BEIRUT – Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf on Saturday won a pan-Arab singing contest that has had millions of viewers glued to their TV screens since March, sparking celebrations in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
As Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate Assaf’s “Arab Idol” victory, he dedicated the win to “the Palestinian people, who have been suffering for more than 60 years from (Israeli) occupation.”
Immediately after his win, Assaf was named youth ambassador for UNRWA, the United Nations’ agency for Palestinian refugees and named goodwill ambassador by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The handsome, tuxedo-clad Assaf, 23, won after weeks of anticipation from his army of followers, who had been glued to big screens in cafes and restaurants across the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, listening as his powerful voice propelled him through the competition every weekend.
His mother, wearing a traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, wept as she wrapped the Palestinian flag around her shoulders.
Spontaneous celebrations broke out in Gaza, Assaf’s home, and in the West Bank.
Born in Misrata, Libya, Assaf grew up in the overcrowded Khan Yunis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, one of the world’s poorest and most densely populated places, where Israel severely restricts the movement of people, goods and financial aid.