Abu Dhabi: The UAE marks the Commemoration Day on Wednesday to honour the legacy of the Emirati heroes who have given their lives for their country on battlefields and on civilian fields.
At 11.30am on Wednesday, the nation will stand united in a moment of silent prayer, respect and commemoration for its fallen heroes.
Across the UAE, flags will be flown at half-mast from 8am, and will be raised again at 11.31am.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, said the people of the UAE would forever remember the brave sacrifices made by its heroes to keep the country free and proud.
The heroes who so loyally served their country were an example to be followed, and would inspire future generations of young Emiratis to be devoted and loyal to their homeland, Shaikh Mohammad said as he visited the Wahat Al Karama memorial, built to honour the courage of UAE heroes.
Shaikh Mohammad said the heroes gave their lives to preserve the UAE’s achievements.
This country was built and is being preserved by the sacrifices of patriotic men and women who have given their all. To nations, peoples and even religions, martyrs play a key role in sustaining valuable truths — as important as the truths themselves.
Emirati heroes’ sacrifices have not only made the nation proud, but also helped alleviate injustice, especially in the case of our heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice in support of the Lebanese people in the Lebanon War in 1976 and 1977, the Kuwaiti people in the Kuwait Liberation War in 1991, participation in the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Somalia in 1992 and most recently in support of the Yemeni people’s struggle to regain their country from the tyranny of Al Houthi militia and its allies.
Shaheed is the Arabic word for martyr, while the English world arises from the Greek martys, which means the same thing. The connection between witnessing and dying for a cause you believe in is that the martyr, in the Arabic tradition at least, is immortalised for having perceived — witnessed — a great and worthy truth, and so is prepared, even eager, to give their lives in standing by this truth. The process makes the martyr a hero and an example to his fellows, and consolidates the power of the truth and the cause they stand for.
It is hardly Arabic tradition alone that celebrates martyrs. They are honoured across the world. In the Islamic tradition, as well as in every religious doctrine, examples of this are common. The first one the UAE could call its own martyr was Salem Suhail Bin Khamis, a 20-year-old policeman stationed at the Emirati island of Greater Tunb. Bin Khamis was part of a small police force that called the island both home and workplace. The island belonged to Ras Al Khaimah.
On the eve of the UAE’s foundation in 1971, Iranian troops invaded the island, as well as Lesser Tunb and the island of Abu Mousa. They ordered Bin Khamis and his fellows to lower the flag and surrender. Bin Khamis refused defiantly, raising the flag of Ras Al Khaimah. He could not see any other course of action except for standing by his beliefs — literally holding the flag high.
It would become the last thing he ever did. His act inspired an entire nation. The invading troops shot and killed Bin Khamis, who became the nation’s first martyr, on November 30.
Shortly after, the UAE became the country we know today and would not forget Bin Khamis. On the 44th anniversary of Bin Khamis’s martyrdom, the nation will celebrate him and those who perished similarly, standing firm by the ideals they held dear.
Streets have already been named after the martyrs of the UAE who died in the line of duty, and mosques, monuments and city squares will follow. But the topmost reward, as the martyrs’ families will surely tell you, will be to rest in paradise.
President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan ordered last year that November 30 would be the country’s Commemoration Day — the day Bin Khamis died in Greater Tunb, with his flag against his chest. Commemoration Day will be a national holiday, according to the President’s decree. The martyrs “offered their lives so as to keep the UAE flag flying aloft while performing their national duties within and outside the country, in civilian, military and humanitarian fields”, the President’s order stated.
Another martyr, Saif Saeed Gobash, the UAE’s first Minister of State for Foreign Affair, was assassinated on October 23, 1977, at Abu Dhabi Airport as he passed through the departure lounge to bid farewell to the former Syrian foreign minister Abdul Halim Khaddam, who was on a visit to the UAE. Khaddam was the target of the attack, according to investigations conducted after the incident.
Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan had a chair in Gobash’s name kept at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., not just to keep his memory alive but to make his memory a living contribution to human relationships, and a street in Abu Dhabi was also named after him in 2014.
The UAE has also saluted the heroism of the Emirati firefighter who lost his life on duty while fighting the fire that broke out in August on an Emirates Airline plane at Dubai International Airport.
The nation’s martyr, Jasim Al Beloushi from Ras Al Khaimah, has become popular for his heroic act and sacrifice that cost him his life while saving other lives in the incident involving the Emirates flight from India to Dubai.
If the martyrs witness a greater truth and in it expend their lives, then these martyrs seem to have witnessed something truly great. Some may distil it, this truth of great importance, in the notion of peace; others may pontificate that it is about the struggle for a cause; still others may suggest safety of home, family and country. And they would all be right.
And just as correctly, we could observe that these brave people died for the sovereignty of the nation.
Veteran Federal National Council member Ali Jasem paid glowing tribute to the courageous UAE Armed Forces servicemen taking part in Operation Restoring Hope.
“The UAE Armed Forces will remain a source of pride and security. Our martyrs deserve our honour, prestige and love. Their sacrifices are invaluable. They left their families and laid down their lives for the cause of this beloved country and the entire Arab nation.
“We pledge that the UAE flag for which the martyrs died for will be kept flying high.”
Hamad Ahmad Al Rahoumi, a member of the Federal National Council from Dubai, said the Commemoration Day is filling the hearts of Emirati citizens with patriotism and pride. “On this glorious day, we say to families of martyrs, ‘We are all your children and rest assured that our martyrs will always be in our midst with the victories they achieved’.”
Dr Jamal Sanad Al Suwaidi, a leading political analyst, said UAE’s leadership and people will always remember the sacrifices of its brave heroes, who have given their lives to keep the nation’s sublime values and principles.
“The UAE salutes heroes on battlefields as well as on civilian fields — heroes who stand out as possessing ideal and exemplary character, with persistence and dedication beyond duty.”