Archive for October, 2009

State Dept. Denies Visa to Muslim Palestinian Peace Activist

October 8, 2009

The following is a press release regarding some unfortunate developments leading up to the Jerusalem Women Speak Tour, a national speaking tour to spread awareness of bi-partisan efforts toward a non-violent peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, for which I have been helping to organize a stop in the Athens, GA leg of the tour.

If what you read below strikes you as outrageous, I would encourage you to call upon your senators and representatives in Congress to put pressure on the State Department for an explanation of this development. Congressional contact information can be found at (for HOR contacts info) and (for Senator contact info).

Visa Denied for Palestinian Trainer in Nonviolence
Partners for Peace Demands Explanation from State Department

Hekmat Bessiso-Naji a Palestinian Muslim woman from Ramallah, scheduled to speak as part of the Partners for Peace Jerusalem Women Speak: Three Women, Three Faiths, One Shared Vision, Tour — “Muslim, Jewish and Christian Women Offer Perspectives on Building Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians” — has been denied a visa by the U.S. Consular office in Jerusalem. This is the 16th Jerusalem Women Speak tour.

The State Department denied Ms. Bessiso-Naji’s visa despite the fact that she has been a visitor to the United States on a number of previous occasions.

Partners for Peace is seeking an explanation of why a Palestinian professional who is currently employed in conflict resolution and nonviolence training, after building a career in the NGO nonproft sector and having been employed on the staff of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Save the Children-USA, has been denied a visa to travel on a 3-week speaking tour in the United States.

Jerri Bird, Founder of Partners for Peace, states, “ This action is not in keeping with President Obama’s stated policy of hearing all voices – it undermines his Administration’s efforts to reassure Palestinians their voice will be heard.”

Ms. Besisso-Naji, the mother of six children, is currently employed as a Community Trainer, organizing, administering, training, and evaluating nonviolence training programs and other projects in the Occupied West Bank. She previously worked for AFSC; Save the Children USA; Defense of Children International; and the Jerusalem Media Communications Center

During 2002 – 2005, Ms. Besisso – Naji spoke to audiences in the U.S. and Europe through Peace x Peace, Joining Hands Against Hunger (a Presbyterian Church initiative) and the Faculty for Israeli – Palestinian Peace.

She holds diplomas from Al Azhar University and Kann’an Educational Development Institute in Gaza and is working on a B.A. in Social Work from Al Quds Open University. She has a technical training certificate in Field Research and Project Coordination from the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky and currently lives in Ramallah  with her husband and 4 children.

The Partners for Peace Jerusalem Women Speak Tour will continue with two speakers:  Ms. Jala Basil Andoni, a Palestinian Christian  retired teacher from Beit Sahour near Jerusalem and Ms. Ruth El-Raz, an Israeli Jew,  psychotherapist, sculptor/painter, political activist from Jerusalem.