Changes The Podcast

All episodes available for streaming on

 View All  

Changes: Ahmed Alnaouq

The audio version of this episode is available here.

Annie [00:00:05] Hello and welcome to changes. I am Annie MacManus. I'm really happy you're here for this episode in particular. For a while, I've been wanting to record an episode of changes where we acknowledge and talk about the horror and the tragedy that's been happening in Gaza, specifically since the 7th of October last year. We've all seen this play out in the news, but just a brief reminder. On that day, the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented assault on Israel. Around 1200 people were killed and more than 250 people were taken to Gaza as hostages, according to Israeli tallies. In response to the Hamas attack, the Israeli military the IDF has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians in Gaza, of which a significant amount are children. Now, this podcast is not a news platform. You know that as a listener, we are not here to debate the ongoing conflict. Instead, we are here to share stories of change. I've been doing this podcast for four years, and so much of the reason that I do it and have continued doing it, is because I believe in the power of storytelling. It's through stories that we find hope, connection, and empathy. And that is what I hope today's episode does. 

[00:01:26] My guest is Ahmed Alnaouq, a Palestinian journalist from Gaza who co-founded a non-profit organisation called We Are Not Numbers. Its aim is to share the Palestinian stories behind the numbers in the news, and to advocate for their human rights. Ahmed's own story is one of just unthinkable loss and tragedy, and I am so grateful to him for sharing his story with us today. I must caveat this conversation by saying that there are some really explicit, shocking, and upsetting details discussed in this episode. We haven't edited these out out of respect for Ahmed. He was here to share the reality and truth of what happened to his family in Gaza. But please be aware upfront that that there is some upsetting stuff. Let's get into it. 

[00:02:17] Welcome, Ahmed Alnaouq to Changes. *Pause* Why are stories and telling stories important in terms of creating change? 

Ahmed [00:02:30] Telling our stories is the most prominent feature of my life, because I have been working my entire life on this field and what made me a storyteller, what made me interested and invested in storytelling and telling our stories, is the story that happened to me in the in the in the war in 2014, in which I lost my brother and I was devastated. I was destroyed, and the only thing I wanted at that time is just to die. I had zero interest in my life. I was invited by an American journalist to tell my story. I thought that everyone will just think that I'm a terrorist and my brother is a terrorist, and they don't care about us. Then, after hearing so many comments and feedback and knowing that people from the West read my story and heard my voice, it gave me a huge boost in confidence. It was a kind of a stress release and it changed my life entirely. Telling our stories can change the world. It can change our circumstances. It can change this whole dynamic of how the politics and the media works. Because once you hear someone tell their stories, you can never unhear it. It will stay with you forever. Telling our stories can to change how people view us, and how people view the conflict and can inspire them to take action. 

Annie [00:03:57] What was your life like as a young child in Gaza? 

Ahmed [00:04:02] When I was only six years old, I remember every day going to school with scenes of tanks invading our city. Helicopters hovering all over the Gaza, shooting people. I remember, seeing a protest every single day when I was going to school. I remember the protests coming to our school and inviting the students who are kids to to leave the school and go to the protests. I remember my friends, our neighbours, every day being shot. Many of them were killed. Everything I remember from my childhood is something related to politics. When I was only six years old, I had to spend my time not watching, cartoons or films or playing with my toys, but watching the news and in the news. I would always hear numbers. Numbers of people being killed. Numbers of Palestinians being injured. Numbers of protests. Politicians. So this is what I was familiar with. When you are only six years old and seven years old and eight years old. You immerse yourself into politics. Did I know politics? I did not know what politics means even. 

Annie [00:05:24] It was just normalised. 

Ahmed [00:05:25] It was normalised. It was everywhere. Wherever you go. The sounds of the rifles, the gunshots or the sounds of the firing of the, of the Apache, for example, or the warships. 

Annie [00:05:36] The helicopters? Yes.

Ahmed [00:05:37] The helicopters. This was our environment, our life, our idols.Imam Hajo Was like the big name. She was only a few months old, and her mother was carrying her when an Israeli tank shot and killed the baby and injured her mother. So, Iman Hajo, like the pictures of a Iman Hajo who was everywhere in the school and in the streets? The songs were about Imam Hajo. Mohammed, was only a kid who was shot. Killed while my father was holding him and sheltering behind the wall. So these are the names that we knew. The martyrs, the names of the martyrs. 

Annie [00:06:11] So it wasn't pop stars. It wasn't people on the television. It was martyrs. Yeah. It was babies who had been shot, children who'd been shot. Well. 

