CAIRO: Bedouins affiliated with opposition groups in North Sinai have warned new National Democratic Party (NDP) MP Suleiman Arada that he must seek solutions to pressing concerns of the Bedouin tribes.
Arada himself is a member of the Sawarkeh tribe and won the recent parliamentary election against another NDP candidate Fayez Abu Harb from the Reyashat tribe in the runoff. The first round was marred by violence which led to the death of one man, Hussein Salama Abu Zerei.
Democratic Front Party member and a parliamentary candidate Mohamed El Menei told Daily News Egypt, “We represent the people of the tribes who are united against the NDP, but we will give him a chance to address our problems before taking any action.”
The demands of Menei and those with him are the release of Bedouin prisoners incarcerated without charge; the dropping of the charges against Bedouins tried in absentia, the treatment of Bedouins by security forces and the thorny issue of land ownership in North Sinai.
“He has to take this to the parliament and talk to the Interior Minister [Habib El-Adly],” Menei said, “The previous NDP MP didn’t do anything regarding this but we will wait to see what he does.”
Sinai’s Bedouins, who for years have complained about their treatment by the state as second-class citizens, have long called for these demands. Additionally, the state’s refusal to recognize their ownership of their homes and lands means they live in a transient and precarious state, one step away from forced removal from their homes.
If Arada does not address these concerns, Menei said, then, “We will continue to agitate peacefully until our demands are looked into. We get calls from the incarcerated and their families asking us to do something because they are in prison without charge and are merely locked up on suspicion.”
Arada’s victory in last month’s elections occurred in contentions circumstances, when Abu Zerei — a supporter of Abu Harb — was shot on the first day of voting, Nov. 28, at Al-Khansaa poll station near the town of Sheikh Zowayed. He later died as a result of his wounds.
Supporters of Harb then retaliated by shooting a poll station in the main street of Sheikh Zowayed known to be a stronghold of Arada. One bullet was aimed through the eye of a poster of Arada on the wall of the poll station. Arada later won the runoff on Dec. 5.
Additionally, the election in Sheikh Zowayed, as in many areas across the country, was marred by vote rigging and bribery. Even though the two candidates were both from the NDP, tribal rivalries came to the fore.