Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I was born Palestinian

"Its not very comfortable in there is it?" said the stony faced official, cigarette smoke forming a haze around his gleaming oval head.

"Its OK. We're fine" I replied wearily, delirious after being awake for a straight period of 30 hours.

"You could be in there for days you know. For weeks. Indefinitely. "So, tell me, you are taking a plane tomorrow morning to the US?"

It was our journey home that began with the standard packing frenzy: squeezing everything precious and dear and useful into two suitcases that would be our sustenance for the course of 3 months.

The trips to the outdoor recreation store- in preparation for what I anticipated to be a long and tortuous journey across Rafah Crossing to Gaza. The inspect repellent; the mosquito netting; the water purifier; the potty toppers for my kids and the dried fruit and granola bars and portion sized peanut butter cups. This time, I wanted to be ready, I thought to myself-just in case I got stuck at the Crossing. The Crossing. My presumptuousness is like a dull hit to the back of my head now.

In addition to all the packing of suitcases, we were also packing up our house- my husband was finishing up his residency at duke University and set to start a medical fellowship at Johns Hopkins in July. In the meantime, we were "closing shop", putting our things in storage, selling the rest, and heading overseas: me to Gaza, he to Lebanon to visit his family.

Eventually I was too meet him there (assuming i could get into Gaza, and the, assuming I could get out). Yassine is a third-generation Palestinian refugee from the village of Waarit al-Siris in nothern historic Palestine; he was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon and holds a Laizze Passe for Palestinian refugees. Israel denies him return to his own home- or even to the home of his spouse in Gaza. So when we go overseas, we often go our separate ways; we cannot live legally, as a unit, as a family, in our own homes.

I hold a Palestinian Authority passport. It replaced the "temporary two-year Jordanian passport for Gaza residents" that we held until the Oslo Accords and the creation of the Palestinian Authority in the mid '90s, which itself replaced the Egyptian travel documents we held before that. A progression in a long line of stateless documentation.

It is a passport that allows no passage. A passport that denied me entry to my own home. This is its purpose: to mark me, brand me, so that I am easily identified and cast aside without questions; it is convenient for those giving the orders. It is a system for the collective identification of those with no identity.


We finished packing as much as we could of the house, leaving the rest to Yassine who was to leave a week after us, and drove 4 hours to Washington to spend a few day sat my brother's house before we took off.

First, we headed to the the Egyptian embassy.

Last year, my parents were visiting us from Gaza City when Rafah was sealed hermetically. They attempted to fly back to Egypt to wait for the border to open- but were now allowed to board the plane in Washington. "Palestinians cannot fly to Egypt now without a visa, new rules" the airline personnel explained, "and no visas can be issued until Rafah is open" added the Egyptian embassy official.

They were in a conundrum, aggravated by the fact that their US stay entry stamp had reach passed its six-month limit. Eventually, they got around the issue by obtaining an Egyptian tourist visa, made easier by their old age, which they used to wait in Egypt for one month until Rafah Crossing opened again.

I did not want to repeat their ordeal, so I called the embassy this time, which assured me the protocol had changed: now, it was only Palestinian men who were not allowed to fly to or enter Egypt. Women were, and would get their visa at the Egyptian port of destination. I was given a signed and dated letter (April 6, 2009) by the consul to take with me in case I encountered any problems:

"The Consular Section of the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt hereby confirms that women, who are residents of the Gaza Strip, and who hold passports issued by the Palestinian Authority are required to get their visa to enter Egypt at Egyptian ports and NOT at the various Egyptian consulates in the United States on their way to the Gaza Strip for the purpose of reaching their destination (i.e. Gaza Strip)" it read.

With letter and bags in hand, we took off, worried only about the possibility of entering Gaza- the thought of being able to enter Egypt never crossing my mind.

