October 12, 2012:

It was a muted celebration.  Mohamed Abu Muailek wanted to mark the first year of his freedom from a jail cell by visiting Europe.  Instead he chose to have a Skype conversation, because he is unable to meet his friends and supporters in Europe, or indeed even in the West bank.

That’s because not a single neighbouring country has granted him a visa.  The Israelis in all probability still have him on a ‘terrorist’ list – even though he chose in late 2008 to reject his militant rocket-firing group and advocate peace and reconciliation with the Palestinians’ adversary.

As for the Gaza Strip’s other neighbour, Egypt: despite its much-publicised support for the Palestinian cause, the new Muslim Brotherhood-run administration has not normalised the country’s crossing point between the southern Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, the northern gateway to Egypt.

The Egyptian security service would probably grant Abu Muailek the right to travel directly from southern Gaza through the Sinai Desert to Cairo’s international airport – if he had a visa to go to a European country.  But he does not have one.

Britain has twice refused to grant Abu Muailek a visitors’ visa. though he was invited to address a highly-respected group of British lawmakers – the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues.

Despite this, Mohamed has set up a blog in which he has expressed his continued commitment to peaceful solutions.  And he has said he will apply to travel in Europe again and again – until he achieves success.

Finally, after many months of being cold-shouldered by potential employers in Gaza, worried that hiring this talented IT specialist would endanger their relationship with the dominant Hamas rulers, Mohamed has found work in his field.

In essence, though freed after a military trial that found him ‘not guilty’ of any wrongdoing, Mohamed is still in a form of imprisonment — inside the confines of the Gaza Strip.

And a memento of his two and a half years in prison has emerged.  A foreign photographer was allowed in to the prison where Mohamed had been held, and took a series of pictures of prisoners behind bars and in their cells.  Mohamed was captured in a few of them.  We publish two here – for access please email


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