Razan Al-Najjar: Standing for female empowerment, peace, and an end to occupation

Razan while at work. Photo from Dalia’s personal blog.

“I suffocated from tear gas. I fainted for about an hour. I woke up in an ambulance and I left it. I went crazy because I wanted to continue my work and my journey. I came to give care, not get care. With all pride I want to continue helping others till the last day.” Razan Al-Najjar 

We all remember Razan Al-Najjar, a 21 year-old volunteer paramedic who was shot dead by Israeli occupation forces on June 1, 2018, while she was helping an injured protester during Great March of Return protests, peaceful demonstrations demanding the end of the siege on Gaza and the end of the occupation. She was wearing her white uniform that was supposed to indicate that she is an emergency medic when an Israeli soldier shot her in the chest.


Razan had already spent weeks treating wounded protesters since the start of the march on May 15, 2018. On the 10th week of the protests, she was again at the field, doing the thing that she always wanted to do; helping people. In one of her interviews, she said: “With all pride, I want to continue helping others until the last day.” She continued until the last day…


Razan stood for female empowerment, education, peace and an end to occupation and genocide. In May, she said to The New York Times:

“Being a medic is not only a job for a man, it’s for women, too…We have one goal here- to save lives and evacuate people. And to send a message to the world: without the weapons, we can do anything…We do this for our love for the country. It’s humanitarian work. We don’t do it for money. We do it for God. We don’t want to get paid or be employed. People ask my dad what I’m doing here without getting a salary. He tells them, ‘I’m proud of my daughter. She provides care to the children of our country.’…And especially because in our society, women are often judged. But society has to accept us. If they don’t accept us by choice, they will be forced to accept us. Because we have more strength than any man. The strength that I showed as a first responder on the first day of the protests, I dare you to find it in anyone else.”

We believe that her story should be heard by everyone. She is such an inspiration for all of us. She ran after what she believed in. Her dedication to her country, to her people and to her job; her faith in peace and her determination are only some of the things we will always remember about her. To tell her story better, we had an interview with our member Dalia Al-Najjar, who is also Razan’s cousin. Now, let’s hear what Dalia has to say.


It’s been almost a month since we lost Razan. How do you feel now and how is your family? How was your relationship with Razan?

Losing Razan was a very traumatic event for the family. Razan wasn’t just a daughter, a sister and a friend, she was a source of hope and support for everyone, she was a source of positivity she was a butterfly running around touching everyone’s pain trying to make everyone feel better.


She would sell personal belongings to buy her siblings clothes. She was so close to everyone, she knew the secrets of everyone. The family is feeling better and working to honor Razan’s memory through establishing a fund to empower, inspire and honor female first responders, nurses, doctors and workers in the healthcare field.


How would you define Great March of Return in your own words? What would your comments be on Razan’s and all the other martyrs’ role in this march?


The Great March of Return is a peaceful protest to express the anger, frustration and refusal of the occupation practices in Palestine, it’s also a demand for the refugees to return to their homes. I believe that the Great March of Return protests are not fueled only by anger and frustration but with hope and desire to live a dignified life and to make sure that our children and future generations will not suffer as much as we did and do.


Losing people in peaceful protests is tragic, wherever. Watching children, paramedics, journalists shot dead send a clear message to the world about the identity of the occupation and encourages the world to stand up for justice. Razan was not the first one to be killed with cold blood and wasn’t the last.


And it’s not just about murder, the injuries with explosive bullets caused many to have their legs amputated we have tens of young youth and minors with permanent disabilities, some lost their eyes.


What do you think the best way is to tell the world about the struggle that Palestinians are going through every day?


There is no one best way to share the injustice, people are keeping themselves away from “sad” news, I get that, everything is traumatic and make ones question humanity. I think hope is a good way to talk about struggles and injustice in the world. It’s good to help people find out how they can help, and that they have a say in what’s going on. As global citizens, everyone has a role, everyone can do a small thing that will add to the big picture.


Razan was shot on the same day that the United States vetoed the U.N. Security Council resolution on protection of Palestinians. What are your comments on this? Do you believe the international community is doing enough to end the conflict? Or do you believe their honesty?


I am not in a position to judge the efforts of the international community, but I can say that I was not surprised. It was not the first time to see bias against helpless citizens in the UNSC.


There’s a growing support for the Palestinian cause on a grass-root level, people are seeing the facts for themselves and trying to do something, many write and call their representatives to tell them about what’s going on Gaza in particular and Palestine in general. What they are doing is awesome and more people should join the efforts to make these actions effective.


In other interviews you said that being a nurse was one of her dreams and she continued the struggle to achieve this. She never gave up and in the end found a way to be one. Also we know that before we lost her, Razan has been exposed to tear gases several times as she was trying to save lives, and she was also almost shot many times. Razan has shown us to fight for what we believe in, and never give up no matter the conditions are. What do you think we can do to continue Razan’s legacy? How do you think we can honor her memory?


Razan believed in equality, freedom, women empowerment and peace. She said in her interviews that “we have a message which is to show the world that without weapons we can do anything”. She stood up against the community pressure as a female on the frontline she was challenged on many levels yet she stood up for what she believed in.


The family is setting a memorial fund to honor her memory through helping other girls getting the education they aspire despite difficult financial circumstances. We launched a crowd funding campaign and people can learn more and donate here.


What do you think about the responses to Razan’s murder from all around the world?


Disappointing! Most people are just “sad”. Sad doesn’t drive you to take action, to try to prevent the loss of other lives. Many of the “Me Too”, feminists and women empowerment activists stayed silent on the murder of Razan which is hypocrisy in my opinion.


Do you think Razan’s message is heard? And what can the international community, especially youth can do to make it heard and to help the Palestinian cause?

It was heard by some and there are many still need to hear Razan’s message and join the efforts to make sure her legacy lives on. The family is considering starting an interactive educative museum to display her belongings and her values once funds are available, if any of the readers can help in or know someone who could, reach me at [email protected]


How can we as young people continue to try and work for community building, acceptance, and world peace even when we feel hopeless or living in/coming from conflict zones?


We need to work on peace building because it’s the only choice we have as civil human beings, we need to listen, to try to understand, to ask questions rather than making assumptions and generalizations, we need to co-resist injustice around the world. We need to embrace each other and work on correcting all the wrong practices of the past and look forward to build a prosper future for everyone.


Coming from a conflict zone, day after day my belief in the necessity of exerting collective efforts toward achieving peace and fighting occupation, terrorism, and extremism.  The world is a horrible and hopeful place in weird way.


Interview by Fatma Cankara. Special thanks to Dalia Al-Najjar.

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