FCDO announcement of death of Palestinian scholarship alumnus sparks backlash

A Palestinian alumnus of a prestigious Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) scholarship programme has reportedly been killed in Gaza, sparking backlash over the government department’s announcement of his death.

Dr Maisara Al Rayyes was killed in Gaza alongside members of his family, according to a statement by King’s College London (KCL), where he studied.

He was an alumnus of the FCDO’s Chevening Awards programme, which offers scholarships and fellowships to study in the UK.

The programme posted on X, formerly Twitter: “We are devastated to learn about the death of Chevening Alumnus Dr Maisara Al Rayyes and members of his family.

“We send our deepest condolences to his surviving family. Our thoughts, and the thoughts of the Chevening Alumni community are with you.”

Husam Zomlot, head of Palestinian Mission to the UK, was among those hitting out at the FCDO statement, which did not give details about how or where Dr Al Rayyes died, labelling it “unacceptable”.

He posted on X: “Palestinians do not just die. Israel bombed the home of my friend Chevening alumnus Maisara Al Rayyes, killing him and his family.

“This statement from @CheveningFCDO is unacceptable.

“Palestinians are killed. And not just in last month but over 75 years of oppression, ethnic cleansing, occupation and murder.

“Enough of playing with words to avoid holding the perpetrators of mass murder and crimes against humanity to account.”

A statement from what appears to be the Chevening community “around the world” also formed part of the backlash against the government department’s announcement.

It said the community “vehemently condemn” the killing of Dr Al Rayyes and his family members.

It added that the statement was written “to unequivocally reject the callousness displayed by the Chevening FCDO in offering condolences for Maisara’s death as if it were a mere commonplace demise; in a blatant attempt to absolve Israel of its heinous war crimes and the massacre of innocent civilians is both infuriating and heart-wrenching”.

Dr Al Rayyes was pictured with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly following what the British Consulate in Jerusalem called an exchange on the “challenges and aspirations of young Palestinians” in September.

KCL said in a statement that it learned of Dr Al Rayyes’ death with “great sadness”.

He joined the university in 2019 when he was awarded the Chevening Scholarship, undertaking an MSc in Women and Children’s Health.

“During his time at King’s, his work was published in a number of high-profile journals, including the Journal of Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, and he was well respected and known among his colleagues for his dedication to improving healthcare for women and children in low-income and war-affected regions,” the university said.

The FCDO has been contacted for comment.