Doha, Qatar – The large Palestinian community in Doha knew that having the world’s attention in Qatar during the World Cup, the world’s biggest sporting event, was an opportunity, and they don’t get it very often.
“The World Cup has given us a platform to make our voices heard,” Bader, a Palestinian living in Qatar, told Al Jazeera during a night of festivities in Lusail, home to Qatar’s largest stadium, which will host the World Cup final. the world Cup.
Most Palestinians sought to make their presence felt, not just with their flags, but also with their attire.
Bader was wearing a T-shirt with a map of Palestine and “Free Palestine” emblazoned on it, and had a Palestinian flag. keffiyeh (scarf) and flag wrapped around his neck.
“People from all over the world are here in Qatar and when they see us dressed like this they come up to us and ask us where we are from as Palestine is not participating in the World Cup,” Bader said.
“It gives us the opportunity to familiarize them with the situation of our homeland, show them our culture and narrate our history.
They know about Israel but not about Palestine. There was no Israel until it occupied Palestine.”
Nearby, a group of men and women gathered in a circle and a loud cheer went up as music began to play from a loudspeaker. As the lyrics played, they began to sing and dance to a popular Palestinian song called Dammi Falastini (My blood is Palestinian).
Bader explains that the song tells the story of Palestine.
“The lyrics are heartbreaking and sad, but because the Israeli occupation and our inability to be in our homeland is part of our lives, we celebrate our identity by singing and dancing to those songs.”
Bader, who was barely audible above the loud chants and cheers, pointed to some Moroccan, Tunisian, Egyptian and Qatari flags in the crowd.
“They are not Palestinians, but when they hear this song or see our flag, they are drawn to it, as Muslims, they support our cause and feel our pain,” he explained before joining the group.
The local people of Qatar have turned the #World Cupat a festival in Palestine and we love to see it! #Free Palestine #Qatar2022 pic.twitter.com/nQg4ZFI6By
— #Africa4Palestine (@Africa4Pal) November 22, 2022
Palestinian support has not been limited to singing and dancing.
Social media posts show fans who, realizing they are being interviewed by Israeli media, have turned away from reporters. Meanwhile, others have seized the opportunity and shouted “Long live Palestine!” on their microphones.
For the first time, direct flights between Tel Aviv and Doha have brought fans to the World Cup, despite the lack of official ties between Israel and Qatar.
“Exposing our identity when the whole world is watching helps our cause,” said Asma Jaber, a Palestinian who traveled to Qatar from the United States for the tournament.
Jaber also had a keffiyeh on his shoulders and a small Palestinian flag in his hands.
“Being able to show our identity openly and proudly is a unique feeling for Palestinians,” Jaber said, explaining that she carried a Palestinian flag everywhere she went, even though there aren’t many places in the world where she feels comfortable waving it. . .
His son Safwan had a large Palestinian flag tied around his neck. She lifted it over her head and said, “This is my cloak. It makes me feel like superman.”
Jaber grew up in a Jordanian refugee camp until he finished high school and then moved to the US.
“My grandparents moved to Jordan in 1948, after the Nakba [catastrophe]he said, referring to the forced expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 after the creation of Israel.
Like millions of other Palestinian refugees, Jaber has never been to Palestine.
He looked around as he stood in the middle of Lusail Boulevard, a wide street that runs from the Lusail Stadium to the center of the city. It has been pedestrianized and decorated with flags of the participating nations.
“I cannot put into words what I feel when I see so many non-Palestinian people raising my flag,” Jaber said.
Taking a moment to contain her emotions, she said, “It’s like all these people around the world are saying, ‘We love you, we know you exist, and we stand by you.'”
“Palestinians often feel that they are up against the world’s most powerful powers and fighting for their cause alone.
But seeing this support makes us feel stronger.”
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