Montreal Community Rallies to “Bring Bissan Home”

Multiple Events Planned in Support of Concordia Student Trapped in Gaza

Members of the Concordia and Montreal community gathered in solidarity with Bissan Eid June 8, for their first rally. Photo Brian Lapuz

It’s been months since Hadi Eid has seen his daughter, Bissan, and he has yet to hold his newborn granddaughter. Stuck in Gaza since December, Bissan Eid, a Concordia graduate student, had to give birth away from home and without medical supplies on May 11.

Members of the Concordia and Montreal community gathered in solidarity with her on Thursday June 8 for their first rally.

“Gaza is like a prison. Bissan is a hostage, and the Canadian government does nothing to help Bissan—to help a Canadian citizen,” Hadi said.

The Concordia Student Union organized Thursday’s rally with Tadamon, a Montreal collective that works in solidarity with “struggles for justice in the ‘Middle East’ and in diaspora communities in Montreal and beyond.” Attendees were encouraged to hold up signs and stickers, urging people to “Bring Bissan Home”. A station was also set up to sign postcards, in hopes of flooding Members of Parliament with them.

A second rally will be taking place June 15 at noon.

“It’s not enough anymore. It’s not enough for Alan Shepard, the president of this university, to let one of his students, to let one of his teachers, to let one of his community members to be stranded alone in Gaza,” said Sophia Sahrane, Research and Education Coordinator for the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec.

Hadi was shocked and humbled to see various local organizations and dozens of students attend Thursday’s rally.

“When the Eid family contacted us about the Bissan situation, we wanted to address it because it’s a very local and community-based illustration of the siege on Gaza.” – Stefan Christoff

Bissan and Hadi were both aware that getting home from Gaza wouldn’t be easy, but they had estimated that it would take her a maximum of two months. According to Hadi, Bissan has been contacting the Canadian consulate since January, but has been left with nothing but empty promises.

Bissan had completed her first year in Concordia’s Civil Engineering Master’s program, and had plans of beginning her second when she was trapped in Gaza in December. She had travelled there to get married and to visit her grandparents. The student has dual-citizenship, but the Israeli government has only recognized her Palestinian citizenship.

Hadi doesn’t think the Concordia Administration has done as much as they could, and feels they should put more pressure on the Canadian Government.

Most speakers expressed the same frustrations with Concordia president Alan Shepard and the Trudeau administration, accusing both of not putting enough pressure on the Israeli government, and accusing the Canadian government of hypocrisy and “discriminatory” behavior.

“I’ve been talking to Dr. Alan Shepard and he’s reached out to his contact in the Canadian government to be able to do everything that’s in his power to do,” said Omar Riaz, CSU general coordinator. “We have sent numerous letters, postcards, to Chrystia Freeland, the minister of foreign affairs, our local MPs, we have tried to contact the press, make sure that people are aware of what’s taken place.”

Ishani Ghosh from the Centre for Gender Advocacy was also present to defend Bissan as a woman and a Canadian citizen.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily because she’s a woman, but I think, as Sophia [Sahrane] mentioned, women are always the most vulnerable to colonial and state violence,” Ghosh explained.

She added that this situation should show Canadians that no one is immune to human rights violations.

“To create a system of citizenship which is inherently ethno-nationalist, to create a system of citizenship that requires people to jump through all these hoops to become citizens and then not even […] offer them protections that you would offer any other citizen that are standard fare in the international community,” she said.

Throughout the rally, people chanted “Viva viva Palestina” and “Free Palestine.”

When co-president of the Palestinian and Jewish Unity, Bruce Katz, addressed the crowd, he explained that he feels frustrated that a situation like this would not likely happen to him as a Jewish man in Israel, but that Bissan had to go through it.

“It’s as if [Israel wants] to suppress the notion that Palestinians can have double-citizenship. Look at the hypocrisy of it. It’s that they don’t want her to be able to leave Gaza on a Canadian document, although she is a Palestinian and as a Palestinian her roots are there—that’s the Indigenous people of Palestine,” he explained.

During his speech, a bystander began yelling at him from the street corner. Katz said he was glad that it happened.

He continued, “The Zionist who interrupted me gave me the opportunity to explain why the blockade of Gaza exists and why that is one factor why Bissan Eid is a hostage in Gaza.”