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What Killed Mohanned?

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On Wednesday, August 29, Gaza woke up to news of the death of Mohanned Younis in the Tel Al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City. The 22-year-old short-fiction writer decided to escape this pain-filled place and leave not just his sorrows but also his dreams, ambitions and goals behind.

One of the contributing factors to Mohanned’s depression was unique—namely, a total rejection from his father. Yet, like all youth in Gaza, he became despondent over the lack of future prospects while living under siege. And when he took his own life, it was as if we had all failed to survive the disappointment; his death sent ripples throughout the Strip.

To talk about Muhanned’s decision to end his life, we must trace the roots of his deep sadness, which had grown in his heart since his childhood. According to conversations with his friends, Mohanned was 1 year old when his parents divorced—with his father wanting nothing to do with his ex-wife and soon starting a new family with another woman. Throughout his childhood, Mohanned lived with his mother who never remarried.

Mohanned was a prolific writer. He wrote short stories about the trials of life and essays about intellectual issues such as why we need “individualism” in modern society. In one story that likely reflected his own troubled feelings about the lack of a father in his life, he created a tale about a young man who was befriended by a family who gave him a ride in their car.

Mohanned graduated with distinction from high school. However, his trauma began when he tried to convince his father, a relatively wealthy physician, to allow him to travel to Europe and study with his step-brother. His father refused to offer the same opportunity to study in Europe, as he had offered to his sons from his new wife. Once when Mohanned visited, his father asked him to leave the house.

Mohanned instead registered at the local college of pharmacy, at his own cost. Again his father refused to help. Mohanned felt his life was spiraling downward.  Most young people in Gaza have come to feel the same way. Conflicts within families are common, due mostly to the harsh economic situation. And unemployment triggers arguments between children and their parents over finances. 

Mohanned became emotionally exhausted and began writing and talking about his pain and sense of futility. “I cannot feel natural feelings. It’s like not thinking about your feet while walking, understand? There are nights when I wake up terrified and go to my mother’s room. I keep standing at the door. I do not enter, but I would like to tell her how much I love her, and then this feeling fades the next morning,” Mohanned explains in one of his journals.

He was an excellent student in college, especially when writing research papers, and he won many prizes in local competitions.  He dreamed of sharing his stories at a TEDx.  Finally, he earned a scholarship to study abroad for his bachelor’s degree—paying for the higher-quality education his father would not fund. But Israeli officials denied him an exit permit. The loss of that scholarship devastated Mohanned; he felt Gaza was no longer a place where ambitions and dreams could be achieved.  He was invited to many countries to participate in literary competitions but was never able to get out. The Israeli occupation had him trapped. 

Mohanned saw only one remaining flame of hope in his life. He was in love with a colleague, a medical student, and he wanted to marry her. Mohanned asked his father for help in proposing to his beloved, since marriage is not possible without a dowry, an apartment and other financial benefits. He was shocked again when his father refused to support him. Instead, his father demanded that Mohanned leave him alone. The finality of this rejection finally wore him out.

He began to think of suicide as a solution. In his journals, he often recorded his thoughts about his possible suicide:  “I do not know why, but I cannot resist beauty. What if there is no more beauty? What if it is all a lie, and beauty is a hallucination, your interpretation of an ugly world? I feel I have lived a big lie, that I was deceived. Suicide will be more beautiful,” Mohanned wrote. “A few days ago, I was happy, and then I cried because I felt the danger of losing this happiness.”

The 22-year-old committed suicide because he could no longer cope with the crisis in Gaza, which had crashed over him like the waves of a polluted sea.

“God tells you that the game is over, and he says who wants to stay alive may, and who wants to commit suicide, may also,” Mohannad wrote that he believed, despite Islam’s prohibition against suicide. He was no longer able to see beauty in this life. Gradually, the lights of hope were turned off, and his dark thoughts of suicide became relentless, filling his head.

He began to deactivate his social media accounts because he did not want anyone to make him a hero after his death. He had been a severe critic of Gaza, and thus he was mentioned on Facebook often, and by many people.

Mohanned tried to commit suicide twice and failed.  In his first two attempts, he wrote two letters, as if he were asking family and society to save him, but no one paid attention. His father simply mocked him—saying “you can’t even succeed at suicide.”  With his third attempt, Mohannad proved him wrong. His body was found inside his room, where he had swallowed pills and put a black bag, filled with poisonous gas, over his head, according to the police.

If you read the story “Confessions and Hallucinations,” by Mohanned, you will recognize the depth and intensity of depression he experienced. Every single word in his story speaks clearly of how depressed and distraught he was. What breaks the heart most is what his mother said later: “The fate came silently. It was stronger than me. It stole from me the most precious thing I have. I became as cold and gloomy as a dim sun, as if the sky had been adorned with the light of his angelic face, but was no more.”

Most of Mohanned’s friends were unable to speak after the shock of losing him. That shock also touched many other residents in Gaza who had not yet recovered from the sudden (natural) death of artist Mu’adh al-Haj. 

