On March 3 and 4, 2014, the co-founder of the U.S.-based antiwar group Codepink, Medea Benjamin, was detained at the Cairo airport for several hours, jailed overnight, then assaulted and deported the following morning. She was leading a solidarity delegation headed to Gaza for events to mark and celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8.
Benjamin was assaulted on the morning of March 4 as she demanded the right to contact her embassy (the United States). Her shoulder was dislocated and an arm fractured. She was then thrown, injured and in great pain, on a plane destined for Turkey. Codepink reports that doctors at the Cairo airport said she was not fit to travel because of her injury, but the authorities forced her to board the flight to Turkey anyway. During the flight, two of the Egypt security personnel who assaulted her sat on either side of her. They obstructed her attempts to obtain medical assistance on board.
The story is reported in the New York Times on March 4, among other media outlets.
Benjamin tells her story in a You Tube presentation here and in an interview from Turkey on March 4 with Democracy Now. She says, “If they were so brutal to me, a 61-year old woman and U.S. citizen, imagine what they are doing to their own people?”
The day after the assault and deportation of Benjamin, Egypt police detained and deported Northern Irish Nobel Laureate and peace activist Mairead Maguire. She, too, was headed to Gaza as part of the solidarity delegation. More women on the delegation arriving at the Cairo airport the following day protested the Egypt authorities’ actions.
Benjamin is demanding that her government explain why it failed to come to her assistance in Cairo. The embassy was phoned by her fellow activists and it said it would send a representative to the scene. She is also asking why the U.S. is providing arms to the military regime in power in Egypt.
Codepink issued a statement on Benjamin’s assault on March 4. The statement quotes Benjamin speaking from Turkey on March 4:
I was brutally assaulted by Egyptian police, who never said what I was being accused of. When the authorities came into the cell to deport me, two men threw me to the ground, stomped on my back, pulled my shoulder out of its socket and handcuffed me so that my injured arm was twisted around and my wrists began to bleed. I was then forced to sit between the two men who attacked me on the plane ride from Cairo to Istanbul. I was (and still am) in terrible pain the whole time.
Benjamin says the hardest part of her ordeal was that she was unable to arrive in Gaza. She says she feels a deep obligation to bring visible solidarity to the people of that embattled territory.
Last July 3, Egypt’s military overthrew the elected president and legislature of Egypt. Since then, Egypt has experienced unprecedented political violence, killings and repression at the hands of the regime.
On December 24, the regime banned the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party, the Freedom and Justice Party. FJP candidate Mohamed Morsi won the 2012 presidential election. In the legislative election that same year, an FJP-led political alliance won the largest vote total, 38 per cent.
The Canadian government has been silent on the political repression in Egypt and has endorsed the 2013 military coup. While visiting Israel in January, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke about Egypt in a speech at Tel Aviv University on January 22. The Toronto Star’s Bruce Camion-Smith reported:
Three years after the Arab Spring sparked hopeful revolution, Harper gave a sobering review of the outcome in Egypt, saying the hoped-for democracy never materialized, at least not yet.
Given the “unbridled” enthusiasm many in the West had for the  revolution in Egypt, Harper said that those optimists should now be “chastened” by what unfolded. Instead of producing a democracy, the change resulted in an “authoritarian, Islamic” state, Harper said, referring to the election of former president Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood [in 2012].
“We want elections to lead to democracy and to the things we understand that are important for human rights and prosperity and security in the long term,” Harper said.
Morsi was removed from office in July 2013 and while protests still occur, Harper said he welcomed the “return to stability.”
In an editorial on January 23, the Toronto Star called Harper’s comments on Egypt “shockingly callous”.
As Rabble has recently reported, the Canadian government is refusing to speak out against the show trial of Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt, including Canadian Mohamed Fahmy. The journalists are facing serious, ‘anti-terrorism’ charges. A worldwide campaign by journalists and media outlets is seeking the release of the accused and dropping of charges.