Whenever Land Day is mentioned in Brazil, it is synonymous with one person: the Chairman of Santa Catarina Committee for Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Khader Othman. The 84-year-old Palestinian refugee was born in Beit Ur Al-Tahta, Palestine, in 1939 and then expelled from his home and forced to seek refuge in Brazil after the 1967 War. A month after his death, the Palestinian community in Brazil still feels the void he left behind.
But his support for Palestine hasn't come to an end, his daughter Shahla has vowed to continue his work. Born in Brazil, Shahla has visited Palestine many times and believes that the struggle for the Palestinian people belongs to all Palestinians no matter where they are.
"My father was a great symbol of the Palestinian cause and left us a great legacy. One of the great ones is gone but left many teachings. We are going to give continuity to his legacy, fighting – with all our strength – for the construction of a free Palestine," Shahla tells MEMO.
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It is a great honour to be able to speak on behalf of such a just and noble cause. They want to destroy our past and destroy our future. We will not allow it.
This year, Shahla and her colleagues and friends held various events in a number of Brazilian cities to keep the Palestinian issue alive and raise awareness in the wider community. Representatives of political parties and supporters of the Palestinian cause joined in to commemorate Land Day. For Othman's family, Land Day presents an opportunity not only to mark a past event, but also to think about the future and more ways to resist Israel's occupation, colonisation and theft of land.
"30 March was a special day for my father, it was important for him to commemorate Land Day. He always tried to organise events, lectures, interviews on all special dates for Palestinians. This year, we with the Committee of Solidarity with the Palestinian People will continue his mission."
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Florianopolis City, where Shahla and her family live, has a relatively small Palestinian community but they work to inform the locals about Palestine and the continuous suffering of its people. Shahla hopes to be the voice of Palestinians there. "I want to be the daughter who will give visibility to the Palestinian story, history, people and their cause. I'm not a daughter of a Palestinian refugee, but I am the one who represents resistance, struggle, courage and fight."
Contrary to the beliefs of Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, that "the old will die and the young will forget", Shahla believes that "the old will die, but the young won't forget and they will be stronger and will continue the struggle."
"Even as a proud Brazilian where I was born and I lived throughout my childhood," insisted Shahla, "I will always defend Palestine, not only because I am of Palestinian descent, but also because we should shine a light on our Palestinian community and our presence here."
"The love of my father´s homeland stuck in my heart like a glue that will never come off. My father has never disconnected from his homeland and he worked a lot to keep the thread to his land."
It was only in 1997 that Othman was able to visit his homeland. He then began to visit every year, meet people, talk and help each other and he built a technical school in Palestine and named it after his father, Mahmoud Ahmad Othman. "As we always had a strong connection with the family in Brazil as we founded the Catarinense Committee for Solidarity with the Palestinian People in 2010, we built a technical school in Palestine and named it after my grandfather, Mahmoud Ahmad Othman," Shahla explains.
With a hope of freedom, a daughter of a Palestinian refugee builds mutual bridges between Brazilians and Palestinians to keep her late father's memory alive and help achieve his goal. "This is the moment and this is what we are going to fight for. We will continue denouncing the reality's of the Palestinian people and exposing the crimes of the Israeli occupation to the Brazilian people," Shahla concludes.
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