Generational grief: Taking to the streets for Palestine

3 Mins read

Despite some labelling recent London protests for Palestine as hate marches, Farah Fayed sees them as an opportunity to honour her family and advocate for peace.

“We do this every time. My Dad and his friends carry this giant thing from their car, unroll it, we march with it, and then we have to find a way to roll it back up again. I think this flag is my Dad’s most prized possession,” Farah tells me with a laugh.

Farah Fayed, a 27-year-old civil servant from Wembley, meets me at Downing Street on the tail end of a massive rally for Palestine, this being her third attendance at one in three weeks.

Following Hamas’ attacks in Israel on October 7, the weekly protests have seen hundreds of thousands of people march across London in demand of a ceasefire to Israel’s retaliatory bombing of the Gaza strip.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign Ben Jamal, just one of six Pro-Palestine groups behind the protests, explained that the protests are being orchestrated to send “a fundamentally important message of solidarity to the Palestinian people.”

“My siblings and I were brought up hearing the stories of my family’s struggle under Israeli occupation. My father’s parents, my grandparents, were displaced by the conflict in Palestine.”

Farah Fayed

When asked about the intent behind her involvement in the protests, Farah echoes a similar sentiment. “I have marched under that giant Palestinian flag with my family more times than I can remember. My experience today is just one of many.”

Coming from a mixed background of English, Palestinian and Lebanese, campaigning for Palestinian liberation has always been an integral part of Farah’s identity.

Farah recounts the story of her grandmother and her siblings who, born and raised in Haifa, Palestine, were forced to flee to Lebanon after their father’s murder by Zionists. In Lebanon, her grandmother and siblings were separated, losing touch for seven years.

“Many Palestinian families faced similar tragedies during and after the 1948 Nakba, in which more than 15 thousand Palestinians were killed. Two-thirds of the Palestinian people were forced out of their homes and displaced,” Farah told me.

Like Farah’s grandmother, many of them died and were never able to return to their homeland. “My dad is half Palestinian and has never been to Palestine. I’ve never been to Palestine. Showing up at these protests is one of the only ways that we can physically stand in support with our people.”

“My siblings and I were brought up hearing the stories of my family’s struggle under Israeli occupation. My father’s parents, my grandparents, were displaced by the conflict in Palestine,” Farah adds.

Protestors unfurl a giant flag at a march in London
Protestors unfurl a giant flag as part of their demonstration in London [Erin Mussett]

Regarding representation, Farah draws attention to a small Palestine-shaped pendant on a gold chain and a traditional Arabic headscarf, known as kufiya. “I am very proud of my heritage and I’m not afraid to show it. Wearing these accessories is my way of keeping Palestine close to me.”

She points to several olive tree motifs adorning the scarf, which the Palestinian artist Silman Mansour explained as representing the Palestinian people “in the same way that the trees can survive and have deep roots in their land, so too do the Palestinian people.”

Farah compares the symbol of the olive tree and her own family, detailing how when her ancestors were forced out of Palestine, their orange grove was burned to the ground.

“The orange grove was the symbol of my family’s deep-rooted connection to our land. It was hundreds of years old. Destroying it was an attempt at ridding the soil of our very existence. I feel the same way about the current state of Palestine.”

In contrast to Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s characterisation of pro-Palestine protests as “hate marches“, Farah reiterates her peaceful intent in protesting and her long-term hope for Palestine.

“My family history carries with it a generational grief that is impossible to ignore. Wanting to honour and remember them is the reason I protest. I’m not motivated by hate. I’m there because I carry so much love for my family and our people. Every time I stand under my father’s giant Palestinian flag, I am representing every other Palestinian in a call for our freedom; in a call for everlasting peace.”

Featured image by Erin Mussett

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