our three winners

‘They three,
Taken early by he.
They three,
Are part of We.’

– In memory of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha, by Amjad Hajyassin 

our three winners


A year ago today, we lost three very special people at the hands of a murderer. I wrote the piece below after learning of their deaths as an attempt to process their deaths. It’s been a year and I still don’t understand. In the past year, it feels like things have gotten even worse in the U.S. for Muslims. There are hate crimes reported every week. My sisters in faith are afraid to wear hijab. A frontrunner in the Republican party openly declared that he believes that Muslims should be banned from entering the U.S – and is celebrated for it.

In the midst of the madness that is medical school, it often becomes difficult for me to stay aware of all the injustices in this world. I feel too much if I do pay attention and then I don’t feel capable of putting in the work necessary to succeed. I don’t know why but this tragedy hit really close to home. It may be because Deah was a second year in dental school and Yusor, his wife, was recently accepted and was to join him this fall – both future health care professionals. Maybe because they were also newlyweds and had just started their life together. Because they were our age and I’m sure they also got the ‘are you sure you want to get married now?‘ speech from many people when they made that decision. Because they seemed to do what I’ve always aspired to do: live their lives in the path of God, to help and love His people.

In the year since their death, the grace and strength of the Barakat and Abu-Salha families never ceases to amaze me. They all have so much peace in their heart and are constantly preaching messages of ‘love over hate.’ And I just can’t wrap my mind around how people who have lost so much are able to give so much to other people. From this devastating loss came this movement to continue the work of Our Three Winners. They’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to continue the projects began by Deah, Yusor and Razan and to start more projects to help their community. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been to have lost so much so suddenly but what’s come of it has been so incredibly beautiful.

  • To learn more about the Chapel Hill Shooting last year, visit here.
  • If you’re interested in supporting their cause, please visit the website to learn more about the lives of Our Three Winners, the projects they started and how they continue to inspire us all.

We just went through this. We just went through this heart break at the loss of innocent lives at the hands of people who no longer believe in the sanctity of life. We are ALWAYS going through this. And I’m so tired.

3 students. Deah Barakat. Yusor Abu-Salha. Razan Abu-Salha. With bright futures. Newlyweds just getting started at life together. A sister pursuing her passions.

My family did not come to this country to grieve at the loss of our brothers and sisters at the hands of someone who is supposed to be a “fellow American.” What about the “American Dream?” Is that not an option for those who believe in the wrong religion? Is that not an option for those with the wrong skin color?

This did not happen because of a parking dispute. This DID NOT happen because of a parking dispute. This happened because we live in a nation where an Islamaphobic agenda is constantly pushed via the media. The media that would jump on this had the shooter been Muslim and the victims white.

Three beautiful people were lost yesterday. They were lost to this war of hatred and bigotry. Three people who led beautiful lives in the way of their faith. Three people who lived their lives in the way of justice and devoted themselves to helping people. Three people who were pursuing their passions through education.

And that doesn’t even matter. It doesn’t matter if they were the wonderful human beings that they were or just completely horrible. No one deserves their fate. No one deserves to have their lives cut short at the hands of hatred.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: terrorists do NOT get to win. Not today, not ever. The terrorists won’t ever win. If you refresh Deah’s fundraiser page every few minutes, you’ll see thousands and thousands of dollars pouring in. We will always be stronger than those who try to control us with fear. I just wish we didn’t have to be.

May God grant an endless bounty of patience to the families of the victims of this tragedy, to the residents of Chapel Hill, to this country and to this world. May He bring coolness to the hearts of mothers and fathers that are aching in a way that we will never understand. May He bring justice against those accountable in both this world and the hereafter. May He give us the power to make this world a more just place. And may He allow the world to be better so we can stop making such tragic dua’as.

The world is a really dark and scary place some days (okay, most days if you’re really paying attention). But so much of why I entered the field of medicine was to have the opportunity to combat injustices in healthcare. And the legacy of Our Three Winners is a constant reminder that I can’t ever give up on that. They were taken much, much too soon. And it’s so unfortunate that it takes such tragedies for us to realize the blessings in our lives. But having this opportunity to do what I can to make the world a more just place is a privilege and every day I’m grateful for people like Deah, Yusor and Razan for reminding me of why I was put on this earth.

I didn’t know you but the loss we’ve all felt is so very real. All of our hearts broke, and break, together. But you inspire us daily to work harder and be better because we still can. Thank you for giving us so much, without even being here. Rest in power.

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