Thursday, 16 April 2009

Tourist admits defeat (don't expect it to happen again...)

After ten days of waiting (it seems like longer) I've finally been urged to, and have painfully agreed to, admit defeat in the face of the Rafah border. All indications are that there's "no way" I'll be allowed in (that's a direct quote from Cairo's Ramattan Bureau. They were very helpful in offering advice and paperwork and contacts, but ultimately couldn't do anything more for me)

It was very bad timing, after all, nothing more dramatic than a series of separate incidents that all combined to make the crossing virtually impossible for me. First, Laila El-Haddad was refused entry to Egypt and detained in Cairo airport for 36 hours (sleeping on the floor with her two children, aged 4 and 1). Laila's a Gaza resident, so at least that would have made it easier for us both to get across Rafah (which is typically only for Palestinian residents, but during the war in January was open for a while for international journalists, and is still occasionally open for delegations).

Then, an undercover Hezbullah sleeper cell was apparently discovered operating in Egypt. That accusation alone would have been bad enough to close the border, if Nasrallah hadn't admitted it was true two days later...

So, with these factors piling up, crossing the Rafah border was becoming more and more difficult. Then the Egyptian Government Press Office announced it was no longer issuing papers to foreign journalists crossing into Rafah, and THEN the British Consulate announced it was no longer even issuing papers absolving itself of all responsibility for UK journalists wanting to cross! They can't even commit enough to sign a piece of paper saying I can't sue them if I die? Things are getting really bad...

By that point, it seemed the only people being allowed through Rafah were injured Palestinians getting medical treatment in Egypt or returning home to Gaza. As dedicated as I am to my work, I'm (only slightly) above pretending to be an injured Palestinian.

Oh, and a few bright sparks also pointed out that even if I did get it, it might be difficult to...what was it again? Oh, that's right. Get out.

Luckily, in the meantime, I've managed to take my stress and boredom and frustration and make another film while waiting. Of course I can't tell you anything about until I leave Egypt, otherwise it wouldn't be any fun, (and probably not a very good documentary if it was done with the approval of the Egyptian state)

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