Shuja’iyah, Mohammad AbudlKarim Al-Qassass’s neighborhood in Gaza
Palestinians leave home looking for basic rights, including security and stability, but face consistent obstacles abroad, including rejection due to their identity. During times of war, Palestinians struggle to find opportunity, while watching the Israel’s violence and oppression from afar. This is the story of only one such Palestinian.
Mohammad is a 27 year old lawyer from the Shuja’ieh neighborhood of Gaza, a neighborhood that suffered a massacre on the dawn of July 20th that left over 70 Palestinians dead. He describes Gaza as a beautiful land of over 1.7 million inhabitants, according to UN figures. Over the years, people of Gaza have become one united family, enduring sanctions, continuous Israeli oppression, and war. To the people of Gaza, every death is a loss of their own and pain beyond words.
Mohammad studied law in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on a scholarship, graduating at the top of his class. He hoped to find opportunities for work to build a life in Gaza after returning home, but found little hope for stability in the crippled economy.
Mohammad left Gaza in the early months of 2014 intending to work in Amman, Jordan. After sitting in Cairo’s airport for a couple of months awaiting his visa for Jordan, he arrived in Amman and spent three months working in a Jordanian law firm without a salary. In early June, Mohammad’s visa expired and the law firm refused to apply for a work visa for him. He was forced to return home to Gaza. He flew to Cairo in order to head on to the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, but it was closed. After spending seven days waiting for Egypt to open the border, he was not able to enter Gaza. Mohammad attempted to cross into Egypt, but Egyptian authorities denied him entry. He was sent back to Amman, the city from which he flew into Cairo, and was denied entry and Jordan would not grant him a visa.
Mohammad was advised to leave Jordan immediately and flew to Dubai intending to enter the UAE. Once again, he was denied entry in the country since he had no visa. After spending 20 days in Dubai’s airport without any money, a personal contact applied for a tourist visa for him through a Dubai company. He was able to leave the airport and remain in the country for only 30 days. Again, he had no money for even the basics and an undetermined future.
Mohammad spent the month of Ramadan living among migrant workers in Ras Al-Khaimmeh. During the past month, Mohammad worked with a contact to apply for a work visa. A Dubai-based trading company offered Mohammad a legal consultant job and applied for his work visa only to be denied. Reasons for the denial: Palestinian citizenship.
A Common Palestinian Story
Mohammad’s story is a tragic story with an unknown ending. A story of a young man trying to find stability and security in his life, yet finding only obstacles in his way due to his Palestinian identity. It is even more heartbreaking during a time of war. He is one example of those forgotten victims of Israeli’s oppression and occupation of Palestine and its people. Palestinians belong to a country that is unrecognized by some in the international community, an occupied land. Often, Palestinians are consistently rejected from one country to another.
Over this past week, I heard Mohammad’s story and quickly shared it with a strong network of friends across Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, mostly Palestinian diaspora. None of us were shocked to hear his story. Everyone was eager to help Mohammad find stability, and worked to raise funds to help support his transition while connecting him with people in the UAE for a job or even just a better place to sleep.
Many forgotten victims, like Mohammad, of Operation Protective Edge are not in Gaza. Mohammad watches from afar as Gaza is destroyed and the streets of his childhood memories are massacred. He watches the ongoing massacre in Gaza by Israeli Forces and is in contact with friends and family in Gaza. As a son of Gaza, Mohammad’s connection to its people and the land he calls home only leaves him with anger, pain and frustration as he continues to hear the atrocities imposed by Israel and the civilian casualties, including children who have never had a chance to live. Mohammad left his home and family earlier this year not knowing that he was not to return home and never see some family members again. Operation Protective Edge took many of his family and friends, including young children.
As Mohammad tries to figure out a future for himself, his frustrations grow by the day: “I just want my rights as a human!” “How can be a lawyer and defend people’s rights if I do not have rights of my own?” Mohammad wonders what his future will look like in a month. He asks what crime has he committed to face this rejection by other countries. He only wants a chance to live.