Yasser Arafat lives… as a fruit and veg seller in Ramallah!
Yesterday marked the anniversary of the death of Palestine’s most popular leader, Yasser Arafat (Abu Ammar). It has been eight years since he died in mysterious circumstances but wander around Nablus or Jenin and you can still hear residents talk about him in reverent tones.
Arafat was Palestine’s first ever president and the way in which he died is still shrouded in suspicion. A documentary by Al-Jazeera in July this year suggested he had been killed by a rare radioactive poison.
Russia has now joined an international investigation to determine if he was murdered but in the meantime, Arabs cannot resist a conspiracy theory. Salem Smeirat, otherwise known as, Yasser Arafat’s doppelganger, is no stranger to these theories.
The vegetable seller from Ramallah has become a local celebrity due to a likeness to the late president. Not only does the market vendor have Abu Ammar’s features, he also wears the same traditional headgear and gives customers the ‘V’ for victory sign whenever they stop by.
The BBC’s correspondent, Jon Donnison, wrote, on his visit to the West Bank city, that Salem had crowds gathering round him on any ordinary day. The look-a-like is mostly to be found shouting about watermelon prices but occasionally he slips into character, saying things like “it is no secret that Israel tried to kill me on many occasions.”
While the real-deal still has his critics among West Bankers, Smeirat is clear: “Everybody loves Yasser Arafat”, he says and presumably they also love his impersonator.
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