Concordia Student Stuck in Palestine Unable to Give Birth in Canada

Government Office Promises to Bring Bissan Eid Home After Birth

Many groups on campus, including the CSU and the GSA, have been campaigning for weeks to bring Bissan home. Graphic ZOLA

After four months of trying to return to Montreal, Concordia graduate student Bissan Eid will be forced to have her baby in Gaza, her father Hadi Eid said at a press conference Thursday morning.

After a phone call with her doctor last week, she decided that it was too risky to attempt to travel at such a late stage in her pregnancy, he shared. She is expected to give birth in the coming week.

“She can give birth at any time, because of the stress,” Hadi added.

The decision came after the Representative Office of Canada to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah said they would be able to facilitate Bissan’s travel to Jordan. She had originally contacted them in January.

Her passage to Jordan, had she accepted, would have been limited, said Amy Darwish of Tadamon!, a collective which works in “solidarity with struggles for self-determination, equality and justice in the Middle East” that has been working with Bissan’s family.

“They would have only facilitated her travel to Jordan, and not from that point onwards,” Darwish said. “She doesn’t have any family in Jordan, nor does she have the financial means to afford any public health care.”

For the last two weeks, groups on campus, including the Concordia Student Union, the Graduate Student Union, the School of Community and Public Affairs, the Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association, and the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, have been campaigning to bring Bissan back to Canada. In addition to Tadamon!, Amnesty International Canada has also been advocating for Bissan’s return.

Bissan has been in Gaza since last June, when she had gone to visit her aging grandparents and get married, an open letter from Amnesty International Canada explained. She began trying to return to Canada in December, but has been unable to due to the slow processing of an exit visa from the Israeli government.

“Bissan’s situation calls attention to the injustices faced on an ongoing basis in occupied Palestinian territories,” said Stacey Gomez, the action coordinator at the Centre for Gender Advocacy. “It is also important to highlight that limiting the freedom of movement is key to upholding apartheid, that is institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination.”

The Representative Office did verbally promise to help Bissan travel home after she gives birth, but they now want it in writing, Hadi said. They also want a passport and Canadian citizenship issued to her baby as soon as it’s born.

“We need a commitment from the government to let Bissan go as fast as possible after giving birth,” Hadi said. “The medical situation in Gaza is very dangerous.”

According to the United Nations Population Fund, the infant mortality rate in Gaza is more than four times higher than that in Canada.

Concordia president Alan Shepard said he has been in contact with Bissan, the CSU and government officials, advocating for her return home. “A lot of the work I do is behind the scenes with government officials,” he said, specifying that a public statement would work against his favour.