2 long-haul flights and one 7 hour transit later, we made it. I knew the routine by heart. Upon our arrival, I was quick to hit the bank to buy the $15 visa stamps for Yousuf and Noor's American passports and exchange some dollars into Egyptian pounds. I figured it would help pass the time while the lines got shorter.

I then went and filled out my entry cards-an officer came and filled them out with me seeing my hands were full, a daypack on my back, Noor strapped to my chest in a carrier, Yousuf in my hand...

we then submitted our passports, things seemed to be going smoothly. Just then the officer explained he needed to run something by his superior. "You have a Palestinian passport; Rafah crossing is closed..."

"I promise it will just be 5 minutes" he assured me. But that's all i needed to hear. I knew I was in for a long wait. It was at this point I yanked out my laptop and began to tweet and blog about my experience (full progression of tweets here courtesy Hootsbuddy). At first I thought it would simply help pass the time; it developed into a way to pool resources together that could help me; and ended as a public awareness campaign.

The faces were different each time. 3 or four different rooms and hallways to navigate down. They refused to give names and the answers they gave were always in the form of cryptic questions.

The first explained I would not be allowed entry into Egypt because Palestinians without permanent residency abroad are not allowed in; and besides- Rafah Crossing is closed he said (my response: so open it?). I was told I was to be deported to the UK first. "But I had no British visa" I explained. I was ordered to agree to get on the next flight. I refused-I didn't come all this way to turn back.

I was escorted to the "extended transit terminal". It was empty at first, save for a south Asian man in tightly buckled jeans and a small duffel bag that spent the good part of our time there there in a deep sleep. During the day the hall would fill up with locally deported passengers- from villages of cities across Egypt, and we would move our things to the upper waiting area.

Most of the time was spent in this waiting area with low level guards who knew nothing and could do nothing.

At different intervals a frustrated Yousuf, fully caped in his black spiderman outfit and mask, would approach them angrily about "why they wouldn't let him go see his seedo and tete?" and why "they put cockroaches on the floor". When we first arrived, he asked if these were the "yahood", his only experiences with extended closure, delay, and denial of entry being at the hands of the israeli soldiers and government. "No, but why don't you ask them why they are are allowed through to sunbathe and we aren't to our own homes?"

"Rabina kbeer" came the response. They were impotent. God is great.

There was very little time I was given access to anyone who had any authority. I seemed to be called in whenever the new person on duty arrived, when they were scheduled for their thrice daily interrogation and intimidation, their shooting and crying.

Officers came and went as shifts began and ended. But our status was always the same. Our "problem", our case, our issue was always the same. We remained, sitting on our chairs, with our papers and documents in hand, waiting, and no one the better.

Always waiting. For this is what the Palestinian does: we wait. For an answer to be given, for a question to be asked; for a marriage proposal to be made, for a divorce to be finalized; for a border to open, for a permit to be issued; for a war to end; for a war to begin; for a child to be born; for one to die a martyr; for retirement or a new job; for exile to a better place and for return to the only place that knows us; for our prisoners to come home; for our home to no longer be prisons; for our children to be free; for freedom from a time when we no longer have to wait.

We waited for the next shift as we were instructed by those who made their own instructions. Funny how when you need to pass the time, the time does not pass.

"You need to speak with whose in charge-and their shift starts at 10 am". So we pass the night and wait until 10. "Well by the time they really get started its more like noon". So we wait till noon. "Well the real work isn't until the evening". And we wait until evening. Then the cycle starts again.

Every now and then the numberless phone would ring requesting me, and a somber voice would ask if I changed my mind. I insisted all I wanted to do was go home; that it was not that complicated.

"But Gaza is a special case, we all know that" I was told.

Special, as in expendable, not human, not entitled to rights special, I thought.

Unfamiliar faces that acted as though though I was a long-lost friend kept popping in and out to see me. As though I were an amnesiac in a penitentiary. They all kept asking the same cryptic question "so you are getting on a plane soon, right?"

