stories of humilation and abuse at the Egyptian Rafah crossing

I wake up to a rolling breeze like I’ve not experienced in Gaza. It disorientates me; I think I’m anywhere else but Gaza where it’s been nothing but stiflingly hot for weeks.

When I think of Canada’s winter, or autumn in Korea, or farm life in eastern Canada, I start to wonder when, and how, I will leave Gaza, though there will for a very long time be need for people here in solidarity with Palestinians.

Upon coming to Gaza, it was understood that leaving by boat might be possible, or through much coordination and waiting, leaving by land via Rafah. But the collaborating Egyptian intelligence are determined to keep solidarity activists, and particularly those who came via Free Gaza boats, within Gaza. We were told as much last week, when two of us tried to leave via Rafah, with coordination.

They recounted the appalling and very sad scenes at the border crossing, where Palestinians desperate for one reason or another to leave, were being nastily turned away, brutally hauled away, after waiting for days:

Natalie Abou Shakra [Lebanese/British]:

I can never remove from my eyes the image of my friend, Sitt Firial, whose son is in Egypt dying… she wants to just go be with him. They killed her that day…

Her tears fell, her hand touching the glass window of the mukhabarat [intelligence] offices, looking through. ‘Please, please, I beg you, show mercy, let me go.’

Another woman sat by the office, looking up at the barbaric man closing the way. ‘You promised to let me in,’ she said with her soft, drained voice. ‘Please, let me in,’ then looked at me with tearful, sad eyes… childlike.”

[Jenny Linnell, a British citizen, who was there in the lines, heard his response: “you’ll get help, when God helps me”, the guard in his twenties, laughing at the woman.]

“The people are simple, kind, honest & genuine. What happens to them at the crossing stays in my soul, killing it. They have been taught to accept it. But we are human rights activists & it is our job to break through the silence & scream out the injustice… no matter what the price.

As I was talking to someone on the phone telling him about the situation, a man of around seventy, an old sick Palestinian elder, suddenly just fell to the ground. Saied, from the mukhabarat, came up to me, as I got closer to the old man who was being dragged out by an Egyptian officer. Saeid pointed his index finger at me: ‘I will make sure you will never get out of here,’ his tone low & cruel.

I replied saying, ‘All that you have done to our people is registered in notebooks.’ He said to me in a vindictive tone, ‘Really? We are untouchable.’

We resisted leaving. I couldn’t see Jenny, but I heard her voice screaming, saying ‘get off me! Get off me.’ It gave me strength to stay put, hold on to the window. Around ten men were around me. Looking at them each in the eye, knowing I had to humanize them to humanize myself, I said: ‘You have a daughter my age? I am 21. Would you want your daughter to be treated in this way? I am your daughter, & your daughter & your daughter,’ I said to each man. Amazingly, the officers there whom I had eye contact with, did not touch me.

Only Saied & another man pulled me away.

I couldn’t see Jenny. When I was dragged outside, I saw that she had refused to get on the bus, not knowing where I was. As they dragged and pushed us out, one said ‘You are lucky my shoe isn’t in your mouth, like they do in Jordan.’

A young Palestinian man in a wheelchair and who can’t speak at a point of desperation started to hit himself on the chest, sounding, ‘hmmm, hmmm hmmm!!’ as he tried to express himself while they pushed him & the wheel chair aggressively away. [Jenny: “They were hovering over him, in his face, he was unable to speak.”]

A little girl on the bus said, ‘Mama, can we gather a shekel from each of us to give to the Egyptians to pass through?’

The people shared bread & water, shared pain, & tears, shared laughter… Yes, we laughed. Laughter & love under the bombs. Laughter & love under racism, degradation, humiliation.

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