From Gun Crime to Gaza

Describing himself as a reformed Muslim, 22-year old Nottingham Trent University Student Taquir Sharif says the only reason he is still alive today is due to the will of God. Previously, both a victim and culprit of gang crime in his hometown of Walthamstow, East London, Sharif admitted he had been involved in several street robberies, survived two serious stab wounds to the chest and witnessed the murder of two close friends. Today, however, he works as a dedicated philanthropist. A journey to Gaza earlier this year opened his eyes to the extent of global inequality. Making a stand against such horrific bloodshed now takes precedence over any other lifestyle Sharif once deemed important.

“I was confused, helpless and trapped in a world of street politics,” says Sharif. “I was suddenly feeling the pressure of a world-wide political attack on Muslims; what with this new obsession with us all being terrorists. After the fate of my two friends, I knew I didn’t want to end up as a troublesome nobody and reinforce the negative stereotypes already embedded in society.”

Deciding to step back into education, Sharif gained a place at Nottingham Trent, and is currently studying for an undergraduate degree in Quantity Surveying; he wanted the student life to take him away from his old habits and provide him with a new direction in life. “I had all the girls I could have wanted, I knew all the promoters to the student night clubs, I had free entry every night, in essence I was living the highlife – but there was still something missing.”

In January 2010, Sharif was urged to take part in a humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza organised by Viva Palestina, a registered charity established in January 2009 by Respect Party Leader, George Galloway. The convoy was lead by 500 hopefuls and 200 vehicles where people were split into small groups for better management. Sharif, in his group of three, managed to raise a total of £27,000 through various fundraising schemes, three weeks prior to setting off and also obtained an ambulance fully loaded with medication. According to the BBC, Galloway said it would be the largest convoy of British vehicles to North Africa since the days of Field Marshal Montgomery. “There is an intifada sweeping Britain,” he added. “It is a massive and peaceful movement in support of the beleaguered population of Gaza and Palestine.”

Leaving from London, the convoy passed through 10 different countries including, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxemburg, Austria, Italy, Greece, Egypt before eventually reaching Gaza. The entry did not come as easily. Described by Sharif as “unbelievable,” the first acts of human kindness were made evident in Greece “as local citizens welcomed us with open arms.” This continued throughout the journey “as people who had nothing were willing to give up yet more to help us; we were served food, welcomed into family houses, allowed to bathe and sleep until it was time to move forward.”

40 days later, the extent of poverty and destruction became clear. Gaza, Sharif said “was a large open air prison, with refugees trapped with no escape.” Sharif described his despair at having lived a ‘highlife’ whilst others have no access to food or medicine without being put in danger. “I suddenly realised what was important. The point of this convoy was not only to take aid, but was also to obtain as much media attention as possible and break the siege in Gaza and put an end to this inhumane present day concentration camp.”

After witnessing what Sharif called an “ongoing massacre” he realised one convoy is not enough. Although he agrees it is the right step towards helping Palestine he has decided to continue to fight for the cause. “For the first time in my life I had a purpose, and that was to work and help others.” He says he has indeed made a personal transformation, feels grounded for the first time in his life and is determined to prove that he will not waste his second chance. He wishes to continue studying at Nottingham Trent University, whilst voluntarily organising events to educate and encourage others to support the appeal for Gaza. Upon completing his degree, he aims to begin undertaking a paramedic’s course to fulfil a newfound dream of giving.

By Iena Dua

14 Comments on this post.
  • caomhie louise
    21 April 2010 at 12:22
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    I think this is a fasinating story, i have NEVER heard ANYTHING quite like this, it is very moving, an my heart was pulled in by this heart stopping story.

  • Hannaaaaaaaar
    21 April 2010 at 12:27
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    Hey hey hey, this was a wonderful story! I thourgly enjoyed it. 😀 <3<3<3<3<3<3<3

    • Gurdev
      16 February 2011 at 13:17
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      i love this story very moving, i like it.

  • edeeen m
    5 May 2010 at 11:48
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    its a very moving and emotionl story, but was very gurdd!! ;D

    • Moolie
      17 February 2011 at 12:52
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      i fink fis is well good bbz

  • eden
    17 February 2011 at 12:53
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    thankyou for that delightful comment hannah, it has made my day 🙂

  • Gudrev Kaur
    23 March 2011 at 09:40
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    i love this story i would really like to meet the person who wrote this 😉 it is very moving and would like to know more.

    23 March 2011 at 09:41
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    Omygoodness, I do hope you are okay
    It was beautiful!<3

  • mable
    1 July 2011 at 09:10
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    this was a very touching story, it really increased my knowledge on the effects on gun crime 🙂

  • imran
    4 July 2011 at 10:02
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    you know i think this story has increased my knowledge of gun crime yeah it touched me in many places. i am against guns for obvious reasons, they kill people you know? and i got shot when i was 29 in a bank robbery and therefore I like this story you know

  • Johnny cash
    30 September 2011 at 13:26
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    This was a very moving story i am so upset right now, it touched my heart and im glag ive read it because it’s putting me in a place were we should all respect eachother, thankyou for this it meant alot! it meant so much i shall share this with my friends and family!

  • aiden plam
    6 October 2011 at 09:27
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    this was very moving in touched me in my heart and many places

  • trevor mcdonald
    28 November 2011 at 14:41
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    very good article on gun crime it also touched me in many different places as i myself have known a family members friend of a friends cousin who was a victim of gun crime.

  • gurdev
    24 January 2012 at 10:36
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    this has touched me in many ways, since i got shot i have not been able to wash or have a bath or my hair, its been hard for me and this has touched me. if you would like to send me smellies please do!

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