I don’t usually celebrate Valentine’s Day, but today I believe we all should. Not for us, even though it is as important to celebrate our love to our loved ones, but today let’s celebrate the love of the beautiful souls that the world has lost recently.
Deah, Yusor, and Razan.
It's been a while since I last written another self-centered piece on this blog. I've lost the desire to write about anything. I mean, what good comes of writing about my own feelings and projections on the inhumane and despicable actions done by what we call "humans"? Nothing really, murders still happen, people get burnt alive, or decapitated, or ... shot in the head execution style. Words are worthless.
Or so I thought.
When the three young students, Deah Barakat (23 years old), Yusor Abu Salha (21 years old), and Razan Abu Salha (19 years old) were murdered in Chapel Hill on Wednesday by an angry and hateful American terrorist, the mainstream media gave it little attention. That was when social media users demanded attention for the brutal crime, that’s when I realized that writing and spreading the word does make a difference.
To have such faith in the power of words restored after this heinous crime is heartbreaking indeed, and I resent the fact that such cruelty had to occur in order for this to happen. But this crime also, and more importantly of course, drew attention again – for the millionth time- to Islamophobia, which most of the mainstream media tried to pretend doesn’t exist.
By now we all know, or so I assume, that this crime is not over a parking spot, and that it indeed is because of hate. I’m not going to give another analysis to prove the obvious, many have done so before. But today, as many also did, we’ll focus on the lives of the three victims.
I don’t know how to be an optimist, and that is on regular days, imagine how impossible it is to be one when awful incidents take place. When I first heard about the murder, and then started reading the details and knowing more about the crime itself I was so angry, bitter, and hateful. When I saw the picture of the man who committed this crime, Craig Stephen Hicks, I wanted to rip his head off. I couldn’t stand listening to his wife and lawyer justifying the ugliness of this man’s actions, and I avoided knowing anything about the victims themselves. Because I knew that getting to know more about them, will make me only feel more helpless and useless since I won’t be able to bring them back, but I was wrong and selfish.
Different people on different social media websites (facebook, twitter, instagram) were sharing pictures and personal stories about the three victims; even eventually their family members did so too. And I started going through all of them, whether it was pictures of them, or interviews about them, or even their short videos on the vine application .. anything and everything that had to do with them.
Deah was a basketball fan, a dentistry student, a devoted Muslim, amazing friend, and a huger. Yusor and Razan were described by their brother as simply “perfect”, and even though he was the older brother he still looked up to them. They were both selfless, beautiful, and ambitious young women who wanted to make the world a better place.
I even learnt that Deah has volunteered with the organization I currently work for, the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. He came to Palestine to treat refugees and children with disabilities in the West Bank. I had to translate a couple of short stories about him, all of which described his character. How little kids were drawn to him with that big goofy smile of his, his sense of humor, and his genuine warmth. He had his way with kids, and their parents too. He was the whole package, positive, polite, and extremely kind. Everybody there just loved him, whether the children or the adults.
They were short lines describing Deah, but it was extremely difficult to go through. It was extremely difficult to think that this young man, alongside the two amazing young women, with this amazing spirit was killed in that brutal way, under the name of hate. And again, I was finding it extremely difficult to be an optimist and to focus on a better future. But the more I learnt about Deah, Yusor, and Razan; I came to realize how negative I was, and how selfishly and shamefully I’ve been reacting to all of this.
Yes it hurts looking at pictures of the three of them smiling while remembering the fate that took them away, but at the same time it’s extremely difficult to ignore all the amazing deeds they’ve done and the great lives they’ve lived. They’ve touched so many lives in their community, and now they’ve done the same to the rest of the world.
Today was supposed to be Deah and Yusor’s first Valentine ’s Day to celebrate as a married couple. It was supposed to be Deah’s first Valentine with, as interviews with his friends stated, the woman he asked for marriage on their first date. It was supposed to be Yusor’s first Valentine with her high school sweetheart and childhood friend. It was supposed to be these two elementary school friends first Valentine together as newlyweds. The same Valentine’s Day that Razan, the perfect third wheel as Deah has described her, couldn’t share with them.
But it is the first Valentine’s Day that the entire world has celebrated their amazing lives and the impact they had on so many people, they were truly inspirational in life and in death.
The murder of these three lives’ won’t be forgotten, and it’s our job to make sure it doesn't, but it's also our job to make sure the way they lived their lives won't be forgotten as well.
I haven’t prayed for a very long time, and my faith in God has been shaken tremendously. But I did pray today, for them, for their families and friends and loved ones. I truly hope from the bottom place in my heart that there will be a heaven, and that they are truly now in a better place than this ugly world we’re living in.
May God rest your souls in peace, you were, and still are, an inspiration to all of us.
Happy Valentine’s Day Deah and Yusor, and the beautiful Razan.
Hopefully one day this world will be worthy of living for beautiful souls like you.
This is a short video of Deah’s visit to Palestine as part of “Muslims without Boarders” medical relief mission in cooperation with the PCRF,