Swift journeys

Post by Alison Phipps

White-rumped swift, Apus caffer, at Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve

It’s a strange thing, but every time I get a message from our colleague, Nazmi, in Gaza telling me that he’s dropped everything because the border is open, and he has valid visas to join us for our events, I ask myself if Taylor Swift is playing in Glasgow in the coming days.

On his first trip over to work with us after the aggression against Gaza of 2014, during which, according to UN reports 1,523 civilian – including 519 children – were killed, I received a text message from Nazmi to the effect that he was in the Sinai desert, and asking if we might book him a flight out of Cairo to London. It was a weekend, but we did. And then I began the trawl for a hotel room. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Taylor Swift was playing Glasgow.

But, to quote Nazmi himself, who is fond of this particular English language idiom, ‘where there is a will there is a way’. And after a lot of searching and waiting lists for rooms we managed to find a suitable room – calm, quiet, comfortable – for his stay.

We too dropped everything just as he has to do, time and again. We’ve got quite used to this very Palestinian way of doing out work, integrating into the patterns that the closures of borders require of us, improvising at every turn, ensuring contingencies. We’d all rather not have to work like this. It would be great for us all – in Gaza and in Scotland – to have the luxury other colleagues have, who work with partners in countries with straight forward and internationally privileged visa relations, to be able to book tickets in advance, for example, or not have to cancel leave or other meetings when we do manage a miracle between us.

When the message came two days ago from Nazmi, that he was at the border again, I smiled, and wondered if Taylor Swift was playing Glasgow. Perhaps we should invite her over again – it might be just the kind of luck we need. It’s certainly more reliable than the Home Office has been or the authorities making decisions at international borders, about our Gazan colleagues.


(image by Derek Keats, Flickr – cc by 2.0)