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2013-06-24 05:32:00
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Assaf's victory provides a rare moment of national unity and pride for Palestinians
Palestine/ UrukPress
Assaf's victory provides a rare moment of national unity and pride for Palestinians


Palestine/ Urukpress

Tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the street on Saturday to celebrate the victory of Mohamed Assaf, a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip, in the Arab Idol singers' competition in Lebanon.
Fans of Assaf expressed joy and happiness after he was announced winner of the pan-Arab program aired on the Saudi Satellite Channel MBC. Assaf, who reached the Arab Idol final with two other singers - a Syrian young woman and an Egyptian singer - was seen on television so happy.
"I give what I did as a gift to my Palestinian people, to the martyrs who were killed while struggling, to the prisoners behind the bars and to the wounded Palestinians," Assaf said right after he won the prize. "I thank every fan who supported me and helped me to get this post."
Assaf's fans rushed to the main streets throughout the Gaza Strip right after his winning. They paraded, waving his pictures by vehicles, chanting and singing for the young Gaza singers' victory. Most of the coffee shops, restaurants and hotels were overcrowded with his fans.
In Ramallah, fans of Assaf waved the Palestinian national scarf, known as the Koffeya, as well as pictures of Assaf. Similar celebrations also took place in various West Bank towns and cities, where youths fired fireworks into the air.
The United Nations for Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) has also decided to offer Assaf the title of goodwill ambassador.
Assaf, 23, from the refugee camp of Khan Younis in southern Gaza Strip, became famous after he joined the Arab Idol program, which is similar to the famous American Idol, where young singers from all over the world race for a top prize. He travelled to Beirut after arriving in Cairo from Gaza four months ago.
He began to sing at 11 years old and his songs talk about the Palestinian struggle, their right to return and their right to live free and independent.
Assaf enjoyed the largest ever popular support throughout the Palestinian territories as well as in the Diaspora and was seen as a symbol for the Palestinians who managed to unify them. His posters and pictures were in alomost every street, where young men took pictures near his banners.
He was able to attract the attention of the Palestinians to watch him on TV and escape from their daily hard livelihood and get out of the miserable political situation.
However, the Islamic Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, didn't show much enthusiasm and banned Assaf's fans from erecting large screens in public places. But Hamas did not stop celebrations in the streets.
"Spreading the words of young people and watching them achieve their dreams - this is much better than the sounds of gunfire that we are getting used to hearing in Palestine, Syria and around the Arab world," said a beaming Assaf after his win.
In Beirut, where the competition was held, outdoor cafes put up big screens and the sound of 24-year-old Farah Youssef's voice drifted down streets.
Youssef, from Syria, braved a treacherous terrain of gunmen and checkpoints to reach neighbouring Lebanon to sing on stage.
Aspiring stars from Morocco to Bahrain competed for a chance at a record deal in the second season of "Arab Idol". Across the region, audiences had been glued to their TV sets to watch the contestants, singing a mix of traditional Arab folk tunes and bubbly pop pieces, whittled down to the final three.
The show also proved a platform to air political and social statements.
"No one in the region talks about anything other than wars or Arab Idol," said Lebanese judge Ragheb Alama.
Parwaz Hussein, a semi-finalist from Iraq's Kurdistan region, drew objections from some of the judges after listing her country as "Kurdistan". She began the competition singing Kurdish songs though she later switched to Arabic.
As crowds waving Palestinian flags rushed to lift Saturday's winner on to their shoulders, Hussein danced on to stage with the Kurdish flag. Security guards quickly tore it away from her.
Egyptian finalist Ahmed Gamal said the show had opened up room for discourse. "Arab Idol has offered us more than any politician has," he said. "That might be an important message."
In one of her final performances before the vote, Youssef surprised judges with a piece traditionally sung by men. She belted out "Songs of Aleppo", evoking memories of the ancient city before it was divided by conflict.

Source/ Agencies