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Family of Israeli slain in Australia starts medical scholarship in her name

Aya Maasarwe’s father, in Melbourne for sentencing of his daughter’s murderer, says his ‘compass is not revenge’ at launch of fellowship for Palestinian doctors

Aya Maasarwe pictured in a Melbourne cafe, October 1, 2018. (Instagram)
Aya Maasarwe pictured in a Melbourne cafe, October 1, 2018. (Instagram)

The family of a 21-year-old Israeli student raped and murdered in Australia earlier this year on Sunday launched a fellowship for Palestinian doctors in her name.

In Melbourne for the Tuesday sentencing of Codey Herrmann, who pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of Aya Maasarwe in January, the victim’s father Saeed told The Guardian that he does not know how long Herrmann should spend in jail.

“Our compass is not revenge,” Saeed said. “We think all the time, our mind, our compass is positive, is not negative.”

He and his daughter Noor said they hoped that as a result of Aya’s murder, the Australian authorities will do more to prevent crimes.

Ron Finkel AM (Chair of Project Rozana), Saeed Maasarwe, Noor Maasarwe, Dr Jamal Rifi AM.www.rememberingaiia.comRead…

Posted by Project Rozana on Sunday, October 27, 2019

Aya’s family also expressed sadness and disappointment about the decision of the court to release details of the murder.

“In the court, we want something not to be public and we asked for this one and the court they don’t care about our feeling or our culture,” Saeed said.

“It was very hard to see [the details of the murder] in the news,” added Noor. “We already know what happened… It’s my sister and she’s also my best friend…it was very, very hard.”

The family on Sunday launched the Aiia Maasarwe Memorial Medical Fellowship program through Project Rozana, an organization that, according to its website, seeks to build better understanding between Palestinians and Israelis via health programs.

Aya Maasarwe pictured in a Melbourne cafe, October 1, 2018. (Instagram)

Project Rozana founder Ron Finkel told The Guardian it was hoped that the fellowship could show that “out of something tragic, something positive can come.”

Saeed has previously asked local media to spell his daughter’s name as “Aya” instead of “Aiia” as stated in her passport to reflect that she is a Palestinian of Israeli citizenship.

Saeed said he is still struggling with his grief, but remembers his daughter’s unwavering joy.

“All the time she smiled. I remember all the time she thinks positive. And she was very, very sensitive,” he said. “I try to go back to my life, a normal life, but it’s not easy, because every place I go, every young girl I see, I remember Aya.”

Codey Herrmann (Facebook)

Aya’s body was found by passersby near a tram stop in Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, on January 16, hours after she was attacked on her way home.

Maasarwe, of the Arab Israeli town of Baqa al-Gharbiya, had been studying at La Trobe University in Melbourne for five months as an exchange student from Shanghai University in China, and was attacked while speaking to her younger sister in Israel on FaceTime.

The student’s murder shocked Australians and sparked a huge outpouring of grief that saw thousands attend gatherings in her memory, and raised questions about the safety of women on public streets.

A vigil in memory of murdered Israeli student Aya Maasarwe in Melbourne, January 18, 2019. (Allan LEE / AFP)

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