[Image: A Muslim family standing close together and holding each other’s hands and shoulders]
Part 30 of a series of posts honoring the Grenfell Tower victims.
The Hashim family, from the 22nd floor of Grenfell Tower
Hashim Kedir, Nura Jemal and their three children Yaqub, Firdaws and Yahya all died in the Grenfell fire. Hashim was a taxi driver from Ethiopia whose siblings remembered him as a very intelligent person, right from childhood up to adulthood. “He used to participate in all sorts of
extra-curricular activities. He used to write poems, draw, do gymnastics, play football and sing,” his sister told the Grenfell inquiry.
One of Hashim’s fellow footballers remembered him:
“He was really respectful, always thanking me for looking after the kids. He was really hard-working, he was driven to make sure he was looking after people: the family, his friends, his neighbours. He was a lovely guy.”
His wife Nura Jamal was also from Ethiopia, but she met Hashim in London and married him in 2002. She was totally devoted to her children, friends said. “She didn’t just drop them off and say hi; she watched and wanted to know how they were doing, what they needed to work on,” her children’s taekwondo teacher said. “She was totally engaged in them as people and was a tremendous support and source of love for them.”
She loved nature and would make videos of whatever she encountered outside. “Her joy was courageous and contagious,” her sister-in-law Assema told the Grenfell inquiry. “Being around her could lighten up anyone’s
day in a matter of seconds. She was sociable, she could befriend absolutely
anyone, no matter who they were, or what they believed in.”
Yaqub, the youngest of the family, was an energetic six-year-old whom everyone adored. He attended Avondale Primary, the same school the Choucairs went to. “Yaqub was a character: chatty, mischievous, lively, but charming, with lots to say,” headteacher Katy Blackler said. Assema
told the inquiry a similar thing:
“He was so full of life and energy and funny. It was impossible to spend a minute without laughing if he was around. He never accepted being the little one; he always tried to show that he could do whatever Yahya and Firdaws were capable of doing.”
Yaqub had once written in a schoolbook that he wanted to be a fireman when he grew up, “because I want to save the world,” his class
Firdaws, 12 years old, had participated in a Bill Gates-hosted debating tournament just months before she died. There, she met Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow, who was serving as one of the judges. He spoke about the impact she had on him:
“I will never forget it. She stood out above anybody else. She was absolutely spellbinding and I thought: my God, that girl is going to go far.
But, desperately, she died high up in the building with the whole of her family and it absolutely breaks my heart every time I think about it.”
Bill Gates sent a tribute too, saying that Firdaws was a girl “who had enormous potential and wanted to make the world better”.
Alongside Mierna Choucair, she was a deputy head girl at her school. “I’m sure you’ve heard she was brilliant at everything; but she was,” Katy Blackler said. “She was a great singer, and sportsperson, and speaker and all the children knew her. When I told them she had died there were big, big tears rolling down their faces.”
The oldest child of the family was Yahya, who was thirteen. He absolutely loved football, the people who knew him said, and was an Arsenal supporter. But he was also devoted to his religion, Islam, and to his younger brother. His taekwondo teacher remembered their bond:
“[Yahya] was very mature like an adult almost. He was speaking to one of my assistants saying he was getting concerned about his little brother, saying he needs help to focus more.
It was almost like a parent wanting their child to do well. He took looking after his little brother very seriously and there was no hint of disruption or ill feeling towards another person: I never saw even a hint of it.”
His aunt described him as “the most kind, polite, loving, generous, thankful and pure-hearted boy I ever knew.”
Assema’s statement at the Grenfell inquiry ended with a
condemnation. “Some other responsible government department sitting somewhere was just sitting and watching them turn to ashes. The whole world had watched on TV a lady waving a white cloth from the 22nd floor.”
Family Legacy Fund was set up to honour them. It works to support the
children left traumatised by the Grenfell fire.