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Gaza poet Refaat Alareer's words live on in new translations

Refaat Alareer's poetry translated into many languages after killing by Israel
3 min read
09 December, 2023
Several online users paid homage to Alareer by translating his poem into their mother tongues- as a nod to his work as a translator
Refaat Alareer's final poem has been translated into numerous languages by online users, as tributes pour in [YouTube]

Tributes for Palestinian poet and academic Refaat Alareer, who was killed an Israeli strike this week, have continued to flood social media, with people celebrating the life and legacy of a man described as the "voice of Gaza".

Alareer, who dedicated his life to teaching, poetry, creative writing, translating and activism, was an outspoken advocate for the end of Israel's brutal occupation of Palestine

His most famous works include one of his last poems, titled 'If I Must Die', published a month prior to his death. The poem forewarned his eventual killing amid Israel’s relentless onslaught. 

“If I must die, let it bring hope. Let it be a tale,” the last line of the poem wrote. 

On social media platform X, one user said they were compelled to translate Alareer’s poem into Chinese after finding out about his death.

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“Came across Dr. Refaat Alareer's poem "If I must die" just a few days ago, I cried and couldn't help but translated it to Chinese without his permission. Now that he's gone,” X user @blkpaws wrote

The user’s post, which attached the full Chinese translation of If I Must Die, led to an influx of other posts by readers who were equally inspired to do the same, as they made a nod to Alareer’s passion as a translator. 

A thread of translations has since followed, with various languages such as Macedonian, Irish, Spanish, Italian, Bosnian, Hindi and many more.

“Here is my Japanese version. Thank you for guiding us, Dr. Refaat. RIP,” on user replied with a post of their Japanese translation of If I Die. 

“Refaat wrote it in English for the world to read it. But let it live in Arabic too, Refaat’s mother tongue,” another added. 

Wusat Ullah Khan, a reporter for Pakistani news channel Dawn TV, also recited Alareer’s poem using an Urdu translation during a live broadcast - in memory of the deceased poet. 

AJ+ journalist Sanaa Saeed commented on the public display, as she wrote in a post on X, “The Urdu rendering of Refaat’s poem brought me to tears, just as the original had done so. How bittersweet to hear the story Refaat wanted told be told in so many languages, to so many people.” 

Alareer was killed alongside his sister and four children in a shocking killing that stunned Palestinians in Gaza and beyond. 

Friends of the late academic reported that Alareer had sought shelter with his sister after Israeli forces delivered threats to him by telephone, revealing that they knew his location.

Israeli strikes have targeted intellectuals, journalists and writers - like Alareer. 

Israel began its brutal bombardment of Gaza on 7 October, killing at least 17,700 Palestinians as of Saturday.