Arab Idol winner supports Gaza's talent

Arab Idol winner supports Gaza's talent
Mouhammad Assaf, winner of last year's TV singing competition, wants to give back to Gaza after the latest deadly assault.
2 min read
24 October, 2014
Assaf toured the world after his TV success [Getty]

Mouhammad Assaf, the first Palestinian winner of the TV singing contest Arab Idol, said on Wednesday that he wants to "give back to Gaza".

Last year’s feel-good winner, who grow up in besieged Gaza, wants to set up an arts centre to nurture young musicians, writers and actors.

The 24-year-old star said the centre would be funded by Palestinian-Americans who have pledged support. However, it will only open once the Palestinian unity government establishes a foothold in the embattled Strip.

Assaf, who lived in the Khan Younis refugee camp, captured hearts across the region with his Arab Idol win. He was famous for performing Palestinian national songs.

Assaf's latest hit is dedicated to the people of Gaza

Despite his success and international tours, he has returned to Gaza twice in the past year.

"Both times, I found Gazans to be very sad, but this time I see much more sadness," he said. More than 2,100 people were killed and tens of thousands were made homeless during Israel's most recent assault on the Strip.

"My generation is frustrated," he said. "Everyone I met asked me to help them leave the country. They want to leave because they have no hope. Problems here are so big and complicated. Blockade, division, wars."

Residents of the densely packed territory have endured a blockade and three deadly Israeli assaults since 2007.

Assaf said he felt equally hopeless before last year’s competition in Beirut changed his life. He couldn't find a job after college and dreamed of getting a civil service job, being paid $300 a month, he said. "Thank God, I had this rare opportunity."

His latest single, "Raise your head high", is dedicated to the people of Gaza.