Ahmed [00:06:20] This is our life. And then the second intifada erupted. I was only six years old. 

Annie [00:06:24] So intifada is the Palestinian people uprising against Israel? 

Ahmed [00:06:28] Yes. And this is another story. Now, every time you hear the intifada, it's like it has a negative. 

Annie [00:06:33] Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:06:33] The connotation here. It's not. When I hear the word intifada, I remember the protests in which the Palestinian kids were throwing stones at the Israeli army soldiers. So the intifada means the mass uprising that the Palestinians were doing in order to defy the occupation. Yeah. It does not mean killing of the Jews. 

Annie [00:06:51] Yeah, yeah. 

Ahmed [00:06:51] It's totally wrong. 

Annie [00:06:52] Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:06:53] It doesn't mean killing the Israelis. It means uprising against oppression. This is what intifada means to me and told other Palestinians. So the second Intifada erupted when I was only six years old. 

Annie [00:07:05] What did that look like? How did that feel? 

Ahmed [00:07:08] It was overwhelming. It was *exhales* prominent to every aspect of my life. When I go to school, the protest at the school, the news and the funerals, you know, the funerals was a big part of our life when I when we were kids, because every day 1 or 2, three Palestinians would be killed. And then the funerals of these people who were killed, it would be like a protest. 

Annie [00:07:30] Right. 

Ahmed [00:07:31] Which hundreds of Palestinians would go and bury this, this martyr, we say. And it was our activity when we when we were kids. Oh, there's a martyr. I would go join the funeral. 

Annie [00:07:41] Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:07:42] You know, and you are only a kid. 

Annie [00:07:44] So from the very beginning, you are surrounded by death. And the idea that your lives are everywhere could be over any second?

Ahmed [00:07:52] Everywhere. Everywhere. 

Annie [00:07:53] Where, where your family and all of this. And can you tell me about your family, your house, growing up, what was the environment that you were brought up in? 

Ahmed [00:07:59] We were a big family. There was like my father and my mother and nine siblings. 

Annie [00:08:05] And tell me about your father and your mother. What kind of people were they? 

Ahmed [00:08:09] My father is the most amazing person you could ever meet, right? He was a very, very simple man. He was a very passionate man. And he was also one of the smartest people I know. You know, my father has this photographic memory. Like last year, he was 75 years old, and he would still remember the lessons and the texts that he used to study when he was in primary and elementary schools. So he was very clever. He was very smart. He was very passionate and emotional person. I remember in the intifada, for example, every day he would spend all of his time after work watching the news, and he would cry constantly for hours as you watch people, people getting shot and killed. But unfortunately, because of the war, because of the occupation, he did not go to university, so he had to go and work in order to support his family. So what he did, he did what other hundreds of thousands of Palestinians used to do to go and work in Israel as labourers. Because when the occupation happened, they crushed the economy of Gaza. So we did not have factories or farms or whatever. You would all go and work in Israel as labourers in order to survive. You would go every day at 2 a.m. in the morning. 

Annie [00:09:22] Wow. 

Ahmed [00:09:22] And then he would return at 7 or 6 or 8 p.m.. My mother was also a housewife. She she was also very clever. She she always. 

Annie [00:09:31] -With nine children to bring up!

Ahmed [00:09:34] She was always first of her class and first of her school, like, well, my my brothers and sisters, many of them are engineers. Many of them are, are lawyers. So lawyers, engineers, many of us who studied English. 

Annie [00:09:48] So you're encouraged by your parents to be educated and to get educated. 

Ahmed [00:09:52] Of course this was part of our life. Not only by my parents, education in Gaza is the highest in the Middle East, and that's why me and my siblings, we all get education and higher education. And we we were good. We were doing very well at school. 

Annie [00:10:05] Where were you in the order of your brothers and sister? 

Ahmed [00:10:09] I'm number nine, no number 8 -sorry. 

Annie [00:10:11] Number 8, ok. So second youngest.

Ahmed [00:10:13] Second youngest, yeah. 

Ahmed [00:10:14] Wow, okay. 

Annie [00:10:15] And what was it like growing up in a house surrounded by so many people? 

Ahmed [00:10:18] It's good and bad *laughs*. It's good because you have many brothers and sisters, and we'd always had company, and. But it's also bad because you you receive less, care from your parents, you know? But my mother, God bless her, she was like, she did not work outside. She was only. She could only bear like. 

Annie [00:10:38] Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:10:39] To serve, to make us food and to teach us and my my family and my brothers, sisters, we were friends also. More like brothers and sisters. Our social connection, our bond was very, very, very powerful. It was very strong. We grew up together. My sisters, they used to teach me. We used to play all the time, especially during times of war. Our bond with each other would grow stronger and stronger. So because we tried to forget about the horror and the war while we are all together, and that's why in wars they would leave their husbands and they would come to stay with us at our home, because that's how we support each other. 

