The Freedom Theatre staff member Mustafa Sheta was recently denied exit to attend a visa appointment at the US Embassy in Amman. Third-year acting student Osama Al Azzeh was denied entry by Jordanian border authorities to participate in community theatre performances in refugee camps.
“These incidents testify to the numerous levels of oppression that we Palestinians are subjected to, and they also show how difficult and sometimes confusing our situation is”, says Bilal Saadi, chairperson of The Freedom Theatre’s board of directors.
On May 29, Mustafa Sheta, formerly secretary of the board of The Freedom Theatre and currently a senior staff member of the theatre, was denied exit by Israeli border authorities when he was travelling to Jordan to attend a scheduled visa application meeting at the US Embassy. Sheta has been invited to travel to the US in the autumn to represent The Freedom Theatre.
When Mustafa Sheta enquired as to the reason behind the exit denial, border authorities referred to the Israeli intelligence in Jenin. Sheta was not allowed to speak to anyone in charge.
Mustafa Sheta has long experience in the Palestinian civil sector as a researcher, journalist and coordinator for various organisations and projects, such as Interpeace (UNOPS/UNDP), Palestinian Refugee and Diaspora Center (SHAML), Bisan Center for Research and Development and Muwatin Institute for Democracy Study. He has been a member of the Board of directors of The Freedom Theatre since 2014.
On March 18, 2015 Mustafa Sheta was arrested by the Israeli authorities, accused of political activism. He was released from Israeli prison on November 22, 2015.
On May 25, only a few days before Mustafa Sheta attempted to travel to Jordan, Osama Al Azzeh, a student of The Freedom Theatre’s three-year educational programme in acting, was denied entry to Jordan. Al Azzeh was scheduled to perform in the play ‘Return to Palestine’ in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. The performances are part of a joint project between Ashtar Theatre and The Freedom Theatre, aiming to create long-lasting networks among Palestinian populations fragmented by the deliberate policies of the Israeli occupation power.
The Freedom Theatre is deeply concerned about these latest examples of isolation of Palestinian cultural associations. On the one hand the visa application process for northern countries is becoming increasingly complicated and expensive, and on the other hand Israel and neighbouring countries are closing the borders for cultural workers to travel abroad. In the past two years, several members of The Freedom Theatre have been unable to travel due to either denied visas or denied entry/exit by border officials.