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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Separated by Conflict: Meet Rana Marwan Mahmoud Altawil who has found refuge in Bradford, yet has lost her father in Gaza while her family remains in peril in Rafah

In the heart of Bradford, amidst the bustling streets and familiar faces, there resides a woman whose journey echoes the cries of a homeland in turmoil.

Meet Rana Marwab Mahoud Altawil, a Palestinian History graduate who found solace in the arms of love, only to have it entwined with the relentless grip of fear and longing.

Less than a year ago, Rana, who was born at the now destroyed Al -Shifa hospital in Gaza arrived in the United Kingdom on a Spouse visa, seeking refuge from the chaos that engulfed her homeland. Here, in the embrace of her UK-born and raised husband, Kaleem Hussain Rehman, she hoped to find peace. But peace is but a fleeting dream for those haunted by the shadows of war.

Despite moving to a safe and loving home, Rana is still haunted by the incidents playing out in Gaza and is restless as her mother, siblings, nieces and nephews are still stuck in war torn Rafah.

Speaking exclusively to Asian Standard Rana said: “It’s so difficult as I am so worried because my family are not safe. They are living through a war, and I am scared. They could be killed at any time. So, I am not happy because my family isn’t safe.”

It is believed more than 32,000 civilians have been killed and 2 million people displaced by the offensive Israel started in response to the 7 October attack by Hamas. The humanitarian situation in war torn Gaza has become so difficult that officials fear famine with high levels of death due to starvation.

Aid has been restricted in the conflict area and most recently Israeli forces killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers.

Rana’s family remains ensnared in a web of uncertainty. Shifted from one refuge to another, they now find shelter in the tattered fabric of a tent in Rafah. Sixteen souls, bound by blood and love, with the youngest barely a year old, and an elderly mother clinging onto hope like a fragile thread.

Yet, hope wears thin in the face of tragedy. Rana’s father, a symbol of resilience despite his lost leg to Israeli soldiers in 2018, fell victim to the indiscriminate violence of an air strike on 14 January 2024. His quest for sustenance became his final journey, a casualty of a conflict that knows no bounds.

“Over two months ago, this is very difficult, because I couldn’t see his face when he was dead.” Explained Rana.

Rana’s father was presented in a white shroud, with his entire body covered and wrapped, with just his name written on the white cloth. The family were unable to grieve properly as they only had the body for a short while, before he was buried along with all the mass burials.

However, Rana keeps her strength in the belief that her father is ‘shaheed’ (a martyr), although sadness befalls her as her mother is ‘so sad’

Rana’s husband Kaleem bears witness to her anguish, a silent witness to the tears that fall like rain upon foreign soil. Through trembling video calls, he glimpses into a world where the symphony of destruction plays on, a cacophony of rockets and gunfire painting a grim canvas of reality. And yet, amidst the chaos, laughter rings out like a beacon of defiance, a testament to the indomitable spirit of those trapped in the crossfire.

Kaleem told Asian Standard: “Recently we had some video calls with the family in Gaza and we could hear in the background, rockets going off and big bangs. I’m petrified, but for these people and their family members, it’s like a normal day. They are laughing, talking and joking as if it’s a normal day. Rana has a nephew, he is only 1 years old and his favourite words are ‘bang bang, tak tak’ all the time. All he knows are rocket sounds. How courageous they are, how they can just sit there with all these bombs and blood shed that is going on around them because that’s all they see.

Kaleem continues to share the trauma his wife lives with: “The first day Rana came to England, she heard fireworks. We are at home, and she panicked and thought it was a rocket attack.

“I had to reassure her that they were only fireworks at a wedding and calm her down.”

Bombs drop like frequently with each explosion a grim reminder of the fragility of life.

And amidst the chaos, a child’s innocent laughter, oblivious to the dangers that lurk outside their makeshift sanctuary. It’s a world where danger is the norm, where survival is a daily battle fought with courage and resilience.

Eid will be difficult for Rana and her family and no gift is bigger than being reunited and in the arms of safety.

Rana and her husband have set up a GoFundMe page to try and move her family out of the dangerous temporary tent-based home in Rafah.

As hunger levels increase, the smiles on Rana’s nieces and nephews move to cries of despair and desperation to be rescued from this horror. Amidst the rubble of shattered dreams, there lingers a glimmer of hope. A hope that one day, Rana will be reunited with her family, who will find their way, away from the horrors of war and into the embrace of peace.

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