CAIRO: Security reinforcements are being sent south of the border town of Rafah in anticipation of a protest, expected Thursday, by members of certain Bedouin tribes in the area.
A statement purported to be from the Bedouin tribes was released last week that included a list of demands made to the government. It was not known who was behind the statement.
The statement, signed off by “the sons of the tribes called for a protest in October if the demands were not met. The demands include the release of some 1,000 tribe members behind bars, the dropping of convictions in absentia and a stop to security incursions against Sinai Bedouins.
The Popular Committee for the Rights of the Citizen, a Sinai organization made up of numerous activists with different political affiliations, convened last Saturday to discuss the protest. Since the signatories of the statement remain unknown, the organization has decided to reserve judgment until the protest takes place.
Committee member Khalil Jabr of the Sawarkeh tribe told Daily News Egypt, “The committee has decided to wait and see if the protest will actually occur, and if there is a confrontation we will intervene. However I am doubtful that the protest will take place.
“If it doesn’t take place, the committee will release a statement explaining why these protests are always called for and never actually take place, he added.
To clarify, Sawarkeh said, “In a previous protest in which I was an organizer I discovered that some of the other members were negotiating with security forces to rescind court sentences on them and so this might happen again this time.
Al-Shorouk newspaper reported that some 200 potential protestors have already amassed in the area of Al-Agraa south of Rafah to indicate the seriousness of their intent to hold the protest. Additionally, the paper reported that some journalists and television crews have not been permitted to travel to Rafah and have been stopped before Al-Arish.
The Bedouin statement also called for an end to harassment of Bedouin merchants carrying wares along the Suez Canal under the pretext of fighting smuggling and reducing the debt on Bedouin farmers.
Due to the unknown identity of the senders, and the lack of coordination with any known Sinai advocacy organization on the statement, activists in the area were skeptical about the intent behind it.
Tagammu party Secretary in Sheikh Zowayed and member of the Popular Committee for the Rights of the Citizen Mustapha Singer previously told Daily News Egypt that activists in Northern Sinai felt that the statement was a cover for personal interests of certain tribesmen who were connected to smuggling activities.
“Their interests are in trouble, so they want to make a preemptive stand and they are covering it with general demands which they don’t care about. They are not speaking in the names of the tribes but they are from them, he said.
“If the protest even happens, it will happen on a small scale or not at all.