CAIRO: A protest planned for Thursday south of the border town of Rafah in Al-Agraa was marred by a low turnout due to heavy security presence.
According to eyewitnesses, the number of protestors never exceeded 50 people at any given time and the three tents erected for what was supposed to be an “open protest were never filled.
Security reinforcements were mobilized days before in anticipation of the protest, which was called for by members of certain Bedouin tribes in the area. And though there was a big security presence, no confrontations occurred between them and the protestors.
Rafah-based journalist and activist Mustapha Singer told Daily News Egypt that the possible reason for the low turnout was that a deal had been struck with the authorities, though others suspected that the large numbers of security forces had dissuaded people from joining.
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 and since the signatories of the statement remain unknown, has decided to reserve judgment until the protest takes place.
“The committee has decided to just back most of the demands of the protestors, though not all, said Singer who is a member of the Popular Committee.
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 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.
An activist in the area who asked for his name to be withheld previously told Daily News Egypt that the statement did not have much connection with the Bedouin tribes, though it was most likely sent by certain members of the Sawarkeh and Tarabin tribe who were involved in smuggling activities.
“They are using the statement for personal gain. No activists in Sinai were contacted about this statement. You cannot just write a piece of paper and then just disappear, he said.