Haunted by the horrors of Gaza, no Raya celebration for Palestinian this year

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Throughout the country, Muslims were rushing to their home towns to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, but not 26-year-old Yousuf Abuassi.

Yousuf, a Palestinian, has been having a hard time reaching his family members in the Gaza strip since the beginning of Israel’s bombing campaign in October last year.

He came to Malaysia to further his studies and find a job so that he could send money back home. His last contact with his family was several months ago.

“My parents and my 11 siblings are all there,” he told MalaysiaNow at a recent demonstration at the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

“One sibling was martyred three and a half months ago. Nineteen of my cousins have been martyred while some have lost limbs. It has been four months since I last heard my mother’s voice.”

Of the more than 187,000 refugees and asylum seekers registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Malaysia, fewer than 1,000 are Palestinians fleeing the decades-long conflict in the occupied territories.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip since Israel launched a massive bombing campaign in the besieged enclave, most of them women and children.

Threatened

Troubled by the images coming from the conflict, Yousuf was determined to do what he could to help those in Gaza. 

He decided to share news and footage of the war on his social media pages with the intent of spreading awareness, especially to Malaysians.

Slowly but surely, his Instagram and TikTok accounts began to pick up traction until he had almost 200,000 followers on both platforms combined.

His footage comes from relatives and others in Gaza. Once he has received it, he edits it and uploads the clips along with Malay captions.

“Before the war, I was unknown here. But the audience loves getting updates from my stories on Instagram and TikTok, and I do it consistently,” said Yousuf, who runs a business in Malaysia to survive.

However, he has faced online threats, and his initial accounts on TikTok and Instagram were banned.

“In the comments section, I was accused of being paid by Hamas to talk about Palestine, of being part of the mujahidin, which is not true,” he said.

“Recently, I received a call from a local Malaysian number. The person spoke to me in Malay, warning me not to post anything on social media again.

“I made a police report, and a group of policemen came to my house to ensure my safety.”

Meanwhile, the Hari Raya festivities continue around him but Yousuf has little heart to celebrate this year.

He has been in Malaysia for nearly a decade now, marrying a local Malay from northern Selangor. His old baju Melayu hangs ready in his closet, and rendang awaits in the kitchen.

Still, the atmosphere is subdued.

“I bought some new Raya clothes for my wife and child, but not for myself. I will only perform the Eid prayer, and then go back home. For now, I fear for my safety,” he said, recalling the recent arrest of an Israeli citizen.

And he is dogged by a hollow feeling in his stomach as he remembers his family in Gaza, sleeping on the streets after losing their homes in the bombings.

“This war is the worst. When I was in Gaza, the longest war was two months, but this time it has been going on for half a year,” he said.

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