The Right to Protest – at the Rafah Border

June 30, 2009

Protesters at the Rafah Gate. IMORB. June 2009

Protestors at the Rafah Gate. IMORB. June 2009

When governments restrict freedoms with undue censorship and surveillance – people use social media to get their message across – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, a mobile phone. We’ve seen this in Iran.

But sometimes even these tools are not enough to get the real news out. A journalist like me finds themselves piecing a story (and a blog post) together from fragments of information. It’s more difficult to check sources. And you always seem to be left with more questions than answers.

 The International Movement to Open the Rafah border (IMORB) said yesterday on Facebook:

 “This is the 17th. day of our unique sit-in at the Rafah border. The police want to get rid of us asap as we’re giving them a headache indeed. The internationals are the ones that keep them away from us Egyptians so please come to this unique event. We need your help urgently.

 The Rafah group at the sit-in asked me to send you this message. Please, send a strong message to the Egyptian embassies all over the world to show your support for what we’re doing. Ask them to let the Egyptian authorities facilitate things for us, stop trying to send people away and threaten them to deport them by force, whether Egyptians or Internationals. Please, we need that the foreign press know about us. I’ll be back soon with more videos and photos”.

Before I acquired a press card – I took part in protests myself and didn’t confine myself to documenting them. I’ve got at least twenty years experience of protests and campaigns. At eighteen – I spent time at Greenham Common. Later I joined the North Sea Campaign at Greenpeace Germany (part of the Toxics Unit). In the past ten years I’ve also worked together with colleagues at the Stop the War Coalition to organise hundreds of local campaigns and national  demonstrations.
So you see, the fact that many of our governments show no respect for certain aspects of international law is not news to me. Those who understand enough about the illegality of nuclear weapons are too familiar with this sad scenario.
My understanding of how protests bring about change tells me the Rafah border protest is strategically hugely important. Perhaps as important as Greenham Common was – if not more so. So why is the Rafah situation being ignored by the British Government? And why is it being ignored by much of the mainstream media? 
There’s no such thing as a stupid question. In the first instance governments might ignore protests in the hope they’ll fade out and go away – one reason why the ‘media’ remains part of the dream called  ‘true democracy’. Shine a light on the situation – to uphold the dream we need to document the news. And in doing so, protect the human right to protest.
According to IMORB – journalists and activists alike have suffered intimidation and censorship from the Egyptian government – attempts to stop them doing the jobs we need them to do. The International Federation of Journalists has also condemned a renewed media crackdown in Palestine (statement June 26th.)
The report called: ‘Who holds the keys to the Rafah border?’ by  ‘Physicians for Human Rights’  (Israel) gives some background to the Rafah question:
Physicians for Human Rights describe the report as: 
“a detailed description of the positions of the various parties regarding Rafah Crossing, the extent to which the various parties control the crossing, the merging of interests behind its closure and the political conflicts that are undermining attempts to re-open it. The report is based on field research, information from Israeli authorities, including information presented to the Israeli Supreme Court, information from Palestinian and international organizations, and meetings and correspondence with relevant officials in Israel, Egypt, Gaza and the West Bank”.

To complete the picture of how and why the situation at the Rafah border has often been trivialised and ignored by much of the ‘media’ and the British government – watch the following videos which were filmed in 2008.
 The first is a short analysis of how media outlets in different countries portrayed the border situation. 
 The second video shows something of the history of protests at the border – how demonstrators were intimidated, injured and shot at in a previous protest in 2008.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s