First, a gentleman from the Palestinian representative's office that someone else whose name I was meant to recognize sent. " It'll all be resolved within the hour" he promised confidently, before going on to tell me about his son who worked with Motorola in Florida;

"Helping Israeli drones do their job?"

"That's right!" he beamed.

An hour came and went, and suddenly the issue was "irresolvable", and I was "a journalist up to trouble".


Friends and family in Egypt, the US, and Gaza, worked around the clock with me, calling in any favors they had, anyone they knew, doing anything they could to get some answers and let me through. But the answer was always the same: Amn il Dawla (State Security and Intelligence) says no, and they are the ultimate authorities. No one goes past them.

Later a second Palestinian representative came to see me.

"So you are not going on that second flight are you?"

"What are you talking about? Why does everyone speak to me in question form?"

"Answer the question"

"No, I came here to go to Gaza, not to return to the US"

"Ok that's all I needed to know; there is a convoy of injured Palestinian with security clearance heading to the border with some space; we are trying to get you on there with them; 15 minutes and it'll all be resolved, we just need clearance, its all over" he assured me.

Yousuf smashed another cockroach.

We were taken down a new hallway. A new room. A new face. The man behind the desk explained how he was losing sleep over my case, how I had the while airport working on it, ho he had a son Yousuf's age; and then offered me an apple and a bottle of water and told me istaraya7i, to rest, a command I would hear again and again over the course of the 36 hours.

Is this man for real??? an apple and a bottle of water? I thought to myself, my eyes nearly popping out of my face.

"I don't want your food. I don't want to rest. I don't want your sympathy. I JUST WANT TO GO HOME. To my country. To my parents. IS THAT TOO HARD TO UNDERSTAND?" I screamed, breaking my level-headed calm of the past 20 hours.

"Please don't yell, just calm down, calm down, everyone outside will think I am treating you badly, c'mon, and besides its 'ayb (disgraceful) not to accept the apple from me".

"'Ayb?? What's 'AYB is you denying my entry to my own home! And why should I be calm? This situation doesn't call for calm; it makes no sense and neither should I!"

A distraught Noor furrowed her brows and then comforted me the only way she knew how: by patting me on the back with her little hands and giving me a hug. Yousuf began to cry.

"C'mon lady don't have a breakdown in front of your kids please. You know I have a kid your son's age and its breaking my heart to do this, to see him in these conditions, to put him in the conditions, so please take the plane."

"So don't see me in these conditions! There's a simple solution you know. LET ME GO HOME. Its not asking a lot is it?"

"Hey now look lady" he said, stiffening suddenly into bad cop, his helpless grimace disappeared.
"Rules are rules, you need a visa to get in here like any other country, can you go to Jordan without a visa?'

"Don't play the rules game with me. I HAD APPROVAL FROM YOUR EMBASSY, FROM YOUR CONSUL GENERAL, to cross into Egypt and go to Gaza; and besides how else am I supposed to get into Gaza???" I shouted, frantically waving the stamped and signed document in front of him as though it were a magic wand.

"So sue him. Amn il Dawla supercedes the foreign ministry's orders, he must have outdated protocol."

"The letter was dated April 6, that is 2 days ago, how outdated could it be?? Look- if I could parachute into Gaza I would, trust me. With all do respect to your country, I'm not here to sight-see. Do you have a parachute for me? If I could sail there I would do that too, but last I check Israel was ramming and turning those boats back. Do you have another suggestions?

"What is it you want lady- do you want to just live in the airport? is that it? Because we have no problems letting you live here, really. We can set up a shelter for you. And no one will ever ask about you or know you exist. In any case you don't have permanent residency abroad so our government policies say we can't let a Palestinian who does not have permanent residency abroad"

"I have a US Visa- its expired but my extension of status document is valid until the end of June. and besides- what kind of illogical law is that? you aren't allowing me back home if I don't have permanent residency abroad?"

"I don't read English please translate.."

