The Story of a Scholar:

Honoring the memory of Shireen Abu Akleh

Spring 2023

Shatha Hanaysha was with a group of journalists, including iconic Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, reporting on the raid within the Palestinian Jenin camp in the West Bank on May 11, 2022. “As we were about to start working, the Israeli soldiers started shooting at us,” Shatha remembers. “One of my colleagues hid, and the second one was injured, and my colleague Shireen was killed. I stood behind the tree as the shooting was still going.”

Today, Shatha is the first recipient of the Shireen Abu Akleh Endowed Memorial Scholarship at AUB, which was established through a full partnership between the American University of Beirut and the Yafa Foundation.

Shatha, who worked as a journalist for seven years and is now studying for her master’s degree in media studies, considers the scholarship to be a “rescue” for her after having suffered deeply from the tragic event in May last year. “I couldn’t stand in the streets and cover all the things that I covered before,” she explains. “I can tell you that [the scholarship] has been like a healing journey for me. To be here now, it helped me be myself, and be stronger.

When I finish the scholarship and go back to Palestine and start working again, I will be stronger.” The Shireen Abu Akleh Endowed Memorial Scholarship at AUB is a fully-funded scholarship honoring the memory of slain Palestinian-American journalist of the highest caliber Shireen Abu Akleh, who is one of the most prominent names across the Middle East and the world, for being a champion of Palestine, a symbol of hope, and an inspiration to many.

“For me, it’s an honor to receive a scholarship named after Shireen Abu Akleh,” Shatha says. “She was an idol for me when I was a little girl watching TV. She was the female journalist I dreamt to be like.” Shatha explains that this is why the May 2022 event was such a shock for her: “To see the journalist that I dream to be like being killed in front of me made me go through all the things that I went through.”

She says that when she received the scholarship, she felt connected to Shireen, which helped her go on. “When I stopped my work as a journalist, when I couldn’t continue, she came to me through the scholarship and told me to continue fulfilling my dream and doing what I love.”

“It’s amazing for me to be here at this time, as a Palestinian journalist, to be in AUB, to learn from amazing professors, to sit and study in the Jafet Library, and to see all the resources of books about journalism and media … it’s amazing,” she says. Shatha adds that studying at AUB has been a great opportunity for her and that she is inspired by “walking in the same corridors, in the same streets, sitting in the same buildings where so many great people who studied and graduated from here were before me.” Inspiration & Discovery