Saturday, March 28, 2009

Opinion: Egypt Errs in Playing Rough at Rafah Border - Daanish Faruqi

Daily Star, March 29, 2009 - Abdullah al-Ghoul was assured a safe voyage into Gaza, his homeland, from Egypt's Rafah border crossing. In order to see his family after three years of involuntarily exile in Egypt, where he is currently completing a degree in film studies, on March 6 Abdullah joined a 60-person delegation into Gaza sponsored by Codepink, in solidarity with Gazan women on International Women's Day. Miraculously, Egyptian authorities deviated from standard protocol and opened the border crossing to our delegates. Abdullah was casually allowed passage into Gaza, after paying an additional 250 Egyptian pounds, with a promise that he'd be granted a safe return to Egypt after completing his visit.

Unfortunately, upon Abdullah's return Egyptian authorities had reneged on their agreement, citing issues with his paperwork. Instructed to seek assistance from Ramallah to straighten out his file, Abdullah was flatly denied entry back into Egypt. His ability to complete his studies, consequently, is currently on hold.

Abdullah's case is frustrating and heartbreaking. After all, it seems spectacularly unfair to be forced to choose between completing one's studies and seeing one's loved ones after years of separation based on border policies. But his denial of entry into Egypt is far more than an isolated personal anecdote. Indeed, it elucidates the utter arbitrariness of Egypt's policy at the Rafah border, and ultimately Egypt's complicity in the humanitarian disaster in Gaza.

The official policy of the Egyptian government at present is that Rafah must remain hermetically sealed, for reasons beyond Egypt's control--notably, the threat of "insurrectionary spillover" from Palestinians pouring into Egypt and radicalizing the Muslim Brotherhood there. But if this were a legitimate concern, and if the Egyptian regime's hands are genuinely tied, then why was our delegation allowed free entry through Rafah without so much as an official peep from the authorities? Sadly, our entrance was allowed primarily in the name of public relations....

Daanish Faruqi, senior Egypt liaison to the Washington-based Voices for a Democratic Egypt (, recently returned from a fact-finding delegation to the Gaza Strip sponsored by Code Pink: Women for Peace. He wrote this commentary for The Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon.

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