'I fear for my daughter in Gaza - I want her to join me in Scotland'

Israa Aljaish lives in Dundee after graduating from St Andrews University - but her daughter remains stuck in Gaza.

St Andrews graduate wants five-year-old daughter trapped in Gaza to join her in Scotland amid ongoing conflict Israa Aljaish

“Imagine a mother waiting for her daughter’s death at any moment.”

That’s how Israa Aljaish describes the pain she feels every day knowing her daughter remains trapped in an active warzone.

The 29-year-old recently graduated from St Andrews University after winning a scholarship to study a master’s in international education in 2022.

She currently lives in Dundee, working as a postgraduate administrator, but 2,500 miles away her daughter remains trapped in the Gaza Strip with her grandmother.

The 29-year-old left her home in central Gaza in the hopes of one day starting a new life in the UK with her five-year-old Marlin.

Israa Aljaish
Israa Aljaish graduated from St Andrews University in August.

She last saw her daughter in August on a trip back home before returning to Dundee in September.

She couldn’t have predicted that only a month later the lives of her family and countless other Gazans would be rocked by the Israeli war against Hamas.

The country entered the Gaza Strip shortly after the militants launched a brutal assault on Israel, killing more than 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages.

The ensuing weeks have seen thousands of Palestinians killed, many of them thought to be children, as prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledges to eradicate Hamas.

For the two million who remain within the small stretch of land along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, many have moved south to avoid the worst of the conflict.

Israa Aljaish, her daughter Marlin and her mother
Israa Aljaish, her daughter Marlin and her mother.

Among them is Ms Aljaish’s family – her mum, daughter, three brothers, sister-in-law, two nieces and nephew. They moved from the middle of Gaza to the south to shelter from airstrikes.

“I survived six wars before so I know what my daughter is going through,” she told STV News. “2008, 2012, 2014, 2019, 2020, 2022 – and then I travelled.

“It’s not easy to hear bombing around you.

“I’m here in the UK and I’m safe and I’m so grateful but I am still traumatised by the wars I went through.”

‘I can’t describe the conditions my daughter is in’

Ms Aljaish said she feels helpless as her daughter experiences ill health, trauma and suffers from nightmares.

“I can’t describe the conditions my daughter is in,” she said. “My family can’t find food to eat. There’s a lack of water. There’s no internet. No electricity. There’s bombing all around them.

“Every few days I get a few minutes with them. My daughter told me, ‘mama, I don’t want to talk to you on the phone – I want to see you’.

“She knows she’s unsafe. My mum told me she’s suffering from sickness.

“This is the trauma of being a Palestinian being away from home.”

Israa Aljaish
Israa Aljaish saw snow for the first time last year in Dundee. She’s hoping she can stay in Scotland for the long term.

Ms Aljaish dreams of a life in Scotland. When she was young her dad described it as “heaven on Earth”.

She was accepted with an administration job with St Andrews just five days before the Hamas attack on Israel and she now wants the Home Office to let her daughter come to Scotland to live with her.

“I want to bring her here,” she said. “The graduate visa will give me two years to remain in the UK.

“I want to use that to give my daughter two years to give her a chance to live in a secure environment, to go to school, to play and to start taking away the traumas she has.

“I don’t want my daughter to be like me and have so many traumas. I want her to live in a good place. If she comes here I want to take the trauma away from her.”

The UK Government has been approached for comment.

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