli war

The Israeli war on Gaza exposed the stark double standards and blatant duplicity employed by many Western media outlets in covering Israel's crimes against humanity, in comparison to their coverage of other regimes and wars. The BBC, on multiple occasions, has completely disregarded journalistic professionalism and basic human values.

Abdelsamad did not yield to the unjust decisions of the BBC. Instead, she announced her intention to sue the network for “professional misconduct against her, damage to her reputation, and negligence when it comes to protecting her by allowing The Telegraph to publish her name and picture.”

10- Gaza activist Nour Al-Najjar

Over the years, Gaza native Nour Al-Najjar had gained prominence for her involvement with various social and humanitarian initiatives to entertain children and families through her collaboration with certain charities and through individual efforts.

During this ongoing war on Gaza, Al-Najjar has not only persisted, but has intensified her efforts. She distributes ready-made meals among the displaced, constructs tents, distributes financial aid, and organizes artistic and entertainment activities for displaced and injured children.

Al-Najjar has also been greatly affected by the war. She opened up on Instagram, sharing a “look at [her] new home”– an entirely empty shelter tent save for a few mattresses. Meanwhile, she continued to distribute blankets and supplies to displaced families.

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A measure of a true and just society is directly related to how free its individuals are. Free to be themselves, express themselves, and live their lives unconditionally without fear of threat or repercussion. And yet, in our corner of the world and almost all over, human rights remain threatened and challenged by tyranny and oppression. Be the change, take the lead!

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