Flight into Egypt
NOBEL LAUREATES, 24 Mar 2014
Peace People – TRANSCEND Media Service
At the invitation of Code Pink, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and Ann Patterson, from Peace People, agreed to join the Code Pink International Women’s Delegation to Gaza, through the Egyptian Rafah crossing.
The invitation had been extended by Women’s Organizations in Gaza as they wished to celebrate International Women’s Day, and draw attention to the ongoing Blockade of Gaza, by Israeli Government, which is now in its 8th year, and which is a policy causing a humanitarian crisis and deep pain and suffering for the people of Gaza, particularly children and women.
Gaza, with a population of l.7 Palestinians, mostly youth, has been cut off from the rest of Palestine, as part of Israeli policy of dividing the Palestinian people. Its port, which has been closed for over 40 years, its airport destroyed by Israel and its border crossing both through Eretz, Israel, and Rafah, Egypt, often closed, makes Gaza the largest open air prison in the world. Every few days Israeli drones bomb Gaza causing death and injury to many people, particularly women and children.
Our purpose in wanting to visit Gaza was to join in solidarity with the people of Gaza to let the women and their families know that many people do care about them, even though most world governments continue to collude with the illegal Israel policies of Apartheid and occupation of Palestinian land. We wished to stand by the Palestinians in their peaceful nonviolent struggle for human rights and freedom.
On 4th March, 2014, at midnight we arrived into Cairo airport, to join over 100 women arriving from many countries. After purchasing our visas (15 Euros) we made our way to the Immigration desk. We planned to enter Cairo, cross over through Rafah crossing, into Gaza for 8th March. We planned to take solar lights (between 8-12 hours a day the people of Gaza have no electricity), and some humanitarian aid.
However, we were not allowed to enter Cairo and held for 8 hours in detention before being put on the 8 a.m., flight to London. We were given no reason for being deported, except being told by an Egyptian police officer that the Egyptian security was in charge and making the decisions. Later we heard the reason given by Egyptian authorities was that we were ‘blacklisted’ though no reasons given. A few of the women were allowed into Cairo but refused later in the week to enter into Gaza, so in effect no member of the delegation was allowed to join the women of Gaza.
The vast majority of the international women were refused entry into Egypt. Medea Benjamin, founder of Code Pink and leader of the delegation, was also refused entry and after being held for many hours had her arm dislocated by Egyptian police and deported.
The refusal to allow the delegation into Cairo and onwards to Gaza, confirm that Egypt is indeed complicit (the Egyptian military directly receive the second highest military funding from US taxpayers), together with the American government (that fund the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine), in Israeli illegal policies and their breaking of international laws.
We will continue to support the BDS-Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against Israel and encourage everyone to do all they can to work for the freedom of Gaza and the Palestinian people.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from www.wipfandstock.com. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See: www.peacepeople.com.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 Mar 2014.
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