TWO days ago I was walking down the River Clyde with a growing sense of foreboding. As it turned out, the next day, as the US embassy was being opened in Jerusalem, protests in Gaza were met with gunfire from Israeli troops. Fifty-five people lost their lives

My friend, co-author and colleague, Nazmi, in Gaza, is on my mind. In front of me is La Pasionaria – the sculptor Arthur Dooley’s statute of Dolores Ibárruri. Beneath her feet are the words “Better to die on your feet than live forever on your knees” – words from the Spanish Civil war and her leading of anti-fascist organisations against Franco.

The Islamic University of Gaza are our partners on the Unesco Chair programme – which promotes international inter-university cooperation – at the University of Glasgow, together with the University of Ghana. We’ve been trying, yet again, to get Nazmi over to give the keynote lecture at our Unesco Spring School on Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts. We’ve failed. This time it was both the Home Office and the Egyptian borders which thwarted us. He’s a senior academic and linguist with extraordinary insight. It’s not possible to think deeply about the category of the refugee and expertise and experience without hearing from Palestinian refugees.

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I write to him with the words of La Pasionaria. He replies: “Salam Dear Alison, today is a very sad and heart breaking day for all humans who love and value the values of freedom, justice and dignified life for all … our people are peacefully and proudly protesting against living under occupation or in diaspora for 70 years and for more than 11 years under siege and immobility.

“Yet they paid such a heavy price today [May 14, 2018], as they have done over 70 years. However, justice and peace will prevail, sooner or later and we hope soon.”

Death is commonplace in the Gaza Strip. All who die under the conditions of the siege are held to be martyrs – martyrs to the ban on travel; martyrs to the dreadful lack of sufficient medical supplies, or sufficient food; or electricity; martyrs to the daily drone strikes.

Nazmi’s words are always the words of a commitment to non-violence and peace. At our Unesco Spring School in Glasgow last week, Nazmi joined us via Skype to give his lecture. He spoke of what we will not hear in any of the mainstream news reports; of the work of non-violent, creative resistance in the protests. He shows us the sand sculpture from the beautiful Gaza beaches. It was the dream of the artist Mohammad Abu Amr to make a huge sand-map of Palestine as part of the protests. He was killed before he completed it, but his friends went to the beach and finished the sculpture. In Nazmi’s words “they made his dream come true”.

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Nazmi describes the March of Return in very different ways to the images of carnage and massacre on our screens. He shows it as a Festival of Language, Culture and the Arts. There are images of Gazan’s dressing like the Na’vi from Avatar, protesting symbolically the loss of their land, of Parkour teams, using the acrobatics “of a death-defying sport that bestows the feeling of freedom” as Nazmi puts it, poetically.

Then there are “groups of women camped out in tents on Palestinian borders, baking fresh bread in old traditional way” and making kaek (biscuits) on the Gaza border, dressed in hand-embroidered traditional dress. In his images there is great energy, colour and a defiant joy – a feeling which comes from creativity in non-violent resistance.

There are horses and camel races, and kites with the words ‘‘We will return despite the betrayers” and, says Nazmi, “not only are protesters burning tyres to fog snipers” vision, they are also painting and recycling the tyres and colouring them pink for decoration.

There are murals, cartoons, groups gathered with easels to paint on the beaches in rows of solidarity. There are long rows of people sitting reading books on the Gaza border in deck chairs, and then there are weddings and the dabka traditional dance.

Nazmi is one of the intellectual leaders of the movements of creative non-violence in the Gaza Strip. He shines with the energy of the life of the mind, of language and of the arts through his teaching. He desires the peace that comes with justice, an end to the siege, a chance for himself and his students to travel as I can, for the most part, unimpeded. This is his message, from Gaza on Nakba Day, to readers of The National: WHAT 13 million Palestinians are demanding and marching peacefully for is basic human rights recognised internationally. This can be stated in three words: end Israeli occupation. This occupation is the spring of all other troubles and instability in the Middle East.

It created refugee problems in Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and in the diaspora. It makes Palestinians permanently occupied with bitter feelings of injustice, inequality and oppression.

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Old and young, men and women, need to live in peace and freedom. Freedom of mobility, freedom of flying and living wherever they want as all civilised humans do in the six continents of the globe.

This demand of freedom is clearly stated in the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” and Article 13: “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state ... Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

In brief, Palestine bleeds not only blood, and sheds tears, but also has noble and sweet national dreams and aspirations. Palestinians hope that all peace-loving individuals, governments, officials and institutions use all possible legal and moral support to end this illegal and immoral occupation and siege.

Though we have bitter feelings of unjustified passivity to support justice in Palestine, we still have a strong belief and hope that humanity has goodness that will stand by the oppressed against the oppressor. We have full confidence that many humans will soon say enough is enough to occupation and siege.

Hand in hand, let us all break the bars of the cage of Gaza so, like a bird, I can fly high in the sky and freely sing the songs of freedom and gratitude to all those who support freedom, independence and justice.

Nazmi Al Masri is professor of applied linguistics and former vice-principal for International Affairs at the Islamic University of Gaza and a partner with Alison Phipps in the Unesco Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts at the University of Glasgow