[00:11:16] *musical interlude*

Annie [00:11:26] Let's get on if it's okay, add to your adult change. You referred to it briefly there in 2014. Your brother was killed by an Israeli bomb. 

Ahmed [00:11:34] Yes. 

Annie [00:11:35] Can you tell me what happened? As much or as little as you want. What was his name? 

Ahmed [00:11:42] His name was Ayman. 

Annie [00:11:43] Okay, Ayman. 

Ahmed [00:11:45] Yeah, Ayman. And, yeah, he was. He was bombed. He was, with the friends at our home, and he was bombed. 

Annie [00:11:50] And he was 23? 

Ahmed [00:11:51] He was 23. Yeah. And, that was a huge change in my life because that was the first time I lose a brother or a sister in the war, because, yes, we lived many wars before that, many Israeli invasions to our homes and lands, to Gaza. And my brother this, this Ayman, he was because he is like, older than me. 

Annie [00:12:17] Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:12:18] But we were like, always going out together. We would always spend our time together and especially during wars. So we'd always be like, at home. 

Annie [00:12:30] Would you protest together as well? 

Ahmed [00:12:33] Yeah, yeah. But he was like four years older than me. So that was a little gap. But we were always very close to each other. And then just just like that one day he's gone. Not only he's gone, but when I went to the hospital to see him, he was cut into pieces. So it was very difficult to watch my brother, who just yesterday we were together, we were playing, we were laughing, we were during our time. And now he has gone in a very horrible way. 

Annie [00:13:04] How did that change your family? You know, as you say, it was normalised for people to die around you, neighbours, friends. But when it comes, when it hits you in this way. So close. Did it change how you felt about where you lived? 

Ahmed [00:13:17] Yeah. When you live in a war zone, like like Gaza, for example, you would always have the idea that you feel that you are prepared to lose someone of your family at any time. And I always thought that, yeah, at some point we will have to lose one of my family because this happens to everyone. 

Annie [00:13:36] Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:13:36] And it's happening and it's ongoing. It's continuous. But when you lose someone from your family, you feel that you are never prepared for this. You forgot everything you tried to convince yourself your entire life that it will have to happen. You'll have to cope with it. No, but what happens now? It's very difficult. It's a loss. It's a human. So it shocked me. It destroyed me. I was only 19 years old back then. So back then, I sank into deep, deep, deep depression. 

Annie [00:14:11] Right? 

Ahmed [00:14:12] I would intentionally go out in the night after 12 a.m. to walk in the street so that a drone in Israeli drone see me and and shoot me. I would, I would know that my life would be gone for nothing. But at that time, we felt that we were living for nothing, like we weren't indispensable. We are dispensable. They can shoot us. They can kill us. They can destroy our homes. And that's it. That no one cares about you and no one hears your story. So at that time I thought, what are we doing? So when the war ends, also, I would just go to the graveyard lies next to the grave and to try and cry for hours. And I would ask, I would say, God, please take me. I don't want to live this, this, this life anymore. 

Annie [00:14:59] And then you wrote your story?

Ahmed [00:15:00] And then I wrote my story. 

Annie [00:15:02] Encouraged by this journalist. And everything changed. 

Ahmed [00:15:04] Forever. 

Annie [00:15:05] And it changed both for you in terms of how you saw the world and realised that, you know, people felt things for you. Your story meant something to people, but also it changed you in quite a physical way in that it allowed you to apply for a scholarship to Leed's University. It brought you to the UK to do a masters. Was it? 

Ahmed [00:15:23] Yes. 

Annie [00:15:23] Tell me about the change between living having lived in Gaza all your life, you're 25 years old and then moving to the UK for the first time, what did it feel like? 

Ahmed [00:15:34] The first month I felt like, I'm living in heaven. 

Annie [00:15:38] Right. 

Ahmed [00:15:38] I was, I remember like I used to live in Leeds, like for my master's degree. And walking in the street every to university with, with the trees and it was, it was summer. So I landed in Heathrow Airport and then I took a train to Leeds. And what shocked me at that time is not the civilisation or the buildings or the beauty of the streets and whatever it was that in the train I could see the horizon. It maybe doesn't make sense to you, but for me to see the horizon without buildings. 

