January-March 2024Vol.XXXVI No. 3

Why I Participated in the CAA Rally

Fedaa Alsoufi

Editor’s Note: On occasion, the Faculty Newsletter feels it appropriate to publish letters from students. This is one of those occasions.

To whom it may concern,

My name is Fedaa Alsoufi. I am a second-year student from Gaza, Rafah, Palestine. I am the second oldest in a family of 11 children. My 10 siblings and my parents live in Rafah. I’m the only one who is not home. On the night of February 12, after the relentless bombing of my city, Rafah, I was up all night, trying to reach my family to make sure they were still alive and not targeted. I was checking the news second by second. My face was glued to my phone, trying to see where the bombing was and whether it was close to my family or not. My family’s survival was the most important thing to me that night. I was directly and personally affected by the aftermath of the invasion of my city. On the news, I saw the names of two of my high school friends killed in the bombing that night.

While I was up all night, trying to get a hold of my family to ensure their survival, I heard from my CAA friends that a rally was being discussed to demand the stop of the attacks and the ground invasion of Rafah. I was still worried about my parents and my siblings, and the least that I could do was bring their voices to our campus and make sure that everyone was aware of the tragedies and the humanitarian crisis that was going on in Palestine, the only home that I have in this world. The day after, on Monday, I tried to keep myself busy by going to classes. However, I was still glued to my phone, waiting to hear back from my family and the news that they were OK, after a long day of trying to get by and act sane when I was battling with the news of the killing of two of my high school friends, who’ve been with me through the roughest year of our high school journey. They had dreams – Mariam wanted to be a mathematician, and Asmaa wanted to be an engineer, but they’re not here – they’re gone. After that long day, at 4:00 pm, when I finished my classes, I went to the Student Center to wait for the rally to start with other people planning to join. I was not involved in the preparation of the rally.

My 10 siblings and my parents are under the threats and the bombardments. They had to move houses and were separated for weeks. All my friends who I grew up with are there. My childhood memories are gone because almost every street I’ve walked in has been destroyed. This has been going on for almost 142 days. Is it too much to ask from MIT that something has to be done in this emergency? The relentless bombing has completely changed my 10 siblings’ lives. They have no universities or schools to go to. My oldest sister Malak was in her fifth year of medical school, my sister Waed was in her second year of engineering school, my sister Arij was in the first year of her accountancy school, my brother Tariq was in his last year of high school, my sister Nour was in her second year of high school, my sister Hadeel was in her first year of high school, my sisters Maram and Alaa were still in middle school, and my brothers Mohammed and Osama were in elementary school. Now, their future is undefined; they don’t know what awaits them, and only death and destruction are what they see. What would you have done if it was your family and friends that are experiencing and are subjected to such a genocide?

This is personal to me. My baby cousin Dana, who was five years old, was infected with Hepatitis A, which caused her severe diarrhea, and she ended up in a coma. She didn’t survive – many pleas were made to get her to travel to receive proper treatment abroad, but her tiny, skinny body couldn’t tolerate the pain – she is up in heaven now. This is one story of hundreds of thousands of unheard stories buried with their owner. The struggle is beyond describable.

My family has been starving – they have been fasting every day and sustaining themselves on less than a meal a day. I have lost contact with them for the fifth time now – complete blackout, no way to reach and all I hope for is not to read their names on the news. I spend my entire day (first thing in the morning and last thing before going to bed to get a little sleep) reading the news – holding tight into my chest hoping their names are not there.

Participating in the rally and being in community with others who stand against the ongoing genocide in Palestine brought me comfort and hope while I was there. I only remember a little about the speeches’ details or the rally’s programming because I needed to be in community with others. I was not aware that DSL prohibited the rally. It wasn’t until later, on February 13, when I received the letter from DSL, that I was informed that the protest violated MIT policies.

I’m grateful to my friends in CAA for organizing the rally because I was not mentally or physically able to organize such a powerful action. I don’t know if the rally was allowed or not; I just know that attending it as a collective way to acknowledge and grieve the bombing that happened in Rafah the night before is what a moral and ethical person would have done. I strive to be ethical and moral in my actions—the kind of person described in II (18) of the Mind & Hand Book.

I wanted to gather in community with others to acknowledge the urgency of the situation and make the names of my two dear friends, the 70 Palestinians killed that night and the 30,000 Palestinians killed over the past 142, memorable because they didn’t die in vain. Their pain is my pain. I hurt for every life lost because I am one of them. That day, I wanted to grieve in community because collective grief is a way of healing and empowerment.