"You see it says here that my status is valid until June 30, 2009"

"Good, so then we CAN deport you back to the US" he said, picking up the phone and giving a quick order for the Palestinian convoy of injured Palestinians heading to the Crossing to go on without me, my only hope of returning home dissipating before my eyes at the hands of a barely literate manipulative enforcer.

"You just said if i have permanent residency abroad I can go home, now you say I can't, which is it??"

"I'm sorry you are refusing to go on the plane. Take her away please."

We were ushered back to the extended waiting area, back to our roach ridden premises that had become our home, along with a newly arrived Luxembourgian and French couple and their two children who had failed to produce their passports and were being sent back home. Here I was, about to be deported away from home, over prepared, with my documents and signed papers, from consulates and universities and governments; and they, used to traveling passport-free the EU, being sent back home because they had only an ID card.


It wasn't long before a new guard came to us, and request we follow him "to a more isolated room". "It will be better for you- more private. All the African flights are arriving now with all their diseases, you don't want to be here for that! It'll get overcrowded and awful in here."

Given the the well-wishes that preceded my last interrogation about the "uncomfortableness" I may endure, I somehow had a feeling where we were headed.

We were asked to bring all our luggage and escorted down a different hallway; this time we were asked to leave everything behind, and to give up our cameras, laptops, and mobile phones. We took our seats in the front of a tiny filthy room, where 17 other men (and one Indonesian woman was sleeping on the floor in the back, occasionally shouting out in the middle of her interrupted sleep) of varying nationalities were already waiting.

A brute man-, illiterate by his own admission, took charge of each of files, spontaneously blurting out vulgarities and ordering anyone who so much as whispered to shut the hell up or get sent to real prison; the room was referred to as "7abs", or a cell; I can probably best describe it as the detention or holding room. a heady man with a protruding belly that seems at odds with his otherwise lanky body was the door guard.

Officer #1 divided up the room into regions: the 5 or so south Asians who were there for whatever reason-expired paperwork, illegal documentation- were referred to as "Pakistan" when their attention was needed; The snoozing, sleep-talking woman in the back was "Indonesia"; and the impeccably dressed Guinean businessman, fully decked in a sharp black suit and blue lined tie, was "Kenya" (despite his persistence please to the contrary). There was a group of Egyptian peasants with forged, fake, or wrongly filed Id cards and passports: a 54 year old man whose ID said he was born in 1990; another who left his ID in his village 5 hours away, and so on.

By this point, I had not slept in 27 hours, 40 if one were to count the plane ride. My patience and my energy were wearing thing. My children were filthy and tired and confused; Noor was crying. I tried to set her cot up, but a cell within a cell did not seem to her liking and she resisted, much as I did.

We took the opportunity to chat when officer #1 was away. ""So what did you do?" asked Kenya, the Guinean.

"I was born Palestinian" I replied. "Everyone in here is being deported back home for one reason or another right? I bet I am the only one being deported away from home; the only one denied entry to my home."

Officer #1 returned, this time he asked me to come with him "with or without your kids". I brought them along, not knowing what was next.

There was two steely-eyed men on either end of a relatively well-furnished room, once again inquiring about my "comfort" and ordering-in the form of a question- whether I was taking a flight that morning to the US.

Noor began making a fuss, bellowing at the top of her lungs and swatting anyone that approached her.

"She is stubborn. She takes after her mother I see" said the man.

Soon we were escorted back to the waiting area. I knew there was nothing more I could do. We waited for several more hours until my children exhausted themselves and fell asleep. I bathed them in the filthy bathroom sinks with freezing tap water and hand soap and arranged their quarters on the steel chairs of the waiting room, buzzing with what seemed like a thousand gnats. Thank God for the mosquito netting.

Eventually, dawn broke, and we were escorted by two guards to the ticket counter, our $2500 flights rerouted, and put on a plane back to Washington.

I noted on one of my tweets that I would be shocked if my children's immune system survived this jolt. It didn't.

