Mohammed Omer denied from entering US (updated)

UPDATE: Success! See Haymarket Books Press Release (appended below in full): International Pressure Campaign Brings Award-winning Palestinian Journalist Allowed Entry to the U.S.

I’m late posting this.  But nevertheless, it’s still important.

Award-winning journalist Mohammed Omer is being denied from entering the US.  The US consulate in the Netherlands is holding his visa application for an extended period of time and has led to a cancellation of his US speaking tour. Omer was scheduled to speak with Ali Abunimah in Chicago on April 5.  Abunimah has more on the story at his Web site Electronic Intifada. The US Consulate did not provide an explanation as to why they denied his visa and the only American media source (that I know of ) that’s raising a concern is The Progressive.

Omer was to visit Houston, Santa Fe and Chicago, where local publisher Haymarket Books was to host his Newberry Library event, “Reflections on Life and War in Gaza,” alongside a broad set of interfaith religious, community and political organizations.

Rather than cancel the meeting, organizers are calling on supporters to write letters and emails calling for the US consulate’s approval of Omer’s visa.

They are also proceeding with the event as planned, via live satellite or skype, if necessary.U.S. consulate information:

Ambassador Fay Hartog Levin
U.S. Embassy in The Hague
Lange Voorhout 102
2514 EJ
The Netherlands
T: +31 70 310-2209
F: +31 70 361-4688
ConsularAmster@state.gov

For more information on Mohammed Omer visit his Web site Rafah Today.

UPDATE

For Immediate Release
Contact:
Sarah Macaraeg, sarah @ haymarketbooks.org

Following International Public Pressure Campaign, Award-winning Palestinian Journalist Allowed Entry to the U.S.
“Reflections on Life and War in Gaza”

Featuring Mohammed Omer
Speaking Tour on Conditions in Palestine to Take Place as Debate Between U.S. and Israel over Expanded Settlements Continues

In Chicago: 7:00 pm, Monday, April 5th at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton
MOHAMMED OMER and ALI ABUNIMAH, author, One Country, and founder, Electronic Intifada.net
CHICAGO, IL— Back from the brink of cancellation, a presentation on conditions in Palestine will take place April 5th with award-winning journalist and photographer Mohammed Omer. Subjected to an extended, and unexplained, hold on his visa, Omer and supporters launched a public pressure campaign, winning his entry from the U.S. consulate today.

In 2008, Omer became the youngest recipient of the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, for his firsthand reportage of life in the besieged Gaza strip. As his prize citation explained, “Everyday, he reports from a war zone, where he is also a prisoner. He is a profoundly humane witness to one of the great injustices of our time. He is the voice of the voiceless… Working alone in extremely difficult and often dangerous circumstances, [Omer has] reported unpalatable truths validated by powerful facts.”

Upon attempting to return to Gaza following his acceptance of the Gellhorn award in London, Omer was detained, interrogated, and beaten by the Shin Bet Israeli security force for hours; and eventually hospitalized with cracked ribs and respiratory problems (For the full story, visit Israel’s Haaretz). He has since resided in the Netherlands and continues to undergo medical treatment there for his subsequent health problems.

Nearly canceling his planned speaking tour, the U.S. consulate held his visa application without explanation. Organizers decided to protest, as in recent years, numerous foreign scholars and experts have been subject to visa delays and denials that have prohibited them from speaking and teaching in the U.S.—a process the American Civil Liberties Union describes as “Ideological Exclusion.

As his hosts at Haymarket Books commented, “The issue of Palestine, and particularly the voice of Palestinians is so frequently side-stepped and marginalized in mainstream political discourse. Yet the Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays a huge role in American foreign policy, as we can see in the ongoing debate between the U.S. and Israel over expanded settlements. We believe that the conditions in Palestine represent one of the great humanitarian catastrophes of our time; and we were simply not willing to accept that Mohammed did not have the right to travel to the U.S. to share his reportage—and that Chicagoans did not have the right to hear what he has to say.”

Omer will visit Houston, Santa Fe, and Chicago, as planned, where local publisher Haymarket Books will host his Newberry Library event, “Reflections on Life and War in Gaza,” alongside a broad set of interfaith religious, community, and political organizations. Omer will discuss, with Ali Abunimah, Chicago-based author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, his reportage, personal experience, and the struggle for Palestinian rights:

Reflections on Life and War in Gaza: A Discussion with Palestinian Journalist Mohammed Omer

In conversation with Ali Abunimah, author One Country and founder Electronic Intifada
Monday, April 5th at 7:00 pm at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton, Free
Train: Chicago Red and Brown, Clark/Division Red. Bus: #66 Chicago, #29 State
Funded by the LANNAN FOUNDATION. Sponsored by HAYMARKET BOOKS

In cooperation with: American Friends Service Committee-Chicago, Committee for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel, Episcopal Diocese of Chicago-Peace and Justice Committee, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, International Socialist Organization, International Solidarity Movement-Chicago, Islamic Medical Association of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Jewish Voice for Peace, Middle East Task Force of Chicago Presbytery, National Lawyers Guild-Loyola, Neighbors For Peace, Students for Justice in Palestine-DePaul and UIC chapters, and Ta’anit Tzedek—Jewish Fast for Gaza.
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#%21/” target=”_blank

Mohammed Omer was born and raised in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza strip. He maintains the website Rafah Today and is a correspondent for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. His home in Rafah was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer while the family was inside, seriously injuring his mother. Yet, as Omer explained in an article he wrote upon winning the award, “My ambition was to get the truth out, not as pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli, but as an independent voice and witness.” His reportage features interviews with regular Gazans attempting to survive amidst bombing, home demolitions, and the crippling economic blockade, which has created devastating shortages of electricity, water, fuel, and other necessities for survival.

**Mohammed Omer and Ali Abunimah are available for select interviews. To request, contact: Sarah Macaraeg, 312-315-8476, sarah@haymarketbooks.org

Additional background:

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