A small crowd of people gathered in Nicosia’s central Eleftheria square on Wednesday evening to hold a vigil to mark the 76th anniversary of the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing and mass expulsion from their homes of Palestinians by the newly independent State of Israel.

This year’s anniversary comes at a particularly poignant moment as a brutal conflict has ravaged the region since last October, with more than 30,000 Palestinians in the Gaza strip having been killed as a result in the last seven months.

The central point of the vigil was a long list of the names of children aged two years old and younger who have been killed in Gaza since last October, laid out on the ground and surrounded by candles placed by attendees.

The vigil nearly did not take place at all after security at the square expressed reservations firstly about the potential fire hazard brought about by the placement of candles, and then about whether the vigil’s organisers had obtained the requisite permission to gather.

However, the situation was eventually amicably resolved, and the event went ahead as planned.

names of palestinian killed

The top of the list of the names of children aged two years old and younger who have been killed in Gaza since last October

 

At the event, Aya Alshakhshir, a descendant of Palestinians who studies in Cyprus, made a speech, highlighting her belief that the Nakba and the ongoing conflict in the region are not a matter of religion, pointing out the longstanding existence of a Samaritan Jewish population in the city of Nablus, now in the West Bank.

She went on to say, “you will also be fed the excuse that Israel is only against Hamas, and not the Palestinian people, that we are just collateral, as if that makes it any better. Do not be fooled.

“The occupation and murders have been going on since 1948, while Hamas only formed in 1987. Numbers do not lie … Is it okay to murder millions of people just because they are collateral to the few it is meant for? 1,060 deaths on October 7, 32,552 deaths and 74,980 injured Palestinians since.”

She added, “I am sure every single Palestinian standing here today has lost a relative whether near or distant, a friend or a loved one due to this occupation … And I am sure that every Cypriot supporting us today can also resonate with the feeling that comes with division, a wall in separation.”

“We are all human, we are all one despite our ethnicities or religious beliefs and today shows us that there is still hope in humanity,” she said.

After Alshakhshir’s speech, poetry was read in both Greek and English, while a silence was also held to remember those killed in the Nakba and those killed in the contemporary violence in the region.

At the end of the event, promises were made of another protest march in support of the Palestinian people to be held in Nicosia on Saturday.

ceasefire now

A banner unfurled at Eleftheria square reading “ceasefire now”