My daughter vomited the whole flight to London as I slipped in and out of delirium, mumbling half Arabic half English phrases to the flustered but helpful Englishman sitting next to us. I thank him wherever he is for looking after us.

Whatever she had, Yousuf an eye caught in the coming days-along with an ear and throat infection.

Eventually, we reached Dulles Airport. I walked confidently to the booth when it was my turn.

What was I going to say? How do I explain this? The man took one look at my expired visa, and my departure stamps.

"How long have you been gone?"

"36 hours" I replied bluntly.

"Yes,I see that. Do you want to explain?"

"Sure. Egypt forbade me from returning to Gaza".

"I don't understand- they denied you entry to your own home?"

"I don't either, and if I did, I wouldn't be here."

With that, I was given a a stamp and allowed back inside.

Now that we are warm; clothes; showered, rested and recovered from whatever awful virus we picked up in the bowels of Cairo airport, I keep thinking to myself: what more could I have done?

“The quintessential Palestinian experience,” historian Rashid Khalidi has written, “takes place at a border, an airport, a checkpoint: in short, at any one of those many modern barriers where identities are checked and verified.”

In this place, adds Robyn Creswell, “connection” turns out to be only another word for separation or quarantine: the loop of airports never ends, like Borges’s famous library. The cruelty of the Palestinian situation is that these purgatories are in no way extraordinary but rather the backdrop of daily existence."


Blogger JordanBaker said...

I am so sorry to read about this terrible journey and the awful dehumanizing experience in the Cairo airport. I hope you and children recover quickly and that you find a way to return home.

1:02 AM  
Blogger Alef said...

Im sorry about that awful experience. It's really sad to see Egipt like that. Hope your kids get better.

1:46 AM  
Blogger Alef said...

Im sorry about that awful experience. It's really sad to see Egipt like that. Hope your kids get better.

1:46 AM  
Blogger Amna said...

I hope you and your children are well and keeping strong. I wonder how we can highlight all the wrong that was done so it really makes news and they can never treat you like this again. Though i can also understand your point that this is the reality you and other Palestinians face day in and day out and its not just one person's story.

3:41 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Assalamualaikum dear sis Laila.
I'm crying so hard after reading your post. It was so heart wrenching the horrible experience you and you children have gone through. May Allah bless you with strength and iman. My heart and prayers are with you and all Palestinian.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Umm Omar said...

I'm so sorry.
Knowing what it means to be Palestinian only makes you more able to fight for this cause. May Allah give you strength.

6:24 AM  
Blogger Mo-ha-med said...

"his only experiences with extended closure, delay, and denial of entry being at the hands of the israeli soldiers and government."Ouch.

Shame, shame, shame on us. I am deeply sorry my country is incapable of telling a friend from a foe - and from giving people their rights. You have my sincere apologies, if they're worth anything.

I hope Nour and Yousuf are feeling better.

6:37 AM  
Blogger Halla said...

OMG, what a horrible experience to go through and especially with children! Egypt is getting worse since I was there in 1999, couldn't wait to leave that place.

Are you going back to the Egyptian consulate and complain? They owe you plane tickets!!!

8:22 AM  
Blogger الفلسطينية said...

terrible on so many levels- yet inherently true to the general palestinian experience.

beautifully written post. thanks for taking the time to fill us on in on what happened.

question- now that you're back in the states, whats your next step? i mean if the visa expires, and rafah remains closed, where on earth do they expect you to go??

9:14 AM  
Blogger sunbula said...

dear laila
i can only salute you for your strength and courage in your sumoud in front of these cowards. truly, the road to palestine runs through all arab capitals. why do the israelis need to do anything when they have such helpful allies in the arab regimes? if you do not mind, i will re-post this on kabobfest. now get some rest and stay strong!

9:58 AM  
Blogger Suki said...

