It’s no Secret. Even the Sinai Bedouin Say: It Was Better Under Israeli Rule

The Sinai Bedouin blame Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s interior ministry for the kidnappings in the region saying: ‘We’ve already paid a price for Israel returning the land.’

By Elad Benari, Canada


Bedouin tribes in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula implied on Thursday that they were better off living under Israeli rule and that they have been suffering since Israel withdrew from the region as part of the peace agreement with Egypt.

Desert tourism – Photo: IsraelandStuff/PP

The residents of the Sinai spoke to the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, after local tribesmen kidnapped seven Egyptian security personnel near the city of El-Arish.

The seven were kidnapped by an unknown group in north Sinai while en route to Cairo. Local residents said the kidnapping was “retaliation” by Bedouin tribesmen for heavy-handed security policies adopted by the Egyptian interior ministry.

Mohamed El-Asati, who hails from Sinai’s Aleiqat tribe, told Al-Ahram that “the Bedouin have already paid a heavy price for the return of the land in the October 1973 War.”

He added that “the interior ministry wants to return to its old ways, but this is unacceptable after the revolution.”

Al-Ahram reported that many Sinai residents seek to revenge themselves on security forces after years of heavy-handed security policies under Mubarak-era interior minister Habib El-Adly, who many accuse of failing to respect human rights and tribal traditions.

“We also paid a heavy price in terms of our security and dignity in the Mubarak era,” said El-Asati. “And after the revolution, we will not allow the interior ministry’s old brutal policies to return during the era of Muslim Brotherhood rule.”

Ministry equipment and armored vehicles have also provoked local residents, especially given Sinai residents’ bad economic conditions, Sinai-based activist Ashraf El-Hanfy told the newspaper.

Hassan, Phillip, after release - Photo ONA

Israeli and a Norwegian tourists, Hassan & Phillip, after their release – Photo ONA

“The ministry’s iron fist is back again in Sinai, just like the days before the revolution. It’s even worse under the new rule, which means the revolution did not accomplish its mission in Sinai,” El-Hanfy said.

“There is no real security now in Sinai, but only oppression,” he added. “This is the main reason for today’s kidnappings.”

Some North Sinai tribesmen kidnap security personnel in order to negotiate the release of colleagues previously detained by authorities.

South Sinai residents, meanwhile, occasionally kidnap foreign tourists for similar reasons.

In March, Bedouin kidnapped an Israeli and a Norwegian tourist in the south of the peninsula, which is dotted with beach resorts, to press for the release of jailed relatives.

The tourists were held for five days and released unharmed.

In April, armed Bedouin tribesmen freed a Hungarian peacekeeper after briefly detaining him to press for the release of a jailed relative.


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