“Lately, it seems like youths are dying in mysterious circumstances and one cannot really explain the degree of misery,” says one of my friends, Mohammed Mansour.

People in Gaza often use that phrase: “mysterious circumstances.” However, we know what is happening and why. Another friend, Monier Keibo, says, “What is happening in Gaza is very worrying, and young people are really in trouble.” And still another, Mohammed Diab, adds, “I fear we will see more suicides in the coming days. Life has become an unbearable hell.”

Unfortunately, stigma and lack of trust prevent youths from seeking help, and a scarcity of qualified mental health personnel makes relief elusive even if they do. A specialist at the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, Zahia Al-Qara, says “the new generation does not have any special sources of support for unemployment and family violence.”

As for what I think: Mohanned wasn’t courageous when he chose to leave this absurd life, but he also wasn’t a coward.  He was depressed, and depression kills. The lack of freedom kills. The lack of hope kills. The inhuman and absurd reality of Gaza kills. Who will save the youths of Gaza from this nightmare that destroys their dreams and hopes of a better life?

Mohammed Moussa

Mohammed Moussa is a Gaza-based writer for He earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature and now is a translator and English language trainer. He is passionate about writing poetry, which he says is like "a safe river where my feelings and emotions can flow peacefully." Recently, Mohammed wrote a poetry book, "I Was Born in Gaza," about his experiences during war.

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10 Responses

  1. just on October 4, 2017, 5:35 pm

    A profound tragedy. His father and Israel killed him. I would be careful not to be a patient of this heartless and irresponsible physician.

    Please keep writing, Mohammed. You have a great gift and have written a very compassionate, tragic, and authentic piece. What you “think” in your last paragraph is all too true. Thank you.

  2. DaBakr on October 4, 2017, 8:30 pm

    Not trying intentionally to be the first to respond but it’s a sad story and while there is no doubt the unique situation Gaza is in played a part in this suicide it also reminds me of other society’s where suicide is popular among young adults who feel helpless and hopeless. Japan. Upper middle class kids from sterile big box house communities. Swedish kids(who knows what’s up with that statistic?)
    . But I do know of some things that mohanned knew. I understand what the lack of a father figure, a mentor or just another adult male that gives a shit. Why on earth this poor kid wasn’t advised to stay away from his obviously vicious and cold father. Facing that kind of rejection once it’s enough for most but Mohanned kept returning, ever hopeful in the face of stone.
    (And of course, here on MW I can see that there will be many who will make a parallel to the’cold stone hearted Israelis. I can both see the ease of making this comparison and how universal this boy’s story is. Every person has unique variables they face in life. That on top of the Gaza situation he had this other rejection was difficult and unique to gazans even if suicide of young adults is not)

    His photo? It must be extra heartbreaking for those who cared for and loved him. You could say he easily fits the style of a young palestinian James Dean. At least by his physical expression.

    . I was reading recently how suicide and violence rates go down, contrary to what many social scientists thought(or think) . Evidently this was true for Syrians, Rwandans, Serbs, as others. That the chaos of surviving brought people together exactly the opposite of what rich sterile communities do to their kids. I can’t speak for gazans as I haven’t been(or allowed) there in over 12yrs. I know that only parts of the strip are destroyed while others are intact and , I’ll say bustling. But I know that for 1000s life is an extreme burden. One which we are a large part of but which is also not in any way one where we are in control. You can’t speak of Gaza without soaking of Hamas.
    . But I would let this sad story rest on the hope that gazans like Mohanned will be free in the near future to travel where their dreams take them as there is no possible benefit to Israel or Zionism to have hundreds of thousands of hopeless youths to our south. in 2005 we may have been foolishly hopeful but nobody I knew in Israel thought the Hamas would roll in within the year. I know there are conspiracy theorists who think sharon had it all planned. Seriously.
    . I hope this boy found peace and his mother can find solace and his father can rot in hell.

    This site is about the I/p conflict and I expect criticism to fall on zionist Israel’s but I would stand by this story as one of universal sadness and tragedy.

  3. gamal on October 4, 2017, 9:49 pm

    Dear Mr. Moussa

    I have son that age at University, life isn’t easy at that age in the best of circumstances.

    Thank you, look what we do to each other.

    It put me mind in of a great poem, in a quaint English, whose last verse is:

    It’s a naked child against a hungry wolf;

    It’s playing bowls upon a splitting wreck;

    It’s walking on a string across a gulf

    With millstones fore-and-aft about your neck;

    But the thing is daily done by many and many a one;

    And we fall, face forward, fighting, on the deck.”

    but whose beating heart is:

    “Three rooms about the size of travelling trunks.
    And we cough, my wife and I, to dislocate a sigh,
    When the noisy little kids are in their bunks.

    But you never hear her do a growl or whine,
    For she’s made of flint and roses, very odd;

    And I’ve got to cut my meaning rather fine,
    Or I’d blubber, for I’m made of greens and sod:

    So p’r’haps we are in Hell for all that I can tell,
    And lost and damn’d and served up hot to God”……

    I was the love that chose my mother out;

    I joined two lives and from the union burst;
    My weakness and my strength without a doubt
    Are mine alone for ever from the first:
    It’s just the very same with a difference in the name
    As ‘Thy will be done.’ You say it if you durst!”