Annie [00:16:14] Right? Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:16:15] It was, oh my God. Like I can see like like this horizon with the this land and grass and. Yeah, wide spaces, open area for me that was so liberating because for my entire life, when I go, when I take the car, we don't have trains in Gaza. Everywhere you look. Buildings. Concrete. Cement. 

Annie [00:16:39] Yeah. 

Annie [00:16:40] And it's so depressing. You know, this time I came, wide areas, green grass and I can see the horizon without interruptions. And the sheep that were like eating the grass. For me, that was so liberating. I felt the freedom, you know? So for the first month, I was living like, the happiest days of my life. I was shocked that electricity doesn't cut like we have electricity for 24 seven and we have clean water. Like when I open the tap, I can drink from the water. And if you dare to drink once you're dead, like. That's it. I couldn't even wash my face in Gaza because the water so polluted. So they add a lot of chlorine to the water. So you smell chlorine all the time, and it's also destroy the the skin and the hair. Whatever. But having electricity, having water, going to school every day, university everyday and meeting people from different cultures from different, places. In Gaza, we only see Gazans. We don't meet with someone from outside Gaza because of the blockade. We don't see anyone. 

Annie [00:17:47] Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:17:47] Except for us hearing people talk different languages on the street. That's interesting. Oh my God. Chinese like Indians, British, Europeans. Everything was new. And because everything was new to me, it was, an experience I once wrote on my Facebook page. I said during the past one month, I never had any moment of sadness. 

Ahmed [00:18:14] *whispers* Wow. 

Ahmed [00:18:15] But then after that month, you you start to compare. So I started to compare between our life here and life there. When I watch the children playing in the streets, it would give me a lot of pain because I would remember my childhood and remembering people in Gaza who are still under bombardment. Every time I watch, I see children playing in this country. I would or I would make a comparison. 

Annie [00:18:43] Yeah. Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:18:43] Now we're talking about 15,000 children were killed in this war. The other a million children in Gaza that are living starvation, war and suffering and seizure and all of that. So I would ask why. What did we do wrong so that we deserve a life like this in Gaza? It's different, life is so different. And then you would live the trauma the following month. Every time when I go to bed, I would see nightmares. Every single time I would imagine myself going back to Gaza. There's war and bombing and I can't travel again. Then I would wake up, oh my God, that was a nightmare. And then I would be relieved. So this a trauma that you that you lived? 

Annie [00:19:25] Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:19:26] You can never you can never go out of it. It will haunt you. It will live in you forever. Until this moment, I still have nightmares every night. 

Annie [00:19:35] Yeah. Tell me, what you discovered with regards to how people felt about your country. You have no idea until you're there how you as a people are perceived. So what did you do? And what were you surprised by? Anything you learned? 

Ahmed [00:19:52] I was shocked. 

Annie [00:19:52] Why? What did you learn? 

Ahmed [00:19:55] I'm going to give you an example. One day, like after two months of my my study at the University of Leeds, there was, I think a Christmas party or something. 

Annie [00:20:05] Right. 

Ahmed [00:20:05] One of the student came to me, he said, where are you from? I told her I'm from Palestine, she said Pakistan? No, no, no, I'm from Palestine. Where is Palestine? It's, it's somewhere in the Middle East. And what what language do you speak? I responded Arabic, we speak Arabic. And then she looked. So you're an Arab? I told her, yes. So then she started showering me with these questions. Do you have four wives? Do you live in a tent? Do you have camels? You hate the Jews? Do you have an aeroplane? Do you have a private aeroplane? And all of these questions that stereotypes dehumanisation. If you are an Arab, then you are a savage. Then you have four wives, I'm not even married! You live in the desert? And you live in a tent and you have camels, but at the same time you're very rich and you have aeroplanes, you know? So, some other time I was in the train and someone, the one sitting next to me asked me, what's your name? I told him, Ahmed. And then he responded, please don't blow off the train. I don't want to die at 28 just because my name is Ahmed. He thought that I'm going to blow off the train, you know? But at the same time, the the majority of people here, and especially I realise that after this war, they're so lovely, they're warm, they're amazing and they gave me a lot of support and sympathy. 

Annie [00:21:34] Good. 

Ahmed [00:21:36] But there are a lot of stereotypes about us. 

Annie [00:21:39] Yeah. So the war, this war you speak of, happened, began last October 2023. What were your thoughts when you saw on the news what was happening with Hamas going into Israel? What were you thinking when you saw that? What were your gut reactions? 

Ahmed [00:22:01] I was horrified. I was terrified. 

Annie [00:22:05] Why? 

