The following statement by the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association, which sisters a neighborhood in London and another near Jerusalem, was passed along to us by a friend and contributor, Tom Suarez. –Ed.
June 24, 2013
A Palestinian head teacher leading 12 children on their way to London for a Camden Abu Dis youth exchange funded by Youth in Action was prevented by Israeli guards from crossing the border between the West Bank and Jordan yesterday, Sunday 23rd June. The group of 16 were travelling to join a UK group of the same size for a drama-based exchange during which they would be five days in Devon followed by six days in London.
Held as he turned up at the ‘Israeli bridge’ with the children, Mazen Salahuddin had his passport removed and was not allowed to travel in any direction until the end of the day. Then he was returned his passport but not allowed to cross the border, with no reason given. The accompanying adults and the children (boys and girls, aged between 13 and 15) waited until they feared to miss their flight to London, then rushed to Amman airport but missed the flight by minutes.
“It’s hard to describe the level of our disappointment,” said Nandita Dowson, Director of CADFA in London. “We had a wonderful few days planned for them in Devon. This will now not be possible. We can’t find a way to get the group here till next Sunday, so we are going to have to miss out the days in the countryside and by the sea.
“The London children are so disappointed not to go, so imagine the feelings of the children from Palestine, for whom this is the big adventure of their lives. But we will do our best to get them all here for an excellent few days in London.”
The Camden charity were planning an education conference at Acland Burghley School next Saturday, 29th June to help forward the twinning links between schools in Camden and Abu Dis that have been developing over the past few years. Mazen Salahuddin’s school, Abu Dis Boys’ School, has had a twinning link with Hampstead School in Cricklewood since 2007 and the plan was that he would be one of the speakers. Another planned speaker was the other leader of Sairat Sandouqa, Head of the UNRWA School Abu Dis, who is now waiting with the other children in Amman.
The education conference has now had to be cancelled along with many of the initial activities of the youth exchange. However the plan is still to bring the children and some of the public activities will be rearranged – see www.camdenabudis.net.
“We are shocked and appalled” said Nandita Dowson. “Mr Salahuddin has the right to travel from his country and to return to it safely. And he was the leader of a group of young children. No reason has been given. We will be writing to the Israeli Embassy and taking this up with our representatives to try to ensure that the can travel to the airport, meet up with the group and visit London with them so that this amazing project can go ahead.”
More information from [email protected] and at www.camdenabudis.net.