Gaza women fight Israel ban to attend tech mentorship program in US

Three young women selected for a US State Department-sponsored education program struggle to chase their dream because Israeli authorities decided that allowing them out of blockaded Gaza would pose a security threat.

TechWomen is a program for women living in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, who are invited to the US for a five-week mentorship. They study their chosen fields in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley to hone their tech skills and establish social networks. Since its launch in 2011, 333 women have participated in the course, according to its website.

From 5,000 applicants of this year’s TechWomen, which is to start in September, 90 participants were selected, including five from Palestinian territories. Three of them were denied permission to enter Israel, which is the only legal way for people living there to leave the blockaded territory. The IDF cited unspecified security reasons, the women told RT.

“Honestly, we never expected rejection. So it came as a shock for me and for my creative colleagues,” said Jan Krayyem, a biotechnology graduate of Jordan University of Science and Technology currently working as gene researcher in Gaza.

“For us in Gaza after graduation we have no job opportunities. There is a very high unemployment rate,” said Ghadeer Abushaban, a software designer currently working on an app that would allow blind people interact with mobile devices.

“Can you imagine how difficult it is for us to lose out on such an opportunity after all this suffering just because we cannot leave?” said Doa’a Ghandour, a developer of games aimed at helping expat children study Arabic.

After interviewing the Palestinian women, RT requested a comment from COGAT, a unit in the Israeli Defense Ministry responsible for coordinating civilian issues among various Israeli and Palestinian bodies.

“The applications to enter Israel through the Erez Crossing were reviewed by security forces, which decided to approve one of the three women's applications. The relevant authorities were updated,” was the reply.