Notes from the cells

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Women held in Cairo airport, photo by Crystal Zevon at Facebook

Women held in Cairo airport, photo by Crystal Zevon at Facebook

Nine women are sitting in the backroom of the Egyptian border control waiting the twelve hours before we will be deported. We had come to Cairo to join a delegation of 100 women from around the world invited to meet the women in Gaza in solidarity on International Women’s Day.

Each of us was snatched out of the passport control line for reasons unknown to us. Others who were with us managed to enter. We were told to wait in a corner in the shiny new Cairo airport terminal, then escorted into the grimy backrooms where the police hang out.

We weren’t questioned, just told we would be put on the next plane out.

Who are these dangerous women? And why did we want to go to Gaza?

Sabrina Rabei from France  – I’m a strong supporter of Palestinian rights and want to meet Palestinian women.

Hasna Baidoury from Belgium- My heart, just my heart.

Annemarie Ghizzi from Belgium – Because Gaza has been blockaded for seven years and we want to bring some lights (solar lights since there is no electricity) and show our solidarity for the women of Gaza.  I can’t understand what danger we pose to Egypt.  We are peaceful.   I’m very sad for because the women of Gaza are expecting us.   What will we do now with all the presents we brought them?

Yamina Bounir from Belgium

Dominique Waroquiez Belgium –  Just to denounce the Israeli blockade. Israel has forbidden this delegation. No country will demand the right for us to visit our friends in Gaza. Our governments don’t do anything to break this siege.

Yasmine Schmidt from Switzerland –  I want to show solidarity with the woman and children of Gaza who have lived under siege for many years. And I want to give them a voice because our journalists stay silent. Silence is complicity.

Crystal Zevon from USA Vermont – I had a Palestinian friend from Occupy and met her family over Skype and saw what they went through on a daily basis just to do the things we take for granted.  And the stories of the people who never came home because they were imprisoned.  Or didn’t come back from prison.  The idea of bringing solar lanterns to women just trying to survive and provide for their families.  We have to continue to speak out and join women internationally to put an end to this.  Go to my Facebook page for photos of our deportation rathole.

Pat Hewitt from USA Colorado – I love the idea of celebrating International Women’s day with women from Gaza.  I’ve been so concerned about Gaza this year with the sewage in the streets, floods, no electricity, extremely cold water, the closure of the tunnels.  I wanted women there to know they are not forgotten.

Felice Gelman from USA New York – I believe so strongly that the women of Gaza should have the opportunity to tell their own story in their own voices.  They have been either silenced or interpreted by others but denied the right to speak for themselves. This delegation offered that opportunity.

Medea Benjamin's cell at Cairo airport, photo by Crystal Zevon

Medea Benjamin’s cell at Cairo airport, photo by Crystal Zevon

What do we have in common? An interest in calling attention to the terrible plight the women of Gaza face particularly in the face of the tightening siege. The UN has cautioned an humanitarian disaster is imminent. There is no potable water because Israel has not permitted the parts need to repair the water purification facilities to cross the border. There are major shortages of medicine and medical supplies because Egypt has shut down most of the tunnels that allowed those items to cross the Egyptian border. There is little future for children because it is nearly impossible for them to travel to study and, with unemployment above 40%, few work opportunities.

Egypt and Israel and probably the US are conniving to put tremendous pressure on the Hamas government in Gaza. Each has its own reasons. The Egyptian deep state has incorporated Hamas into its hysterical campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood in the same way George Bush conflated every resistance movement in the world with Al Qaeda after 9/11 in order to consolidate police power. The Israelis are simply continuing their siege – unbroken since June 2006. Their interest is to sever Gaza from Palestine and eventually turn it over to the very unwilling Egyptians. Then they have no need to provide a secure passage from Gaza to the West Bank in the unlikely event of a “peace” agreement with the rump Palestinian government in Ramallah, and the siege creates a handy source of incitement to maintain Israel’s fortress mentality. The US still entertains hopes of cramming an agreement on its terms down the throats of Palestinians in the West Bank but knows it could never succeed in bringing Hamas on board.

What’s the effect of all this political chess? Oops, the chess pieces are real people – 1.7 million people in Gaza. A bunch of Europeans and Americans being deported from Egypt has little significance in this context. It is just another marker of the game moving to an even greater repression.

About Felice Gelman

Felice Gelman is a member of the Wespac Middle East committee and is on the board of the Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre

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