Amidst Gaza's Ashes: Dr. Mohammed Saqer's Beacon of Hope Dimmed but Not Extinguished
In the heart of Gaza, where turmoil and devastation have become an all-too-familiar reality, the story of Mohammed Saqer, a Medical Doctor at the Cardiology Department of the Indonesian Hospital, was a beacon of resilience and hope. His journey is deeply entwined with Al Fakhoora's Qatar Scholarship project, an Education Above All (EAA) Foundation initiative shaping the lives of young people amid adversity in Palestine.
Mohammed's path to becoming a medical doctor was made possible by the Qatar Scholarship project, which served as a lifeline, enabling him to realise his dream of studying Medicine at Al-Azhar University in Gaza. His specialisation in Cardiology is profoundly important to Gaza, a place grappling with an array of challenges, particularly in healthcare resources. Mohammed's education allowed him to become a source of support and care for those in need.
However, amidst Mohammed's inspiring journey, tragedy struck last week. An aircraft bombed the vicinity of the Indonesian Hospital, causing significant damage and displacing not only Mohammed but also numerous other Palestinians. This attack adds to a series of air strikes and shelling, including the direct bombing of Al Ahli Hospital and over 219 schools across Gaza including Education Above All’s Al Fakhoora House, resulting in a devastating toll of more than 6,500 civilians dead and over 17,400 injured, according to the UN OCHA as at 25 October 2023.
The situation is profoundly distressing, with over 2,700 children losing their lives and another 224,000 left without access to education. The ongoing conflict has led to a substantial increase in the displacement of children and families, and the recent evacuation orders further compound the crisis. Many displaced families are returning to northern Gaza due to ongoing bombardments and a struggle to meet basic needs in the south.
Amid these dire circumstances, Executive Director of the Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC) Program of EAA Foundation, Dr Maleiha Malik emphasizes, "There are no safe places," and raises concerns about hospitals and schools, which are meant to provide lifesaving care and shelter to civilians but are now becoming targets.
“EAA fervently calls upon all involved parties to immediately reach a ceasefire agreement, facilitate humanitarian access, and ensure the release of all hostages. Even in times of war, there are fundamental rules that must be upheld. The safety of civilians, as well as the protection of critical infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, should always be prioritized and should never be subjected to targeting or harm.”
The collective punishment, reprisals and ongoing attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza not only violate international humanitarian law but also potentially constitute war crimes. This grim reality raises a pressing question: why do the laws of war, designed to safeguard civilians, appear to be ignored?
The UN Security Council Resolution 2601 which was passed unanimously in October 2021, demonstrates a global consensus that all parties to armed conflict must safeguard the right to education and ensure that schools are protected safe spaces for all.
“The International Criminal Court (ICC) and Member States of the UN must act collectively to preserve the sanctity of the rule of law and human dignity. The demand is clear: investigate these war crimes and ensure accountability,” said Malik.
Presently, the civilian population in Gaza finds itself trapped within the conflict zone, underscoring the urgent need for international intervention to address this dire humanitarian crisis.
In the aftermath of such harrowing incidents, where symbols of recovery and hope like the Al Fakhoora House lie in ruins, it's easy to feel despair. This initiative, which once nurtured the aspirations of Mohammed and countless youths in Gaza, stands as a testament to the devastation. Yet, the heart of Gaza remains unyielding, beating with a resilient spirit and awaiting the world to harmonize with its rhythm.
The power to rekindle this hope lies in our hands, yours and mine. Every gesture, whether it’s championing educational initiatives, amplifying the narratives of the impacted, or aiding in reconstruction, can make a difference. As we contemplate how to rekindle optimism amidst such calamity and yearn for justice, we are left to ponder: how can we reignite hope after these catastrophic events? When will justice be served?