On the January 27th, about 20 students from the Palestinian diaspora met in the offices of Palestine’s general delegation to the United Kingdom to voice their concerns to the ambassador. Lé Délit, The Daily’s sister publication, interviewed one of the protestors, Merna Azzeh.
Le Délit: How did your group organize the sit-in at the embassy?
Merna Azzeh: Everything was more or less organized the day before. About 12 students were there from 1:00 pm, but most students came later in the afternoon. We all came from different universities in the UK (LSE, UCL, SOAS, Oxford, Notthingham). The majority were of Palestinian origin (living in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, the West Bank, Europe). Even if I only knew two people in the group before the sit-in, we all wanted the same thing: to reclaim representation and direct elections.
LD: What triggered your initiative? The Palestine Papers? The social unrest in Tunisia and Egypt?
MA: It was a bit of both, but we didn’t want to make a direct link to these events. We spoke about representation with the ambassador. No matter the corruption (because yes, there is corruption!), we asked for more democracy. This was our call for direct elections to the Palestinian National Council (PNC). We were conscious of the limits of our demands at the sit-in, but we wanted our actions to be a wake-up call to the Palestinian youth. In other words, this was the launch of a campaign for elections and a new body of representatives for the Council. The fact is that this isn’t done regularly. Some have been in office since 2006 and the PNC is very important because it is the main body that gives authority and strategies to the PLO.
LD: How did everything proceed?
MA: Well, we didn’t invade the embassy. We simply wanted to get our voices heard in the most civilized way possible. Some students were sitting in the reception area while others were in the ambassador’s empty office. We said that we wouldn’t leave until he came and spoke with us. When he came, we shared our point of view and asked him to take action, but he answered that everything was out of his control. We continued discussing until the police arrived after they heard about it in the media. The ambassador, insisted that we should stay, and that we were welcome guests in our embassy. We left at around 8:00 pm. Even if the ambassador agreed with our demands, I remain skeptical. Maybe this was just a utopian effort. But this is about people’s rights to choose their representatives, and we all knew that before the Palestine Papers. Moreover, being a refugee, I need to worry about my future and my people. I think it was a good start for our campaign.
LD: Have you done this for the youth or for all Palestinians?
MA: We did it in the name of the youth, because we are the future of the country. We however called for democracy for all Palestinians, especially those in the diaspora: we called for direct elections, and it is the right of all of our people no matter where they are to take part in the process. At the end of the day, we talked about what we wanted to do next. I hope that it was a spark that will be transmitted to Palestine, because it is quite hard to protest over there. It’s the launch of a campaign: we need other initiatives of this kind in order to promote these goals of representation and democracy.
— Compiled and translated by Xavier Plamondon
This article previously appeared in the February 1st issue of Lé Délit