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Student overcomes obstacles to study at UIndy

Posted on 11.06.2013

A 25-year-old Palestinian woman overcame the obstacles put in her way and made it through the blockaded Gaza strip to become a student at University of Indianapolis.  This woman was Fidaa Abuassi, who persevered through the complicated political situation to join the international relations program at UIndy.
Abuassi received a Fulbright scholarship last year, which led to her studying in upstate New York. While in the United States, she got the opportunity to travel to colleges to speak about the struggles in Gaza. When Abuassi visited Associate Professor of History and Political Science Jyotika Saksena, Saksena was very impressed.

“Just in conversation with her, I realized she is definitely very intelligent and would be a very good student to have among our students,” Saksena said.
Saksena was responsible for organizing and coordinating the paperwork to get Abuassi out of Gaza. Saksena also found a sponsor to provide finances for Abuassi’s education through Christians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East.
Abuassi returned home thinking all the necessary paperwork and letters of recommendations would be enough to get her visa.
In June, she began her long journey.  She went to the U.S. Embassy in Egypt, but they were not convinced that she had proper financial support from people she had just met. They advised her to try to get her visa in Jerusalem. It took months to even get the application to go into Jerusalem; and once she did she was told, once again, to wait.
“I waited a month, but I did not give up. I kept sending mail and contacting the people every day,” Abuassi said.
After receiving her visa, she remained hopeful until the borders at the Gaza Strip were shut. Abuassi said she was not sure whether it was the power of hope or the power of despair that drove her to not give up.
There were many students waiting in the same position as she. Abuassi said that many students lost their scholarships because their universities were not as patient as UIndy. She said many students were seeking opportunity or education but were held back.
“I felt that it was unfair and unjust. I should have the right to freedom of movement, and I felt like that was being violated,” Abuassi said. “I felt angry that I did not have the basic rights to travel and study.”
She continued to go to the border in Israel for three months. She would stay sometimes from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. waiting and hoping for the chance to leave. She continued to receive no replies about why she was not allowed to get her permit. Eventually, Abuassi asked Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, to look at her case. Gisha was able to find the root of her troubles.
“They found out that Israel did not like the people that supported me because they were pro Palestinian, which is not true because they are not pro Palestinian. They promote coexistence and peace between the Palestinians and Israelites,” Abuassi said. “So they were not giving me a permit based on who was supporting me.”
With classes already underway for the fall semester, the UIndy staff tried to do whatever it could to help Abuassi gain passage.
Saksena said she was impressed with how much UIndy stepped up to help. She said that every door she knocked on gave her more help than she expected.  She also was amazed at Abuassi’s perseverance.
“One thing I have learned is, at several different levels, the ability of the human spirit to survive in so much negativity,” Saksena said.
Finally, on Saturday, Oct. 13, Abuassi was allowed to make her long journey to UIndy.  She said that she was very grateful to those who did not give up. According to Saksena, the university is helping with housing and some food support.
“I had the impression that they were good people,” Abuassi said. “But I never expected them to be so patient. Everyone has [welcomed] me with open arms.”
Abuassi said that her family is very supportive and wants her to have the opportunities that she would not have in Palestine.
Abuassi said she will continue to study at UIndy for two years, with the hope of doing something to help Palestinians. She has an interest in activism and hopes that the situation in Gaza will get easier.
“I am a person who will have hope that things will get better,” Abuassi said. “I am a realist, but I have faith that there has to be a solution. I believe peace will prevail in the end.”


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