'Egyptian Security Forces Detain Gaza Freedom Marchers in
el-Arish and shut down Gaza Memorial in Cairo
What: Egyptian security forces detain internationals in el-Arish, break up memorial actions in Cairo
When: Sunday, December 27, noon: the Egyptian security forces detained a group of 30 internationals in their hotel in el-Arish and another group of 8 at the bus station. They also broke up a memorial action commemorating the Cast Lead massacre at the Kasr al Nil Bridge
At noon on 27 December, Egyptian security forces detained a group of 30 activists in their hotel in el-Arish as they prepared to leave for Gaza, placing them under house arrest. The delegates, all part of the Gaza Freedom March of 1,300 people, were Spanish, French, British, American, and Japanese. The Egyptian security forces eventually yielded, letting most of the marchers leave the hotel, but did not permit them to leave the town. When two younger delegates, a French and Japanese woman, attempted to leave el-Arish, the Egyptian authorities stopped their taxi and unloaded their luggage.
Another group of eight people, including citizens from American, British, Spanish, Japanese and Greece, were detained at the bus station of Al Arish in the afternoon of December 27. As of 3:30 PM, they were still being held.
Simultaneously, Egyptian security police broke up a commemoration of the Israeli invasion of Gaza organized by the Gaza Freedom March at Kasr al Nil Bridge, one of the main bridges connecting Zamalek Island, in the middle of the Nile, to Cairo. As a nonviolent way of commemorating the more than 1300 Palestinians killed in the Israeli assault on Gaza that began a year ago on December 27, 2008, Gaza Freedom Marchers tied hundreds of strings with notes, poems, art and the names of those killed to the bridge.
“We’re saddened that the Egyptian authorities have blocked our participants’ freedom of movement and interfered with a peaceful commemoration of the dead,” said Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, one of the March’s organizers.
Benjamin added that the Gaza Freedom March participants are continuing to urge the Egyptian government to allow them to proceed to Gaza. They visited the Arab League asking for support, various foreign embassies and the Presidential Palance to deliver an appeal to President Mubarak. They are calling their supporters around the world to contact Egyptian embassies and urge them to free the marchers and allow them to proceed to Gaza.
- Yesterday we travelled to the city of Arish. Getting there was no small feat. There were many checkpoints along the way and we heard stories from our colleagues of having to pay bribes to be allowed through.
The situation intensified this morning when we discovered we couldn’t leave our hotel. As we attempted to leave with our luggage, police stood in the way of the exit preventing us from departing. No reason was provided, instead they repeated “just five minutes” as an hour and a half went by. One man who was outside the hotel was physically moved back in and another pushed to prevent his exit. On a personal note it was particularly concerning when I was, for some time, separated from the bag containing my insulin.
Eventually we were allowed to leave the hotel, but police stood outside, following us when we walked off. Several times we attempted to board taxis, only for the police to step in and intimidate the driver to prevent us from travelling.
Eventually we managed to travel away from the centre of the city and find alternative accommodation. The police already know where we are – in Egypt, hotels must take photocopies of passports and report the details to the authorities – a police car is parked on our street.
My affinity group’s working principle at the moment is report what has happened, say nothing about the future. But be assured our story will continue to be documented here as our journey continues.