FEATURE: Meet Mohammad al-Qadi, a runner for freedom

RAMALLAH, With a big determination for success and a Palestinian flag on his back, Mohammad al-Qadi, 28, runs dozens of long-distance kilometers in many parts of the world to raise awareness of his homeland, Palestine, and its humanitarian cause, but also to raise funds for charitable work in Palestine.

The currently France-based Palestinian man, who is from a small village in the West Bank, developed a passion for running at a young age, but got his big chance to do what he loves after he went abroad. Qadi is now a proud frequent participant in international marathons all over the world, making sure he represents Palestine in every race he runs to bring global attention to his homeland and people.

From raising funds to support charity organizations in Palestine to help provide clean water for people in Gaza, Qadi uses his skills in running to do a considerable amount of charitable activities to convey a message on behalf of the Palestinian people; a message that says that they have the right to live in freedom and peace.

WAFA reached out to Qadi, who has lately run across the London marathon finish line, to ask him about his experience as a runner, the reason behind always carrying the Palestinian flag in marathons, his goals and charity work, among many other things to learn about the promising and proud long-distance runner.

How would you introduce yourself to Palestinians and the rest of the world?

My name is Mohammad al-Qadi, from the village of Silet al-Thaher, a city near Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank. I’m a long distance runner and I run 42 kilometers marathons. I travelled to France to study French cuisine and I now live in the city of Lyon.

How did you become a runner?

I’ve been running since I was a child but due to the lack of facilities I didn’t pay much attention to it as a sport. When I travelled abroad, I started training and participating in international marathons, unofficially representing my homeland, Palestine.

Did you choose to run as mean of sports or to send a political message. And if it’s a political message, what is it?

I run because I love to run. I don’t have any political messages. My messages are merely humanitarian and aim to convey the message of the Palestinian people to the world and letting everyone learn about what Palestinians have been going through. They also aim to help Palestinian charity organizations with their charity projects.

You always run with the Palestine flag attached to your back, how did you first think about it and was it ever a difficulty to carry a flag as you run?

I’m a proud Palestinian and I love my homeland. The flag represents me and my Palestinian identity. I want to let everyone know that there’s a country named Palestine. While Zionists try to obliterate our identity, I find running with the Palestinian flag a strong and a beautiful way to send a message, although it can be difficult at times.

Have you ever been confronted with anti-Palestinian or racist encounters in your experience as a Palestinian runner? If yes, what was your reaction to that?

Yes, I have encountered a lot of harassments during the races I participated in. Recently, pro-Israelis were successful in banning me from entering the US to participate in the Chicago International Marathon. But all of this just increases my determination to pursue what I began.

Among all of your successes as a runner, what is your proudest achievement?

I have completed 12 international marathons in two years ago. Every race is 42 kilometers, and I ran with the Palestinian flag in more than eight European countries so far.

Before you became a runner, what did you do back in the occupied West Bank?

I was a telecommunication engineering student.

What are your goals as a runner?

I’m trying to have a good time and honor Palestine.

You founded “Runners for Freedom,” introduce that to the world and tell us what you hope to achieve with it.

Runners for Freedom is a movement that welcomes many runners from all over the world. Each runner runs for some cause, but most runners run for the Palestinian cause and with the Palestinian flag. We try to use sports as means to send out a humanitarian message to the world in order to help Palestinians send theirs too.

You have raised funds to help Palestinians in Gaza? What kind of difficulties did you have with that and do you think sports is a good platform to aid in humanitarian causes?

My goal is to help Palestinian people and the charity organizations that work in Palestine. I didn’t have any difficulty with that and I think sports is a beautiful platform to transmit messages and help nations. I recently participated in the London marathon to help provide clean water for people in the Gaza Strip, in cooperation with Penny Appeal charity organization.

How effective is sports in sending out a political message?

I repeat I’m not a politician. My messages are humanitarian. I’m an athlete and I have nothing to do with politics. But I represent my pains as a human, where I say I have the right to be free and live in peace. All of my messages are humanitarian.

Do you think sports should be separated from politics?

Again, my messages are humanitarian and not political.

Source: Palestine News & Info Agency

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