Boycott israHell!

Boycott israHell!
Бойкот на израел и печелещите от окупацията! Boycott israHell and those who profit from occupation!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Identity Crisis

Posted on July, 2011 by Marivel Guzman 
Article by Ahmad Hamad Palestinian Photographer

Ahmad Hammad Photography
Home is home wherever it is. After a year of being in the US, I decided to go spend a month with family and friends in the Gaza Strip.
I knew traveling would be a hard time at some point because I have a Palestinian passport.
I thought of how hard it was for me when I left Gaza in June 2010, but hoped it would be a better experience after hearing in the news that the Egyptian government decided to open the Rafah borders permanently, and put more effort
in facilitating travel for Palestinians in Gaza after the revolution in Egypt.
I found out that I had to apply for 72 hours visa, so I sent my passport to the Egyptian consulate in Chicago, so I can spend at least the 3 days in Cairo with friends and relatives whom I haven’t seen in 4 years.

Photos and Story Credits of Ahmad Hamad

Safely arrived in Cairo international airport on Wednesday, May 25th at 12:00 pm full of excitement and hope to get in after a long trip. I stayed in the line at the arrival hall for a while waiting for the people in front of me to check in. Those people where either Egyptian passport holders or international s such as Americans or Europeans. All of them were easily and respectfully treated. I was hoping that I’ll get the same treatment remembering that we all are humans.
“Show me your passport,” said the Egyptian officer who was setting behind that window. As soon as he saw that it was a Palestinian passport his face has completely changed and he was not the same respectful and helpful guy anymore.
He asked me to step back and wait until he calls me again, so I went ahead and told him that I have a visa for Egypt. His first response was no wait there and you’ll go through the TARHEEL process.
Tarheel is an Arabic word, and I think the best word to describe it in English would be deportation or expulsion. It’s a process where they keep Palestinians from Gaza who travel either at the Rafah borders when they’re leaving Gaza until a bus come and take them to the airport to wait there until it’s time for their flights, or at the airport in a hall until the bus comes and take them to the borders for those who come from other countries wanting to go to Gaza.  They never let them get into Egypt unless they had other international passports, and it could take several days when the borders are closed which happens most of the time.
I haven’t got my luggage yet because I had to wait for them to let me go get it. Finally after 75 minutes he called my name, and said we can’t let you in, you’ll be in building number 3 which is the Tarheel hall until Thursday
morning, the bus will come and take you to the borders. I had an American Permanent Resident Card, but I didn’t show it because I wanted to be treated for who I am, it’s so unfair. So when I found out that my Palestinian passport and the visa to Egypt won’t help, I told him that I have a Green Card hoping it would help. “No you can’t get in. You need to have an American passport so we can let you in, the visa and the Green Card you have do not change the fact that you’re from Gaza, and you’ll have to stay in that hall until tomorrow morning,” he said angrily.
Another guy went with me to get my luggage, and we couldn’t find it because everyone had already took their
luggage, and I spent another hour looking for it until they found it in one of the rooms. They took me to that
hall. It smelled so bad, the bathrooms were so dirty and seemed like they haven’t cleaned them in a long time. What’s strange is that the whole airport is clean and descent, but somehow this hall where they keep Palestinians is the most disgusting.
So it’s not only why we’re here Palestinians, but also why treated like that. It could be a clean hall with some sort of human basic needs and supplies.
Some chairs and tables, no beds, very dirty blankets, trash everywhere on the floor, urine smell, very disgusting bathrooms, and no hygiene at all. Everything is more expensive than it should be. An example is that I wanted to buy a phone card so I can call people, it’s obvious that the card was 10 Egyptian pounds, but they sold it to me for 15 pounds, and so is food, drinks and cigarettes.
Apparently I wasn’t the only Palestinian in that hall. Other Palestinian passport holders were in the same situation and they had to spend the day and the night until the morning. There were old women and men, kids and
adults; males and females.
One of the saddest stories that night was these elderly married couple and their son who had a medical condition. They live in the United Arab Emirates, and they wanted to go to Gaza where they’re originally from, and where their relatives are. They haven’t been able to visit in 25 years because they were Palestinian refugees, and they didn't have a Palestinian ID on them.
They only had an Egyptian paper which proves that they are Palestinians. They were hoping that they’ll let them get on the bus and go to Gaza in the morning with everyone after spending the night in that uncomfortable hall. The son got really sick and he wanted a doctor to come and look after him, but it took them forever to have a doctor come.
The sad mother was watching her son suffering all night feeling helpless because his condition was serious and there was nothing that she could do beside holding him, crying, praying and complaining to God.
After all in the morning the doctor came and they decided to send them back to the UAE. It was so sad and pathetic, the father started screaming, crying, and bagging them to let them go home. “It’s our homeland, we were born
there, our relatives and families are there. Why can’t we go?” said the father sadly with tears. It didn’t change their decision or even change their way of treating them, and they closed the door on us.
20 hours in the Tarheel hall from Wednesday 12:00 pm until Thursday 8:00 am when the bus came and they took us to Rafah borders, they seemed like 20 years. No one could sleep, and we spent the whole time talking and sharing
our experiences, thoughts, and the pain we had to face in our lives just because we are Palestinians. Never felt humiliated the way I felt this night, it’s so sad and hurtful especially that those people who were treating us this
way were the remains of the old dictator Egyptian government.
I arrived home at 6:30 pm, so it took me more than 50 hours to get there, when it could have been so much less time, and so much easier.
I had a different hard experience at Eretz check point at the borders between Gaza and what they call Israel, when I was going once to Jerusalem on a work trip with ACTED, the French agency I worked for in Gaza in 2009/2010, it was so hard and very humiliating, but it was expected since they were Israeli soldiers. I mean they’ve been torturing us for more than 60 years, so we don’t expect good things.
The question is, why and until when we Palestinians will have to deal with such things. Traveling is one of many other things that we’re suffering from.
I took these photos secretly in the morning after they gave me back my camera, and I wanted to write about my personal experience.
Ahmad Hammad is one of the thousands mistreated in Egyptian Airport and hold in Cell No 3 or Building No 3.

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