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It is with great sadness and with broken hearts that we at the Arab American Action Network announce the passing of Khairy Abudayyeh. Khairy was a lifelong activist and organizer, founder of AAAN’s predecessor, the Arab Community Center, and father of the AAAN’s executive director, Hatem Abudayyeh. Khairy was born in 1940 in Al Jib Palestine, a village in the West Bank, before the creation of Israel in 1948. He began his activism at a young age, when one of his first actions as a teenager in Palestine was to join a protest against the US-created Baghdad Pact. This experience launched Khairy into a lifetime of organizing and activism. As a secular nationalist, he was a strong believer in self-determination for all Arab peoples and all oppressed peoples of the world. He carried these politics with him to Chicago as he became a founding member of Chicago’s Arab Community Center (ACC). The ACC provided services to Chicago’s Arab community, acted as an organizing hub, and played an important social role in the lives of the thousands of members it represented. Khairy played a key leadership role for years at the ACC, and much of the work of the AAAN is built off the model that the ACC created in community organizing. Recently Khairy again faced the brunt of Israeli apartheid and racist repression as he was repeatedly denied entry back to Palestine by the Israelis
At one point he was kept in a de facto holding cell in Ben Gurion Airport, unable to reach his family to let them know of his whereabouts. To his last day, Khairy refused to relent or give up his right to return to his home and land in Al Jib. Khairy’s love for his homeland and his people was only matched by his love for his family. He was a devoted partner to his late wife Khairyeh Abdelhaleem Saadeh Abudayyeh, who was a key organizer in the Union of Palestinian Women’s Association. He was a loving father to his five children, Hatem, Maysoun, Omayyeh, Murad, and Khaldoun, and he was a compassionate grandfather to his 10 grandchildren. Today we offer our condolences not only to his children and his grandchildren for the passing of their beloved Sido, but also to the broader Arab community of Chicago who has lost a brilliant analyst, a loving elder, and a leader whose infectious smile and laughter warmed the hearts of all who knew him. Khairy’s legacy lives on in his children, his grandchildren, and the dozens of young people he inspired and mentored with his commitment to the liberation of his people. We will miss him greatly. Sincerely, The Arab American Action Network