Friday, November 17, 2006

Palestinian Woman Unable to go to Reproductive Rights Conference

This is just another instance of what it means to be Palestinian. It touches a few more cords, because Nadera was going to a reproductive rights conference- something that I am passionate about ensuring.

Dear Ahlam, Pinar, Liz and friends,

I am so sad to inform you that the Israeli security forces in the airport prevented me from participating in the conference on: “Women and Sexual Reproductive Rights” held in Tunis.
The process of humiliation by the Israeli security forces started when we reached the airport at the gate. As you all know I live in the Old City of Jerusalem, and I use transportation from my area. The moment they learned that both the driver and myself live in East Jerusalem, they asked us to park the car on the side, take all our/my luggage and follow them for body and luggage search. A young soldier in a small room in the airport gate searched me, asked me to take off my shoes, took mine and the driver’s mobile phones and asked us to wait for almost 40 minutes until they finished checking the car’s body and engine.
After all this process, I managed to get inside the airport, and there continued the process of humiliation. I was the only one to wait for a long time. I knew that they were doing a security check on my name, address, and other information. A young female soldier tried to help out and started convincing her superior to allow me to pass. It took her a while then she came, asked me to put my luggage in the x-ray machines and pass. Afterward another security agent asked me to bring all my belonging and follow him up for an additional search. Here, something like 3-4 security personnel were checking my one small bag, my computer bag and my carry-on purse.
They, started taking off the cloths from the luggage, my shoes, underwear, make up, medicine, and placed them in such a messy manner on a long counter. I was the only one that was searched. I did not know what to look at or follow up. My reading material was all over the counter, mixed with my cloths and shoes, when young men were emptying my make up kit, spreading my medication, when one took a picture of my girls, and the other security guy pulled my shoes and put it on the picture. My visit cards, my papers, everything was scattered….with all my belonging in such a disrespectful manner. I stood there not knowing what to do, I was about to cry when I saw my reading material falling on the floor, and the pages being mixed. I asked the female security personnel- that was checking my printed material not to mix between the various articles, she replied ( with so much power) that I could find the pages and organize them later one. While I was trying to explain to her that my reading and printing material should be kept intact, I saw another security man fetching my wallet while pulling off all the credit cards and putting them on the counter, and emptying my purse in such a humiliating manner. His friend on the other side was picking up my underwear one after the other- while joking and talking to his friends in Hebrew- thinking that I don’t speak the language. They also took my cell phones and I was unable to call anyone for help. At one point, the phone was ringing and I asked one of them to get it to me, and he did- by I missed the call; and he took it back.
The whole seen of people mixing all your stuff together, while I am standing mesmerized captivated by their inhumanity, failing to follow up who is doing what, where and how- was horrible and painful. I could not hold my tears, wondering how much one could accept humiliation, dishonor and degradation in the name of “Security reasoning”; and went to get me a tissue to wipe my tears from my purse, when another security guy screamed at me that I can’t touch the purse. While I am in this state, and while my belonging were so dispersed and scattered all over the long counter, the security guy in charge came and told me that I can’t take my reading material to the plain. I started explaining -with tears and so much anger- to him that I need to read on my way, and it is a 5 hour flight, and my reading material is crucial to me. It took me a while arguing with him and another security officer until I managed to get the approval for to take all the pages that they scattered and messed up with me to the plain. The time was flying and I was about to miss my flight, when a very polite young security officer told me that she will book me a seat, so as to be ready. She actually did book me a window seat. In a short time, the head of the security officers came and told me that I can’t take my laptop with me to the plain. Again, and while being so hurt, while seeing them joking when looking at my cloths, ridiculing me while dropping my tooth brush on the floor, my money scattered on the counter and much much more- I started explaining to them that I can’t leave without the laptop. In trying to calm down myself, and decrease my feeling of hurt, I asked the head of the security to cal his superior. His superior, in the name of Tal Vardi # 14544 came (he gave me this name following my request). He was so disrespectful, so rude and abrasive. I was explaining to him how important is my laptop to me, I told him that I need to prepare my lecture, and that a laptop from Israel will never reach Tunisia. He kept on telling me that I can’t take the laptop with me. Then I told him that if that is a rule, they should inform people that laptops are not allowed on the planes and that security forces can’t do it without prior notice. Tal Vardi with such a humiliating and sarcastic manner replied (while having all his staff around him): “ So next time I need to call you and talk to you before you fly ??? Do you think that we have time for you??
At that moment I decided that I should call for additional help, for Tal Vardi refused totally to talk to me, and left me alone. At that time, three security people were packing my stuff in such a mess, pulling the computer’s battery, wrapping the laptop…without even getting my approval. I called Bilha Cohen the secretary at the institute of Criminology, she then gave me the phone number of the dean’s office. I called Aliza, the Dean’s secretary, she gave me his home number, and I called, his wife gave him to me, and he said that he can’t do anything and that I should call his deputy, she is the one that could help me out. By that time I was 20 minutes from my flight. I called his deputy, and there was no one in the office, and my computer was wrapped out about to be sent to Tunis- as they planned. I then started yelling while trying to explain – but this time with so much anger – and told them that there way of treating people is not human, that I allowed them to check everything in my luggage, that I cooperated, but they treated me with such a rude and inhumane manner. There refusal to allow me to take my laptop with me, even when I was willing it to them if they give it to me in the airplane; and following their refusal to even talk to me or calm me down- they all left me sitting on that long counter, trying to find a way out. Their talks, their methods of making fun of me, and their disrespect made me tell them “I am not flying”. I pulled my luggage, unwrapped the laptop, and left the place.
This whole process of humiliation took between 1:40- 4:30 pm. I ended up with bad chest pain, dizziness and illness which led to vomiting and feeling so humiliated. I called some friends to help me out, such as Einas from Mada, and Mr. Jaber Farah and Elena from Musawa. They both called me over 7-10 times trying to calm me down, asking some activists from the office and the airport to help out. I also called my friend Dorit Roer-Streir, but no one was able to change the situation. I left the airport, unable to breath, walk or function.
I am sorry again to miss you, miss learning from the conference and miss sharing with you my work, but must state that there is a limit to the amount of humiliation that one could take, and I felt that the whole process of turning me as a Palestinian woman into a naked entity, with no value, no voice, no respect and no power to fight this demonization back, made me refuse to fly. How could I fly as a human, when all they wanted to do is to strip me from my humanity, using all the power they have, while steeling from me even my ability to protect my girl’s picture, my writings, my reading material, my laptop and my other personal belonging.
Please accept my apologies, and please write back to my university and to the Israeli state and ask them to stop depriving us from our ability to participate in conference, to aquire knowledge, to get each others support, and stop using our bodies/lives and their “security reasoning” to marginalize, ostracize, and humiliate us.

Love to all,
Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian ( November, 16,2006)


C.J. Minster said...

Thank you for posting the letter. I received it via email and was happy to link to your blog for an online version.

in nonviolent solidarity,
C.J. Minster
Program Chair, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section (WILPF US)

One of our national campaigns is "Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East."

penultimo said...

Ciao,SALAM- I feel very sorry and there are no other words! May I copy Your letter for Italy People, just to let Them know more about the live there?
God bless You.

Margaret said...

Yes, please copy the letter. People have to know what reality is like for Palestinians.
Today is Thankgiving here in the U.S. The fact that people are reading the letter is a wonderful gift.