It is a beautiful day here in Glasgow, with the trees finally waking up to springtime and the birds chasing each other across the park. As we drank our morning coffee and prepared to share lots of good news (we have been invited to share the OPAC course at two conferences as well as at the upcoming RILA Spring School), this was the view from our window:
We were also very excited because yesterday we heard that our Palestinian colleague Dr Nazmi al-Masri was on his was on his way again. The call had gone out in Gaza: the Rafah border was to be opened again: Nazmi dropped everything (again!), rapidly packed, and went back to the border from which he had only recently been turned back. Surely, we all thought, surely this time he will make it out. He will be able to see Scotland in its May-time beauty, he will join us at the Spring School and come with us to a conference, he will enrich the many events at which he is already booked as a keynote speaker. Our WhatsApp group buzzed with excitement and hope.
But then – unbelievably – he was turned back. Again. He managed to get out of Gaza but not to enter Egypt. And so Nazmi – our colleague, a talented man, an indispensable part of our team – has seen again his journey stopped.
He is not alone in his frustration: many thousands of people in Gaza are trapped in the intolerable situation of having obtained visas (at great cost, both in terms of fees and months spent in bureaucratic wrangling) and yet being blocked at the border. He is not alone in his disappointment: we have spent the day shaking our heads, alternating between disbelief and outrage, getting on with things that need to be done to take the project forward while carrying frustration like a coffee cup we keep on drinking.
What can we do from here, in Scotland, as we wait and wait some more? Writing this blog post feels like a very small act of protest against an international system of borders and politics that treats people as numbers, keeping them in a cage that is their own country, opening the borders arbitrarily only to deny travel at the last minute. We can’t imagine the level of determination that must be maintained, daily and indefinitely, to stay strong in such circumstances. We can only share our disappointment (again!) from a distance, and demonstrate our solidarity by continuing our work and making the OPAC course the best it could possibly be, making language learning a way of reaching across borders.