How many more Palestinians must die before this brutal war stops?

Pleading for an immediate and lasting ceasefire, an Islamic Relief worker* in Gaza laments over 100 days of suffering.

We recently passed the grim milestone of 100 days since Israel’s bombardment of Gaza began. At the time our colleagues in Gaza were unable to access the internet as Israel has repeatedly shut down telecommunications services in Gaza for days at a time.  Our colleague wrote this blog at the time but was unable to share it until now.

As I write, we Palestinians in Gaza have lived 100 days of our lives in torture and suffering. I do not know when I will be able to send this account to my Islamic Relief colleagues to publish, so who knows how many more days of horror will have passed before you read these words.

These have been the worst days of my life. The worst days in Palestinian history. Almost 2 million people are being forced from their homes to live in the direst circumstances. They are deprived of even the basics for life: water, food, clothes, and shelter.

In 100 days around 23,000 people have been killed. That is not just a number. They are people who had hopes and dreams. Around 60,000 have been injured and 7,000 are still missing, perhaps somewhere under the rubble of destroyed houses. There are reports from the United Nations that 70% of residential units are either partially or totally damaged.

Who else needs to be killed, and what else needs to be destroyed for this brutal war to stop? How much more suffering does the world need to see before acting and asking for a ceasefire?

My daughter is desperate to go home

Yesterday, my daughter came to me, crying. She said, “I miss our home. I wish I could play with my toys.” Her tears choked me, and I almost cried too. I managed to tell her, in a broken voice, to keep praying to Allah that we return to our homes.

I can’t fulfill my daughter’s simplest wish: to go home. I never stop thinking and dreaming of that day when we return. I know we will go back to a destroyed city, but I would switch this displacement with almost anything.

I miss the comfort of my room. I miss reading my books. I miss the morning coffee. I miss hearing school children flock to their classes in the morning. I miss going to the sea with my wife and kids. I miss working with my Islamic Relief colleagues, in the office.

A waking nightmare

Having your life taken away from you is beyond imagination. This is unreal to me. I keep thinking maybe this is just a nightmare that we will wake up from. I wish it was.

I know after returning to our city we will suffer more. I have seen disturbing footage of the destroyed homes and demolished streets. There is a journalist I follow on social media who stayed in Gaza City during the land operation. He managed to get internet and he walks the streets filming the homes of people who are now displaced. People just want a photo showing that their house still stands. That is our hope.

People all over Gaza report that they do not have enough food or clean drinking water. My friend has a 2-year-old daughter and told me, “I carry empty bottles and walk for 2-4 km looking for clean water. We adults can handle thirst, but my daughter can’t”. It is sad that someone cannot bring their children water.

I do not know how these children are going to grow up believing in a fair and just world. These children are being deprived of their education, their right to play, their right to live in peace, to eat and be nourished. It is devastating.

What future do Palestinian children face?

My son was in the first grade of school, and before this war was learning the basics of writing and reading. He has missed so much time at school. When this is over, there will be few options for education, as many schools have been destroyed. Maybe my son won’t have another chance to properly learn how to read and write. Maybe his school has been destroyed. Maybe his future in this place is gone.

100 days, my dear readers.

I lost my home. My brother and my sister also lost their homes. My Islamic Relief colleagues have all suffered different losses. One colleague just bought a new home. She had been on a journey of finishing and decorating it. She spent 8 months selecting the paint, the curtains, the rugs, everything. Her flat and the whole building have been demolished – but she still has many years of payments to make in order to repay the bank loan she took out to buy it.

Almost everyone in Gaza has a similar story. For the past 100 days our lives have been bleeding out of our veins. Every day of this suffering is a stab in the heart. We have been dead for 100 days, though we are somehow still walking. We are not heroes. We are vulnerable human beings. We have paid huge price, with our own flesh. We have had enough. We all have one wish, just one wish: an end to this. An immediate, lasting ceasefire now.

Please help Islamic Relief support people in desperate need in Gaza: Donate to our Palestine Emergency Appeal now.

*This blog is anonymised to protect the safety and security of our colleague and others mentioned. Read the other blogs in this series here.

