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Interview with Mohammad Assaf

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We spoke about the concerts that you'll perform in the States, how would you describe your experience singing at the UN in commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people? It was very nice. Honestly, I felt that it was something out of the ordinary that I'd perform in a formal place that makes decisions. I was really shocked, but I enjoyed it at the same. The most important thing was that it was a day in solidarity with the Palestinian people and my Palestinian identity and my role as an UN goodwill ambassador. Of course this is something important to me. And something great. I was able to perform Palestinian songs to an audience that was welcoming and enthusiastic, with a great atmosphere. All in all, this is all also a service to the Palestinian people. Just as my role in the United Nations is. Of course, all of this is important to me. What do you hope to accomplish through your visit and encounters here in the States? This is obviously an important service to all the Palestinian refugees living in Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Today, I am able to recognize with the refugees and especially with the young refugees. Ones whose number is between 1 million and 800,000 persons. I'm part of that group of young refugees. So what I want to do as the goodwill UN Ambassador, is to try to give a sense of hope to these people and to support them. And support through UNRWA is the most important because of its role as an international organization that focuses on the humanitarian problems of the Palestinian refugees. It focuses on education and health issues. Everyone knows that UNRWA has a financial deficit. This will have a huge impact on the program's success. We have a lot of faith in people who volunteer in humanitarian projects and who advocate for human rights, so that they can support the foundation of UNRWA and its work towards helping the refugees in order for the project to succeed in its work that's helping the Palestinian refugees. Your win on Arab Idol was a huge part of your life, how did that moment feel? I mean, I don't even know what to say about it. It was the best thing that has ever happened in my life, it all felt like a dream; especially for me to be able to sing in front of people. And now, I've made it all the way to the UN! So, of course, this is a huge accomplishment. Let me tell you, it's kind of a miracle for me. Everything that I have ever dreamed of, to perform and sing and become famous, has happened. I have performed in almost every place. I have performed in the Middle East, Europe and now, America. I'm now able to say that I've basically performed all over the world. This is a true honor for me, and something that means a lot. Just imagine that all of these things came so quickly at the same time. I am an ambassador at 24 years old! All of these things, as much as someone might talk about them, is surely a miracle. The fact that you have all of these things, yet your fans are the most important part. When a person is able to earn a people's love, I believe that they have earned everything. It's more important than any position or any amount of money. People's love is the most beautiful, and it is the reason for success and creativity. You have made many achievements so far, but what are your plans for the future? There's a lot. But this is still the first part. I'm at the beginning of my professional career, and I want to place my mark in the professional world; whether it is in the Middle East or internationally. And the second most important thing is, to show that I come with a cause that means a lot to a people who have been suffering for more than 60 years from occupation and injustice. I want to convey an artistic story. A story of culture, tradition and art about the Palestinian people, especially the youth. I want to describe their hopes, dreams and aspirations. I want to speak on behalf of the people who are looking for life, hope, peace and love. I speak on behalf of the people who only wish to live. The ones who are tired of the politics, and tired of the trouble, and tired of the settlements, and all of these horrible situations. The people are tired; they only want to live. And I only wish I had the ability to solve all of these problems. If only... If only Im not too late. The situation is complex. Even if it is only a small part, I want to be able to give on behalf of these people. It's enough for me to be able to advocate for them and speak on behalf of them. And I hope to live up to this responsibility and live up to their expectations. We can call you a United Nations' kid because you went to an UNRWA school, just as your mother was a teacher at the agency's school. What does the UN mean to you, personally? UNRWA was founded when we were young and we were aware of it. I remember... I'm not even sure what to tell you in one minute. The humanitarian services provided by UNRWA for the refugees are for the poorer people. The ones who were living a normal life and then happened the occupation. In which led to them becoming refugees. Fortunately, UNRWA provided educational services and health services. Even the programs we would go to after school, the ones that took care of women and children, were all UNRWA services. We used to take part in many activities, like cultural ones and entertainment-related ones. The UNRWA clinics that are scattered all over Gaza and the West Bank and even Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are the ones that provide services for the Palestinian refugees. These are all things that I am aware of. But the most important things that I am happiest about, are the educational and health services provided by UNRWA. These are the most important projects that UNRWA has done from the beginning. Which is about no less than 60 years, if I am not mistaken. For over 60 years, UNRWA has helped the refugees and it continues to do so until now by providing them with services. I am personally satisfied with the schooling. We had access to free education. I remember doctors, they used to come to our schools; the ones from UNRWA. They would check up on us, like on our teeth and they would perform tests on us, even vaccinations for the children. I remember in first grade we would take vaccines to prevent measles and different things; all of the things people wouldn't forget. Even until today, these services are provided at schools. All of these services are a blessing, and something that we will never forget UNRWA providing for us and still continues to provide for the Palestinians. What is life like in a refugee camp? I've said it many times, it's something that is very difficult. You live in a place, where for each person there is the space of a square. The houses are right next to each other. The most that I can tell you is that the largest population density in the world is in Gaza. The refugee camps are overcrowded with residents and there is a lack of municipal services. For example, the streets. A standard living condition for people, a residential space, and just a regular life. You know? And for example: playgrounds, these are things that we don't know about and didn't back then. We used to play in the streets, just as I was talking about earlier, and there were cars and schools. In general, a refugee camp's situation is extremely difficult, life is difficult. The poverty, the lack of services, the lack of, as you were saying, electricity and the blackouts. There are many conditions, that I'd like to explain to you because they are major topics. If any individual visited a refugee camp and witnessed the circumstances of the camp, they would feel the difficulties. As much as I'd explain this situation, there is no way to accurately depict the whole situation that the refugees are living under in these refugee camps, and their difficult lives. The most prominent issue that I can explain to you is the issue of poverty. The mother and the father who try at the end of the month to save money. And not even just at the end of the month, there are people living day by day, thinking about what they are going to feed their children for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner. These are all problems the refugees are facing. Like the lack of jobs and unemployment. Although there are so many college graduates, in vast numbers, based on the statistics that you know about. In Gaza and the West Bank, most of the youth are educated and have earned, at the least, a Bachelor's degree. All of these things exist within the refugee camps, even with all of its difficulties. Even the most humane, basic aspects of life that are common in most places in the world, are absent in these refugee camps. Not just in the refugee camps in Gaza, but also the camps outside of the occupied territories. In Lebanon, the situations are very difficult. For example, the Nahr al-Bared camp, after the conflict, the houses were not re-built and most people were living in the streets. What can you say about these major issues? As a result of the conflict, the Yarmouk camp in Syria and the immigrants they can never catch a break; going from one problem to the next.

Video Details

Duration: 13 minutes and 52 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 37
Posted by: yalhlou on Mar 5, 2014

interview before he toured in the US

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