Dreams were made and crushed at the Rafah Border crossing, between Egypt and Gaza, Palestine, which has been bolted shut by the Egyptian authorities following the ouster of former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi. As a result of the closure, Palestinian students cannot travel abroad to their universities outside Gaza, and remain stranded at the Rafah crossing, which is the main crossing for 1.7 million Palestinians of the Gaza Strip due to the Israeli blockade.
The Rafah crossing was opened on Wednesday and Thursday [18-19 September, 2013] for a brief period of time. On Wednesday, 333 passengers crossed; another 557 passengers entered Egypt through the crossing on Thursday. Overall, there were 1200 passengers waiting for a passage on those two days, according to the official page for news of the Rafah crossing, with hundreds of Palestinian students still waiting for permission to cross.
On Wednesday (September 18), a group of Palestinan students held a sit-in, demanding to open the crossing so that they can attend their missed lectures and exams. Many are still stranded at the border.
Among them is Shahd Abu Salamah, who blogs her ordeal. Abu Salamah, who studies in Turkey, tweets:
Dear #RafahBorder crossing, you've left me out of energy to do anything, out of relief, always anxious, sleepless. Set me free! Let me out.
— ShahdAbusalama (@ShahdAbusalama) September 29, 2013
On her blog, she explains:
I have tried many times to write about my experience at the closed Rafah border crossing with Egypt that has left thousands of people in Gaza stranded. Every time I start, a deep sigh comes over me. Shortly after I feel paralyzed, and finish by tearing apart my draft. I have never found it this difficult to write about a personal experience. No words can capture all the suffering and pain our people in Gaza deal with collectively under this suffocating, inhumane Israeli-Egyptian siege.
As I write, I am supposed to be somewhere in the sky, among the clouds, flying to Istanbul to begin my graduate studies. But I could not catch my flight, as I am still trapped in the besieged Gaza Strip, sitting in darkness during the power cuts caused by fuel crisis, trying to squeeze out my thoughts during what is left of my laptop’s charge.
She ends her post saying:
This experience made me believe that human dignity has become a joke. International law is nothing but empty, powerless words printed in books. We are denied our right to freedom of movement, our right to pursue our education, our right to good medical care, and our right to be free or to live in peace and security. But no one in power bothers to act.
Our people’s tragedy caused by the ongoing closure of Rafah border continues, and the crisis is deepening. Living in Gaza under these circumstances is like being sentenced to a slow death. Act and set us free. It is time for these injustices we face on a daily basis to end.
Malaka Mohammed is a graduate in English literature from the Islamic University of Gaza. She is now studying for a master’s degree in international politics and law at the University of Sheffield in Britain. She shares her story on Electronic Intifada saying:
“After ten hours of protest and anticipation, the room of more than 1,800 passengers was brought to a standstill with an anti-climatic announcement made by one of the police officers: “You have to leave; we have finished our work for today. Come tomorrow and maybe you will be able to travel.””
Obaida Aainaldain, another student from Gaza wants to travel to study in Turkey, but he couldn't. He blogs his story [ar]:
ظللنا ننتظر الساعة تلو الاخرى، بلا فائدة، حتى إنتهى دوام الموظفين دون فائدة تذكر للطلاب سوى تسجيل أسمائهم بطريقة فوضوية مزعجة.
في سياق اخر وجدنا كثيرًا من الحالات الإنسانية العالقة، شخص كبير يبكي بكاءًا حارًا لأن مديره في العمل هدده بالطرد إن لم يصل خلال اسبوع، والآخر طالب طب يندب حظه لأنه تأخر عن إمتحانه المؤجل وعليه أن يعيد السنة كاملة
We have been waiting for time and again, without any use, until the employees completed their shift without any benefit for the students, except that they had asked us to register our names in an annoying chaotic way.
In another context, we found a lot of humanitarian cases, an old man crying because his manager threatened him with expulsion if he didn't arrive at work during a week.
And the other is a medical student who was lamenting his luck because he couldn't sit his delayed exam and now has to repeat the whole year.
Activists launched a petition on Avaaz to demand the opening of the border. The petition secured about 6,000 signatures in its first three days.
After Morsi's ousting, the crossing was closed more than three times. And while the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza is partially open for a few hours, the Taba crossing between Egypt and Israel is always open. So, Gaza remains under a doubled siege by Israel and Egypt, and Gazans remain trapped inside and out. The students are still trapped!