Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Passports for all in Gaza?" -- Mohammed Omer


Shawan Jabareen, director of the al-Haq human rights center in Ramallah, said: "Continuing to prevent the issuance of passports to Gaza residents means a disclaimer of the Interior Ministry and the General Intelligence in Ramallah from their promises to solve this problem."

On June 8, President Mahmoud Abbas awarded former Norwegian Prime Minister Kare Willoch an honorary Palestinian passport, during a visit to the presidential headquarters in Ramallah. The passport was given to Willoch "for his longstanding commitment to the Palestinian cause", said the office of President Abbas.

This attracted the attention of Gazan media. Majeda al Zebda, columnist for the Felesteen Daily, questioned the award. "Gaza citizens are in dire need of a Palestinian passport, more than a Norwegian," wrote al Zebda. "The Norwegian who got this passport will put it in a gift cupboard for many years, while a Palestinian would use it for medicine or education."

Zabda hopes that President Abbas "will award some of these passports to his own nationals who are on the edge of dying." The columnist then referred to a 30-year-old neighbour denied medical treatment for a brain tumour, despite having all other necessary documentation. He cannot cross the border due to not having a passport.

Passports for all

At the demonstration, one of the protesters held a banner that read: "A passport means a cure, pilgrimage, education, Umrah."

Other protesters chanted for the right to their national passports with a banner reading: "Enough of factionalism, we are all Palestinians," and "President Abu Mazen, passports for all".

Osama Abu Askar, a 37-year-old from Jabalia refugee camp is wheel-chair bound and has been denied a Palestinian passport. In 2004, he was injured during an Israeli bombing, but managed to travel abroad for medical treatment. Upon his return in 2008, he applied for a renewal of his Palestinian passport through a travel agency in Gaza. He was denied, due to "security reasons", he says.

Abu Askar used to work as a tailor before he was injured, and he was promised $90,000 US in funding, in order to have prosthetic limbs fitted in Germany: "But without a valid passport to travel there, my funding was revoked. Who is responsible for this?"

He still has follow up treatments for injuries sustained to his abdomen and kidney. Abu Askar says he has no political affiliations and has no idea why he is denied the dream of being able to walk again, even on artificial legs.

For many protesters, the PA agreement to release 141 names from the banned list, and grant them passports is undeserving of "public opinion". As one protester says: "Those people, who it was agreed to be granted passports, had connections through their networks."

The protesters vowed to continue their protest until all Palestinians get their Palestinian passports issued, though many of them do not know how many more years this will take.

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