Posts Tagged ‘Egyptian police’

Egyptian riot police crush Cairo protests

June 22, 2010
Morning Star Online, Monday 21 June 2010

Egyptian riot police beat and arrested dozens of protesters on Sunday when they attempted to stage a protest against police brutality in the centre of Cairo.

It was the latest in a series of demonstrations following the death of Alexandria businessman Khaled Said, who was found dead on June 6 after being approached by plainclothes policemen at an internet cafe in Alexandria.

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Galloway: A double betrayal

January 16, 2010
Morning Star Online,  January 15, 2010
George Galloway

I have been in a few dangerous places in my life. In the mid-1980s, I was bombed along with an ITN news crew by the Ethiopian air force.

With my face pressing into the dirt and no cover at all around me, I saw the shrapnel tear and kill small children, and watched others die on a wooden table in a grass hut after the bombers had gone.

I have been bombed by Israel in Beirut and held with an Israeli machine gun at my chest in Nablus during the first Iraq war.

I’ve never however been in a more dangerous situation than two weeks ago in the tiny Sinai port of Al-Arish to which the Egyptian dictatorship had insisted we bring the Viva Palestina convoy. Five hundred foreigners from 17 different nationalities with their 200 vehicles were crammed into a locked compound without water, food or toilet facilities.

They included no less than 10 Turkish MPs, one of whom was the chairman of Turkey’s foreign relations committee, there at the express wish of Turkey’s prime minister.

We captured on film from a third floor office the thugs of the Mukhabarat (intelligence) piling up stones and sharpening their sticks behind the backs of several ranks of riot police with helmets, batons and shields.

Then there was mayhem. We may have complaints about our own police, but I tell you when you see policemen hurling half-bricks into a crowd of women and men who’d only come to deliver medicine to desperate people under siege, you thank your lucky stars we don’t live in such a state. Fifty-five of our 500 were wounded and, but for the shocking effect on Arab public opinion – our own media didn’t give a damn – of the live footage (all on Youtube now), we might still be there now.

The morning after our siege was over and the dictatorship wanted us on our way. We refused to leave without our wounded comrades and the seven who had been taken prisoner. After another stand-off, our demands were met and we proceeded to a tumultuous welcome in Gaza, our numbers complete.

Then the word came to me from inside the Egyptian tyranny that I was to be arrested when we came out. Had that happened while I was surrounded by 500 pumped-up convoy members there would have been serious trouble, and I mean trouble.

So I sent them the message that I would come out in the dead of the night before and face the music alone but for my old friend Scots journalist Ron McKay.

We emerged into the hands of a grim phalanx of mainly plainclothed secret policemen, none of whom could speak English, who bundled us into an unmarked van.

An Egyptian gumshoe journalist from the Daily News tried to interview us but was battered away. We were then driven off at speed.

I knew we were not going to be killed as we were able to call the Press Association, which makes all the difference in these situations.

We also made the formal call to the British Foreign Office, but it wasn’t worth the money. During the five-hour car journey to Cairo – in which a British MP of 23 years standing and a senior British journalist were hurtling, surrounded by three other vehicles and at least 25 security men – the British diplomats did nothing but tell us to co-operate.

But co-operation was difficult as our captors could speak no English and were saying nothing.

Britain used to run much of the world but now our diplomatic service couldn’t run a menage.

The chinless wonders of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – whose shameful silence in the run-up to the Iraq war is seeping out at the Chilcot Inquiry – are just about the last people with whom one would go tiger shooting.

They are very good at lying for their country’s rulers abroad, but incapable of doing much else – such as helping travellers who are in trouble, especially if they’re largely British Muslims who’ve just broken the siege of Gaza and incurred the wrath of the tin-pot dictatorship in Cairo as a result.

News came to us from London that Nile News, a mouthpiece of the dictatorship, was reporting that the seven convoy prisoners who had been released at Al-Arish were to be re-arrested on emerging from Gaza. Thus the bloodbath we had sought to avoid now looked inevitable.

We demanded to turn around and return to the Gaza-Egypt border but were refused. Security-force goons pushed us physically into the airport building and gave close quarter attention to both of us, even in the toilet.

The British embassy, having provided zero support for the hundreds of British citizens with Viva Palestina caught up in the battle of Al-Arish, now failed to send even an inky-fingered clerk to the Gaza border when the convoy was coming out and there were legitimate fears that there would be further arrests and another bloody battle.

I would complain to their boss, Foreign Secretary David Miliband, but what’s the point?

He met the Egyptian foreign minister the day before my arrest and deportation and gave the Egyptians the green light to go ahead.

