“It’s the rejections day!” said the woman sitting in front of me in a cab. She was on the phone.
Some minutes later I discovered that she was preparing herself and other family members to travel through the Erez Crossing, and her permit was rejected.
“Did you know why was it rejected?” she asked the person on the other side of the phone call.
The same question is asked by thousands Gazans who dare to apply for a travel permit through the Erez Crossing.
Gaza Strip has been under siege for 10 years, and according to modern history specialists, political analysts, and humanitarians, this is considered the longest siege in modern history.
To live in a blockade means you live in “the world’s biggest prison,” where traveling is considered a privilege rarely granted — even to the most wealthy.
Gaza has two crossing borders: The Rafah border which is directed by the Egyptian side and the Erez border directed by the Israeli side. Every border has its own struggle.
For example, Rafah rarely opens, and there are priorities for those who want to travel. If you do get the opportunity, you have to pay a large amount of money to get out through it. Many sick people who need to go to hospitals on the other side of these borders have died waiting for entry.
Others have lost their scholarships, and many have lost their residency and visas due to expiration dates that could not be filled because they were denied entry.
If you attempt to cross the border, you can expect to find hundreds of Palestinians waiting in line. The Rafah boarder into Egypt allows only three to four buses to enter.
Meanwhile, it’s a bit trickier to get through Erez. The Israeli government makes you wait a lengthy period after you apply for a visa just to go into the West Bank. From there, you can go to Jordan through the Palestinian bridge if you have to fly out through the Jordanian airport.
But this is all in vain if your visa process happens to get into the hands of an official who has had a bad day. Even with a squeaky clean record with no security threats coming up after your long family name, you can still be denied for no reason.
And this is what exactly happening with Doaa, Jan, and Ghadeer, three young leading women in the field of technology from Gaza. Their mission was to attend the TechWomen Program on Sept. 9, 2016, in San Francisco, Calif.
“Imagine that you couldn’t attend this innovative program, TechWomen, due to movement restrictions. And there is nothing you can do about it,” Doaa Ghandoor said, a 28-year-old computer systems engineer, during an online video interview she participated in with her two partners of the program from Gaza.
Ghandoor has launched her startup project, which is a set of electronic games aimed at teaching Arabic speaking children living in diaspora about games programming and development — and she has been denied exit from Gaza to attend her important conference.
TechWomen is a program that empowers, connects, and supports leading women in the field of technology from Africa, Eastern Asia, and the Middle East who are working in science, engineering, and technology fields. This year’s program round of application was extremely competitive; about 5,000 applicants from 22 countries applied, and Palestine was able to reserve five seats for the 2016 program — three from Gaza and two from the West Bank.
Although Ghandoor has never traveled before, she was able to connect with many generous people from all over the world who have promised to help her endeavors.
“We have applied twice for a permit to leave Gaza. We don’t want to lose our right to participate in a such great program,” Ghadeer Abu Sha’ban, who is an IT and Software Developer, said. Abu Sah’ban was to aid in mentoring a global company in the Silicon Valley in the field of web development and mobile apps for the program.
The three women were supposed to be traveling to Jerusalem this month to get the U.S. visas. Unfortunately, they have received emails from the U.S. Consulate informing them that their permits were denied twice by the Israeli authorities, stating they were a threat and were not to attend the program.
“Our participation in the program will bring us up as well as women in our society, more improvement, and tolerance; hence, it would contribute to peace and coexistence,” Jan Krayyem, a specialist in human genetics, said. She will be hosted by a leading company in biotechnology called Genetic, and will focus on cancer genetics and nutrigenomics research.
They said that they made this video wishing to reach to anyone that would be able to offer their help in order to get their visas. Their main goal is to exercise their right to participate amongst other leading women in their industry.
Like all Gazans, we are struggling for the basics of our human rights: The right to travel and free movement in order to make a better world for ourselves and the future generation.
People around the world can easily travel for pleasure, while we here in Gaza continue to struggle — for education, for better living conditions, and for the right to self-improvement.