Struggling on as one of Gaza’s walking dead is destroying my soul

An Islamic Relief worker* in Gaza finds little cause for cheer as a new year begins with no end in sight to the violence.

This is the first blog I’m sharing with you, my readers, in 2024. No one ever imagined that we in Gaza would start the new year under bombardment and siege, amid displacement and destroyed infrastructure. Everyone around the world has hopes and New Year’s resolutions, but for every Palestinian there is only 1 simple wish: stopping this brutal war through an immediate ceasefire. We are thankful to Allah for all He is giving.

We will keep going, that is what we Palestinians are good at. We will keep going forever, despite the size of our losses.

I do not know what else I can say through this blog, after so many months. I have started feeling forgotten and abandoned by the whole world. The killing and suffering of the Palestinians will continue and no one will talk about it.

I remember when the war in Ukraine began, I used to see the Ukrainian flag flying during football matches in all the big leagues in the world. I remember global support campaigns for Ukrainians all around the world and countries even opening their borders to those seeking asylum and refuge. Why is this not happening for us? Maybe the world doesn’t think Palestinians are as important?M aybe the world does not care about our lives, our rights, our existence.

I am ashamed of this world, ashamed of the lack of adherence to international human rights laws. I have learned that all these cliches only apply to select people. But when a powerless group of people demand their right to life, the world turns a deaf ear to them. Where there is support, I see demonstrations being obstructed all over the world. Not only demonstrations, but sometimes even social media posts in support of Palestine. Shame on you, world leaders.

You may wonder why I do not leave…


As the world continues not to care about us, we keep suffering day and night. We keep living in danger as more evacuation orders are issued. Now, almost every part of the enclave is under fire. We have been living in the middle of a non-stop battle. I can hear all kinds of bombing, shelling, gunfire, airstrikes, drones and artillery all day long. In the room where I’m staying, the shockwaves of nearby bombs keep shaking the windows. My mum keeps saying, “They are coming closer to us.” And I can’t stop myself from telling her that death is better than this miserable life we’re living.

You may wonder why I do not leave. It’s simply because there is no place to go. In Rafah, the city furthest south in the Gaza Strip, there are more than 1 million people living in extremely overcrowded conditions. They are living in tents made of nylon and wood. A single tent is around 1.5 square meters and costs around $1,000 (approx. £790). There is no groundsheet, this is the price to sleep on soil with nothing underneath you.

In this area there are no hygiene, sewage or water facilities. More than 1,000 people share 1 toilet, which is not connected to any water network. You have to bring your own water with you to flush it. Health officials have reported an outbreak of respiratory diseases, which may worsen as the winter weather gets colder. There are no streets, no food, no clean drinking water, nothing at all. Why should I leave my place for this if I’m ordered to do so? Why does the world accept that Palestinians are shuffled around like pawns on a chess board? We are not cattle for the Israeli army to push from 1 place to another.

Thoughts and fears flood my mind

This situation is exhausting. It is beyond the limits of what humans can endure. It is inhumane. Every morning, I just do not want to wake up even though I’m unable to sleep at night. My wife asks if sleeping on a sofa is making me uncomfortable, but our life has turned me into an insomniac. Every time I put my head on the pillow, my thoughts start running away with me, and it takes hours to fall asleep.
I think of my house – how are we going to rebuild it and where will we live? If we return, will we have food, electricity and water? What’s left in our city? Will we be able to find our loved ones again? How many of them will we have to mourn?

I think about the Israeli army coming to our door, killing us or taking us prisoner. I think about my mum’s house being hit by a bomb. They have done such things at every place they’ve reached so far and no one in the world has stopped them — why should it be any different when they reach us? How am I to sleep with all these fears storming through my brain?

Every day, when I wake up, the first thought that comes to mind is, “Is it over?” and the answer is always, “No, it is not”. I try to force myself to sleep again, I don’t want to be awake to face this reality. It is killing me and destroying my soul. It is a lifeless life. We are like the walking dead. Already dead, but not yet at rest. We hear the sounds of bombs, we run after food and water and we keep on walking towards death.
I am sure, dear readers, that you haven’t forgotten our cause. But please forgive my despair. I feel so alone. All Palestinians feel left alone. We are trying to survive against everything and everyone. All the world is complicit. And we are just here, wishing for a ceasefire.

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. The information was correct as of Wednesday 3 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.