In memoriam - Dr Wiesam Essa

We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Dr Wiesam Essa, of Al-Aqsa University in Palestine who was recently a Visiting Fellow of The University of Manchester.

The University was informed of the death of Dr Wiesam Essa by contacts at the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA). Wiesam was based in the Department of Geography at Manchester from June 2019 to March 2021. His family joined him for much of this period. Wiesam is fondly remembered by colleagues in Geography – he was a regular and cheerful presence in the Department, contributing enthusiastically to the Mapping, Culture and GIS research group. He was especially keen to develop collaborations to further his research in Palestine.

Among his research foci was a satellite remote sensing-based analysis of water usage in Palestine partly funded by a grant from the Royal Geographical Society. Wiesam also got involved teaching on the MSc in Geographical Information Science. Despite the Covid pandemic, this was a very productive time for Wiesam, and it was a privilege to host him in the Department of Geography. He enjoyed the international outlook of the city and the University.  

We do not have full details, but Wiesam was killed in Gaza in the first week of January when his apartment block was badly damaged by Israeli bombs. We received news this week about Wiesam’s wife and four children. They survived the attack and are staying with extended family in Gaza. Wiesam’s wife is being treated for shrapnel wounds.  

In early December, CARA and the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF) had secured a new academic placement for Wiesam and were hoping to place him in the UK, but it proved impossible to get him out of Gaza.  

Wiesam had been based in the Department of Geography at Al-Aqsa University in Palestine since early 2005 and also held a part-time position in the Department of Computer Science. He studied for a BSc in Environment and Earth Science at the Islamic University of Gaza graduating in 1998 followed by a year at the Arava Institute of Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University. 

In 2004 he completed a master’s degree in Land Degradation and Conservation in the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation at University of Twente in the Netherlands. Wiesam then spent three years (2008–2011) as a PhD researcher in the Department of Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium. The title of his PhD thesis is: Thermal Subpixel Estimation in Urban Areas with Spaceborne Sensing. Wiesam made many friends at VUB and the knowledge and skills he developed there shaped the rest of his career.  

Ahead of the Manchester placement in June 2019, Wiesam commented “The University of Manchester and the Department of Geography will be an oasis for me after years of wandering in both human and academic crises within the Gaza Strip. I’m grateful to the University, IIE-SRF and CARA for helping me to make this move so that I can practice my life of learning, teaching, and research without any fear.”  

His colleagues at Manchester would like to extend their thoughts and sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues. Discussions are taking place in Geography about how best to honour Wiesam’s memory.  

Dr Wiesam Essa 
Born 20/02/1975 
Died January 2024 aged 48  

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