Launch of Across Borders Project - First Internet Centre Opened in Deheishe Camp
Over 150 people attended the launch of The Across Borders Project today in Deheishe refugee camp at the Ibdaa Centre. The Project was initiated in January 1999 by the Birzeit University Information Technology Unit and aims to bring Internet technology into Palestinian refugee camps across the Middle East. It will see the creation of bilingual (English/Arabic) camp websites, including online news, oral history and stories from Palestinians refugees. The Across Borders Project also aims to facilitate the connection of refugees with each other.
The pilot phase of the project was launched in Deheishe Camp, near Bethlehem at the Ibdaa Centre. A fully-equipped computer lab was opened in Deheishe today, and 10 camp residents have recently completed a 36-hour training course at Birzeit University. Courses in basic computer use and internet training will begin within one week at Ibdaa.
Marwan Tarazi began by reciting a poem by Kamal Nasir, which discussed the idea of the right of return and the importance of keeping the memory of Palestinian history alive particularly for the younger generation. Tarazi stressed the importance of this project in this respect - as a way of recording and telling the history of Palestinian dispossession since 1948 through the eyes of Palestinian refugees.
Muna Muhaisen, one of the coordinators of the project, said "We aim to create an information bank on refugee issues on the WWW. Deheishe is the first step, and the project will now extend to Gaza and other camps in the West Bank. The camp websites will offer more than just text, utilizing video and audio technology while online photo-galleries will enable a visual sight of relatives separated by distance and time but connected by technology."
Also launched on Saturday was the project website at http://www.acrossborders.org. The website provides information about the project and about refugees in general. As camps come online they will be added to this website to form a "refugee ring".
Many messages of support have been received for the project from all around the world. Muna Muhaisen and Adam Hanieh concluded the opening ceremony by reading some of these messages from countries such as Lebanon, Kuwait, USA, and France.
Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, a researcher on refugee issues sent one message, "I learned with great interest the news of your new website 'Across Borders'. This is an excellent medium to unite the Palestinian refugees, separated by barbed wire, closures and geographical separation. Although the Palestinian people have been forcibly transferred from their land, they have largely remained a monolithic social structure against so many odds. 'Across Borders' is an electronic 'ingathering of the exiles' until their Right of Return to their own homes is achieved. I have no doubt that the return will take place, however long and hard it will take. Your effort will take us one step further. I wish you all success."
Following the speeches, visitors and camp residents spent hours in the new computer centre exploring the internet. Young people who had completed the training program at Birzeit University answered questions and assisted people in using the computers.
The first phase of the project has been made possible through the assistance of the Canada Fund, Palestine On-line and several generous private donations