Palestinian medical students in Cuba highlight pain of diaspora

Published June 20, 2024
Samar Alghoul during an interview in Havana.—AFP
Samar Alghoul during an interview in Havana.—AFP

HAVANA: Thousands of miles from Gaza, medical student Samar Alghoul is supposed to be living her dream in Cuba, where she and hundreds of other Palestinians have been given the opportunity to study for free. But, like the Palestinian diaspora all around the world, she is ridden with anxiety watching the decimation of her home from afar.

The 21-year-old lives in a dorm with six other students at the University of Havana, but often dreams of returning to her family’s side, even if it means running towards war.

“It would be easier for me to be with them than to have all these thoughts,” of not knowing “what they drink, what they eat, where they sleep,” Alghoul said of her mother, two brothers and sister who live in the Gaza Strip. She said her mother tells her: “We are proud of you, we are proud to have someone outside of Gaza who is studying medicine.” Alghoul is one of 247 Palestinian students, 75 of them from Gaza, who have received a scholarship from the Cuban government, according to figures from Palestinian ambassador Akram Samhan.

Cuba has long handed out bursaries to foreign students. Some 1,500 Palestinians, many of them doctors, have studied for free on the island since 1974, said the ambassador.

Whether studying, living abroad, or staying in refugee camps in the Middle East, millions of Palestinians in the diaspora are watching the destruction wrought back home with horror.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2024

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