Saturday, 20 February 2010

A One-Man Campaign

It doesn't often happen that we get to report success stories, but this week Ayman Quader "made it". Ayman, a 23-year-old student from the Gaza Strip, overcame numerous obstacles to reach his goal. After working tirelessly and contacting anyone who would listen to his story, he received his longed-for transit permit from Israel in order to exit the Gaza Strip and travel to University of Jaume in Spain, to pursue a graduate degree in Peace, Conflict & Development Studies (how appropriate!).

On November 3, 2009, Ayman received his acceptance letter from the university, and from that moment he began his journey on an obstacle course to receive the necessary transit permit from Israel to leave Gaza. First up, the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee refused to forward his application to the Israeli District Coordination Office (DCO), noting that the DCO does not accept applications from students, but Ayman did not give up. His next step was to contact Gisha who appealed to the Spanish Embassy. This was necessary because Israel makes a transit permit conditional on an official request from the student’s destination country and requires its diplomats to escort the student from the Erez border crossing between Israel and Gaza to the Allenby Bridge border crossing between Israel and Jordan – an awkward arrangement that overburdens diplomats and restricts students.

Ayman, who knew the fate of most others who had submitted similar applications, simultaneously launched a media “campaign", which started on his blog, continued on the Facebook group he created, and reached a peak with his starring role in countless articles in the local and Spanish press. His efforts ultimately bore fruit, and Ayman, who has meanwhile become a media star in Spain, received his transit permit from Israel to travel to Spain. Ayman's story has a happy ending, but there are still close to 600 young people waiting in Gaza for exit permits to travel abroad to study. Ayman, finish your degree in conflict resolution and come back quickly! Your talents are sorely needed.

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