December 17th 2010, an unpredicted social movement broke out from the ashes in the most ignored cities of Tunisia. Almost one month later, on January 14th 2011, Tunisia’s 23 years dictator term was ousted and what so called Arab Spring got spread all over the MENA region.
Tunisia, a country whose people are rewriting the history and re-enforcing freedoms is hosting the 3rd Arab bloggers meeting from 3 to 6 October 2011. It’s needless to emphasize on the importance of the pseudo-healthy atmosphere in Tunisia in post revolution; we’re witnessing a baby democracy crawling up – a democracy that was partly brought up with cyber activism through the use of social networks and blogs.
My disappointment in current decision makers in the interim government isn’t new since aspects of the old regime are still faced every day, though my disappointment is coupled now with anger and shortage in breath of the hypocrisy we live; the other day, a huge debate was carried regarding Tunisia’s position concerning the Palestinian case and the form of the relationship between Tunisia and the States and today we deny Palestinian bloggers from entering the country.
The situation is hard to digest especially that this have never been an issue before and on top of that Jews and Israelis easily access Tunisia to visit Djerba for their religious rituals.
I can’t think of any logical reason why Palestinian bloggers would be denied entry to my country – I’m convinced it has nothing to do with missing papers and it shouldn’t also have to do with the hosting organization – nawaat- a long banned NGO in Tunisia, otherwise, none of the 100 Arab bloggers should’ve made it to the conference.
The Palestinian bloggers are so missed in this conference, they had a lot to contribute and a lot to learn and take away from such a unique gathering.
I personally know 2 of the 12 Palestinian bloggers that were supposed to attend the 3rd Arab Bloggers Meeting and these 2 are extraordinarily active with a strong sense of civic engagement and lots of experience and ideas to share.
I was deeply touched by the words of my friend Saleh Dawabsheh who’s one of the Palestinian bloggers denied entry: “Tunisia, where Freedom was born; where My Freedom was denied”; “It’s a very sad feeling when you dream of visiting the country of freedom and then this country takes away your freedom of visiting it”.
The issue of denying entry to the Palestinian Bloggers to attend the meeting is absolutely insulting and is a non tolerated racist approach, that shouldn’t pass without a meaningful explanation. Here is a petition that few bloggers have developed demanding the Tunisian Authorities to issue an explanation toward this situation. Click here.
Saed Karzoun, the only Palestinian Blogger who made it to the meeting mentioned to me: “I’m very said for what happened. I was the first to apply for the visa and my application was processed directly. A few days later Heinrich Boll Stiftung, one of the organizing organizations has sent in the visa applications of all the participating bloggers and that could be the reason why they were rejected, but Saleh had also applied independently and was denied the visa”.
Few bloggers called for boycotting the meeting for the non-representation of Palestine and I personally think that’s not a good idea. First thing first, we’re lucky enough to have at least one person there representing Palestine and speaking of the issue. Bloggers and cyber activists have started a campaign to urge the Tunisian Authorities to give an explanation.
Second, it would be like Arab Bloggers boycotting their own meeting which doesn’t make much sense since this gathering is a quite important giving the state of the Arab world these days!
Few accusations have risen yesterday for the non-existence of any Bloggers from Yemen, and that also is due to an unjustified racist treatment even though Yemen had witnessed a revolution. But the reason came as no Yemeni bloggers managed to attend the meeting and many haven’t responded to the invitation as declared by Sami Ben Gharbia, one of the founders of Nawaat and organizers of the meeting.