Ahmed [00:22:07] Because I knew exactly what will happen to the Gaza after the. And at the first the 7th of October we did not have foreign news. We did not know what's going on there. The only thing we heard is that so many Israelis are killed. So we, at first I did not know who was killed. Who were the soldiers or civilians or, but the moment I heard that so many Israelis were killed, I knew that the response from Israel will be severe. And that because and of course, I'm I'm someone who doesn't believe in wars. I do not I do not want wars. I hate wars and I don't I don't like violence by any means. But I always know that whenever one Israeli is killed, then maybe 100 or 200 Palestinians will be killed. Because I lived these wars, I knew what happened. When in 2014. When when Hamas kidnapped one Israeli soldier who was fighting the Palestinians and that day they they destroyed like a neighbourhood in Rafah, and they killed more than 300 people. So I know the moment I heard so many Israelis were killed, so many hostages, then I realised that something very, very, very happening will happen to Gaza. At that time, I was in Turkey. I wasn't even in the UK, I was in Turkey. I was like having this vacation with my fiancé. She came from Gaza, she went out of Gaza on the 5th of October. We have been planning this holiday for a long time. Then she came to the UK and the 7th of October happened only two days after she arrived, and that was the first time for her to leave Gaza, by the way. And she left with her parents.7th of October happened. 

Annie [00:23:53] Her parents came with her? 

Ahmed [00:23:54] Yes. And at the night I was thinking to the to the TV, watching the news and then told her, please, the let's go out, just try to forget about the war. We went out just a few minutes later. We get a call from her mother. She does. Please come back. And she was crying. We came back and she was destroyed. What happened? What happened? And she said Israel bombed her home in Gaza and she was worried about her other children because they also have a big family and there were like kids at home. Only one of her kids were at home and he was killed. The remaining were like visiting their grandmother. So the children were survived. So from the 7th of October, my my fiancee lost her brother and she lost her home. And this home, like they were like, they invested their entire life building that home. It was a very beautiful home, very nice. And just like that, it's gone. With one of their children who was 22 years old. He was a nice kid. He did not belong to any political party. So immediately they came back, they wanted to go back to Gaza. 

Annie [00:25:09] And did they? 

Ahmed [00:25:10] The border was closed, so they stuck in Egypt. My fiance and both of her parents, they got stuck in Egypt. But they have other siblings. She has other siblings who are in Gaza. Three of them are children. Kids, like ten years old and 11 years old and 16 years old. And I went back to London. And then after that I was like all the time working and watching the news until the 22nd of October. 

Annie [00:25:39] Until the 22nd of October. So just over two weeks after that first night, you woke up at 4:30 a.m.? Yes. Why do you think you woke up? 

Ahmed [00:25:50] I don't know, usually I have very deep sleep at that time. I just woke up at 4:30 and I went to bed at two. Then suddenly I woke up at 4:30. And, I felt that something is wrong. I woke up, just, freaked out. And, you know, at that time, you know, you'd always, like, hold your phone, check the news, and check the news. And then I saw that so many people are, like, sending me messages on WhatsApp from Gaza. All of these messages would say. Ahmed? How are you? You okay? How are you? You Okay? How are you?

Annie [00:26:28] And who are these people? Friends. 

Ahmed [00:26:30] Friends from Gaza, yeah. 

Annie [00:26:31] I see. 

Annie [00:26:32] And neighbours. So when I saw that and no one told me anything, it like I started having, like, heartbeat so, so hard. *breathes shakily* So. Yeah, I called one of them immediately, and I said, tell me what happened. And he, he responded, he said, you didn't know. And I said, no, tell me what happened now. So he told me, he said they bombed your home in Gaza. I ask him, I, when he told me that I was so...I knew who was at home. 

Annie [00:27:08] Who was at home?

Annie [00:27:09] Usually at my home, there would be my father and my two brothers and my sister in law. And my brother's children, like seven in total, but in the war. And then he told you before? During war times. Yeah. My sisters were married. They would come and they would bring all of their children. So there were more than 30 people at home. And I thought that would be a massacre. But one of my sisters and her children left. So at that day there were my father, my two brothers, my three sisters, and my nieces and nephews who are 15 children. 

Annie [00:27:47] 15 children?

