CAIRO: A Palestinian mother of two detained at Cairo Airport has expressed anger and confusion at her treatment.
Manal Timraz, 39, and her two teenage sons were stopped by a member of airport security bodies immediately after they passed through passport control at 1 am on Monday.
The family was scheduled to board a KLM flight to Holland, en route to the UK where they live.
Timraz, who also holds Norwegian nationality, was initially told by the security officer that she was not allowed to travel, but that he did not know the reason why.
“He then told me, ‘I can’t let you travel because there is a message on the system saying you’re a national security case,’ Timraz told Daily News Egypt in a telephone interview.
“I asked him what he meant. He said, ‘I’m really sorry, I don’t know what’s going on, all I can do is obey the order.’
Timraz is involved in humanitarian relief work for Gaza, and in May joined a European-organized relief convoy which passed the Rafah crossing from Egypt to Gaza. She also initiated the One Million Candles for Gaza campaign after she lost 15 relatives – including 11 children – in a single Israeli bombardment of the Jabalya refugee camp, Gaza in December 2008.
An article about the campaign was published in national state-run daily Al-Ahram in February 2008.
Timraz asked why her fund-raising activity should attract the interest of Egyptian national security bodies.
“I know I haven’t done anything wrong. I reject violence and I’m involved in purely humanitarian activities.
She also pointed out that after returning from Gaza to Egypt in May, she was allowed to return to the UK and then re-enter Egypt without incident last month.
Timraz says that the officer dealing with her case eventually received a call from his superiors informing him that Timraz had been cleared to board her flight – 10 minutes after it had already left. “I don’t think the timing was a coincidence, Timraz said.
After their ordeal Timraz and her sons decided to leave the airport rather than issue new tickets immediately.
They were informed that they would have to pass through arrivals before being allowed to leave the airport.
“Because our passports had been stamped with exit stamps we had to effectively enter Egypt again, which meant going through arrivals. They made us walk from the departures building to arrivals through the airport grounds where the trucks move the luggage to planes. It was totally unprofessional, Timraz said.
“To stop us from flying and then release us after a couple of hours, what kind of national security is that? What was the problem in the first place? If we’re supposedly a national security case why have we been allowed back into Egypt?
Timraz’s experience is the third in a series of similar incidents involving individuals stopped at Cairo Airport who have participated in pro-Gaza activity.
In April Laila El-Haddad – who blogs under the name Gazamom – and her two sons were prevented from entering Egypt en route to Gaza and held at the airport for two days.
US citizen Travis Randall, who lives and works in Egypt, was prevented from entering the country earlier this month. Randall was involved in a pro-Gaza march in Egypt in February of this year.
Timraz, who was born in Cairo and who spent part of her childhood in the country, says that she is extremely upset at how the incident has affected her sons’ experience of Egypt.
“We’ve been here so many times; if my sons consider any country their home, it’s Egypt. I belong here, it’s a wonderful country – I was born here, my parents are buried here. We came here because I promised my sons a Ramadan in a Muslim country. It’s really sad that now they are saying, that’s it. This is the last time they will set foot in Egypt.