And anyway, he’s busy sheathing his banana after yet another failed assassination attempt on Gordon Brown

The security goons finally ushered us up to the entrance of the BA plane and the first English speaker of the night stepped forward to declare me persona non grata in Egypt. I had been banned from Egypt apparently because I was “a trouble-maker.”

I made my own declaration to him which was that he and his fellow torturers would one day face the wrath of the Egyptian people, who incidentally had queued up at the airport in full view of the goons to shake hands with us. Mr Mubarak, a tin-pot tyrant who gets 99.99 per cent of the vote in elections, ain’t seen nothing yet.

George Galloway is Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow.

Terror is the price of support for despots and dictators

January 7, 2010

Egypt’s complicity in the Gaza’s siege underlines the role of western support for such regimes in the spread of war

Seumas Milne, The Guardian/UK, Jan 7, 2010

An an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor had gone on hunger strike in support of a besieged people in another part of the world, and hundreds of mostly western protesters had been stoned and beaten by police, you can be sure we’d have heard all about it. But because that is what’s been happening in western-backed Egypt, rather than Iran, and the people the protesters are supporting are the Palestinians of Gaza instead of, say, Tibetans, most people in Europe and north America know nothing about it.

For the last fortnight, two groups of hundreds of activists have been battling with Egyptian police and officials to cross into the Gaza Strip to show solidarity with the blockaded population on the first anniversary of Israel’s devastating onslaught. Last night, George Galloway’s Viva Palestina 500-strong convoy of medical aid was finally allowed in, minus 50 of its 200 vehicles, after being repeatedly blocked, diverted and intimidated by Egyptian security – including a violent assault in the Egyptian port of El Arish on Tuesday night which left dozens injured, despite the participation of one British and 10 Turkish MPs.

That followed an attempted “Gaza freedom march” by 1,400 protesters from more than 40 countries, only 84 of whom were allowed across the border – which is what led Hedy Epstein, both of whose parents died in Auschwitz, to refuse food in Cairo, as the group’s demonstrations were violently broken up and Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was feted nearby. Yesterday, demonstrations by Palestinians on the Gazan side of the border against the harassment of the aid convoy led to violent clashes with Egyptian security forces in which an Egyptian soldier was killed and many Palestinians injured.

But although the confrontation has been largely ignored in the west, it has been a major media event in the Middle East which has only damaged Egypt. And while the Egyptian government claims it is simply upholding its national sovereignty, the saga has instead starkly exposed its complicity in the US- and European-backed blockade of Gaza and the collective punishment of its one and a half million people.

The main protagonist of the siege, Israel, controls only three sides of the Strip. Without Egypt, which polices the fourth, it would be ineffective. But, having tolerated the tunnels that have saved Gazans from utter beggary, the Cairo regime is now building a deep underground steel wall – known as the “wall of shame” to many Egyptians – under close US supervision, to make the blockade complete.

That’s partly because the ageing Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, fears cross-border contamination from Gaza’s elected Hamas administration, whose ideological allies in the banned Muslim Brotherhood would be likely to win free elections in Egypt.

But two other factors seem to have been decisive in convincing Cairo to bend to American and Israeli pressure and close the vice on Gaza’s Palestinians, along with those who support them. The first was a US threat to cut hundreds of millions of dollars of aid unless it cracked down on arms and other smuggling. The second is the need for US acquiescence in the widely expected hereditary succession of Mubarak’s ex-banker son, Gamal, to the presidency. So, far from protecting its sovereignty, the Egyptian government has sold it for continued foreign subsidy and despotic dynastic rule, sacrificing any pretence to its historic role of Arab leadership in the process.

From the wider international perspective, it is precisely this western embrace of repressive and unrepresentative regimes such as Egypt’s, along with unwavering backing for Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land, that is at the heart of the crisis in the Middle East and Muslim world.

Decades of oil-hungry backing for despots, from Iran to Oman, Egypt to Saudi Arabia, along with the failure of Arab nationalism to complete the decolonisation of the region, fuelled first the rise of Islamism and then the eruption of al-Qaida-style terror more than a decade ago. But, far from addressing the natural hostility to foreign control of the area and its resources at the centre of the conflict, the disastrous US-led response was to expand the western presence still further, with new and yet more destructive invasions and occupations, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. And the Bush administration’s brief flirtation with democratisation in client states such as Egypt was quickly abandoned once it became clear who was likely to be elected.

