A farewell to the Saudi students killed in Massachusetts

Mashari Althaydi

Published: Updated:

The death of two Saudi students Theeb Alyami and Jaser Daham Alrakah in Massachusetts, while attempting to save two American children who were struggling to stay afloat in a river before the eyes of their distressed mother, is sad.

What happened reflects the Saudis’ chivalry and humanity, qualities which distinguish Muslims and Arabs in the eyes of all westerners.

Theeb and Jaser were successful in their studies. They died while endeavoring on this brave and chivalrous act and have become the talk of American media and politicians.

US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, said in a statement: “The young men drowned while courageously attempting to save children in distress. Their heroism represents the very best of the international students who enrich communities across the United States. Theeb and Jaser were among the 52,000 Saudi students studying in the United States who bring greater international understanding and diverse perspectives to US campuses and communities, and to Saudi Arabia when they return home.”

This “humanitarian” and spontaneous relation between people of the Gulf and the American community dates to years ago and goes both ways, and the experience of Aramco is a living example to that. There are examples of Saudis who studied and worked in the US a long time ago. Al Eqtisadiah’s page Al-Meshrag which specializes in history and local literature has highlighted these Saudi pioneers in the US.

This “humanitarian” and spontaneous relation between people of the Gulf and the American community dates to years ago and goes both ways

Mashari Althaydi

For example, Abdullah al-Khalifa, who is from Al-Qassim, was the first Saudi man to arrive to the US. Mohammed al-Rawaf may have gone to the US before him. English traveler and officer Shakespear who was killed in the Battle of Jarrab said he met Rawaf in 1914. Shakespear said Rawaf had an American accent and that he was responsible for Arabian camels in an exhibition held in Chicago 15 years earlier. Captain Shakespear met Khalifa in Buraydah in 1914 and he noted that Khalifa also had an American accent.

Other men from Al-Qassim who left the kingdom and worked in the American land of dreams decades ago include Jarallah Al-Assaf, Hamoud al-Muttlaq and Abdulrahman al-Marshoud. They took some horses with them to the US, specifically to Virginia, when they went in 1927.

Khalil al-Rawaf arrived to America in 1935, and he’s the first Saudi person to get a visa to enter the US. During his stay in the US, he participated in several Hollywood productions.

The people of Al-Qassim are fond of journeys due to their love of trade and their sense of adventure.

It’s good to recall all this today in order to know that today’s students in America are setting foot on a land which their predecessors visited before them. May God have mercy on the heroes Theeb and Jaser.

This article is also available in Arabic.


Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.