Shahd is a Palestinian student who has studied in Sheffield. She and her sister Majd came to Sheffield 15 years ago as part of the Al Asria dance troupe.
She writes a blog called Palestine from My Eyes.
Recently she wrote a moving piece on facebook about reuniting with and then separating once again from her parents. A video of this reunion is available on facebook here
The overwhelming feeling is that nothing is within their control. Hers and her family’s story is by no means unusual.
Some of you may know that Majed, Majd, Tamam and I reunited with my parents Halima and Ismail in Berlin early November after 6-7 years of being apart due the inhumane Israel-Egypt blockade on #Gaza. Yesterday, after exciting three months of being together, it was time for them to head home after they exhausted the maximum stay allowed for them in Europe. This picture was the last one we had before we hugged them goodbye and cried as we thought of the precarity surrounding their travel to Gaza, life there, and when next reunion may be. Those fears weren’t irrational.
Their flight landed in Cairo International Airport at 8 pm last night. 4 hours after their arrival, I couldn’t cope with losing touch with them, so I called Cairo Airport’s general inquiries number. A man responded.
“No need to worry,” he said after he learnt that they are Palestinians from Gaza, assuring me that we will hear from them in about 24 hours. “They have been put in a room for a security check.”
“You mean, detained?” I interrupted. “No, Madam. This is a normal protocol. A bus will transfer them in about 24 hours to Rafah border,” he responded. “Don’t tell me protocols. I need to know what happened to my parents. We have a right to know. They have a right to return to Gaza in dignity”
The airport secretary asked me to “calm down” and call again in 2 hours to double check after he had inquired. He was about to hang up but he didnt ask for their names, because he assumed that they’d had the collective fate of any Palestinian from Gaza which this ‘protocol’ dictates. Their names don’t matters for the Egyptian authorities. Their identity does. “Don’t you need their names?” I rushed to say before he hung up, “Write them down please. I will call again, and I hope then to receive a specific answer.” He noted down their names with hesitation. I called after two hours with no answer. My siblings have also been calling from their dispersed locations, without any answer. And still no news from/about my parents.
This security protocol that the secretary man mentioned is a soft term that plays down the oppressive process of isolation, detention and deportation of Palestinians from Gaza upon arrival in Cairo Airport. Why of all the nationalities that land in Cairo Airport, Palestinians from Gaza are singled out to such inhumane treatment? If this happens to anyone else, world governments would be competing over condemning such human rights violation, but when the targeted is Palestinians, silence becomes suddenly deafening.
Imagine landing in an airport somewhere and having your dignity and basic human rights compromised, just because you carry the wrong travel documents. My parents are not criminals. They are simply trying to return home and they deserve to do so in dignity.
We cannot cope with not knowing what happened to my parents between #CairoAirport and #RafahBorderCrossing, or the international silence over the dehumanisation of Palestinians which maintains this cycle of oppression. Shame on Egypt for demonising Palestinians. Shame on international silence.
Thank you everybody for your positive thoughts and prayers for my parents to reach home safely. They just did! It’s been absolutely nerve-wracking to follow their return to Gaza enclave given all the underlying uncertainties. But thankfully, this journey is over! I cannot imagine the warmth they feel right now to be surrounded with my dearest brother Mohammed and their only grandchild Eliya, and dozens of relatives, neighbours and friends. I’m sure this will erase the pain they had on their long and exhausting journey between Cairo and Rafah.
Update Feb 25th:
Shahd wrote to us to give us an update on her family’s position
Now, my family is back to the same circle of waiting in limbo for next reunion to happen, and the mere thought of enduring the pains of separation again is traumatic. Like thousands of other dispersed Palestinian families within Palestine and worldwide, we hope for a day we are able to reunite with our beloved ones whenever we like, not when Israeli apartheid (aided by Arab puppets in power) allows. Down with Israeli brutal policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing