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Prague's Palestinian Voices: Advocacy Amid Controversy and Censorship

Prague's Palestinian Voices: Advocacy Amid Controversy and Censorship

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This article provides insight into the experiences of Palestinians residing in the Czech Republic, and spotlights Prague4PalestineYouth, the Czech Republic-based community of Arabs that came together to organize protests in Prague and share information on the ongoing situation in Gaza. In this article, we hear from three Palestinians in Czech, each with a unique connection to their homeland. Two of their identities have been concealed due to the backlash and infringement on freedom of speech that the Palestinian community in the Czech Republic has faced in recent months.


Czech-Israel Relations and Palestinian Presence


Credit: Shawky Gamal

The Czech Republic is home to a minority of Arabs. The now dissolved state of Czechoslovakia supported the UN partition resolution in 1947 and was one of the first nations to recognize Israel. In 2012, the Czech Republic was the only European country to vote against making Palestine a non-member observer state of the UN.

Fast forward to 2023, the Czech Republic remains one of the biggest supporters of Israel. It was one the few countries to oppose the United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in December 2023. Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova even called for the Czech Republic to withdraw from the United Nations after the resolution had passed.

The Czech Republic was one the few countries to oppose the United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in December 2023. Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova even called for the Czech Republic to withdraw from the United Nations after the resolution had passed. 

Everyone Has Their Story To Tell

Yara Abu Aataya is a multidisciplinary designer, originally from Gaza although she grew up in Prague. She has been a vocal advocate of the Palestinian cause and can be regarded as one of the most influential voices regarding Palestine in the Czech Republic.

Abu Aataya still has family in Gaza, including her grandmother and three aunts. During her public appearances, she has condemned the Israeli aggression on Gaza. Despite also condemning Hamas's attack on October 7, her criticism of the Israeli government resulted in her being censored.

Abu Aataya was scheduled to appear on the Czech television program 168 Hodin to share her perspective on the war on Gaza. However, her interview, in which she even phoned her aunt and cousin in Gaza, was not aired.

She subsequently had a second interview with renowned Czech Journalist Linda Bartosova on Aktualne.cz, which according to her, was quite uncomfortable. She later learned, from a number of sources, that Bartosova had been terminated from her position due to her interview with Abu Aataya.

On December 10, 2023, an interview with Abu Aataya was published by news website Novinky.cz. Just two hours after it was published, the article was taken down without warning. Magdalena Matouskova, the journalist responsible for the story, was promptly sacked from the publication.

Through organized events and activism, the Arab community came together, uniting not just through chants, but also through food, music and dance.

The Czech Republic's selective solidarity is visible here, as Palestinians receive no assistance, whether it be psychological or through the mainstream media.

Abu Aataya spoke about finding community in Prague. Through organized events and activism, the Arab community came together, forming Prague4PalestineYouth, which afforded the community a chance to unite not just through chants, but also through food, music and dance. Sdruzeni Pratele Palestiny are the main organizers of the protests that take place in Prague.


Prague4PalestineYouth

Prague4PalestineYouth shared in a statement, “We established our group based on the existing pro-Palestinian activism in Prague and Czech Republic, with the aim of bridging any missing elements and bolstering the pro-Palestinian movement. Our goal was to establish a united group and community, providing a secure environment for all individuals (especially those who may feel isolated) including Palestinians and activists. We aimed to make it more accessible for English speakers and emphasize the multifaceted struggle for Palestinian rights, including its indigenous, feminist, queer, black, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist aspects. Additionally, our goal was to offer political knowledge and create a space where anyone who has inquiries or is seeking refuge can easily connect and join our community.”

Credit: Shawky Gamal

Hope and Solidarity: Building Bridges Between Czechs and Palestinians

Lina, a Czech-born Palestinian, never felt a strong connection with Arabs growing up, as she was more influenced by Czech society. According to her, growing up in the small town of Usti Nad Labem was an overall positive experience, and she felt able to freely express her identity. By participating in Palestinian solidarity protests, Lina was able to connect with the small but present Arab community.

"There aren't many Palestinians here, and as an Arabic, English and Czech speaker, I believe I am here for a reason, and it is to spread awareness about the situation in Palestine and inform. I believe I can connect both worlds."

Lina is currently pursuing studies in both English and Political Science, with hopes to eventually pursue a master's degree in Media. Fitting, given her active involvement in promoting the Palestinian cause to Czech speakers; she has been creating Instagram posts and infographics in Czech about the situation in Palestine. She keeps her social media pages regularly updated on current events in Gaza. “I believe in qadaa’ w qadaar (Faith and Destiny.) There aren't many Palestinians here, and as an Arabic, English and Czech speaker, I believe I am here for a reason, and it is to spread awareness about the situation in Palestine and inform. I believe I can connect both worlds,” shared Lina.

For many Arabs, the days and weeks that followed October 7 were challenging, reminiscent of the aftermath of 9/11 with the media's propaganda efforts. Lina fell out with one of her best friends, after they were unable to see eye to eye on the war on the events unfolding.

One professor at Lina’s university approached her, and requested that she remove all mention of her enrollment at the university from her Facebook profile, due to her ‘bias’ as she posted the Palestinian flag, but not the Israeli one.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

M.A., like numerous other Palestinians, is stateless. According to the United Nations, Palestinians are one of the largest stateless groups globally.

M.A. was born in a Gulf state and received documents of identification from its government, which he described as a form of secondary second degree citizenship. However, in 2005, the Gulf country decided to stop renewing these IDs. As a result, M.A. was given a Palestinian ID. He explained that if you were not born in Palestine, even if you do have a Palestinian ID, you cannot have an ID number, which essentially renders you stateless and without the right to return to Palestine. In the event of deportation, you must choose between going to Egypt or Jordan.

Like numerous other Palestinians, M.A. is stateless. According to the United Nations, Palestinians are one of the largest stateless groups globally.

M.A arrived in the Czech Republic to pursue a degree in medicine. After completing four years of study, he lost his student status in 2020, which led to the termination of his visa. He subsequently applied for asylum in 2021, a process which he described as a “bureaucratic limbo.”

At one point, he received a 30-day notice for deportation. With less than 6 months left on his ID, he was unable to return to the Gulf country he grew up in, which requires documentation with a minimum of 6 months of validity. Passport renewal would have taken him longer than 30 days.

M.A. was forced to apply for a Tolerance Visa, typically granted to stateless individuals. M.A. is among the first individuals to apply for this type of visa in his country of asylum.

This “bureaucratic limbo” has prevented M.A from continuing his studies. He has been separated from his family since 2019, and since 2021, has been unable to leave his country of asylum. He has struggled to find employment or housing due to inadequate documentation, as employers and landlords reject him upon seeing his temporary ID.

M.A. explained, “I do not need welfare, I just want to be accepted and given the opportunity to do something else with my life. I am preaching for more tolerance for my situation. I admit that I f***** up by losing my student visa, but redemption is needed. I also just want peace to prevail.”

Dreaming Of A Brighter Future

Numerous Palestinians and pro-Palestine activists have been censored and encountered obstacles. Yara and Lina have boldly fought for Palestinian rights despite censorship and societal pushback, while M.A. has struggled with statelessness and bureaucratic obstacles, highlighting the importance of promoting tolerance and embracing harmonious coexistence.


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