I'm so glad to hear that you are well. It's shocking in which disgracing way they treated you.
Hope you find a way to get back home.
Stay strong even if it's very hard to be.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Elrig Ciles said...

So many of these horrible stories. What a shame. Keep speaking out.
Was in Gaza last week... Haram.

If your husband go to Hopkins, have him meet Prof Peter Winch - good friend of mine and interesting guy. Also Earl Wall in department of International Health (both school of public health) used to be Care director for West Bank and Gaza.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Gert said...

I'd like to say: "unbelievable" but of course it is not; it's all too believable. Although your blog is on my blog roll, I found this post via Mondoweiss, who is linking to your post. I know that's very small consolation but at least your ordeal will get read. I will be linking to it too.


5:47 PM  
Blogger Lizzie said...

I've been reporting on Palestine and Israel since 1979 and seen "the situation" turn from bad to worse to nightmarish to apocalyptic, I found your story heartbreaking. I hope your children are getting better. I wish you strength, and grieve with you. By character I am horribly impatient with bureaucracy, but I always remind myself what I would have to endure if I were Palestinian. I hope this story gets circulated as widely as possible. It needs to be told to the world.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm so sorry you went through this! It must have been awful at best. I'm glad you and your kids are recovering. There are a couple of things I'm confused about though...First of all, you're here on a visa, I guess? Is it not possible for you to get a greencard-and if you did, would it make it easier for you to go visit your family? Also, is it possible to find out about the Rafah crossing before leaving here? It seems like you have gone through this before, and you know how difficult it is, so especially with kids, would it be easier to wait? Can you go to Lebanon with your husband?

9:24 PM  
Blogger نورس من شاطيء غزه said...

Contempt in the Cairo Airport to residents of the Gaza Strip.
The overwhelming majority of Palestinians who passed through Cairo International Airport , To travel to the Rafah border crossing, have a stock of stories , Talking about pain and anger about the humiliation to which they are exposed , and the insults they face , and the days of confinement in small rooms Like animals , dirty , underground in the basement of the airport . Speak with bitterness about the security men who exploit , financially and psychologically, in order to allow them to leave the detention room to go into a dirty bathroom , Or to buy a box of milk to a child , or a bottle of water to relieve thirst ,Or buy a meal from the restaurant in the airport once a day .These inhumane and abusive behavior, which is aimed at Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in the Cairo International Airport, indicating that the Egyptian government contributes to the suffering of the Palestinian people .

2:15 AM  
Blogger Sari Freitekh said...

Dear Laila,
At this late hour, I feel helpless, disgraced and ashamed on behalf of every honorable human.
It is now no different had you arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Queen Alia in Amman, or by plane to Cairo.
It is also contrastingly both ironic and naive to try to suggest ways to sneak you back into Gaza.
I was reading your story and thinking how experiences like it should be reserved to teach generations that will follow to never forget.

2:20 AM  
Blogger Whit said...

This is heartbreaking. You are so much stronger than I am to endure that nexus of stupidity and frustration.

7:18 AM  
Blogger Leyla Benkirane said...

so sorry laila for what you went through . when my kids were smaller i could not feel at ease travelling with them for 2 or 3 hours let alone 36 hours in those filthy conditions , i dont know how you kept your sanity.
Im so sorry , i can easily see that the Americans treated a lot better than your fellow Arabs and Muslims , it breaks my heart to see our brothers in islam treat you like a criminal , im so angry with them you wont believe how much . Ba.... !!! I hope you can sort out your next trip to Gaza again to see your family. I hope you can get an answer from the egyptian consul and why his stamped letter was totally ignored at Rafah He owes you an answer and hopefully (if he has any manners ) An Apology too . You are so brave . Allah Ma3aak . love , hugs .

11:57 AM  
Blogger paintandink said...

I cannot imagine what it is like to be in your shoes, but I thank you for sharing the experience so we might begin to understand.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Minus said...

