Want to help a student who has worked hard both academically and in his community? Someone who has gone through the madness of applying and being accepted at a university in the United States even earning a partial scholarship? (Not an easy task.) Want to help someone that has already had to miss fall semester and is in danger of missing spring semester and losing his scholarship?
Abed Al Hadi Basheer is 24 years old and trying to better himself so he can continue to help children in his community and better care for his blind father and family. He has been accepted into Washington State University’s College of Education Cultural Studies and Social Thought program in Pullman, WA with a partial scholarship and has received letters of support from professors who live in Pullman that met Abed when they travelled to the Gaza Strip on a Fulbright-Hays project. He also has letters on his behalf from both Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington state.
What is wrong with him? Or, what has he done wrong? Nothing. Well, he was born in the Gaza Strip.
Abed has jumped over every hurdle, leapt through every hoop, crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’. Yet, when he went for his visa interview at the U.S. consulate in east Jerusalem, those who interviewed him wanted more evidence – documentation or some kind of proof – that he would return to the Gaza Strip once receiving his degree. Abed returned to Gaza and gathered additional documentation showing he is serious about his studies and his commitment to return to help the youth in this community, but also that his father is blind and that he, as the eldest son, has the responsibility to return and care for his family.
The U.S. consulate in Jerusalem has told Amnesty that it won’t help Abed return for his second interview because ‘they already helped him’ reach his first interview and don’t have the resources to help again. Without outside intervention, there is little hope for him to reach his next interview.
Abed’s case is only one of many. His case represents scores of other students (even those accepted to programs in the West Bank which is considered part of the same Palestinian territorial entity) who also face the same difficulties. It also representative thousands who cannot exit Gaza even though they have life threatening medical conditions that cannot be treated there, dying relatives to see before they die, weddings to attend (sometimes their own) … but remain trapped and at the mercy of others. The blockade itself must be lifted and this policy changed , but until then … Abed needs immediate help.
Israel’s refusal to grant Abed an exit permit is part of the blockade’s ‘collective punishment’ of everyone in the Gaza Strip and infringes on his freedom of movement and his right to an education as outlined under international law. We know the U.S. consulate has successfully intervened in the past to help facilitate the exit permit of individuals and it is ingenuous for the U.S. consulate to require more documentation then refuse to help him return to show those documents.
Also, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just told the American Taskforce on Palestine that when she speaks to Palestinian “young people”,
“… they are focused on tomorrow. And they deserve that tomorrow – a tomorrow filled with opportunities for them to make their own destinies and to help their own people realize that collective aspiration,”
yet it is Secretary Clinton’s own consulate that is refusing to help Abed, and so many others like him, even reach the consulate for visa interviews which will allow them to do this very thing.
Take action to help Abed and other students from Gaza:
- Call and email Secretary Clinton’s office at the State Department and tell her that she has the opportunity to put her words into action. The U.S. consulate has given Abed another visa interview on November 8th, but again, no way to get there. She can help Abed immediately by telling the consulate to help facilitate his exit permit and make sure he reaches his next visa interview on Nov. 8th at the consulate. Then tell her, she can also help other students who have been accepted at educational institutions in the United States be able to reach their visa interviews by implementing a policy of helping all students from Gaza, barring any legitimate security concerns, reach their visa interviews, no matter what it takes. Call (202) 647-4000 or email her office via the website.
- Call Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at (202) 647-2126 and email him (via his Special Assistant) at firstname.lastname@example.org to urge him to put Sec’y Clinton’s words into actionable policy. The State Dept. via the consulate in Jerusalem must help all students who have been accepted at U.S. educational institutions reach their interviews at the U.S. consulate. Please call and copy (cc:) the Near East Affairs Israel/Palestine Desk at (202)647-3672 and email@example.com as well.
- Send an email to the State Department’s Consular Affairs to voice your opinion on the current policy of only helping some students and then only once at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy (cc:) the U.S. consulate visa department in east Jerusalem at email@example.com.
This blog will have updates, but for those interested in following this case closer, join the ‘Free voice from Gaza: Help Abed AlHadi Basheer’ FaceBook group. Click here to follow the issue of freedom of movement for students, or here for the website for the Israeli organization Gisha, Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. Or, join Gisha’s FaceBook page.