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Kayla Mueller, Former Hostage of ISIS, Honored for Role in Global Struggle for Human Rights

In addition to aiding refugees in Syria, US citizen worked in solidarity with Palestinians

Kayla sitting in a protest tent in Sheikh Jarrah. (Photo: International Solidarity Movement)

Kayla sitting in a protest tent in Sheikh Jarrah. (Photo: International Solidarity Movement)

Twenty-six-year-old aid worker and activist Kayla Mueller, whose death was confirmed on Tuesday by the White House, was honored this week for—among her many humanitarian contributions—her work in solidarity with Palestinians resisting occupation.

Mueller was working with Syrian refugees when she was kidnapped in August 2013 by ISIS combatants after leaving a Spanish Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo. ISIS claimed last week that Mueller was killed in a Jordanian bombing within Syria, and U.S. officials say they have not yet confirmed this account.

"We are heartbroken to share that we’ve received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller, has lost her life," declared her parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, in a statement released Tuesday. "Kayla was a compassionate and devoted humanitarian. She dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in need from freedom, justice and peace.

"Our hearts are breaking for our only daughter, but we will continue in peace, dignity and love for her," they continued.

The Muellers, further, released a letter written by Kayla from ISIS captivity in the spring of 2014. It reads, "I have been shown darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free."

Kayla Mueller, whose humanitarian work has taken her to northern India, Palestine, and Turkey, as well as women's shelters and HIV/AIDS clinics in Arizona, spent time in 2010 working with the International Solidarity Movement, which describes itself as "a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the long-entrenched and systematic oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian population, using non-violent, direct-action methods and principles."

A native of Prescott, Arizona, Mueller has received high accolades for her far-ranging humanitarian work, including from U.S. President Barack Obama, who declared: "In how she lived her life, she epitomized all that is good in our world."

The ISM released a statement on Monday honoring Mueller for her dedication to the cause of Palestinian human rights and justice.

"With the ISM, Kayla worked with Palestinians nonviolently resisting the confiscation and demolitions of their homes and lands," stated the organization. "In the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Occupied East Jerusalem, she stayed with the Al Kurd family to try and prevent the takeover of their home by Israeli settlers."

"Kayla accompanied Palestinian children to school in the neighborhood of Tel Ruimeda in Al-Khalil (Hebron) where the children face frequent attacks by the Israeli settlers and military," the statement continues. "She stayed with villagers in Izbat Al Tabib in a protest tent to try to prevent the demolition of homes in the village. She joined weekly Friday protests in Palestinian villages against the confiscation of their lands due to Israel’s illegal annexation wall and settlements."

The ISM, further, published excerpts from Mueller's reports. One, dated October 29, 2010, reads:

“Oppression greets us from all angles. Oppression wails from the soldiers radio and floats through tear gas clouds in the air. Oppression explodes with every sound bomb and sinks deeper into the heart of the mother who has lost her son. But resistance is nestled in the cracks in the wall, resistance flows from the minaret 5 times a day and resistance sits quietly in jail knowing its time will come again. Resistance lives in the grieving mother’s wails and resistance lives in the anger at the lies broadcasted across the globe. Though it is sometimes hard to see and even harder sometimes to harbor, resistance lives. Do not be fooled, resistance lives.” 

In another passage, dated January 2011, Mueller paid tribute to the life of Jawaher Abu Rahma, killed by Israeli tear gas in the West Bank village of Bil'in:

“I felt compelled to blog on this today. The first day of 2011, the actual day that she died, just a few hours ago in a village called, Bil’in.”

“Every Friday in Bil’in villagers and international/Israel activists march to the barbed wire fence where an enormous and expanding illegal settlement is visible to protest the theft of their land and their livelihoods. The Palestinians are armed with rocks, the other activists with cameras and collectively they are armed with their bones. Each Friday the demonstration is met with violence; rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and sounds bombs are the usual choice of artillery. Lives are taken as a result of the violence and Jawaher Abu Rahmah’s life was taken today.

I have been to this village,

I demonstrated in this village,

I demonstrated arm in arm with her brothers,

and I knew her.”

"Our hearts are with Kayla, her family, friends, and all those who have lost liberty, lives and loved ones in the global struggle for freedom and human rights," the ISM wrote.

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