CAIRO: Eighty members of the Gaza Freedom March (GFM) left Cairo yesterday morning for the Rafah Crossing, pursuant to an agreement reached with Egypt’s First Lady Suzanne Mubarak.
However, GFM spokesman Ziyaad Lunat emphasized to Daily News Egypt that the group which left yesterday at 11:30 am “were not going in GFM’s name.
“The individuals who went are mostly Palestinians who have family in Gaza, Lunat said, adding that GFM’s official position is that it has rejected Mubarak’s offer, insisting that all of the roughly 1,300 GFM foreign activists still in Cairo be permitted to travel into Gaza.
GFM delegates from 43 countries began arriving in Cairo this week, and have organized several demonstrations, including a sit-in outside the French embassy, in protest at the Egyptian government’s refusal to allow them to travel to Rafah and cross the border into Gaza.
According to GFM members, bus companies which had initially agreed to transport the group have reportedly been threatened by security bodies that they would have their licenses revoked if they do so.
Members of the Code Pink anti-war group, a part of the GFM coalition, contacted Suzanne Mubarak before leaving the United States, according to a posting on the group’s blog, “Pink Tank.
An activist writing under the name Jodie says on the blog that she was contacted by a representative from Suzanne Mubarak’s office.
“Just an hour later, the head of the Red Crescent (of which she is chair) called and said he had been instructed to help us in any way he could. He would send a car for me at 11 am and we would go over all the details of who was with us and what they were bringing. Mrs Mubarak would take the information to the foreign ministry.
According to GFM activist “Starhawk writing on her blog, the two busloads of activists who had been allowed to travel to Gaza pursuant to this deal “could not go as the GFM, but only under the banner Code Pink. And they had to give the names right away to the Foreign Office, with no time to consult all the other groups or go through an open process of deciding who would go.
The decision to accept Mubarak’s offer has angered some members of the GFM coalition. Spokeswoman Ann Wright told Daily News Egypt that the decision “was taken after great discussion – not everyone agrees with it.
Starhawk meanwhile says that “all hell broke loose at a GFM coordination meeting held the evening the decision was taken. She herself had been selected to go to Gaza, but declined to do so, writing that “it didn’t feel right.
“I just can’t begin to express how very much more I’d rather be on the bus to Gaza then preparing to sleep out in the grimy, smoggy streets in the midst of a circle of Egyptian cops among a crowd of hunger strikers . But I don’t want to do something that I have to talk myself into the rightness of, over and over again, for months to come.
While Wright regards it as “a small step in the right direction – we have to keep putting pressure on the Egyptian government , a statement issued in the name of the GFM Steering Committee says that Suzanne Mubarak’s offer “was a strategy to divide GFM.
“Allowing in a delegation of 100 people into Gaza, while excluding everyone else for no apparent reason, seemed to many a strategy to divide us. Further deliberation has led us to believe that we made a mistake; we should not have been content with so little or contribute to whitewashing the misdeeds of the Egyptian government.
Wright says that GFM members plan to organize an event in Cairo today as part of a day of international solidarity action with Gaza, but added that she was not yet at liberty to say what exactly they plan to do.
Asked whether GFM will coordinate with local activists Wright said that Egyptian authority directives prevented them from doing so.
“Associating with local activists will put us in jeopardy. The reason we’re here is not to organize with Egyptian activists but to get to Gaza.