Twenty-eight-year-old Tareq Abufayyad was greeted by high-ranking American and Egyptian diplomats when he stepped off a private plane that had landed in Cairo's international airport, just after sunset on June 27, 2011. Tareq had spent the last four and half years - the years that might have been the heady time of his young adulthood - languishing in California county jails, although he was never convicted of a crime.
"I thought, freedom. I need freedom; I need fresh air and sun. Just give me my freedom," Tareq recollected in an intervew with Truthout via Skype from his home in Gaza in September, 2012.
Wearing the same clothes he had on when he had traveled to the United States for the first time in 2007 - blue jeans, a dark yellow jacket and collared shirt - Tareq waited in the Cairo airport through the night, waited for the sun to rise and the buses to begin operating. He, along with other travelers, would take a 10-hour bus trip from Cairo to Gaza's Rafah crossing, opened only weeks earlier by the then-new interim Egyptian government, put in place following the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.
After arriving in Gaza, a place he had not been for nearly 10 years, Tareq would soon discover that he would not be allowed to leave the blockaded coastal enclave.
Back in 2007, all of the members of Tareq's family were US citizens of California, and he had been on his way to join them after finishing college. Tareq had been excited to reunite with his family, and, equipped with a US entry permit granted prior to his departure from Cairo, he anticipated no problems entering the States, where he intended to continue his schooling and work on his English.