September 13, 2010
This is the narrative of a 22-year old Palestinian who returned recently to Gaza. Among his misfortunes he was apprehended and arbitrarly detained by the mukhabarat (General Intelligence) in Jordan.
"I was born in Sinai Rafah, as is called the part of Rafah City situated in Egyptian territory. In this section of the town 99 percent of the inhabitants were 1948 refugees and most of them were originally from the Palestinian port city of Isdud [today Ashdoud in Israel].
"In 1993 the Egyptian authorities expelled all of us to the Gaza Strip. If you want to see these refugees today they all are in Tall Es-Sultan, on the Palestinian side of the border with Egypt. All the Palestinians were expelled from Sinai Rafah. The Egyptian government gave them some money to resettle and build a house in Tall Es-Sultan. Some refugees remained in El-Arish in Egypt but they have just a residence permit: they have neither the Palestinian passport nor any kind of official document.
"When I came to live in the Strip I was 5-year old. I had a sort of normal life for some years in Tall Es-Sultan till I moved to Gaza City with my family. It was in 2000 and the second Intifada erupted. Despite all the hardships I got the Tawjihi [matriculation exam] in 2006 with a high mark, 90 out of 100... and I'm sure you are aware what sort of hell we passed through.
"After the Tawjihi I applied for a kind of scholarship to obtain the Bachelor's degree in a Jordanian university. It's called 'Cultural Exchanges', that means we pay the fees like the Jordanian students, not more.
"I studied at the University of Karak, southern Jordan. I finished my study in three years instead of four. Why? Because I worked very hard... and there was another reason too. In Karak most of the students were from the capital Amman and other areas. For the weekend they returned home and I remained alone... In summer I spent one month or one month and a half in complete loneliness in the university dormitories. During the last Ramadan I was fasting alone and I was alone for Eid El-Fitr and Eid El-Adha festivals.
"There are neither supermarkets nor shops in this area. It is a university in the desert. When 28,000 students go home it's empty. Who can remain there? The city of Karak is far around 30 km. It took 25 minutes by car to go there through the mountains and the desert. Furthermore, there is no transportation from the university during the vacation. So I used to go to the capital to buy plenty of food for one month or one month and a half and I kept it in my fridge. To go to Amman it takes between one hour and a half and two hours by bus, it is far 135 km.
"To have a harsh life is normal for us. How could I endure it? I was telling me that it would last only for a few years and I would have the Bachelor's degree and a better life after that. And finally came the last semester at the university... and the last day came...
"I passed all the exams and I was going to take my certificate. I was certain of a good result, although I didn't know officially the results yet. I wanted to celebrate with my friends... We went by car to the Jordan Valley, in the north, we were in four. It was January 2010. Two days before there had been an attack on the convoy of the Israeli Ambassador to Jordan in the Jordan Valley [a roadside bomb, on Thursday 14 January, in the Allenby Bridge area], but I was not aware of it.
"When we were going to return to the university and celebrate there my graduation and have a lot of fun, the security stopped our car... they were stopping all the cars.... It was in the evening, between 17:00 and 19:00.
"I studied in a military university but in the civilian section, the other three friends were Jordanian nationals and studied in the military section. When the security saw my passport, a Palestinian passport on which is written Gaza, they told me: 'Come!'.
"They took me to several places. First to the Criminal Investigation Division, then to the Preventive Security and from there to the mukhabarat [General Intelligence]. I remained there for 32 days, blindfolded all the time. Till now I don't know where was this place. I had to wear the blue prisoner uniform. I was alone in the zinzana, an extremely narrow isolation cell. When I was out of the zinzana I was always handcuffed and my ankles were shackled.
"They tortured me... they badly tortured me... and they tortured me even with electricity... You can see here the scars on my left forearm... and also here on my left arm... I have cicatrices all over my body. I don't want to speak about it... I cannot speak about it... They wanted to extract from me information about the attack on the Israeli ambassador... but I knew nothing about it.
"With regard to the three friends who were with me in the car nothing happened to them... because they were Jordanian nationals.
