Aiia Maasarwe was Palestinian: respect her memory

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Aiia Maasarwe (آية مصاروة) was taken from us too soon. She was an extraordinary young woman with the world ahead of her.

Her death is heartbreaking, because no woman should ever have her light extinguished by a man, and because we have been fighting for the safety of women for generations and this is still an all too familiar tale.

But it is doubly painful because she was a shining example of our people - and there are so few of us - who endured our collective struggle and still managed to rise.

Aiia was a Palestinian citizen of Israel, from the majority Palestinian town of Baqa al-Gharbiyye in Israel. This has not been represented in most press reports, which have omitted her identity, or rewritten her as an Israeli.

Residents of Baqa al-Gharbiyye are familiar with anti-Arab prejudice. In this town, the local mosque has been defaced with malicious slogans like “Muhammad is a pig”. They protest in solidarity with their sisters and brothers in occupied Palestine against home demolitions, forced evictions, and open warfare against the West Bank and Gaza.

As Ilan Pappé, a Jewish-Israeli Professor of History at the Unversity of Exeter, writes, “The Palestinians in Israel form a very important section of the Palestinian people, and of the Palestinian question. Their past struggles, present-day situation, and hopes and fears for the future are intimately linked with those of the wider Palestinian population.”

This is part of Aiia’s story, but it has been washed away by press reporting. In the words of her uncle, as interviewed by ABC journalist Jennine Khalik: “First, we are all human beings. Then we are Muslim. Then we are Arab. We are Palestinian.”

We ask that the press recognise Aiia’s identity and heritage, and respect her memory. Our sister was taken from us, but we will hold her light in our hearts forever.