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19 April 2008

In Memory of Riad Hamad, 1952-2008, Palestine Activist

In Memory of Riad Hamad, 1952-2008

Father, teacher, and activist and friend

Through the Colorado Palestine Solidarity Campaign (http://colorado-palestine.blogspot.com) I have worked with Riad Hamad and the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund (http://www.pcwf.org) since 2003. Despite talking via the phone and email, the first time we met face-to-face was at the Palestine Solidarity Conference (“Divestment Conference”) at Duke University in 2004 (http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/mmedia/features/psm/ )where we shared Eid dinner. After this, we often met at other national events, the last of which was the U.S. Campaign mobilization for Palestine in Washington D.C. (http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=1281 )

Funny, charming, and clearly driven to help the children of Palestine despite years of harassment (none of which ever revealed any wrongdoing) by the government; the Palestine solidarity movement and society in general has lost a valued and dedicated contributor. Riad Hamad was truly one of the most valuable of activists in that he wasn’t interested in “playing politics” within the activist movement; but instead simply found ways he could make a difference and set out to do so with or without support and assistance from others. He lived very modestly and there has never been an accusation that even a single penny of the money he raised was misappropriated, everything went to help the cause. Further, he found and accepted allies of all stripes, working with Palestinians, other Arab groups, Israeli peace activists, Jewish-Americans (like myself), and anyone else willing to contribute to his various projects and initiatives.

Although the circumstances of his death strike me as being questionable (bound, gagged, and floating in a lake); both the police ([PDF] http://home.kxan.com/news_PDFs/4.17.08APD-hammad.pdf ) and the family ([PDF] http://home.kxan.com/news_PDFs/4.17.08hamad.pdf ) have made the case that due to unspecified “stressors” Riad had recently been suicidal and that the physical evidence supports the possibility that his death was self-inflicted.

He will be missed and should be remembered as he represented the very best in independent grass-roots activism.

From the media:

Teachers, Students Grieve over Loss of Teacher

EXCERPT: More than a thousand students and the teachers at a southwest Austin middle school where Riad Hamad, 55, taught a technology class are in silent reflection now. ... "Mr. Hamad is a loved teacher on this campus. He's been here since 1999 when we opened and in his capacity as a technology teacher, he works with about 90% of our students," Anderson says. ... "Our children gained and developed a sense of humor. Some of the things the kids talked about, it was just remarkable that they could mirror the sense of humor that this man had." "They love him. He has been remarkable in setting high standards and sharing. He has been a very generous, generous man."

Odd Twists to Case Surrounding Body in Lady Bird Lake

EXCERPT: Witnesses at the scene Wednesday afternoon say the body, now identified as Riad Hamad, 55, an Austin Independent School District teacher, washed up at Festival Beach Park sometime before 2:00 p.m., when one young woman says she called 9-1-1. She told News Radio 590 KLBJ the man's body had been "wrapped with duct tape". Austin Police Sergeant Joseph Chacon confirms the man was bound with duct tape. "The bindings, although I cannot go into them extensively, it's possible that he could have done them to himself," Chacon says. "We have not ruled out that foul play might be involved. However, we have no indication right now that that is the case." ... Investigators say it's not impossible that Hamad would have acted alone, although bizarre.

Family devastated by loss of AISD teacher

EXCERPT: APD Sgt. Joseph Chacon said they have not ruled out foul play, but they believe that Hamad, who is a peaceful activist for Palestinian causes, may have committed suicide. They do not believe his activism was related to his death. Police say Hamad was seen walking from his car to the shoreline of Lady Bird Lake alone just before he was reported missing. Family members said Hamad was dealing with intense pressure and had been experiencing suicidal thoughts. … "There were extreme stressers in Mr. Hamad's life. We've spoken to several people who knew him including family and they expressed that he was feeling suicidal," Chacon said. APD also admits someone binding their own body parts is unusual, but they say it does happen. The official cause of Hamad's death has not been released.

Austin MS teacher identified as body found in Lady Bird Lake

EXCERPT: Austin detectives say Riad Hamad, a teacher at Clint Small Middle School, was discovered bound and gagged with duct tape. They say Hamad had told his family was under extreme stress and had thoughts of suicide. Investigators do not suspect foul play. "There were extreme stressors in his life," said Austin Police Department Sergeant Joseph Chacon. "We talked to several people, including his family, who knew him -- who expressed he was feeling suicidal."

Police: Man found in the lake was Austin teacher

A friend, brother, comrade has either committed suicide or was murdered

Riad Hamad: A Death in Austin

Man found in Lady Bird Lake was teacher, FBI target

Police search for answers in death of Austin teacher

Austin MS teacher identified as body found in Lady Bird Lake

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