"I spent thirty-two days without seeing a lawyer or being able to call my family in Gaza... The mukhabarat used also the detector of lies. Finally they were convinced I had nothing to do with the attack on the Israeli ambassador. At that point they started to interrogate me about Hamas in Gaza.
"They asked me about Hamas people... They wanted me to give them names, to tell them where they live, their addresses... although I had left Gaza three years before and at that time Fatah was in power, not Hamas!!
"An investigator proposed me to work with them and said they would give me 200 dinars monthly. I replied that my father was giving me every month 400 dinars as pocket money. He said: 'We'll give you a temporary passport to remain in Jordan, you'll be protected here and you'll be free to travel to Gaza whenever you want. Don't worry about anything, you'll be our man.' I replied that I preferred to die rather than to do this.
"During my detention friends searched about my whereabouts and found out that I was with the mukhabarat. A close friend of mine called my father in Gaza. My father in turn contacted some Palestinian officials and asked them to intervene for my release. Only because I had a strong wasta [connection] I was released!
"The mukhabarat decided to expel me through the Allenby bridge and they gave me an official paper about my detention in relation to the attack on the Israeli ambassador in Jordan. As you know at the Allenby Bridge in Jericho, West Bank, the Israeli authorities control the crossing point. Imagine if the Israeli security would have seen such a paper! I would still be in an Israeli jail today!
"My father managed to obtain a visa for me for Dubai. The mukhabarat took me to some offices and put me on the plane for Dubai. Till the airport I was handcuffed in their vehicle, but not blindfolded. They removed the handcuffs just before entering the airport, but three security men escorted me till the departure hall before I boarded the plane for Dubai... They were surrounding me. Only there they gave me back my passport. The ticket had been sent by my brother.
I torn all the papers concerning my detention in Jordan. In Dubai I rented a flat with friends and I tried to start my professional life. I was trained for two months by one of the biggest companies to be a sales consultant. I was the first at the end of the training. I got a three-month trial contract with a very high monthly salary: 35,000 dirham which are equal to 10,000 dollars and with the commissions I could doubled and even tripled my salary.
"Unfortunately, I had only the time to work for one month out of three. What happened is that a Hamas leader was assassinated in Dubai [on Tuesday 19 January 2010]. Following his assassination of Mahmoud El-Mabhoub, a decision was taken to expel all the Palestinians from the region, unless they were residents in one of these countries: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE... all the Arab Gulf. But it took time to implement the decision.
"At that time my employer wanted to give me a five-year residence permit because I was good in my job. However, my three-month visa was going to expire, so at the end I was obliged to depart.
"In my childhood I was expelled from Egypt and now I was expelled from Jordan and Dubai... In Cairo Airport they treated us like animals. They put all the Palestinians in a large room, fifty or sixty people... elderly, babies, women... till the day after when they put us in a bus for the Rafah border. We were sitting on the floor, there was a bad smell, no ventilation... the WC were so durty... only two WC for sixty people or so...
"The counter intelligence in Cairo took me for a couple of minutes, maybe it was a sort of investigation. So far I don't know the reason. They asked me: "Why have you been to Jordan? Why have you been to Dubai? Why do you return from Dubai?"
"The first day I arrived in Gaza I already tried to leave. I put my luggage at home and search the way to leave Gaza. For us it is extremely difficult to get a visa for studying abroad. However, in one way or another I'll find the way to get a visa because I was dreaming to return to Gaza with something, not empty-handed.
"I was a suspect just because I am Palestinian and because the word Gaza is written on my passport. During the interrogation sessions the mukhabarat said: 'Gaza! Fuck you! You're from Gaza?! You're a terrorist and you come to our country to spread terror! Fuck you, Gazans! Why do you come to our country, you, the Gazans!' When they pronounced the word Gaza they were full of disdain. Further, they never called me by name. They always called me: "Ya! Ghazzawi!" [Hey! Gazan!].
- Flora Nicoletta is an independent French journalist living in Gaza. She is currently working on her fourth book on the Palestinian question.