International Community Activists Under Occupation by Egyptian Police

June 9, 2009

Here is an update just received from the ‘Raging Grannies’ and the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border. Fascinating. Copy follows:

Six international community activists representing the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border, and the Raging Grannies arrived in El-Arish under a full moon on June 6, 2009 at 9:30 p.m. On public bus the cost was $30/ticket. The buses depart from the Sinai bus terminal in the morning and the late afternoon; we arrived in the middle of these two departures, so had to wait four hours. I had a good cup of coffee that was very high priced, LB10. The trip to El-Arish lasted five hours. The taxi to the Mecca Hotel cost LB10 total, for all six people and our luggage. 

 For dinner we found a restaurant on the beach, Cafa Habiba. It was just a seven minute walk from the hotel. We ate “denise,” a whole fish with skin that was covered in salt, and others had beef kabobs. All had thin humous and salads. Some had a delicious drink call “flaour’a” which was frothy, red with a strawberry-like flavour. 

 The taxi driver, Ayman, who retrieved us from the bus station,  told us about an apartment, near the beach, that we could acquire for a reasonable price.  For six to share, the cost is LB170 (plus commission, total LB187)/ day or for seven days, LB1000 commission included. We rented the apartment for seven days for a few reasons: the security at the hotel surveilled our comings and goings; It was less expensive compared to renting 3 hotel rooms (LB80/day), and the apartment had a kitchen so we could save on food costs; finally, the apartment could accommodate the new arrivals to our delegation. 

 Earlier on the 7th, Sunday, Christian and David had taken a taxi to the travel agency in El-Arish to adjust David’s plane ticket to allow him to extend his trip in Egypt. The men noticed that the hotel/ Egyptian security officer came to the driver and asked him where he was taking them. It was from this occurrence that Christian derived the notion that we would tell the cab driver a fictitious destination when we moved to our apartment. We had an agreement with the driver that we would do this and when we loaded our bags and boarded the taxi, the security officer came to the driver and asked where he was taking us. The driver turned to us and we all chimed in, “to Rafah.!” The driver left the hotel and turned towards Rafah instead of the direction of the apartment. “This is like a child’s game,” Christian said to me.

 Our freedom from the Egyptian security was short-lived. When Paki, Ellen, and Jacque went to the grocery store with the same taxi driver he told them that the travel police had questioned him again about where he had taken us. He told them where we were. Shortly after hearing this news, about 3pm (6/7) three of us were sitting on the beach-side porch, and I noticed a white-uniformed officer walking by the row of apartments where we sat. He walked by  once and then doubled back to our location. He came right to us and staring asking questions of Christian. David was interviewing me” on video camera about our purpose for coming to El-Arish. Christian was answering the officer’s questions; “how many people? where are the other three? Where are you all from?. By this time we stopped the interview. The officer asked for my pen to write down the answers: “six,” ” one is swimming (Christian had pointed to Paki in the sea), one is sleeping, the other is in the shower;” and our countries of origin. Then the officer walked off out porch and reported the information by walkie-talkie. 

 He soon returned, and asked me some questions: “How long are you staying?”

 “Four days, insha Allah,” I told him. Paki had joined us after her swim. We exchanged cordiality’s with the officer, Mohammad. We even gave him “shy.” He told us that two officers would replace him at 7p.m.  It was then that we realized that we were living under occupation. Quartering of soldiers went out with the inception of the US Constitution, at least in the US. 

 Sure enough, the new security guard was making himself quite at home when we returned from our trip to town for the internet cafe. Raging Grannie Ellen and I noticed the officer helping himself to one of the porch chairs (we only had four) and proceeding to station himself on our porch! Ellen pulled the chair from him and said, “we need this, we are about to have dinner.”

 I decided it was time to set some boundaries with security, and told him that he is not welcome on our porch, “We paid for this, not you,” I scolded him. (This usually is not my nature, but enough was enough.) “Are you going to help us pay for the apartment?” Then I went inside and asked for a rope so I could tie a barrier to our porch entrance. The officer watched me tie the rope, and chuckled. 

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