On Wednesday, 150 students and professors gathered in Smith Union to write the names of 6,700 Palestinians killed over the past forty days as part of an event organized by Bowdoin Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
The event was one of several of the group’s programs held over the past few weeks about the ongoing violence in Gaza and Israel. The names written came from a list released by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza on October 27.
While it took 10 hours to write every name, SJP organizer Ahmad Abdulwadood ’24 emphasized that the list still does not represent the totality of lives lost in the conflict to date.
“We wrote 6,700 names, but there are more than 11,000 as of today, and beyond that, there are thousands still beneath the rubble that have not been clearly identified as alive or dead,” Abdulwadood said.
Beginning at 8:10 a.m., SJP leaders passed out sheets of names to volunteers who stopped by. Some stayed for a few minutes, some for a number of hours. SJP organized the lists by age and had volunteers write the names and ages of murdered Palestinians on large scrolls of paper. Abdulwadood said this highlighted the toll of the violence on children.
“The first sheet we did was 75 feet long and it’s all children,” he said. “There’s not a single adult on that list.”
Yusur Jasim ’25, who wrote dozens of names in the morning, echoed that writing ages made the act more personal.
“It was shocking to see this many two-year-olds and five-year-olds dead,” Jasim said. “It’s also really emotional for me because a lot of my family members share the same names so it’s powerful to just see them on paper.”
SJP began planning the event over the weekend, inspired by organizing they had seen at other colleges and universities. But while they expected the writing to take multiple days and involve a small core of students, turnout from the Bowdoin community was much larger than expected and the final names were written at 5:50 p.m. on Wednesday.
Aniqa Chowdhury ’26 copied names from the SJP list for over two hours in the afternoon. She wrote around 200 names.
“People are finding ways to go about their day-to-day life, but with this opportunity presenting itself, it feels like I’m doing what I can in the moment,” Chowdhury said.
Throughout the day, SJP leaders spoke over a microphone reading off some of the names and ages from the list, and inviting community members in Smith Union to help write names.
“These are not just numbers—these people were children, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. We need a ceasefire, we need an end to the blockade and we need an end to the occupation,” the script used by SJP leaders throughout the day read. “We invite you to join us on the first floor as we write their names, as we honor their lives and as we say, ‘no more.’”
The names now fill 250 feet of paper and are hung prominently above the Bowdoin seal in the center of Smith Union. Shi Thompson ’24 wrote names in the afternoon, when SJP had already hung half of the names. Thompson said there was visual power to seeing the names presented in such a public campus space.
“It’s a little stressful that these are actual people that we’re writing, but us writing it doesn’t bring them back,” Thompson said. “Seeing this is forcing people to see what the issue is.”
Jasim echoed that the project may help raise awareness of seemingly faraway violence on Bowdoin’s campus.
“I think it is really important that people are aware. This is literally the least we can do to educate ourselves and be aware of the reality that this is happening right now,” Jasim said.
Abdulwadood emphasized the importance of all of SJP’s actions—including this week’s sit-in at the talk given by Dr. Michael Rubin—to bring awareness to Bowdoin’s campus in line with their goals as a student group.
“This is just a first step; we have more actionable and material projects coming up but discursive campaigns like this are an essential part of SJP programming anywhere,” Abdulwadood said. “At one level we hope to put material pressure on the state of Israel through projects that we do, but at another level, we’re trying to get people to become invested in this and to mobilize against this.”
SJP does not intend to take the sheets of names down at any point, organizer Rachel Klein ’24 said.
“We thank everyone for coming out to this event, but now that it is over we encourage people to go to Smith Union and spend some time reading their names. Do not ignore the banners—do not let the names of 6,700 murdered Palestinians lining the walls of our student center become normal,” Klein said. “This is not normal.”