By Anan Abusereya
My name is Anan Abusereya. I am a Romanian citizen and I carry a Romanian passport, yet I was born in Gaza. I arrived at Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport for the first time on Sunday, March 11, to attend the Fourth Global Convention of Solidarity with Palestine.
However, the Lebanese security denied me entry to the Lebanese territories. Instead, they detained me for more than 12 hours, forbidding me form contacting anyone, including my own family and the Romanian Embassy, and depriving me of access to a lawyer.
Later, I was deported to Europe, with an entry ban that would prevent me from visiting the country indefinitely, without any legally-binding written or verbal justification.
I handed over my Romanian passport to the foreign-passports inspector, greeting him in Arabic. As the latter inquired about my knowledge of the language, I informed him of my Palestinian origins and my place of birth, Gaza, as the interrogation went on.
When the inspector demanded that I presented my Palestinian documents, he insisted to question me about papers form Palestine that I did not have, speaking with a tone of arrogance and hostility, I explained to him that I only use my Romanian papers and that the only Palestinian document I possessed was a birth certificate issued by the UNRWA in Gaza, which I was not carrying with me at the time..
In the end, I insisted impatiently, “I am a Romanian citizen, and this is my Romanian passport, is there anything wrong with it?” And as that statement seemed to have insulted the inspector’s pride, he threw my passport with disgust, saying: “Rejected. Go to the Security Officer.”
In the Security office, I was subject to interrogation and I was asked to present a Palestinian birth certificate or at least a digital photo of the document, but I could not provide one at the time. When I expressed disappointment and frustration for my detention simply because I was Palestinian, the officer claimed that other Palestinians had been refused entry for carrying passports with Israeli stamps on them, as the Lebanese law enacts, but my passport did not have such stamps.
About half an hour later, a passport inspector came in with a foreign lady to take a photocopy of her passport. In the presence of the officer and others, he asked her, “Have you visited ‘Israel’ before”? Worried, she denied. He replied, laughing, “No, you have”, assuring her that she is not denied, and wishing her a good stay.
That scene made me wonder if the Lebanese security cared about the Lebanese law at all.
I then asked to use the phone to have someone get me a copy of the required paper. I was told that it was permissible and that I only had to wait a bit, but that never happened. I was later taken, with other individuals, to the upper floor, and I kept asking about our destination and the decision the security made regarding my case, but the inspectors never responded.
I asked one of the escorts from the public security about the email address I should send the copy of my birth certificate to whenever it was possible; he then began to sing and dance with indifference.
I was taken to a cold room and was asked to remain there until a further notice. Later, I learned it was the place where the security detained deportees. I was locked up and could not leave.
The place was completely isolated, with no internet connection or telecommunication, and nobody knew where I was. They denied me any contact with the Romanian Embassy in Beirut and refused to provide a written document explaining the reasons for my denial of entry to Lebanon, my detention or deportation, or any other legal text justifying the actions taken against me.
I spent 12 hours in that place among individuals accused of various types of violations; not even a glass of water was offered to me, so I had to order one and pay for it myself.
When the organizers of the conference finally found out about the trouble I was in, a couple of hours prior to my deportation to Istanbul, they contacted the airport security, which claimed it had been thought that my passport had Israeli stamps on it.
Although this was not true, I was deported.
At 3 am of my second day at Beirut’s airport, I was sent back to Europe. Security inspectors accompanied me from and to every plane I boarded, and I was monitored during my journey back to Ireland as if I were a serious criminal. When I arrived in Dublin, where my journey had first started, the airline company handed me a document issued by the Lebanese security, stating that I was now banned from entering Lebanon, indefinitely.
I contacted the Romanian consul in Beirut only to know that the embassy was not officially notified about additional procedures regarding its citizens of Palestinian origin, despite the public security having justified its action with an alleged law that denies individuals of any nationality, who were born in the Palestinian territories, entry to Lebanon, except after a prior request and a special visa.
When I contacted the Lebanese Embassy in Bucharest, the latter denied knowledge of such a law, but failed to explain why I was denied entry to Lebanon.
I would like to close this testimony by mentioning that my work paper for the conference included an urge to take action against Lebanon’s racial discrimination policies against Palestinian refugees and its apartheid laws which deprive Palestinians of their basic rights, such as the right to work and ownership, treating them as second-class citizens.
At Beirut’s airport, I experienced a hint of what the Palestinians go through every day and I believe I have a moral obligation to report it all to you.
– Anan Abusereya is a Romanian of Palestinian origin. She contributed this article to the Palestine Chronicle.