Khaled Bakrawi’s Legacy Continues: Refugee Resource Center Opens

7 Jun

Some months back while my wife and I were traveling, I received an email from the Palestinian Youth Movement, which announced the opening of the Khaled Bakrawi Center in El Cajon, California.  Because we were traveling where we only had at best unreliable access to the internet, I did not read the email until much later after getting home.  While it’s been more than four months since the center’s opening, I’m compelled to write about it.

The Khaled Bakrawi Center, according to the PYM (US) website, “was created for… serving immigrant and refugee youth by teaching various life skills, such as English language, and computer training…. (The) trauma informed services and culturally relevant programs generate a sense of collective healing and community power meant to minimize senses of alienation and loss which often accompanies war trauma and the struggles of exile for these children and youth. There is significance in opening a center catered to immigrant and refugee youth in El Cajon. Since the 1990s, this city, sometimes called ‘Little Baghdad,’ has been a hub for refugees, specifically Iraqi refugees fleeing dictatorship, sanctions, and imperialist wars.”

To read the PYM statement on the opening of the center, click here.

However, what I was most interested was to understand who Khaled Bakrawi was and how he died.  To that end what follows is my attempt at answering those two questions.

Much of Budour Youssef Hassan’s Feb. 18, 2015 piece “Syria’s disappeared Palestinians,” for the Electronic Intifada, is devoted to Khaled Bakrawi.

Hassan said Bakrawi was a prominent activist and co-founder of the Jafra Association for Aid and Development, which works to improve conditions in Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, and as “(a) refugee from Lubya (During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Israelis destroyed the town and its population was removed.), Bakrawi was active around Palestinian refugee rights well before the (Syrian Arab Spring) uprising began and was shot by Israeli occupation forces in June 2011 during the Naksa Day march to the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.  But after…displaced Syrians sought refuge in Yarmouk, he directed his efforts towards organizing humanitarian aid to them.”

Hassan, who is identified as an anarchist in the same story, also said, from interviews of Bakrawi’s friends, that Syrian security forces arrested Bakrawi in January 2013 and his family did not learn of his death until September.

To read Hassan’s story, click here, click here.

In a Zaman al-Wasl news story, “Khaled Bakrawi: Activist of Unforgettable Chivalry” of Feb. 22, 2015 by Faris al-Rfai with translation by Yusra Ahmed, al-Rfai quotes artist and activist Mohamed Zaghmout from his documentary, “Words about Khaled Bakrawi.” Zaghmout said, ‘Khalid -the camp- (sic) as his friends used to name him was an icon of aid and relief work inside Palestinian camps all over Syria, he participated in funerals, educated youth by (sic) many lectures and supported displaced children.’

To read the news story by Faris al-Rfai in Zaman al-Wasl, click here.  According to the Zaman al-Wasl news website, Fathi Bayoud founded Zaman al-Wasl in Homs, Syria in 2005 and it is “Syria’s leading news site delivering fast, in-depth coverage of the events shaping the war-torn country.”

Khaled Bakrawi Exhibit from the SYRIAN TORTURE VICTIMS Exhibition in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo by Masih Sadat/The Turban Times

The 88-page study, “Palestinians of Syria: Bloody Diary and Unheard Screaming,” by the Action Group for Palestinians in Syria and the Palestinian Return Centre-London, claims Bakrawi was identified as being tortured through leaked photos.  According to the AGPS website, AGPS is “a London-based human rights watchdog that monitors the situation of Palestinian refugees in war-torn Syria” and that “AGPS material is purely fact-based and rooted in real data compiled by a team of professional journalist, on-the-spot reporters, news correspondents, veterans and local activists.”  According to the PRC website, the PRC “is an independent consultancy focusing on the historical, political and legal aspects of Palestinian Refugees (sic).”

To read the study, click here.

According to the PYM announcement of the opening of the center, Bakrawi was 24 when he died.

 

 

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