Newsreel (November 2007)
Available at: http://www.egypttoday.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=7748
Photo Credit: AP
A fight over a phone card turned into an intertribal shooting spree that left dozens injured in the northern Sinai town of El-Arish last month, prompting angry protests in an already tense region.
Local media reported that when a customer got into a fight with a shop owner from the Arish Fawakhriya tribe, two Bedouin from the Tarabeen tribe tried to intervene and were beaten up. They left and came back with 15 trucks of men, who opened fire in the Fawakhriya square.
Enraged that security forces weren’t doing enough to protect them, thousands of Arish residents stormed the streets for over five hours, burning tires and blocking roads. They attacked the local National Democratic Party headquarters, and threw stones at the Ministry of Interior’s offices, prompting police to throw tear gas and arrest hundreds. Over 15,000 central security forces were deployed to North Sinai.
Two days after the clashes, security officers were able to bring together leaders from both tribes to work things out and restore an uneasy calm.
Local opinion is that this latest flare-up was a release of the Bedouins’ built up frustration at being ignored by the authorities and denied access to jobs in the booming tourism and petroleum sectors.
At least 75,000 Bedouins do not hold Egyptian citizenship. The government has some cause for mistrust: The Bedouins are reportedly major players in the trafficking of people, arms, drugs and other goods between Gaza and Egypt, and Bedouin extremists have been suspected of involvement in terrorist attacks in the Sinai including bombings in Dahab, Taba and Sharm El-Sheikh in recent years.
In July of this year, protests went on for weeks to express their dissent at their overall economic condition, limited access to jobs, police harassment, detained fellow Bedouins, and to demand that the government revoke its decision to evacuate homes within 400 meters of the Gaza border, which they did in order to limit the amount of arms smuggling through tunnels under the border. Mass protests also broke out earlier this year between Bedouins and police authorities when they tried to cross the border to Israel in search of better jobs. (EK)