Your Voices Shall Be Heard

Chairs reserved for missing bloggers remained empty during ab14 - Photo, Hisham Almiraat

Chairs reserved for missing bloggers remained empty during ab14 

This is the second day of the 4th Arab Bloggers meeting, happening in Amman, Jordan.

Even though I am meeting amazing bloggers from the Arab World, especially people that I have known only virtually up until now, I can't stop thinking about those who could not make it.
And I have one urging question: Why on earth, there is no one place we can all gather in?!
Why there is always someone, or more from an Arab country that faces visa denial, entry denial, trouble moving across Arab borders and so forth?
During the last Arab Bloggers meeting, in 2011, over 10 Palestinian bloggers were denied entry visas into Tunisia and were therefore absent.

Today, we are gathering here in Amman, with some people missing. Not only because of visa issues, but also because they raise their voices against oppression in their countries.

Alaa Abd El Fattah from Egypt and Bassel Safadi from Syria are in the regime's prisons in their countries.

Two Iraqi bloggers did not get their visa on time, one Syrian blogger, was kept in Amman airport for over seven hours, to then be denied entry and deported back to Lebanon.

I have no word but shame to describe what Arab regimes do to other Arab countries’ citizens, while visitors with Western passports have no visa concerns, which help them enter most Arab countries, if not all.

While waiting in the airport for passport control, in Amman, I have witnessed how Syrians are called out of the line and taken aside. I witnessed another ugly incident, an despicable behavior by a passport control officer who talked with two dark skinned Asian young men in a very humiliating-racist manner. It made me very angry.

On the one hand, I'm not saying this behaviour is unique to Jordan. Racism exists everywhere. On the other hand, I'm not generalizing because I know that there are people everywhere fighting racism. I'm just reflecting on something I have seen.

What makes us, Arabs (in this case), who face racial profiling, racism and Islamophobia at airports, do the same to others?

I know people will answer me with Social Science theories and concepts of how people eternalize oppression and practice it on others “below” them. Still, I can't tolerate it.

And I'm back to the bloggers meeting, and think of how privileged I am to be here, among people who raise their voices.

I remind myself of the privilege I have to access internet tools, be able to express myself, write and publish. There are so many invisible people around the world, that are fighting and sacrificing for justice. Just because they don't blog or tweet, doesn't mean they do not exist.

I want to keep hoping that my voice will represent some of them.

My voice goes out to Alaa and Bassel, Mohammad, Bahar and Jawad, you are present not absent.

We are going to keep the fight until no borders or oppressive regimes can separate us from being together. It's not going to happen tomorrow, because there are limits of the promises I can make, but what other choice do we have than keep going.

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