Editor’s note: This blog was submitted amid a fast-changing and deepening crisis. Palestinians marked 100 days of crisis on 14 January 2024, but difficulties in accessing the internet within the besieged enclave prevented our colleague from sharing his blog any sooner. The information was correct as of Monday 29 January 2024.

new director

Director of Network and Resource Development

Adnan joined Islamic Relief in 2004 as a regional fundraiser in the UK. He worked in multiple roles over 10 years at Islamic Relief UK, including setting up the first digital team and leading the growth of digital fundraising and engagement. Adnan also led numerous fundraising and marketing campaigns, which played a significant part in the growth of Islamic Relief UK.

Having moved to Islamic Relief Worldwide in 2014, Adnan has held different roles that have helped grow Islamic Relief’s global digital footprint into new geographic territories, supporting Islamic Relief members with their digital and marketing growth as well as developing new products and initiatives for the Islamic Relief family.

Adnan graduated in Industrial Design and Technology from Loughborough University. He has since completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration from Durham University and a Diploma in Digital Marketing from the Institute of Data and Marketing.

Nadeem Azhar

General Counsel

Nadeem joined Islamic Relief Worldwide in September 2022. He has worked in the charitable sector for over a decade.

He studied Modern History and Politics at Manchester University, and at the University of Law in London before qualifying as a solicitor in 2011.

Nadeem is an experienced corporate, commercial and governance lawyer, having worked with various faith-based and grant making charities as well those in health and education settings. He was a partner at a law firm in London before moving in-house where he focused on setting up and restructuring charities and social enterprises.

Most recently, Nadeem was Lead Counsel at Mind, a leading mental health charity, where he co-authored a new federation agreement, revamped legal processes, and played a major role in developing its strategic and fundraising partnerships.

Nadeem has been a charity trustee for the Seafarers Charity, as well as many grant-making bodies and theatre companies.

Adnan Hafiz

Director of Network and Resource Development

Adnan joined Islamic Relief in 2004 as a regional fundraiser in the UK. He worked in multiple roles over 10 years at Islamic Relief UK, including setting up the first digital team and leading the growth of digital fundraising and engagement. Adnan also led numerous fundraising and marketing campaigns, which played a significant part in the growth of Islamic Relief UK.

Having moved to Islamic Relief Worldwide in 2014, Adnan has held different roles that have helped grow Islamic Relief’s global digital footprint into new geographic territories, supporting Islamic Relief members with their digital and marketing growth as well as developing new products and initiatives for the Islamic Relief family.

Adnan graduated in Industrial Design and Technology from Loughborough University. He has since completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration from Durham University and a Diploma in Digital Marketing from the Institute of Data and Marketing.

Board of Directors
Javed Akhtar

Director of Finance

Javed Akhtar has more than a decade of experience at Islamic Relief, having worked in a similar role between 2003-2014. In that role he strove to implement wide-ranging financial and accounting processes which aided in the transparent nature in which Islamic Relief now operates.

Javed also has diverse experience across the private sector, having worked at American chemicals and pharmaceutical giant DuPont, shipping firm FedEX and technology consultancy company Accenture. In all his roles, he prioritises using the latest technologies to improve monitoring and reporting at every level. Javed’s commitment to embracing digital end-to-end technology, enhancing accountability to our stakeholders and promoting financial transparency is ensuring that we remain at the forefront of financial developments in the sector.

By training, Javed is a chartered accountant with a Master’s degree in NGO Management with Charity Accounting and Financial Management from Cass Business School.
Board of Directors
Affan Cheema  

Director of International Programmes

Affan Cheema is an experienced leader who has spent 25 years working in the international aid sector on poverty eradication in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He has worked in fast onset emergencies, protracted crisis and development environments whilst working for Islamic Relief Worldwide and Care International. He is also a trustee of South West International Development Network (SWIDN).

Through his career Affan has held numerous roles including institutional fundraising, programme and grant management, and programme quality assurance.  Affan’s leadership has helped Islamic Relief Worldwide secure the highly coveted Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS), seen as the sector’s premier benchmark for operational excellence.

