Issue date: 25 January 2010
Siamak Alimi from the University of the West of England has just returned from taking part in a humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza. He describes the experience as life changing. Siamak joined the convoy of 200 vehicles and 500 travellers that departed the UK in early December and returned to Bristol earlier this month.
He describes the trip and the overwhelmingly positive reception that the convoy generated during the journey and on reaching Gaza.
“The trip was not without problems. For a start my car broke down on the first day which meant I had to drive through the night once repairs had been carried out to catch up with the rest of the convoy in Germany. We received a positive response from people whilst driving through Northern Europe but once we reached Greece the support cranked up a notch. People made a special effort to welcome us and we were greeted by local MPs. As we crossed the border into Turkey we were welcomed by throngs of people who had travelled from Istanbul, over one hundred miles away – the atmosphere was positively euphoric.
“By the time we had driven through Turkey the vehicles travelling with us had swelled to an even greater number of around 400 vehicles. The convoy snowballed as it went along through Syria and Jordan we were joined by nationals from Malaysia, Australia, US, Turkey, Belgium and orthodox Jewish people. In Syria people even gave their jewellery as well as more practical items.
“Travelling through the night in Jordan we were amazed at how many people got up to show support in the early hours. There was a hitch at the Egyptian border and we had to retrace our steps and get a ferry from Syria to one of the Egyptian ports before travelling into Gaza. We were allowed a fairly short time in Gaza but we managed to ensure that the aid reached the charities and ground level organisations we had targeted.
“It was wonderful to meet with the people from Gaza and to learn that the place is not all about destruction and death as presented through the media. We only ever see the very worst of what is happening but people simply want to lead a normal life. The reception was quite overwhelming, people were very touched by our efforts and we were escorted through the city to our hotel. Despite having too short a time to do any teaching as I'd hoped I did manage to develop some good contacts and I hope that I will be able to continue to offer support to the people I met.
“I would recommend others to get involved in a convoy if another is organised. It is a fantastic experience to actually take part in an aid delivery. I would like to thank Mohamed El Haddad, a student from UWE, who inspired me to get involved when he told me about his experience of the first aid convoy in early 2009. It has been a life changing experience for me.”
Siamak has given a more detailed account of his journey on his blog at