Hundreds of people gathered in silence in front of the Italian Embassy in Cairo Tuesday evening to mourn the recent murder of Italian human rights activist Vittorio Arrigoni in Gaza.
The crowd was mostly Palestinian and Italian, but many Egyptians also joined in commemorating the young man who many are now calling a local hero. Arrigoni spent years advocating on behalf of the population of Gaza.
“A lot of these smart, outspoken individuals who are brought up learning to express themselves freely end up becoming activists,” said Sara Di Pietro, an Italian woman attending the vigil. “It’s just incredibly sad and unfortunate that it had to end like that — that he had to get murdered for trying to inspire people to realize the beauty of life.”
Arrigoni, 36, was discovered dead, hanged in an abandoned house in Gaza last Thursday evening hours after a radical Islamist group kidnapped the Palestinian advocate demanding he be exchanged for their leader. The extremists who captured Arrigoni released a video of the man pleading for his life.
Arrigoni had been living in Gaza for most of the past three years working as part of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (ISM). He was the third member of the group to be killed in Gaza, following the March 2003 death of US activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by an Israeli military bulldozer, and the January 2004 death of British activist Tom Hurndall, who died nine months after being shot by an Israeli soldier.
“Why these people have to die I’ll never understand,” said Di Pietro. “But what’s beautiful is that he died helping out another country in its own crisis when he could have been living happily enjoying his rights in Italy — to me that makes him a hero.”