'Always felt threatened': Palestinian-American student opens up after being shot in Vermont

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Friday, December 29, 2023
Palestinian-American student opens up after being shot in Vermont
Palestinian-American college student Kinnan Abdalhamid is opening up after being shot in Vermont with two other friends in a possible hate crime.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's been one month since Kinnan Abdalhamid and his two childhood friends survived a shooting Thanksgiving weekend in Burlington, Vermont, which is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

"I'm doing okay regarding physical recovery. Psychology recovery is very hard," says Abdalhamid. That's because the war in Gaza is weighing heavy on his mind.

"It is very hard to process the shooting when your psyche is all really focused on what's happening in Gaza and Palestine. It is very hard to witness a blatant genocide in modern times," explains Abdalhamid, who is visiting family in the Bay Area on break from college for the holidays.

The night of the shooting, the three young men, Hisham Awartani, Tahseen Ali Ahmed and Abdalhamid, were headed back to where they were staying, speaking and mix of Arabic and English, and wearing keffiyehs, the traditional Palestinian scarf, when they were shot at close range.

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Abdalhamid had minor injuries. Awartani was left paralyzed.

The suspect is 48-year-old Jason Eaton. He faces three counts of attempted murder.

"We hope he is charged with the full extent of the law regarding a hate crime," says Abdalhamid.

He says the shooting demonstrates the rising anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment across the country. And with it, the challenges many students face.

VIDEO: 1 of 3 Palestinian college students shot in VT released from hospital; suspect pleads not guilty

Delaware County college student among 3 Palestinians shot in Vermont in possible hate crime

"I always felt threatened on an intellectual level," he says. "Sharing your truth, sharing your history, for sharing what Palestinians have experience for 75 years of oppression, could get you in trouble. Usually due to rash actions based on ignorance by others."

He says students at Haverford College where he is studying biology on the pre-med track, have been very supportive of him and Palestinian sentiments.

So, too, has the college administration. But he adds, some school officials "have failed to see the collective reason events like this and violence towards Palestinians, have happened. Rather, they see it as an individual (case)."

Abdalhamid was born in the Unites States and raised in the Occupied West Bank. Having experience Israeli occupation first-hand, he says will likely remain in the U.S. after graduation.

RELATED: 1 of the 3 Palestinian students shot in Vermont is paralyzed from the shooting, his mother says

"Some of my family members have been pulled out the car and beaten up for having Pro-Palestinian social media posts. Spit on by IDF soldiers. And humiliated as they have been, but especially now," he says.

He supports a two-state solution, but believes the chances for that have been slipping away - even before the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas. He is also worried that Palestinians won't be allowed back to Gaza if they are force to flee due to more fighting.

"I see the Israeli state doing what it usually does and occupy territories, blatantly against international law, and continue to encroach onto the West Bank. I don't know if the Palestinians will continue to have a home in a decade or so. (Israel) continues to expand into the West Bank as well, regardless or resistance or no-resistance."

Abdalhamid knows he and his two friends are lucky to be alive. He says the path to healing will be long. And, he knows that what they wear and how they talk make them targets. But he says he is not going to hide who he is.

"I am always going to represent Palestine and I hope these events don't deter other Palestinians to still be proud of their identity," say Abdalhamid. "It's very important. You don't know what you have until you lose it. Us seeing our culture being erased as it has been for 75 years, our people being erased."

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