Aaliya Wears All These Hats … and More
Lupus Advocate. Human Rights Defender. Teenager. Aaliya Wears All These Hats … and More
It takes a brave, compassionate person to look beyond the personal pain of lupus and look for ways to create greater good. And it is even more remarkable when that person is a teen—like Aaliya Qassim. She has been coping with lupus for much of her young life—but her spirit remains unbroken. Aaliya, now 17, is grounded by an inner strength, a comprehensive world view, and a passion to advocate for those in need—especially others with lupus.
As a child, Aaliya was a curious, eager learner who devoured books. So, it was shocking when she suddenly couldn’t make sense of the printed words. That was the first sign. By April of 4th grade, Aaliya was in and out of the emergency room more times than she can remember.
That same year, Aaliya and her parents were completely taken off guard when she was unable to stand. For the next several months, this brave young girl mastered the physical art of getting around in a wheelchair—while developing the mental fortitude to forge ahead at school.
“Doctors didn’t know what was going on with me—even though my father has lupus. But they did shock my parents—telling them the situation was so critical I had a 50- 50 chance of survival,” Aaliya said remembering that scary time.
By age 11, doctors began to connect the dots and Aaliya finally received a formal diagnosis of lupus. “I was shocked, confused and lupus was a word I definitely did not want to hear,” Aaliya shared. But she had to face it—her lupus involvement was that severe. The disease attacked her internal organs and joints, even though Aaliya looked healthy to the outside world. That irony about lupus greatly shaped her outlook. “That’s the frustrating thing about lupus … because I am struggling. I may not have a broken arm or wear a cast, but I’m struggling in my own way—even if people can’t see it,” Aaliya shared.
Poised and articulate, Aaliya was the inspiration for the annual Rally Against Lupus event, which she cofounded with her uncle Nadeem Meghji, a member of the LRA Board of Directors. She is also an incredible lupus awareness advocate—and welcome addition to the LRA’s Young Leaders Board. It’s a perfect match— as this group of young people is devoted to helping others cope with lupus. “Letting people know that they are not alone is one of the powerful ways I can contribute to lupus awareness and social justice.” Aaliya concluded.
The LRA is grateful to Aaliya for sharing her story and for already leaving her mark on the world.