Tunisian authorities refused to grant Palestinian bloggers visas to attend the Third Arab bloggers meeting taking place in Tunis from the 3-6 October, 2011.
The meeting is an attraction to Arab bloggers and activists, and an opportunity for them to exchange expertise and learn from each other. The event is co-hosted by Global Voices, Nawaat and Heinrich Böll Foundation and is attended by around 100 bloggers from nearly all Arab countries.
The decision to block Palestinian bloggers from attending the event came as a shock to Arab bloggers, and no one would have really expected such a move to come from a country, that sparked the so called Arab Spring, and led the calls for freedom across the region.
On October 2, Palestinian blogger Saleh Dawabsheh, who lives in Ramallah tweeted [ar]:
On Monday, October 3, the day when the Arab Bloggers Meeting was launched, Palestinian bloggers tried one more time to get their visas, but once again they were denied entry to Tunisia.
Saleh Dawabsheh tweeted [ar] on October 3:
Tunisian blogger @tounsiahourra decided to boycott the meeting in solidarity with the Palestinian bloggers.
She tweeted on October 2 [ar]:
She adds in another tweet [ar]:
وأسخر كثيرا من النظام في تونس يتشدق باعترافه بعضوية فلسطين في الامم المتحدة وبنفس الوقت يرفض دخول مدونين فلسطينين يحاربون الاحتلال الى تونس
#AB11 stand in solidarity
Bloggers and activists taking part in the meeting didn't forget their Palestinian counterparts.
During the second day of the meeting, Syrian activist and blogger Razan Ghazzawi (@RedRazan) was walking around with a banner on her back saying:” OK, Pals denied entry. Let's not just tweet about it.”
Moroccan blogger Hisham Almiraat tweets:
A lot of soul-searching this morning at Arab Bloggers Meeting in Tunis (#ab11) since we learned our Palestinian colleagues were denied visas
A statement condemning the action of the Tunisian Embassy in Ramallah and demanding an explanation, was issued by the organizers of the AB11.
The Heinrich Boell Foundation, Global Voices Online and Nawaat Association strongly condemn the decision by the Tunisian Embassy in Ramallah to deny 11 Palestinian bloggers and journalists visas to enter Tunisia in order to attend the Third Arab Bloggers Meeting from October 3rd until 6th 2011. […]We demand an explanation from the Tunisian Interior Ministry and seek clarification as to why Palestinian participants’ were denied.
The organisers of and participants in the third Arab Bloggers meeting scheduled a Skype conversation with the Palestinian bloggers denied entry to Tunisia on Tuesday afternoon.
@RedRazan: Right now Skype session with the Palestinian bloggers who were denied visa by Tunisian embassies in Ramalla and Cairo. #AB11
Palestinian bloggers react
Palestinian bloggers wrote on their blogs about what happened to let the whole world know. Abir Kopty shared on her blog a post called “An insult to Arab Spring: Palestinian bloggers denied visa”. She says:
I wonder: do not Palestinians also have the experience to share and the right to learn? Are Palestinians part of the Arab world or not? Do not they have enough of Israeli siege and movement restrictions so they will have further restrictions imposed by Arab regimes?
[…]The reason that has been given by Tunisian Ministry of Interior for the denial of visa to Palestinian bloggers is that Organization ‘Nawaat’ who invited them and conference itself are not licensed. So we wonder how come all the other Arab participants received visa to unlicensed event?
For me, Arab spring is not only about changing the regime; it’s also about changing the practices of the regimes, who worked hard to separate us, because Arab solidarity and unity are a threat to their stability. It is also about having the power to fight any injustice.
Rasha, a Palestinian blogger who was also supposed to take part at the meeting, writes [ar]:
بيتي في عكّا، أتابع أحداث أيام مؤتمر “المدونون العرب” الثالث في تونس[…] أتابع الأحداث “أون لاين” من خلال موقع “التوتير”.. أمر عاديّ تماماً، لكن هذه المرة، دون المرات السابقة توقعت أن أكون شريكة فيه ومع أصدقائي المدونين العرب هُناك.
An online campaign “to demand an explanation from the Tunisian Ministry of Interior” was launched. A Facebook Page called Tunisian Ministry of Interior rejected the Palestinian bloggers’ VISAs, and event called Petition: Why were Palestinian bloggers’ prevented from accessing Tunisia were created. On Twitter, the hash tag #Visarejected is being constantly updated to spread the word about what had happened.