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Remembering slain ‘voice of Palestine’ Shireen Abu Akleh on her birthday

The loss of the journalist loss was a major moment of grief for the entirety of the Arab region, especially Palestinians.

The families and friends of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh took to social media on Monday to celebrate what would have been her 52nd birthday, almost a year since she was killed by the Israeli occupation.

In a heartfelt Instagram post, the late journalist’s niece, Lina Abu Akleh, celebrated her aunt. 

“Today I celebrate you, because you loved life and you loved your birthday. Today and everyday I am reminded of how blessed I am to have an Angel like you. Happy Birthday Shushu,” Lina said, referring to her late aunt’s nickname.

In a tweet, Al Jazeera producer in Ramallah Rania Zabaneh remembered her late colleague while renewing calls for justice for the killing of Abu Akleh.

“She would have turned 52 on 3 April, but instead of wishing her a good one…We’re praying she rests in peace and demanding justice for Shireen,” Zabaneh tweeted.

Separately, other social media accounts noted Abu Akleh’s “presence despite her absence”, a common thought that has echoed among millions who grieved the major loss of the journalist.

“Happy Heavenly Birthday Shireen. You deserved so much more. Your legacy will live on,” another social media user echoed.

Killing ‘Palestine’s voice

Israeli occupation forces (IOF) killed Abu Akleh on 11 May last year as she was covering an Israeli raid in Jenin on live television, sending shockwaves among millions around the world.

The soldier proceeded to shoot Abu Akleh despite her clearly identifying as a member of the press by wearing her blue vest and helmet.

She was also shot in a precise spot that was not covered by her helmet, and witnesses said the IOF continued to fire bullets, preventing medics from reaching Abu Akleh before she died on the spot.

The IOF had immediately claimed that Abu Akleh was killed by Palestinian gunfire, though witness testimonies and reports were quick to counter its narrative. Then, the Israeli soldier admitted that he killed Abu Akleh, though he claimed that he did not see her at the time of the attack.

Abu Akleh’s funeral, the biggest in Palestine, was also attacked by Israeli forces who attempted to drop the coffin that held the veteran journalist’s body. Pallbearers were beaten by the IOF and others were questioned for protecting the casket.

To date, Israel has not been held accountable for the killing and Al Jazeera and rights groups continue to demand justice for Abu Akleh. The Qatar-based network also took the case up to the International Criminal Court.

Qatar had slammed the killing of Abu Akleh and repeatedly renewed its calls for accountability on multiple occasions.

Following the killing, Abu Akleh’s family also met with United States President Joe Biden, whose government pumps $3.8 billion into Israel. However, the US has failed to hold its ally to account and fell short of condemning Israel’s crimes against Palestinians.

Abu Akleh’s loss marked a major moment of grief for the entirety of the Arab region, especially Palestinians.

The late journalist was widely described as “the voice of Palestine” for her brave coverage of the reality of the ongoing Israeli occupation over the decades.

Her popular report sign off and her memorable voice had echoed in every household through their television screens, with many Palestinian generations growing to be inspired by Abu Akleh.