Palestinian Swimmer Yazan Al Bawwab: “I Want To Represent People That Don’t Have A Voice”

Yazan Al Bawwab is one of the three Palestinian swimmers in Doha, Qatar racing this week at the World Aquatics Championships. He swam the heats of the 100 free in a time of 52.93, finishing in 76th place, but after his swim, the focus was not on the timetable but on his chest, where he had a temporary tattoo of the Palestine flag.

“Just to be here is literally important,” said the 25-year-old freestyle after his race. I mean, this is not the meet I have to go faster in this season, so I’m not prepared, because I’m preparing for for Paris (the Olympics). But it’s very important to be here, especially with the situation going on in Palestine. To talk to people and the athletes to show them that we are still people is the goal of being here.

“I live in Dubai. I was training in Canada, then in the Netherlands, and I am pretty much around the world because I have to do that. I cannot train in my own country. I was born in Saudi, and then I lived in Dubai. I went to university in Canada. I lived in the Netherlands. I’m also half-Italian. My daddy was a refugee: he went to Italy, and in Genoa, he went to the University of Genoa. He became an engineer and worked there for a company called the Machine Company, and then he opened his business in Dubai.”

Even though Yazan was born in Saudi and lived almost his entire life in the West, he has no doubts about which country he belongs to:

“This is special for us. It’s in my blood. I do this because I want to represent people that don’t have a voice. I speak on behalf of Palestine. I work with the IOC, so I do a lot of stuff. You cannot just be a swimmer. I’m also running for the Athlete Commission in Paris. So that’s to be a bigger voice.”

About the presence of Team Israel here in Doha amid the ongoing regional war:

“I don’t answer about political stuff, but as a person, I can say, you can see how many countries there are, 198 countries. As long as we’re racing, I’m not having any issues. Everybody’s like everybody.”

Talking about his family and friends, Yazan said:

“Part of my family is Gaza. The last time we went to a continental Asia game, we had many people, and a lot of a lot of them passed away. So imagine you go to a competition, and then you have to go to another competition, and they pass away but you have to act like normal. We try to show that even if there is a huge problem, it doesn’t affect our ability to play sports. My mom is now in Jerusalem. My dad and his family are still in a camp, they’re still refugees, so they move around.”

While Israel did not send a full contingent to these World Championships, they do have a presence in Qatar, a nation that their host country views as hostile due to hosting a political office of Hamas. Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, launching the latest round of fighting with Israel that has resulted in the death of at least 28,000 Palestinians and at least 1,400 Israelis.


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2 months ago

How absurd. Imagine if one of the Israeli swimmers were to publicly show their flag like this, what would’ve happened? They would’ve been immediately taken down. No one should ever link politics and sports together.

Scuncan Dott v2
Reply to  Ori
2 months ago

Big difference.

Reply to  Scuncan Dott v2
2 months ago

The only difference is that the Israeli swimmers didn’t show off with a 17y/o boy’s time.

Scuncan Dott V2
Reply to  Ori
2 months ago

How is that relevant? Israel is busy bombing innocent children.

tea rex
2 months ago

Hadh Sa’eed Yazan. Represent your people well.

Petra Schneider
2 months ago

Best wishes to him. Sounds like a good ambassador for his country.

Tracy Kosinski
Reply to  Petra Schneider
2 months ago

Exactly, and why anyone would downvote your comment is the true issue at hand. He’s said nothing wrong!

Petra Schneider
Reply to  Tracy Kosinski
2 months ago

Maybe I upset people by referring to Palestine as his country. FINA and 139 other countries recognize it as such. Sorry for giving anyone offense.

About Aglaia Pezzato

Aglaia Pezzato

Cresce a Padova e dintorni dove inizialmente porta avanti le sue due passioni, la danza classica e il nuoto, preferendo poi quest’ultimo. Azzurrina dal 2007 al 2010 rappresenta l’Italia con la nazionale giovanile in diverse manifestazioni internazionali fino allo stop forzato per due delicati interventi chirurgici. 2014 Nel 2014 fa il suo esordio …

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