Thursday, September 11, 2008

A blockade of young minds

My dream is to become a bone specialist. But the Israeli government won't let me leave to pursue my studies abroad

Abdalaziz Okasha, Thursday September 11 2008

"This was supposed to be my first year of medical school. Instead, I am stuck here in Gaza in my father's house inside the Jabalia refugee camp, with few options and no way out. After I finished high school last year, I decided to become a doctor. Gaza cries out for bone specialists, but the training I need is available only abroad.

When I won a place at a medical college in Germany, my parents were proud. I was excited to follow my older brother, who is already studying there. In February, the German authorities granted me an entrance visa. I wasted no time in asking the Israeli authorities for permission to travel to Europe. But I was told that only patients in need of emergency medical evacuation would be allowed out – not students.

Hundreds of other young people trapped in the Gaza Strip have won admission to study abroad. For many of us, this is our only opportunity to continue our education. Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth, and one of the poorest – 1.5 million of us live on a patch of land about 41 kilometres long and 6-12 kilometres wide. The local hospitals lack the equipment needed to perform many important procedures, like radiation treatments for cancer patients and heart surgery........

We are students, not soldiers. We are not fighters in this conflict. Why doesn't Israel let us go study? Why do Europe and America support a blockade of young minds? Soon, my fellow classmates at the medical college will be starting classes. When they do, I will probably still be here in my father's house, waiting for the blockade to end."

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