I'm speechless, I dont know what to say , I am sorry for all what you have been through ,
On behalf of all Egyptians everywhere who still care , I express my deepest sorrow and sympathy to you & everyone be treated like you have been treated , but also know that many Egyptians are treated same way & worse in their own country , we are all victims of this corrupt system & atrocious behavior ,

Hope your kids feel better by now , & I also hope you get back to your country as soon as possible.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Laila,

Thank you for reflecting the very essence of being Palestinian. You used your gift of writing to bring this sad story to the world. I hope your kids are feeling better and I pray for you and for all of us who have families locked up in Gaza to one day be allowed to return and be reunited with our loved ones.


10:18 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Salam Laila,

I hope you and the kids are doing much better now. It is very sad seeing this come from a country which is meant to stand by us, not against us.. but it certainly isn't a surprise.

1:10 AM  
Blogger anonymous said...

Your feat is so admirable, not many people would be so willing and determined to go through what you did in this journey, and especially with the company of 2 little kids knowing what you and they might endure and when you could be elsewhere in the world. but hey, they are palestinian kids, palestinian kids are never like other kids in the world.
Those Egyptian figures in the authority or who ever they are are so callous and despicable, unworthy of being labeled humans, I see no difference between them and those israeli soldiers at checkpoints/crossings.

1:55 AM  
Blogger Asproulla said...

Dear Laila,
I, a mother in Cyprus, have been following your blog for a while, admiring your strength and spirit, and hoping that you will be able to enjoy your home and your family in peace. I was so sad to read of your experience -- I cannot imagine enduring something like that, especially with small ones.
Insh'Allah better days are coming. My thoughts are with you.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Nou said...

Salam aaleikum,

I just discovered this blog through twitter and I'm stunned by what I just read.
I don't know much about the procedures (and they apparently change every day) but I sincerely hope you'll find a way back quickly...
It is a shame even Arab countries act like this towards Palestinians

Take care
Keep the faith

11:46 AM  
Blogger Roger said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

Thanks for posting this. I wish the whole world could read it. Perhaps then there would be the political will to allow the Palestinians to go home. It reminds me of all those years Nelson Mandela spent in prison in South Africa, when he never gave up hope of freedom for black South Africans. That situation too seemed hopeless.

7:48 PM  
Blogger zooms said...

there is an award for you at my blog, you may find it inappropriate given your current situation, but it also may serve, in a very small way, to advance the readership of your blog, and your plight, that I care passionately about.
Also, I don't think that you have had any 'fun' for a very long time and I wish that for you and all Palestinians. So , in that spirit, I do hope that you are not offended and can accept this small award, in the spirit with which it was given.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you, Sister Laila, for your courage. I traveled alone in India when my daughter was 3 and I know how difficult it can be to travel with young children. Palestine will be free.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

One cost of eternal refugee status and continuous struggle is what you went through. Too bad Egypt has no desire to govern Gaza.

9:06 AM  
Blogger blackgirl on mars said...

I had to recently come up with ten blogs of excellence, and yours, of course, came to mind. I hope you find the time to come and pick up this award and that it might benefit you and your cause.
Know that you are supported!
Warm Regards,
the lab

11:06 AM  
Blogger Amira said...

This is frustrating it is not the first experience I read or hear about...I do not think it will ever change.

I know a 'sorry' will not make a difference to you or allow you to visit your home - Gaza. But I'm writing to as an Egyptian we are living in a police state. A state that does not even respect the rights of its own citizens - let alone others (well it depends which other you have come from). At the Cairo Airport - in my own country - a French women was given the 'red carpet' treatment while I was 'picked on'. I protest, saying 'how I can be treated this way in my own country?' The response I get is 'to calm down and not to make problems to visitors'.

Anyhow, thank you for sharing your story.


Egypt is

2:48 PM  
Blogger mink said...