Ahmed [00:27:48] 15 children were at home, all under the age of 13. I'm not talking children like 17 or 16, all under the age of 13. Most of them are six, seven, eight years old. So, yeah. I asked them who was hurt, and he told me, just your father and your brother. And I said, no, that can't be true because I know how many people are there. Then I, I, I looked the news every a few minutes they would announce another body they found that eventually 21 members of my family were killed. That day. Only one kid survived and his mother. Omar, my nephew. He was only three years old and he was injured with his mother, my sister in law. Both were injured, but miraculously they survived. The remaining most of them came in body parts. The kids like, they couldn't like, take pictures for them because they were in body parts. After one day of like of this massacre, one of my relatives went to my home where my home was, and he had a plastic black bag. He started collecting pieces of their body parts. They put all them all in one bag, and he gave them to my sister who survived. These are the remnants of your family. The kids. I was told that my sister, she was cut into two pieces. The other children. And they were like their body parts were everywhere. And my home now is like a pile of rubble. Like. Two three storey building. My home was there like. It was like the home. It has four apartments, one for me, one for my brother, one for my uncle, one for my father. And I know that if I stayed in Gaza, if I did not travel to the UK, I would have been killed with them, that's for sure. So you're looking for someone who just survived the war, so you're looking for someone who who could be a victim, like people who are dying there? They are my brothers, my sisters, people with the same colour of my skin with the same accent. People like me who have been killed *breathes shakily*. Yeah. Then after that, more cousins were killed. Their families were killed. Yeah. My mother was killed three years ago. Indirectly. I always talk about my mother because my mother was also killed. 

Annie [00:30:36] Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:30:36] But indirectly. 

Annie [00:30:37] How do you mean? 

Ahmed [00:30:38] She was a cancer patient, and they prevented her from going to receive a treatment. So she died. 

Annie [00:30:43] When you say there, you mean the Israeli? -

Ahmed [00:30:44] -The Israelis of course. 

Annie [00:30:46] They wouldn't let her get treated?

Ahmed [00:30:48] Yeah. A cancer patient. Why wouldn't you allow her to receive a treatment? But it's so dangerous with a woman who's 64 years old with cancer. So.. 

Annie [00:31:02] Ahmed, it takes so much courage to sit here and tell your story. But why is it important for you to be here doing this, telling me this story today? 

Ahmed [00:31:12] Because the world had to know. Has to know. 

Annie [00:31:15] Right. 

Ahmed [00:31:17] There is a lot. The Western media. I'm sorry, you work in media 

Annie [00:31:21] No, please go. 

Ahmed [00:31:21] With the Western media for too long. For the past 76 years, they have been oppressing people like me, have been depriving me and the people who are like me from telling their stories, from sharing their stories. We are viewed in the Western media as we are terrorists who we hate the Jew, that we are antisemitic, that our problem with Israelis is that they are Jewish. Our stories were never shared, and in the UK or in the US or in Europe, we were deprived of our agency for our narrative. And because of that, we had so many stereotypes about the Palestinians for all of that, like when we are being killed in Gaza, no one cares about us. And because of that, the UK and the politicians are supporting Israel with the weapons, with the diplomatic cover, with the media cover to continue their genocide, their war crimes against the Palestinians. So we need to tell our stories because we demand action, because we we demand the cycle of violence to end. I'm not sharing my story with you because I want you to go and take arms and go fight Israel. No, of course not. I'm sharing you the stories of my people, of my family. Because one thing. Because there are another 30, 35,000 Palestinians who were killed in Gaza. So I'm not the only one who lost. Everyone lost. And because this genocide is continuous, it's ongoing. And because the Nakba that started 76 years ago, it is still ongoing. This did not happen only after the 7th of October. It has been ongoing for the past 76 years, or let's see, six years. We are sick and we are tired, and we were fed up with with the situation and we want to change. Unfortunately, the UK is complicit. Unfortunately, the country where I live is complicit in these crimes. It is the country that started Israel 7076 years ago, and it's still providing Israel with the weapons to kill us. So the bomb that killed my family, 30% of it was manufactured here in the UK. So it is with your money. With your own money. That my family was killed. The 14 kids of my family were killed because the UK is giving Israel these pumps and this diplomatic cover and this media coverage and the support and all of that. So it is important that the people in the UK know the truth, to understand the reality that the people that represent you, they are the same people who are killing people in countries- in Palestine. 

Annie [00:34:11] Is it true that your family were. There was a sense of being told to go somewhere that was safe? 

Ahmed [00:34:15] Yes. 

Annie [00:34:16] So can you explain what happened in that context? 

Ahmed [00:34:20] Deir al-Balah where my family live. 

Annie [00:34:22] Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:34:22] It's in the in the middle area south of Gaza Valley. So in October, at that time, the Israelis would instruct everyone to go to Deir al-Balah. 

Ahmed [00:34:34] Go to south?

Ahmed [00:34:35] To South.

Ahmed [00:34:35] Yeah, I remember that. 

Ahmed [00:34:37] Until this moment now, the majority of people in Gaza, they're fleeing their homes to come to south  to Deir al-Balah. 

