CAIRO: Members of the Gaza Freedom March (GFM) in Cairo continued to protest on Tuesday, demanding that the Egyptian government allow them into Gaza.
“My question is, what is the Egyptian government afraid of? Do we look like criminals? We want to bring humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza who have been suffering terribly for years at the hands of the Israeli occupation. And this has to end. It should have ended a long time ago, Hedy Epstein, a GFM delegate and Holocaust survivor in her 80s who was one of a group of activists who started a hunger strike on Monday, vowing to continue until the Egyptian government relents.
Epstein was among some 200 foreign protesters drawn from individual Palestinian solidarity groups and the American anti-war movement Code Pink who had gathered on the steps of the Journalists’ Syndicate Tuesday. They chanted condemnation of the Egyptian government and solidarity songs in Italian, English and French.
Earlier that morning, a delegation of US nationals went to the US Embassy in Cairo where they met the deputy ambassador.
Activists waiting outside say that they were manhandled by the police.
“There was a little violence, a little roughing up. The police were more aggressive outside the US embassy than they have been in other places, Nitin Sawhaney, an Indian national who resides in Boston, US, told Daily News Egypt.
US national Joel Matyre from New York said that there were about 30 Americans inside the embassy grounds surrounded by the same number of riot police.
“We tried to get close and Egyptian undercover security officers roughed us up. They pushed us and grabbed us. No one was punched but there was a lot of shoving and grabbing and screaming. A lot of intimidation, Matyre said.
“No one has been detained inside Embassy grounds and we are not aware of any detentions or arrests by Egyptian security or police, a US embassy official told Daily News Egypt.
“Although the consular section is normally closed today (the last Tuesday of the month), any US citizen who would like to speak to a consular officer in person today may do so, the official added.
Activist Lisa Fithian, from Texas, said that the incident demonstrates that, “Our government and the Egyptian government are continuing to be complicit in the blockade of Gaza and trying to silence anyone trying to expose it to the world.
Code Pink organizer Desiree Fairooz says that some individual GFM members have left Cairo and are attempting to get their humanitarian aid into Gaza via Israel and the West Bank. She said though that other GFM members will remain in Cairo as long as their circumstances allow them to.
According to Fairooz, Code Pink has a warehouse of aid waiting to be sent in Cairo.
“We’re still hoping to get there. You just don’t know – the Egyptian government can be fickle, one moment it can say no and the next say yes. Code Pink has taken six delegations into Gaza prior to this.
The Egyptian government had announced Monday that the Rafah border will be open for aid convoys and stranded Palestinians to pass on Jan. 3 for three days.
Matyre says that GFM members will stay in Cairo at least until Dec. 31, when protests in solidarity with Gaza will be taking place all over the world.
“We feel like it’s necessary. Egypt is complicit in the conflict and we want to make a statement, Matyre said.
While Fairooz described Egypt’s ban on aid entering Gaza as “insane, cruel and horrifying, Epstein pointed to the message that GFM members will take back with them after their experiences in Egypt.
“And what are we going to do when we go back to our respective countries? We’re going to tell them what we experienced here in Egypt; the oppression by the Egyptian government.