Palestinian activists bemoan their lost Arab Spring

Asmaa al-Ghoul writes: “Is it easier to get a visa to Belgium or Sweden? How do I apply for asylum? Should I tear up my passport or hide it? Will the iris scan be conducted in the first country in which I arrive or the country in which I will seek asylum?” These questions, among others, are what busy the mind of 23-year-old Mahmoud Yahya these days.

Only a year ago Mahmoud was optimistic for change, and two years ago in 2011, Mahmoud took to the streets to effect that change. He says he felt like a giant then, capable of anything.

Mahmoud told Al-Monitor, “With every passing year, my despair increases. When I recall what I was like a year ago, I remember the hope I had that our hate-filled political and social reality could change. But when I look at how I was at the beginning of 2011, I cannot believe how convinced I was that I was Superman, and the same goes for how I saw all the other young people. The Arab revolutions had truly changed us.”

He added, “For the first time we felt like we had some agency. We went out to the streets on Dec. 5, 2010, and we confronted Central Security of the deposed government without blinking an eye. We broke through our collective fear and took to the streets protesting the closure of the Sharek Youth Forum. We took to the streets again in 2011 during the Egyptian and Syrian revolutions and were imprisoned and beaten, which also happened to our counterparts in the West Bank. Finally we had our own revolution on Mar. 15, 2011. Our defining chant was, “The people want to end the division!” They beat us, slandered us, broke our limbs, smeared our reputation and blackmailed us, which culminated in the killing of our Italian comrade Vittorio by unknown assailants. From that moment on, sadness and frustration would silence us forever.”

Mahmoud gazed at the ceiling, eyes welling up, “We believe in our strength, but we were romantic. When I saw all of the March 15 activists emigrating and traveling away from Gaza, I knew that we had failed to bring about our Palestinian Spring, so I decided to travel as well.” [Continue reading...]

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