In solidarity: full of admiration of your persistence and sumoud, and full of outrage for the callous and revolting manner you were treated. For myself, two minor brushes with British border officials were enough for me to hate borders forever... but these took 10 minutes, not 35 hours, and I was not trying to go home.
Courage, shiddi heylek

1:04 PM  
Blogger Dragonfly said...

Bravo Laila!

You remind me in many ways of Aung San Suu Kyi and Mandela.

Neither of you allow personal suffering to deter you from attracting attention to the injustices against your family, your faith and that of all people in your country.

The very fact that you are considered a 'security risk' and blocked from entering Gaza tells us that they are afraid of the truths you expose. This isn't a little fear, this is a big fear. They don't want you entering Gaza to expose even more truths - their lies they want kept hidden! Because of their own fear of you they want to bully you, punish you even more in the hope of silencing you.

What fools! Had they not given you reason to speak out in the first place they would not be in this predicament. And now they only give you MORE reason to speak MORE LOUDLY! Your audience grows, public opinion against them escalates. How foolish are they? You see, Laila, you are transparently honest, humble warm hearted and just a wife and a mum. This is why you are such a huge threat to them. The best kind of journalism is who you are and what you stand for. You're not anything they can discredit.

Favorable global public opinion is something Israel wants to buy with propaganda and lies and the delicate threads left over of a fabric woven of sympathy from the holocaust, but it knows that it's losing that battle - thanks to you and the internet as a means of spreading the real truth - the Palestinian perspective. Perhaps Israel should consider fair dealings and peace with Palestine to silence the voices, STILL growing, from all over the globe. Every daily injustice they perpetrate on Palestinians is a bullet that ricochets and hits them right back where it hurts! And Egypt is standing right there beside them sharing their shame.

You are the voice for all those in Gaza, and exiled from Gaza - as you are. And your voice must be very loud indeed. Congratulations! Israel has awarded you with an achievement of being a security risk. And we all know why. Israel, once again is shooting itself in the foot by it's own actions.

Wear your achievement badge proudly Laila. Your achievement is their shame.

It is no consolation for what you, your children, your husband, your family and your people endure - but it is a mark of achievement - you can know that what you are saying is being heard and those in the highest places fear your honesty.

8:28 AM  
Blogger nina said...

Dear laila,
I've been away from internet connection for more than 2 weeks, since we're moving to another island.I have 4 and 2 yo boys who got sick because of the hectic process. But that's nothing at all compare to Yousuf and Noor's experience. I hope they'll get well soon. I hope they'll remember their courage as clear as they'll remember their mom's.

Stay strong, sis.
Love from Indonesia

6:20 AM  
Blogger أبو سنان said...

It reminds of the Marcel Khalife song "The Border".

I hope things get better for you.

10:17 PM  
Blogger Shumila said...

When I was a kid my parents took me and my family to Egypt because I wanted to see the pyramids. We were made to wait at the airport for days before being allowed in because we happened to have Pakistani passports. I still remember the stink of the airport washrooms, those steel chairs, and the airport officials who blatantly disrespected my father. But now I see that no matter how badly we were treated for our race, you have it much much worse. I am sorry you and your innocent children had to go through this. If I believed in God I would pray for justice for the Palestinian people. But I don't and I can only hope for change.

9:03 AM  

hi, i came across your blog accidentaly. i am jewish, and a supporter of israeli and palestinian people. I am an orthodox jew, and my heart trully goes out to you for your horrible experieces. i will save this blog, and look forward to many more of your life experiences. hopefully none bad. good luck

6:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess what, you are a journalist up to cause trouble. I've read your blogs and guess what, I'll bet they did too.

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my GOD! I am so furious and so tearful at your experience! Allah Yil3an heik naas! and well done for sticking to your guns for so long, I cant think of anything else you could have done, am impressed at how you argued with the officials.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wow layla. What an experience. I can only imagine what it is like doing it while carrying one child, dragging another one, and holding on to their belongings. May Allah bring justice to you all soon.

7:09 AM  

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