Written by Al-Orjwan Shurrab
I received news of her murder just as my family was sitting down to have iftar, the meal that breaks our fast during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan. My brother saw the news on Facebook and suddenly stated, as if talking to himself, “Razan has been killed.”
I had not met her personally, although I wish I had. But I was familiar with her name and face; I had seen her many times on local TV because she was the first female to volunteer as a paramedic on the front lines of the Great Return March. She had not even studied at university because her family couldn’t afford it. So instead, the 21-year-old Razan took a course in first-aid so she could be of service. According to one of the paramedics I talked to later, she was among the first to run to help wounded protesters—even before her male counterparts. Twice, she fainted due to gas inhalation and, on April 13, she broke her wrist after falling while running to attend to one of the injured.
And that is what she was doing when she was shot in the chest by an Israeli sniper. She was 100 meters (about half a mile) from the border evacuating a patient. In my mind’s eye, I see her wearing her white coat, with red stains symbolizing the futile hope of Palestinians hoping for freedom who have been protesting since March 30.
Razan al-Najjar was one of 119 Palestinian protesters killed to date by Israeli occupation forces on the Gaza border since the beginning of the Great Return March. The day she was killed was her 10th protest while serving as a field nurse.
I didn’t know her personally, but I feel as if I did. No words can describe the deep sorrow in my heart. Food has no taste for me now, and I think even life has lost its taste. I have started to question every conviction I have about life. Why was such a selfless person be killed for no reason, while the whole world watched?
Whenever I receive news of a murder, injury or an explosion in Gaza, I post it on my Facebook page to spread the news and expose as many people in the world as possible to the reality of the Israeli occupation. I sort of feel like it’s my duty. But this time was different. I didn’t want to share the news, to mingle it with the other bloody news on my page. I wanted to keep all of the feelings inside my heart, where I am keeping her memories.
Our reaction to Razan’s death flies in the face of those who think we revel in martyrdom. All they need to do watch the video of her mother holding her daughter’s headscarf. Or to witness the tears of people who had never met her but knew of her noble work on the border.
And then there are those critics who say Muslim women are suppressed and oppressed. Razan’s presence on the front lines, carrying the injured and working alongside her male colleagues, shouldering responsibility for the lives of a “nation” (as she described it)—this puts to shame those who stereotype us.
Why must Palestinians keep saying, “She is a paramedic, not a terrorist; he is a young boy and poses no threat to Israeli snipers; he is an old man and is just holding the Palestinian flag; she is a woman and protesting peacefully”? I am sick of having to say, “we are not terrorists,” while the actual terrorists paint themselves as victims. But you know, the loss of Razan is so much more important than the accusations behind these questions; I’m done with defending ourselves against such racism and ignorance. The answers are clear to those who truly care about the complexities of the truth.
Fortunately, death has not yet been up close and personal for me; none of the murdered has been a relative or a loved one. Still, I feel as if I knew Razan—like she was a sister even.
A while after the news broke, I texted a friend just to share what I felt. The response I got was, “The whole city mourns her loss. Men, women and children are crying. I was at the market to buy some food for iftar when I heard the news. It was all everyone was talking about.”
The way most of the world talks about her murder, though, reminds me of the coverage of the killing of Wesal Sheikh; the media merely posted her photo with the caption, “The first female martyr.” That’s it? That’s all her life is worth? And do not they not know that once we start counting, the numbers will increase? Now we await the third and the fourth female martyr.