Today I received an email from Canadian government representatives in Cairo (copied at the bottom of this blog), indicating that Canadians could be arrested, detained and/or deported should they join the Gaza Freedom March.
Things are clearly heating up in Cairo, despite the winter weather forecasts. More than 1000 people from around the world will be traveling from Cairo to Rafah Border in a few days to demand that the border be opened. The Egyptian government has informed Code Pink organizers that they will not open the border for them - the border is open every day for diplomatic purposes, but can remain closed for weeks and longer - or not at all - for those wishing to traverse for personal or humanitarian purposes.
Despite this, Code Pink has successfully organized more than 6 humanitarian delegations to Gaza since Israel ceased its attacks on the densely populated territory last January, leaving behind devastation and what people ranging from Jimmy Carter to Desmond Tutu have called a humanitarian emergency. A major factor contributing to the humanitarian situation is that the borders to Gaza, controlled primarily by Israel, and Rafah controlled by Egypt, have remain largely closed, and humanitarian aid, including medical aid and material needed to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure, including Gaza's water sanitation facility, are not permitted in.
Organizers of the Gaza Freedom March launched an email and phone campaign this week, asking supporters to contact Egyptian authorities to permit the Marchers entry to Gaza. Support has come in from all over the world, including from many politicians, such as the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Ireland, and from many Canadian politicians, including Members of Parliament. The Egyptian Ministry for Palestinian Affairs yesterday said that they have been overwhelmed with calls and emails. Though they are keeping to their stance that no, they will not open the borders for Code Pink supporters.
And today the Canadian government issued the warning of possible arrest, detainment and/or deportation (note that the French version of the email does not include the security warning about travel to Gaza). The warning doesn't seem to have deterred participants, as one delegate, en route to Cairo explained:
"Unfortunately, with our present government I don't find this at all surprising. Its all part of the attempt to control civil society that's related to the cutting of funds to Kairos, barring British MP, George Galloway from entering Canada and detaining Amy Goodman at the Canadian border out of concern for what she was going to say about the Vancouver Olympics. Rather than issuing politically motivated "warnings", the Canadian government should turn its attention to helping Canadians that really are in trouble abroad. This won't stop me from going."
For the record, Code Pink Gaza Freedom March supporters have given their names to the Egyptian government, and have registered with their respective embassies. I'm supporting the March from Canada, so my contact information is not on those lists.
To learn how you can support the Gaza Freedom March click here.
Begin forwarded message:
Date: December 24, 2009 1:50:44 AM PST
To: [personal email edited out ]
Subject: Gaza Freedom March, Dec 27-30th 2009
Le Français suivra
Gaza Freedom March
The Gaza Freedom March, which includes various activities in Egypt and the Gaza Strip, will take place from December 27 to 31, 2009. In response to this event, Egyptian authorities have confirmed that they will not permit entry to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing. They have also indicated that this March will be prohibited in Egypt.
The Canadian Embassy in Cairo would like to advise any Canadians considering taking part in this event that they could be found in violation of their tourist visa and be subject to arrest, detention and/or deportation.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to the region surrounding the Gaza Strip due to the risk of rocket and mortar launches, gunfire and of ongoing military activity. The border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt has been officially closed since June 2007; however, it may open or close upon short notice. Canadians should exercise extreme caution when travelling to this area due to ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip.
Embassy of Canada in Egypt
Marche de la liberté pour Gaza
La marche de la liberté pour Gaza, qui comprend différentes activités en Égypte et dans la bande de Gaza, se tiendra du 27 au 31 décembre 2009. En prévision de cet événement, les autorités égyptiennes ont confirmé qu'elles ne laisseront pas entrer les gens dans la bande de Gaza par le point de passage de Rafah. Elles ont aussi fait savoir que cette marche sera interdite en Égypte.
L'Ambassade du Canada au Caire aimerait aviser tous les Canadiens qui considèrent prendre part à cet événement qu'ils pourraient être accusés de ne pas respecter les conditions de leur visa de touriste et arrêtés, détenus ou même expulsés du pays.
Ambassade du Canada en Égypt