Affan completed his BA in Economics and Geography from University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies) and his MSc in Development Administration and Planning from the University of Bristol. He is PRINCE2 qualified, is a keen sportsman and recently co-edited a book entitled -Islam and International Development: Insights for working with Muslim Communities-.
Board of Directors
Dr Hossam Said

Managing Director, Humanitarian Academy for Development (HAD)

For nearly three decades Dr Hossam has provided the strategic vision to manage, lead and develop a range of international humanitarian interventions around the world.

At the start of his career, Dr Hossam served on the Board of Directors of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, before moving to Islamic Relief Worldwide to manage the core global business activities as International Programmes Director.

During this time the organisation increased its global reach, gaining both domestic and international repute and credibility. Dr Hossam has also served on the Islamic Relief Worldwide Board of Management and Executive Committee for the past 15 years; sharing responsibility for strategic organisational development and the change management process, whilst forging strong relationships with many other charities.

Dr Hossam gained an MBA from Aston Business School in 2004 and graduated as a Medical Doctor from Cairo University in 1981.
Board of Directors
Martin Cottingham  

Director of External Relations and Advocacy

Martin Cottingham joined Islamic Relief in 2012 as IRUK Media Relations Manager, and was appointed Head of Communications in 2015 before taking up his current position as Director of External Relations and Advocacy for Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Martin has helped Islamic Relief to increase its mainstream media profile and expand its campaigning work, producing hard-hitting advocacy reports on floods in Pakistan (2011) famine in Somalia (2012) disaster risk reduction (2013) and aid to Afghanistan (2014). He has over 20 years’ experience working in media, communications and marketing roles for international development and environmental charities.

Martin graduated from the University of London with a degree in English and Drama (1982-85) then trained as a journalist with a postgraduate diploma at City University (1986-87). He has previously worked for Christian Aid as Editor of Christian Aid News and Media Relations Manager (1988-97) for Oxfam as Regional Campaigns Manager (1997-2000) and at the Soil Association as Marketing Director (2001-2006), as well as working for a wide range of organisations as a freelance writer, researcher and communications consultant.

Tufail Hussain

Director of Islamic Relief UK

Tufail Hussain has 17 years’ experience in the humanitarian and development sector, leading on marketing and fundraising campaigns for several organisations before joining Islamic Relief UK in 2016 as Deputy Director. Tufail was appointed Director of Islamic Relief UK in 2019 and in 2021 provided valuable leadership as interim CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Tufail is driven by a passion for empowering disadvantaged youth and mentors a number of young people. He also works to strengthen engagement between British Muslims and wider society. Under his leadership, Islamic Relief UK has significantly increased its income and developed successful partnerships with communities across the country. He has travelled around the world to raise awareness of major emergencies such as the Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan crises and the floods in Pakistan and Sudan.

A father to 5 daughters and a son, Tufail is also a sports enthusiast and passionate Liverpool FC supporter. Tufail has run the London Marathon twice, raising over £35,000 for humanitarian causes.

Before joining Islamic Relief he was CEO of Orphans in Need, where he oversaw a new strategy that increased income from £2 million to £9 million in 3 years and opened up new UK and international offices. Tufail is also a trustee of the Muslim Charities Forum and a Director of TIC International (Islamic Relief Worldwide’s clothes recycling and trading arm).
Waseem Ahmad

Chief Executive Officer

Waseem Ahmad joined the Islamic Relief family over 24 years ago, serving as Programme Officer in the Balochistan province of south-western Pakistan before becoming Head of Programmes in Pakistan. Waseem then moved to Oxfam and Tearfund before returning to Islamic Relief to establish our mission in Malawi. Later serving as Head of Programme Funding and Partnerships, Waseem led the response to major crises across the globe, including the East Africa drought, Pakistan earthquake and the Indian Ocean Tsunami.

Waseem then served for nearly 6 years as our Director of International Programmes, during which time the charity secured and retained the coveted Core Humanitarian Standard certification in recognition of the quality of our programming. He was appointed CEO of Islamic Relief in May 2021.

With a special interest in community mobilisation and infrastructure, Waseem received an MSc in Project Planning and Management from the University of Bradford, as well as an MSc in Economics from Arid Agriculture University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Waseem has also worked for Lepra Health in Action and is a member of the International Civil Society Centre’s Board of Trustees. The father-of-3 enjoys walking and playing football, and is a keen birdwatcher.