The poisonous logic of this imperial quagmire is now leading inexorably to the spread of war under Barack Obama. Following the failed bomb attack of a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day, the US president this week announced two new fronts in the war on terror, faithfully echoed by Gordon Brown: Yemen, where the would-be bomber was allegedly trained; and Somalia, where al-Qaida has also put down roots in the swamp of chronic civil war and social disintegration.

Greater western military intervention in both countries will certainly make the problem worse. In Somalia, it has already done so, after the US-backed Ethiopian invasion of 2006 overthrew the relatively pragmatic Islamic Courts Union and spawned the more extreme, al-Qaida-linked Shabab movement, now in control of large parts of the country. Increased US backing for the unpopular Yemeni government, already facing armed rebellion in the north and the threat of secession from the restive south – which only finally succeeded in forcing out British colonial rule in 1967 – is bound to throw petrol on the flames.

The British prime minister tried this week to claim that the growth of al-Qaida in Yemen and Somalia showed western strategy was “working”, because the escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan had forced it to look for sanctuaries elsewhere. In reality, it is a measure of the grotesque failure of the entire war on terror. Since its launch in October 2001, al-Qaida has spread from the mountains of Afghanistan across the region, to Iraq, Pakistan, the horn of Africa, and far beyond.

Instead of scaling down the western support for dictatorship and occupation that fuels al-Qaida-style terror, and concentrating resources on police action to counter it, the US and its allies have been drawn inexorably into repeating and extending the monstrosities that sparked it in the first place. It’s the recipe for a war on terror without end.

Egyptian police, activists clash over Gaza relief

January 6, 2010
Middle East Online, First Published 2010-01-06


British MP George Galloway


55 people injured as activists try to get relief convoy into Israeli-besieged Gaza via Egypt.

EL-ARISH, Egypt – About 55 people were injured late Tuesday in clashes between Egyptian police and pro-Palestinian activists trying to get a relief convoy into the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip, medics said.

Some 520 activists belonging to the convoy — led by charismatic and outspoken British MP George Galloway — broke down the gate at the port in El-Arish to protest an Egyptian decision to ship some of the goods through Israel.

They blocked the two entrances to the Sinai port with vehicles, and clashed with police. Forty activists were injured, a source close to them said, while medical sources said 15 policemen were also hurt.

The protests were sparked by an Egyptian decision to allow 139 vehicles to enter Gaza through the Rafah bordering crossing, about 45 kilometres (30 miles) from El-Arish, but requiring a remaining 59 vehicles to pass via Israel.

Talks in which Galloway and a delegation of Turkish MPs sought to change the Egyptian’s minds proved unsuccessful.

Early Wednesday the activists were entrenched in the port surrounded by hundreds of police, one media correspondent said.

The convoy of nearly 200 vehicles arrived in the Mediterranean town on Monday after a dispute with Cairo on the route.

But the convoy’s arrival came after a bitter dispute between its organisers and the government, which banned the convoy from entering Egypt’s Sinai from Jordan by ferry, forcing it to drive north to the Syrian port of Lattakia.

Cairo accused the convoy organisers of trying to embarrass Egypt, which has refused to permanently open its Rafah border crossing with Gaza, due to US-Israeli pressure.

According to international law, Gaza is still under illegal Israeli occupation.

International protesters beaten in Cairo

December 31, 2009

Middle East Online, Dec 31, 2009

Protest organizers say Gaza Freedom March activists, including women, kicked, beaten to ground by Egypt’s police.

CAIRO – Police punched and kicked international activists during scuffles in the Egyptian capital on Thursday which left one person with broken ribs, protest organisers said.

“Members of the Gaza Freedom March are being forcibly detained in hotels around (Cairo) as well as violently forced into pens in Tahrir Square by Egyptian police and additional security forces,” a statement from the organisers said.

Scuffles erupted between the police and the protesters which saw “women being kicked, beaten to the ground and dragged into pens, at least one confirmed account of broken ribs and many left bloody,” they said.

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Activists fall victim to Gaza blockade

December 31, 2009

By Middle East correspondent Anne Barker

ABC News, Dec 31, 2009

More than 1,300 international peace activists from 40 countries, including Australia, are in Egypt this week.

The self-styled “freedom marchers” include prominent authors, lawyers and journalists, many of them Jewish.

They had hoped to cross the border to Gaza for a planned protest today against Israel and its economic blockade of the area, but they too have fallen victim to the blockade.

When the peace activists arrived in Cairo, the Egyptian government all but banned them from travelling even to the Egyptian side of the Gaza border.

Two days ago, Egyptian police detained one group of protesters who had managed to cross the Sinai Desert and effectively placed them under house arrest on the grounds the march was illegal and the situation in Gaza was too sensitive.

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