It was supposed to be a gathering of the top 100 bloggers of the Arab
world to discuss tactics and lay groundwork for continuing the Arab
Held where it all began in Tunisia, a
traditional ally of the Palestinians and once seat to their exiled
leadership, the government mysteriously barred nearly all Palestinian
bloggers from attending.
“I can’t even tell you why we didn’t get
the visas. It could be bureaucratic. It could be political. We don’t
know and we never got an answer,” Lama Hourani, program coordinator for
the Heinrich Boell Foundation and one of the co-sponsors of the
conference, told The Media Line.
There were at least a dozen
Palestinian bloggers who were slated to attend the four-day conference
and had applied for visas with the Tunisian representative in Ramallah.
But the representative informed them that the Tunisian Ministry of
Interior had denied them entry without giving any reason, Hourani said.
all the bloggers from across the Arab world only the Palestinians were
denied visas. I can’t say we are the most revolutionary of the
bloggers,” Hourani said.
The Third Arab Bloggers Conference
held last week marked the first time that bloggers had been able to
speak publically and freely in an Arab capital since the turmoil of the
Arab Spring erupted 10 months ago. Sponsored by Global Voices Online,
Heinrich Boell Foundation and Tunisia’s Nawaat Association, it was
billed as a gathering of bloggers from 15 Arab countries for sharing
experiences, networking and socializing.
But when it became
evident that the Palestinians were being barred, bloggers began a
campaign to publicize their oppression the same way they promoted the
revolution in the Arab world via Facebook, blog sites and twitter.
blogger Saleh Dawabsheh said he was greatly disappointed at being
denied a visa, but was encouraged by the campaign he was able to help
assemble with other bloggers.
“You know when there are, like, 100
bloggers together in one place that would have been a great experience
to be shared,” Dawabsheh told The Media Line. “I feel bad because I was
rejected to go there, especially to a country like Tunisia. Because
it’s the country where freedom was born. Only we Palestinians got
rejected. I feel that I was discriminated [against] by a nice country
Several calls to the Tunisian representative in Ramallah for clarification went unanswered.
snub is even more inexplicable since historically Tunisia has been a
close ally of the Palestinians. It allowed Yasser Arafat to relocate the
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) headquarters thee after the
Israeli army drove it out of Beirut in 1982. Tunisia also recently
backed the Palestinian Authority’s bid for United Nations recognition of
One well known Tunisian blogger known as Wajd called
for a boycott over the exclusion of the Palestinians. “I apologize for
my absence, but my presence would mean I accept this as a fait accompli
and [consider] the absence of my friends in Palestine an issue of
secondary importance [in relation to] to the Forum. Perhaps the forum is
important, and very important, but the absence of the Palestinians it
is much more important in my view,” they wrote.
Abir Kopty, an Israeli-Arab blogger, called the incident an “insult to the Arab Spring.”
Palestinians part of the Arab world or not? Do not they have enough of
Israeli siege and movement restrictions so they will have further
restrictions imposed by Arab regimes?” she wrote on her blog.
The bloggers issued a statement condemning the Tunisian’s government exclusion of the Palestinians and demanded an explanation.
joy in coming to Tunis was spoiled by Tunisia’s Interior Ministry’s
unjustified and illogical refusal to grant 12 bloggers from Palestine an
entry visa to Tunisia to participate in our conference,” the statement
said, adding it demanded the Tunisian authorities formally apologize to
the Palestinian and Tunisian peoples “for undermining their historical
ties” and preventing Palestinians from benefiting from their expertise.
Palestinian blogger, Saed Karzoun, had attended, which others
attributed to the fact that he had submitted his visa request through
different channels. He was in transit and not available for comment.
list of the Palestinian bloggers who were expected to go was published
by Palestinian blogger Dalia Othman. They included: Asmaa’ Abdulmawjood
(Alghoul), Ebaa Alburai, Mohammed Abu Sharkh, Majd Kayyal, Thameena
Husary, Nisreen Mazzawi, Saleh Dawabsheh, Khaled Sharqawi, Bashar Lubbad
and Othman herself.
Hourani said the event would have been an
opportunity for many Arabs to meet Palestinians from the West Bank and
Israeli Arabs face to face, something she said is not a common as
“Some of the Palestinian bloggers are very new and
wanted to be introduced to the training sessions and exposed to the
technology they would use in their social networks,” Hourani said. “A
lot of Arabs don’t have a chance to meet Palestinians from the West Bank
or Israeli Palestinians face to face and it would have been a good
chance to hear first hand of the experiences of those from occupied
Dawabsheh said the campaign included Facebook actions, on-line petitions and Twitter, which had huge reverberations.
“The Ministry of Interior will not say anything this time, But we are sure they won’t do it another time,” Dawabsheh said.