After 7 years of being prevented from studying abroad- Gaza student asks Blair to help him reach U.K

“My dream is to return to Gaza and establish a center for research and study. I am just a student; I do not understand why I am being punished."

Letter to Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair from Wissam Abuajwa, who is trying to reach Nottingham University in the UK.

Israeli Supreme Court to hear his case and those of two students from Gaza prevented from reaching universities in Germany

Mon., May 19, 2008 –  A Master’s student from Gaza prevented from reaching his studies for the past seven years appealed to Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair today for help traveling to his environmental studies at Nottingham University in the U.K. The student, Wissam Abuajwa, 31, has petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court this week, together with two other students trapped in Gaza. Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement filed the petitions. The Court set hearings for late May and early June.

“There is no Masters program in environmental sciences offered at the universities in Gaza,” says Wissam Abuajwa. “Ever since I completed my bachelor’s degree, my dream has been to study this field overseas … This will be my fifth attempt to leave Gaza since 2001, and I am very concerned that I will once again be unsuccessful.” Abuajwa particularly wants to acquire training to understand and alleviate damage from the breakdown of Gaza’s water and sewage system, caused in large part by Israeli-imposed restrictions on the fuel supply needed for pumping and treatment.

Nibal Naif, 27, who also appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court, has been offered a full scholarship to study in a doctoral program in Computer Engineering in Germany, a degree not available in Gaza. She says: “My father was a math teacher and he always encouraged me to study and to excel. He died last year, but … my mother is still supportive and proud of my decision to continue my studies abroad. If I am able to go to Germany and complete my studies, I will be one of the first women in the Gaza Strip to hold a doctorate in computer engineering.”

Abuajwa and Naif are just two of the hundreds of Gaza residents unable to reach their studies abroad due to the closure which Israel has imposed on Gaza since June 2007. Israel, which exercises substantial control over Gaza’s borders, says only urgent humanitarian cases will be allowed to leave Gaza.

According to Gisha’s Director Sari Bashi: “Denying young Gaza residents the right to study and develop their professional abilities constitutes collective punishment against a civilian population, in violation of international law. It is a shame that Israel’s Defense Minister does not recognize the value of higher education in building a better, safer, and more normal future for both Palestinians and Israelis.”