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Vigil commemorating Chapel Hill victims held by students

A+candle+lit+vigil+is+held+on+the+University+of+Arizona+mall+Thursday+evening%2C+Feb.+12%2C+2015.+The+gathering+was+in+honor+of+three+muslim+students+killed+in+Chapel+Hill%2C+North+Carolina.
Baraha Elkhalil
A candle lit vigil is held on the University of Arizona mall Thursday evening, Feb. 12, 2015. The gathering was in honor of three muslim students killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

UA students reacted to the Chapel Hill murders by holding a candlelight vigil outside the Student Union Memorial Center tonight.

“We organized this to remember and commemorate Deah [Barakat], Yusor [Mohammad Abu-Salha] and Razan [Mohammad Abu-Salha], who were taken away from us,”  said Tasnim Zahlan, a junior majoring in global studies and member of UA Students for Justice in Palestine. ”We want to remember their legacy and what they stand for.”

Azba Khan, a senior double majoring in molecular and cellular biology and Middle Eastern and North African Studies, is also a member of SJP.

Khan said she and Zahlan personally worked to bring this event together under the name of SJP, and added that two began planning for this event on Wednesday night.

“It doesn’t matter about the size as long as someone came out and feels that their lives were worth remembering,” Khan said.

The vigil started out with the lighting and passing out of candles to those who had gathered, including sisters Fatima and Amna Chaudhary.

“We came to learn more about them, show our support and just to spread the word about how hate crimes do happen since mainstream media isn’t really reporting on it,” said Fatima Chaudhary, a junior majoring in civil engineering.

Amna Chaudhary, an undeclared freshman, said despite the lack of media coverage, the murders at Chapel Hill are an important issue.

Both the Chaudhary sisters said they are members of the Palestine Student Association and wanted to come show support for not only the families of those murdered, but for the community around them.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re Muslim or non-Muslim, if you see somebody spreading hate or someone spreading lies I believe that it’s our responsibility to stand up as … human [beings]. The value of a life doesn’t depend on religion,” Khan said.

Khan added that she is not blaming anyone, any religion or lack of religion — she blames hate and ignorance, and hopes for unity tonight among Muslims and non-Muslims.

“These were kids just like us,” Zahlan said. “they were college students living their [lives]. They served their communities and wanted to serve communities abroad. We need to not only be able to spread the message and show people all the work they’ve done, but be able to continue their work and help our own communities.”

Both Zahlan and Khan spoke about Razan, Deah and Yusor, and held silence for them and others who have been killed.

“I’m really happy with the turnout,” Zahlan said. “I’m glad people came here and mostly just the fact that people came and identified with us. It was an amazing experience and a great thing to share with all of them.”

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Follow Chastity Laskey on Twitter.

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