Annie [00:34:41] Mhm..which is where your family lived already?

Ahmed [00:34:44] Yes, yes. And we live in the heart of the, of the city. It's a very crowded area. So no militant would come. No, no missiles would be fired, no military activities there. Nothing. Nothing. There is zero justification for bombing my home and my sisters who were married and living outside. They thought that the safest area they could go to is my my father's house. Yeah, because it's very safe. And Israel don't think that they don't know who lives in my home. They know they know who everyone lives right. But they choose to bomb it. So yeah, my sisters, they they fled their homes to come and seek refuge in my home. And they were all killed. 

Annie [00:35:29] I'm just trying to imagine if something like this happened. The anger you'd feel, the rage you'd feel. I suppose. Do you have that? And if you do, how do you control it and live? Despite it being there. 

Ahmed [00:35:41] Despite the anger? 

Annie [00:35:42] Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:35:43] Well, first, yes, I say that the UK is complicit but the government is complicit. 

Annie [00:35:48] Yes. So it's not the UK.

Ahmed [00:35:51] The people I live with and the British people in general. They're lovely people. I've seen them. They protest everywhere, every Saturday for Palestine. I many, many of my British friends, hundreds of them. They have been supporting me ever since it's happened. They never left me for one moment. And because of the support that I received from everyone, did not leave me with anger. So I don't say that I'm angry now. I don't walk in the street and I curse everyone and I say, no, no, no, that's not true. They feel that I'm a I'm a blessed with the people I know. 

Annie [00:36:27] Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:36:28] With the friends I have with the British people. Because the British people are one of the most who demonstrated for Palestine and supported Palestine. I don't care about the government. I'm very angry with the government, but I don't live with anger all of my time. I dedicate all my emotions on my power in order to speak for Palestine and speak for my people and speak about my family. So I don't think having, the emotions of anger and hate is beneficial. 

Annie [00:36:55] I, I agree it. 

Ahmed [00:36:57] It would crush me. I don't want to make myself a hero. I don't I did not take a decision to avoid anger and hate. It's just comes with me like this. I'm always like calm

Annie [00:37:07] Yeah, yeah. 

Annie [00:37:08] So I was very sad to lose my family. But at that time I thought, okay, now you lost your family, Ahmed. Now it's the time to do something about it and to do something about it, it has to be positive. So I decided to. Do what I what I have been doing all of my life tell the stories of my people. Losing my family made me determined, more than any time ever, to dedicate my time to advocate for my people. To advocate for peace. 

[00:37:41] *musical interlude*

Annie [00:37:52] This war has been going on for, this war within the larger war, has been going on for seven months. Do you feel that there can be an end? And if so, what does it look like? 

Ahmed [00:38:07] I think..

Annie [00:38:07] This is such a huge question, by the way, so I apologise. 

Ahmed [00:38:09] No, no, I think that I think there will be an end to all of this, but I don't think it's going to be soon. I think it's going to take many years. Right. And I don't think that we, the Palestinians on our own, can do this. I think we need help because at this moment I feel like *pauses* all the powerful countries are standing against us for, for a way or another, in a way or another for some reason. And I'm not asking for help from the governments. I need help from the people. As long as we have the hearts of the people, I think a change will happen because the people can enforce, can enforce a change. And I'm hopeful because I see that people here and there and everywhere, they're now waking up. They're knowing the truth more and more and more every Saturday when they see the footage of people who are protesting in the U.K., it gives me a lot of hope, a lot of hope that we're not forgotten. That's people here and there are they're they're watching the news. They're hearing our stories. They're caring about us and they're they're capable of bringing a change. And they are doing that already. So I think it will end. The genocide will end. The suffering of the Palestinians will end. That's not the question. The question is whether we are individually and collectively, are working and, helping in a bringing that a change sooner. 

Annie [00:39:46] Right. 

Ahmed [00:39:46] Because the change is happening and and will happen. But now it's up to me and you and everyone who is listening to be part of this change

Annie [00:39:59] How, in your opinion, is the most effective way for us to do that here in the UK. 

Ahmed [00:40:05] We have to treat Israel and the Israeli army and Israeli politicians in a different way. We have to boycott. 

Ahmed [00:40:14] Boycott them. So you think the boycott, the boycotting is an effective way? 

Ahmed [00:40:17] Yes, we have to boycott them. 

