x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Marches show solidarity

More than 10,000 men, woman and children turned out in four emirates to make sure the people of Palestine were not forgotten.

Protesters wave Palestinian flags during demonstrations on the Abu Dhabi Corniche. Marches in other emirates also opposed Israel's continuing campaign into Gaza.
Protesters wave Palestinian flags during demonstrations on the Abu Dhabi Corniche. Marches in other emirates also opposed Israel's continuing campaign into Gaza.

They marched in support of the people of Gaza, with UAE flags waving and voices raised in unison, in a show of solidarity that far exceeded expectations. More than 10,000 men, woman and children turned out in four emirates to make sure the people of Palestine were not forgotten.

In Sharjah, an estimated 5,000 gathered along Khaled Lagoon as 4pm approached. Draped in Palestinian flags and wearing traditional black and white scarves, or kaffiyeh, they congregated outside the Noor Mosque where the Red Crescent had erected a large tent for donations. Two young men sat on the shoulders of friends and began rallying the masses, reciting religious phrases and leading chants. Mohammed Said, 18, was there for his homeland. Mr Said said he was proud that so many Arabs and Palestinians were there. "I have family here and also in Gaza," he said. "Luckily they are far away from the fighting. My father keeps in contact with them. If they could just see us to know we are with them, that they are not alone."

Nearby, generations of women from one Palestinian expatriate family, all dressed in black, stood watching. Alaa, 19, said she, her mother Rehab, 39, and her three sisters Malak, two, Heba, seven, and Maal, six, along with her friend Manar, 22, and her daughter Sara, one, felt it was important they were all there together. The path of the protest, along the Corniche Street from the Central Souk, had been cordoned off by several police cars an hour before the start.

A heavy police presence, along with two ambulances, guided the march slowly along. There was no need for intervention as the marchers filed past peacefully. Spectators lined the streets and drivers slowed down to watch and cheer. As two police helicopters circled overhead, and a police boat drifted in the lagoon, about 30 men carried a large Palestinian flag above their heads. Young girls carried dolls draped in the same traditional scarves as they sat on their father's shoulders. Others carried images of dead children in Gaza.

Abdul Jawad Kiswane said: "We want the people of Gaza to know we feel their suffering." Dr Jamal Mustafa, from Egypt, said: "I am not from Palestine but we are all as one and I am feeling what they are feeling. "We want to live in peace. I don't want to see people living unable to access water or food or health care. I have friends, doctors from Egypt, Greece and Europe, who went there to the border to try and help." Ahmad Obaid al Mazroui, manager of fund-raising for the Red Crescent in Sharjah, said the organisation had already collected about Dh150 million (US$41m) at donation posts around the emirate as residents rushed to give whatever they could. Others had given jewellery.

A medical team in two Red Crescent ambulances was taking blood donations to be sent to Gaza. In Abu Dhabi, about 4,000 demonstrated along the Corniche Road. Many were there with friends and family, voicing their anger at Israel and their support for the Gazans. "I am sad for the people in my country," said Mohammed Adnan, 24. "I wish I was in Gaza." Many people from different nationalities also rallied to show their support. Among them were supporters from Iraq, New Zealand and the UK. "Our heart goes out to the Palestinian people," said Nada Abdullah, 41, from Iraq, adding her hopes that "people who have the power would to listen to the world's opinion ... and do something".

Abu Dhabi police, who handed out bottles of water to marchers, later said the protest had passed without incident. In Dubai, supporters gathered in Greek Park, waving flags and placards. Hundreds donned the kaffiyeh in Ras al Khaimah to demonstrate outside Manar Mall. Heavy police security monitored the roads, separating men and women for a one-hour march down the main city road. Teenage boys and young men carried posters in Arabic and English, condemning Israel's actions and begging for peace.

Many demonstrators were Palestinian expatriates who have lived in Ras al Khaimah for decades, but who have family in the Gaza Strip. Hana Kaloti, a Palestinian who grew up in the UAE, marched with her sons, aged six and nine. "We're very familiar with the situation but we are just shocked that it is going this far," Ms Kaloti said. "We are here to tell the world that we are upset. We want our children to know what's going on because we are originally from Gaza.

"We want them to know what their brothers are going through. We feel hopeless but this is all we can do to support Palestinians emotionally." Fadwa el Khazendar, an expatriate from the Gaza Strip, said: "All of my family - my father, my mother, my three brothers, my sisters and their families are in Gaza. We are not talking about politics, we are talking about human feeling." zalkhalisi@thenational.ae

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