PYM San Diego Celebrates Launch of Khaled Bakrawi Center in El Cajon

Originally circulated 01/15/18

Image of Khaled Bakrawi.

Image of Khaled Bakrawi.

The Khaled Bakrawi Center was created for the purposes of serving immigrant and refugee youth by teaching various life skills, such as English language, and computer training. Our trauma informed services and culturally relevant programs generate a sense of collective healing and community power meant to minimize senses of alienation and loss which often accompanies war trauma and the struggles of exile for these children and youth. There is significance in opening a center catered to immigrant and refugee youth in El Cajon. Since the 1990s, this city, sometimes called ‘Little Baghdad,’ has been a hub for refugees, specifically Iraqi refugees fleeing  dictatorship, sanctions, and imperialist wars. This city exemplifies the resilience and steadfastness of peoples from all over the world who have faced unimaginable struggle.

The center is named in honor of Khaled Bakrawi, a founding PYM member and Palestinian-Syrian martyr from Yarmouk refugee camp. Throughout his life, Khaled perfectly embodied and represented PYM’s principles, which include a non-negotiable right of return for the Palestinian refugees; attention to the transnational complications of the Palestinian struggle, whose root cause remains Zionist Settler-colonization, occupation and ethnic cleansing; and a reconsideration of Zionist colonialism and imperialism as a larger issue that plagues the entire surrounding region rather than Palestine alone.

Born on July 26, 1988 in Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Damascus, Syria, originally from the village of Lubia, Palestine, Khaled played an integral role in bringing people together and struggling for justice on both local and global levels. Khaled partook in spearheading the work of both PYM and the مؤسسة جفرا | Jafra Foundation. When the war started in Syria, Khaled played a critical role as one of the main organizers of the Jafra Foundation by working with the internally displaced seeking refuge in Yarmouk camp. Khaled dedicated his time and energy to working with Jafra by offering support services to Syrian refugees in Yarmouk, thereby drawing the vital links between the Palestinian and Syrian experiences of war and refugeehood. Khaled labored indiscriminately to provide shelter, food and medical attention for all refugees, and particularly to cultivating the skills of youth to serve the people and become protagonists of social change.In 2013, Khaled was imprisoned by the Syrian regime and was martyred at only 24 years old.

Khaled’s big heart and love for everyone never went unnoticed and his service to those in Yarmouk and beyond serve as the inspiration for the Khaled Bakrawi Center. Furthermore, Khaled’s practice has taught us of the critical importance of linking service to the people with grassroots youth organizing work which we have implemented in our local work in San Diego as well as our refugee support program in Greece and our political advocacy against militarization of borders, confiscation of Native land, racial state violence and more locally and globally. The launching of the Khaled Bakrawi Center in El Cajon represents the continuation of Khaled’s life’s work, the legacy he has left us with and the ongoing necessity for PYM to continue to forge linkages across struggles as we assume an active role as agents of political change for our communities.  It demonstrates the profound significance of one life to a larger story of collective struggle, transformation, and impending liberation as we continue to fight the forces of oppression, colonization and dehumanization that dispossess us, as well as the surety of our conviction that we must and will prevail, no matter how high the cost.   

We extend heartfelt thanks to the cooperating groups who made the creation of the center possible including the Arab Youth Collective in San Diego تجمع الشباب العربي في سان دييغو, Islah Reparations Project, and The Refugee Family Council of San Diego. We also want to thank all of our community partners for their ongoing support in our San Diego work including the co-host of our Annual Break Down Borders 5K run, Colectivo Zapatista San Diego. For more information about the border run, please see