CAIRO: Security forces in North Sinai arrested around 15 Bedouins on Tuesday night after a protest which saw a government official and his driver injured.
Five people were also arrested on Wednesday after government forces stormed their houses.
Some of those detained were teenagers, who were taken into custody with their fathers, according to North Sinai Tagammu party member Ashraf El Hefny.
The arrests were carried out over the protest, with government officials accusing those they rounded up of inciting the demonstration.
On Tuesday, hundreds of Bedouins demonstrated in Bab Sedout, eight kilometers south of Rafah where security forces had earlier dismantled a tent set up for a peaceful sit-in by the Bedouins.
At Bab Sedout Bedouins burned tires and threw stones at government vehicles.
An AP report stated that the head of the emergency unit at Al-Arish hospital reported that government official Desouqi Mohamed El-Naggar, 52, was in critical condition and suffering from a head concussion, while his driver was slightly injured.
Besides protesting longstanding mistreatment at the hands of the government and the continued detention of many Sinai Bedouins, the protestors were also rallying against what they perceive as highly prohibitive conditions on bank loans by the Bank for Development and Agricultural Credit, which some 8,000 farmers are unable to repay.
“The bank has a lot of people in debt, in addition to the usual security crackdowns, Hefny told Daily News Egypt.
Tensions between the government and the Bedouins continue to escalate as security crackdowns in the wake of a spate of bombings and economic disenfranchisement fuel Bedouin discontent.
Bedouin blogger, activist and founder of the Bedna Ne’esh (We Want to Live) movement Mussad Suleiman Hassan – known as Mussad Aboul Fagr – was arrested in Ismailiya on Dec. 26 and has been remanded in custody for 15 days pending investigation.
Aboul Fagr’s arrest aimed to derail the proposed sit-in, as he often is the driving force behind the protests. His movement seeks to attain equal rights for Sinai Bedouins.
“It is so unfortunate that the security intimidation stick is the fastest solution that the Egyptian government resorts to against the people of Sinai.
Resorting to repression means a failure to deal with the citizens whose rights are being violated and who are feeling disadvantaged and discriminated against, said Mina Zekri, Program Director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, in a report on Aboul Fagr’s arrest.
Protests by the Bedouin have been going on since September. “The face-off continues and the government is not backing down, Hefny said.