Islington People: Cousin of Israeli sniper victim wins novel award

A writer whose cousin was killed by an Israeli sniper has won a prestigious award for a novel based on Gaza.

Palestinian Ahmed Masoud, 30, of Eden Grove, Holloway, gained the top prize in the unpublished novel category at the Muslim Writers Award for the book Gaza Days.

Although based on two fictional boys growing up in the war-torn Middle Eastern region, Ahmed has drawn on his own powerful experiences which included his cousin, Ahmed Henwani, 20, being shot dead in 2002.

He said: “My cousin was working as a taxi driver in Gaza to help fund his studies.

“We were very close, like brothers, having grown up together.

“One day he was shot dead in his taxi by an Israeli sniper and we still don’t know why they killed him.

“After his death I became depressed and angry and I needed to get away from Gaza.”

Most Read

Ahmed completed a BA and MA in English Literature at London Metropolitan University in Holloway Road, Holloway.

He added: “One of my lecturers, Peter Wilson, encouraged me to develop the story so I wrote a few more chapters and it just grew from there. I am absolutely thrilled to win this award.”

Ahmed now works in the International Office at Oxford Brookes University and has also written Escape from Gaza which aired on BBC Radio Four.

It is based on his own experience of being unable to leave the city due to border closures and having to bribe an Egyptian official so he could return to London.

He said: “Gaza is a challenging place to grow up. Many things in the book are my direct experiences, like seeing my mother shot at and rockets landing near to my home.

“This influences you as a child and one of themes I explore is how children perceive the Palestine situation.”

Judges, including Arifa Akbar, the deputy literary editor at The Independent newspaper, said of Gaza Days: “We admired the compassion and honesty and the way it provided a window into a world evoked with great power and originality.”