Annie [00:40:17] Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:40:18] And I don't want to meet with any Israeli army official or Israeli politician. We have to treat them in a different way. Now, the UK is is providing Israel with a... This has to be cut. The government, they have to cut their diplomatic ties with Israel. Yeah I know it's a very, very big demand. But this is not a normal state. This is not a normal state. Those who are capable of killing 15,000 people with 15,000 children in Gaza, I don't know how soon I can go to Benjamin Netanyahu and shake hands with him. You can't do that. You have to stop providing weapons to Israel. But when it comes to the people, the people have to boycott the Israeli products. You have to boycott them. You have to keep protesting. 

Annie [00:41:03] Do you see a future where, a state of Palestine can sit next to Israel and the two of them can be relatively at peace, like in the future? 

Ahmed [00:41:16] I think after the 7th of October it became harder. But it's not impossible. Yeah. And, allow me to remind you, since we are in Europe, 78 years ago, there was a world war here. Millions of people died, millions of people were killed brutally. Entire cities were erased. But now. The Europeans. They live peacefully with each other, you know. We are sick and tired of the war. We want to have an end to this. We don't enjoy living in wars. I don't enjoy losing my family members. I want this to end. By any means, by any course. I want this to end. And the Palestinians, at any point, when they are provided with any solution, they will take it. 

Annie [00:41:57] How do you feel about Hamas? 

Ahmed [00:42:00] I have been a critic of Hamas my entire life. I disagree with a lot of things that Hamas is doing. A lot of things I have been, I have been very critical of Hamas, but I am a logical person, and I know when there is occupation, there will always be some some resistance and occupation. And whether I agree with this resistance or this form of resistance or not, it will always be there. 

[00:42:19] *Musical Interlude*

Ahmed [00:42:30] Ahmed, what change would you like to see for yourself moving forwards? 

Ahmed [00:42:40] Right now my life is not important. Right now, it's like I live for a bigger cause. I don't live for myself. And I just want to see the Palestinian people free. This is everything I call for. 

Ahmed [00:42:52] Do you ever want to go back there? 

Ahmed [00:42:54] I want to go back. I want to go back yesterday. Not today. I long for living in Gaza, but I also want to live in Gaza in a dignified, free life. I don't want to live under siege, under bombardment, under dehumanisation, under trauma and suffering. I want to see a change. And this change is the freedom of the Palestinians. It has to come. We have lived without the freedom for the past 76 years and it's enough. We want our freedom back. And this is everything I call for. 

Ahmed [00:43:31] How has telling your story changed you? 

Ahmed [00:43:33] In 2014 when I lost my brother, I was destroyed. I said that it crushed me. And I just wanted to die. And I lost only one brother back then. In 2023, I lost all my family members, 21 members of my family. But I'm not destroyed. I'm not crushed. I'm not, less interested in life. I am way more powerful than ever before. I'm way more determined to tell my story, to share it with the world, to bring about a really change. And I would say I'm fearless. Telling my story made me fearless. I swear, there is nothing in the world that can scare me. So many people told me that, if you even say that you have courage sharing my story, I am more courageous than anyone could could imagine. 

Annie [00:44:24] Yeah. 

Ahmed [00:44:25] Because now I live for a cause. I don't live for myself. And this cause is a cause for justice and peace and freedom for all my people. And I will continue to do so. I will continue to be fearless and courageous. As much as I could. 

Annie [00:44:43] Ahmed, thank you so much. 

Ahmed [00:44:44] Thank you. 

Annie [00:44:45] Thank you very much for being part of Changes today. We'll put a link obviously to We Are Not Numbers in the show notes. So people can go and read the stories that your organisation helps to express. I think we should all read those. 

Ahmed [00:44:57] Please go and read our stories. There are over 1500 stories that are written in our websie. They were written by over 350 writers from Gaza. They are all young writers. They're not affiliated with any political party. And they are simple, but they are very powerful. These are stories. So please, I encourage you and everyone to read our stories. 

Annie [00:45:20] Thank you once again. 

Ahmed [00:45:21] Thank you very, very, very much. 

Annie [00:45:25] One to remember there, I really appreciate Ahmed coming on to changes and telling his story so eloquently and articulately. And I really hope that you felt like it was worth your time to listen to that. Thank you for listening. Do please share this with anyone who you think should hear it really, it's an important listen, and I know many people do want to hear more Palestinian stories. Let us know what you thought of the episode please on Instagram. You can hit me up on Annie MacManus on there or changes pod at Is the email address we will be back on Monday with something completely different. The multi-talented artist, filmmaker, actress and author Miranda July. Please make sure you read her book All For Us in advance of the interview. It's out now and it's excellent and you will not regret it. Changes is produced by Louise Mason with assistant production from Anna DeWolfe Evans through DIN productions. 

[00:46:29] See you next week!