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Speaking Up for Pandemic-Stranded Palestinians

When the pandemic shut down in-person classes at UWC Atlantic his last year there, Mohammad “Franko” Omair (Palestine, Whitman ’25) stayed in Wales, keeping up his studies online and devoting much of his energy to helping other Palestinians get back to their homes. “Some Palestinians were unable to return to their residences during the emergency laws,” he writes. “I led a campaign to help the Palestinians to go back. This campaign got published and shared through 62 Palestinian local and international media and human rights organizations.

“I met online with Palestinian ministers, local and international media to achieve the campaign goal. We managed to send some Palestinians back to their residences like Jordan, Gaza and Jerusalem. I couldn’t return home, but leading this campaign was a success in solving some pandemic problems.” In his first year at Whitman, Franko has taken on a leadership role with the campus Muslim Students Association, helping it to grow its membership and connect with a national Muslim students group.

“MSA created this atmosphere where we all come from similar cultures, but different countries,” he says. “We have these principles in common, and we want to share them and discuss them, and discuss them with other communities on campus.” He has also joined the dean’s board of student advisors, the college debate team, the Interfaith Council, and the Whitman chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. He hosts a weekly radio show about diversity on campus — and he volunteers to spend time with people who have special needs in the Walla Walla community.