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Wake Up Palestine – Denied Entry

How a Palestinian Filmmaker was denied participation in the Gouna Film Festival

Jerusalem24 – Palestinian Filmmaker, Said Zagha, has been working on his film “Hashistan” for almost two years now.  A film about a father who wants to avenge his son, in a village in Area C.

He had applied for all forms of support and funding. So, when he was invited to Gouna Film Festival in Egypt; he was excited to see interest in his neo-noir film.

His first attempt to travel to Egypt was met with difficulties as the airline would not allow him to board because of his temporary Jordanian passport. A travel document many Palestinians rely on when applying for different travel visas. Returning to London, he contact the Gouna Film Festival who assured him this was a mistake and booked him another flight. Assuming things were finally moving on he confidently headed to Cairo.

Walking up to the passport control window in Cairo, he was surprised. The passport control officer told him he did not have Said’s information or name. Said contacted the Gouna Festival again who said they were working on it. This went on for several hours until midnight. Then a security officer threatened him. Said said the officer told him, “if you don’t get your stuff together in 30 minutes, we’re going to take your phone and take your back pack, your shoes and your belt and put into a detention facility.”

When the festival bought him a ticket after losing confidence in letting him into Egypt, Said was taken to the detention facility, which he described as “completely horrifying.”

“It reeked of sewage and feces, the smell was awful and digusting,” Said says. He added that, “it had bunk beds that haven’t been cleaned since like the 1970’s and it was full of Palestinians.” Most of the Palestinians were from Gaza, students studying abroad who were on their way home to see their families in the Gaza Strip. Their only way home was through the Gaza Strip. The airport detains them until a special vehicle is arranged for them to go to the strip.

Said remained in the detention facility for 12 hours. He wasn’t given any drinking water, Said asked if he can wait at the gate or the transit lounge, but his request was denied; stating that they feared he would escape the airport. “I told them, would I escape the UK to come live in Egypt?” Said asked sarcastically. They then escorted him from the facility to the gate, not allowing him to buy any food.

At the gate, Said was met with a Colonel who took his passport and kept it until they arrived in London. Where even there, he wouldn’t give him his passport. “I was livid at that point because his jurisdiction had ended a long time ago,” says Said.

Iconic Palestinian actor-director Mohammad Bakri has canceled his visit to Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival in protest of Said’s deportation. Bakri, whose acting credits include “Homeland,” “The Stranger” “Wajib” and “The Bureau,” was due to be honored with a career achievement award at the festival. Bakri released a statement in Arabic saying he has canceled his visit in protest against the deportation of Zagha and other Palestinians who arrived at Cairo airport and were barred from entering Egyptian territory.

“The solidarity from Palestinian artists has been great, I am grateful,” Says Said. He continued, “we need to stand united this isn’t about me. This isn’t the first time that it happened and it won’t be the last either.”

Looking back at what happened, Said said, “it’s not so much as being disappointed; I feel insulted as a Palestinian.” Said vowed that he would never return to Egypt. “I don’t care what passport I will have in the future, I am so traumatized I am never going to set foot in that country. Maybe that’s for the better.”

You can hear the entire interview with Said Zagha From Wake Up Palestine below:

Wake Up Palestine airs at 8:30 AM Jerusalem Time, from Sunday to Thursday.

Mohammad Hamayel

Ramallah based journalist, Mohammad graduated from Al-Quds University with a B.A. in Media and Television. He has covered the 2015 Jerusalem Intifada as well as the Great March of Return for international media outlets. currently an editor/presenter at Jerusalem24. A UN alumni and a follower of global events and politics, especially American affairs.

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