    From Thirty Bob a Week by John Davidson,

    It is becoming incrementally more like Gaza everywhere, every minute, because, even if we don’t know it the rulers of the world do, because we are one and Gaza is ours and so are all of you.

    • DaBakr on October 4, 2017, 11:06 pm


      Like, the Children of Men coming true scenario? I know plenty of people from Europe, Israel and the US who don’t think it’s so far fetched. I remain optimistic but if the actual.1% of the world’s wealthiest , ( not the so called Zionist control the world conspiracy because the 1% is Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Mexican Japanese and most of these wealthiest, including Americans are not at all Jewish)

      If the actual 1% does not start to act as if they care about the masses of people who support their personal wealth at their expense the world may well continue to slide into chaos. And while gaza may represent the part of the nightmare where nobody gets in or out ( which is bad enough) there are regions, nations and parts of the world where the suffering of masses is infinitely more excruciating then even life in Gaza. ) or so I believe.

      It has been written about in both idyllic terms and brutal exposés how the industrial revolution changed the way wealth was held and distributed. But even the likes of a Henry Ford in the early 20th made sure his workers made a living wage that a family could survive on without depriving them of basic rights to educating, health and social services. And this is just the US. Most of the world is still living in the 10th century except now they all have smartphones to do shit like this on.

      Louis CK did a brilliant bit (seen on clip from Saturday night alive) on a man laying on his couch imagining how important his opinions meant to the world. His opinions on who makes the best burger to what he thinks of a politician. We’re all self important cogs and I seriously doubt ANYBODY in the actual .1% is wasting any time on opinion sites unless it’s an assistant reporting because afaict, they don’t give a shit. They live in fantasy worlds of unbelievable expanses of land, own islands, fly over everything. Sure there are exceptions but exceptions won’t work as the rule.

      . Your poem was a thoughtful piece . Yet…. another dozen (of many more) young kids will likely kill themselves by tonight

    • RoHa on October 5, 2017, 7:08 am

      Good one, gamal.

      I particularly like the line “she’s made of flint and roses”.

      For those who don’t know it, the whole thing is here:

    • RoHa on October 5, 2017, 8:01 am

      And that, by a commodius vicus of recirculation, leads me to think of

      Hang on to your crêpe-de-chine knickers. The glass warns that a hard rain’s a-gonna fall, and

      The rain it raineth on the just
      And also on the unjust fella:
      But chiefly on the just, because
      The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.

      • just on October 5, 2017, 9:25 am

        Thank you, RoHa.

        In no way do I mean to dimish this tragic story by Mr. Moussa, so today I offer my congrats to Kazuo Ishiguro and Mr. Moussa (hopefully the next Nobel Laureate in Literature!):

        “…Ishiguro’s fellow Booker winner Salman Rushdie – who is also regularly named as a potential Nobel laureate – was one of the first to congratulate him. “Many congratulations to my old friend Ish, whose work I’ve loved and admired ever since I first read A Pale View of Hills,” Rushdie told the Guardian. “And he plays the guitar and writes sings too! Roll over Bob Dylan.”

        According to the former poet laureate Andrew Motion, “Ishiguro’s imaginative world has the great virtue and value of being simultaneously highly individual and deeply familiar – a world of puzzlement, isolation, watchfulness, threat and wonder”.

        “How does he do it?” asked Motion. “Among other means, by resting his stories on founding principles which combine a very fastidious kind of reserve with equally vivid indications of emotional intensity. It’s a remarkable and fascinating combination, and wonderful to see it recognised by the Nobel prize-givers.”

        Permanent secretary of the academy Sara Danius described Ishiguro’s writing as a mix of the works of Jane Austen and Franz Kafka, “but you have to add a little bit of Marcel Proust into the mix, and then you stir, but not too much, and then you have his writings.

        “He’s a writer of great integrity. He doesn’t look to the side, he’s developed an aesthetic universe all his own,” she said. Danius named her favourite of Ishiguro’s novels as The Buried Giant, but called The Remains of the Day “a true masterpiece [which] starts as a PG Wodehouse novel and ends as something Kafkaesque”. …”

        It’s worth celebrating, imho.

      • bintbiba on October 5, 2017, 12:09 pm

        @ RoHa

        Beautiful ! Many thanks for the links and poems… will read again and again !

        @DaBakr , you reveal a vulnerable and sensitive side which is somewhat more appealing and welcome !

    • just on October 5, 2017, 8:10 am

      Thank you, gamal. It’s quite the poem and quite the truth.

      “… because we are one and Gaza is ours and so are all of you.”

      Thank you very much.

      • Maghlawatan on October 5, 2017, 9:31 am

        It is impossible for decent people to accept the Israeli framing of Gazans as vermin. This is one of the most unJewish things imaginable.

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