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When dreams are arrested: Students stuck in Gaza at the Rafah crossing

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The Rafah border crossing. (Image via

The Rafah border crossing. (Image via

I was supposed to be in Egypt on Sunday October 27 to start my trip to Doha along with a distinctive group of Palestinian students. We were planning to attend the WISE conference. We spent three months preparing for it to speak on behalf of educated students in the Gaza Strip. (WISE is an annual conference organized by the Qatar Foundation in Doha and it refers to “world innovation summit for education.)

We dreamed of unforgettable days. My passport, with its very distinguished sentence– “valid for all countries”– written inside it was kept under my pillow for days. I was thinking of myself everyday looking prettier and more glorious and confident when holding my country and people’s message. I thought that this event will make my year. I once saw myself at the airport then in the plane flying between clouds. I might be exaggerating, but honestly this is the logic of a girl who has her dreams hovering over the world yet restrained by borders.

I was expecting a lot to happen as I live in Gaza, the city where disappointments always pop up from everywhere, bringing out the fact that our passport is not valid to any country. The unacceptable fact was that not one of us was able to get out of Rafah crossing. This is the message we have received:

“Due to the critical security situation in Egypt that keeps deteriorating, I regret to tell you that the Trip to WISE Conference has been cancelled.”

For those who do not know a lot about Gaza, the only two ways to leave to the other side of the world are Erez checkpoint and Rafah crossing. The first one is totally controlled by the Israeli occupation who decide who can enter or leave. The other one is controlled by Egypt, where no one can pass but students who are at risk of losing their studies or people who are on critical health condition.

The situation in Rafah crossing is worsening due to lots of restrictions; if someone wants to leave Gaza, there are two main risks he has to consider: the dangerous situation in Egypt and the way back to Gaza. I do not know why the Palestinians always have to be punished. Don’t we deserve to live, move, have our human rights like any person in the world?

Monday at 01:55 was supposed to be the time of our departure on the plane. It took off but we didn’t. I wished to tell people in Doha to put Legion of Honor on our seats, for we should have been there, if the world did not have this attitude.

After feeling sorry for missing the WISE conference, I am now a bit better as we have had a chance to attend by video conference. We felt happy to participate in some of the WISE sessions, even though it was not a physical attendance. In reality, sending our message from Gaza was the most important for us!

Speakers mentioned our empty seats and appreciated our struggle to attend. Our absence has made sense. We sent the message of our Palestinian people that we do not know to give up. We only know the meaning of life that we should live in all its meaning.

Esraa Yaseen
About Esraa Yaseen

Esraa Yaseen is a 22-year-old studying computer engineering at the Islamic University of Gaza.

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5 Responses

  1. bintbiba
    November 5, 2013, 11:15 am

    Beautifully written, Ya Esraa !
    Keep strong…. and keep writing.
    Sending you love from the other side of the world.

  2. Ludwig
    November 5, 2013, 12:52 pm

    Time to boycott Egypt.

  3. Walid
    November 5, 2013, 1:54 pm

    Easy to understand: Israel’s horrible mistreatment of a weaker people. It’s the Zionist mentality.
    Hard to accept: Egypt’s cooperation on Israel’s inhuman siege; Qatar’s commercial ties with Israel while sending futile invitations to Gaza students that break their hearts.

    • piotr
      November 6, 2013, 7:59 am

      If Egyptian rulers can shoot thousands of their “own people”, what is strange in participation in the inhuman blockade? Right now Muslim Brothers are tried for murder and incitement of murder because of defending themself in their own building in an attack when 8 of THEM were killed. It is a murderous cleptocratic junta, but according to SoS Kerry, “on the right track to democracy”.

      Boycott of Egypt is a good idea, starting from deleting it from the list of vacation destinations.

  4. Liz18
    November 5, 2013, 2:06 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this, Esraa. Please know that there are Jews who support you and agree with your frustration. It is not fair. Your writing is beautiful and strong; I hope you will keep writing as a way to express such frustration.

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