Tributes go out to former UofG student killed in Gaza airstrike

Tributes are being made to former Erasmus student at the University of Glasgow and World Health Organisation worker who has been killed in a Gaza airstrike.

Dima Abdullatif Mohammed Alhaj, a former student at the University of Glasgow, has been killed in Gaza, aged 29, after her family home was bombed. Alhaj was a former Erasmus exchange student at the University between 2018 and 2019. She had also received a degree in Environmental and Earth Sciences from the Islamic University of Gaza and was working for the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a patient administrator in limb reconstruction for the WHO’s Trauma and Emergency team.

Dima had been living in her parent’s house in southern Gaza since Israel ordered an evacuation from the northern part of the country on 13 October, warning of air strikes and a possible ground invasion. She had been sheltering in the house alongside over 50 others, including her husband and six-month-old son who were also both tragically killed.

Principal of the University, Anton Muscatelli, said via Twitter: “This is one utterly tragic news story in the midst of thousands of similar stories of grief and despair. Dima was an Erasmus student in University of Glasgow a few years ago—the WHO [Director General’s] message says it all. We share their grieving for one of our own. Ceasefire and release hostages now.”

Former MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, Sandra White, who worked closely with Dima’s cohort of students from Gaza told The Glasgow Guardian: “I remember speaking briefly with Dima and others who were so full of hope for the future and so looking forward to studying and being part of Glasgow University. When the students arrived we were all so pleased that after months of wrangling they had finally been able to come to Glasgow. I am heartbroken by the loss of Dima and her family and the thousands of Palestinians killed by Israel which must be held to account for the war crimes they have committed.”

Dima Alhaj, along with her friend Nagham Al Sawuf, lived in the home of UofG Research Associate Roseann Maguire and her husband Gerry O’Hare for the first few months of her studies in Glasgow. Roseann remembers Dima as “a young vibrant woman who loved being in Glasgow and completely enjoyed the freedoms that she’d never experienced before due to the Siege of Gaza.”

She said: “Dima said it was a privilege for her to have the opportunity to study here and experience a life outside of Gaza but I would like to say it was a privilege for me and my family to host Dima and Nagham and to get to know them, they brought great joy into our home…in Gaza Dima moved four times to find a place of safety but there is nowhere safe. I am absolutely heartbroken, I am completely broken by the news of her death and that of her family. My last message from Dima read: ‘Pray for us…This is Abood, my little boy, I hope he lives to see better days.’ “

Colleagues of Dima’s at the WHO have also dedicated tributes to her. The WHO representative in Palestine paid his respects, saying: “she was a wonderful person with a radiant smile, cheerful, positive, respectful. She was a true team player. Her work was crucial, and she had been requested to take on even more responsibilities to support the Gaza suboffice and team. This is such a painful loss for all of us. We share our deepest condolences with her mother and father (a long-serving medical specialist in Gaza), her family, and her many friends.”

The WHO has also joined calls for a ceasefire in Israel and Palestine, stating: “The death of Dima and her family is another example of the senseless loss in this conflict. Civilians have died in their homes, at their workplaces, while evacuating, while sheltering in schools, while being cared for in hospital. When will it stop?

“We plead again with all those who hold in their hands the power to end this conflict to do so.”

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