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Gaza psychiatrist, rights advocate dies at 70
Published Wednesday 18/12/2013 (updated) 19/12/2013 10:17
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Palestinian psychiatrist Iyad Sarraj talks on the phone in his office
in Gaza City on January 4, 2011 (AFP/File Mahmoud Hams)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A prominent Palestinian psychiatrist and human rights advocate from the Gaza Strip died Tuesday after battling cancer, official Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa reported.

Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj -- the founder of a Gaza-based mental health organization -- died at the age of 70 in an Israeli hospital.

Al Jazeera reported that El-Sarraj's body would be brought to Gaza on Wednesday, and that his funeral was scheduled to begin after the midday prayer.

Born 1943 in Beersheba, in what was then British-ruled Palestine, his family was uprooted and fled to the Gaza Strip with the founding of Israel in 1948.

El-Sarraj received degrees from universities in Egypt and England, before returning to Gaza and starting the Gaza Community Mental Health Program.

The organization provides mental health services to people in Gaza, particularly those who have suffered psychological damages resulting from human rights violations, according to its website.

El-Sarraj appeared before a UN fact-finding assembly to investigate human rights violations during Operation Cast Lead, Israel's military offensive on Gaza in 2008-2009. A report published by the assembly, known as the Goldstone Report, cites El-Sarraj's findings that over 20 percent of Gazan children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hamas paid tribute to El-Sarraj in a statement calling him "the great Palestinian rights activist ... dedicated to the service of the Palestinian people, to resistance to the Zionist occupation and to all forms of racism".

The Palestine Liberation Organization praised him as "a great activist who left a deep imprint on the Palestinian struggle."

A critic of Palestinian as well as Israeli governmental policies, El-Sarraj was imprisoned four times by the Palestinian Authority, according to Al Jazeera.

He received numerous awards, including the Olof Palme Prize in 2010 for having "revealed the destructive influence of repression on mental health."

"It is not me but the victims of violence, torture and war who are the real heroes," he told AFP in Gaza at the time.

He was also active in trying to promote rapprochement between Hamas and bitter rivals Fatah, chairing a reconciliation committee seeking to heal the six-year breach between the movements, so far without success.

AFP contributed to this report.
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1 ) Robert Haymond / Teko'a, Israel
18/12/2013 19:57
"died at the age of 70 in an Israeli hospital" yet "dedicated to the service of the Palestinian people, to resistance to the Zionist occupation and to all forms of racism." Something doesn't add up here. Can anyone figure it out|?

2 ) Carlos / USA
18/12/2013 20:02
I am always in awe of people who can accomplish so much with so little. I am in awe of people who accomplish so much while israel and the PA conspire to destroy his work and his life. May he rest in peace! He is one who is worthy.

3 ) JoeUSA / USA
19/12/2013 00:03
Dr. Saraj tried to help and give hope to many who suffer from Psychiatric problems inflicted upon them by the inhumane conditions that they have to live under due to the on going embargo/occupation of Gaza by Israel.

4 ) shirley / australia
19/12/2013 13:56
a good and honrouable man dedictaed his life to serve his people and to heal the barbaric practices of the isreali gov on palestinians his tireless efforts ant this and his hope and understanding of the great need to reconcile all palestinian factions can not be understaed or forgoten

5 ) Carol Scheller / Switzerland
19/12/2013 15:04
The great heart of this Palestinian pioneer in the treatment of mental health will always remain with his people. Dr El-Sarraj spoke out eloquently against the evils wrought by the occupation on the occupiers as well as the occupied. His vision of two people reconciled and healing in their common acknowledgement of the humanity of the other is shared by many Israelis and Palestinians. It goes far beyond politics and is where the change needs to start.

6 ) Ben Alofs / UK/Netherlands
19/12/2013 18:54
I am very much saddened by the death of Dr Eyad el-Sarraj at a relatively young age. I can think of no other Palestinian, who has done so much to champion the mental health needs of the Palestinians and to point out the close association between poor mental health and violations of basic Palestinian human rights by the State of Israel or indeed by Palestinians in positions of power. He had great intellect and an infectious sense of humour. Dr Eyad el-Sarraj will remain a source of inspiration.

7 ) Robby / USA
19/12/2013 19:47
1 ) Robert Haymond / Teko'a, Israel - I read that he requested treatment in Israel.

8 ) dan / netherlands
21/12/2013 13:10
Yet another hypocrite who directed the world to sever ties with Israel until he needed what Israel had to offer. And Israel provided even Sarraj with its best medical care. BDS FAIL !
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